With the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game now up and running, Fantasy managers are scouring the market for value as they piece together their pre-season squads. After running the rule over Goalkeepers, we now take our time to look at defenders – splitting our analysis over three separate articles, we begin with the budget options as we cast an eye over those under the 5.0 mark.
Having racked up a mere five clean sheets in 2012/13, it’s no surprise to see Villa centre-halves Ron Vlaar and Ciaran Clark come in at 4.5. Looking at the new acquisitions so far this summer, left-back Antonio Luna is the most appealing cheap option in Paul Lambert’s squad, though. Providing he can cement a regular role at left-back, the Spaniard should be afforded plenty license to forage down the flank if, as anticipated, Paul Lambert maintains a 4-3-3 formation.
Cardiff duo Matthew Connolly and Mark Hudson carried plenty goal threat last term. The centre-halves notched five and four goals respectively for Malky Mackay’s side and have been slapped with a 4.5 price tag, with the Bluebirds registering 18 clean sheets in their Championship-winning season. If they can replicate their attacking endeavours, they look decent alternatives to David Marshall (4.5) between the sticks.
Over at fellow promoted club Palace, only Damien Delaney is 4.5, thanks to his three goals and two assists in 2012/13. The rest of Ian Holloway’s current defenders are listed at a mere 4.0, with Jonathan Parr looking the most viable cut-price option – he provided four assists from left-back before sustaining an ankle injury last term and is hoping to be ready in time for the new campaign. Parr could afford us a cheap, fifth bench-warming defender and is less expensive than Julian Speroni (4.5) – the keeper option at Selhurst Park.
Holloway’s side also rotate with Hull, where former Man United youth prospect James Chester featured 44 times last term. At 4.0, he seems secure for starts, though Steve Bruce’s summer shopping spree, which has so far seen Curtis Davies and Maynor Figueroa arrive (both priced at 4.5) is a little worrying, bearing in mind Bruce plans to play three at the back again. If Chester, as expected, keeps his place, a potential rotation pairing with the likes of Parr looks eye-catching at 8.0 for the duo, though with clean sheets a concern, many may choose to pick up just one player from Palace or Hull as bench fodder material.
Providing he can remain injury-free, Antolin Alcaraz could play a major part in Everton’s season if Roberto Martinez moves to 3-4-3. While the Paraguayan’s 4.5 price is cheaper than any other Toffees regular, he may struggle for investment due to potential out of position prospects elsewhere in Martinez’s defence – Fantasy managers will be keeping an eye on the goalkeeper situation at Goodison, however, with Joel Robles similarly priced. There’s more potential in Fulham’s summer signing Fernando Amorebieta, though. The Spaniard has been handed a kinder price tag than the rest of Martin Jol’s regulars – he sets you back 4.5 and is expected to be installed alongside Brede Hangeland at the heart of the back-four, with the Cottagers boss looking for a little more assurance in possession at the back.
Both Javier Garrido and Michael Turner offer a cheap route into the Norwich backline, coming in at 4.5 apiece. Turner undoubtedly looks the most appealing of the pair – he scored three times in 26 appearances last season and with Chris Hughton bringing in Martin Olsson (also 4.5), Garrido looks to have real competition for the left-back slot. With home games against Everton, Southampton and Villa allied with a trip to Villa in the opening five, the Norwich defence looks a strong shout for investment, with Turner also cheaper than keeper John Ruddy (5.0).
Newcastle’s Steven Taylor may prove a cheap option at the back for Alan Pardew’s side. The centre-half has been priced lower than most of the Magpies’ defensive regulars but could face real competition for a starting berth from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa – whoever wins the battle to partner Fabricio Coloccini in the heart of the back-four could be a budget-friendly acquisition at 4.5 and will, of course, offer a home/away partnership with Sunderland over the 38 Gameweeks. Newcastle need to improve considerably from last term, though, having conceded 68 goals – if they can even begin to approach the resilience that harvested 15 clean sheets in the 2011/12 campaign, there could be real value in the Magpies’ cut-price assets.
Southampton’s raiding full-backs Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw both look enticing at 4.5. The Saints conceded just nine times in the last 10 Gameweeks of 2012/13 and with the likes of Dejan Lovren and Victor Wanyama added to the ranks, confidence is high in their defensive potential – Clyne and Shaw should also offer attacking threat down the flanks in Mauricio Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1, with their pace and creativity in the final third key to their manager’s formation. For those eyeing up a Southampton/West Ham rotation plan, the Hammers’ James Collins also comes in at 4.5 – teaming him up with one of Clyne or Shaw will set you back 9.0, compared to a Ruddy/Jussi Jaaskelainen combination at 10.5. Both sides rotate over the entire 38 Gameweeks and would hand you (CAR, SUN, STO, WHM, EVE, CPL, SWA, MCI, FUL, AVL) over the opening 10 Gameweeks of the season.
For the Black Cats, new recruits Valentin Roberge and Modibo Diakite are also ones to consider in the budget bracket, though their prospects are somewhat hampered by a tricky first few months. With Arsenal, Liverpool, United, City, Chelsea and Tottenham all rolling up to the Stadium of Light by Gameweek 15, it’s difficult to justify any level of investment in Paolo Di Canio’s backline for the first few months, denting the prospect of a Tyne-Wear defensive partnership for just 9.0. Swansea’s fit-again Neil Taylor also comes in at 4.5. The left-back spent the vast majority of last term in the treatment room but, with Europa League duties and the Capital One Cup to defend, there’s the fear that Michael Laudrup will rotate Taylor with 5.0 priced Ben Davies from one game to the next, thus denting both players’ Fantasy potential over the upcoming campaign.