Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 6 Preview

Welcome to this week’s edition of Defenders Under the Microscope, @FPL_Connect’s regular look at who the best defensive options are for the upcoming gameweek. This week, we look ahead to gameweek 6 as the dust settles on another gameweek packed full of talking points.

Article Written by @fpldel

With 5 gameweeks behind us now, we are starting to see form develop and have a little more data in the bank to analyse, though with the Champions League kicking in last week we did see plenty of rotation in gameweek 5.

Pep and Tuchel were predictably unpredictable and even Klopp got in on the act this week with a surprise start for Konstantinos Tsimikas (£4.1m), rewarding patient owners or those who haven’t found a way to offload him yet.

As ever, we’ll visit our usual talking points but in addition to that we are going to revisit a theme from last year and look at the impact of home vs. away in light of fans being back in the stadium, to see if any trends are emerging. The article will take the following format:

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

Gameweek 4 Review

Well, what a week it turned out to be. It was always going to be a tricky week with Michail Antonio (£7.9m) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.1m) key absentees for a lot of managers. We then saw an unwell Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.6m) miss out and Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) rested for the visit of Palace.

City rotated Ferran Torres (£7.2m) and Chelsea didn’t recall an available again Reece James (£5.6m) and rested Edouard Mendy (£6.0m) leaving FPL Managers scrambling to see who they had on their bench.

Tino Livramento (£4.1) will have proven a popular replacement coming in off a lot of benches to pick up a 5 point clean sheet, though he may have been a little lucky not to see more than a yellow card for a rash tackle on Raheem Sterling (£10.8m).

There were goals for Matty Cash (£5.0m), Thiago Silva (£5.4m) and Antonio Rudiger (£5.5m) as well as assists for Marco Alonso (£5.7m), Virgil Van Dijk (£6.5m) and Francisco Femenia (£4.4m). With another 7 clean sheets in 10 games, defenders played an important role for those picking up big scores providing 4 of the top 8 scoring players in the gameweek.

Personally, it was a bit of a train wreck. 5 points from Luke Shaw (£5.5m), Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) and Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m) who came off the bench for me to replace Trent. With 5 points from Livramento sat on my bench, I definitely lost ground on the pack here. Overall, I finished with 57 points thanks mainly to Captain Salah and Said Benrahma (6.4m). That saw me drop from 178k to 240k, but having rolled a transfer and kept Antonio, I’m feeling positive about next week.

Home vs Away

The impact of having no fans in the stadium was clear last season. Away clean sheets were up 7% on the previous 3 seasons so it was prudent to factor that into our decision making. With fans back, I was interested to see if that trend had started to ‘right’ itself again.

So far this season, there have been 18 home clean sheets in 50 games (36%) which is up around 5% on the previous 4 seasons average. There have been 15 away clean sheets in 50 games (30%) which is roughly what we saw last season. So whilst home defences definitely have the advantage, as you would expect, away defences are still performing in line with last season’s significant improvement on the 3 previous seasons.

The current trend for more than expected clean sheets (based on the average of the last 4 seasons) means we should be putting a stronger emphasis on our defensive options. 6 of the top 13 point scorers so far this season are defenders and 1 is a goalkeeper, so there is definitely value to be had in getting the right defensive options in. We’ll keep an eye on this in the coming weeks.

Gameweek 6 – Bookies Odds for a Clean Sheet

These figures represent the % chance of a team keeping a clean sheet in Gameweek 6. Odds up to date as of 23:00 on 19th September, according to WilliamHill.com. Please only gamble if you are 18 years of age and over. Please gamble responsibly.

TeamFixturesOdds (%)
Leicester Burnley (H)52
LiverpoolBrentford (A)48
Man UtdAston Villa (H)47
Everton Norwich (H)47
BrightonCrystal Palace (A)37
ArsenalSpurs (H)33
WatfordNewcastle (H)33
SouthamptonWolves (H)33
ChelseaMan City (H)31
Man CityChelsea (A)31
WolvesSouthampton (A)31
NewcastleWatford (A)30
Crystal PalaceBrighton (H)30
SpursArsenal (A)29
LeedsWest Ham (H)27
West HamLeeds (A)24
BurnleyLeicester (A)17
NorwichEverton (A)15
BrentfordLiverpool (H)14
Aston VillaMan Utd (A)12

Gameweek 6 – Form and Fixtures

Two of the league’s best defences go head to to head this weekend. Both Chelsea and Man City have only conceded a single goal each in their 5 games. Man City also rank 1st for Expected Goals Conceded (xGC) whilst Chelsea sit 9th.

However, both sides are also in the top 5 for Expected Goals (xG). So, whilst I expect a tactically cagey affair, I’m not convinced there will be an absence of goals. If you have their defenders, I think it’s suitable to play them this week but I think there are better options.

Leicester have been somewhat hit and miss so far this season and sitting 15th for xGC doesn’t scream clean sheet this week. However, they are 7th for actual goals conceded and take on a Burnley side who sit 9th for xG. That doesn’t tell the whole story though as with only 3 goals so far Burnley are underperforming their xG of 6.3, and will likely sit deep to avoid getting hit by Leicester on the counter. Leicester have no real standout defensive options due to their injuries.

Liverpool made it 4 clean sheets out of 5 on Saturday and did so without Alexander-Arnold or Robertson. They also brought in Ibrahima Konate (£5.2m) for Joel Matip (£5.0m) as Jurgen Klopp shuffled his pack. Trent owners will be hoping he is back as Liverpool take on Brentford who sit 14th for xG and goals scored, 18th for attempts and 19th for attempts on target. Klopp confirmed that Alexander-Arnold was not suffering from COVID-19.

Everton are currently ranked 6th for xGC and 10th for actual goals conceded. They’ve only registered 1 clean sheet so far but will be confident of another as they take on a Norwich side showing little sign of improving.

Norwich are currently 19th for xG, joint bottom for actual goals, with 2, 16th for attempts and 18th for attempts on target. Lucas Digne (£5.4m) is always hailed as Everton’s best defensive option but only has 9 points so far and is currently lagging behind Michael Keane (£5.0m) with 19 points and Seamus Coleman (£5.0m) with 14 points at less cost.

Man Utd continually appear to be a good defensive option. They sit 8th for xGC and have only conceded 4 goals in 5 games. It’s just really frustrating for owners of their defenders that each of those 4 goals have come in 4 separate games. They’ve conceded 2 less goals than Spurs but have 2 less clean sheets.

Aston Villa have been much more impressive in their last 2 games creating a host of chances vs Chelsea and then scoring 3 against Everton on Saturday. I’d avoid Man Utd defenders this week if I could.

Brighton are quietly going about their business this season and are up to 4th in the Premier League. They’ve kept 2 clean sheets so far, sit 5th for xGC and 6th for actual goals conceded. They travel to Palace this gameweek who blanked against Liverpool on Saturday after scoring 3 vs 10 man Spurs the previous week.

Palace are ranked 16th for xG, 13th for actual goals, 15th for attempts and 20th for attempts on target. Shane Duffy (4.3m) and Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) are both ever-present for Brighton this season.

Upcoming Fixtures

Below is a table of teams ranked by fixture difficulty over the next 5 gameweeks. Stats are taken from FantasyFootballHub.Com.

On paper Leeds appear to have the best run of fixtures over the next 5 gameweeks. However, Leeds currently sit 19th for xGC, 18th for goals conceded, 20th for attempts conceded and joint 20th for attempts conceded on target. Quite simply, I do not trust Leeds at the back, regardless of who they play at the moment. They gave up a host of chances on Friday to a Newcastle side missing their main goal threat in Callum Wilson and they are an avoid for me at the minute.

Everton are also an avoid for me. Whilst they have a good fixture in Brentford this week and attractive fixtures in 9 and 10, matches against Man Utd and West Ham, 3rd and 4th for xG respectively, worry me. I would much rather wait until after those fixtures before looking at getting one of their defensive assets in.

Despite Leicester’s apparant lack of good FPL defensive options at the minute their fixture run suggests that could change in the near future. Their next 5 opponents are ranked 9th, 15th, 3rd, 13th and 18th so if you have cover for the week they play Man Utd (GW8) then a Leicester defender should stand you in good stead for the coming weeks. My choice would be Ricardo Pereira (£5.5m).

Wolves also interest me. They currently sit 7th for xGC and whilst they may have only kept 1 clean sheet so far their next 4 opponents are ranked 12th, 13th, 14th and 10th for xG so I would hope they can improve on that. They also offer good value with a fairly settled back 5 now of Romain Saiss (£5.0m), Max Kilman (£4.5m), Conor Coady (£4.5m), Nelson Semedo (£4.9m) and Fernando Marcal (£4.6m).

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 5 gameweeks. Stats provided by Fantasy Football Hub.

Top 10 Defenders by Expected Goals (xG)
Top 1- Defenders by Expected Assists (xA)
The 8 Defenders with two or more Goal Involvements (GI) so far

Given Liverpool’s fixture this week and the above stats I think a lot of us are hoping for a swift return to the starting line-up for Trent. Tsimikas owners may also be hoping he’s done enough to dislodge Robbo longer term, but that seems unlikely. Liverpool’s fixtures take a turn for the worse after this week so if you don’t have Trent already, now is probably not the time to get him.

Manchester City duo Ruben Dias (£6.1m) and Joao Cancelo (£6.0m) are providing both consistency of minutes (both have played all 450) and attacking threat, Cancelo via the goal route and Dias via assists which seems the wrong way around. Given City have Chelsea this weekend and Liverpool next weekend, I’d advise against jumping on just yet but GW8 onwards should see a massive increase in ownership for these two.

Marcos Alonso continues to be first choice left back at Chelsea and delivered another assist last gameweek from a corner. He also had a number of attempts at goal and now has the most attempts on target of any defender (4). After Man City in gameweek 6, Chelsea have an unbelievable run of fixtures and Alonso along with Reece James (£5.6m) are going to be hard to ignore.

We discussed earlier the value that Wolves defenders offer, in terms of price vs likelihood of clean sheets. Their 2 most expensive defensive assets also offer some good goal. Saiss has the 2nd highest xG of any defender so far this season while Semedo is 6th and has looked impressive on the eye test before gameweek 5’s defeat to Brentford.

Whilst Burnley are struggling at present and goals are almost as rare as points, their 2 center backs are currently the 1st and 4th most threatening in the whole game. If Sean Dyche can pull off their customary Autumn turnaround, fixtures would suggest that gameweek 9 onwards provides a good opportunity, then Ben Mee (£4.9m) and James Tarkowski (£5.0m) will become viable options. Definitely a wait and see on those two though.

Conclusions

I think gameweek 6 is a really interesting gameweek for defenders. Clearly, from the bookies odds they are not overly confident of clean sheets and, given the fixtures, it’s easy to see why. Liverpool assets, and in particular Alexander-Arnold, are key this gameweek. If you have Chelsea, Man City or Man Utd defenders you are going to have to start them, despite a lack of confidence in them achieving a clean sheet.

Having Pereira from Leicester would be a useful addition this week and in the coming weeks, however, he comes at a relatively premium price tag that you might want to hold onto if you don’t currently have Chelsea or City defenders. Adding a Wolves and or Brighton defender into your squad gives you good continuity for the next 4 or 5 gameweeks.

Given the fixture swing for Chelsea and City in the coming weeks, I wouldn’t be looking to make defensive transfers this week. I think it’s ok to field a defence you are not 100% confident in for this gameweek with the anticipation of improving it in gameweek 7 or 8.

I have 2 free transfers this week and it is highly unlikely I will use either of them on a defender. My move will almost 100% be to improve my midfield and roll a transfer to get a Chelsea defender next gameweek.

My lineup is very likely to be Trent, Shaw, Dunk (pending news on Trent’s return from illness). I will be benching Livramento and Coufal. I expect to move Shaw on next week for Alonso, though owning Alonso for the last 8 gameweeks of last year has scarred me!

Thanks for reading. I wish you all the best ahead of gameweek 6. 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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