We pick out the best £5.0m and £5.5m Fantasy Premier League (FPL) defenders as we continue to dissect the price list.
With unlimited transfers allowed during the World Cup downtime and a Wildcard to use before then, we’re focusing mostly on Gameweeks 1-8 for these articles.
- READ MORE: The best budget FPL goalkeepers for 2022/23
- READ MORE: The best mid-price and premium FPL goalkeepers for 2022/23
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Despite spending most of his career as a winger, Ivan Perisic (£5.5m) has been deployed as a wing-back in recent seasons, a position he will most likely take up at Tottenham Hotspur.
It’s a demanding role for a 33-year-old, but Perisic thrived in 2021/22, registering eight goals and assisting another seven in Serie A.
However, one of the downsides to Perisic is that Antonio Conte loves a wing-back substitution. In fact, he lasted 60 minutes in only 17 of his 32 Serie A appearances for Conte’s Inter Milan in 2020/21.
If starting, the potential is clear: all four of Conte’s wing-backs from his time in charge at Spurs (Gameweek 11 onwards) rank in the top 14 defenders for expected goal involvement (xGI) per 90 minutes:
So, there is plenty to get excited about when Perisic is on the pitch – but the question over just how much game-time he will get, with five substitutions allowed and Spurs in Champions League action throughout the autumn, is a very valid one.
Matt Doherty (£5.0m), meanwhile, also had the potential to be a bargain buy when the price list was revealed. The Republic of Ireland international delivered two goals, four assists, three clean sheets and 55 FPL points in a run of six straight starts prior to sustaining a season-ending injury in 2021/22.
The imminent arrival of Djed Spence adds to Doherty’s competition at right wing-back, however, and it remains to be seen who his manager favours come Gameweek 1.
The arrival of Conte as head coach lifted Tottenham’s defensive prospects in 2021/22. In fact, the Lilywhites claimed 13 clean sheets after the Italian was appointed, the third-most in the league. They also ranked third for goals conceded in that time, with their total of 24 bettered only by Liverpool and Manchester City.
Kyle Walker has been priced up at an eye-catching £5.0m, a lower FPL price than alternative options in the same defence like Joao Cancelo (£7.0m), Ruben Dias (£6.0m) and Aymeric Laporte (£6.0m).
The former Spurs man claimed two assists and 10 clean sheets in the Premier League last season, averaging 4.2 points per match.
However, the possible arrival of Marc Cucurella (£5.0m) and the England international’s advancing years are obvious downsides with the 32-year-old right-back, who made only 20 league starts – partly thanks to injury – in 2021/22.
Man City, meanwhile, are the only Premier League team who avoid a ‘big six’ side in the first six Gameweeks, with home clashes against Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest in Gameweeks 2, 4 and 5 particularly appealing.
It’s also worth noting that Pep Guardiola’s troops bossed the all-important underlying statistics in 2021/22:
|Metric||Total (rank v other Premier League teams)|
|Clean sheets||21 (1st=)|
|Goals conceded||26 (1st=)|
|Big chances conceded||40 (1st)|
MATTHEW CASH/LUCAS DIGNE
Aston Villa’s attacking full-backs Matthew Cash (£5.0m) and Lucas Digne (£5.0m) might be worth a look, with Bournemouth, Everton and Crystal Palace first up.
Cash was the highest-scoring FPL defender outside of players from the ‘big six’ in 2021/22, 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.
Digne, the most tempting but frequently underwhelming of FPL assets, is an alternative option and actually created more chances than all defenders bar Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) from Gameweek 22 onwards, his first appearance in a Villa shirt.
The arrivals of Diego Carlos (£5.0m) and Boubacar Kamara (£5.0m) could also have a positive impact on the clean sheet potential of Cash and Digne.
And the benefits might not just be in terms of shut-outs, with The Athletic suggesting that Kamara’s arrival is part of Gerrard’s plan to “see full-backs Lucas Digne and Matty Cash both given more freedom to attack”.
Notably, Villa were at the right end of the table for defensive stats since Steven Gerrard was appointed boss ahead of Gameweek 12 (eighth for fewest goals conceded, for example), so the two new acquisitions could further strengthen the backline.
Kieran Trippier (£5.0m) returned to the Premier League with Newcastle United in January and made an instant impact for the Magpies.
The England international scored twice and collected a clean sheet in four appearances until a broken foot ruled him out for 10 Gameweeks.
Now back fit, Trippier boasts strong attacking potential thanks to his share of set-piece duties, while his clean sheet prospects have been given a boost by the arrivals of Nick Pope (£5.0m) and Sven Botman (£4.5m), plus the permanent signing of fellow full-back Matt Targett (£5.0m).
The addition of both Eddie Howe and five winter signings caused a dramatic shift in Newcastle’s form last season, as only Liverpool, Man City and Spurs recorded more points in 2022.
In fact, a dozen wins and seven clean sheets arrived in their final 18 matches, in a period in which they had the sixth-best record for conceding shots, goals and expected goals (xG).
Newcastle start at home to newly-promoted Nottingham Forest and also face Brighton and Hove Albion and Wolves in the opening four Gameweeks – only the relegated three scored fewer than the latter duo in 2021/22.
OTHER CANDIDATES: THE PROS AND CONS
Arsenal have arguably the most-appealing first eight fixtures on paper and, indeed, sit top of our Season Ticker in that period. A pair of back-to-back matches against newly-promoted Bournemouth and Fulham in Gameweeks 3 and 4 look particularly appealing. Notably, the Gunners kept 13 clean sheets last season, the fifth-best record in the division, recording all of them in the 35 matches Gabriel Magalhaes (£5.0m) started. The centre-half was also joint-top for goals scored among defenders, with five, and is a major threat from set-pieces. Kieran Tierney (£5.0m), meanwhile, is another candidate in Mikel Arteta’s ranks with plenty of attacking potential. However, it’s hard to get too excited about either option with Ben White (£4.5m) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (£4.5m) both available for half a million less.
Clean sheets were a major issue for Leeds United last season, with only relegated Watford recording fewer shut-outs. However, Jesse Marsch began to move the Whites’ in the right direction upon his appointment, with defensive numbers generally improving. New signing Rasmus Kristensen (£5.0m) arrives with an attacking reputation, although his numbers only really jump off the page in the season just gone. The Denmark international scored on seven occasions in the Austrian Bundesliga in 2021/22, an impressive tally when you consider that he’s a right-back. The opening fixtures for Leeds are very decent, too, but once again, there are cheaper options in their backline like Illan Meslier (£4.5m) and Diego Llorente (£4.5m), which does dent his appeal.
Elsewhere, Luke Shaw (£5.0m) has dropped half a million after a dismal campaign for Manchester United’s backline in which they kept more clean sheets (eight) than just four other teams. As a result, it’s probably best to hold off on their defensive assets until we’ve at least seen them in action under Erik ten Hag. Aaron Cresswell (£5.0m), meanwhile, has offered decent attacking threat and returns over the last two FPL seasons but that sometimes hasn’t been backed up with clean sheets at the other end. West Ham United do have a tricky start to the season, too, with Man City up first in Gameweek 1, followed by Spurs and Chelsea soon after.
If Cucurella, Nathan Ake (£5.0m) and Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.0m) get their respective moves – they have been linked with Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal in recent days – their prospects will need revisiting, while it remains to be seen whether Jurgen Klopp reprises his strategy of fielding Joel Matip (£6.0m) domestically and Ibrahima Konate (£5.0m) chiefly in the cup competitions, as the latter is as teasingly priced as Matip was last season.
FPL POINTS PROJECTIONS
Our algorithm-generated FPL points projections for the 2022/23 campaign have been refreshed for the first time.
These will be updated as pre-season continues and more team news information becomes apparent.
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