Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 26 Preview

Welcome to another edition of Defenders Under the Microscope, the weekly series brought to you by FPL Connect looking at the best defensive options for your FPL Team in the upcoming gameweek and beyond. Here, we preview FPL Gameweek 26.

As usual we’ll be analysing each team’s fixture using recent underlying defensive and attacking stats, considering who the bookies consider most likely to keep a clean sheet and trying to predict which defenders will register attacking returns in an attempt to give you the edge over your fellow FPL Managers.

We’ll update our analysis of the impact ‘no fans’ is having on defences at home and away and we’ll also take a look a bit further into the future as we enter a critical phase in the FPL Season, in light of finally getting some certainty over fixtures gameweek 26 to 29, just after the gameweek 25 deadline passed.

The article is broken down as follows:

  1. Bookies Odds
  2. Home vs. Away
  3. Current Form and Gameweek Fixture
  4. Upcoming Fixtures
  5. Attacking Potential
  6. Conclusions

Bookies Odds

Bookies Odds taken from William Hill as of 22:30 on 21/02/21. Please only consider gambling if you are over 18. Please gamble responsibly.

These odds reflect the bookies predicted chance of each team keeping a clean sheet. At time of posting, the odds for the second fixtures of the gameweek were not available.

TeamsFixture 1 OddsFixture 2
Manchester City(vs. West Ham) 52%vs. Wolves
Liverpool(vs. Sheffield United) 49%vs. Chelsea
Tottenham(vs. Burnley) 47%vs. Fulham
Brighton(vs. West Brom) 43%
Wolverhampton Wanderers(vs. Newcastle) 41%vs. Manchester City
Fulham(vs. Crystal Palace) 40%vs. Tottenham
Everton(vs. Southampton) 36%vs. West Brom
Chelsea (vs. Manchester United) 32%vs. Liverpool
Crystal Palace(vs. Fulham) 32%vs. Manchester United
Leicester City(vs. Arsenal) 31%vs. Burnley
Newcastle(vs. Wolves) 29%
Leeds(vs. Aston Villa) 28%
Arsenal(vs. Leicester City)27%
West Bromwich Albion(vs. Brighton) 26%vs. Everton
Southampton(vs. Everton) 24%
Manchester United(vs. Chelsea) 24%vs. Crystal Palace
Aston Villa(vs. Leeds) 21%vs. Sheffield United
Burnley(vs. Tottenham) 17%vs. Leicester City
Sheffield United(vs. Liverpool) 13%vs. Aston Villa
West Ham United(vs. Manchester City) 10%

Home vs Away

We covered the Home vs. Away debate extensively in the gameweek 24 column, with the conclusion that home fixtures are no longer a viable indicator of a team’s likelihood to keep a clean sheet. The current standings (as of 22:30 on 22/02/21) are that there have been 76 home clean sheets in 247 matches and 72 away clean sheets in 247 matches. Home clean sheets are down 2% on the 3 season average prior to this season and away clean sheets are up 6%.

The last 5 gameweeks show that clean sheets all round are currently on the increase in comparison to earlier in the season. The average for the last 5 gameweeks is 34% at home (18/53). This is 1% higher than the previous 3 season average and 3% higher than the average for home clean sheets this season. Away teams have had clean sheets in 30% of their recent fixtures (16/53). This is up 7% on the previous 3 season average and 1% on the overall average this season.

There may be a slight reverting to norm happening here (norm being home teams are significantly more likely to keep a clean sheet than away teams), however we need to monitor this closely over the coming weeks to see if the trend continues. The natural variance is around 7% between home and away clean sheets and we are not back there yet (curremtly 4%).

Current Form and Gameweek Fixture

Presented below are the defensive stats for every team in the premier league across the last 5 gameweeks, ordered by best xGC to worst xGC (stats taken from fantastyfootballhub.com after all games completed on 21st February 2021).

Presented below are the attacking stats for every team in the premier league across the last 5 gameweeks, ordered by best xG to worst xG (stats taken from fantastyfootballhub.com after all games completed on 21st February 2021).

So this part of the article is becoming very easy to write! If it wasn’t for this week being a double gameweek I could literally copy and paste what I wrote last week! For those of you that didn’t read it – Manchester City, Chelsea and Brighton continue to be the hardest teams to breach in the Premier League.

They all average less than 1 xGC per game (Brighton taken over 4 games not 5) and are all outperforming their xGC by conceding less. Between them they have an incredible 10 clean sheets in 15 games.

Fulham are a surprisingly high 5th in this table, conceding less than goal per game (5 in their last 6), and an xGC of 5.89 across those 6 games. Those 6 games included Everton, West Ham and Leicester who are all in the top half for xG scored so it cannot be argued this it is all down to favourable fixtures.

Wolves are also worthy of note here having only conceded 3 in their last 5 and keeping 2 clean sheets, including shutting out Leeds and Leicester. However their xGC of 6.57 suggest that tally could easily have been more. With Wolves facing Manchester City in this gameweek, their defence face a serious test.

With gameweek 26 providing plenty of options for picking players with 2 fixtures we need to factor that into our decision making this week. Of the teams mentioned above, Manchester City, Chelsea and Fulham all play twice.

It doesn’t look like anyone can score against City at the moment and with many of us carrying at least one of their defenders already our only worry with them is rotation. Given Stones and Dias got a game off last week and Walker was rested on Sunday I’d be very surprised if Cancelo plays both games this week.

Chelsea have a tough schedule facing Manchester United and Liverpool which will serve as a great yard stick to the progress they have made under Thomas Tuchel. They have a more settled back line now with Alonso and James establishing themselves as the wing backs, but it would take a brave manager to select Chelsea defenders this week with the anticipation of clean sheets against 2 of the best attacking teams in the League.

Fulham face Palace and Spurs this gameweek, the League’s bottom 2 ranked by xG. This coupled with their recent strong defensive showing make their defenders the perfect foil for more premium options this gameweek. Aina, Andersen and Tosin Adarabioyo are all £4.5m, with Tete £4.3m, which will be an easy shuffle from most other defenders in the game.

Spurs also warrant interest this week given that on paper they have 2 good fixtures. Burnley rank 15th for xG and whilst Fulham have been very good defensively, with only 6 goals in their last 7 games, they are not frightening too many teams going forward.

Having said that, Spurs seem to be in transition at the moment. Mourinho has shifted the defensive mentality a little recently and they looked much more attacking vs. West Ham last weekend. That coupled with uncertainty over who the starting defence is makes them less preferred than the others previously mentioned.

Upcoming Fixtures

There are three things we really need to be considering over the 3 gameweeks after this week:

  1. Who has upcoming double gameweeks?
  2. Who plays in GW29?
  3. Who has the best fixtures on paper over those weeks?

Manchester City play twice again in gameweek 27 and are the only team guaranteed 5 fixtures in gameweek 26/27/28. Another reason why if anyone doesn’t yet have City defenders (surely nobody seriously has no City defenders still?) you should try and get at least 1.

Aston Villa and Spurs both double this week and play each other in gameweek 29. Aston Villa also have the potential for a double gameweek in 28, and whilst their form isn’t great (16th for xGC over the last 5), their assets do at least provide plenty of cover over the coming weeks.

Their upcoming fixtures are Leeds and Sheffield United in GW26, Wolves in GW27 and Newcastle plus the possibility of Everton in GW28. Tottenham follow their double this week with a home game against Palace and a trip to North London rivals Arsenal before facing Villa in GW29.

Whilst Fulham double this gameweek and face Leeds in GW29 they play Liverpool and Manchester City in-between so any move for Fulham defenders this week comes with the knowledge that they are almost definitely going to be filling your bench over the next 2 gameweeks after this one.

Leicester and Liverpool have the easiest run of fixtures on paper over the next 3 gameweeks. Leicester face Arsenal and Burnley this gameweek, followed by Brighton then Sheffield United. Liverpool face Sheffield United and Chelsea this gameweek, followed by Fulham then Wolves. If you are planning to Free Hit in gameweek 29 then their defenders are great options until gameweek 29.

In summary, loading up on Manchester City, Aston Villa, Spurs and potentially Fulham defenders this week will allow you to best attack the upcoming fixture schedule.

Attacking Potential

Presented below are the goal threat stats for the top 10 defenders in the premier league across the last 5 gameweeks, ordered according to best xG (stats taken from fantastyfootballhub.com after all games completed on 21st February 2021).

Presented below are the creativity stats for the top 10 defenders in the premier league across the last 5 gameweek, ordered according to best xA (stats taken from fantastyfootballhub.com after all games completed on 21st February 2021).

Marcos Alonso has now established himself at first choice under Thomas Tuchel. With 4 more attempts than any other defender over the last 5 gameweeks, coupled with Chelsea’s ability to keep clean sheets again and his xA (1.34) and BCC (2) stats, he is a great all round option right now, a genuine triple threat!

Luke Shaw continues to impress this season with no let up in his xA and actual assist numbers. His crossing volume and success rate are second to none and you have to wonder how many more assists he would have if United had a domineering target man.

Aaron Cresswell is the next most creative defender but his numbers are way off Shaw’s and West Ham only have a single fixture this week.

Fulham pair Adarabioyo and Aina both look to be carrying significant attacking threat at the moment, and with Fulham doubling this week as well as playing in gameweek 29 they are both strong options. Whilst he is yet to register, my preference is Adarabioyo with Fulham facing a Palace side who concede a lot of headers (13 in the last 5 GWs).

Conclusions

The double gameweeks often give us the biggest headaches, and your current chip situation will be dictating your selection and transfer strategy at the moment.

For those looking to Bench Boost in gameweek 26 a defence comprising of premium Manchester City Assets and Marcos Alonso, complimented by less expensive Fulham and Aston Villa options would be ideal and also will help set you up for gameweek 29.

If you have your Free Hit in the bank, you can afford to attack gameweek 26-28 without fear. For those in that position Trent Alexander Arnold and the attacking Leicester Full Backs Castagne and Pereira are a great foil for any Manchester City assets.

If, like me, you are all chipped out and holding your Wildcard until after gameweek 29, I’m hoping you’ve got Manchester City assets in your squad. You’re going to need them this week and next week!!! Looking to transfer in Aston Villa and or Fulham defenders will give you maximum fixtures this week and coverage for gameweek 29 as well.

I wish you all the best for this gameweek and beyond. May your full backs raid, your centre backs strike, your defence hold firm and your City assets avoid rotation!

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