Having already assessed the best goalkeepers on offer, our position-by-position analysis of the stand-out Fantasy Premier League (FPL) options for a Gameweek 4 Wildcard continues as we take a look at the defenders.
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BEST PREMIUM DEFENDERS
Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) has already claimed 22 FPL points in the opening three Gameweeks, via two clean sheets, an assist and five bonus points. His 15 chances created is at least five more than any other defender on offer, while his 1.73 expected assists (xA) ranks top amongst all players in 2021/22.
With Leeds United (a), Crystal Palace (h) and Brentford (a) up next, there seems little reason to go without him on a Wildcard, despite the temptation to move funds further forward.
Jurgen Klopp’s adjustment to his positioning, along with Harvey Elliot’s (£5.5m) movement into wider areas, is another intriguing factor to monitor in the coming weeks, as it allows Alexander-Arnold to invert more in the final-third.
Trent Alexander Arnold’s touch heatmap Gameweek 1 (left) v Gameweeks 2 and 3 (right)
Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) and Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) offer cheaper routes into the Reds backline, while at champions Manchester City, Ruben Dias (£6.0m) and Joao Cancelo (£6.0m) have completed 90 minutes in all three Premier League matches so far.
The duo have helped Pep Guardiola’s side keep back-to-back clean sheets against Norwich City and Arsenal, and despite some trickier immediate fixtures, take on Southampton (h), Burnley (h), Brighton and Hove Albion (a) and Crystal Palace (h) before the end of October.
Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) also deserves a mention, having performed as both a wing-back and centre-half under Thomas Tuchel this season. However, with cheaper alternatives currently on offer in the Blues backline, his ownership still sits at just 4.1%.
BEST MID-PRICE DEFENDERS
Manchester United’s first-choice backline – Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw – are all available at £5.5m, though it is surely the latter who carries the most FPL potential.
Despite seeing just under 300k transfers out this round, Shaw is still the most widely held defender in the game with 47% ownership. Though he hasn’t quite hit his 2020/21 heights so far, he still ranks amongst the top five defenders for chances created and with his crossing ability, paired with corner-taking duties, can surely benefit from the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m). It’s also worth noting that three of United’s next four matches are at Old Trafford. Perhaps a little patience is required here, then?
Chelsea undoubtedly boast one of the meanest defences in Europe, with several mid-price options on offer. Antonio Rudiger (£5.5m) is perhaps the most secure, though the explosive nature of Reece James (£5.6m) once back from suspension may swing it for some. The England international returned 18 FPL points in Gameweek 2 alone and ranks second amongst all defenders for xA per 90 minutes this season.
Andreas Christensen (£5.0m) and Ben Chilwell (£5.8m) are other options, but with Thiago Silva (£5.4m) and Marcos Alonso (£5.7m) lurking, none are immune to rotation. Gameweek 7 has been touted as the ideal time to find space for a Chelsea asset as the fixtures turn significantly for the better, though regardless of opposition, they seem capable of shutting teams out.
Elsewhere, Wolverhampton Wanderers are rightly gaining plenty of Fantasy attention ahead of their fixture swing, which sees them take on Watford (a), Brentford (h), Southampton (a) and Newcastle United (h) in the coming weeks. Despite losing 1-0 in each of their opening three matches, Bruno Lage’s side have faced tough opponents in Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Man Utd. During that time, they have conceded just 27 shots, which is second only to the 15 of Man City, while according to expected goals (xG), only three teams have been better defensively:
Nelson Semedo (£4.9m) is a naturally more conservative wing-back, but in the current back-three set-up, is finding himself in plenty of good attacking positions, while team-mate Romain Saiss (£5.0m) was perhaps a little unfortunate not to score against Man Utd in Gameweek 3.
At Liverpool, Joel Matip (£5.0m) offers a cheap route into Jurgen Klopp’s backline, having re-established himself in the starting XI. It’s also worth noting that he’s amassed seven goal attempts in the box already this season. Amongst all defenders, only Shane Duffy (£4.2m) has more.
Meanwhile, Lucas Digne (£5.4m) could thrive in the coming weeks with Burnley (h), Aston Villa (a) and Norwich City (h) up next. Everton have made a promising start under Rafael Benitez and have conceded just 17 shots in the box so far – only the Manchester clubs have given up fewer. Paired with Digne’s crossing ability, he looks like the stand-out option in the Toffees defence, though Michael Keane (£5.0m) and Seamus Coleman (£5.0m) are also available at cheaper prices.
Arsenal added another defender to the ranks on transfer deadline day, with the signing of Takehiro Tomiyasu (£4.5m). The Gunners have been really poor so far this campaign, but the new arrivals ability to perform as a defensive minded right-back is interesting. That could mean Kieran Tierney (£4.9m) on the opposite flank is given more license to push up, safe in the knowledge that the Japanese defender can tuck in to form a back-three. It’s also worth noting that Mikel Arteta’s side have good fixtures right through until Gameweek 11 (see below), and as Pro Pundit Lateriser said in his recent column, FPL is not about what has happened but rather anticipating what will happen in the future. Maybe a punt on the Arsenal man isn’t such a bad idea, then?
Staying in London, Tottenham Hotspur are the only team yet to concede a goal this season, with Sergio Reguilon (£5.2m) picking up bonus in two of Spurs’ three matches so far, while at West Ham, Aaron Cresswell (£5.5m), Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m) and new signing Kurt Zouma (£5.4m) all have the potential to do well. The latter’s impact was discussed in our Moving Target article, but with the Hammers UEFA Europa League campaign kicking off soon, many will be happy to look elsewhere.
At Man City, Aymeric Laporte (£5.5m), John Stones (£5.3m) and Kyle Walker (£5.5m) are cheaper alternatives to Dias and Cancelo, though in the case of the centre-halves, we may need a few more weeks before we know exactly who Guardiola sees as his first-choice pairing.
Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) and new signing Marc Cucurella (£5.0m) at Brighton can provide value with trips to Brentford, Crystal Palace and Norwich City coming up, though there are perhaps better options for those building Wildcard teams this week, especially with cheaper alternatives available at Albion.
BEST BUDGET DEFENDERS
The hunt for cheaper defenders is always a big part of building a Wildcard squad, such is their importance to free up cash for the premium picks. And fortunately for FPL managers, there are an interesting batch of options worth exploring.
At Spurs, Eric Dier (£4.6m) is perhaps the best budget option, with Davinson Sanchez (£4.5m) out of Gameweek 4 and new signing Emerson Royal (£5.0m) possibly impacting Japhet Tanganga’s (£4.5m) minutes further down the line.
Conor Coady (£4.5m) and Marcal (£4.5m) offer cheaper alternatives at Wolves, while it’s also worth noting that Luke Ayling (£4.5m), who has already scored this season, and Diego Llorente (£4.5m) have promising schedules from Gameweek 5 onwards. Ben White (£4.4m) and Joel Veltman (£4.4m) could also be worth a look.
Brentford have started well, with Pontus Jansson (£4.6m), Ethan Pinnock (£4.6m) and Rico Henry (£4.5m) all impressing, though the fact David Raya (£4.6m) is available at the same price suggests he is probably the best route into Thomas Frank’s defensive set-up. Another newly promoted side, Watford, certainly have the fixtures in place to kick on, with centre-back’s William Troost-Ekong (£4.5m) and Francisco Sierralta (£4.4m) making their first starts together as a defensive pairing in Gameweek 3.
That leaves us with the bargain-bin enablers.
With Kostas Tsimikas (£4.2m) losing his place to Robertson in Gameweek 3, Tino Livramento (£4.1m) looks like an excellent alternative at Southampton. He ranks in the top 10 defenders for xA so far this season, while Man Utd loanee Brandon Williams (£4.0m) is another nice option who may benefit from the arrival of Ozan Kabak (£4.5m).
There is also Duffy, who we touched on earlier, and Daniel Amartey (£4.1m), though it is worth noting that both players have benefitted from injuries to team-mates at their respective clubs and may be on borrowed time. However, Duffy has certainly impressed, which suggests he is perhaps the more likely of the two retain his place.
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