FPL 2021/22: Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 2 Preview

In the second article of this weekly series in the FPL 2021/22 season, FPL Del takes you through the best defensive options ahead of Gameweek 2.

Hello and welcome to the second edition of Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 2 Preview. This week is a real luxury, a chance to write the article on a Sunday Night with all the games in the current Gameweek completed. As a Spurs fan I’m feeling quietly content after a promising first performance, but more on that later.

Safe to say the opening weekend of the season didn’t let us down. There were plenty of goals, some really entertaining games and Mo Salah (£12.5m) and Bruno Fernandes (£12.0m) hauling like the absolute FPL Beasts that they are.

There were opening game victories for 2 of the 3 promoted sides, defeat for the Champions (!!!) and some big performances from some much fancied FPL assets. Michael Antonio (£7.5m), Said Benrahma (£6.0m), Diogo Jota (£7.5m) and Mason Greenwood (£7.5m) take a bow!!!

On a personal note, I am fairly happy with my start to the season. I managed 95 points, thanks largely to my Captain Salah and Bruno giving me a gameweek 1 OR of 716,745. I did, however, lose my first H2H match of the season by 5 points thanks to goals from Dominic Calvert Lewin (£8.0m) and Mason Greenwood.

For those of you new to this series, it’s a regular deep dive into the best defensive assets for the upcoming gameweek (and beyond). We take a look at the form and fixture quality ahead of the next round of matches, who the bookies think are most likely to keep a clean sheet and which defenders are most likely to give you an all important attacking return.

In a slight change of format from usual, we’ll also look at any Gameweek 1 shocks, given the data pool for the rest of our usual analysis is still very small. For analysis of gameweek 2 to 7 fixtures, please refer to last weeks article. This weeks article will look like this:

  1. Bookies Odds
  2. Defensive Strength and Gameweek Fixture
  3. Gameweek 1 Shocks
  4. Attacking Potential
  5. Conclusions

Bookies Odds

These figures represent the % chance of a team keeping a clean sheet in Gameweek 2. Odds up to date as of 19:00 on 15th August 2021, according to WilliamHill.com. Please only gamble if you are 18 years of age and over. Please gamble responsibly.

TeamsFixtureOdds (%)
LiverpoolBurnley (H)64
Manchester CityNorwich (H)62
BrightonWatford (H)50
ChelseaArsenal (A)43
SpursWolves (A)41
Manchester UnitedSouthampton (A)40
Aston VillaNewcastle (H)38
Crystal PalaceBrentford (H)36
BrentfordCrystal Palace (A)32
LeedsEverton (H)31
West HamLeicester (H)29
LeicesterWest Ham (A)27
WolvesSpurs (H)27
WatfordBrighton (A)24
ArsenalChelsea (H)23
EvertonLeeds (A)21
NewcastleAston Villa (A)20
SouthamptonManchester United (H)19
BurnleyLiverpool (A)9
NorwichManchester City (A)6

Defensive Strength and Gameweek Fixture

In 8 months of writing these articles, 64% is the highest chance I have ever seen of a predicted Premier League clean sheet and it is difficult to argue against Liverpool producing that against Burnley in front of the Anfield faithful.

Burnley failed to score in 9 of 19 away games last year and only managed 36% of possession at home to Brighton on Saturday. I’d expect them to have significantly less of the ball next gameweek, making it very difficult to score. That said, they have managed only 28%, 29% and 31% possession on their last 3 trips to Anfield, but still scored in each fixture.

Joel Matip (£5.0m) got the nod alongside Virgil Van Dijk (£6.5m) for Liverpool against Norwich, whilst Konstantinos Tsimikas (£4.0m) filled in adequately for the injured Andrew Robertson (£7.0m). Matip and Tsimikas represent good early season value and Trent Alexander Arnold (£7.5m) also looked lively with 2 shots at goal and 3 key passes.

Manchester City will look to bounce back from opening gameweek defeat when they take on Norwich at home. Norwich posed a threat on the counter vs Liverpool without really creating any great chances and it will have to be more of the same against City. I’m actually more convinced of City’s clean sheet in Gameweek 2 than I am of Liverpool’s given Kevin De Bruyne (£12m) came on as sub in the 2nd half vs Spurs.

I don’t think Pep will risk another horror show from Benjamin Mendy (£5.5m) so we should see Oleksander Zinchenko (£5.5m) return at left back. Despite losing 1-0, Joao Cancelo (£6.0m) had 3 shots on goal and made 3 key passes, but we could easily see Kyle Walker (£5.5m) come back in at right back so because of rotation risk, I will still be avoiding City defenders.

Brighton got plenty of attention pre-season and I had a personal double up effectively with Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) and Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez (£4.5m). Safe to say at 3:02pm on Saturday I was sat singing to myself “If I had another chance tonight, I’d probably have David Raya as my Keeper”! Joel Veltman (£4.5m) missed out due to being in close contact with an individual that was diagnosed with COVID. I’m hoping a bit more prep time ahead of Watford should make for a better defensive performance.

Watford were nothing short of sensational going forward with standout performances from new strikers Emmanuel Dennis (£5.0m) and Cucho (£5.0m). Watford managed 7 attempts on target from 13 shots and were a real breath of fresh air for a promoted club. Based on this I think we should avoid Brighton Defenders where we can this weekend.

Chelsea were predictably solid in shutting out Crystal Palace and predictably unpredictable with their line-up. Defensive maverick Marco Alonso (£5.5m) was selected ahead of Ben Chilwell and slotted a wonderful free-kick. Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) moved out to right wing back and Trevoh Chalobah (£5.0m) capped his Premier League Debut with a fine strike in the second half, playing alongside Antonio Rudiger (£5.5m) and Andreas Christensen (£5.0m).

Chelsea now have a run of 5 tough fixtures (Arsenal (A), Liverpool (A), Villa (H), Spurs (A) and Man City (H). Although, watching a toothless Arsenal surrender to Brentford on Friday, their next fixture may not be as tough as previously thought. I’ll be keeping a close eye on who nails down the centre back spot out of Chalobah and Christensen when Reece James (£5.5m) comes in at right back and Azpilicueta reverts to centre back.

Spurs looked well organised and solid against a Manchester City side clearly not firing on all cylinders yet. Wolves were one of only 5 sides to fail to score in gameweek 1 (Arsenal, Palace, Norwich and Man City being the others) and look a good option for another clean sheet this weekend. Japhet Tanganga (£5.0m) put in a Man of the Match performance, whilst Eric Dier (£4.5m) added a bonus point to his clean sheet.

It’ll be interesting to see what Nuno Espirito Santos does when Serie A Defender of the Season 2020/21, Cristian Romero (£5.0m), is up to speed, after coming on as a sub on Sunday. If Dier can keep his place he is a steal at £4.5m with games against Wolves, Watford and Palace in the next 3 weeks.

Manchester United journey a Southampton side who crumbled in the second half away at Everton on Saturday. United were rampant in their 5-1 victory vs Leeds and will hope to have new signing Raphael Varane (£5.5m) available. Southampton were much better at home last season but will a need significant improvement to avoid a blank against United.

The big surprise from Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing of Leeds was no attacking return from Luke Shaw (£5.5m). However, he was unlucky not to score and also created a golden opportunity for Mason Greenwood. One United defender who did register and assist was Victor Lindelof (5.0m), setting up Bruno’s third goal. However, with Varane’s arrival now confirmed his place will almost definitely be under threat.

Gameweek 1 Shocks

We’ve already talked about Spurs keeping a clean sheet, Luke Shaw not being involved in any of United’s 5 goals and 2 Chelsea defenders getting on the scoresheet. Aside from that, here were my biggest shocks from gameweek 1.

Understandable, given the lack of firepower in the Arsenal ranks, but I don’t think any of us had Brentford down for a clean sheet gameweek 1. Ethan Pinnock (£4.5m) added an assist and 2 bonus points to his clean sheet and with a friendlier run of fixtures now (Palace (A), Villa (A), Brighton (H), Wolves (A)) there could be potential for their defenders to add further hauls.

Daniel Amartey (£4.0m) not only kept his place in the Leicester starting line-up but retained it when new signing Jannik Vestergaard (£5.0m) came off the bench as they reverted to a back 3/5. Any upside will only be short term though as he will surely drop to the bench once Jonny Evans (£5.5m) returns.

The defender with the most attempts on goal in Gameweek 1 was a £4.0m defender. Stand up, Brighton’s Shane Duffy (£4.0m). Probably only in the side due to Veltman being sidelined with COVID but Duffy was back to his usual threat from corners with 2 of his 4 headers on target. Duffy got 5 goals for Brighton back in 2018/19 and 3 in 18 games on loan at Celtic last season. If he can establish himself in Brighton’s starting 11 he’ll be a great option.

Villa. Were. Awful. A lot of us had bigged up Villa’s first 3 fixtures but if Saturday was anything to go by, we won’t be wanting their defensive assets anytime soon. Particular criticism has been levelled at Matt Target (£5.0m) who struggled and was hooked at half time. Definitely a bullet dodged for me personally there with Ashley Young (£5.0m) deputising for him at left back in the second half.

There were actually five £4.0m defenders that got a start. We’ve already mention Tsimkas, Amartey and Duffy. The others were Southampton’s Tino Livramento (£4.0m) and Wolves’ Ki-Jana Hoever (£4.0m). Neither are particularly attractive at the moment but it’s good to know there are some options for us when we want/need to get off the Tsimikas / Amartey train in a couple of weeks’ time.

Attacking Potential

Obviously, we only have one weeks worth of stats to look at but here are the top 10 defenders ranked by expected goals (xG) and creativity (xA) from Gameweek 1. Stats provided by Fantasy Football Hub.

Gameweek 1 – Top 10 Defenders ranked by xG
Gameweek 1 – Top 10 Defenders ranked by xA

We cannot read too much into this as it is the smallest possible data set. However, I would like to draw attention to a few key points. We’ve already highlighted some of the threat posed by specific defenders in the first week.

Given the above Marcos Alonso will have done his chances of keeping his place in Chelsea’s team absolutely no harm at all. Making the Top 10 for both goal threat and creativity is some achievement. If he can keep his place, he could be an absolutely golden asset. I just cannot see Tuchel not using some level of rotation even if he prefers Alonso. For me, £5.5m defenders must be guaranteed starters for me to select them.

I’m glad to see Kieran Tierney £5.0m make both lists. He was hands down Arsenal’s best player. If he can deliver 3 shots and 6 key passes in an Arsenal side that really struggled he could be a real asset if, and its a big if, Arteta can get Arsenal going.

Topping the creativity list and having 3 shots should solidify Joao Cancelo (£6.0m) as the best attacking threat from City’s defensive line. He regularly featured in this article last season and will continue to this season providing, like Alonso, he isn’t rotated, which we know he will be. For that reason, it’s still an avoid for me.

Burnley are clearly a threat from set pieces. There is nothing ground breaking in that statement but when your two centre backs have 4 of your 14 attempts on goal it’s obviously a strength they are playing too. Burnley generally start slowly but Ben Mee (£5.0m) and James Tarkowski (£5.0m) could become options if they can sure up at their own end as well.

Below are the 9 defenders that achieved and attacking return in Gameweek 1 and their related key stats.

Conclusion

Last week, I proposed an optimal defensive line-up of Trent, Shaw, Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m), Veltman and Conor Coady (£4.5m). In the end, with the emergence of Tsimikas as an option I was able replace Coady and upgrade Veltman to Dunk, which I’m glad I did given his COVID diagnosis. I played 4 at the back with Coufal missing out. They got me 15 points between them, which could easily have been 19/20 but for a Luke Ayling 25 yarder, so I’m not too disappointed.

My strategy ahead of gameweek 1 was to try and build a defensive line that could see me through until gameweek 7 without needing a transfer, so I can focus my transfers in attacking areas. I am still confident that I have that. If I were making any changes I would be wondering if Eric Dier offers me more value in the coming weeks over Vladimir Coufal, however, whilst West Ham conceded twice at Newcastle, Coufal sits 2nd on the list of defenders by xA.

So based on all of the above, I intend to line up with 3 at the back this gameweek, with my chosen three being Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kostantin Tsimikas and Luke Shaw. Given how good Watford looked going forward I’ll drop Dunk to the bench and with West Ham facing Leicester, I’m not confident of a clean sheet from Coufal.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on Manchester City and Chelsea selections over the coming weeks ahead of their fixture improvements in Gameweek 6/7. I’m also be keen to monitor players like Tierney, Chalobah and Tarkowski to see if they can build some consistency on top of their strong gameweek 1 showing.

Thanks for reading. I wish you all the best ahead of gameweek 2. May your full backs raid, your centre backs strike, your defence hold firm, your arrows be green, and your OR be everything you hoped it would be!

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