This is an update of the series we did for Gameweek 7 Wildcarders, with fresh data and a couple of new targets for those deploying their chip this week.
However, it will also be of interest for those using ‘free’ transfers ahead of Gameweek 8.
All stats and graphics included in this piece are taken from our Premium Members Area.
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 three of their next four opponents – plus Watford in Gameweek 14 – among the worst 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. However, Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) has started a lot more league matches than not when available under Tuchel (circa 90% when available), with his versatility in playing at either wing-back or as a right-sided centre-half giving him two bites of the cherry at a first-team start.
Marcos Alonso’s (£6.0m) ownership now sits at 25.4%, but the previously peripheral Ben Chilwell (£5.6m) is getting more and more minutes as 2021/22 goes on, which does create uncertainty in the left wing-back role.
CHELSEA DEFENDERS UNDER TUCHEL
|Player||Starts||Sub Apps||Goals||Assists||Clean Sheets||Bonus||Points per match|
Reece James (£5.5m) is also 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 Azpilicueta and a riskier punt on James or Chilwell 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.
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 in Gameweek 6, Joao Cancelo (£6.2m) is now top among FPL defenders for points this season. Ruben Dias (£6.2m), 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 the league debut of Dias, Cancelo narrowly outscores his fellow premium defender by 182-181 despite the extra no-shows.
A word on Aymeric Laporte (£5.5m): he has 10 shots in the box 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, seven 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.
Shane Duffy (£4.4m), 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 shut out Manchester City and West Ham United in the last four Gameweeks.
Encouragingly, Southampton rise to second in our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 8-18.
Livramento doesn’t just offer clean sheet potential but a bit of attacking threat, too: he’s sits second 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 three in the last four Gameweeks as Arsenal’s backline begins to look solid with first-choice personnel available again after an August decimated by injury and illness.
No team has conceded fewer goals and big chances than the Gunners over the last four Gameweeks, and 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 four 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 (£4.6m) 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: CRY, sou, BRE, WAT, CRY, NEW, wol, new, SOU, WAT, lee, nor, WOL.
Burnley’s defence is some way short of being solid (just one clean sheet this season) but they have had a tricky start, fixture-wise, and Lowton is joint-third among his teammates for chances created in 2021/22.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) is available for Gameweek 8, when the Reds face Watford.
The England right-back 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.
While Chelsea and City may boast better short-term fixtures, Alexander-Arnold produced 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.
Joint-top and second among defenders for both chances created and shots attempted, Alexander-Arnold has been one of the very best, if not the best, defensive options in the game for quite some time.
If we knew for sure that Aston Villa will persist with a wing-back system, Matthew Cash (£5.1m) 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 their last three fixtures.
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 a few 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.