Fantasy Premier League success simply boils down to picking as many players as possible who will consistently return points for you across a 38 gameweek season.
Frequent goalscorers such as Mo Salah, Harry Kane, and Sergio Aguero have been obvious selections in the past, as will be their successors if the big guns fail to fire in August – but everyone in your mini-league will have the Golden Boot contenders! If you want to win in fantasy football, you need to distribute your funds effectively so that you also set yourself up to maximise your rewards from the achievements of defenders at the other end of the pitch from clean sheets, goals, and assists. This article will focus on the latter feats, suggesting a selection of rearguard options who pose an offensive threat on top of the points they’ll pick up for letting nothing into their net over 90 minutes.
Cesar Azpilicueta (6.5)
“Azpi”, or as Chelsea fans affectionately know him, “Dave”, was the highest scoring defender in the whole FPL game last term with 175 points. Only ten players up-field surpassed him. As such, it’s hard to ignore Azpi even with a change of tactical system mooted now that Maurizio Sarri has taken over from Antonio Conte. Going by Sarri’s history and Chelsea’s pre-season so far, a move to four at the back is likely.
With the former Napoli boss in charge, forward-thinking wing-backs Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses’ guaranteed starting berths are looking a lot more precarious whilst Azpi is set to hold on to a place in the starting eleven either as a right-back or a centre-back. He should hold a place in your starting line-up for his attacking output too. Only Aaron Cresswell (7) had more assists than Azpilicueta (6) last season. That tally followed five assists in each of the previous two seasons underlying his reliability in that department over a long period.
Furthermore, he led the way amongst defenders in a key underlying statistic of creativity, key passes, where he was the only player to reach double figures (11). Goals are not Azpi’s forte, as is highlighted by him taking just 13 shots, scoring two, all season. To put it in perspective, Marcos Alonso led defenders with seven goals from 65 efforts and Moses followed with three from 35.
Andy Robertson (6.0)
In spite of playing just 57% of the available minutes and starting a mere 22/38 games for Liverpool in the last campaign, Andy Robertson caught the eye bombing forward in red on the left flank enough to be the 18th highest scoring defender in the game. He racked up five assists and a goal in that period. About a third of his 1900 odd touches came in the final third, notching up a dozen attempts on his opponents’ goals. Seven of those shots were inside the box.
That said, it’s with assists that Robbo is likely to reward owners the most. In spite of such limited game time compared to the aforementioned Azpi, Robbo made his way to eight big chances created, just three short of the best of the PL defenders in spite of playing 1,357 minutes less. As far I’m concerned, the Flying Scotsman is an essential pick when you consider Liverpool’s vastly improved defence and goalkeeping situation after their busy transfer window.
Patrick van Aanholt (5.5)
“PvA” is a defensive liability but FPL points don’t consider his minor contribution at the back and instead reward him for the stellar efforts of Sakho and Tomkins whilst he merrily racks up points terrorising opposition defenders. The left-back had a period out of favour at Selhurst Park early on last term but from January 13th onward, he played over 80 minutes in every Premier League game scoring all five of his league goals for the season in that 16 game spell. He finished the season by scoring in three consecutive games. A record of 437 minutes per goal, when you consider that he made five appearances in The Eagles fallow seven game start to the season under Frank de Boer, compares extremely favourably to Marcos Alonso’s goal every 408 minutes.
The Dutchman isn’t afraid to have a crack, with 33 efforts on goal. Unfortunately his ratio of those coming from inside the box is a lot less (33%) than Alonso who had 62% of his shots inside the area. PvA is a great shout in the early season when Palace’s fixtures are good. If you’re not willing to stump up the cash, be aware that James Tomkins (4.5) is another attacking outlet in the Palace defence whilst on the right flank Aaron Wan-Bissaka (4.0) has started four of five pre-season friendlies and Roy Hodgson has indicated that he is playing something close to his first XI ahead of Gameweek 1.
Sean Morrison (5.0)
Sean Morrison captained Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City to second place in the Championship last season, making a name for himself in the process as a fine goalscorer. The centre-back is the most often earmarked player by Bluebird fans and it’s easy to see why when you learn he scored seven goals in the Championship last season, averaging 1.2 shots per game (50 overall). 41 of those efforts came from headers, suggesting that he may be an heir to the title “slabhead” bestowed on Harry Maguire by Jamie Vardy.
He won a concussive 68%, that’s 280, of his 411 aerial duels over the course of the league season – that’s a monstrous tally. Remember, all that glistens in the Championship is not FPL Gold, however goalscoring like that is not to be simply discounted especially when you consider that Cardiff need to take a few points in their “winnable” August fixtures before they face Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man City consecutively in September. If I was to make a recommendation, I would say that managers planning an early Wildcard should include Morrison in their squads as a differential from their mini-league rivals.
Shane Duffy (4.5)
Brighton titan Shane Duffy was extremely unfortunate not to score last term off 28 attempts on goal, the 7th highest tally in the PL. The Republic of Ireland centre-back formed a highly-regarded partnership with Lewis Dunk in the Seagulls’ first season in the top flight, but outshone his partner in FPL thanks to his superior discipline. His attacking threat went unrewarded though as his shot accuracy was not good enough; just four of the 28 attempts were on target.
For Ireland, he is quite dangerous and scored two international goals over the course of last season in green, getting rewarded for being a constant presence in the opposition area at set-piece time. No player in the league bettered his 27 attempts from set plays in 2017, highlighting that Brighton’s management clearly encourage Pascal Gross to target the former Everton man from dead balls. It is bound to start paying off soon, like it did in his final season in the Championship with Albion when he fired in two league goals. He’s superb value at 4.5, nailed on to start every week, and a goal threat waiting to finally find the net.
If you want to win your mini-league this season, you have to choose the right defenders from the off in August. The selection I have provided here all have strong arguments in their favour. They come at every price point, meaning you have no excuse not to include some of them in your squad.
FPL Stag has been providing tips to Fantasy Premier League managers for three seasons and writes a weekly column for Rotoworld. As a kid, his favourite player was Roy Keane, though he models his own game on Park Ji-Sung. He finished in the Top 1% of fantasy managers last season.