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.
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 priceAz FPL BlackBox
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
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
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
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 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
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
If you are an FPL content creator, tool maker, social star or indeed any strand of the FPL community and you want to be part of the Scout Network you can get in touch here.
Become a Member and get unrestricted access to our data and articles
Full-year memberships are now available for the price of £19.99. Monthly subscriptions also cost just £2.99. A FREE trial is now available during December.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 150+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- Enjoy our brand NEW Flat-Track Bully feature which introduces an opposition filter to your tables.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.