Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 25 Preview

Welcome to the second article in our new weekly series, Defenders Under the Microscope. Here we focus on the defenders most likely to bag you a haul in the upcoming gameweek according to form, current gameweek fixture(s), bookies odds for a clean sheet and underlying statistics. We also explore the defenders with the most promising attacking stats and those with attractive upcoming fixtures beyond this gameweek.

We’ll aim to guide you through which defenders to play, which ones to bench and who you should be looking to bring into your squads for a quick boost or a longer term fix.

As usual, this week we’ll look at our standard 4 key criteria for selecting our defenders but, given the pending fixture chaos we’ll also take a look at their fixtures over the coming weeks to make sure we are maximising our potential for double gameweeks. The format will be as follows:

  1. Bookies Odds
  2. Home vs. Away
  3. Current Form and Gameweek Fixture
  4. Attacking Potential
  5. Upcoming Fixtures

Bookies Odds

Bookies odds taken from William Hill and correct as of 17:00 on 14th February 2021. Please only consider gambling if over the age of 18. Please gamble responsibly.

These odds reflect the bookies predicted chance of each team keeping a clean sheet.

TeamPercentage (likelihood of clean sheet)
Leeds United56% (29% vs wol + 27% vs. SOU)
Manchester United56%
Manchester City43%
Southampton 41% (23% vs. lee + 18% vs. CHE)
Wolverhampton Wanderers32%
Sheffield United 32%
West Ham United30%
Leicester City29%
Tottenham Hotspur29%
West Bromwich Albion28%
Crystal Palace26%
Aston Villa26%

Home vs. Away

We covered the Home vs. Away debate extensively in last weeks column, with the conclusion that home fixtures are no longer a viable indicator of a team’s likelihood to keep a clean sheet.

The current standings (as of 21:00 on 14th February 2021) are that there have been 71 home clean sheets in 233 matches and 69 away clean sheets in 233 matches. Home clean sheets are down 3% on the 3 season average prior to this season and away clean sheets up 6%.

There has been no discernible change in trend since last gameweek, so our conclusion from last week still holds true. We will continue to review this throughout the remainder of the season, but for the time being venue should not be a factor in looking at who is likely to keep a clean sheet.

Current Form and Gameweek Fixture

Presented below are the defensive stats for every team in the premier league across the last 5 gameweeks, ordered by best xGC to worst xGC (stats taken from after all games completed on 14th February 2021).

Presented below are the attacking stats for every team in the premier league across the last 5 gameweeks, ordered by best xG to worst xG (stats taken from after all games completed on 14th February 2021).

Manchester City and Chelsea continue to be the meanest defences extending their good recent defensive form.

This article is written before Chelsea face Newcastle on Monday night, and at this point their recent stats are comparable to City’s. Both have an xGC of roughly 0.5 per game and are conceding roughly 5 shots per game each.

Chelsea, Brighton and Manchester City top the charts for goals conceded (1) over the last 5 gameweeks, whilst Manchester City and Brighton top the charts for clean sheets (4).

Manchester City face Arsenal next week who, despite putting 4 past Leeds on Sunday, are only sat 11th in the xG table over the last 5 gameweeks, though they have outperformed their xG of 6.31 scoring 8 goals. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang returned to form with a Hat-Trick vs. the predictably open Leeds on Sunday.

However, City will prove an entirely different proposition and will prove a popular choice to continue their excellent defensive run.

Chelsea travel to a Southampton side who are struggling for confidence at present and have now lost 6 on the bounce. Southampton sit only two places higher than Arsenal in the xG table but are underperforming in front of goal recently with only 4 goals in 5 games vs. their xG of 6.44.

A Chelsea defender would perfectly compliment the one or two City defenders most teams already have in their team this gameweek.

Leeds and Southampton play each other at Elland Road in an additional fixture this gameweek. Before that game Leeds go to Wolves whilst Southampton host Chelsea. Leeds face the less threatening attacking teams in their 2 fixtures, however neither team are appealing purely on their chance of a clean sheet.

If you have Leeds and Southampton defenders in your squad already you should be playing them this gameweek, however if you don’t, you may benefit from prioritising your transfers elsewhere.

Newcastle are a surprisingly high 3rd in the xGC table (only 4 games). Extrapolating their current xGC over 5 games would drop them down to 7th.

They are currently allowing roughly 10 shots per game which supports this more realistic positioning. However, they are conceding way above their xGC, with 6 conceded in their last 4 games vs. an xGC of only 3.87. Perhaps Bruce’s men are due a few clean sheets?

They travel to an in form Manchester United, who along with Manchester City are clearly the 2 most potent teams in the league at the moment, so no need to transfer Newcastle defenders based purely on their underlying numbers. Well certainly not this week anyway.

Brighton sit 4th in the xGC table and have conceded the same amount of goals as Manchester City across the last 5 gameweeks (1). They host a Crystal Palace side bereft of any sort of attacking threat without the injured Wilfred Zaha, who still has an unknown return date.

Despite dominating the possession against Burnley on Saturday, Palace managed only 3 shots on target and looking at their xG of 3.63 over the last 5 gameweeks (lowest of all teams to have played 5 games) they should consider themselves lucky to have scored the 5 goals they have. This make Brighton’s defenders great value for gameweek 25.

Attacking Potential

Presented below are the goal threat stats for the top 10 defenders in the premier league across the last 5 gameweek, ordered according to best xG (stats taken from after all games completed on 14th February 2021).

With 2 goals in his last 4 games and an xG of 0.99 across those 4 games Craig Dawson is one of the most threatening defender in the Premier League at the moment.

Pascal Strujik and Stuart Dallas are both averaging at least a shot per game at the moment and have both registered in their last 5. With Leeds playing twice this week, whilst we aren’t expecting defensive returns, these two provide great value with their goal threat.

Crystal Palace have conceded 21 headers in the last 5 gameweeks (8 more than any other team), a stat that will have Brighton power house Lewis Dunk licking his lips. He got his 3rd goal of the season recently and is averaging 1.4 attempts at goal per game recently. Don’t be surprised if he pops up with another this gameweek.

Presented below are the creativity stats for the top 10 defenders in the premier league across the last 5 gameweek, ordered according to best xA (stats taken from after all games completed on 14th February 2021).

Luke Shaw continued his fine recent form with another assist against West Brom on Sunday. That’s 4 in his last 5 and it’s easy to see why given the amount of crosses he is getting in (36 in 5) with an average of 3 successful crosses per game.

He is taking corners and the odd free kick which always adds to the likelihood of assists. With 14 key passes in 5 games Shaw is definitely the most creative defender in the Premier League at present.

Along with Shaw, Trent Alexander Arnold and Aaron Cresswell have also created 3 big chances their last 5 gameweeks (which is only 4 games for Cresswell), though their number of assists and their cross success rate is lower than Shaw’s. They too are taking some corners and free kicks, though again, less frequently than Shaw.

One man who can match Shaw’s crossing success rate (42%) is Joel Veltman at Brighton. As with Lewis Dunk, Veltman’s chance of an attacking return is significantly increased when facing a Palace team conceding so many headers.

Upcoming Fixtures

Presented below is the current status of all potential additional fixtures over the coming weeks. Special credit to Ben Crellin who keeps us continually updated with this information.

Clearly with a high degree of uncertainty over fixtures at the moment we need to keep an eye on this when looking to bring players in. We want to get maximum benefit from them and the best way to do that is to have them playing multiple fixtures.

Whilst we’ve already discussed Leeds and Southampton defenders who already have a confirmed double gameweek 25 it will be interesting to see if anyone else gets an additional fixture announced before the deadline.

Any extra fixture for Aston Villa would make them more appealing, however, it would be at the expense of an extra fixture in gameweek 26 or 27 and seems unlikely at this stage. Likewise for Everton, and given Villa and Everton play Leicester and Liverpool in their guaranteed fixture in gameweek 25, neither set of fixtures screams clean sheet!

Much more likely is that most of these double fixtures get scheduled for gameweek 26. No less than 10 teams have a very high probability of a double gameweek in 26 with Tottenham’s fixtures of Burnley and Fulham or Southampton looking extremely appealing.

Manchester City are a good bet for a clean sheet against anyone at the minute and fixtures against West Ham and Wolves or Southampton won’t do anything to put people off.

Manchester United will play Chelsea and likely Crystal Palace, whilst Leicester face Arsenal and likely Burnley. Brighton, Newcastle, Arsenal and Wolves will not have a double gameweek at any point in the next 5 weeks.

Whether you are Bench Boosting or not in gameweek 26 the key will be to ensure as many of your players as possible are playing 2 fixtures and that those fixtures are as friendly as possible.

Next week’s article is going to be fun to write with many options available to us. Lets just hope we get those fixtures confirmed ASAP so we can start planning who we want before this week’s deadline.


If you are not wildcarding in gameweek 26 you need to focus any defensive transfers on players with upcoming double gameweeks.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea defenders all provide great options for this gameweek and beyond. They have good defensive form, attractive fixtures this gameweek with a high predicted chance of a clean sheet. They will also very likely have 2 fixtures in gameweek 26 so you are effectively getting 3 games for the price of 2 from them over the next 2 gameweeks.

Tottenham have equally attractive fixtures in their the next 2 gameweeks but not the defensive form to back it up. They also lack any real threat from the back with Serge Aurier the only player making either threat list and a doubt over his fitness. Aston Villa defenders are also a solid, if not outstanding in any category, option.

If you are planning to Wildcard in Gameweek 26 or just looking for a short term punt Stuart Dallas is terrific value. He is playing mainly in Midfield at the moment and has 3 goals already this season. He is the most appealing of all defenders playing twice in gameweek 25.

Lewis Dunk and Joel Veltman are a another good option, purely for gameweek 25. They pose a high chance of a clean sheet and an attacking return. They won’t have a double fixture any time soon but if you can easily move them on or afford to bench them in gameweek 26 they could serve you well.

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