Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 5 Preview

Hello and welcome to another edition of Defenders Under the Microscope, where we focus on the best defensive FPL assets for the upcoming week(s). Here, we preview FPL Gameweek 5.

Article written by FPL Del.

The dust is settling on another dramatic gameweek and whilst at the time of writing we still have the Everton vs. Burnley fixture outstanding, there are already plenty of talking points. Ronaldo’s explosive return, Antonio seeing red and our first serious bout of Tuchel tombola.

As per usual though, in this article we’ll be looking mainly at the defenders within the game with a view to who should be in our backline next weekend, who we should bench and which defenders should be coming and going in our squad.

For those of you not familiar with this series, we use data analysis to assess which teams are most likely to keep a clean sheet in the upcoming gameweek, which defenders might be our source of that elusive attacking return and look at who are our best options in the short-to-medium term. The article will take the following format:

  1. Gameweek 4 Review
  2. Gameweek 5 – Bookies Odds for a clean sheet
  3. Gameweek 5 – Form and Fixtures
  4. Upcoming fixtures
  5. Likelihood of attacking returns
  6. Conclusions

So, without further ado, lets dive in like Japhet Tanganga (£4.6m) on a yellow card!

1. Gameweek 4 Review

As mentioned, there is still one fixture left this gameweek but, so far, the bookies predicted well again last week and continue to be a reliable source of data. They had Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Wolves and Liverpool in their top 7 of teams to keep a clean sheet, that have played so far. Palace ruined Spurs 100% win/clean sheet record and Brighton edged a close game at Brentford with a 90th minute winner, a game I highlighted last week as a possible 0-0.

Manchester United will have been disappointed to have conceded against a Newcastle side who only had 36% of the ball, especially considering it was a first Newcastle goal in his 6th season with the club for Javier Manquillo (£4.0m). Luke Shaw (£5.5m) owners will have been pleased to see him assisting Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) for his second goal to make up for the 4 dropped clean sheet points.

Joao Cancelo (£6.0m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) went one better by adding the clean sheet points and 3 subsequent bonus points to their assist for 12 points apiece. Both were topped by Wolves’ Fernando Marcal (£4.5m) who bagged 2 assists and 2 bonus points for a 13 point haul.

With no fewer than 9 clean sheets already this weekend its been a good one for defenders, and aside from the above standout performances there have been plenty of bonus points for defenders. Angelo Ogbonna (£5.0m) and Aaron Cresswell (£5.5m) picked up 3 and 2 respectively in West Ham’s 0-0 draw with Southampton, whilst Brighton’s Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) and Arsenal’s Gabriel Magalhaes (£5.0m) also picked up 2 apiece.

On a personal note, it was good week for me. Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m) lined up alongside Trent, Shaw and Dunk in a 4-4-2 to give me 31 points from 4 players, backed up with another 6 from Keeper Robert Sanchez (£4.5m). Even Tino Livramento (£4.1m) picked up 6 points on my bench. 31 from 4 is a big contribution to my weekly tally of 75 points, captaining the man of the moment did pretty much all the rest of the damage on his own!

2. Gameweek 5 – Bookies Odds for a clean sheet

These figures represent the % chance of a team keeping a clean sheet in Gameweek 5. Odds up to date as of 23:00 on 12th September, according to WilliamHill.com. Please only gamble if you are 18 years of age and over. Please gamble responsibly.

TeamsFixtureOdds (%)
Manchester CitySouthampton (H)62
LiverpoolPalace (H)58
Leicester Brighton (A)51
WolvesBrentford (H)47
ChelseaSpurs (A)43
ArsenalBurnley (A)38
NorwichWatford (H)38
Manchester UnitedWest Ham (A)36
BrightonLeicester (H)31
Aston VillaEverton (H)31
LeedsNewcastle (A)30
WatfordNorwich (A)29
EvertonVilla (A)28
BrentfordWolves (A)26
BurnleyArsenal (H)25
NewcastleLeeds (H)23
SpursChelsea (H)23
West HamMan Utd (H)20
Crystal PalaceLiverpool (A)8
SouthamptonMan City (A)7

Gameweek 5 Form and Fixtures

There are 2 clear standout fixtures this week. Owners of Liverpool and Manchester City defenders are the envy of us all this week. Liverpool have the 4th best defence by expected goals conceded (xGC) and host a Palace side who are ranked 10th for expected goals (xG) but 16th for attempts and 17th for attempts on target. Whilst Manchester City who have the best defence by xGC entertain Southampton who fair a little better, 8th for xG, 10th for attempts and 11th for attempts on target.

The usual suspects will head most people’s wanted list. Alexander-Arnold now has 34 points from 4 games and is the 3rd highest scorer in the game so far. Cancelo and Ruben Dias (£6.0m) have 26 points each and are 11th and 12th top scorers respectively. It should be noted that both sides are in Champions League action this coming Wednesday, however, from experience, we know that is far more likely to impact City’s defenders rather than Liverpool’s.

Chelsea travel to London rivals Spurs and will be hoping they are still without Heung-Min Son (£10.0m), scorer of 2 of their 3 goals so far. Chelsea sit mid-table for xGC but have kept 3 clean sheets so far. With Spurs lacking creativity (18th for attempts and 12th for xG) and potentially without Son, Tuchel will be looking to bag another clean sheet. They too head into Champions League action on Tuesday this week and who knows what line-up Tuchel will play.

On Saturday, Tuchel threw a complete curve ball benching his most trusted lieutenant and club captain, Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m). There was a 2nd Premier League start for Trevoh Chalobah (£4.9m), whilst Andreas Christensen (£5.0m) was also benched. Reece James (£5.6m) can return after suspension next gameweek but having sat out Saturday’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa, he is highly likely to start on Tuesday. Beyond that, it’d take a braver man than me to predict what Tuchel will do next weekend.

Wolves picked up their first clean sheet of the season and have another attractive fixture this coming gameweek at home to Brentford. Brentford sit 16th for xG and have only scored once in 3 games since their opening day win over Arsenal. They rank 14th for attempts and 18th for attempts on target. Marcal and Nelson Semedo (£4.9m) both looked lively in their 2-0 win over Watford whilst Conor Coady (£4.5m) and Romain Saiss (£5.0m) are nailed as centre-back partners.

Arsenal picked up their first win and clean sheet on Saturday shutting out Norwich 1-0. They travel to Burnley next who currently sit 19th for attempts and attempts on target and 17th for xG, though that is from 3 games compared to most other teams 4 games. For comparison, pro-rata’d, they sit more like 12th or 13th. If Ben White (£4.4m) and Gabriel and can continue to build on their partnership they could be a good option this week. Kieran Tierney (£4.9m) continues to look lively without producing the returns to match it yet.

Leicester are 3rd favourites for a clean sheet with the bookies this week but I do not necessarily agree with the odds on this occasion. They have conceded the 2nd most attempts and the most on target so far with an xGC ranking 16th. Brighton are lower top half for goal threat and shouldn’t be under estimated. Leicester have conceded the 3rd most headed attempts this season and Dunk and Shane Duffy (£4.2m) love attacking set pieces.

4. Upcoming Fixtures

We are entering an interesting period in the season where we are starting to see some real fixture swings over the next 5 gameweeks. Below, are the next 5 gameweek fixtures ranked by difficulty. Stats provided by Fantasy Football Hub.

After a relatively easy start for Manchester United and Liverpool we see their fixture difficulty really ramp up from gameweek 7 onwards when Liverpool play both Manchester clubs in 3 gameweeks. Similarly Man United face Everton, Leicester then Liverpool which should be a sterner test for a defence who have only managed 1 clean sheet so far anyway.

In contrast, Chelsea face Southampton, Brentford and Norwich in gameweeks 7, 8 and 9. Manchester City see a definite fixture upturn in gameweek 8 after a really tough start for the Champions. We should be looking to take advantage of this and transition our defensive options accordingly. I envisage a lot of managers moving away from Luke Shaw to Chelsea defenders who are all similarly priced ahead of this run.

In the meantime, there is some opportunity to derive some real value from your defence in the coming weeks. Leeds and Arsenal both have an attractive run of fixtures and have no defenders more expensive than £5.0m. Given Leeds’ current defensive performance though, 19th for xGC, I am favouring Arsenal defenders here, with Tierney being the pick of them.

We’ve already highlighted Wolves defenders as a good option for this week and that is backed up by an attractive run of fixtures up to and including gameweek 10. Again, their defenders provide excellent value to back up your premium options.

5. Likelihood of Attacking Returns

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 4 gameweeks. Stats provided by Fantasy Football Hub.

Top 10 defenders by Goal Threat – Expected Goals (xG)
Top 10 defenders by Creativity – Expected Assists (xA)

The first thing we notice is that there are 3 players appearing in both lists and they are 3 players already well under consideration. Alexander-Arnold is owned by 34% of players but that rises to 88% when we look at the top 10,000 managers. Whilst Liverpool’s fixtures are about to stiffen up, I will personally find it very hard to remove him given he is one of only a small handful of players delivering his current points level below £12.0m.

His defensive points may suffer in the coming weeks, however, I think his attacking threat is likely to increase against the better teams who are more likely to attack Liverpool and leave space to exploit on the counter. We’ll keep an eye on this in the coming weeks.

Reece James is currently top of my wanted list and I can potentially see an easy swap from Shaw to Reece James in gameweek 7 or 8. I’m also keeping tabs on Joao Cancelo ahead of a possible gameweek 8 wildcard when City start a great run of fixtures.

Given Wolves’ current fixtures, Saiss and Semedo both look like excellent options in the £5m bracket. From watching the highlights of their win over Watford on Saturday, I have to say Semedo passed the eye test getting into some excellent positions, although unable to finish. Whilst Marcal picked up both assists, he was rather fortunate to do so.

As a Coufal owner, I am both pleased and disappointed to see him ranked 3rd for creativity. His xA of 0.9 from 4 games is at a good level, however, given their fixtures so far, I really would have liked to have seen a return by now. His teammate Cresswell appears in neither of the above lists but has already delivered 2 goal involvements (GI). Speaking of which, below is the list of all 6 defenders to register 2 goal involvements already this season.

The 6 defenders to have register multiple attacking returns already

Shane Duffy (£4.2) continues to provide excellent value and looks to have established himself back in the first team with Joel Veltman (£4.4m) and new signing Marc Cucurella (£5.0m) occupying the wing back roles on Saturday’s 0-1 win over Brentford. Tariq Lamptey (£4.4m) is due back at the end of September and will challenge for the right sided spot, so Veltman may revert into the back 3 then but I think Duffy is safe for the time being.

6. Conclusions

This gameweek is a tricky one. Ideally you want Trent plus a Chelsea and a City defender this week, but given the prices of those assets, at best most of us can only afford 2 out of 3. I think that’s fine for this week, as is playing Luke Shaw away to West Ham as his attacking numbers are good at the minute. I think this will be a gameweek where clean sheets are going to be at a premium so a less than optimal back line is not the end of the world.

There are plenty of good value options out there at the moment to compliment your premium defenders. An Arsenal and a Wolves defender gives you a great combination of fixtures over the coming weeks without breaking the bank. Tierney, Semedo, Marcal and Saiss all look to present some attacking upside as well as the potential for clean sheets.

Michail Antonio (£7.9) being sent off last Saturday will mean 44% of us have a decision to be made this week. He only misses 1 game so I suspect most will hold him but that will mean utilising someone from our bench, so we are likely to see more defenders in play than usual this week.

Personally for me, it will mean lining up 4-4-2 again with the same defence as this week. I’m not confident of clean sheets for Shaw (whu), Coufal (MUN), or Dunk (LEI) but at least I know all 3 pose some attacking threat. My only other option was Livramento who faces Man City away which is pretty much as tough as it gets for defenders. I could utilise Billy Gilmour (£4.5m) who plays Watford at home but he was rested on Saturday so I’ll wait and see on that one.

If I was making one defensive transfer this week, I think it would be Coufal to Marcal. It puts some budget back in the bank for me, and gives me a better fixture outlook without diminishing the attacking threat too much.

Thanks for reading. I wish you all the best ahead of gameweek 5. 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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