Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 7 Preview

Hello and welcome to another edition of Defenders Under the Microscope, FPL Connect’s weekly deep dive into the the best defensive options ahead of the upcoming gameweek. This week we preview gameweek 7, the last gameweek before the next International break, where we’ll all no doubt relax for 2 days before we start missing the ‘stress’ of FPL!

Article by fpldel

Gameweek 6 has been another fascinating one with some real rarities in terms of the season so far. Chelsea Conceding a goal, any goal, Liverpool conceding 3 and Bruno Fernandes (£11.9m) missing a penalty. Plus one not such a rarity this season, the pain of Luke Shaw (£5.5m) not getting a clean sheet!

In fairness to Shaw though, he can’t really be blamed for United conceding a late winner to Villa having been taken off injured mid-way through the first half. He did, however, manage to get himself booked in his time on the pitch though, bagging a zero pointer in the process.

As ever, in this article, we’ll visit our usual talking points, using statistics and data analysis to assess their potential impact going forward. We also update our home vs away clean sheet tracker which we kicked off in last week’s article. The article will take the following format:

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

Gameweek 6 Review

Pre-deadline gameweek 6 decisions were dominated by the Captaincy call once again. Managers that backed Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.7m) were disappointed as he notched his first blank since his return to United, but at least we know he’ll be on penalties from now on, don’t we?

Those who opted for Mohamed Salah (£12.6m) or Michail Antonio (£7.9m) were rewarded for their ‘risk’ with 7 and 8 point hauls, respectively. I have promised I wouldn’t gloat about plumping for Antonio though, so enough about that!

At the other end of the pitch there were clean sheets for Man City, Aston Villa, Everton and Wolves. Kortney Hause (£4.4m) was the star of the gameweek as he bagged the winner for Villa at Old Trafford and all 3 bonus points for a 15 point haul. Joao Cancelo (£6.1m) did the business for his owners again adding an assist to his clean sheet, which was also enough for all 3 bonus and 12 points in total.

Other defensive highlights included Michael Keane (£5.0m) capturing 2 bonus points for an 8 point tally, rewarding those who heeded advice from this article last week. Ethan Pinnock (£4.6m) notching up his 2nd Goal Involvement (GI) of the season, scoring before going off injured against Liverpool and collecting 7 points for his troubles.

Personally for me, it was my 2nd bad defensive week in a row with only 3 points in total from Shaw, Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.6m). However, with 52 points in total I’ll see a nice little rise from roughly 240k to around 203k. It’s steady progress and with the wildcard still in the bag I’m happy with how this season is shaping up.

Home vs Away

With only 4 clean sheets added in the last gameweek (1 home and 3 away), the tallies for the season so far are now 19 clean sheets from 60 home games (32%) and 18 clean sheets for 60 away games (30%). Home clean sheets are currently occurring roughly as frequently as the previous 4 season average whilst away clean sheets are in line with last season, when they were up almost 7% on the previous 3 seasons.

I think with fixture variation, the data is still settling here but what we are seeing is a continuing trend that defenders are currently the most valuable they have been, in terms of clean sheets, as at any point in the last 5 seasons. This was proven again last gameweek by 3 of the top 4 points scorers in the gameweek being either defenders or a goalkeeper.

Gameweek 7 – Bookies Odds of a Clean Sheet

These figures represent the % chance of a team keeping a clean sheet in Gameweek 7. Odds up to date as of 22:00 on 27th September, according to WilliamHill.com. Please only gamble if you are 18 years of age and over. Please gamble responsibly.

TeamsFixtureOdds (%)
ChelseaSouthampton (H)56
Man UtdEverton (H)49
WolvesNewcastle (H)45
West HamBrentford (H)43
BurnleyNorwich (H)40
LeedsWatford (H)38
LeicesterPalace (A)36
ArsenalBrighton (A)36
SpursVilla (H)34
BrightonArsenal (H)31
Man CityLiverpool (A)28
LiverpoolMan City (H)27
Crystal PalaceLeicester (H)26
Aston VillaSpurs (A)24
BrentfordWest Ham (A)21
NorwichBurnley (A)21
NewcastleWolves (A)18
WatfordLeeds (A)17
EvertonMan Utd (A)15
SouthamptonChelsea (A)13

Gameweek 7 – Form and Fixtures

Two of the best defences in the league go head-to-head this week with Man City, ranked 1st for Expected Goals Conceded (xGC) hosting Liverpool, ranked 5th for xGC. They are also the 2 most potent attacking teams in the league as well with Liverpool ranked 1st for Expected Goals (xG) and Man City ranked 2nd. So whilst it looks like a mouth watering fixture on paper, I’m not sure it’s our best shot at a clean sheet this gameweek.

Many managers will have Liverpool and City defenders in their squad this week and whilst clean sheets might not be likely, these games sometimes can be cagey. If playing defenders from either of these teams I’d want them to be defenders who may register an attacking return, so Trent and Cancelo stand out. I wouldn’t be transferring them in, but I think it’s ok to play them this gameweek.

Chelsea are the standout option for a clean sheet this week. Whilst their defensive stats still aren’t great (ranked 10th for xGC) they have still managed 4 clean sheets in 6. They also host a Southampton side who are ranked 14th for xG and have blanked in their last 3 fixtures.

The question is who do we go for? Marcos Alonso (£5.9m) is the obvious choice on paper, though there are still a few doubts that he may be rotated with Ben Chilwell (£5.6m) now that he seems back to match fitness. Antonio Rudiger (£5.6m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) are also options with both almost guaranteed to play after Reece James (£5.6m) limped off after 28 mins against Man City.

Man Utd are bookies 2nd favourite for a clean sheet this week, but I don’t agree with this. They are currently ranked 7th for xGC but seem to keep finding a way to concede having shipped a single goal in 6 of their 7 fixtures now. Everton are ranked 5th for xG and 7th for Big Chances Created (BCC) so are carrying significant threat. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.0m) may be back for Everton this week which would be a big boost for them.

Wolves picked up their 2nd clean sheet of the season last gameweek and are currently ranked 6th for xGC and face Newcastle at home. Newcastle haven’t struggled as much as I though they would without Callum Wilson (£7.4m). He wont be back for gameweek 7 but Allan Saint-Maximin (£6.8m) is proving a handful in Wilson’s absence with a goal and an assist in his last 2. I think a 45% chance of a clean sheet for Wolves is slightly optimistic.

West Ham host Brentford this weekend which could be a real clash of styles, depending on how Brentford setup. They caught Liverpool off guard last gameweek abandoning their usual solid approach and really going for it. Brentford are ranked 3rd for xGC whilst West Ham are ranked 9th, however, West Ham carry more threat going forward and are ranked 4th for xG vs Brentford’s xG ranking of 8.

Similar to the Liverpool vs City game, I’d want to cover the possibility of losing the clean sheet with defenders who are likely to register going forward. We’ll look at this in a bit more detail later.

Brighton have been defensively solid so far this season but are up against a resurgent Arsenal side who are starting to find their feet after an awful start. Arsenal are ranked 6th for xG over the last 3 gameweeks and I fancy them to continue their goal scoring up turn and will be looking away from Brighton for my defenders this week.

Upcoming Fixtures

For those planning to Wildcard in gameweek 8, you can scroll on by here as you essentially have a free hit this week. For those holding onto their Wildcard and those who have already played theirs, here are each team’s next 5 fixtures ranked by difficulty. Stats provided by Fantasy Football Hub.

Gameweek 7 – 11 Fixtures Ranked by Difficulty

Given Chelsea are our standout fixture for a clean sheet this week and also top the charts for upcoming fixtures, don’t be surprised to see their key defensive assets increasing in ownership this week. They all come with an element of rotation risk but Rudiger has played every league minute so far and Alonso all but 4. Alonso currently has 5 points more than Rudiger so I’ll be keeping an eye on who plays in mid-week for them this week.

Whilst Leeds’ fixture run looks attractive at the moment, with their current injuries and performances thus far, I have no trust in them defensively. With Luke Ayling (£4.5m) moving to centre back (and also potentially injured) and Stuart Dallas (£5.4m) reclassified as a midfielder, there are no Leeds defenders worth owning currently.

Arsenal have really turned it around the last few games with Sunday’s win in the North London derby their first real test after losing their first 3. They sit 2nd for xGC over the last 3 weeks and with a solid run of fixtures are now an option again defensively. Ben White (£4.4m) looks good value and Arsenal’s upturn has coincided with his return from COVID isolation.

If you don’t currently own an Everton defender it may be worth waiting until gameweek 9, once they have got the Man Utd and West Ham fixtures out of the way, before adding one to your squad. Lucas Digne (£5.3m) is always a popular option due to his assist threat but he’s being comfortably outscored by Michael Keane this year who is currently £0.4m cheaper.

Wolves have been trending in the right direction with attractive fixtures for the last few weeks now. The only real decision is which of their defenders to opt for. Fernando Marcal’s (£4.6m) current points tally (25) is being boosted by a couple of fortunate assists in gameweek 5. Nelson Semedo (£4.9m) has looked more threatening but only has 17 points so far. I think I’d still opt for him over Marcal, even with the £0.3m difference.

Likelihood of Attacking Returns

Here are the top 10 defenders ranked by expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) from the first 6 gameweeks. We’ve also listed the 11 defenders that have registered two or more Goal Involvements (GI). Stats provided by Fantasy Football Hub.

Top 10 Defenders Ranked by xG
Top 10 Defenders Ranked by Expected Assists (xA)
The 11 Defenders with Multiple GI in Gameweek 1-6

Alonso remains the standout defender for me at the moment and an option I am almost sure I want ahead of their latest run of fixtures. I will wait and see who plays for Chelsea in the Champions League this week, but his attacking threat just makes him a very exciting option to own. We will need to make sure we have solid defensive cover for him though, just in case.

For similar reasons, I favour Joao Cancelo over Ruben Dias (6.1m) as a City option. They’ve both played every minute for City this season but I love the fact that, like Alonso, Cancelo offers both goal and assist threat. I wont be adding Cancelo to my squad this week with them playing Liverpool, but he’s high on my list for gameweek 8 onwards.

It has emerged that Alexander-Arnold hasn’t travelled with Liverpool for the mid-week UCL fixture and whilst I expect this to be only precautionary, his fixture vs City this weekend plus fixtures vs Man Utd and West Ham in the coming weeks, coupled with the other premium defensive options available (discussed above), mean that his place in my squad is now under threat.

Luke Shaw is currently orange flagged ahead of this gameweek’s fixture with Everton. Given the doubt over Trent though and the fact that United are 2nd favourites for a clean sheet this week, if he is fit to play, he may just survive in my squad for one last gameweek. He has been incredibly frustrating to own this season, I’m just hoping that one last appearance may allow him to redeem himself somewhat.

I’ve owned Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m) all season and this week should be a chance for him to shine. He’s consistently ranked in the top 5 for xA and if the cavalier Brentford that played Liverpool last weekend show up, this could be his week to register. On the flipside, if Brentford opt for a more conservative approach I think his likelihood of a clean sheet goes up, so it’s win/win (hopefully).

We talked about Everton’s good fixture run from gameweek 9 onwards and the fact that Michael Keane is also adding decent goal threat to good defensive numbers is another reason to opt for him over Digne. He’ll be a consideration for me in weeks to come.

We also discussed Semedo’s liveliness earlier and to see him ranked 4th for xG of all defenders is another reason to opt for him over any of his team mates. Interestingly, Romain Saiss (5.0m) ranks 2nd for xG so could also be a consideration. I think the fact that Semedo plays out on the wing also increases his chances of an assist so he still edges it for me.

Conclusions

Some tough calls to make this week with some popular premium defenders going head to head in the Liverpool vs City fixture. I think this week, maybe more than any other week so far, is one to wait until the end of the week before making transfers. I certainly will be and with 2 to use I fully expect at least one of them to be on a defender this week, as my defensive options are somewhat limited currently.

One of my ‘premiums’ (Trent or Shaw) will definitely make way this week. Most likely Trent if Shaw is passed fit, given Shaw has the better fixture. He’ll most likely be replaced by Alonso, but that again is pending what happens mid week. So this week, like many managers, will see the start of a defensive transition for me.

I think West Ham and Wolves defenders compliment Chelsea defenders well this week and Arsenal could provide useful 3rd / 4th / backup defensive options. I expect to line up with Alonso, Trent or Shaw and Coufal, with whoever I don’t opt for out of Trent and Shaw being the one that makes way for Alonso.

Thanks for reading. I wish you all the best ahead of gameweek 7. 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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