Good debate this.
Interesting that some people have brought Adams and Stam in to it. I would put both of those players behind the three we are discussing here.
Adams was a very strong defender and good leader of a back line. He was really good in the air. However I don't think he would have been as effective in the modern game. People used to laugh off the 'donkey' chants about him being clumsy on the ball and it didn't matter back then but I think the game has moved on and at the very top of the game you need your centre backs to have a better all round game. I also think Adams, like Bould, Dixon and Winterburn, all looked better as they were part of a really good unit that was better than the sum of their parts, I am not sure they would have looked as good in a different environment. Adams would have still been a leading centre back today, but I don't think he would have been at one of the title challenging clubs, he would be more like a Chris Samba type figure.
Actually if we are talking about Arsenal centre backs the one that could have pushed Vidic, Ferdinand and Campbell would be Keown. His man marking was about the best seen in the Premier League and when you see the top strikers from his era interviewed about who was their toughest opponent they tend to say Keown. He played in an era with a lot of top English strikers and he was very good at sticking to them like glue and physically bullying them. IMO Keown was a really underrated player, he was top draw.
Stam on the other hand I think was a touch overrated. Good, but not in the class of the later United centre backs Ferdinand and Vidic. Fans liked Stam because he was strong and built like a tank and he had good pace but he was not particularly agile on the turn and prone to making mistakes against fast forwards.
I think there's little between the three in the title of the thread. If pushed I would go Rio, Sol, Vidic but its a toss up really.
Yeah, the only player Vidic seems to have struggled massively with is Liverpool Torres. I think Vidic just enjoyed breaking him too much.
I'd probably say Vidic because from a subjective point of view, he's my type of defender - all action, leader, organiser, awesome in the air and with his tackling. He was a magnificient signing by SAF and it's great to see him as our captain. He still has those attributes but to a lesser degree, sadly, due to injuries. But with him in the side from 2006-2009, you never really worried.
Ferdinand though, is one of those defender who as said above makes the job look easy, probably doesn't get the kudos he deserves. But last season, we wouldn't have won the title had it not been for his skills. Skills which as he gets older, he can maintain as his games doesn't involve the intensity that Vidic/Campbell need.
Campbell was immense also but Vidic for me just is a name who when he was, or is on the teamsheet, brings calm to my nerves.
Vidic/Ferdinand werent the same on their own whereas Sol was just a one man beast. Rio/Vidic were unplayable in 2008, but dont forget that Sol led the defense that went 1000 odd minutes in the CL without conceding a goal in 2006 vs Real/Juve/Barca etc. Sol was the complete defender, physically unbeatable, awesome in the air but also fast and with great anticipation/positioning as well. Perfect tackling tekkers as well.
So for me. Sol>Vidic>Rio.
All time EPL defense wouldnt include any of them tbh:
Neville Terry Adams Cole