FPL 2021/22: Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 3 Preview

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Defenders Under the Microscope, the regular FPL Connect series looking at the best defensive options for the upcoming gameweek. This week, we look ahead to gameweek 3.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, this article will talk you through our picks for the upcoming gameweek and beyond, who to start, who to bench and who to consider transferring in, considering a number of data points along with some expert opinion.

This article will take the following format:

  1. A review of the last gameweek
  2. Bookies odds for a clean sheet in the next gameweek
  3. Form / defensive strength and the next gameweek’s fixture
  4. Attacking Threat
  5. Conclusion

So without further ado lets get into it.

Gameweek 2 Review

Gameweek 2 was a good / bad week (depending on which way you look at it) for the bookies. In this article last week, we highlighted that the bookies thought teams most likely to keep a clean sheet were Liverpool, Manchester City, Brighton, Chelsea and Spurs. True to form, all 5 delivered! In fact Manchester United were the only team from the top 9 most likely who didn’t keep a clean sheet so it has been a fairly good gameweek for defenders so far.

There were 7 defenders who managed an attacking return including Reece James (£5.5m) and Tyrone Mings (£5.0m) who managed 2 returns. A goal and an assist for James gave him 18 points (with the 3 bonus points) and 2 assists for Mings gave him 15 points (again bagging all 3 bonus points).

Only Liam Cooper (£4.5m) didn’t add a clean sheet to his attacking return meaning we had 7 double digit hauls for defenders this week and 5 of them capturing all three bonus points. Current FPL favourites Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) and Kostas Tsimikas (£4.1m) both rewarded their owners with another haul whilst Shane Duffy (£4.0m) got on the score sheet for Brighton after coming close with 4 efforts at goal last week.

Marco Alonso (£5.6m) added another clean sheet to his goal and clean sheet from last gameweek and he is the leading defender after 2 gameweeks with 21 points in total. He leads James (19), Alexander-Arnold (18), Tsimikas and Ethan Pinnock (£4.6m) who added another clean sheet to his clean sheet and assist from last week (17).

For me personally, it was a good week for my defenders. I have both Liverpool full backs and complimented them with Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) and Luke Shaw (£5.5m) who, despite United conceding, still managed to pick up 2 bonus points for me giving me a total of 33 points from 4 defenders, on top of the 6 point clean sheet from Goalkeeper Roberto Sanchez (£4.5m).

Gameweek 3 – Bookies Clean Sheet Odds

These figures represent the % chance of a team keeping a clean sheet in Gameweek 3. Odds up to date as of 21:00 on 22nd August 2021, according to WilliamHill.com. Please only gamble if you are 18 years of age and over. Please gamble responsibly.

TeamFixtureOdds (%)
Manchester CityArsenal (H)54
SpursWatford (H)54
LiverpoolChelsea (H)49
West HamCrystal Palace (H)47
Manchester UnitedWolves (A)44
LeicesterNorwich (A)42
Aston VillaBrentford (H)37
BrightonEverton (H)36
EvertonBrighton (A)31
ChelseaLiverpool (A)31
LeedsBurnley (A)30
NewcastleSouthampton (H)29
SouthamptonNewcastle (A)28
BurnleyLeeds (H)25
BrentfordAston Villa (A)22
Crystal PalaceWest Ham (A)18
NorwichLeicester (H)18
WolvesManchester United (H)18
WatfordTottenham (A)14
ArsenalManchester City (A)11

Form / Defensive Strength and Gameweek Fixture

This week is an interesting call defensively with some tight match ups in my opinion. The standout options for me in gameweek 3 are Spurs defenders. They have kept 2 clean sheets out of 2 so far with a good performance against Manchester City in gameweek 1 and shut out Wolves despite a less convincing display in gameweek 2. Watford were very good beating Villa in gameweek 1 but only managed a single effort on target away at Brighton on Saturday.

Spurs kept the same back 4 for the second game in a row with Eric Dier (£4.5m), Davinson Sanchez (£4.5m) and Japhet Tanganga (£4.5m) all providing good value. Tanganga would be my pick though as it appears he is ahead of Matt Doherty (£5.0m) in the right back berth whilst Dier and Sanchez will come under threat from Cristian Romero (£5.0m) once he is fully match fit.

Manchester City are also a good shout for a clean sheet this week. I’m slightly less reluctant to back them ahead of Spurs as Arsenal are starting to get their big players back and were able to up their performance levels against the big teams last year. That said, City shut them out twice last season with 1-0 victories in both fixtures. I just feel Spurs are slightly more likely to get the clean sheet this week.

As expected, Pep rotated in gameweek 2 with Joao Cancelo (£6.0m) moving to left back and Kyle Walker (£5.5m) coming in at right back. Ruben Dias (£6.0m) kept his place and was partnered by Aymeric Laporte (£5.5m). It will be interesting to see if Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.5m) gets a start at left back this week and if John Stones (£5.5m) gets a runout at all. I think after that we’ll be able to make a decision if Dias and Cancelo are ‘nailed’ starters.

Liverpool face Chelsea this weekend and given the fast start Romelu Lukaku (£11.5m) made on his Premier League return I think a 49% chance of a clean sheet is tight from the bookies. I certainly wouldn’t be backing Liverpool to make it 3 clean sheets out of 3. I currently have a Liverpool double up with Alexander-Arnold and Tsimikas in my team, however, I will only likely start Alexander-Arnold this week given the threat Chelsea pose and that Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) is back in training for Liverpool, so Tsimikas may be at risk.

Similarly, I wouldn’t be confident of Chelsea keeping Liverpool at bay, though I definitely now have Reece James (£5.5m) and Andreas Christensen (£5.0m) on my radar. James slotted back in at right wing back with Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) moving to centre back and Christensen holding his place over debutant goal scorer from last gameweek, Trevoh Chalobah (£5.0m).

West Ham host a Palace side that have blanked in their first two games, continuing a theme from last season when they failed to score in 14 of 38 games (=15th), with 8 failures from 19 away from home (=15th). They’ve managed just 11 attempts at goal in their 2 games so far with only 3 on target. West Ham are yet to play their 2nd game at the time of writing but Aaron Cresswell (£5.5m) and Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m) are good options in gameweek 3.

Manchester United were again thwarted in their quest to keep a clean sheet in gameweek 2. This time a deflected own goal from Fred did the damage. United again conceded 3 attempts on goal as per gameweek 1, and gameweek 3 is last chance saloon for their defence for me. If Raphael Varane (£5.5m) doesn’t start this week and or United still concede, it will be time for me to move Luke Shaw on with better options available at the £5.5m price tag.

Like Palace, Wolves are also yet to register a goal this season and with Raul Jiminez (£7.5m) taking time to get back up to speed after injury and their most creative players Pedro Neto (£6.5m) and Daniel Podence (£5.5m) still out injured, this is United’s best chance of a shutout yet.

Leicester were relatively comfortable in gameweek 1, although Wolves did manage a respectable 17 attempts at goal. Without having seen how they fair or even line-up in gameweek 2 yet, it’s difficult to make a judgement call on them. Their fixture against Norwich who have lost 3-0 and 5-0 so far is as good as it gets, however only really Ricardo Pereira (£5.5m) excites me from their current line-up having logged 1 assist in their only game.

Brighton looked solid in their 2-0 defeat of Watford on Saturday conceding only 1 shot on target in the entire 90 mins. Shane Duffy (£4.0) has made a fine start to his season adding a goal to his clean sheet on Saturday after having 4 attempts at goal in their first game. A lot will depend on if he can hold his place when Joel Veltman (£4.5m) returns, but early signs are good.

They face Everton at home this gameweek who have started well scoring 5 in 2 games thanks largely to an in form Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.1m) who has got 2 in 2. His threat is enough for me to look beyond Brighton this week and I will likely bench Dunk in my own team.

Brentford keeping 2 clean sheets in 2 games is not really what we were expecting pre-season. Most of the talk had been about Ivan Toney (£6.5m) and if he could repeat his prolific goal scoring form from the Championship but it’s the defenders taking the plaudits so far with Pinnock on 17 points and Pontus Jansson (£4.5m) on 15 points.

They travel away to Villa this week though who looked much better against Newcastle in gameweek 2 and Danny Ings (£8.1m) has hit the ground running for them, so Brentford are an avoid for me this week.

Attacking Threat

The data set is still relatively small but here are the top 10 defenders ranked by expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) from the first 2 gameweeks. Stats provided by Fantasy Football Hub.

Top 10 Defenders by xG – Gameweek 1 and 2
Top 10 Defenders by xA – Gameweek 1 and 2

We’ve already highlighted Shane Duffy and these stats back him up further. 7 attempts with 3 on target in 2 games is an outstanding effort from a centre back. He looks to be becoming the focal point of their set plays and is making me question the goal potential of Dunk who hasn’t managed an attempt on goal yet.

James Tarkowski (£5.0m) has an xG of 0.8 from 2 games and is starting to look interesting, however, he has only managed 1 attempt on target so far and is difficult to consider before Burnley’s fixtures take a turn for the better in gameweek 7. If he was £4.5m, it would be an easier decision.

We’ve already discussed James and Alonso who definitely should be in our thoughts once we can reasonably expect them to start, especially given James’ appearance in both the xG and xA list. Ben Gibson (£4.5m) is an unexpected sight in the list of top defenders by xG. As stated, the data set is small at the minute but he could be another to keep an eye on when Norwich fixture’s turn.

The top 10 defenders by xA is basically a list of everyone else who is already on our radar, namely Trent, Shaw, Tsimikas, Coufal and Cancelo. If Duffy keeps his place in Brighton’s line-up when Veltman returns there will be a massive transition from Tsimikas to Duffy as Robbo returns for Liverpool. We might want to bare this in mind and try and get in ahead of the masses.

Below is a list of all 17 defenders to register an attacking return so far with their relevant attacking stats:

Defenders with attacking returns in Gameweek 1 and 2

Conclusion

It’s very much as you were for me at the back at the moment. My defence has made a decent start registering 15 from 4 players and 33 from 4 players so far. I always planned to set myself up to try and get through the first 7 gameweeks without needing to make a defensive transfer and that remains my stance at the moment.

Shaw will get one last opportunity to prove himself to me this week and I cannot see myself benching Trent when he’s in my squad as he is as likely to produce an attacking return as he is a defensive one. Coufal will come into my team and make up my back 3 this week as Tsimikas and Dunk drop to the bench. Beyond gameweek 3 there could be a question mark over Shaw, Dunk and Tsimikas, so stay tuned next gameweek to see what my plans are.

Beyond my squad, I think Japhet Tanganga is looking like real FPL value this season. He doesn’t offer masses going forward but at £4.5m he doesn’t break the bank and provides another good defensive option from a high reputation club, who look to be setting up well under a new manager.

I do like Manchester City’s defenders for this week against Arsenal but with trips to Leicester, Chelsea and Liverpool in their next 4 games after this week I wont be having them in my squad yet. Both City and Chelsea defenders are going to be a great option for those looking to Wildcard gameweek 6 / 7.

If you have good defensive coverage in gameweek 4, a Leicester defender is a good option right now. They take on Man City at home in gameweek 4 but either side of that face Norwich (A), Brighton (A), Burnley (H) and Palace (A) so if you have some spare funds I think Pereira gives you great options up to a possible gameweek 7 / 8 Wildcard.

Thanks for reading. I wish you all the best ahead of gameweek 3. 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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