Given how chaotic the last few days have been for Fantasy Premier League managers, I would like to start by focussing on something more positive and wishing everyone a Happy Diwali!
Even before the frantic December schedule, many of us now face a sea of red, orange and yellow flags for Gameweek 9. At such a time, you could be forgiven for worrying about what to do next.
As my Burning Questions from the last international break was well received, I figured now would be a good opportunity to bring it back again.
Who is the best defender under £5.5m? And is it a mistake to forsake a premium forward right now?
There are a lot of defenders emerging in the price bracket you have mentioned. Before I get to that, I just want to mention that, in my opinion, Ben Chilwell (£6.0m) is the best defender in the game at the present, even in light of his current yellow flag.
Chelsea have drastically improved in defence, with the additions of Thiago Silva (£5.5m) and Edouard Mendy (£5.1m) in centre-back and goalkeeper.
Chelsea have conceded the fewest big chances of any Premier League team in the last six Gameweeks and, on top of that, Chilwell is always very far forward, has great goal threat and assist potential too. He also cuts in a lot as well and is present in the box quite frequently when either Hakim Ziyech (£8.2m) or Reece James (£5.0m) are delivering crosses from the right hand side.
Now coming to your question, there are three standout candidates priced at £5.5m or under, namely João Cancelo (£5.4m), Aaron Cresswell (£5.1m) and Hector Bellerín (£5.1m).
Out of the three, the Manchester City man is comfortably my favourite option. In the last four Gameweeks, no defender has created more chances than him while his team are second only to Manchester United for big chances conceded in the same period.
Statistics aside, Cancelo is a key outlet for the Manchester City’s attack on the left-hand side and he has now started the last four Premier League matches in a row with some minute-management in the Champions League.
The most important thing for me was his all-action man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool where I thought he did a really good job defensive and offensively, while Pep Guardiola’s comments were also encouraging.
“[Cancelo] played exceptional, with and without the ball with his quality. Up front he has a special talent, defensively sometimes he needs to be consistent but when he is consistent and focused he is a fantastic football player and guy.” – Pep Guardiola
The only concern is how nailed-on Cancelo moving forward now that Benjamin Mendy (£5.9m) is back in training. Personally, I think he has made that left back slot his own. Yes, Guardiola might bench him for the odd game or two during the December crunch period but getting an extremely attacking defender from currently (in my opinion) the best defence in the league only at £5.4m is too tempting to turn down, especially given Manchester City’s fixtures.
What also helps is that they the Citizens have almost secured their Champions League knockout place already easing the need to bring key first team options into midweek European action any time soon.
Cresswell and Bellerín both make a very good case for their inclusion in their price bracket but Cancelo’s upside is far greater in my opinion. In case you want to read about Cresswell, I wroten an in-depth analysis of West Ham’s best Fantasy assets a couple of weeks ago.
With regards to your second question and whether it’s a mistake to forsake a premium forward, my answer is definitely not. First off, this game is very subjective and there are definitely no wrong or right answers and I always say there are many ways to play it.
So whether you pick a premium forward or not depends on how you are spreading your funds elsewhere, as there is always value in every position.
Harry Kane (£11.0m) has been the stand-out premium forward this season although he goes on a difficult run of fixtures this week onwards. Thankfully, we have cheap alternatives in the form of Patrick Bamford (£6.1m), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.8m), Ollie Watkins (£6.1m), Che Adams (£5.9m) and Michail Antonio (£6.2m) offering more than enough points potential to allow greater spending in midfield.
Given how many of these value options are in-form and have appealing fixtures of their own right now, I certainly wouldn’t consider it the gravest mistake to go without a premium forward.
Is owning both Sterling and De Bruyne during this great run of fixtures bit of an overkill?
Thanks for the question Manav. I wish you and your family a very Happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year.
In my opinion, a double-up during a great run of fixtures is one of the best ways to play FPL. I never think it is wrong to double or even triple-up in attack from premium teams who score a lot of goals.
I have doubled-up on premium Liverpool and Manchester City attackers many times and it has often paid off handsomely. Those that owned both Kane and Son Heung-min (£9.6m) this season have benefited massively as well.
So it all comes down to whether you think Manchester City will come back to form again and start scoring a lot of goals in the easier fixtures.
Let me give you some data to assist your decision. In the last two Gameweeks, City attack has started to show some form as they appear in the top five in the league for big chances. In addition, they have played most of this season without Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m) and a recognised striker with Gabriel Jesus (£9.3m) out injured for the most part.
Both are now available and I personally expect them to improve in attack quite drastically. Also, just some data from last year which also helps here. This is an article I wrote assessing data last year and below is the relevant information from the same.
What this basically tells you is that, against the relatively poorer defences (The Bramble Teams), De Bruyne and Sterling averaged 1.28 and 1.13 Goals + Assists per 90 minutes. These numbers are drastically better (especially for Sterling) in comparison to their performance against better defences.
Most of the teams Manchester City face after Gameweek 9 certainly count as ‘Bramble teams’, which is why I have no qualms about that double-up. Generally speaking, I’ve always been a fixtures guy and with Manchester City, I’d be even keener.
For people selling Kane, do you recommend moving to Jamie Vardy, or downgrading to the £6.0m range and investing in midfield?
Great question this Rob. I’m likely doing the same for what it’s worth, as I love playing the fixtures. That said, injuries could change that. And, as you know, there are a lot of them right now.
First off, let me say that there is no wrong or right answer to your question. What I will do is arm you with some relevant information to help assist your decision. In the last four Gameweeks, Leicester are in the bottom five in the league for shots in the box and total goal attempts.
Teams like Leeds United, Aston Villa, Southampton and West Ham United, who all have cheap striker options, are all doing better.
That said, Jamie Vardy (£10.1m) has three goals and two assists in his last three games. I personally feel that so far, Vardy has been heavily dependent on penalties. The non penalty xG stats for selection forwards so far this season is as follows:
- Bamford – 5.51
- Calvery Lewin – 5.28
- Wilson – 3.76
- Watkins – 3.55
- Antonio – 3.07
- Adams – 3.06
- Vardy – 2.57
What this tells me is, so far, Vardy has been dependant on penalties and I don’t personally see that as sustainable (unless you are Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m)).
Given these stats above, it is fair to say that we can see the cheaper strikers (some of who have really good fixtures upcoming) should be able to match Vardy.
That said, Leicester’s talismanic striker is the definition of a flat-track bully, is very streaky and is as reliable as they come against the “Bramble” teams I mentioned earlier.
We know that Vardy is a stats-buster and his next four fixtures are against Liverpool (who have four first-choice defenders flagged), Fulham, Sheffield United and Brighton. These games are against not so formidable defences so I fully expect him to get a few returns in these games.
Last season, he averaged 0.28 Goals+Assists/90 against top tier defences, 0.68 Goals+Assists/90 against middling defences and 1.24 Goals+Assists/90 against bottom tier defences. So, historically speaking, the upcoming fixtures are against bread-and-butter Vardy teams.
I’ve tried to present a balanced argument for and against Vardy. If you’re looking for my opinion, I think that Goals + Assists in the past do not always indicate Goals + Assists in the future. It is underlying statistics that play a greater role in predicting these.
I am personally leaning towards going cheaper strikers who have better underlying data and similarly good fixtures and pump that money into attacking midfielders from Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.
That’s it from me for now. In case you want more, Zophar and I will be recording and publishing this week’s episode of The FPL Wire on Tuesday late-afternoon UK-time and you can find the same on YouTube and all popular Podcast platforms. We have the amazing Tom Freeman on again whose appearance last time around was hugely appreciated. Until next time!
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