Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 8 (Wildcard Edition)

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 8 and with the added twist that I have already pushed go on the Wildcard button.

Article by fpldel

We’re only just over half way through the International Break but given my Wildcard is active there have been some fairly regular tinkerings which will no doubt continue this week. Gameweek 8 was always my Wildcard plan and whilst there was a temptation to go in gameweek 7 I managed to hold off. Given the carnage that was gameweek 7, I’m glad I did.

I briefly thought about holding the Wildcard longer. My team isn’t in bad shape and sitting at around 235k it could be argued that I don’t need to Wildcard. Having said that, I want to attack the fixture swing we are right at the start of and use this Wildcard as an aggressive play to try and push my rank on, rather than use it later in the season as a protective measure if and when my team gets bent out of shape.

As ever, in this article, we’ll visit our usual talking points, using statistics and data analysis to assess their potential impact going forward. In my conclusions, I’ll also reveal my likely Wildcard back 5, which will hopefully see me through the next 15 or so gameweeks. We’re also slightly hampered by Clean Sheet Odds not being available for the Premier League matches yet. The article will take the following format:

  1. Gameweek 7 Review
  2. Gameweek 8 – Form and Fixtures
  3. Upcoming fixtures
  4. Likelihood of attacking returns
  5. Conclusions

Gameweek 7 Review

The International break really couldn’t have come at a better time. Gameweek 7 really was carnage. Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) was benched, coming on for a 30 minute 1 point blank (2 points if like me you’d captained him). Michail Antonio (£8.0m) also blanked and it was left to Mohammed Salah (£12.7m) to rescue many managers’ gameweeks.

Thomas Tuchel trolled Marcos Alonso (£6.0m) owners benching him for the first time this season with Ben Chilwell (£5.6m) obliging with a goal to rub salt into the wounds. That coupled with James Ward Prowse (£6.4m) netting from the penalty spot for Southampton meant most people who transferred in Antonio Rudiger (£5.8m) wasted a transfer.

On the flip side, those that opted for Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.1m) were rewarded with 2 assists and 2 bonus points with Trevoh Chalobah (£4.8m) also notching a goal and bagging all 3 bonus points. Elsewhere Leeds’ Diego Llorente (£4.5m) was star of the week, getting the only goal in Leeds first win of the season as they also shut out Watford 1-0 culminating in Xisco Munoz being replaced by Claudio Ranieri.

There were clean sheets elsewhere as Burnley and Norwich and Brighton and Arsenal played out 0-0 stalemates. The latter effectively saved my gameweek as a clean sheet for both Robert Sanchez (£4.6m) and Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) got me up to 42 points for a roughly 5% red arrow. My defence contributing 8 of that 42 with Dunk, Sanchez and Salah my only players to register.

Gameweek 8 – Form and Fixtures

The fixture schedule for gameweek 8 is as follows:

Manchester City are currently the joint meanest defence in the league having conceded only 3 goals in 7 games. They host Burnley who share the joint 2nd worst attacking record so far this season with only 5 goals in 7 games. The upshot of this is we are likely to see a big move for City defenders this gameweek.

There are still International fixtures going on this week and the next round of Champions League fixtures is straight after gameweek 8 so predicting City’s lineup is as difficult as ever, however Ruben Dias (£6.1m) and Joao Cancelo (£6.2m) are the best options given their minutes so far this season.

Chelsea share the top meanest defence with Manchester City and visit Brentford this gameweek. Brentford rank joint 7th for goals scored so far this season but Chelsea present their toughest challenge yet. Like City, predicting Chelsea’s lineup is challenging with Azpilicueta and Rudiger seemingly the most nailed but news of a potential back issue for Rudiger makes me lean toward the former over the latter.

Brighton rank 3rd for goals conceded having been breached 5 times in 7 games and travel to Norwich, the least potent team in the league at present, with only 2 goals scored so far. I’d be backing Brighton to add to their clean sheets with Dunk and Shane Duffy (£4.3m) both excellent assets.

Liverpool have conceded 6 in 7, which sees them ranked joint 4th for goals conceded with Manchester United, Wolves and Brentford. They travel to Watford who are under a new management but only 6 teams have score fewer goals than Watford this season.

The main talking point will be if Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) can recover from a groin injury in time or if James Milner (£4.9m), classified as a Midfielder, will continue to deputise for him. Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) hasn’t hit the ground running after suffering with injuries but Virgil Van Dijk (£6.6m) now has as many points as Trent, granted he has played 2 games more.

Villa have conceded 9 in 7 but have been better recently with only 3 conceded in their last 4 games. They host a Wolves side struggling in front of goal this season with only 5 goals in 7 games (joint second lowest). Matty Cash (£5.1m) and Tyrone Mings (£5.0m) have both registered FPL points at both ends of the pitch this season and represent good value this gameweek, in what could be a tight game.

Manchester United and Everton defenders are the pick of the rest but given United’s propensity for conceding single goals this season (6 out of 7 games) and Everton taking on a West Ham team who are joint 3rd for goals scored so far this season, I think there are better options this gameweek.

Upcoming Fixtures

Below are the next 10 gameweeks, for all 20 Premier League teams, ranked by difficulty:

We’ve already identified Man City and Chelsea defenders as great options for this week and with their fixture outlook it is hard to justify not having at least one defender from each side. Many Managers will be considering having more than one defender from each team, however, with the cost of their defensive assets and the continual risk of rotation, this will depend on budget and how much of a hit you are prepared to take.

My priority order for defenders from these 2 sides are as follows:

  1. Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea’s most nailed defender and also getting gametime at right wing back.
  2. Joao Cancelo – Has been been used at right back, left back and often makes up the extra man in midfield for City and Pep seems to have full faith in him this year.
  3. Antonio Rudiger – Has a slight doubt over him for gameweek 8 but otherwise has played every minute for Chelsea so far this season picking up a goal already.
  4. Ruben Dias – Not as attractive going forward as the first 3 options but like Azpilicueta, you know rests are going to be few and far between.

Brentford and Arsenal provide excellent complimentary options to City and Chelsea defensive assets. Brentford have been very good defensively already this season keeping 3 clean sheets in 7 and Arsenal have 3 clean sheets in their last 4, after a shaky start. Brentford face Norwich in gameweek 11 when City take on Man United and Arsenal host Newcastle in gameweek 13 when Chelsea take on United.

Ethan Pinnock (£4.6m) is my preffered defensive option from Brentford as he has popped up in the box picking up a goal and an assist already this season. Ben White (£4.4m) looks to be the pick of the Arsenal defenders, given their is little between their points so far this season and he is the cheapest option.

Southampton also have particularly attractive fixtures over the next 10 gameweeks and with the emergence of Tino Livramento (£4.2m) as a regular this season he looks likely to be a great 5th defender and squad enabler. He also picked up an assist in his last outing against Chelsea.

Despite a relative turn in fixtures, Liverpool’s run over the next 10 games isn’t too bad though they do face Man United in gameweek 9, travel to West Ham in 11 and Everton in 14. A lot will depend on if Alexander-Arnold regain fitness in time for Watford in gameweek 8 and if Managers can find a spot for such a premium defender alongside other expensive options from Chelsea and Manchester City.

Likelihood of Attacking Returns

Below we have the top 10 defenders for creativity, ranked by Expected Assists (xA) and goal threat, ranked by Expected Goals (xG). Stats provided by Fantasy Football Scout.

Top 10 Defenders by Expected Assists (xA)
Top 10 defenders by Expected Assists (xA)

Trent Alexander-Arnold is still clearly the most creative defender head and shoulders above the rest having played 2 games less than everyone else. Whether he can be fit in time for gameweek 8 and if he can maintain those numbers over a tougher fixture period remains to be seen. Given his price tag, the doubts over his fitness and the Chelsea and City options, there is definitely value elsewhere.

Given the highlight we have placed on Chelsea and City options, it is great to see 5 defenders from these 2 sides appearing in these lists and Dias’s numbers were a real surprise to me here, given his xA is only slightly less than that of Azpilicueta and Cancelo. That definitely moves him up the list of my considerations for gameweek 8 and beyond.

Reece James (£5.5m) and Marcos Alonso also both appear in these lists. However, James is carrying an ankle injury and is only rated at 50/50 for gameweek 8. I still maintain that Alonso is the most exciting defensive asset in the game but with the re-emergence of Ben Chilwell we can expect rotation in line with last season now. He burned me at the backend of last season and I didn’t learn my lesson ahead of gameweek 7.

My personal approach to defensive selection is to always try and pick the most optimal defensive lineup for a long period of time. I don’t like using transfers on defenders and prefer to use them to maximise my attacking potential.

Given the gameweek 8 fixtures and the upcoming fixture runs, there isn’t anybody else from the above lists that I am currently considering. However, they at least give you the insight to go for a maverick differential pick, should you chose to.

Conclusions

Based on all of the above, here is the current list of my defenders under consideration for my gameweek 8 Wildcard, that I hope will see me through to when our next Wildcard becomes available:

Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.1m)

He’ll be the first name on the Wildcard for me. He provides the most consistent chance of minutes coupled with some attacking threat in one of the best defences in the League, who have great fixtures.

Antonio Rudiger (£5.8m)

I’m still not 100% sure here but I am leaning towards (75 sure) not having Rudiger. I want to be able to cover possible rotation and I am if I am sacrificing a Chelsea or City defender, he’s top of my list to be cut.

Joao Cancelo (£6.2m)

Second name guaranteed to be in my defence. Slightly less nailed than Azpilicueta is for Chelsea but has more attacking threat for me and I want the excitement of an attacking player as talented as him in my squad.

Ruben Dias (£6.1m)

Another I am not sure on but probably the opposite of Rudiger I am 75% sure I want Dias. I may yet only take 1 City defender in order to best cover rotation and to enable my squad elsewhere but I think the xA stats are convincing me here.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m)

Too many reasons not too for me, but in the end, it really does come down to cost. His premium price tag means I’d have to make too many comprimises elsewhere to fit him into my new setup. He’ll be missed and I’m sure he’ll punish me some gameweeks over the next 10.

Marcos Alonso (£6.0m)

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I just can’t do it. As much as I’d like to have him, and like Trent, I expect him to burn me at times, I’m just not prepared to go there a third time.

Ben White (£4.4m)

If I decide to opt against Dias, White is my likely replacement. I am intending on having Ramsdale in goal so it would mean an Arsenal double up, which I am not overly keen on but it would certainly enable a much stronger midfield.

Matty Cash (£5.1m)

I’ve not seen enough from Villa to convince me to opt for one of their defenders, yet. It feels like they are still based on last years defensive numbers which they aren’t matching yet and my defence will be made up of premium or budget options for the next 10 gameweeks at least.

Ethan Pinnock (£4.6m)

My likely choice instead of Rudiger. Brentford have started well, their fixtures rotate nicely with City and Chelsea and he looks a threat going forward. If any of my premium defence get rotated, I’d have no problem fielding him.

Shane Duffy (£4.3m)

I really like the idea of having Duffy in my team. Brighton are really solid and he has the propensity to get goals from set pieces. Unfortunately, Brighton’s fictures are bested by others over the next 10 and I have somebody else in mind for my budget defender slot.

Tino Livramento (£4.2m)

Will fill the last slot in my defence. Southampton’s fixtures in rotation with some of the other teams fixtures and his price tag make him impossible to ignore for me.

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