At the start of the season, one of the hottest topics in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) was “Stuart Dallas or Luke Ayling?”. Both Leeds United defenders had been prominent in their team’s Championship-winning season, both were priced at £4.5m and both were regularly involved in attacks and goals. Many FPL teams started with at least one of them.
And then their season opened with seven goals conceded in two games, Wildcards started flooding in and there was a drop in ownership. Leeds steadied the ship for a few fixtures but every clean sheet was often accompanied by a four (or six) goal concession.
That 6-2 reverse at Manchester United, however, does seem to have been a catalyst for the Leeds defence gradually to become more cohesive and their recent successful rearguard action with ten men at Manchester City signalled how far that unit has come.
As we approach the final three fixtures of the season, with Leeds third in the Fantasy Football Scout Season Ticker for defensive points opportunity, should FPL managers invest?
Dallas Action Hero
One Leeds defensive asset already is, of course, in many FPL teams. Stuart Dallas (£5.2m) quickly overtook Luke Ayling (£4.4m) as the bargain way into the Leeds backline and has retained a healthy ownership throughout on his way to becoming the highest-scoring defender in the whole of FPL. His 158 points leave him currently 19 clear of his nearest rivals, the Aaron duo of Cresswell (£5.6m) and Wan-Bissaka (£5.7m).
His success stems from a combination of high achievement and sheer number of minutes played. His only time missed is 10 minutes at the end of the 4-1 home defeat to Leicester in Gameweek 7, meaning he has benefitted from all of Leeds’s ten clean sheets, and, regularly playing in midfield rather than defence, his long-range accuracy and knack for driving into the box have seen him notch eight goals, three more than any other defender. Even at his current price, he represents great value with a points-per-match average (4.5) better than any defender not playing for a Champions League finalist.
However, his nearest challenger at his own club is Spanish international centre-back Diego Llorente (£4.4m) on 3.3 points per match while auxiliary left-back Ezgjan Alioski (£4.3m) is the only Leeds defender other than Dallas to register an assist or more than one goal. Could either of them be worth a transfer to help navigate player rotation and Blank Gameweeks elsewhere?
For their closing three fixtures, Leeds will visit Burnley on Saturday lunchtime and Southampton in the early evening of Tuesday before hosting West Bromwich Albion on the final Sunday. The Official FPL game site has all of these opponents graded ‘green’ at two out of five and the initial meetings with them this season give some credence to that as Leeds ended those with a handsome aggregate advantage of 9-0.
Fans of Burnley and Southampton, though, will be quick to recall the disallowed goals they suffered as the referee’s whistle blew before the ball entered the net when James Ward-Prowse (£5.9m) took a quick Saints free-kick a micro-second before the referee was ready and also as Burnley’s Ben Mee (£4.7m) was adjudged to be impeding Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier (£4.7m) by unfairly standing upright.
A look at the match statistics in the Fantasy Football Scout Premium Members Area shows those two matches had more in common than just grievances at borderline decisions in favour of the home team. The major goal attempt statistics are almost identical.