A number of price hikes have completely changed the layout of Fantasy Premier League defenders.
After suggestions that a five-man defence of attacking full-backs would be the way to go in 2019/20, the members of the premium and mid-price categories in this position have gone some way to ruling that tactic out already.
This is the first of a series of articles reviewing each position by price now that FPL has launched for the new season.
Following excellent 2018/19 campaigns, both Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold will start 2019/20 at £7.0m.
That should complicate the quandary of Liverpool’s defence this season as doubling-up on both of these options could leave Fantasy managers significantly short of funds elsewhere.
It is likely that we will be forced to choose between them and opt for only one, which could prove an incredibly difficult decision.
Robertson finished the season with 213 points, the most ever scored by a defender in FPL history but Alexander-Arnold caught up with him towards the back end of the campaign.
The Englishman recorded 13 assists to Robertson’s 12 in the end and had a hand in corners and free-kicks.
Now that we have confirmation that the two players will be the same price for 2019/20, we will have further analysis in a Members article.
Despite suggestions that Virgil van Dijk could be the same price as his full-back colleagues, he is already offering an undercut on them at £6.5m.
Crucially, three Liverpool defenders who will be hoping to nail down a regular starting spot in the side could potentially provide a bargain route into their backline.
Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez have all come in priced at £5.5m.
Of this trio, the former started the most matches in 2018/19, featuring from the beginning 17 times and registering 1,535 minutes.
However, if he can get back to full fitness for 2019/20, Gomez could reclaim his place at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
He appeared to be the first choice to sit alongside van Dijk at the beginning of 2018/19, making 12 starts between Gameweek 1 and the injury sustained in Gameweek 15.
That was the same number of starts as Alexander-Arnold, as Gomez occasionally played at right-back, and 10 more than Matip during that period.
The only other defensive options who will cost Fantasy managers more than £6.0m from Gameweek 1 this season are Marcos Alonso (£6.5m) and Aymeric Laporte (£6.5m).
The Frenchman’s price hike could see a return to options such as Benjamin Mendy or Kyle Walker, both of whom have come in at £6.0m.
However, with neither of them particularly immune to Pep Guardiola’s rotation policy, maybe Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.5m) could be the go-to man when covering the Manchester City defence.
Reclassified as an FPL defender, he started nine matches in the final 10 Gameweeks of 2018/19.
Nicolas Otamendi (£5.5m) and John Stones (£5.5m) both start the same price as him but at present, it’s hard to say which of them will partner Laporte at centre-back on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, with David Luiz (£6.0m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) both £0.5m cheaper than Alonso, it could be another year of regression for the Chelsea left-back as a Fantasy asset.
Furthermore, Emerson Palmieri (£5.5m) continues to offer a cheaper option and could be a potential bargain if he manages to wrench the first-choice spot away from Alonso full-time.
Meanwhile, Antonio Rüdiger is also in the £6.0m bracket but does not carry as much additional offensive potential as Luiz and Azpilicueta.
Just two defenders created more big chances than Chelsea’s Brazilian centre-back in 2018/19.
One of those was Everton man Lucas Digne who has surprised a few by joining the £6.0m club for 2019/20.
With Everton’s incredible early fixtures, and impressive defensive performances in the back-end of 2018/19 (eight clean sheets in 11), a slightly higher price than we were hoping will disappoint many Fantasy managers.
Perhaps then, 2019/20 will be the season that Seamus Coleman returns to the forefront of the game.
Despite outscoring Digne in the calendar year of 2019 so far, the right-back starts the new campaign £0.5m cheaper than the Frenchman at £5.5m.
This is another comparison we will be covering in a Members article.
Also cursed by an impressive 2018/19 campaign was Matt Doherty who has risen by £1.5m between last season and this.
The Wolves right-back will cost Fantasy managers £6.0m from Gameweek 1 in 2019/20, almost effectively ruling him out of consideration.
Despite involving himself in 11 of Wolves’ goals last term, Doherty kept just eight clean sheets – and let’s not forget that the easier fixtures were when Fantasy managers were often let down the most.
It is still worth saying that Nuno Espirito Santo’s men probably underachieved when it came to defensive returns in 2018/19 and could potentially do better this time around.
Only Liverpool and Manchester City allowed fewer big chances than Wolves last season and they also ranked fourth-best for expected goals conceded (xGC).
However, with the added consideration of the Europa League, so-so opening fixtures and, at present, a relatively small squad still, we can’t exactly guarantee an improvement in defensive returns for Doherty.
Therefore, it is hard to justify the £6.0m price-tag for the right-back considering that Fantasy managers already have to consider spending more money on Liverpool and Manchester City defences in 2019/20 first.
For some additional context, Doherty costs the same amount as Walker, Mendy, David Luiz and Azpilicueta.
Unfortunately, Doherty’s colleague on the opposite flank of defence cannot really offer much of an undercut either. Despite scoring just 103 points last season, Jonny has seen his price rise to a very steep £5.5m.
Not only does he suffer the same defensive shortcomings as Doherty, but he was also miles behind the Irishman for attacking threat in 2018/19.
Jonny recorded just four attacking returns last season, from one goal and three assists.
Furthermore, 35 defenders registered more touches in opposition boxes than the Spaniard and 12 played more key passes.
Also arriving in 2019/20 more expensive than expected is Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira who has been priced at £6.0m.
That should see Ben Chilwell earn some popularity as a cheaper alternative, as he, like Coleman, will be £5.5m from Gameweek 1.
Furthermore, if he does end up completing a move to a top-six side, Manchester City linked with him, he could be a decent bargain option too.
If he does remain at Leicester, Fantasy managers could still be faced with a choice between the two defenders.
Chilwell played more key passes than Pereira in 2018/19, but the latter registered five times as many big chances created than his English colleague.
One interesting opportunity for Fantasy managers is £0.5m being knocked off the key Spurs defenders for 2019/20.
Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Ben Davies, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sánchez have all arrived as £5.5m options, with Serge Aurier joining Juan Foyth and Kyle Walker-Peters in the £5.0m section.
These reductions could be good news for Fantasy managers as Spurs had the joint third-best defensive record in the Premier League in 2018/19, conceding 39 goals.
Only Manchester City (23) and Liverpool (22) were breached fewer times, while only four clubs kept more clean sheets.
However, their first four fixtures do look tough with a trip to the Etihad and a north London derby in Gameweeks 2 and 4 respectively, although their home fixtures up until Christmas are very promising.
Spurs were also fortunate not to concede more often in 2018/19.
They had the biggest negative xGC delta of all last season, no team recording worse than their -8.60.
Despite their woeful defensive performances in 2018/19, there are still three Arsenal defenders in the £5.5m bracket.
They are Hector Bellerín, Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi.
Arsenal conceded 51 goals last season and kept just eight clean sheets and only one away from home – that last statistic proving the worst in the league.
Also probably priced out of consideration in the £5.5m department are Crystal Palace full-backs Patrick van Aanholt and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
After starting last season at £4.0m, we all knew that the young right-back wouldn’t stay cheap for long.
Considering he was involved in just three goals for the Eagles in 2018/19, £5.5m seems a bit much to pay for not much more than investment in their defence, even if they did keep 12 clean sheets last season.
Admittedly, he was in the top eight for bonus points among defenders last term (18),
It is possible that the game-makers at FPL handed Wan-Bissaka such an inflated price in anticipation of his move to Manchester United.
However, even at the Red Devils, he might not necessarily offer much more than Luke Shaw (£5.5m), Ashley Young (£5.5m), Victor Lindelöf (£5.5m) or Chris Smalling (£5.5m).
With his attacking potential fairly minimal, you could even argue that his clean sheet potential could drop at Old Trafford compared to Selhurst Park.
Manchester United conceded 54 goals in 2018/19, keeping seven clean sheets while Palace
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