The Fantasy Football Scout end-of-season awards are up and running, with the polls for best goalkeeper and defenders open for voting on the sidebar and below respectively.
We’ll be assessing the key candidates in each position in four separate articles, continuing with this look at defenders.
READ MORE: Vote for the best FPL goalkeeper of 2021/22
Overall score, points per match and value in Fantasy Premier League were all factors we considered when compiling this shortlist – the rest we’ll leave up to you.
You’re allowed up to five votes for this poll, with the top three definitely making our Team of the Season at the very least. The vote will be live until Friday at 23:59 BST.
TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD/ANDREW ROBERTSON
- Points: 208/186
- Points per match: 6.5/6.4
- Start cost: £7.5m/£7.0m
- End cost: £8.4m/£7.3m
Outside of Ben Chilwell, who made just seven appearances, Liverpool’s first-choice full-backs had the best points-per-match averages (6.5 and 6.4) of any FPL defender.
The pair both ended the season on 14 attacking returns apiece, racking up a combined 55 bonus points and 35 clean sheets between them.
Alexander-Arnold was tantalisingly close to breaking the all-time record for most FPL points by a defender in a season, only for his campaign to fizzle out a tad with zero goals and two assists in his final 13 appearances.
Plenty of damage had been done by that point, of course, with his tally of eight double-digit hauls the highest among FPL defenders.
Factoring in clean sheets alongside attacking contributions, Alexander-Arnold (32 in 31 starts) and Robertson (30 in 28 appearances) both averaged more than one FPL return per game.
VIRGIL VAN DIJK/JOEL MATIP
- Points: 183/170
- Points per match: 5.4/5.5
- Start cost: £6.5m/£5.0m
- End cost: £6.8m/£5.3m
The reliability of Liverpool’s two centre-halves went almost unnoticed thanks to the returns of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson but both van Dijk and Matip joined their teammates in the top five for FPL points among defenders.
The bargain Matip, in fact, was Fantasy Premier League’s best-value player of 2021/22, based on points per million.
The Cameroonian stopper’s points-per-match average (5.5) was bettered by only four defenders, with van Dijk narrowly trailing in his wake.
Matip was the best centre-half for bonus points (20) this season and chipped in with three goals and three assists, while van Dijk matched his teammate for attacking returns and banked more clean sheets (21) than any other Premier League player.
JOAO CANCELO/AYMERIC LAPORTE
- Points: 201/160
- Points per match: 5.6/4.8
- Start cost: £6.0m/£5.5m
- End cost: £7.2m/£6.0m
The Manchester City meat in the Liverpool sandwich was Joao Cancelo, who finished second among FPL defenders for points after cracking the 200-mark.
His total of 11 assists was identical to Robertson’s and only one short of what Alexander-Arnold managed, while the Reds’ right-back was the only defender to better Cancelo’s total of 27 bonus points.
Reliability of starts was another plus point in a side otherwise riddled by rotation: he made Pep Guardiola’s line-up in 36 of the 37 matchday squads he was available for.
If only he could shoot: he attempted a remarkable 81 efforts this season, more than the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Richarlison and James Maddison, but scored only once.
Aymeric Laporte was pretty much as ‘nailed’ as Cancelo, suffering only two benchings in the whole of 2021/22 – and the first of those was because he had spent time in self-isolation and missed training.
The Spaniard chipped in with four goals and two assists to supplement his 18 clean sheets, and to have two secure starters in the joint-best defence in the Premier League really was a gift this year.
What’s perhaps forgotten about are the starting prices of the City pair. Cancelo began the campaign at a now-unthinkable £6.0m, while Laporte was priced up alongside some average names at Manchester United, Leicester City and elsewhere. Harry Maguire, who was also initially listed at £5.5m, ended up scoring 91 fewer points than Laporte.
REECE JAMES/ANTONIO RUDIGER/MARCOS ALONSO
- Points: 141/150/128
- Points per match: 5.4/4.4/4.6
- Start cost: £5.5m/£5.5m/£5.5m
- End cost: £6.5m/£6.1m/£5.7m
As is the case with Laporte, it’s amazing to think that this Chelsea trio all started the season priced at £5.5m; we really have been spoiled for top-value defenders this season.
There is a big disclaimer around James and Alonso when it comes to ‘Team of the Season’ credentials, in that they made only 21 and 25 starts respectively.
But when the pair, and James in particular, were on the pitch, they carried such explosive potential.
James’ points-per-match average includes four blanks as a substitute and when we eliminate these, he averaged almost as many points per game (6.3) as Robertson (6.4) and Alexander-Arnold (6.5).
A rate of 0.65 attacking returns per 90 minutes was also comfortably better than what the Liverpool premium pair were delivering; had Chelsea been as defensively sound as the Premier League’s top two, James could have had some even more monstrous scores.
Alonso himself finished fifth among defenders for attacking returns, banking four goals and five assists despite the restricted game-time. A Gameweek 34 haul was particularly memorable for his owners.
As for Rudiger, he was the Laporte of Stamford Bridge, making the starting XI in 34 of the 35 Premier League matches he was available for. Such reliability came to be appreciated as Thomas Tuchel tinkered to his heart’s content but Rudiger wasn’t just an appearances-and-clean-sheets man, venturing forward in both open play and dead-ball situations to chip in with three goals and as many assists.
GABRIEL MAGALHAES/BEN WHITE
- Points: 146/107
- Points per match: 4.2/3.3
- Start cost: £5.0m/£4.5m
- End cost: £5.3m/£4.6m
Ben White’s end-of-season points tally doesn’t look all that impressive on paper but from Gameweeks 4-30 he was one of the best budget defenders in the game.
A nailed starter for those of us who needed him as either a playable option or emergency bench cover, he kept clean sheets in 13 of his 25 appearances during this period (the same shut-out count as Robertson and Cancelo, for instance) and averaged a commendable 4.1 points per match.
As was the case with Ramsdale, a season-ending run of 10 matches without a clean sheet did somewhat blot his copybook.
Gabriel Magalhaes was White’s partner in crime during that purple patch, also banking 13 clean sheets.
What the Brazilian offered over his fellow centre-half was attacking threat and, in fact, no FPL defender scored more goals than Gabriel (five) in 2021/22.
Matip was the only centre-back to accumulate more bonus points than Gabriel (16) over the season, meanwhile.
- Points: 147
- Points per match: 3.9
- Start cost: £5.0m
- End cost: £5.3m
Aston Villa’s marauding right-back was the highest-scoring FPL defender outside of players from the ‘big six’, finishing eighth overall.
A total of 20 returns (be it clean sheets, assists or goals) were delivered in his 38 starts, which was again a tally that nobody outside of the Premier League’s top half-dozen clubs could better.
Brownie points are also awarded for being an ever-present starter.
Cash ended the campaign particularly strongly, finishing second only to Matip for FPL points over the final 12 Gameweeks.
- Points: 138
- Points per match: 3.6
- Start cost: £4.5m
- End cost: £4.7m
Of the FPL assets who started the season out at £4.5m, Coady scored the most points.
One of just two defenders to start every single game in 2021/22, the Wolves stopper combined the ‘nailed’ status we had come to take for granted with a newfound goal threat.
Having scored just one goal in his previous three Premier League campaigns, Coady was let loose by Bruno Lage at set-piece situations and found the back of the net on four occasions in the season just gone.
As was the case with Arsenal, Wolves’ season somewhat petered out after the March international break.
From Gameweeks 4-29, however, Coady was the fifth-highest-scoring defender, delivering 14 defensive and/or attacking returns in 26 starts.
- Points: 80
- Points per match: 2.9
- Start cost: £4.0m
- End cost: £4.2m
Had we ran a ‘half-season’ awards poll in December, Livramento would surely have been a feature in the backline.
But his exploits over the course of the season are still worth mentioning in this end-of-season vote, even if his inclusion is debatable.
Livramento was the only real success story of the defenders who were initally priced up at a rock-bottom £4.0m and he was superb bench cover for the opening 19 Gameweeks, confounding pre-season expectations to start every week.
His peak came in Gameweeks 4-11, when he ran up five clean sheets, two attacking returns and 44 FPL points – over half of his season’s total. During this period, he blanked only once.
Another 20 points were scored across Gameweeks 26 and 27, although returns were non-existent outside of these purple patches.
Still, he was there for, at the very least, emergency appearance points as an auto-sub in a total of 25 starts of an injury-curtailed campaign, which is a lot more than could be hoped for at this basement price point.
- Points: 132
- Points per match: 3.8
- Start cost: £4.5m
- End cost: £4.7m
Is that the sound of a barrel being scraped? Dier is perhaps a surprise inclusion on this list and not someone we’d expect to pick up a lot of votes.
Nevertheless, he was second only to Coady for FPL points among sub-£5.0m defenders and his tally of 16 clean sheets was better than what even Rudiger, White, Cash and many more managed.
Missing from his game was goals: had he been able to add in a couple of those, as he has done in previous campaigns, then he would have finished among the top 10 defenders for FPL points.
‘Coulda, woulda, shoulda’, of course, but he was still a success story among budget assets regardless, with his points-per-start average lifting to an impressive 4.2 after Antonio Conte assumed control in Gameweek 11.
NOT QUITE MAKING THE CUT
Time on the sidelines eliminated three defenders who really impressed in terms of points per match: Ben Chilwell, Matt Doherty and John Stones started just six, nine and 12 Premier League matches respectively this season, with their time in the Fantasy spotlight all too fleeting.
Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi can perhaps feel hard done by, meanwhile, after the budget pair finished 17th and 18th respectively for FPL points among defenders. Each centre-half banked 14 returns of some variety over the course of the season, hitting double figures for clean sheets at Crystal Palace.
Marc Cucurella started the season at £5.0m, which probably counted against him in our thinking; it’s funny how a mere half a million can disproportionately raise our expectation levels in FPL. His total of 21 bonus points was really eye-catching, as it was beaten by just four other defenders.
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