Our price-by-price, position-by-position analysis of Fantasy Premier League assets continues with a look at defenders who cost £5.0m or more.
Now we turn our attention to the pricier options at the back.
FPL have handed us unlimited transfers ahead of the Double Gameweek 30+ deadline, meaning that we can reshape our squads to our heart’s desire before football restarts on June 17.
There are 59 assets to choose from in the £5.0m-£7.8m bracket, although some of the group have either departed the Premier League, are flagged with an injury or are fringe players at best.
We’ll only focus on the ones worth considering, then, in our summary below.
Enda Stevens and George Baldock
- Prices: Stevens (£5.2m), Baldock (£5.1m)
- Ownerships: Stevens (2.3%), Baldock (11.8%)
- Next four Gameweeks: avl + new | mun | TOT | bur
Sheffield United’s affordable centre-halves were included in our budget defenders piece but for those Fantasy managers who have a bit more money to spend, then the Blades’ two wing-backs offer more of a sustained attacking threat.
While nowhere near the levels of Liverpool’s two full-backs, Enda Stevens (£5.2m) and George Baldock (£5.1m) have nevertheless contributed ten attacking returns between them this season – that’s more than strikers David McGoldrick (£5.4m), Billy Sharp (£5.6m) and Oli McBurnie (£5.7m) have managed combined.
Baldock had started off the season the cheaper of the two but just £0.1m separates the pair now, following the intra-season price rises.
Stevens arguably merits the extra 100k, having supplied twice as many key passes as Baldock and having created more big chances than anyone in the Sheffield United squad.
The Irishman is actually fifth and third among FPL defenders for chances and big chances created this season.
Both players feature in the top ten for final-third touches and crosses among players in their Fantasy position, meanwhile.
The early Double Gameweek is the main attraction, with Aston Villa and an anaemic Newcastle United side representing two favourable matches.
The fixtures aren’t great thereafter, though, so, despite the Blades’ excellent defensive record (25 goals conceded, the second-lowest total in the division), their appeal may be short-lived.
- Price: £6.3m
- Ownership: 8.7%
- Next four fixtures: whu | BOU | avl | ARS
There are cheaper routes into the Wolverhampton Wanderers backline than Matt Doherty (£6.3m), with Willy Boly (£4.8m) and Romain Saiss (£4.6m) offering a substantial saving on the Ireland international.
While those two centre-halves offer a threat from dead-ball situations, they can’t hold a candle to Doherty’s all-round attacking menace.
The Irishman hit double figures for goals and assists combined last season and is well on course to emulate that achievement in this campaign, having racked up nine attacking returns already.
He was also FPL’s form player (should that mean anything now) before the mid-March suspension, having averaged eight points per match in the preceding five Gameweeks.
No Fantasy defender has had as many penalty box touches, shots in the box or big chances than Doherty this season.
The fixtures are fairly favourable, too, especially in the first three Gameweeks back in which Wolves meet struggling West Ham, Bournemouth and Aston Villa.
Perhaps the main concern would be over rotation or minute management.
Nuno Espirito Santo has generally favoured a settled side in his two years as a Premier League manager but there were a lot of changes at the start of 2019/20, with Wolves juggling Europa League commitments too.
With that competition not resuming until August and Wolves already eliminated from the FA Cup, the fixture congestion at least won’t be as bad for Santo’s troops as it will be for other top-flight sides.
Wolves having a very thin squad perhaps also helps Doherty’s cause, although Adama Traore (£5.7m) has and can deputise at right wing-back as an alternative.
Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka
- Price: Both £5.3m
- Ownership: Maguire (10.8%), Wan-Bissaka (14.4%)
- Next four fixtures: tot | SHU | bha | BOU
With Brandon Williams (£4.2m) gunning for Luke Shaw‘s (£5.3m) position and Victor Lindelof (£5.4m) perhaps not as nailed following Eric Bailly‘s (£4.9m) return, we look to £135m worth of talent elsewhere in the Manchester United defence.
Harry Maguire (£5.3m) hasn’t missed a minute of Premier League football this season, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka‘s (£5.3m) only unenforced absence came in the form of a Gameweek 20 benching at Turf Moor.
That spot of festive rotation from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a mite concerning given the similar fixture congestion ahead but we can still expect Wan-Bissaka to start the bulk, perhaps all, of the remaining nine games and Maguire to be an immovable presence at the heart of the defence.
The former Leicester stopper is fourth among FPL defenders for attempts on goal in 2019/20, while Wan-Bissaka has shown clear improvement from an attacking perspective in the second half of the campaign, with his rate of take-ons, dribbles and key passes all up.
United had been in great form defensively, too, with four clean sheets in their last five. No coincidence, perhaps, given that that Fred (£5.3m), Nemanja Matic (£4.8m) and Bruno Fernandes (£8.6m), whose ball retention is a defensive weapon in itself, were in such good nick before COVID-19 stopped play.
Once the Gameweek 30+ trip to Spurs is out of the way, United then face seven of the 11 lowest-scoring teams in the division in succession.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk
- Price: Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m), Robertson (£7.0m), van Dijk (£6.5m)
- Ownership: Alexander-Arnold (44.6%), Robertson (19.8%), van Dijk (44.3%)
- Next four fixtures: eve | CRY | mci | AVL
No guide to premium FPL defenders would be complete without Liverpool’s holy trinity.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m), Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) and Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) are the three highest-scoring FPL defenders of the season, having racked up 29 attacking returns between them.
No side has conceded fewer goals or kept more clean sheets than Liverpool, either.
Alexander-Arnold has been particularly phenomenal, registering an average of one assist every other start.
Jurgen Klopp has favoured a very settled side for much of 2019/20 but did make his traditional seasonal tweaks in December, with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson handed their only benchings of the campaign.
That track record for rotation in periods of fixture congestion ought to be a consideration, then, along with the near-certainty that Liverpool will soon have the Premier League title wrapped up and have relatively little – other than a record points tally – to play for.
Still, while the Reds are chasing down that elusive trophy, their well-owned premium defenders remain formidable options.
Alexander-Arnold’s creativity has been outstanding this season and he is basically a mid-price midfielder who not only will deliver regular assists but also be eligible for full clean sheet points. In summary: he puts every other sub-£8.0m asset, regardless of position, into the shade.
When the title is in the bag, we may have to reassess.
We don’t really know what Klopp will do thereafter but perhaps the loquacious German will give us some morsels in one of his press conferences as to whether he plans to give his fringe players some overdue starts between now and Gameweek 38+.
That may be when van Dijk comes to the fore, with the Dutchman having not failed to start a single Premier League match since January 2018.
Like Doherty, Marcos Alonso (£6.2m) had been catching the eye before the coronavirus pandemic brought football to a halt.
Three goals and 30 FPL points in the three Gameweeks before the hiatus continued the wing-back’s remarkable run of not having delivered a single blank in any of his 2019/20 starts.
‘Starts’ is the operative word in that sentence: there have been only nine of them this season.
With Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.9m) and Reece James (£5.1m) also competing for the full-back slots, no-one could say with any conviction that Alonso will retain his starting berth when Gameweek 30+ rolls around.
Many of us will baulk at the idea of paying over £6.0m for a rotation risk, then, even if Alonso was posting some very eye-catching attacking numbers in the spring.
The three defenders could still all make the same starting XI if Frank Lampard deploys a wing-back system (Azpilicueta moving to centre-half) but he has generally preferred a back four since his appointment and indeed Chelsea adopted a 4-3-3 when they hammered Everton in Gameweek 29.
James is himself an interesting proposition, having made the line-up and caught the eye offensively in seven of Chelsea’s last nine matches, but even £5.1m might be considered too much of an outlay for a defender we couldn’t guarantee will play.
Sheffield United aside, there aren’t too many defenders who leap out for the opening Double Gameweek.
The fit-again Aymeric Laporte (£6.3m) has an excellent track record with Double Gameweeks, scoring 53 points across City’s three doubles last season, and was a reliable starter in City’s title-winning side of 2018/19.
Guardiola was careful with the player upon his return from a lengthy lay-off earlier this calendar year, however, substituting him near the hour-mark in Gameweeks 26 and 27 before the Spaniard sustained another injury. It remains to be seen just how match-ready he is ahead of Double Gameweek 30+.
Guardiola’s plethora of options at full-back is also off-putting given that we may not get two starts out of any of them, although Kyle Walker (£5.6m) and Benjamin Mendy (£5.5m) have dropped to more attractive prices.
David Luiz (£5.7m) would seem to be the securest route into the Arsenal defence, meanwhile, having started every league match under Mikel Arteta’s stewardship.
The Gunners have too many alternatives in the full-back positions (as many as three on each side) to count any of them as surefire starters at this early stage, though.
A cluster of set-piece specialists can be snapped up in the mid-price bracket.
Matt Ritchie (£5.3m), Lucas Digne (£5.7m) and Patrick van Aanholt (£5.6m) have all been heavily involved at dead-ball situations recently, with Ritchie seemingly first in line for penalties at Newcastle United (although he did miss one in Gameweek 29) and van Aanholt deputising from 12 yards when Luka Milivojevic (£6.7m) is off the field.
For whatever reason, the final quarter of the campaign is traditionally when the Palace left-back explodes into life – but a tricky run-in will likely deter much long-term investment this time around.
The threat of rotation is a black mark against Ritchie’s name, meanwhile, even if he now boasts an ‘out of position’ tag following Steve Bruce’s springtime move to a back four.
The Scot was posting some very eye-catching numbers before the Premier League temporarily stopped and some of the Magpies’ remaining fixtures are very favourable, particularly the first four back.
He could very well be the low-key success story of Gameweeks 30+ to 33+ but with Valentino Lazaro (£5.4m) waiting in the wings, and Miguel Almiron (£5.8m) having played on the right flank before his move to the number ten role, Ritchie comes with a bit of a risk.
Digne hasn’t escaped Carlo Ancelotti’s rotation since the Italian’s appointment but we’d still expect the French full-back to start more games than not during the run-in, even if there would seem to be a good chance of a benching or two given the frequency of matches.
Everton’s final five fixtures (SOU, wol, AVL, shu, BOU) particularly appeal and he is perhaps one to consider once the Toffees’ first four games have come and gone, if FPL managers can stomach the possibility of Leighton Baines (£4.9m) playing a bit part.
Alexander-Arnold is the only defender who has created more chances than Digne this season.
The cut-price availability of James Justin (£4.7m) and Caglar Soyuncu (£4.9m) perhaps dents the appeal of Ben Chilwell (£5.5m) and Jonny Evans (£5.3m), although the ever-present Evans has posed a decent attacking threat and sits joint-fifth among FPL defenders for attempts in the box this season.
Leicester have the third-best defensive record in the top flight in 2019/20.
The same perhaps applies to Ben Mee (£5.0m) and James Tarkowski (£5.2m), with Charlie Taylor (£4.3m) available further down the price list.
The two Burnley centre-backs do offer security of starts, at least, and more of a menace at set plays – but only one of their combined 32 efforts has found the back of the net this season.
While the Clarets and Leicester have proved sound investments for large chunks of the season, Spurs’ defensive record under Jose Mourinho (three clean sheets in 17 games) is less than impressive.
The promising fixture run from Gameweek 31+ onwards catches the eye but a shape-shifting backline and the cheaper price of the attack-minded Serge Aurier (£4.9m) is enough for us to overlook Ben Davies (£5.3m) and co for now.
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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