Rangers' Connor Goldson to Celtic's Kristoffer Ajer - analysis of the 12 best centre-backs in the 18/19 Scottish Premiership

Kristoffer Ajer and Connor Goldson impressed. Picture: SNS
Kristoffer Ajer and Connor Goldson impressed. Picture: SNS
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The top 12 centre-backs who played in the Scottish Premiership during the 2018/2019 season, as voted by members of The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast.

READ MORE: The 12 best centre-backs in the 2018/19 Scottish Premiership

This was one of the toughest lists to put together with an array of talented centre-backs in the Scottish Premiership last season.

The best placed in the 2016/2017 list, Jozo Simunovic finished the season strongly for Celtic, while Andrew Considine had one of the best seasons of his career, moving in from left-back. Then there was Livingston's Alan Lithgow who formed part of a balanced back three which worked so well for Livingston. They all just missed out.

Such has been the turn around, seven of the 2017/2018 list didn't make it, including last year's No.1 Christophe Berra - the Hearts captain missing a large chunk of the campaign then struggling following his comeback.

Note: Putting these lists together is a fine balancing act, with current form, potential and previous seasons taken into consideration. Debate and criticise the selections at your leisure.

12. Darren McGregor (Hibernian)

Played just six times in the first half of the season. Injury, plus the form of Ryan Porteous, either saw him on the sidelines or the bench. Won his place back in the team and finished the campaign strongly, earning a new long-term deal with the club in the process.

Pace may be an issue but the bread and butter defending is still a strong point. Showed his willingness to stop the ball from hitting the back of the net by finishing in the top five for blocked shots per 90 minutes.

11. Tom Aldred (Motherwell)

Fan reaction to a player departing often speaks volumes. That was the case when it was announced the centre-back would be leaving the Steelmen. Aldred's consistency and commitment helped him stand out in a team which works hard and are combative.

He missed only the first game of the season and his defensive performances saw him down as one of the first names on the team sheet. Scored huge bonus points for netting a double against rivals Hamilton.

10. Declan Gallagher (Livingston)

There was an argument to be made that the 28-year-old was a bigger player for Livi than highly-regarded team mate Craig Halkett. Gallagher was key to Livi's back three which saw them take the Premiership by storm. His physical qualities were perfect, combative, aggressive and confrontational - no player was involved in more defensive duels, while only Sam Cosgrove recorded more aerial duels.

His personality seemed to suit the way his team got in the face of opponents. You only need to see the glee in the player's face when he was telling Rangers players where to go after the Ibrox side had been beaten at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

Gallagher, on the right of the three or latterly on the right of a back four, was often tasked with taking the ball out of defence. He made the most passes for a Livingston player and only James Tavernier and Callum McGregor made more through passes.

9. Jason Kerr (St Johnstone)

The 22-year-old is highly thought of at St Johnstone and he showed exactly why this past campaign. Kerr is one of the most rounded defenders in Scotland and continued his development which has seen him play at every level in the SPFL and at U21 level for his country.

Comfortable on the ball, his best qualities are defensive. He is top ten for defensive duels, aerial duels, shots blocked and interceptions. Everything he does seem to be done with composure. He won nine awards at the club's end of season awards ceremony.

8. Connor Goldson (Rangers)

The Englishman may feel hard done by being so low on the list. He is Steven Gerrard's main centre-back and, in the main, had a comfortable season which saw Rangers' defensive record improve drastically. After conceding 50 league goals last campaign, that figure dropped to 27.

At times he looked a level or two above the Scottish Premiership, strolling out of defence, stepping across forwards, being a step or three ahead of them at every point. But then he could look ragged or just drop his concentration. There is no question, however, that Rangers have an excellent defender on their hands.

7. John Souttar (Heart of Midlothian)

There is something John Souttar will have to deal with for the rest of his career and he probably knows it. Suspicion. No matter the improvements he makes to his game he is tarred with the 'takes too many risks' brush. In reality he continues to be a very good defender. This campaign saw him take more steps to dispelling what is bordering on a myth.

When Christophe Berra was injured at the start of the season Souttar stepped into the leader role. He carried himself with a bit more purpose and was without a doubt more purposeful in his defending. Then injury struck. Yet, he came back and in his first game showed his quality with the ball and why he should be encouraged to play, setting Marcus Godinho up with a glorious pass. His, like many at Tynecastle, quality and consistency dropped towards the end of the season.

6. Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock)

It wasn't that long ago that Killie fans found it hard to hide their frustration with Findlay when he was fielded at left-back. However, since around February last year he has been in the centre of defence and been one of the Rugby Park side's best players.

His improvement continued this campaign and, alongside full-backs Stephen O'Donnell and Greg Taylor, was the measure of consistency. He is what many want from a centre-back, unflappable, able to turn, strong and determined. His improvement was such he was awarded with a call-up to the national team.

5. Dedryck Boyata (Celtic)

The Belgian has had an interesting season. Celtic fans unfurled a banner with a message aimed at their centre-back after he missed the club's crucial Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens when they needed him most to try and push through a move. He scored the only goal against Hamilton that day. He went on to build an excellent partnership with Filip Benkovic as Celtic accelerated through the gears and qualified from their Europa League group.

Injuries then curtailed and finished season and his time at Celtic. The Belgian, on his day, was the best centre-back in the league. But one thing he won't be remembered for is his consistency.

4. Craig Halkett (Livingston)

One of the highest new entrants and deservedly so. Another player who was the definition of consistency and his influence was best seen when he wasn't there. After the split Livi had some real defensive difficulties and they arrived when Halkett wasn't on the pitch.

His presence, the ability to lead the backline and be in the right place at the right time gave the West Lothian side a reliable platform to build on. It is widely accepted Hearts have secured themselves a bargain with his addition on a free contract.

3. Scott McKenna (Aberdeen)

The Aberdeen captain just looks like a dominant centre-back. Tall, strong and commanding. Old school baseball scouts often look at a player's build and frame to judge how good they are. It is no doubt the same with some football scouts and if they were on the hunt for a defender they would be taken by McKenna.

He may have struggled on the international scene but it was another good season domestically. He looks like a player who is experienced and been around for years but he is still just 22 and played less than 80 games for the Dons.

2. Filip Benkovic (Celtic)

The Leicester City loanee was exactly what Celtic needed, albeit slightly later than the club would have liked. Problems at centre-back proved a real thorn in Brendan Rodgers' side as they tried to qualify for the Champions League. However Benkovic arrived and Celtic got better, instantly.

Early signs were of a player who shared similarities to Virgil van Dijk in that he was strolling through games without breaking sweat. Quick and powerful, dominant and aggressive and comfortable on the ball, whether it is going short or long. He has it all. He dominated duels, winning 46.97 per cent, ten per cent more than second on the list and second for winning aerial duels.

1. Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic)

Last year's No.2. He deserves his place at the top of the list and just ahead of Benkovic. It isn't hyperbolic to suggest that the Norwegian is one of the most promising centre-backs in world football. The first half of the season was difficult but the second saw the 21-year-old come into his own.

Ajer was a key part as the eight clean sheets in a row domestically. He is everything you want in a centre-back in terms of rounded qualities, technically, mentally and psychically. No one was better in the air than the defender, while he was perfect for Celtic in tearing out from the back with the ball and giving the team an extra dimension when trying to break through the lines. He became more of a champion as the season went on incorporating a bit of a swagger into his game.