Defensive rotations are the key to maximising the efficiency of cheaper Fantasy Premier League assets, especially this season.
Using the Fantasy Football Scout Season Ticker, we have picked out some of our favourite pairings of teams for those looking to make full use of their 15 players in 2020/21.
These include the pros and cons of each pairing, as well as other considerations that must be made before investing.
SHEFF UTD + SOUTHAMPTON
One of the most promising rotation pairings in terms of fixtures at the start of the season involves Sheffield United and Southampton.
As you can see from the Season Ticker above, the two clubs have paired home games and even their away trips look promising between Gameweeks 1 and 6.
Owning a defensive asset from each of these clubs would give Fantasy managers the following fixture list (if rotated appropriately): cry | avl | LEE | WBA | FUL | EVE
While only four of those fixtures are at home, the tougher match-ups cancel each other out in the first two away ones. During Project Restart, Crystal Palace (five) and Aston Villa (seven) were inside the bottom three for goals scored, only Norwich (one) finding the net fewer times.
Beyond that, it’s three matches in a row against newly-promoted sides, before Everton who, like Villa, only registered seven goals in Project Restart, come to Southampton in Gameweek 6.
Meanwhile, only five teams kept more clean sheets than the Blades and Saints (both three) during the last nine Gameweeks of 2019/20.
However, the question still remains: how does one invest in this rotation with effective budget options?
Sheffield United’s roster presents slightly more problems out of the two clubs, after their price hikes for 2020/21.
Pre-season may have raised the interest in Jack Robinson (£4.5m), who has featured heavily in all of Sheffield United’s friendlies thus far, while Jack O’Connell (£5.0m) has been absent.
The former £4.0m man has played 292 of a possible 315 minutes this summer, behind only Chris Basham (£5.0m) when it comes to most-used centre-backs.
Outside of Robinson, who is by no means a nailed-on long-term starter at Bramall Lane, Fantasy managers may have to put up a little more cash to have a reliable route here.
Aaron Ramsdale (£5.0m), John Egan (£5.0m) as well as Basham and O’Connell are probably the ones to turn to.
Thankfully, the Southampton side of this equation is much simpler. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side can offer us a £4.5m goalkeeper in Alex McCarthy (£4.5m), as well as a similarly-priced full-back in Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.5m).
BURNLEY + LEICESTER
Price points are much less of an issue for anyone considering a defensive rotation of Burnley and Leicester assets.
Despite the recent arrival of Timothy Castagne (£5.5m), James Justin (£4.5m) looks likely to be involved in the early part of the campaign on either side of the Foxes’ defence, with Ricardo Pereira (£6.0m) and Christian Fuchs (£4.5m) out injured.
Meanwhile, Charlie Taylor (£4.5m) is on offer at Burnley and, with several shortages at centre-back during pre-season, Jimmy Dunne or Bobby Thomas (neither have an FPL price yet) could be involved.
The fixtures work out relatively nicely, but not quite as snugly as the Sheffield United+Southampton ones do.
Not game for Burnley in Blank Gameweek 1 is covered quite nicely by a trip to West Bromwich Albion for Leicester.
They then host the Clarets in Gameweek 2, but Sean Dyche’s men will face Southampton at Turf Moor the following week when Leicester must travel to Manchester City.
Gameweeks 4 and 5 offer some choice, with Newcastle (away) and West Ham (home) the first of those, before it’s West Brom (away) or Villa (home).
Then, the pairing runs into slightly more of an issue in Gameweek 6 when Burnley host Spurs at the same time as Leicester travel to Arsenal, although in this strange start to the season, many managers may have Wildcarded by that point anyway.
ASTON VILLA + CRYSTAL PALACE
Aston Villa and Crystal Palace balance some very nice home matches during the first six Gameweeks.
Dean Smith’s men don’t play during the opening round of action but the Eagles host Southampton that week.
Beyond that, investing in these two clubs could give a Fantasy manager the opportunity to defend against SHU | EVE | LIV | BHA | LEE.
The Liverpool game for Villa naturally looks a bit tricky, especially with a trip to Chelsea the alternative for Palace, although Smith has managed to improve his defence since Project Restart. Even though Villa lost 2-0 at Anfield, they held the Reds at bay for 71 minutes.
As for routes into the defences of either side, there are a plethora of choices, including some £4.0m options.
Following injuries to Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m) and three different centre-backs, Tyrick Mitchell (£4.0m) has become a virtual ever-present at left-back for Palace during pre-season.
At Villa, the ongoing fitness issues suffered by Tom Heaton (£4.5m), and current lack of new signings between the sticks, means that one of Ørjan Nyland (£4.0m) or Jed Steer (£4.0m) is likely to start the first few matches of 2020/21. Paying attention to Smith’s next press conference may hopefully tell us more in this department.
If uncertainty there, as well as an eventual return of Heaton, is enough to put off investors, there are plenty of £4.5m defenders at Villa Park.
Matty Cash (£5.0m) has probably cast enough doubt over Frédéric Guilbert (£4.5m) and Ahmed El Mohamady (£4.5m), but Matt Targett (£4.5m) remains the first-choice on the left-hand side of the defence.
As for Crystal Palace, Scott Dann (£4.5m) has been the most-used centre-back during pre-season outside of Cheikhou Kouyaté (£5.0m), who is filling in there from midfield.
Joel Ward (£4.5m) has also been extensively used at right-back during the pre-season (298 minutes from a possible 360), although how long-term a role he has remains to be seen when Nathan Ferguson (£4.0m) gets back from injury.
BRIGHTON + LEEDS
This combination of defenders is not quite as attractive as those mentioned above, but is still worth being aware of.
The home matches on offer between Brighton and Leeds are CHE | FUL | MUN | MCI | WOL | WBA. Hardly the best combination.
However, if rotated around the opponents rather than around the venue, Fantasy managers could set themselves up to defend against the following: CHE | FUL | shu | eve | cry | WBA – much more appealing.
That provides two opponents who scored seven goals or fewer during Project Restart, two newly-promoted clubs as well as Sheffield United, who averaged 0.9 goals per game in the final 10 matches of last season.
There are other risks associated with this rotation, of course, namely in the ability of the two defences to keep clean sheets.
During the Project Restart period, only Arsenal (15.69) and Norwich (17.47) recorded a higher expected goals conceded (xGC) score than Brighton, while Leeds arrive in the Premier League after a 16-year absence.
Perhaps, then, Mat Ryan (£4.5m) and Illan Meslier (£4.5m) might be the best bets here, as they can potentially rack up saves based on conceding a high volume of shots.
Considering Graham Potter’s propensity to rotate even in defence, the Seagulls’ goalkeeper becomes even more attractive. Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) is perhaps the only nailed-on defender and is probably too pricey to consider right now.
There is more certainty in Leeds’ back-four with Luke Ayling (£4.5m) and Liam Cooper (£4.5m) especially nailed-on to start at right-back and centre-back respectively.
To find defensive pairings of your own, make sure you use the Season Ticker in the Fantasy Football Scout Premium Members Area.
Best players by position:
- Goalkeepers: Budget
- Goalkeepers: Premium
- Defenders: Budget
- Defenders: Mid-Price and Premium
- Midfielders: Budget
- Midfielders: Mid-Price
- Midfielders: Premium
- Forwards: Budget
- Forwards: Mid-Price
- Forwards: Premium
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