Our Sky Fantasy Football coverage continues as we assess the best defenders for the start of the season.
We’re only concerned about the first three rounds of matches of 2021/22 here, as the Overhaul kicks in after Gameweek 3.
And if you missed it, check our expert strategy guide with Niall and Luke – who can boast third and fourth-place overall finishes between them – in the video below.
Emiliano Martinez, last season’s top-scoring keeper, comes in at £7.2m. Aston Villa sit top of the Season Ticker for the opening three Gameweeks when sorted by defence. The Argentine’s popularity will only increase ahead of the new season kicking off.
Martinez comes with the added bonus of having made 143 saves last season, the most of any goalkeeper not relegated in the last campaign. That will stand him in good stead for the tier points for saves.
In third on the ticker are Brighton, which puts Robert Sanchez (£6.5m) in the Sky spotlight. Offering a decent saving on Martinez, the Seagulls netminder will appeal to those wanting to use budget elsewhere – but he does come with the downside of not making too many saves, averaging only 2.34 stops per 90 minutes.
Illan Meslier (£6.9m), meanwhile, was far busier: he was just two saves behind Martinez overall. Leeds are low down on the defensive ticker, though that should afford their keeper the chance to make plenty of stops.
While Alisson (£7.8m) has great fixtures, the appeal of his defensive colleagues and the lack of save bonus means the Liverpool keeper is set to be overlooked.
At the other end of the market, Daniel Bachmann (£6.3m) will be one of the cheapest starting goalkeepers in Sky Fantasy this season.
Watford kept a total of 23 clean sheets in the Championship in 2020/21, with their defence even more watertight after Xisco Munoz was appointed as head coach.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£10.5m) is the prime Reds candidate at the back given a potent mix of clean sheet potential, attacking returns and ability to garner tier points for shots and especially passes. The only slight issue is that Liverpool host Chelsea in Gameweek 3, though that is unlikely to put many off the right-back given his attacking prowess and opening two games against Norwich (a) and Burnley (H).
Andrew Robertson (£10.1m) marginally outscored Alexander-Arnold last season, in four more starts, by 201 to 196. The Scotsman is also a big tier-points threat in terms of passes and tackles, though shoots far less often than his full-back colleague. Robertson managed 19 goal attempts last season, compared to 55 for his teammate on the opposite wing. However, the former (57) did beat the latter (44) for total Sky bonus points in 2020/21.
Ibrahima Konate (£8.8m), incidentally, looks set to start the season at the back so offers a cut-price alternative to those flying full-backs.
While Manchester City’s first three games are not overly appealing, Ruben Dias (£10.6m) could offer an enticing captaincy option on the Saturday of Gameweek 3. The Citizens face Arsenal at home in the day’s early kick-off, meaning Sky players can see those two teamsheets before the day’s deadline.
Dias finished as the top-scoring defender in Sky in 2021/22 and was streets ahead of the competition for tier 2 passing bonus, so even when clean sheets are lacking, can more than compensate in other areas.
On the flip side, Vladimir Coufal (£8.1m) and Aaron Cresswell (£8.3m) were seldom in the mix for passing bonus – although the former was fond of a tackle or two.
Rather, their appeal came from attacking returns with eight assists apiece.
While they’re not great long-term holds in Sky because of the lack of bonus, a decent opening run of matches and the fact that they play on a Sunday/Monday in the first two Gameweeks makes them a consideration as captaincy contenders.
The Aston Villa back four all present alternatives to Martinez or potential complements for those brave enough to double up. Ezri Konsa (£7.5m) could offer great value, having been on the end of more big chances (seven) than any other defender last season.
But like Coufal and Cresswell, the lack of bonus point accumulation means that they are simply fixture-led short-term plays until the first Overhaul.
With uncertainty around the fitness of several Brighton defenders at the time of writing, Joel Veltman (£7.2m) is a cheap route into the Seagulls’ backline. The versatile Dutchman made 25 starts in 2020/21 and should garner extra game time considering the imminent departure of Ben White (£7.8m) and injury doubt surrounding Tariq Lamptey (£7.2m).
Graham Potter’s love of playing out from the back means that Albion are one of the few clubs outside the usual ‘elite’ who can offer defenders that pick up passing bonus, too.
For just that bit extra, Lewis Dunk (£8.2m) gives you an added goal threat and indeed finished seventh among Sky defenders for points last season.
If you are seeking Leicester captaincy coverage for the Monday of Gameweek 2, Wesley Fofana (£7.9m) is the cheapest option in the Foxes’ defence. However, he may have to compete with Jonny Evans (£8.3m) and Caglar Soyuncu (£8.2m) for pitch time if Brendan Rodgers uses a back four.
Soyuncu had an injury-affected season but is one to watch, having gained bonus points in more than half of his appearances in 2020/21.
Lucas Digne (£8.5m), with 121 points, was well behind Everton’s top-scoring defender Michael Keane (£8.3m) last season. He’s very much in the same boat as Cresswell and Coufal: capable of racking up attacking and defensive returns in the first three Gameweeks but having limited long-term appeal because of his bonus aversion.
Ben Chilwell (£9.6m) may prove a tad expensive before the Overhaul considering Chelsea’s opening run. However, the Blues do face Crystal Palace at home in Gameweek 1 and were the league’s meanest defence over the second half of the season.
Slightly cheaper but just as appealing is Antonio Rudiger (£9.0m), who was a regular accumulator of tier 2 passing bonus upon Thomas Tuchel’s appointment.
Liam Cooper (£6.9m) had a similar magnetism to Sky bonus as Rudiger, although in both Leeds and Chelsea’s cases, there is a little uncertainty over who gets the nod at centre-half.