We’re taking a position-by-position look at the best Fantasy Premier League (FPL) options for those considering ‘Free Hit’ transfer targets in Double Gameweek 22.
Following Thursday’s announcement that eight top-flight teams are due to play twice in the upcoming Gameweek, over a third of Fantasy Football Scout users have said they are planning to activate their Free Hit chip:
Here we switch focus to defenders, with all stats taken from this article to be found in our Premium Members Area.
There aren’t too many stand-out defenders who play twice in Double Gameweek 22, with Sergio Reguilon (£5.4m) about the pick of them.
At the back, Spurs have kept five clean sheets in the eight matches that Antonio Conte has overseen and have conceded considerably fewer big chances (three) than any other team in that time – although the calibre of opposition and the number of fixtures in this Covid-ridden period has to be taken into account, particularly with stiffer tests up next.
It’s at the other end where Reguilon comes into his own, however: under Conte, he has one of the best minutes-per-expected goal involvement (xGI) figures of any defender (see below):
One slight concern is Reguilon’s stamina in an all-action wing-back role: he has completed a full game only once under Conte and Spurs are about to play four times in cup and league in the space of 12 days.
There are cheaper alternatives among the Lilywhites’ backline.
Davinson Sanchez (£4.6m) has had more goal attempts in the box than Reguilon (seven v six) under Conte and his aerial threat will be an asset against a Leicester defence that has allowed more headed opportunities and set-piece chances per game than any other side.
Emerson Royal (£5.0m), meanwhile, has created 12 chances to Reguilon’s nine since the change in head coach, which has helped him mop up six bonus points in his last five appearances.
We’ll make a Fantasy asset out of you yet, Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m).
The attack-minded and occasionally ‘out of position’ defender hasn’t quite turned his undoubted potential into consistent returns, averaging as he does only 3.00 points per match over his entire Premier League career.
That average isn’t helped by 59th-minute injury-enforced substitutions and cameos off the bench, of course, and when he is fit, he certainly looks the part.
Take this season as an example.
He is among the top five first-team defenders for penalty box touches per 90 minutes (see below), also faring well for shots in the box.
Lasting 90 minutes is the next step but he achieved it in Gameweeks 17 and 19 after months of careful management and the muscle-saving benchings have occurred when the fixtures have been really crammed in.
Luckily for Brighton and Lamptey, Albion have a generous turnaround between Gameweeks 22 and 23, playing Friday-Tuesday-Sunday before the winter break. The former Chelsea prospect was also rested in the FA Cup at the weekend.
The Double Gameweek 22 matches are far from perfect but Lamptey caused the Chelsea left flank a lot of problems in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago, with Marcos Alonso (£5.7m) all at sea.
Marc Cucurella (£5.1m) is a pricier alternative who doesn’t quite offer the same edge-of-your-seat thrill but isn’t troubled by fitness worries like Lamptey and has started every single league match since joining the Seagulls in August.
He’s also a bit of a BAP-magnet, sitting fourth among defenders for bonus points in 2021/22, and only four players in his Fantasy position have created more chances since his Gameweek 4 debut.
Selecting a Chelsea on a Free Hit is appropriate as the first match in the Blues’ double-header is effectively a ‘free hit’ in itself, being as it is away at Manchester City.
Not much will be expected from a trip to the Etihad but the clash with Brighton offers a bit more hope, as the Seagulls are in the bottom six for goals scored in 2021/22.
Still third or joint-third for clean sheets and goals conceded despite their recent struggles at the back, Thomas Tuchel’s squad should be looking a lot healthier by the time we get to Gameweek 22 after recent injury and illness issues led to some jaded-looking displays over the festive period. The performances against Liverpool in Gameweek 21 and in the EFL Cup against Spurs, indeed, offered encouragement in that regard.
Marcos Alonso (£5.7m) is always an option but with four important cup and league matches coming up in 12 days and the west Londoners looking to bolster their options at left wing-back in January, there’ll be a bit of trepidation over whether he gets the nod in both Gameweek 22 matches.
Antonio Rudiger (£6.2m), by contrast, has started every single league match that he has been available for this season and it’s easy to forget the threat he poses with so much focus on the wing-backs: the German is third among defenders for both attempts on goal and shots in the box in 2021/22.
Playing a Free Hit is not just about being able to send out a playing XI during the pandemic but also about capitalising on targets that those using their free transfers wouldn’t generally consider or be able to easily reach/afford.
Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) is arguably one of them for Gameweek 22, with the availability of the widely owned Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.4m) still not 100% certain at the time of writing following a positive coronavirus test and a spell out of training; Alexander-Arnold’s owners aren’t very likely to sell for a maximum of a one-week absence but those on a Free Hit would be able to look elsewhere if he doesn’t recover in time for the Brentford game.
Robertson had an underwhelming start to the season but looked more like his old self throughout December until receiving a red card at Spurs.
He has averaged 7.2 points per match and delivered five attacking returns in his last six starts, trailing behind only Alexander-Arnold for chances created when defenders are filtered by their last half-dozen appearances (see below):
Liverpool only have one match in Gameweek 22 and Alexander-Arnold should end up being passed fit but it pays to be prepared ahead of the early Friday deadline, with team news likely to come relatively late in the day.
ALSO CONSIDER… OR AVOID
Anyone backing the Manchester United backline in Gameweek 22 would be advised to go with David de Gea (£5.2m), with the Spaniard assured of starts if fit and able to compensate for the loss of a clean sheet, or supplement a shut-out, with lots of save points.
Uncertainty rages at full-back, with game-time shared on the right and Luke Shaw (£5.0m) suspended only for the Aston Villa game, while injuries and unavailability have plagued Ralf Rangnick’s selections at centre-half recently and resulted in Phil Jones (£4.5m) getting a start against Wolves. The fact that the out-of-form and flagged Harry Maguire (£5.4m), with his aerial threat and Brentford’s season-long tendency to concede headed chances, is probably the pick of the defence from an FPL perspective is another reason to go for de Gea.
Burnley and Watford have arguably the best of the Double Gameweek 22 fixtures but is that enough to warrant investment? The Hornets haven’t kept a clean sheet all season, while Sean Dyche’s side have only three shut-outs in 2021/22.
With opponents Leicester and Watford ranked 20th and 17th for headed chances conceded this season, however, James Tarkowski (£4.9m) is a bit of a maverick gamble: he is top among all FPL defenders for big chances (five), with his 13 headed goal attempts the third-best among players in his Fantasy position. Matt Lowton (£4.4m), the leading sub-£4.5m defender for chances created (16) this season, is a cheaper alternative.
Another reason to be cautious around the Clarets is that Saturday’s match against Leicester must be a concern. Neither Burnley nor the Foxes were able to call upon 13 senior outfielders in their FA Cup ties at the weekend (that being the threshold for a Premier League postponement), with Brendan Rodgers down to eight. Leicester need to recover five first-teamers without losing any others, then, so it’s a game that’s surely ‘at risk’ status at present.
Nearly all of Leicester’s defenders are flagged in FPL right now but Luke Thomas (£4.3m) is a name to consider if there is a lessening of the injury crisis and he himself is passed fit: the Foxes have struggled for clean sheets in 2021/22 but the budget defender has two in his last three starts, creating three big chances in his last half-dozen appearances. He’s not likely to have a challenger for his spot, either, given his side’s injury woes.
Of the other single Gameweekers bar Liverpool, Conor Coady (£4.6m) and in-form Wolves have six clean sheets in their last eight matches and are at home to Southampton. A possible redeployment of Marcal (£4.2m) to centre-half could also free up a return for Rayan Ait-Nouri (£4.3m) at wing-back, as happened in the FA Cup at the weekend. Ait-Nouri was fifth among FPL defenders for final-third touches during his Gameweek 9-16 spell in the starting XI, a run that was only ended by injury.
And finally, there is of course Joao Cancelo (£7.0m). A tricky fixture against Chelsea awaits but the main reason we haven’t mentioned him already is that he features in most of our teams anyway (95.8% of the top 10k, for example). The temptation with a Free Hit is to completely overhaul a squad but finding at least three better alternatives than the game’s third-highest scoring asset looks a hard ask even in a Double Gameweek.
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