Scout Network

Are premium defenders worth investing in from FPL Gameweek 9 onwards?

With clean sheets on the increase and the average number of goals scored in each game lower now than it was at the start of the season premium defenders are back on the radar of Fantasy Premier League managers.

Is now the right time to invest more money in the defence? Should we be looking to go big at the back? And which FPL defenders should we spend our FPL budget on – we asked the Scout Network for their thoughts on what is the correct defensive FPL strategy.

FPL BlackBox

Ben Chilwell playing for Chelsea against Sheffield United

At the moment, I can’t see any real logic in going big at the back – which surprises me considering I felt this was a very viable strategy after the first few weeks of the season.

Chilwell looks a must. He’s now risen to £6.0m, but looks worth the price. The double up with Reece James looks very viable, and you can get him for a cut price £5.0m.

With players such as Vladimir Coufal and Arthur Masuaku (both £4.5m), Tariq Lamptey (£4.7m), Matt Targett (£4.5m) all presenting good value, those with the likes of Trent Alexander Arnold (£7.4m) and Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) must be looking at this and thinking that they can free up some real funds to jump on Manchester City and / or Manchester United players who now have a great run of games.

While I will continue to shirk premium defenders, Joao Cancelo (£5.4m) has caught my eye – and I’m looking at Alex Telles (£5.5m) too, depending on the results of Luke Shaw‘s (£4.9m) most recent injury. Both could offer good returns for their price

Az FPL BlackBox

Ted Talks FPL

Chances diagram from Ted Talks FPL – Statistics from the last 6 Gameweeks

As always with defenders, picking the players with the best combined clean sheet & attacking return potential is key.

In the chance diagram above, the top 10 players are presented for each type of chance in the last six Gameweeks. Small Chances are difficult efforts such as shots from outside the box or speculative headed attempts. Big chances are clear-cut opportunities, typically close to goal. The names that stand out are in two or more of the categories.

The Liverpool fullbacks are always pretty good statistically but a potential calf injury to Alexander-Arnold may be the final nail in the coffin for patient owners, especially as this may further reduce Liverpool’s clean sheet potential. Robertson may also suffer from Liverpool’s formation change. With Diogo Jota (£6.5m) making more starts, the left-back has been less inclined to maraud forward. This makes me wonder whether the ££7.0m+ price tag still offers good value.

Ben Chilwell’s popularity has risen over the last few weeks along with his price (£6.0m). 11 small chances created, five small chances and one big chance shows a good level of intent and diversity. Two goals and two assists in five games is his reward.

Along with Chelsea’s heightened clean sheet potential, he seems like the primary choice for our backlines. At £1.0m less, team-mate Reece James (£5.0m) is also showing a good level of intent with six Small Chances Created and five small Chances.

He will need to start adding clear-cut opportunities to his locker along with end-product, having refrained from returning attacking points since Gameweek 1.

James might have nailed down a regular starting position after playing 90 mins in the last 3 Gameweeks but Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.8m) always feels like something of a threat when it comes to rotation.

With West Ham’s recent defensive solidity, Aaron Cresswell (£5.1m) also stands out as decent mid-priced option. His team-mates Masuaku and Coufal may offer better value at £4.5m but 13 small Chances Created and two big chances created for the left-sided centre-back is certainly worth taking note of.

Sergio Reguilón (£5.6m) and Cancelo are the last of our premium options. The Spurs left-back has created small chances, been afforded six small chances and fashioned two big chances in the last six Gameweeks but the fixtures are about to get extremely tough. Is he still worth it?

Having started the last four Premier League games in a row for Man City, combined with some European rests, Cancelo seems to have claimed the left-back position for himself.

He is showing promise going forward and with City’s excellent run of fixtures from Gameweek 10, the clean sheets are likely to follow too. He looks most likely to be my replacement for Alexander-Arnold, if the injury is serious.

With regards to structure, I think three at the back is still the best, leaving seven attacking slots to lap up the prevalent attacking points. There’s an argument to say that those three defensive positions could be filled by mid-priced assets such as Chilwell, Cancelo and Cresswell.

Ted Talks FPL

FPL Family

Aaron Cresswell in action for West Ham

Defenders have been a key thinking point of mine over the last couple of Gameweeks. My latest Pro Pundit article, which comes out later this week, is all about restructuring to allow for an increased budget allocation to the defence.

The last few Gameweeks have seen fewer goals scored across the weekends and an increase on the number of clean sheets kept. We are also now beginning to see more consistency at the back, especially from teams such as Southampton and Chelsea and therefore the appeal of their defenders is on the increase.

Chilwell and Cresswell are the obvious defensive picks for me for the foreseeable future. Both have the form, fixtures and huge potential upside for attacking returns and thus at their price points offer exceptional value for money.

FPL Family Sam

FPL Nymfria

Vestergaard celebrates Scoring with Theo Walcott for Southampton vs Chelsea

I feel defenders are one of the toughest positions to call so far this season.

With so few clean sheets at the start of the campaign, we can at least now see some more filtering through. I was debating between Kurt Zouma (£5.3m) and Chilwell ahead of last Gameweek, and with the sale of Danny Ings (£8.4m), I was able to up my budget to afford the left-back.

Luckily, it paid off, but I still believe that Zouma and his cheaper counter colleague James, could be worth consideration if you can’t reach the ever rising Chilwell or you fancy the double up.

I still have a Romain Saïss (£5.2m) shaped problem, and I also have to have some serious thought on if Robertson is worth keeping going forward. The Defenders I’m looking at as key targets for possible replacements are, Jannik Vestergaard (£4.7m) who currently has four clean sheets and two goals.

After selling Southampton defence early doors, I am looking to get back on as their clean sheets really hurts my rank, so any cover there would be good.

I also think West Ham defence could be worth some consideration. Cresswell, with his three assists, has looked impressive and it usually reflects in the bonus points also. As a cheaper alternative, Coufal at 4.5m also looks like a decent option, with just one fewer assist than his left-sided, set-piece-taking team-mate.

FPL Nymfria

FPL Partridge

Patrick Van Aanholt celebrates Crystal Palace’s opening goal vs Leeds in Gameweek 8

Currently I still have Robertson and Alexander-Arnold. The main reason I still have both is because I couldn’t identify which one to offload. My indecision may help me in the long run though, as with Liverpool’s fixtures clearing up, I can still see both hitting form at some point soon.

The player I want however, is Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m). Watching the games it seems like he’s added some real threat and penetration down the left for Palace. He had a great assist ruled out last week, as well as being fouled for the overturned penalty. This week his deflected cross caused the own goal and Palace have a great run of fixtures that I think will result in more points for PVA. We also don’t know if he jumps ahead of Wilfried Zaha (£7.4m) in the penalty taking queue, which would increase his potential even more.

FPL Partridge

El Statto

El Statto graphic to show the breakdown of Chilwell’s points this season by Home&Away/League position of opponents/Gameweek

Heat Map for Chilwell’s season so far by El Statto

With only six defenders currently in the top 30 highest scored players, currently it makes sense I feel to continue to allocate as much as possible budget into the midfielders and forwards. Also with the top premiums of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson both outside the top 50 it gives you more money than ever to use.

If I was Wildcarding over the international break, Chilwell would be the first name into my defence. After missing the first three games, he has since returned three clean sheets, two assists and two goals in five appearances, and is averaging eight points per match.

With a good run of fixtures against mid-to-lower positioned teams, I think you can expect some returns to continue. As he showed against Sheffield United, Chilwell will get into the box whenever he can, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the score sheet again over the next six.

He was on corners, but now Ziyech is in the side and taken over it is one assist option gone, but the way he has started this season is very Alexander-Arnold-esque.

El Statto

FPL Greece

Cancelo stars for City as Sheff Utd's weak right-side bodes well for Chelsea

Joao Cancelo puts in a cross for Manchester City while under pressure

With the current sample of eight Gameweeks, Chilwell is the most reliable and explosive defender in our view. With his marauding runs on the left and how often he gets in the penalty box, as well as his crossing capacity, should be a no brainer for all managers. A Wildcard draft should start from him leading the defence.

With the current lack of clean sheets for Liverpool, and the drought of attacking returns for both Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, it is hard to advocate for sticking with them, even though the underlying stats remain strong.

However, at FPL Greece, we consider having a big-hitting defender a big plus. Not only due to team structure (since upgrading a defender is difficult and usually requires hits), but also because historically, very few midfielders or attachers at the price range of £7.0 to £7.5m hit the mark of 180+ points. Neither of them will keep underperforming for the whole season.

Nevertheless, if one would move away from Liverpool defence, Cancelo keeps turning heads with his performances. He looks like he has secured his spot in Guardiola’s starting XI, his assist potential is high considering the number of crosses and his heat-map, and City’s schedule past Chelsea bodes well with his clean sheet potential.

That aside, it is hard to look past the favourable schedule of Aston Villa and the good defensive credentials they have given. Either as a cover, or as a double up to the amazing Emi Martinez (£4.8m), either of Tyrone Mings (£5.2m), or Matt Targett (£4.5m) would be a good be a solid choice.

FPL Greece

Mini League Mate

Leeds defender Stuart Dallas

My wildcard in Gameweek 6 was focused on taking money out of defence to secure the services of more of the midfielders and strikers who seem to be getting consistent returns. The clean sheets have started to come in thick and fast but there are so many budget defenders capable of attacking returns like Lamptey, Cresswell, Max Kilman (£4.3m), Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.5m), Stuart Dallas (£4.5m), Luke Ayling (£4.5m) – the list goes on. I have one mid/premium which is Chilwell who is widely backed as the next, or equivalent, TAA/Robbo.

Mini League Mate

Whats happening in the Scout Network?

El Statto

There were two new articles published this this week.

The first one highlighting the 26 players who furfill our own pre-set criteria (returns in at least three games/ a least one haul so far/ played at least 75% of the mins) Looking at what makes them good transfer options and then factoring in their fixtures.

The other article was by Jan Sienkiewicz, following their surprise defeat in Europe this week he takes a look at what is going on at Manchester United, whether the wheels are coming off the Ole-bus and whether his decisions are effecting the appeal of the Red Devils players as FPL assets.

FPL Family

Lee and Sam both had excellent Gameweek 8 results, although Sam spent Sunday evenings Live Stream regretting her decision to bench Ollie Watkins when he scored a brace while they were live!

Lee also appeared on last weeks Official FPL podcast in the build up to Gameweek 8, while you’ll be able to catch Sam on the FPL Show this week alongside Duncan Alexander.

Mini League Mate

Last week Mini League Mate had a special trial week for a select group of Fantasy Football Scout Members who received a Dossier for Gameweek 7 to enable them to try out the service Mini League Mate provides.

As a result many have FFS Members have subsequently subscribed to carry on recieving the Dossier moving forwards! The trial also provided Mini League Mate with some great feedback including lots of suggestions for how FFS Members would like to visualise their data – this is something that the guys at Mini League Mate will be looking into for the next few weeks and looking to deploy where possible.

FPL Poker Player

The usually weekly FPL Poker Tables blog was published this week ahead of the deadline for Gameweek 8. This blog reported on very encouraging results for the previous gameweek’s predictions, and highlighted the key points of interest regarding the upcoming GW5 scoreline predictions, clean sheet probabilities, expected goals and player points.

Exitingly spreadsheet sales for FPL Poker Player also went global with customers now from all around the world, including Indonesia, Slovenia, Malaysia, India, and Ireland. The development of a new sortable players expected points table was announced. As well as this, the betting arm spinoff account recorded a 25% Return On Investment in Gameweek 4, with three winning bets out of the four recommended to followers.

FPL BlackBox

On Wednesday ahead of the Gameweek 8 deadline Mark and Az hosted another episode of FPL BlackBox looking ahead to the game week and focused in on, amongst other things, the data surrounding the choice between Harry Kane and Heung-min Son for the Gameweek 8 captaincy.

This week FPL Black Box will be live on Thursday evening – don’t forget to hit that subscribe button!

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1,321 Comments Post a Comment
  1. camarozz
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 6 Years
    3 months, 25 days ago

    International breaks should be banned.
    Can't make transfers, can't do nothing. Torture.

    1. Bushwhacker
      • 1 Year
      3 months, 25 days ago

      Well they should be banned because they're pointless. Nobody cares about friendlies or the Nations Cup. Put them on hold for a year. Or three.

    2. Sz21
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 9 Years
      3 months, 25 days ago

      I think we should really be trying to unwind from FPL but most of us simply can't for too long.

  2. Sz21
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 9 Years
    3 months, 25 days ago

    Anything worth a -4 here?
    KDB/ Sterling or/and maybe Jesus in next GW for a hit too.

    Cancelo, Chilwell, Mitchell.
    Son, Salah (c), Barkley, Grealish (vc).
    Kane, DCL, Jimenez.
    Button, Ayling, Justin, Bissouma.
    0ft, 1.8m ITB.

  3. popcoin
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 9 Years
    3 months, 23 days ago


    Tried to do a comparison of Watkins v Bamford.

    First of all, this season (Watkins v Bamford):
    Goals: 6 v 7
    Assists: 1 v 2
    xG+xA/90: 0.78 v 0.66
    shots/90: 2.57 v 3.86
    Games with xG < 0.2: 2 v 3
    Games with xG > 0.2, < 0.7: 2 v 3
    Games with xG > 0.7: 3 v 2

    Looking at this and also the xG of all their chances (, the story so far this season seems to be that the two players have scored almost the same number of goals and assists, but Watkins from fewer but bigger chances, and Bamford from a greater number of smaller chances. They've both had similar numbers of games with low, medium and high xG's. They've both scored a hat-trick, but Bamford has scored points in 5 games, whereas Watkins has hauled in 3 games (but has played one fewer).

    Looking at which teams each payer has scored points against, there seems to be a slight pattern, although not conclusive. As we all know, Bamford has been faring better in the 'away' games. His higher xG games have come against Leicester, Villa, Sheffield and City, having scored in the Villa and Sheffield games - he's also scored against Palace, Fulham and Liverpool, in all of which his xG was < 0.5. Missed a couple of chances against Leicester. His goals suggest he might prefer the smaller teams and 'away' games, but his xG against Leicester and City was good.

    Watkins' 3 scoring games have come in his 3 highest xG games, against Liverpool, Arsenal, Saints. Perhaps a clearer pattern of getting big chances on the break against teams who like to play up the pitch.

    So what does their history say? Bamford is 27 with a mixed history. After a full season at Championship club Middlesbrough in 14/15, scoring 17 and assisting 2, he had 2 seasons on the bench in the top flight, before scoring 11 goals for 'borough in 17/18. He then joined Leeds, scoring 9 and 16 before promotion.

    Watkins is 24 and his story is more one of steady improvement in his formative years. In 2 years at Exeter and 3 years at Brentford, he scored 8, 15, 10, 10 and 26 goals respectively. Assists varied from 3-8 per season, except for 11 at Exeter in 16/17.

    The final column below shows their Goals+Assists per minute (x1000 for ease). I've only included seasons in which they've played over 1000 minutes, meaning Bamford's 15/16 and 16/17 seasons are excluded.

    Mins Goals Assists GA/m
    Leeds 20/21 672 7 1 11.90
    Leeds 19/20 3464 16 2 5.20
    Leeds 18/19 1450 9 2 7.59
    Borough 17/18 2119 11 0 5.19
    Borough 14/15 3005 17 2 6.32
    Derby 13/14 1270 8 3 8.66

    Mins Goals Assists G+A/m
    Villa 20/21 630 6 1 11.11
    Brentford 19/20 4430 26 3 6.55
    Brentford 18/19 3127 10 8 5.76
    Brentford 17/18 3531 10 5 4.25
    Exeter 16/17 3732 15 11 6.97
    Exeter 15/16 1397 8 4 8.59

    They both seem to have started this season very well, so expect both to revert to the mean to some extent. Their track records per minute are also remarkably similar, with Bamford performing slightly better in the last 3 seasons while they've both been playing in the Championship. However the similarity is perhaps impressive for Watkins given he is 3 years younger. What stands out is that 19/20 was a real step up for Watkins, during Brentford's excellent 80-goal season. The question for Watkins seems to be whether it was a one-off or a breakout season - his age suggests it is the latter as he is developing and finding his feet at a higher level, and he has hit the ground running this season. His numbers were impressive at Exeter and dropped off slightly in his first 2 seasons in the championship before that 19/20 season. Bamford has a slightly more proven track record at a higher level. Bear in mind though, only 2 of the seasons shown above involved 3000+ minutes. Might he be the one slightly more prone to rotation when GWs 13-16 come thick and fast? Bielsa only seems to remove him once he has scored, but Leeds fans may be able to help.

    What about fixtures?

    Bamford: ARS, eve, che, WHU, NEW, mun
    Watkins: BRI, whu, NEW, wol, BUR, wba

    Bamford's fixtures are mixed, but so are his numbers from different difficulties of games so far. Personally, I can see him scoring against Arsenal and Everton - Chelsea and West Ham may be tough, but I'd fancy him against Newcastle and away at United. Hard to tell form game to game so as long as Leeds continue to create chances, owners will feel confident. Watkins' fixtures are good on paper, so it depends how strongly you interpret the indication that he performs better against better teams. Brighton, West Ham, Wolves and Burnley might be very tricky to break down. However, Watkins has penalties which Bamford does not and that could be a deciding factor.

    Finally, having watched the games, Bamford certainly passes the eye test with the chances he gets, even though his finishing can be either world class or a bit erratic. For Watkins, the eye test and his stats suggest he is becoming quite a clinical finisher. Overall, I think it's a very tight decision and it may come down to each fantasy manager's style and how they interpret the more+small/fewer+big chance frequencies. The worry with Watkins might be that if the chances dry up just a little bit, he may not produce returns, however good his finishing. Is he another Jamie Vardy? The concern with Bamford might be that his finishing ability could be a bit erratic and not sustainable. Someone suggested to me that missing chances can affect a striker's confidence - although Bamford seems like a pretty resilient guy. Personally, I think the bottom line is they're both very good picks, and why not get both if team structure allows? They certainly beat any £6.0, options in midfield and I would be confident that there returns don't dry up at least in the mid-term. If I had to choose, I might suggest Bamford simply because of Leeds' style of play, and not wanting to triple up on Villa just in case their form as a team starts to drop. Having said that though, I do prefer to treat players individually, plus Grealish and Martinez seem like season keepers. However, penalties might just persuade me to Watkins.

    Note: quality of opposition and playing position not taken into account for stats in previous seasons.

    1. Bookkeeper
      • 4 Years
      3 months, 23 days ago

      prefer Bam, better player. Watkins doesn't impress me. He's blanked in 4 games and was given a sympathy penalty by Grealish, otherwise would have been 5 blanks in 8 games.