Fantasy Premier League managers looking for this season’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m) probably wouldn’t have been too inspired upon the game’s relaunch in late June.
A budget defender is a prized commodity in the Fantasy world, particularly when we are trying to accommodate as many premium assets as possible.
There are no underpriced gems that are immediately apparent in the £4.0m bracket, although pre-season can often throw up a name to consider from this select group – as was the case with Wan-Bissaka 12 months ago.
There is more choice in the £4.5m rung as we hunt for the next Matt Doherty (£6.0m) but there are still plenty of names to sift through and disregard in this price band, too.
Finding the best cut-price options at the back is something we’ll be doing in the article below as we look at all 76 defenders currently listed below the £5.0m mark.
The £4.0m Enablers
At the time of writing, there are 13 defenders priced up at £4.0m.
Martin Kelly (£4.0m) saw the most Premier League minutes among this baker’s dozen last season and indeed he is currently the most-owned defender in his price band, sitting in more than one in five FPL squads.
Kelly started all of Palace’s final seven fixtures and made 13 appearances in all.
Each of those run-outs came at centre-half, however, as he filled in for the injured James Tomkins (£5.0m) and/or Mamadou Sakho (£5.0m).
Any Fantasy manager hoping that Kelly will be given the nod to replace Wan-Bissaka at right-back might be disappointed, then, with Joel Ward (£4.5m) having deputised in that position last season in the games that the new £50m Manchester United signing missed.
There also seems a good chance that Roy Hodgson will use some of the cash from that sale to bolster his options at full-back.
Kelly could still start the season in the Palace starting XI should Sakho or Tomkins not recover but long-term the prospects don’t look great for regular minutes.
At Bournemouth, Diego Rico‘s first-team opportunities (£4.0m) look bleak following the capture of Lloyd Kelly (£4.5m) while Jack Simpson (£4.0m) may very well be fourth-choice centre-half when the Cherries have a full complement of stoppers fit. Kelly, indeed, can also play centrally.
Ben Gibson (£4.0m) had just one league run-out last season but may only be a Ben Mee or James Tarkowski (both £5.0m) injury away from a stint in the first team: Mee was an ever-present last season, with Tarkowski missing just three games.
Max Kilman, Grant Hanley and Winston Reid (all £4.0m) are further down the centre-half pecking orders at their respective clubs, although Nuno Espirito Santo had positive things to say about Kilman in April:
Max is 100 percent integrated into the squad. He’s improving. We try an individual approach with him, trying to, first of all, get him better as an athlete. That includes a lot of aspects – nutrition, gym.
And then we integrate him into a full training session with the first team, because playing and training with us will improve his level.
He’s gradually improving and he will have his chance, for sure. He will have his chance.
Former Wolves stopper Richard Stearman (£4.0m) is currently the backup option for John Egan (£4.5m) in the Sheffield United backline, while John Lundstram (£4.0m) has been classed as a defender despite being a central midfielder by trade.
We are unlikely to see much of the tough-tackling Lundstram, though, given that he has not started a single league match in 2019 and indeed struggled to make the match-day squad in the second half of last season.
Watford duo Marc Navarro and Sebastian Prodl (both £4.0m) each failed to clock up more than 100 minutes of Premier League football last season and are some way down the pecking order in their respective positions, while youngster Ben Johnson (£4.0m) was only called on by West Ham after an injury crisis at right-back in Gameweek 28.
Academy product Kayne Ramsay (£4.0m) only had one run-out for Southampton last season and will be hoping for more of a look-in this year, given Ralph Hasenhuttl’s record for placing trust in his youth team players.
The possible switch to a 4-2-2-2 (Hasenhuttl having mostly used a three-man central defence last season) would seem to further impinge on his first-team chances, however.
‘Big Six’ Backups
Konstantinos Mavropanos and Carl Jenkinson (both £4.5m) made only five starts between them last season and would seem unlikely to be challenging for a first-team place at Arsenal come Gameweek 1, although Crystal Palace have reportedly been linked with a move for Jenkinson as they seek a replacement for Wan-Bissaka.
Rob Holding (£4.5m) is still making his way back from a long-term knee injury but could be one to watch when fully fit, given that he had racked up nine straight starts before rupturing an ACL in December.
That said, Arsenal’s defensive record requires serious improvement from last season – particularly away from home, where they kept fewer clean sheets than any other Premier League side.
Davide Zappacosta (£4.5m) could depart Stamford Bridge this summer but if he stays and Chelsea are unable to recruit, then the Italian right-back may only be a Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) injury away from offering Fantasy managers a budget route into the Blues’ backline.
That’s easier said than done, of course, given that Azpilicueta has made at least 37 top-flight appearances in each of the last four seasons.
Reece James (not priced up by FPL) is another option at right-back, meanwhile, although is currently recovering from an ankle injury.
All of Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur’s defenders are priced at £5.0m or higher.
Newly Promoted Options
All bar one of the defenders representing Sheffield United, Norwich City and Aston Villa cost less than £5.0m in FPL.
The exception is the Blades’ attack-minded wing-back Enda Stevens (£5.0m), who banked four goals and six assists last season.
Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham (all £4.5m) were United’s regular centre-halves in manager Chris Wilder’s 3-4-2-1, with O’Connell and Basham given license to overlap in this unique system.
George Baldock (£4.5m) ousted Kieron Freeman (£4.5m) from the right wing-back position midway through last season, although one goal and two assists says much about the difference between him and Stevens.
This position might very well be one that Wilder looks to reinforce this summer, too.
With 15 clean sheets in their final 23 games last season (21 shut-outs in all), the Blades had the best joint-best defensive record in the English second tier.
Norwich City’s offensive full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis (both £4.5m) are the obvious draw at Carrow Road, although the Canaries’ troubling defensive record (57 goals conceded and just 13 clean sheets) last season and tricky-looking opening five fixtures will be a deterrent.
Ben Godfrey (£4.5m) is a goal threat at centre-half alongside Christoph Zimmermann (£4.5m), with Timm Klose (£4.5m) having lost his place in the second half of 2018/19.
The Villans are short of numbers at the back after relying heavily on the loan market last season.
Axel Tuanzebe and Tyrone Mings (price TBC) have returned to their parent clubs, having ended the season as Villa’s first-choice centre-half pairing.
James Chester (£4.5m) was a regular before February but didn’t play in his side’s final 20 fixtures and has since admitted that the knee injury that sidelined him is one he will have to manage for the rest of his career.
Dean Smith has recruited Kortney Hause and Matt Targett (£4.5m) already, which will dent Neil Taylor‘s (£4.5m) first-team chances at left-back.
Ahmed El Mohamady (£4.5m), who scored two goals and registered eight assists last season, is perhaps the pick of Villa’s defenders from a Fantasy perspective but Smith will surely reinforce the right-back position this summer too after the departure of Alan Hutton.
El Mohamady has already scored twice for Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations but will arrive back to the Midlands late in pre-season as a result of his involvement in the tournament.
You can read much more detailed reports on these three teams’ defensive options in the articles linked below.
Three of the ‘non-big six’ sides who finished in the top half last season have defenders available at £4.5m but they are a mixed bag at best.
Caglar Soyuncu and Wes Morgan (both £4.5m) will likely be backup options to Harry Maguire (£5.5m) and Jonny Evans (£5.0m), although the two Manchester clubs are said to be circling around Maguire this summer.
Christian Fuchs (£4.5m) won’t see much game-time, meanwhile, with new recruit James Justin (£5.0m) able to deputise at left-back should Ben Chilwell (£5.5m) pick up an injury.
Romain Saiss and Ruben Vinagre (both £4.5m) are two cut-price options at Wolves.
Vinagre, in particular, would appeal should there be an injury picked up by Matt Doherty (£6.0m) or Jonny (£5.5m).
Saiss played at both centre-half and central midfield last season, although was never a ‘nailed’ prospect in either position and made only 12 starts.
All of West Ham’s defenders apart from Aaron Cresswell (£5.0m) are available at £4.5m or less.
Their cut-price availability is for good reason, though: only relegated Huddersfield and Fulham kept fewer clean sheets than the Hammers (seven) last season, with Manuel Pellegrini’s side shipping 55 goals in the process.
Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena (£4.5m) would appear to be the first-choice centre-back pairing, with Angelo Ogbonna (£4.5m) next in line.
Balbuena had more efforts in the box than any of his teammates last season, despite only making 23 appearances due to injury.
Uncertainty over the full-back positions dents the appeal of Arthur Masuaku, Pablo Zabaleta, Ryan Fredericks (all £4.5m) and Cresswell, although Fredericks is surely the long-term right-back solution with Zabaleta turning 35 midway through next season.
All of Everton’s defenders are priced at £5.0m and above.
Eagles and Magpies
Of the sides we have not yet discussed, Newcastle United and Crystal Palace are the two who had the best defensive records in the Premier League last season based on goals conceded (48 and 53) and clean sheets registered (11 and 12).
Rafael Benitez’s exit and Newcastle’s awful opening run of fixtures is an immediate turn-off, however.
Uncertainty over their new manager’s preferred personnel and formation also abound, although Jamaal Lascelles looks the pick of the bunch at £4.5m.
Javier Manquillo and the injured DeAndre Yedlin (both £4.5m) will do battle again for the right-back slot, while the likes of Florian Lejeune, Paul Dummett, Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark (all £4.5m) offer Benitez’s replacement – if not Fantasy managers – plenty of options at centre-half.
Matt Ritchie (£5.5m) and Fabian Schar (£5.0m)’s increased goal and assist threat has seen those two players priced higher, with Ritchie a possible ‘out of position’ asset to watch in 2019/20.
Joel Ward and Scott Dann (both £4.5m) were very much backup options at Selhurst Park last season and only deputised in their respective positions when injuries mounted.
Hodgson will surely look to reinforce his defence over the summer following Wan-Bissaka’s departure, with Ward no doubt hoping that Palace draw a blank in the transfer market as he appears to be next in line at right-back.
Dann will be primed for a start in Gameweek 1 should Mamadou Sakho and/or James Tomkins (£5.0m) fail to recover from injury but his long-term Fantasy appeal isn’t great.
Watford were the only club not to keep a clean sheet in the final 12 Gameweeks of the season and conceded more big chances than any other team in that time.
Interest in the Hornets’ backline may be lukewarm, then, although matches against Brighton, West Ham and Newcastle appeal in the opening four Gameweeks.
The sheer number of defenders available to Javi Gracia (there are ten listed in FPL) is off-putting, while the two who may offer the best chance of attacking returns – Craig Dawson and Jose Holebas – will cost £5.0m.
Craig Cathcart (£4.5m) did score three goals from centre-half and made more top-flight appearances than any of Watford’s defenders last season but faces competition for his place from Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele (both £4.5m), Dawson and, to a lesser extent, Prodl.
Adam Masina (£4.5m) was mostly a backup to Holebas in 2018/19 while Daryl Janmaat and Kiko Femenia (both £4.5m) interchanged at right-back – if one of those two can nail down a starting spot ahead of Gameweek 1 then they may stoke modest interest, given their attacking mindsets.
Bournemouth and Southampton’s home fixtures interchange perfectly this season and each south coast club have defensive options available at £4.5m.
Southampton centre-backs Maya Yoshida, Jack Stephens and Jan Bednarek (all £4.5m) scored only one goal between them last season, however, while only Huddersfield kept fewer clean sheets than the Saints in the 23 matches that Hasenhuttl oversaw.
Bournemouth duo Simon Francis and Charlie Daniels (both £4.5m) are currently recovering from long-term knee injuries so fellow full-backs Lloyd Kelly and Adam Smith (both £4.5m) may well be in line to start in Gameweek 1.
The pair registered only three attacking returns between them last season, however.
The Cherries’ first seven fixtures are among the best in the division although they have never been a defensively sound side: Eddie Howe’s troops have conceded at least 60 goals in each of their four seasons in the Premier League, with 2018/19’s tally of 70 goals against their worst ever in the top flight.
Somehow, though, they kept ten clean sheets last season.
Chris Mepham is another option at £4.5m but will have to oust Nathan Ake or Steve Cook (both £5.0m) at centre-half first.
Burnley are another club who can be paired in a rotation: the Clarets’ home fixtures dovetail neatly with Aston Villa’s.
Phil Bardsley and Matthew Lowton (£4.5m) will tussle for the right-back slot but offer little in the way of attacking threat, while Kevin Long (£4.5m) will again provide backup at centre-half.
Charlie Taylor (£4.5m) is a possible prospect from Gameweek 5 onwards, with the Burnley left-back – an ever-present in 2018/19 – ranking joint-seventh among FPL defenders for completed crosses last season.
Those crosses only translated into one assist, however, so his low price tag is warranted.
Brighton, who fare well on our Season Ticker in the opening half-dozen Gameweeks, complete our look at budget defenders.
Shane Duffy has risen to £5.0m following his five-goal campaign in 2018/19, leaving Lewis Dunk as the stand-out option in the £4.5m bracket.
Dunk himself registered three attacking returns last season but a lack of clean sheets (only seven for Brighton) meant that he again failed to crack the 100-point mark in FPL.
Deputy centre-halves Matthew Clarke and Leon Balogun are also available at £4.5m.
Full-back rotation was rife last season, with not one of Martin Montoya, Bernardo or Gaetan Bong (all £4.5m) making more than 24 starts or registering more than one assist each.
Graham Potter’s arrival could change the landscape at the Amex, of course, with the former Swansea boss bringing a more attack-minded mindset to the south coast.
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