2018/19 Defender Analysis
Unlike analysing goalkeepers in FPL, defenders are slightly more complex in that there are 2 main positions – centre backs and full backs – including multiple ways of scoring points. To try to gauge if there is a difference between how well different positions do, I looked at the top 20 point scoring defenders.
Only 7 were centre backs – of which 5 were in the 4 teams top of the clean sheet table – with only Nathan Ake and Wily Boly managing it in teams outside this. So, the tactic seems to be either CB for a top team with the possibility of lots of clean sheets, or a full back across all teams.
I have decided to look at 4 underlying stats to aid in picking out those hidden gems and must-haves for the 2019/20 squad.
Best Liverpool defender to own
The main question facing most FPL managers will be which and how many Liverpool defenders to accommodate this season. As alluded to in my previous article, although Alisson is a strong option, I feel he takes up a spot better suited to a defender. The question seems to be VVD vs TAA vs Robertson and for me value will be a big deciding factor and I would guess that Robertson will be boosted to £7m with both TAA and VVD at £6.5m. If this is the case, TAA seems without question the better option over Robertson
- TAA played 7 less games last year yet assisted 1 more goal (takes corners—further assist potential), delivered 66 more crosses and had more shots. So even at similar values, still seems the option.
- Robertson has a potential injury over the summer which may hamper him at the start of the season.
- There have been murmurings that Klopp prefers Gomez long term as right back which could lead to TAA playing further up the pitch.
So for me, TAA is the first name on the team sheet on the games release, given the need for a Liverpool defender being essential and preferring him over VVD due to additional attacking potential through the season.
2019/20 Defender Options
The next stand-out option for me comes from the Everton defence and that is Lucas Digne. Aside from TAA, Digne is the only player to appear in all 4 top 10 stats – joint third in bonus points awarded and has made by far the most crosses of any defender in the game (71 more than his nearest rival). Given Everton were third for clean sheets and if Everton sign a big name striker or DCL improves on for his first main season, surely all those crosses can be converted into a few more assists. Value wise, he started last season at £5m so a hike seems likely, but even to £6m he still seems like a must-have for GW1. Especially when you consider their opening fixtures, playing no ‘top 6’ teams from last season before GW7, including 2 promoted teams.
Given the high value assets further up the pitch, at least 1 enabler will be required in defence. Last year’s stand out was obviously Aaron Wan Bissaka who started the season at £4m, I think it may be a struggle to find someone to match his bonus point exploits from existing premier league teams so it may pay to look at the promoted teams.
Of the 3 promoted teams both Norwich and Aston Villa can’t be considered so early in the season given how many goals they conceded last year (only Huddersfield have done worse in recent years). Looking towards Sheffield Utd and there are 3 options that stick out, one being John Egan who most likely will be the cheapest given he offers no real attacking potential. He could be a player to watch if he comes into the game as a £4m defender.
The other 2, who I would say are likely to be £4.5m, are Jack O’Connell and Enda Stevens. O’Connell plays the more conventional centre back role although is one of the infamous overlapping CBs and has chipped in with 3 goals and 3 assists last season. Stevens however is predominantly a left wing back and scored 4 goals and 6 assists, so is the preferred choice at this early stage, price dependent.
Filling the other positions is a decision that will be very much dictated by what squad budget is left and who has impressed in pre-season. Identifying potential easy runs of fixtures should also be a deciding factor. Here are some early thoughts on the other teams to consider:
Lloyd Kelly, if he gets regular pre-season appearances could be a good route into a team with a good early run of games,
Charlie Taylor, pretty much ever-present last season and interested to see if a pre-season without Europa League distractions can bring back the solid defensive unit from 2017/18
The obvious route into the team is Laporte given a strong season last year, however value may be an issue so the 2 that interest me are Benjamin Mendy and Alexsander Zinchenko. Both have risks attached, Mendy in his injury history and rumours of a falling out with Pep, and Zinchenko in game time and if he is reclassified as a defender. However, Zinchenko has just signed a new contract so 2019/20 could be a breakout season. Must watch pre-season to study the potential their FPL value.
The 2 Jans stick out from last year – Valery and Bednarek – both were £4m, however I imagine a hike of at least £0.5m but both could still be good squad players, Valery especially.
Everything at this early stage is so dependent on player prices as to who you can fit into the 15, but for me TAA and Lucas Digne are in the squad no matter what the price (within reason!). The rest will be decided once transfers and pre-season is underway, where we can get a better understanding of each player.
My tactic in the coming weeks is to build a list of potential players I am looking at, and then trim it down closer to GW1.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article, for more analysis follow me on twitter @FPLThinker. The FPL goalkeeper analysis is also available here, looking at the best options ahead of the new season.