Our position-by-position analysis of the Fantasy Premier League options for 2021/22 continues as we scrutinise the premium and mid-price defenders on offer.
THE BIG-SIX RUNDOWN
When an FPL manager thinks ‘premium defender’, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) is usually the player that comes to mind.
After ending the season at £7.8m, Alexander-Arnold returns to the same price tag with which he started the 2020/21 season.
From Gameweek 28, no defender had more touches in the final third than ‘TAA’. He also topped the charts for passes received in the final third among defenders.
That led to Alexander-Arnold (33) creating 11 more chances, over that period, than nearest challenger Luke Shaw (22).
In terms of big chances created from Gameweek 28, Lucas Digne (4) came closest to Alexander-Arnold’s 7.
While Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) is either second or third on the list for all but one of the above statistics, the Scotland international created just two big chances from Gameweek 28.
The leap of faith with these two premium Liverpool defenders is the hope that Jurgen Klopp’s team will return to the stingy 2019/20 version, rather than remain the porous 2020/21 incarnation.
One caveat with Alexander-Arnold is that a thigh injury ruled him out of EURO 2020, so a keen eye will need to be kept on Liverpool’s pre-season preparations to make sure the right-back is fit for action.
The return of Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) will be a big factor in Liverpool’s potential defensive sturdiness, though with match fitness in question the Dutchman seems an easy avoid in FPL.
New centre-half Ibrahima Konaté comes in at £5.5m, where he will battle with Joe Gomez (£5.0m) and Joel Matip (£5.0m). Konaté’s viability as an option could come down to the fitness of those three other centre-backs.
The Reds do have the fixture list to promote heavy investment, however, with a home clash against Chelsea the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging opening six gameweeks.
The same cannot be said for the Blues, who take on Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Man City in the first six rounds of the season.
From Gameweek 28, only Manchester City (7.44) had a lower ‘expected goals conceded’ (xGC) total than Thomas Tuchel’s team (7.90)
But with Chelsea sitting fifth from bottom of Fantasy Football Scout’s Season Ticker when sorted by defence, it is difficult to promote investment in players such as Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) and Ben Chilwell (£6.0m).
Gameweek 7 may be the time to find space for Chelsea assets as the fixtures turn significantly for the better. Reece James is available at £5.5m, the same price as Antonio Rudiger. A cut-price option in the Blues backline could be Andreas Christensen (£5.0m), who featured regularly for Tuchel after the German took charge in January.
Both Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo have been priced at £6.0m, with the former’s minutes far more guaranteed than the latter’s. In fact, Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.5m) is in pole position to start the season at left-back for Manchester City after displacing Cancelo during the final third of the season. Dias started 32 league games in 2020/21.
The rest of probable Man City starters in defence also come in at £5.5m. John Stones is the pick of that bunch, having also cemented himself in Pep Guardiola first XI – though as FPL managers are very aware, that does not add up to starting every league game. Stones managed 22 starts last season, having come into favour in Gameweek 10.
Across Manchester, £5.5m is also the price tag for Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw. Only Alexander-Arnold created more chances than Shaw (72) last season, though the Man Utd left-back did only managed half (7) of the Liverpool man’s ‘big chances created’ total.
Wan-Bissaka racked up four assists last season from an ‘expected assists’ (xA) total of 2.15. Maguire was third among defenders for goal attempts (36) and first for shots inside the box (33), though did not register a single big chance over the campaign. Victor Lindelof (£5.0m) could offer a way to save £0.5m on the Man Utd defence, having made 29 league appearances in 2020/21.
Kieran Tierney (£5.0m) is the pick of the Arsenal defenders in this price bracket and the safest overall, given the uncertainty over which £4.5m option in Mikel Arteta’s squad will start the season.
The Scotland international created a chance every 74 minutes over the previous campaign, though did only clock 2,302 minutes overall due to differing injuries.
Staying in London, £5.0m is also the most you’ll have to shell out for a Spurs defender this season. But while the club are without a new manager, picking a guaranteed starter would be a lottery.
Lucas Digne (£5.5m) has fallen £0.5m from his £6.0m starting price last season. All of Everton’s other options in defence, apart from Mason Holgate (£4.5m), come in at £5.0m.
Digne (11) was joint-third with Robertson for big chances created last season, behind only Aaron Cresswell (£5.5m) and Alexander-Arnold.
Cresswell (8) topped the assist charts for defenders in 2020/21. The West Ham left-back has had a £0.5m price hike, though begins the season at £0.2m less than his Gameweek 38 fee of £5.7m.
Team-mates Angelo Ogbonna, Craig Dawson and Vladimir Coufal are all available at £5.0m. The latter was level with Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Shaw and Digne for assists (7). Both Coufal and Cresswell significantly outperformed their xA over the campaign, which was also the case with Digne.
Leicester defenders in this bracket may struggle for attention due to the £4.5m pricing of Wesley Fofana.
With Stuart Dallas (£5.5m) reclassified as a midfielder, Leeds currently have no defenders above £4.5m.
BEST OF THE REST
Lewis Dunk is another £5.0m option that could be hampered by his £4.5m team-mates in Tariq Lamptey and Ben White. However, the former must first prove his fitness while the latter is being heavily linked with a move away from Brighton.
Adam Webster and Joel Veltman are also available at £4.5m, though the pair lack Dunk’s goal threat. Only Ezri Konsa (£5.0m), with seven, got on the end of more big chances than Dunk (5) last season among defenders.
Tyrone Mings, Matt Targett and Matty Cash are all now priced at the same tag as Konsa. The latter’s goal threat makes him the most appealing option in a Villa outfit that open with three favourable fixtures before the schedule takes a turn for the worse.
Ashley Young (£5.0m) is also listed as a defender. The former Man Utd man could become an interesting option if he earns a spot further up the field in Dean Smith’s starting line-up.
Burnley duo James Tarkowski and Ben Mee both come in at £5.0m, though their full-back fellows Matt Lowton and Charlie Taylor are priced at £4.5m.
Having made his way back into Steve Bruce’s XI late in the season, Matt Ritchie (£5.0m) notched two assists in nine games from a left wing-back role.
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