FPL Break the Template: Bargains in Defence

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My first article with Jumpers for Goalposts this season will be looking at differential options in defence, focusing on those priced at £5m and under with an ownership of below 10%. The most popular £4.5m defender so far has been Arsenal’s Tomiyasu. However, with him now being an injury doubt, this opens the doors to considering other options.

All stats and maps used here are taken from Fantasy Football Fix, unless stated otherwise.

TOTTENHAM
  • 4th for goals conceded (40)
  • 5th for xG conceded (40.98)
  • Joint 3rd for clean sheets (16)
  • 9th for shots in box conceded (310)

Therefore, it’s understandable why Perišić has immediately become so popular, considering his attacking threat coupled with Spurs’ defensive record. Tottenham were also a strong attack last season, scoring 69 goals (4th), having 198 shots on target (4th), and 104 big chances (3rd) – with some positive opening fixtures:

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A few FPL managers will still be considering £5m Doherty, who had a great run of games before an unfortunate injury last season. In his 874 minutes, he scored 2 goals (xG=2.85) and had 4 assists (xA=1.75), with an additional FPL assist. Doherty had the highest xG per 90 of any defender (0.29) and the 3rd highest shots on target per 90 (0.62). He also had an attempted assist per 90 of 1.54. However, given Tottenham’s latest investments in their defence, Doherty does carry a risk of rotation.

On the more nailed side are Dier and Romero, both coming in at £5m. Dier played 3072 minutes compared to Romero’s 1846, and is currently the most-owned out of these three options, but still only at 3.2% ownership. He scored no goals (xG=1.21) and registered 1 FPL assist in 2021/22, with an expected assist of 1.42. He also attempted 7 assists, creating 3 big chances, and made a total of 13 shots, with 5 on target.

Romero scored 1 goal last season (xG=0.31), attempting 6 shots and having 2 on target. He had no assists (xA=0.35), attempting 6 but creating no big chances.

Doherty’s attacking threat compared to the other two are definitely shown in their heatmaps, with Dier and Romero’s goal involvement potentially coming from set pieces. However, there is also the question of rotation that we have to consider.

ARSENAL

Arsenal’s defensive assets proved very popular last season, and for good reason. Among all teams, Arsenal were:

  • 8th for goals conceded (48)
  • 7th for xG conceded (45.82)
  • 5th for clean sheets (13)
  • 4th for shots in box conceded (265)

They also had a fairly strong attack, scoring 61 goals (6th), and having 197 shots on target (5th), and 69 big chances (8th).

Arsenal have some of the strongest opening fixtures, which is one of the reasons Tomiyasu became so popular very quickly.

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Although games against United and Leicester could prove to be tougher, they face 2 promoted teams in the first 6 games and some other favourable match-ups that could mean Arsenal defenders get off to a solid start.

White was a solid pick throughout last season, and coming in at £4.5m again he offers a cheap way into a very strong defence – but is only at 8.1% ownership. He scored no goals last season (xG = 0.62) and had no assists (xA=1.37). He made 12 shots, with 4 on target, and attempted 13 assists and created 1 big chance. His lack of goal threat compared to other assets may push you towards other £4.5m options. However, Arsenal are a strong defence with great opening fixtures.

For £0.5m more, after his move to Arsenal, Zinchenko is certainly an interesting asset that many managers will be watching closely, sitting at 6.5% ownership. Officially listed as a defender, he could potentially play out of position in midfield. He only played 1044 minutes last season, and his starting place will seem more likely now in the Arsenal squad. In 2021/22, he racked up 4 assists (xA=2.14), with no goals (xG=0.44). In this time, he had 12 shots, with 4 on target, and attempted 16 assists, creating 3 big chances. He did manage a xA per 90 of 0.18 and an attempted assist per 90 of 1.38. In terms of goal threat, he had a shot per 90 of 1.03 and a shot on target per 90 of 0.34.

Gabriel (£5m) was the 8th highest scoring defender last season, with 146 points and 5 goals (xG=3.03) – the only defender equalling that goal tally was Reece James. Due to this, he is at a higher ownership than White or Zinchenko, with 8.4% of managers choosing him so far. He made 29 shots, with 12 on target, making 0.85 shots per 90 and 0.35 shots on target per 90. Gabriel had 0 assists (xA=0.64), attempting 9 assists in this time, and created 1 big chance. Of all Arsenal defenders, he is predicted to score the highest number of points between GW1 and 6; with 21.7.

Arsenal looks to be a strong team to invest in, highlighted by Tomiyasu’s high ownership. With him now injured, FPL managers have the option to invest in other teams or jump on another Arsenal asset, while considering potential rotation.

BRENTFORD
  • 12th for goals conceded (56)
  • 8th for xG conceded (46.72)
  • Joint 10th for clean sheets (9)
  • Joint 7th for shots in box conceded (306)

Therefore, despite over-performing their expected goals conceded, there is the possibility that one of the Brentford defenders could be great value for money. Brentford were also 11th for goals scored (48), joint 11th for shots on target (154), and 9th for big chances (66).

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After 2 tougher opening fixtures, Brentford hit a really good run of games, which is a reason Raya has been so popular as a £4.5m goalkeeper.

If you wanted to invest in the Brentford defence, Jansson (£4.5m), who played 3322 minutes last season, is a stand-out pick. In 2021/22, he scored 3 goals (xG=3.79) and 1 assist (xA=0.58), with a further 3 FPL assists. Jansson was among the top 10 defenders for shots on target (11) and had the most big chances (8) of any defender last year. He attempted 5 assists and created 1 big chance. Considering his set-piece threat, Jansson is definitely being overlooked, currently at just 2.9% ownership.

At the same price, Henry is also an option here at under 1% ownership – he played 2784 minutes last season. He also scored 3 goals (xG=1.84) with no assists (xA=1.84). Over the season, he had 14 shots, with 5 on target. He did attempt 18 assists, and created 2 big chances. Of the Brentford defenders, he is predicted to score the most points from GW1-6, with 18.1.

Now re-classified as a defender, Canós is also an interesting asset. With 3 goals (xG=3.16) and 2 assists (xA=2.10), and 1 further FPL assist. Throughout last season, he attempted 17 assists, with 0.73 attempted assists per 90, and created 3 big chances. Canós made a total of 33 shots, with 13 on target. This also gave him very positive per 90 stats, with 1.42 shots and 0.56 shots on target per 90 minutes. However, he is suspended until August 13th, so won’t be a player you start with.

Henry and Canós take up the more attacking position down the wing, with Jansson being a centre-back who has a great set-piece threat.

With Ajer and Pinnock injured, the Brentford defence is looking weaker. Assets from stronger defences such as Brighton and Wolves I think will be more favoured, but as a rotational defender one of the Brentford assets could definitely work. However, if you’re set on having Raya as your keeper, then doubling up on the Brentford defence may not be viable. 

WOLVES

Although they greatly over-performed their goals conceded, Wolves defenders proved solid assets last season.

  • 5th for goals conceded (43)
  • Joint 7th for clean sheets (11)
  • 12th for xG conceded (56.14)
  • Joint 13th for shots in box conceded (341)

Wolves are another team who struggled to score goals last season (38 in total, coming in at 17th), with only the 3 relegated teams scoring less goals than them. They were also 17th for shots on target (242), and 15th for big chances (54), so that is definitely a downside to Wolves assets. 

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With some great opening fixtures, it definitely looks like opting for a Wolves defender with low ownership could really bring value for money. Despite performing poorly in some statistics, Wolves have two very appealing £4.5m wingbacks.

As Semedo is injured, Jonny’s starting position seems fairly nailed at least at the start of the season, so could offer great value. In the 2021/22 season, he scored 2 goals (xG=0.88) and no assists (xA=1.11).

Aït-Nouri has the highest points projection of any £4.5m defender and any team outside last year’s top 3 (24.3 points) for GW1-6 from Fantasy Football Fix. Although the risk of rotation has been brought up, with Marçal’s move away his starting place seems more assured now. Last season, he scored 1 goal (xG=0.53) and had 2 assists (xA=1.52), with a further 2 FPL assists..

Both wingbacks have very similar playing styles, with Aït-Nouri clocking 1831 minutes last season compared to Jonny’s 1026. 

Despite there being a large gap in playing time, Jonny made 10 shots, with Aït-Nouri making 13. Aït-Nouri also attempted 17 assists; with Johnny attempting 11. Per 90 minutes, Jonny made 0.44 shots on target, putting him just outside the top 10 defenders, with Aït-Nouri having 0.20 shots on target per 90.

There definitely seems to be great value on offer in the Wolves defence, and taking a chance on one of these may provide consistent points while being able to invest more in your attack if that’s your preferred team structure.

NEWCASTLE

Newcastle’s defence became a lot more popular towards the end of last season. Overall, they were:

  • 15th for goals conceded (62)
  • Joint 12th for clean sheets (8) along with 4 other teams, with only 4 teams having less
  • 15th for xG conceded (60.54)
  • Joint 13th for shots in box conceded (341)

Though not a very impressive record, their form at the end of last season was particularly promising. From GW32 to GW38, per game, they were:

  • Joint 3rd for goals conceded (8) along with three other teams – only Tottenham and Liverpool scored less
  • 2nd for clean sheets (0.50)
  • 8th for xG conceded (1.22)
  • Joint 8th for shots in box conceded (8.25)

Newcastle scored 44 goals last season; 12th among all teams, and had 149 shots on target (14th) and joint 17th for big chances (49) – with only Norwich registering less in that statistic. From GW32-38, they did have a slight improvement – having 1.38 goals (9th), 4.63 shots on target (9th), and 2 big chances (joint 7th) per game.

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It is unfortunate that they face City and Liverpool in the opening 6, but considering Newcastle’s form at the end of last season their budget defensive assets could be of great value in rotation.

Schär (£4.5m) played 2169 minutes in the 2021/22 season. In this time, he scored 2 goals (xG=0.76) and had a total of 21 shots, with 8 being on target. This accumulates to 0.87 shots per minute. He also had 2 assists (xA=1.29) and attempted 9 assists, creating 4 big chances.

Burn played almost 300 more minutes than Schär and scored 1 goal (xG=1.49), having a total of 18 shots, with 5 on target. He also registered 1 assist (xA=0.92) and attempted 6 assists, creating 2 big chances.

Despite those two being rotation risks, I think Botman (£4.5m) would be a viable way into the Newcastle defence if you didn’t have the funds to stretch to Trippier. As he has just moved from Ligue 1 to the Premier League, I have taken his stats from FBREF. Last season, he scored 3 goals (xG = 1.40) and bagged 1 assist (xA=0.40). He is definitely not as attacking as Trippier, making only 5 shots on target. Trippier is definitely one of my top choices among the defenders, so if you could stretch to him I think it would be worth it, but as Botman should be nailed he could be a solid £4.5m pick to rotate during the more favourable fixtures – and is still only owned by 3.5% of managers.

At £5m, I think Trippier is definitely worth investing in over the differential of Targett. Trippier looked to be a very promising asset, where he scored 2 goals (xG=0.23). A lot of FPL managers agree, as he is at 16% ownership. I do think Botman could provide great value, and hopefully Newcastle pick up where they left off with their great form.

CRYSTAL PALACE
  • 7th for goals conceded (46)
  • 4th for xG conceded (39.32)
  • 6th for clean sheets (12)
  • 5th for shots in box conceded (267)

In terms of attacking stats, they were 10th for goals scored (50), 15th for shots on target (147), and 12th for big chances (61).

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The big downside to Palace assets are their poor opening fixtures, facing Arsenal and Liverpool in the first two games, and then City in GW3. As such, they will probably be assets we invest in in the future, but it’s definitely worth looking at their defensive options for future consideration.

£4.5m defender Mitchell scored no goals last season (xG=0.26) and had 2 assists (xA=1.46). He played all but 2 of their games, and could definitely be a future differential when Palace hit a nicer fixture run. He attempted 21 assists, which comes out to 0.61 per 90, with 2 big chances created, and 4 shots, with none on target.

Guéhi scored 2 goals (xG=1.75) last season and registered 1 assist (xA=1.11). He had 19 shots, with 5 on target, and attempted only 6 assists and created 1 big chance. Guéhi registered a shot per 90 of 0.53. Guéhi also played 36 games last season, and although he does take up a less attacking role than Mitchell, he has a set-piece threat.

Andersen (£4.5m) is also an option from the Palace defence. Last season, he scored no goals (xG=0.45) but had 3 assists (xA=1.73), with an additional FPL assist. He made 8 shots, with 3 on target, and attempted 20 assists and created 2 big chances. Andersen had 0.25 shots per 90 and had 0.62 attempted assists per 90.

I think there will be other more valuable cheap defenders to start the season with considering Palace’s opening fixtures, but these assets are definitely ones to look out for in the future.

BRIGHTON

Brighton finished last season inside the top 10, and their defence did great last season. Among all teams, they were:

  • 6th for goals conceded (44)
  • 6th for xG conceded (45.34)
  • Joint 7th for clean sheets (11)
  • 6th for shots in box conceded (291)

At times, Brighton struggled to get on the scoresheet, only managing 42 goals last season (joint 15th). They were also 13th for shots on target (151) and 11th for big chances (62).

Due to their defensive record, their assets surely have to be considered. Their opening fixtures also seem fairly positive:

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With some tougher fixtures, they do face a struggling Leeds team and a newly promoted Fulham. This does allow for some great fixtures if you are able to rotate.

The main bargains from the Brighton defence have to be Dunk and Lamptey, both coming in at £4.5m.

Last season, Dunk scored 1 goal (xG=1.04) but registered no assists (xA=0.33). Lamptey came away with no goals (xG=0.97) but 2 assists (xA=2.44). Dunk played considerably more minutes – 2610 compared to Lamptey’s 1570.

From their respective heat maps, it’s notable that Lamptey is a much more explosive asset, taking up a more attacking role compared to Dunk’s position as a centre-back.

This can also be seen in their stats, as Lamptey attempted 21 assists compared to Dunk’s 3. This means that Lamptey came out with 1.21 attempted assists per 90. Both players had 19 shots, with Dunk having 7 on target and Lamptey having 4. This puts Lamptey’s shots per 90 as 1.10, with Dunk’s being 0.66.

Dunk seems the safer option here, with Lamptey’s injury record also a concern. At the £4.5m slot, I think Dunk offers great value as part of a strong defensive team. Lamptey is the more exciting option, but maybe one to add to the watchlist if you wanted to play it safe.

£5m Cucurella has also been an exciting asset in the Premier League, with his future still not confirmed. He scored 1 goal (xG=0.63), registering 18 shots with 3 on target. He also had 1 assist, with an expected assist of 2.84. 

However, if he does transfer to City, then there will be Pep Roulette to manage.

MORE INTERESTING OPTIONS
Walker (£5m)

If Cucurella doesn’t make the move to City, then Walker, currently owned by 5.4% of managers, becomes very interesting. 

City’s defence was brilliant last year:

  • Joint 1st for goals conceded (26)
  • Joint 1st for clean sheets (21)
  • 1st for xG conceded (23.95)
  • 1st for shots in box conceded (164)

Similarly, they were 1st for goals scored (99), 2nd for shots on target (254), and 2nd for big chances (121). As well as this, they have a great set of opening fixtures:

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Walker scored no goals last season (xG=0.22) and bagged 2 assists (xA=1.22). Walker had 8 shots, with 2 on target, and attempted 12 assists, creating 3 big chances.

As always, Walker will be a minutes risk, but that risk does become more enticing if Cucurella doesn’t sign. However, there are a plethora of defensive options.

Dalot (£4.5m)

There are a lot of interesting choices in the United squad. However, they didn’t have a great 2021/22 season. They were:

  • 13th for goals conceded (57)
  • 11th for xG conceded (53.49)
  • Joint 12th for clean sheets (8) tied with 4 teams – only 4 other teams had less
  • 10th for shots in box conceded (327)

Attacking-wise, they scored 57 goals (8th), had 187 shots on target (6th), and 80 big chances (5th).

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Many managers will be tentative to take a chance on the United defence, but, at £4.5m, Dalot could offer great value. He played 1799 minutes last season, however scored no goals (xG=0.62), and made 13 shots, with 4 being on target. He had no assists (xA=0.93) and attempted 16 assists.

Justin (£4.5m)

Leicester’s defensive record last season proved quite frustrating for those who owned them:

  • 14th for goals conceded (59)
  • 18th for xG conceded (64.13)
  • 17th for clean sheets (7)
  • 18th for shots in box conceded (392)

However, their attacking numbers were a lot more positive, being 5th for goals scored (62), 8th for shots on target (69) and 6th for big chances (73).

The main downside to Leicester fixtures are their opening fixtures, where they face Arsenal, Chelsea, and United:

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Justin has been a pick highlighted by the FPL community, but is only at 3.3% ownership, likely due to initial rotation fears and an opening set of fixtures that aren’t as favourable as the top 4 teams’.

Last season, he was rotated and played just under 1000 minutes. In this time, he scored no goals (xG=0.55) and had no assists (xA=0.79). He did have 5 shots, 1 being on target, and attempted 9 assists, creating 1 big chance.

With him highly favoured to be the preferred left-back next season, he could be another bargain differential. 

However, due to Leicester’s opening fixtures, he would have to be rotated – but this can be expected for a defender at his price.

Coufal (£4.5m)

Given his price tag, it would definitely be worth looking at Coufal more closely. West Ham finished 7th last season, and their record was as follows:

  • 9th for goals conceded (51)
  • 9th for xG conceded (51.61)
  • Joint 12th for clean sheets (8) – tied with 4 other teams, with only 4 teams having less
  • 15th for shots in box conceded (354)

They were also 7th for total goals scored (60), 10th for shots on target (157), and 7th for big chances (72).

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In between some very tough fixtures are some favourable ones, and although their defence was not as strong as others covered here, I think it is still worth covering Coufal as a £4.5m option.

Coufal scored no goals (xG=0.48) last season, having 11 shots and 5 on target. He did, however, have 4 assists (xA=2.17) and attempted 21 in total, with 4 big chances created. There are other options here with nicer opening fixtures who will definitely be favoured.

74290cookie-checkFPL Break the Template: Bargains in Defence
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