The value of premium defenders has taken over the FPL community since the release. Managers are doubling up on Liverpool defenders. After three of their regulars finished inside the top 10 for overall points last season, it’s easy to see why.
With two or three defensive slots already filled with premium assets, the typical reaction is to balance this out with at least a couple of 4.5m budget enablers who’ll rotate. A new trend of plugging these gaps with £4.0m non-starters is particularly popular this season to stay within budget.
However, this doesn’t have to become the norm. The value of mid-priced defenders continues to close in on their midfield counterparts. After all, midfield options at £5.0-£5.5m are very limited, and will likely play a more withdrawn role (Jorginho) or feature for a newly promoted club (El Ghazi).
Select a mid-priced defender in the same price bracket and, beyond the wider range of players to choose from, you can invest in the higher probability of a player latching onto their team’s defensive returns, instead of relying on an individual’s attacking output.
For £5.0m, I’d rather place my faith in Boly and a Wolves clean sheet for a guaranteed 4pts than rely on Jorginho converting a penalty. With this in mind, here’s my guide to mid-priced defenders in 2019/20.
Mid-Priced Defenders To Buy In FPL 2019/20
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m)
Although Luke Shaw is seen as edging it as the best attacking threat from a Man United defender with five assists last season, his end product is historically poor. He has a career average of an assist every 15 matches and just a solitary goal in 181 appearances in all competitions.
Wan Bissaka isn’t exactly relentless going forward but ticked over with three assists in his first full season in England’s top flight. Instead, it’s his immense ability to grab bonus points, occasionally even when his team concedes, which is his selling point.
Every time Crystal Palace secured a clean sheet last season, he was almost guaranteed bonus points. As we can expect a significant increase of shutouts from Man United this season, he should benefit considerably.
Remember, Wan Bissaka ranked 8th for total points accumulated from the bonus system in 2018/19. Five of the top seven bonus point scoring defenders played for a top-six club. Wan Bissaka looks set to join them next season.
Seamus Coleman (£5.5m)
The Irishman has made an exceptional recovery from a horrendous leg break in May 2017. Neil Taylor might have snapped his leg in two, but Coleman is still twice the player of the guilty party, managing the same number of attacking returns (two goals and two assists) in his comeback season as Taylor did in his last four seasons combined.
He has a history of consistent attacking returns and being one of the strongest scorers in the bonus points system. Since 2013/14, excluding the campaign in which he suffered the leg break, Coleman averaged three goals and as many assists each season while racking up a massive 66 points entirely from bonus points.
Back in the day when quality defenders could be picked up without breaking the bank, Cesar Azpilicueta arrived in 2013 and quickly established himself as a master of collecting bonus points. Fast forward six seasons and he’s amassed 96 in total, with one every 189 mins on average. This is the elite territory in which Coleman is part of with a bonus point every 205 mins.
Yes, Lucas Digne offers more with the additional perk of being the club’s designated corner taker and scoring two fantastic goals directly from freekicks last season, but Coleman is a solid buy if you have reached the limit of your budget or don’t plan on reshuffling to make room for the Frenchman.
Jan Vertonghen (£5.5m)
The arrival of Tanguy Ndombele confirmed Vertonghen’s place on this list. He is a huge upgrade on their current crop of defensive midfielders and his physicality and mobility will have a positive effect on Tottenham’s overall structure and the desirability of any of their defenders.
Spurs finished a respectable fourth, securing 13 clean sheets and conceding 39 goals last season. Though not a terrible total, their number of clean sheets still dropped. Rather harshly, all of their defenders valued at £6.0m at the start of the season dropped by £0.5m too.
He’s made 203 appearances, 153 in the Premier League, for Pochettino over the last five seasons and played a key role in them keeping 33 league clean sheets from 2016-2018. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hit the 15-18 range of shutouts once again, following a disappointing return last season.
Vertonghen is rarely involved offensively with just a couple of goals and assists since joining Spurs, however, Pochettino has a well drilled side, who have played together for numerous seasons now and has just signed the perfect player to fill a void in defensive midfield.
Ben Chilwell (£5.5m)
As the ridiculously valued Harry Maguire looks on his way out, likely arriving in Manchester having strode out of his backline in training and lost his bearings, Ben Chilwell will be the only £5.5m survivor at Leicester. His £0.5m increase makes him in an intriguing pick – no longer obvious value, but still a reasonable option as Ricardo Pereira joins the premium price bracket.
Chilwell is arguably more creative with more chances created (45), crosses made (132) and final third passes completed than his colleague. As well as the odd set-piece delivery/attempt favoured to a left-footer. In comparison, Pereira is one of the most direct fullbacks I’ve seen in the league with a high number of attempted dribbles, take-ons and goal attempts inside the box.
In my opinion, Pereira is the better pick, but it isn’t worth reshuffling your whole squad to include him. Chilwell is a solid alternative who gives his owners the peace of mind of guaranteed starts and the odd attacking return. Perhaps he just lacks the explosiveness of his higher-priced counterpart.
Sead Kolasinac (£5.5)
It’s common knowledge that Unai Emery’s lineups are a nightmare to predict. There are no trends in his rotation, it’s sporadic and infuriating. Although Kolasinac’s time in the Arsenal starting XI is unpredictable, he is extremely attacking and finds himself in dangerous areas as much as any defender in the game.
To put this into perspective, Andy Robertson played 3219 minutes last season, touching the ball in the opposition box 91 times. Marcus Alonso played 2761 minutes with 74 touches. Sead Kolasinac, meanwhile, managed 85 touches in just 1890 minutes.
I know this is selective picking in Robertson’s case as he favours deep delivery, so I chose Alonso as a closer comparison as someone who attempts penetrating runs and pullbacks like Kolasinac. These findings are a good indicator that when he features, there’s a high probability that Kolasinac will be heavily involved in and around the box.
Arsenal’s away defensive form was horrendous last season, but while their backline was handed a total starting price net loss, Kolasinac actually rose by £0.5m. This is a testament to his attacking threat, which saw him collect an assist every three games on average last season. The big question is, will he ever be nailed on and can Unai Emery steady the ship on their travels?
Joe Gomez (£5.5m)
Ownership at the time of writing amongst the Liverpool defence is as follows – Robertson (38.2%), VVD (37.7%) and TAA (30.7%). The remaining three have under 3% ownership combined. One of these will become Van Dijk’s regular partner in the heart of the defence and my money’s on Joe Gomez.
He quickly struck up a partnership with Van Dijk which saw them secure a trio of clean sheets during the opening three gameweeks of 2018/19. Individually, Gomez was fantastic last season before ankle surgery halted things in December 2018.
Although the output of Robertson and Alexander-Arnold is unrivalled, along with Van Dijk’s aptness to chip in with goals, assists and bonus points, any Liverpool defender for £5.5m is value.
Things will become clearer in the tail-end of pre-season, giving us the chance to make a more informed decision. But, if Salah progresses far in the African Cup of Nations and Klopp feels the need to ease him back in, a triple up in their defence is a genuine option to start this season.
Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.5m)
Pep Guardiola’s golden boy, Kevin De Bruyne’s son. Whatever you want to call him, his re-classification as a defender caused a stir. He has already stamped his mark at left-back having taken advantage of Benjamin Mendy’s recurring injury problems, but can he hold it?
Zinchenko’s time in the Man City squad was irregular until gameweek 26. Finally, after many months of trial and error with a number of unorthodox fullbacks, Guardiola placed his faith in Zinchenko and fielded him in 919 minutes of a possible 990 to close the season.
Pep is obviously a big fan, saying “incredible is the only thing I can say (of Oleks). In the first eight fixtures, he didn’t play one minute, but I never saw one bad face, one bad training session – everyone has to learn from Oleks – everybody.”
Many questions could be answered during pre-season, but it might be a case of investing and hoping to take a fair share of the Man City points at a cheaper price than Laporte. On occasion, this might mean relying on your bench to fill in or sweating out 90 minutes with the hope he doesn’t come on. Encouragingly, Zinchenko never featured from the bench in the Premier League last season.
As the majority of FPL managers excitedly waited for the announcement of Matt Doherty’s price, I was more eager to see what sort of value the headquarters would slap on his teammates. Jonny Castro Otto was my number 1 choice, closely followed by Willy Boly.
The Spaniard picked up two assists in his sides first half an hour of pre-season football. A lot of neutral fans enjoyed watching Wolves last season and if you did so regularly, you’ll agree that their midfield pivot of Neves and Dendoncker did a great job of allowing Jonny to bomb forward past the midfield and into the final third.
A high percentage (39%) of his total passes received last season were collected in the final third of the park. Nuno Espirito Santo used a selection of formations, but every single one included wingbacks. If Jonny can improve his wayward shot accuracy (28%) and conversion rate (4%), he could prove great value.
The reason that I’m happy to include two Wolves defenders on this list, is due to their efficiency when facing the top six. Finishing seventh in their debut season, they picked up 4 of 6 available points versus Arsenal and United, 3 of 6 versus Spurs and even held off Man City at the Molineux.
You can’t write them off against anyone, and as a result their defenders are more reliable than those I’ve advised to avoid.
Willy Boly (£5.0)
As Jonny saw a gain of 1m in value, Boly only saw an increase of £0.5m. You might have assumed that both would be priced the same as Boly recorded a better points per 90 minutes average. However, this is perhaps evened out with Jonny’s attacking potential in open play, and the fact he was very unlucky on numerous occasions in front of goal last season.
Nevertheless, Boly’s price grabbed my attention. He recorded the best baseline bonus per minute of Wolves defenders and totalled just 24pts less than Doherty throughout last season. They played an almost identical number of minutes, too. In my opinion, Boly is less prone to rotation and his output is a lot more sustainable.
The towering centre-half also ranked fourth for total big chances amongst defenders throughout last season. A ‘big chance’ is one considered as ‘should be converted’ taking multiple factors such as the area of the pitch etc. into account, so it’s clear that he frequently finds himself in dangerous areas.
Mid-Priced Defenders To Avoid In FPL 2019/2020
Patrick Van Aanholt (£5.5m) is always reliable for attacking returns with 19 goals and 13 assists since 2014, but unlike top six defenders with attacking returns, you’ll feel the need to rotate him. A blank feels almost guaranteed in some difficult fixtures. This is not something you want to be dealing with in the £5.0m bracket, let alone £5.5m. I’d favour the likes of Trippier or Kolasinac.
Matt Ritchie (£5.5m) has been talked up by the ‘Official Scout’, but I’m really struggling to work out why. Is it just the penalties? A lot of people are getting carried away by VAR and the significance it will have on the number of penalties awarded, but as we covered recently in why VAR doesn’t make penalty takers better FPL picks, this is a misjudgment and shouldn’t be a persuading factor.
Fabian Schar (£5.0m) is equally capable of scoring and ranks better in the bonus points system, but I’d advise steering clear of any Newcastle players as Mike Ashley proceeds to slay his own like Daenerys Targaryen in the final season of Game of Thrones.
Nathan Ake (£5.0m) is ‘likely to sign’ for Man City this summer according to a few shady news outlets. This transfer is yet to be confirmed, and until it is, you don’t want to be spending anything more than £4.5m on someone who plays for a club who conceded 82 big chances and more goals than relegated Cardiff City last season. Until the rumours come to fruition, Adam Smith is a better option.
Enda Stevens (£5.0m) is extremely attacking on the left side of midfield in Sheffield’s tried and tested 352 formation, but they will be conservative; especially in the early stages of the season. There’s a reason Chris Wilder won LMA Manager of the Year and I have confidence in his backline doing themselves proud in England’s top flight, though my preference is on £4.5m Jack O’Connell until we see how they settle.
Shane Duffy (£5.0m) as discussed in our best budget defenders article, Duffy’s offering is similar to his centre-back partner Lewis Dunk. Duffy was superior in penalty area touches and minutes per attempt last season, while Dunk matched him in the bonus points system, despite scoring three goals less. £5.0m is £0.5m too much for any Brighton defender and would be an unforced dent in your budget.
Aaron Cresswell (£5.0m) is once again surplus to requirements with Ryan Fredericks pushing for a starting role on the opposite side of West Ham’s defence, while Issa Diop is a further option in the £4.5m bracket. Fredericks doesn’t have any set-piece duties but, like Cresswell, is very attack-minded and has the same incentives to assist in open play.
Ryan Bertrand (£5.0m) doesn’t tick many boxes in this price bracket. Southampton conceded the second-most big chances at home last season. I wouldn’t recommend any of their defenders, with the exception of Bednarek as part of a £4.5m defender rotation.
Jose Holebas (£5.0m) is a stretch at £5.0m. His reckless tendencies and frequent yellow cards will always be part of FPL folklore. This is neutralised somewhat with his quality set-piece delivery and a knack for scoring an absolute screamer every now and again. But as is often the case at the majority of smaller clubs, a £4.5m alternative is available and more logical. In this case, it’s Craig Cathcart.
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