We previously asked Fantasy Football Scout users with a Wildcard intact when they planned to activate this prized chip, and not far off 30% of the responses were for this current Gameweek.
The article below looks at the best buys at the back with those FPL managers in mind but the targets are, of course, also relevant for those using ‘free’ transfers in Gameweek 7.
All stats and graphics included in this piece are taken from our Premium Members Area.
ANTONIO RUDIGER (AND OTHER CHELSEA OPTIONS)
If you’re playing a Wildcard right now, the chances are that you’re structuring your defence around at least one Chelsea asset.
The Blues have a very favourable fixture schedule ahead, with seven of their next eight opponents among the worst 11 teams for goals scored in 2021/22.
And Thomas Tuchel’s troops are (usually) solid at the back, with their league record under their current boss excellent:
So which defender(s) to pick? That will probably boil down to what brand of Fantasy manager you are.
For the safety-first FPL bosses, there aren’t any Chelsea defenders who have escaped a benching under Tuchel to date and there will be more rotation further down the line for all of them. But Antonio Rudiger (£5.7m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) have started a lot more league matches than not when available under Tuchel: around 90% for both ahead of Gameweek 6.
Rudiger is the only natural left-sided stopper at the club, with Andreas Christensen (£5.0m) his likely deputy, while Azpilicueta’s versatility in playing at either wing-back or as a right-sided centre-half gives him two bites of the cherry at a first-team start.
As Andrew Gower’s table above details, it’s more of a crapshoot with the wing-backs.
Marcos Alonso’s (£5.9m) figure will have spiked thanks to his 100% starting record this season but the previously peripheral Ben Chilwell (£5.6m) is getting more and more minutes as 2021/22 goes on. The uncertainty at left wing-back was perfectly captured in the Champions League on Wednesday, when both players were handed 45 minutes apiece. Alonso’s call-up to the Spain national team for the October internationals, while Chilwell gets a fortnight to work on his fitness, is another complicating factor.
Alonso is explosive when he does play, averaging 5.88 points per match under Tuchel, even factoring two one-pointers off the bench.
CHELSEA DEFENDERS UNDER TUCHEL
|Player||Starts||Sub Apps||Goals||Assists||Clean Sheets||Bonus||Points per match|
Reece James (£5.6m), who remains a fitness doubt for Gameweek 7, is a major source of discussion. Up there with Alonso as Chelsea’s most attacking defender, James has created more chances (27) than any other member of the Blues’ backline under Tuchel. But he has also been thrown on as a substitute on seven occasions, as many times as the other six players in the above table combined. The raft of cameos reduces his points-per-match average to a fairly poor 3.50, along with his early exits in Gameweeks 4 and 6 of the current campaign.
If FPL managers are going for a Chelsea defender double-up, then Rudiger (who tends to stay benched if rested) and a riskier punt on one of Alonso or James would seem to be the way to go – but beware the one-pointers and have a strong bench in readiness for no-shows.
RUBEN DIAS/JOAO CANCELO
Gameweek 8 marks the start of a favourable, three-match fixture run for Manchester City and if you’re deploying your Wildcard this week, you’ll likely want a defender or two from Pep Guardiola’s rearguard.
City’s 1-0 win over Chelsea made it five clean sheets on the spin for the reigning champions, who didn’t look like conceding at all against the Champions League holders: the Blues had the lowest expected goals (xG) total of any side in Gameweek 6.
Many of us will be considering playing our City defenders from Gameweek 8 but who would back against them shutting Liverpool out on Sunday? Guardiola’s side have conceded only two ‘big chances’ all season and just five shots on target – that’s eight fewer than any other side.
Top for clean sheets in the previous two seasons and averaging 18.5 shut-outs per year in the last four campaigns, this is a proven backline.
Following his assist at Stamford Bridge, Joao Cancelo (£6.1m) is now top among FPL defenders for points this season. Ruben Dias (£6.1m), who like Cancelo is an ever-present starter in 2021/22 and who was the defender least at risk of rotation last year, is joint-second.
These two are probably the stand-out picks from the City defence.
Dias was benched in only one league match from his Gameweek 4 debut to Gameweek 30 (the point at which Guardiola started focusing on the Champions League and FA Cup, with the domestic title sewn up) last season, and even that was because he had just recovered from illness.
Over the same period, Cancelo tasted substitute duty on six occasions. He’s a less secure starter but does have the advantage of playing at both right and left-back, and he’s a darn sight more attacking that Dias.
Since Dias arrived at City he has averaged 4.76 points per match, with Cancelo’s mean at 5.35. Their points totals in that time? 181 and 182 respectively. So Cancelo has been matching Dias even factoring in those no-shows; including the full-back over the centre-half in a Wildcard squad simply means that you will have to have a playing FPL substitute ready and poised for emergency duty.
A word on Aymeric Laporte (£5.5m): he has had as many shots in the box as any City player this season and is a real threat from set plays.
But while Laporte seems settled as Dias’ partner-in-crime for now, Guardiola has historically only built his defence around one centre-half mainstay. John Stones (£5.3m) ultimately represents a threat to Laporte’s place, so the same ‘have a substitute ready’ caveat applies to the Spaniard as it does to Cancelo.
We’ve been treated to a whole host of starting £4.0m-ish defenders in 2021/22 so far but the cream of the crop is starting to rise, six Gameweeks in.
The likes of Kostas Tsimikas (£4.0m) and Daniel Amartey (£4.0m) are no longer getting regular game-time, while Javier Manquillo (£4.0m) and Brandon Williams (£4.0m) are playing for two of the worst backlines in the division. Williams, interestingly, has racked up more penalty box touches than any other defender over the last three Gameweeks, and the switch to a 3-5-2 system last weekend allowed him to push on – but Dimitris Giannoulis (£4.4m) is seen as a more natural fit at wing-back among some of the Carrow Road faithful.
Shane Duffy (£4.3m), who has registered more shots in the box than any other defender this season, is deserving of a mention. His form has been generally superb since his return to the Brighton XI and it’s perhaps his shirt to lose now but the return from injury of Tariq Lamptey, Joel Veltman and, soon, Adam Webster (all £4.4m) will swell the defensive options available to Graham Potter.
Enter Valentino Livramento (£4.2m).
The teenage right-back is an ever-present starter this season and has been part of a Saints backline that has conceded on only one occasion in the last three Gameweeks, shutting out Manchester City and West Ham United in the process.
And Southampton rise to second in our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 8-18, with a trip to Chelsea to come before that.
Livramento doesn’t just offer clean sheet potential but a bit of attacking threat, too: he’s top among £4.5m-and-under defenders for final-third touches this season (see below).
Ralph Hasenhuttl will be wary of overloading the 18-year-old and the odd benching may be a concern from Gameweek 13 onwards, when Saints face nine league matches in the space of five weeks.
For now, though, fixtures and form seem to be uniting at an opportune time.
Is this to be Kieran Tierney‘s (£4.9m) year? After delivering 45 attacking returns in 170 appearances for Celtic, many of us have been waiting (and waiting and waiting…) for the current Arsenal left-back to recapture that form in FPL.
A strong chance of a clean sheet is a good base to start for any defender, and Tierney has two in the last three Gameweeks as Arsenal’s backline begins to look solid with first-choice personnel available again after an August decimated by injury and illness.
Only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals and big chances than the Gunners over the last three Gameweeks. While the calibre of opposition has to be factored in, Mikel Arteta’s side face more of the same sorts of teams between now and the November international break.
And as Lateriser pointed out in his recent Arsenal analysis, the Gunners have been solid dating back to last season; this isn’t just a kneejerk reaction to the last three games.
Why Tierney over his peers? If you can afford it, simply because he’ll offer the best chance of delivering attacking returns.
Tierney has received the ball twice as often as opposite full-back Takehiro Tomiyasu (£4.5m) in the final third since the latter’s debut, with the Japan international more of a ‘stay at home’ brand of full-back – even if he has had the same number of shots as Tierney.
Tomiyasu and Ben White (£4.4m) are very decent cheaper alternatives to the Scot, who look like week-in, week-out starters especially as the Gunners don’t have the sideshow distraction of the Europa League.
For those who love their budget defender rotation, pairing White with Matthew Lowton (£4.4m) gives the following run of favourable fixtures right the way through to the end of the calendar year: NOR, CRY, sou, BRE, WAT, CRY, NEW, wol, new, SOU, WAT, lee, nor, WOL.
Burnley’s defence is some way short of being solid (no clean sheets this season) but they have had a tricky start, fixture-wise, and Lowton is joint-second among his teammates for chances created in 2021/22.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.6m) will miss Gameweek 7 through injury but his manager “thinks” he’ll be back after the international break, when the Reds face Watford.
Alexander-Arnold is being sold in his droves ahead of Saturday’s deadline, with the red flag, the thirst for Chelsea/City defenders and Liverpool’s so-so upcoming schedule all contributing to the mass exodus.
Going without the Reds right-back does open up a fair bit of cash to spend elsewhere – but at what cost?
Alexander-Arnold has averaged a whopping 7.33 points per match over his last 15 Premier League matches, delivering eight attacking returns, four double-digit hauls and only two blanks.
Indeed, there were a combined 21 points against two of Liverpool’s less-favourable upcoming opponents, Arsenal and Manchester United, in Gameweeks 30 and 35 of 2020/21.
Top and joint-top among defenders for both chances created and shots attempted, he’s a risky player to avoid if he does make a swift return from injury in Gameweek 8.
If we knew for sure that Aston Villa will persist with a wing-back system, Matthew Cash (£5.0m) would be a name to consider.
Since Cash took up that role in Gameweek 4, only one FPL defender has registered more penalty box touches.
The formation switch has served to make the Villa defence more robust, too, with two clean sheets arriving in as many games.
Whether Smith sticks with a 3-5-2 in the easier fixtures ahead is another question – particularly with the likes of Emiliano Buendia (£6.4m) and especially Leon Bailey (£6.4m) to crowbar into the team. It goes without saying that Villa had looked more suspect at the back without a third centre-half and three across the midfield, so that has to be a consideration.
If you have the luxury of benching a budget defender until Gameweek 10 or so, then a Brentford asset is worthy of consideration.
One of the better-performing backlines until the six-goal thriller against Liverpool, the Bees sit top of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 10-19.
Pontus Jansson (£4.6m) and Ethan Pinnock (£4.6m) will supplement their clean sheets with the additional goal or assist and indeed already have four attacking returns between them.
Marcal‘s (£4.6m) grip on a first-team spot looks to be weakening by the week, so Nelson Semedo (£4.9m) is our Wolves asset of choice for their ongoing favourable run. Only three defenders have had more penalty box touches than the gung-ho wing-back, who continues to be presented with – and spurn – some excellent goalscoring chances.