In our second selection guide for The Sun Dream Team, we turn our attention to the defence, casting an eye on the strategies involved in selecting a back four and the prime candidates on offer.
While the big points scorers can be found further up the field, with a quartet of defenders a pre-requisite for our lineups in The Sun Dream Team, we can ill-afford to neglect this area. As with our goalkeeper selection, we’re looking for regular starters first and foremost, although, as we’ll see, attacking instincts and the potential for goals is also key.
Before we begin looking at specific player options, let’s analyse the factors that govern our selection – including last season’s performance, the influence of cup fixtures and possible transfer window strategies.
Top Ten Sun Dream Team Defenders by Overall Points 2012/13
|Name||Team||Starts||7+ Ratings||Star Man||Goals||CS||GC||Points|
Looking back at the previous campaign’s data, it’s clear that some familiar names from other Fantasy games also dominate in The Sun Dream Team. Leighton Baines’ status as the top defensive asset is compounded by his standing, here: he finished the season some 22 points ahead of his nearest rival in The Sun Dream Team, despite claiming just 12 clean sheets. Everton’s progress to the FA Cup semi-finals boosted another eye-catching Premier League season for Baines, who achieved a points per game stat of 4.5 – by far the most impressive amongst the top ranked defenders.
The Chelsea pairing of Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz benefited from a successful Europa League campaign but turned in points per game numbers of 3.2 and 2.9 respectively – emphasising Baines’ efficiency. Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen was also aided by Europa League appearances and, overall, it’s significant that these top four defenders all claimed seven or more goals over the season – underlining the importance of targeting those capable of contributing at the sharp end.
While goals are clearly an important factor, we should also consider the role played by points gained for Star Man and 7+ ratings.
Baines, Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross and West Ham’s James Collins all topped the Star Man charts for defenders with modest totals of five awards. In 2011/12, Baines, along with Shawcross, were two of eight defenders tied on just three at the top. Compare this to Juan Mata’s 15, and the 13 accrued by both Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez last season, and it’s clear that, like goalkeepers, defenders struggle to overshadow their attacking team-mates when it comes to picking up man-of-the-match status.
Points from 7+ Sun Ratings are easier to obtain, however. There were ten defenders who earned 7+ ratings on 20 or more occasions last season, with Baines registering a hugely impressive tally of 32 from his 44 starts, gathering 96 points in this area. Vertonghen also gained heavily here – he collected 7+ ratings on 28 occasions from 48 starts, while Swansea’s Ashley Williams earned the same accolade in 25 of his 41 Dream Team starts.
As a rule, aside from the obvious benefit of scoring in a match, dominant central defenders and full-backs with strong attacking impetus are the most likely to earn a 7+ rating. Baines has featured in the top five rankings for 7+ ratings over the last four seasons – emphasising the importance of a consistent attacking presence. Similarly, both Shawcross and Williams have made the top ten for 7+ ratings in the past two seasons (with Star Man awards also a factor) – it’s obvious that the duo have something to offer in this area.
There’s no question that a Cup run and, in particular, a European campaign can be big factors behind the number of appearances, and therefore the points tallies, of your defenders. In some cases, defensive stalwarts can be less prone to rotation than their attacking counterparts.
Vertonghen was a key benefactor of Tottenham’s Europa League campaign last term, earning 41 of his 164 points in Europe. Similarly, both Ivanovic and Luiz collected 17 and 25 additional points from Champions League and Europa League matches, with Liverpool’s Glen Johnson fetching 18 additional points.
We’re not talking big margins here, but clearly, targeting players with the potential of regular starts in European matches is another factor to consider.
Domestic cup runs can also be considered, but these are far trickier to anticipate, with rotation in the FA and Capital One Cups likely to be rife amongst those sides also competing in Europe. Typically, we’ll see all the Champions League contenders rotate across the board in the domestic cup competitions, leading us to look to those teams outside of these four, perhaps honing in on those sides who will field strong lineups in both domestic trophies – the likes of Everton, West Ham and Norwich, perhaps.
Planning transfer strategies according to The Sun Dream Team Transfer Window is crucial, not least in defence where you can tailor your tactics to give yourself the best opportunity of earning clean sheet rewards.
Transfer Window 1 opens with just three Premier League fixtures played out, on September 3. You’ll have three transfers to use before the Gameweek 4 on September 14 and, with a “use them or lose” policy, it’s wise to examine the options of signing defenders with this in mind.
It’s worth considering a policy of adopting one or even two slots in your back four that can be used to rotate a defender in and out in each Transfer Window according to fixtures and cup progress. Of course, such best laid plans can be ripped up by untimely injuries, however.
The Season Ticker is your key weapon here. We can easily identify those with the easier fixtures over the first three Gameweeks and, if you’re a member, you can use the “clean sheets” filter on the interactive ticker to find those defences most likely to earn shut-outs in this spell.
Our members can also tailor their ticker to examine the next Transfer Window that opens on November 12. By restricting the full Members Ticker to Gameweeks 3-11 you can analyse the difficulty of fixtures between Transfer Window 1 and Transfer Window 2, revealing some valid strategies and targets.
As an example, Southampton face home matches with West Ham, Crystal Palace, Swansea, Fulham and Hull all before Transfer Window 2, therefore, switching in a defender from St Mary’s in Transfer Window 1 for this spell looks an option.
With the Capital One Cup reaching the fourth round by October 28, you will be able to adjust your defence according to those teams who have made progress by the time Transfer Window 2 comes into effect.
It’s not so easy in Europe, with the Europa League and Champions League both on matchday four of the group stages by the time Transfer Window 2 opens.
The FA Cup Third Round does not take place until January 4, so progress here only becomes a factor for the Transfer Window 3 that opens on January 21.
Baines and Vertonghen are obvious draws once again this season with both set to offer a significant attacking threat and assured league starts. There are caveats that might curb investment prior to Transfer Window 1, however, with Baines’ future at Goodison still not uncertain and Vertonghen looking a doubt for the opening fixtures with a pre-season ankle injury. Once settled, however, both look hugely tempting as heavy-hitter investments with Vertonghen’s price tag of £5.5m, coupled with Tottenham’s kind schedule of fixtures up until Transfer Window 2, perhaps giving him the edge once fit.
Coverage of both Man City and United will be high on the agenda given their potential to harvest clean sheets, although the fixture list suggests that initial investment should go the way of Manuel Pellegrini’s side. City have Newcastle, Cardiff and Hull before the first transfer window, while United’s defence face both Liverpool and Chelsea in the same spell.
Vincent Kompany seems likely to be the most secure option in the City rearguard with both full-backs and the Belgian’s central defensive partner set to shuffle on the domestic front and in Europe. If you’re not spending on Joe Hart in goal, the City captain looks a shoo-in, at least until Transfer Window 1 swings open and the United defence comes into play.
That will also give us time to assess how David Moyes will approach his back four. With the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones all available for the centre-half roles, the full-backs – Patrice Evra and Rafael, could be the safer routes to take. Jones, if he can cement a start, either in defence or midfield, looks the one to watch given his modest £4m price tag.
Chelsea’s defensive assets are difficult to sift through. Jose Mourinho will surely rotate at the back and, aside from Ashley Cole (£6.0), few look assured of regular starts in the league, let alone the cup competitions. Luiz, with a significant goal threat, looks to be the crown jewel but at £6.5m, his potential comes at a price. With a difficult start to the campaign (United, Everton, Tottenham and City all before Transfer Window 2), it may be wise to look elsewhere in order to assess Mourinho’s selection pattern.
Lower down the brackets, Ashley Williams, with a valuation of just £3.5m, has attracted more interest than any other defender – he’s been selected by over 31% of managers in The Sun Dream Team so far. Swansea’s Europa League campaign is presumably a factor, here, with Chico (£2.5) finding his way into over 21% of sides. Both could be set to plummet should Swansea falter in qualifying, although arguably, the duo have merits regardless of potential European returns.
Liverpool’s Kolo Toure looks a stronger option in the same bracket. Having figured prominently in pre-season and with Martin Skrtel’s future at Anfield far from certain, Toure looks exceptional value at just £3m. As we mentioned in our previous guide to The Sun Dream Team goalkeepers, there is real merit in acquiring both Toure and Simon Mignolet given their price and Liverpool’s strong early schedule.
Baines’ team-mate Seamus Coleman (£3m) offers an interesting alternative. Classed as a midfielder last season, Coleman is expected to claim the start on the right side of Roberto Martinez’s defence, either as a full-back or wing-back. That should see him contribute regularly to attack and draw plenty of 7+ ratings should Martinez start his Goodison career strongly.
In the budget bracket, West Ham’s defence offers new signing Razvan Rat for just £1m – a hugely attractive option going into Transfer Window 1 with the Hammers facing Cardiff and Stoke at Upton Park, with a trip to Newcastle sandwiched in between. Rat could be a keeper over the season given that price tag, although a transfer out to cash in on Southampton’s aforementioned run up to Transfer Window 2 looks a good tactic.
Full-backs Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne can each be acquired for £2.5m and if Jose Fonte or Jos Hooiveld can secure at start, they can be snapped up for just £1m. Beyond those two clubs, Norwich City’s Michael Turner, at just £1.5m, looks another bargain. If he can gain continue to command starts alongside Sebastian Bassong, he should offer value, particularly if Chris Hughton’s side can translate their summer spending into a domestic Cup run.
The Sun Dream Team Scout League
The Sun Dream Team is long established as one of the biggest players in the UK Fantasy Football market, attracting a huge audience wowed by the most substantial prizes on offer. Once again, this season, there’s a huge £500,000 prize pool to be divided up. Registration for teams and leagues opens on August 1 but you can select your lineups right now.
We also have our own Fantasy Football Scout League with a £1000 top prize on offer to the winner.
Once you register and create your team or teams, simply use the following PIN and password to enter.
League Name: Fantasy Football Scout
You’ll find these details on the middle column of the homepage from this point on.