Our position-by-position analysis of the Fantasy Premier League options for 2020/21 continues as we scrutinise the premium defenders on offer.
In this article, we will weigh up the pros and cons of the 91 defensive assets currently available at £5.0m or above.
We’ll have more in-depth analysis to come between now and Gameweek 1 but these are our initial thoughts on the FPL player price list.
The £6.0m+ Premiums
A total of 11 Fantasy Premier League defenders are available for £6.0m or more, although one, Ricardo Pereira (£6.0m), is likely to be out of commission come Gameweek 1 and another, Marcos Alonso (£6.0m), is a real rotation risk.
A price rise to £7.5m hasn’t put many off Trent Alexander-Arnold and, at the time of writing, he is the most popular asset in the entire game.
Given that the two Manchester clubs and Burnley (three of the most solid teams at the back in 2020) blank in Gameweek 1, Liverpool defenders will be even more desirable for their opening-day clash with Leeds United.
We have covered Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) and Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) in some detail in a stand-alone piece, so, rather than retreading old ground, we’ll point you in the direction of that article.
As for the rest, Matt Doherty (£6.0m) stands out.
Only Alexander-Arnold provides better value among FPL defenders than Doherty based on points per million (2019/20 points and 2020/21 prices) and in two successive seasons has the Irishman delivered more than 10 attacking returns.
A big tick against Wolves’ name is that they won’t be involved in European club competition this season, so they won’t be afflicted by the Thursday-Sunday turnaround that plagued them in 2019/20 and led to some early-season rotation from Nuno Espirito Santo.
From Gameweek 25 onwards, Wolves were one of the most in-form Premier League teams from a defensive perspective, with nine clean sheets kept in their final 14 games.
At the other end of the pitch, no FPL defender had more shots in the box or big chances than Doherty last season.
Wolves have one of the more appealing runs of matches in the first seven Gameweeks, save for the visit of Manchester City – a team they beat twice last season, of course.
Speaking of the Citizens, the absence of a Gameweek 1 fixture for Pep Guardiola’s side will leave many FPL managers looking elsewhere for defensive options.
It’s worth reminding ourselves that, for all their critics, City’s backline still registered more Premier League clean sheets (17) than any other team last season.
Eight of them arrived in Aymeric Laporte‘s (£6.0m) 14 starts and he looks the pick of City’s three defenders at this price point.
As happened to Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m) at the start of 2019/20, Laporte has dropped in price after an injury-affected campaign.
But the Frenchman was as good as nailed in the previous season, starting 34 of the 35 matches he was fully fit for.
Always capable of grabbing a goal, he recorded six attacking returns in that title-winning campaign too.
The capture of Nathan Ake (£5.5m) is something to keep an eye on, though, with the former Bournemouth man, like Laporte, more at home on the left-hand side of defence.
Lucas Digne (£6.0m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) round off the whistle-stop tour of the top-of-the-range FPL defenders.
Two of the more secure starters at clubs whose managers like to rotate, the pair were ranked second and fourth for chances created among Fantasy defenders last season.
Both Everton and Chelsea have some decent fixtures to come in the opening two months of the season but, as we’ll discuss in the sections below, there are questions to be asked about their defensive prowess under their current bosses.
Still, with eight attacking returns apiece to their names and their underlying stats catching the eye, any upturn in fortune on the clean sheet front will catapult them back into the premium defender conversation – if they weren’t already.
The gung-ho Alonso of course warrants a namecheck after his late-season return to the Chelsea starting XI but, with Ben Chilwell (£5.5m) heavily linked to the west London side, we’ll temporarily shelve any talk of a Fantasy renaissance for the Spaniard.
Cheaper Big-Six Options
As for the cheaper Manchester City and Liverpool assets available for less than £6.0m, only Joe Gomez (£5.5m) is someone we could confidently predict a start for at this early stage.
Gomez became a permanent fixture at centre-half during Liverpool’s incredible run of shut-outs from Gameweek 16 onwards, although offers nothing but clean sheet potential and had only one shot in the whole of last season.
Unless there are any pre-season injuries picked up by the Reds’ regulars at the back, Konstantinos Tsimikas (£5.0m) and Joel Matip (£5.0m) will surely begin 2020/21 as mere back-ups at best.
There are also too many options for Pep Guardiola at centre-half for Nathan Ake (£5.5m), Nicolas Otamendi (£5.0m), John Stones (£5.0m), Eric Garcia (£5.0m) and even Fernandinho (£5.5m) to be considered trustworthy punts at the time of writing, although the veteran Brazilian will likely now see more ‘out of position’ run-outs in the middle of the park.
Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.5m) and Joao Cancelo (£5.5m) couldn’t be relied on to start in any given Gameweek, either, despite the Portuguese belatedly finding favour at left-back at the end of last season.
As ever, the situation at City is a shifting one and needs to be constantly reappraised – an injury to the left-footed Laporte, for example, would surely mean that Ake would become a more dependable starter in what was the Premier League’s best defence for clean sheets in 2019/20.
Manchester United blank in Gameweek 1 but some appealing matches follow straight after and the Red Devils have been one of the form teams at the back in 2020.
No side has kept more clean sheets this calendar year, while only their cross-city rivals conceded on fewer occasions from Gameweek 21 onwards.
Providing he isn’t incarcerated, the ever-present Harry Maguire (£5.5m) is as secure a starter as they come and no centre-back had more shots than the England international last season – although only one led to a goal.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m) showed an upturn in attacking output this year, too, with three of his four assists arriving after New Year’s Day.
There’s still a bit of work to be done from an offensive perspective, however – as an example, Robertson created over three times as many chances as the United right-back in the post-lockdown era.
If he is fit (and that’s a big ‘if’), Luke Shaw is the obvious pick of the seven United defenders at £5.0m.
No attacking returns last season was a disappointment but his minutes-per-chance-created average was better than Wan-Bissaka’s in 2019/20.
Pre-season will be a good indicator as to whether Mikel Arteta still favours a 3-4-3 heading into the new season and will hopefully tell us whether the highly rated Willian Saliba (£4.5m) can be a reliable budget asset in 2020/21.
As for the Gunners’ more expensive options, not one of their six £5.0m defensive options could be perceived as being ‘nailed’ at this early stage.
Even Hector Bellerin (£5.0m), now available at his lowest price since 2014/15, faces a challenge from Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£5.0m) and Cedric Soares (£5.0m) down the right as Arteta again prepares to juggle his options on the domestic front and in the UEFA Europa League.
Other than the wobble he had immediately after lockdown, David Luiz (£5.5m) has been a permanent fixture at the heart of the Arsenal backline under Arteta and couldn’t be bettered for shots or chances created among his defensive teammates following the change of manager.
Kieran Tierney (£5.5m) is perhaps the more appealing option at this price point, though, with glimmers of his potential (one goal, two assists and seven starts in Arsenal’s final eight league games of 2019/20) belatedly arriving after an injury-ravaged campaign.
While the opening two fixtures are enticing, interest might be short-lived: the Gunners meet four of last season’s top five and Sheffield United between Gameweeks 3-7.
Jose Mourinho’s ‘second season’ is usually his best and, after some mixed displays in the campaign just gone, there were signs of some improvement towards the end of 2019/20.
Four of the seven clean sheets that Tottenham Hotspur kept under their new manager came after the restart, which perhaps bodes well for the favourable opening fixtures to come.
Eight Spurs defenders are available for £5.0m-£5.5m and, as the numbers would suggest, not all will be starters come Gameweek 1.
Arguably the most appealing of them from an attacking perspective, Serge Aurier (£5.5m), may not even be at the club, with the Ivorian linked with a move away from north London this summer.
Mourinho has previously hailed the importance of Ben Davies (£5.0m) to his system but, although he has been a regular starter when fit, the Welshman tends to tuck in to become a third centre-half when the Lilywhites attack and doesn’t offer the offensive menace that Aurier provided.
Toby Alderweireld (£5.5m) and Eric Dier (£5.0m) may well be the first-choice options at centre-half if the post-lockdown line-ups were anything to go by (Dier came straight back into the side after suspension) but, should they continue to shape up in a lopsided back four, perhaps the best FPL defender from Spurs isn’t even at the club yet – that is, an attacking right-back in the Aurier mould.
A vast improvement at the back is required for Chelsea next season, with no team in the top half conceding more goals than the Blues in 2019/20.
Only five sides in the division kept fewer clean sheets, meanwhile.
Saying that, their goalkeepers have a lot to answer for as only four clubs had a superior ‘expected goals conceded’ (xGC) total.
Pinning Frank Lampard down to a regular centre-half pairing proved problematic last season with even defensive mainstay Antonio Rudiger (£5.0m) briefly losing his place in the run-in.
The one to watch at this price point is perhaps Reece James (£5.0m), whose offensive attributes caught the eye; of the Chelsea backline, only Alonso had a better minutes-per-chance-created average.
So long as the versatile Azpilicueta remains fit and available, though, there is always the risk of a maddening benching for the youngster.
Wolves’ Jonny (£5.5m) is out long-term with a knee injury, while Jonny Evans (£5.5m) will miss the first three matches of the season through suspension and it’s not yet clear whether Ben Chilwell (£5.5m) will recover from a heel injury to be available for Gameweek 1 – or, indeed, whether he’ll be sticking around at Leicester City.
Caglar Soyuncu (£5.5m), who has been handed a £1.0m starting price rise, is the only member of what was the Foxes’ regular back four in 2019/20 who isn’t red-flagged at present.
Leicester have some appealing matches in the opening five Gameweeks of the campaign but with three-quarters of the first-choice backline possibly unavailable, there have to be questions asked as to how watertight they will be even against more favourable opposition.
Wolves’ regular centre-halves, along with their crocked left wing-back, are all available in the mid-price bracket.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have some appealing matches from Gameweeks 3-7 and even an opening-day trip to Sheffield United, who aren’t renowned for their goalscoring exploits, offers clean sheet potential.
Wolves kept nine shut-outs in their final 14 games last season, a period that coincided with Willy Boly‘s (£5.5m) return from injury.
He and especially Romain Saiss (£5.0m) traditionally offer something that Conor Coady (£5.0m) very much doesn’t, namely goal threat from set plays.
Boly, who scored on four occasions in 2018/19, didn’t really get in the mix last season but Saiss was in the thick of it, registering more big chances than all bar two FPL defenders.
Boly and Coady are pretty much nailed when fit, while Saiss isn’t far behind them, with only two benchings from Gameweek 15 onwards – both in periods of fixture congestion.
No involvement in European club competition this season can surely only help on the rotation risk front.
Sheffield United also only have the league and domestic cups to focus on after flirting with a European qualification spot last season.
All five of their first-choice defenders have predictably been handed price rises after their superb first season back in the Premier League in which they registered 13 clean sheets.
To sum up their defensive assets in one line: John Egan (£5.0m) presents their biggest goal threat from dead-ball situations, while wing-backs Enda Stevens (£5.5m) and George Baldock (£5.5m) are unsurprisingly streets ahead of the centre-halves in terms of creativity.
Liverpool’s two full-backs were the only two FPL defenders who created more big chances than Stevens in 2019/20.
Rotation is happily not an issue with Chris Wilder, although fixtures in the opening eight Gameweeks might be with five of last season’s top eight facing the Blades.
You can read our thoughts on how Aaron Ramsdale‘s (£5.0m) capture will affect the Blades’ backline here, meanwhile.
A blank in Gameweek 1 and the availability of Burnley’s full-backs for £4.5m will put many off James Tarkowski (£5.5m) and Ben Mee (£5.0m).
The two centre-backs are at least nailed (when fit) under a manager who seldom rotates, while Tarkowski has hit five attacking returns in each of the last two campaigns.
While the Clarets may struggle to emulate last season’s total of 15 clean sheets, we know exactly what we are getting from a Sean Dyche-led side: in the five Premier League campaigns that he has overseen, Burnley have hit double figures for shut-outs in four of them.
No FPL defender personally kept more clean sheets than Tarkowski in 2019/20, while not a single defensive asset who now costs less than £6.0m scored more points than the Burnley stopper last season.
The Best – and Worst – of the Rest
Despite making good progress in his rehabilitation, Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m) looks set to miss the start of the season with a dislocated shoulder.
Fabian Schar (£5.0m) is another who is touch and go for the beginning of the new campaign but the Swiss international had been playing second fiddle for a lot of 2019/20 anyway and Steve Bruce’s move to a back four (ergo one less centre-half) further dented his prospects.
From Gameweek 10 onwards, Federico Fernandez (£5.0m) started every match in the Newcastle defence.
He also racked up over three times as many bonus points (13) than any other Newcastle defender but the move to a more offensive 4-2-3-1 may have come at the expense of solidity at the back, with only two clean sheets arriving in the post-lockdown era.
Even accounting for Aston Villa’s late-season defensive improvement and his undoubted goal threat, it was still a surprise to see Tyrone Mings priced up at £5.0m.
A blank for the Villans in Gameweek 1 effectively seals his no-go status for the time being at least.
With West Ham United’s fixtures arguably the worst in the division in the first two months, Aaron Cresswell (£5.0m) and Angelo Ogbonna (£5.0m) also scream ‘avoid’.
Two newly promoted defenders enter at the £5.0m mark, with West Bromwich Albion’s Semi Ajayi likely to offer security of starts and a goal threat from centre-half.
The Baggies weren’t overly impressive at the back in 2019/20, however, and few managers will surely take a punt with the fixtures on the tricky side in the opening three Gameweeks.
Fulham’s schedule is better in the medium term but with the Cottagers snapping up left-back Antonee Robinson this week, we’ll have to bide our time to see how the USA international’s arrival affects Joe Bryan (£5.0m) – will he be ‘out of position’ further up the left flank or perhaps offloaded?
There is a lot to like about Lewis Dunk (£5.0m), who has just signed a new five-year deal with Brighton and Hove Albion to (temporarily) put rumours of a move away from the south coast to bed.
Not one bona fide centre-half registered more attacking returns (six) or attempts on goal (31) than Dunk in the Premier League last season, while he was largely immune to the rotation that plagued other Brighton assets, starting 36 top-flight matches.
The Seagulls didn’t rack up too many clean sheets (nine) in 2019/20, while Albion’s opening fixtures aren’t great with Chelsea and Manchester United waiting in the first three Gameweeks.
While the price rise is off-putting, Dunk is one to watch for when the matches become more winnable and it’ll be interesting to see if Brighton can make strides at the back following investment in the promising Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m) and Ajax’s Joel Veltman (£4.5m).
Two teams with more favourable opening schedules are Everton and Southampton.
Yan Valery (£5.0m) is bemusingly more expensive than Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.5m) despite the expectation that he will start the season as back-up at right-back, while the availability of cheaper options in the Saints defence is a deterrent regarding Ryan Bertrand (£5.0m) and Jack Stephens (£5.0m).
Not one FPL defender priced up at £5.0m or less this season created more chances than Bertrand in 2019/20, however.
As for Everton, five clean sheets in 20 Premier League matches under Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t scream ‘must own’.
Yerry Mina (£5.5m) has yet to really follow up on the offensive threat he exhibited at the 2018 World Cup, having only scored three Premier League goals in two years at Everton, although his minutes-per-chance average last season was the second-best among centre-backs.
The chief problem with the Toffees’ centre-halves is security of starts, with Ancelotti having previously gone on record to say that he would rotate in that position.
Mina and Michael Keane (£5.0m) have been the most at risk so far, although Mason Holgate (£5.0m) has been less affected (15 starts and one benching).
With Everton expected to reinforce their options at right-back following loanee Djibril Sidibe’s departure, a question over how ‘nailed’ Seamus Coleman (£5.0m) is also has to be considered; the Irishman was benched in seven of the 20 games that his manager oversaw.