Best defences in the 2023/24 Premier League season

  • Arsenal ended 2023/24 with Premier League's best defence
  • Only two teams conceded less than 40 goals during campaign
  • It was a record-setting season for goal-scoring instead
Arsenal ended the season with the best defensive record in the Premier League
Arsenal ended the season with the best defensive record in the Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

In truth, 2023/24 was not a campaign for defending.

The Premier League enjoyed a record-setting season in terms of goalscoring. With a month of the season remaining, teams across the division had surpassed the 2022/23 record total for goals, set at 1,071. By the end, 1,246 goals had been scored at a staggering rate of 3.28 per game.

There are many factors for this exponential increase which can be explained in greater detail than Diego Simeone's rationale, which he put forward last November, that "nobody defends" in the English top-flight. The Premier League certainly boasts defenders who aim to stop the opposition from scoring (we think Sheffield United tried to do so anyway), they just didn't do it very well in 2023/24.

Riskier defensive strategies, prolonged added time, and elite quality in forward areas are all contributors for the Premier League's defensive demise, although there were a couple of collective standouts.

Here were the Premier League's best defences in 2023/24 based on how many goals they conceded.

10. Brighton - 62 goals against (GA)

Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster
Brighton ended the season in the bottom half / Bryn Lennon/GettyImages

Brighton's backline may well be the epitome of being the best of a bad bunch. Roberto De Zerbi's tenure petered out towards the end of the season, with the Seagulls fading in 2024.

The defence certainly wasn't aided by a litany of giveaways in the build-up which handed the opposition high-quality chances on a platter.

De Zerbi's men conceded 62 times in the Premier League - a rate of 1.63 goals per game. Remarkably, that's a record good enough for the median.

9. Fulham - 61 GA

Antonee Robinson
Antonee Robinson enjoyed a stellar season at left-back / Alex Davidson/GettyImages

Marco Silva has been praised for establishing a sound balance in his Fulham squad, especially after Aleksandar Mitrovic departed for Saudi Arabia in the summer.

The Cottagers exceeded expectations by staying up without little fuss, and they boasted the second-best defensive record among teams that finished in the bottom half.

Joao Palhinha once again provided sound security in midfield, while Antonee Robinson enjoyed a flying season at left-back. Those are two Fulham would love to retain for 2024/25.

Fulham benefitted from Bernd Leno's shot-stopping prowess as they conceded 3.8 goals fewer than expected. They also conceded the third-fewest from set pieces.

8. Tottenham - 61 GA

Micky van de Ven, Cristian Romero
Tottenham's centre-back pairing is one of the best division / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Tottenham's backline was nothing short of a contradiction. Spurs shipped a whopping 61 goals and had a terrible record from set pieces, yet the individual defenders stand among their most impressive performers of the season.

Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven are contenders for Player of the Year, Pedro Porro was remarkably consistent at right-back, while Guglielmo Vicario proved himself to be an excellent shot-stopper in year one. Destiny Udogie will also get PFA Team of the Year votes at left-back.

On the whole, Spurs' defence suffered when key players were absent, while Ange Postecoglou's expansive and unique ideals left his backline with space havens to cover. A balance must be struck moving forward.

7. Aston Villa - 61 GA

Emiliano Martinez
Emi Martinez sweeps up behind a high defensive line / Copa/GettyImages

Only Man City and Arsenal had more aggressive defensive lines than Aston Villa, who didn't press with the same vigour as the title hopefuls.

Unai Emery's side were impressively compact, but disasters were seemingly never too far away.

Villa suffered from injuries but benefitted from the brilliance of goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. Like Tottenham, they have struggled to defend set pieces and conceded 61 goals in total.

Only three teams conceded more goals from dead ball situations than the Champions League newbies.

6. Man Utd - 58 GA

Diogo Dalot
Diogo Dalot was a bright spark for Man Utd / Michael Steele/GettyImages

Man Utd's backline has been a sorry mess, yet they conceded the sixth-fewest number of goals in the division. The Premier League really was that much of a defensive shambles this season.

Devoid of structure and cohesion, United surrendered a whopping 660 shots in 2023/24 - more than 11-point Derby County in 2007/08.

They have dire opposition finishing and a decent Andre Onana debut season to thank for their concession of just 36 goals from open play and 58 in total.

Full-back Diogo Dalot was a standout.

5. Crystal Palace - 58 GA

Marc Guehi
Marc Guehi's return from injury was crucial for Palace down the stretch / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

Crystal Palace were the most settled Premier League team in 2023/24, with their two managers, on average, making the fewest changes to the Palace starting XI game-by-game across the division.

A mere 50 changes were made to the starting lineup throughout the season, and such continuity eventually paid dividends as they emerged as one of the league's form teams under Oliver Glasner down the stretch.

Palace ended the season with four clean sheets from their last seven, but their defence was hardly robust over the rest of the campaign as they conceded 58 goals.

4. Everton - 51 GA

Jarrad Branthwaite, James Tarkowski
A formidable duo / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Profligate throughout the season, Everton, who had eight points deducted due to financial breaches, stayed up off the back of their impressive backline and proficiency from set-pieces.

Centre-back Jarrad Branthwaite emerged as one of the Premier League's breakthrough stars, with the Englishman forging a rugged partnership with James Tarkowski.

These two defended their box with throwback courage to ensure Everton finished the season with the fourth-best defensive record. The Toffees surrendered 51 goals, a considerable chunk of which (21.5%) surprisingly came from set plays.

3. Liverpool - 41 GA

Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk produced a vintage season / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

While Everton were happy to cede territory and rely on their ability to defend stoutly in a deep block, Jurgen Klopp's Reds were characteristically courageous.

However, very few would use this Liverpool team as an example of optimal high-line defending, Klopp's men were often bereft of control, and there were many occasions where the one-v-one brilliance of Alisson or Caoimhin Kelleher bailed an exploitable backline out.

Still, their concession of 41 goals was comfortably the third-best in the Premier League. Virgil van Dijk enjoyed a vintage season, while Jarell Quansah emerged alongside the Dutchman.

2. Man City - 34 GA

Fulham FC v Manchester City - Premier League
Man City have a litany of standout defenders in their squad / Gaspafotos/MB Media/GettyImages

There's a pretty big gulf between the top two and the rest of the division in terms of defensive security, although the champions have certainly produced more sound campaigns at the back.

Pep Guardiola's litany of stellar defenders meant City didn't suffer greatly from John Stones' injuries and Ruben Dias' drop in form. Manuel Akanji was outstanding, Josko Gvardiol blossomed during the run-in, and Nathan Ake was as consistent as ever.

The drifting away from control to direct chaos in attack doubtlessly contributed to any defensive struggles City faced throughout the season, but, on average, they conceded less than a goal a game.

1. Arsenal - 29 GA

Declan Rice, William Saliba
Arsenal boasted the best defensive record in the Premier League / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Mikel Arteta's Arsenal came ever so close to lifting their first Premier League title in 20 years.

The Gunners boasted the best defensive record in the division by a comfortable distance, with their defensive brilliance helping them finish the campaign unbeaten against the 'Big Six'. David Raya claimed the Golden Glove as he recorded 16 clean sheets (including ten away from home - Aaron Ramsdale kept another), but the Spaniard isn't the story here.

Raya was aided by a monstrous centre-back pairing and the midfield power of Declan Rice. Arteta's shift to four centre-halves across the backline further boosted their security, while Rice's addition was utterly transformative.

They proved themselves to be a team that can shut out and suffocate opponents, with the Gunners being the only team to concede less than 30 goals in 2023/24.

All data collected from Opta