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Sports Mole Writers' Awards: Premier League Defender of the Season

The Sports Mole team select their Premier League Defender of the Season for the 2020-21 campaign.

Another Premier League season is now in the history books, and 2020-21 will go down as perhaps the most unique yet having been played during a global pandemic, mostly behind closed doors and very briefly amid a Super League storm which threatened the very future of the competition.

Here, the Sports Mole team select who they believe should be the Premier League's Defender of the Season.

Barney Corkhill, Editor: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Manchester City's Ruben Dias celebrates with the trophy after winning the Premier League on May 23, 2021© Reuters

He is my overall Premier League Player of the Season, so Ruben Dias has to be my defender of the season too.

While others further up the field competed closely for the main prize, as far as defenders go there has not really been anyone who can hold a candle to the Portuguese centre-back this season for me.

Dias has shored up a previously flimsy defence at Man City, making what used to be their biggest weakness now one of their main strengths, and what their title triumph was built upon given their lack of a recognised striker for much of the season.

Couple that with the authoritative impact he has had on the players around him, despite being just 24 and in his first season at the club, and Man City appear to have got themselves a gem of a player who could form the bedrock of their defence for the next decade.

Matt Law, Football Editor: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Harry Maguire's form for Man United this season has almost gone under the radar, but there is only one winner in this category.

Indeed, having chosen Dias for my Premier League Player of the Year, it is only right to pick him again here.

The Portugal international had a pass success rate of more than 93% across 32 Premier League appearances this term, while he seemed to make block after block for Guardiola's side during matches where they were finding it difficult to show their best form.

Dan Lewis, Senior Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Ruben Dias warms up for Manchester City in February 2021© Reuters

Not only has Dias looked brilliant at the back for City this term, providing the leadership qualities lacking since Kompany's departure and being an all-round nuisance for opposition attackers, he's also managed to get the most out of others around him - not least Stones who, perhaps behind Maguire, would be next on my list.

Darren Plant, Senior Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Having chosen Dias for player of the season, he is the natural choice here, but I rate his contribution on a par with John Stones.

The duo have complemented each other to near-perfection, helping Dias become regarded as the best centre-back in the world and Stones save his career at the Etihad Stadium and with England.

Ben Knapton, Senior Reporter: Thiago Silva (Chelsea)

Thiago Silva celebrates scoring for Chelsea against Sheffield United on November 7, 2020© Reuters

Ruben Dias would be the obvious choice for the defender of the year, but a 36-year-old Thiago Silva has marshalled Chelsea's backline expertly throughout the season.

The former Paris Saint-Germain leader is also capable of popping up with a goal at the other end of the pitch and is surely in line to stay at Stamford Bridge for the 2021-22 season.

Oliver Thomas, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Ruben Dias has excelled in his first Premier League season, organising and inspiring his teammates from day one.

The Portuguese international has been the talisman of the league's best defence, who conceded just 21 goals and kept 14 clean sheets when he was in the side.

Dias has had a huge impact on Pep Guardiola's team and his presence in defence has made City much stronger.

Brett Curtis, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Ruben Dias pictured for Manchester City in January 2021© Reuters

While I think it's a slight stretch to award him player of the year given how infrequently defenders have won those types of awards in the past, there is little doubt that Ruben Dias has significantly improved Manchester City's defence.

It's hard to believe he has only just turned 24 given his steely exterior and maturity, so the Citizens really have struck gold in terms of finding their Vincent Kompany replacement.

Dias can still be a little rash at times, but his aggression and last-ditch defending is exactly what City have lacked in recent years on the rare occasions their backs are up against the wall, as was the case at times against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League semi-final.

Jonathan O'Shea, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Proving to be the final ingredient in Manchester City's revival this season, the Portuguese stopper has combined resilience and brilliance in equal measure; inspiring those around him and demonstrating awareness well beyond his 24 years.

Francis Buchanan, Reporter: Vladimir Coufal (West Ham United)

West Ham United's Vladimir Coufal celebrates qualifying for the Europa League after the match on May 23, 2021© Reuters

Costing West Ham United just £5.4m last summer, Vladimir Coufal has been an absolute revelation in East London.

Those who have watched the Hammers regularly this season will know just how vital Coufal is to the team in terms of his defensive capabilities, attacking prowess and overall work rate. The guy is a raging bull on that right flank.

The Czech international has picked up six assists so far this season and he has been unlucky not to bag his first goal for the club.

Olly Allen, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

It cannot be understated just how much Ruben Dias has improved Manchester City's defence, considering how leaky it looked in 2019-20.

A key reason why the club regained the Premier League title, the Portuguese has been assured and confident and has made vital interceptions and blocks look easy.

He has shown great leadership qualities too and had a big impact on the players around him – John Stones in particular.

Sam Varley, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Manchester City defenders Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias pictured against Arsenal on October 17, 2020© Reuters

Dias has simply transformed a struggling Manchester City back line, inspiring them to a Premier League title built on solid defensive foundations.

The Portuguese centre-back has not only delivered personally, but he has also inspired strong performances from those around him, with the likes of John Stones, Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko benefitting from his solidarity and delivering some of the best spells of their careers.

Marvelous Adepoju, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Dias was signed in the aftermath of City's 5-2 loss to Leicester City in September on a day when Pep Guardiola saw his defence all over the place.

The ex-Benfica man has been a stalwart for the Citizens, helping them record the most shutouts in the Premier League.

Joshua Ojele, Reporter: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Manchester City's Ruben Dias and John Stones celebrate after the match on May 4, 2021© Reuters

Following his arrival in the Premier League, Ruben Dias instantly bolstered Manchester City's defence.

Partnering with a rejuvenated John Stones, the 24-year-old helped his side keep 15 clean sheets in his 32 league appearances. His influence at the heart of the Citizens' defence has not gone unnoticed as he was voted the FWA Footballer of the Year.

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