Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 30 Preview

Welcome to another edition of Defenders Under the Microscope, your weekly guide to the best defensive options for your FPL team from @FPL_Connect, by me @fpl_del. I hope you all enjoyed a break from FPL over the last week or so, and, for at least one weekend, there were no cold sweats over who Pep and Tuchel were going to pick!

This week we are previewing gameweek 30. After a gameweek 29 that only involved 4 fixtures and a 2 week international break, I’m raring to get back into the swing of it and analyse a full compliment of Premier League fixtures.

As usual, I’ll guide you through the key elements to consider when making your defensive selections this week. We’ll look at who the bookies think are most likely to keep a clean sheet, as well as who has the friendliest fixtures. Lastly we’ll look at who are most likely to land a goal or an assist from the back line. We’ll follow the standard format: 

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

Bookies Odds

Bookies Odds taken from William Hill as of 22:00 on 29/03/21. Please only consider gambling if you are over 18 years of age. Please gamble responsibly.

TeamsOdds (%)
Chelsea(vs West Brom) 63
Everton(vs Crystal Palace) 49
Man Utd(vs Brighton) 48
Man City(vs Leicester) 47
Southampton(vs Burnley) 43
Spurs(vs Newcastle) 41
West Ham(vs Wolves) 40
Aston Villa(vs Fulham) 38
Wolves(vs West Ham) 32
Leeds(vs Sheffield United) 32
Liverpool(vs Arsenal) 29
Fulham(vs Aston Villa) 29
Burnley(vs Southampton) 27
Crystal Palace(vs Everton) 24
Arsenal(vs Liverpool) 23
Newcastle(vs Spurs) 20
Brighton(vs vs Man United) 18
Sheffield United(vs Leeds) 17
Leicester(vs Man City) 15
West Brom(vs Chelsea) 11

Home vs Away

Earlier in the season we concluded that having a home fixture was proving less of an advantage this year and that we had seen a dramatic increase in the probability of an away clean sheet. As it stands in 290 games so far this season there have been 93 home clean sheets and 89 away clean sheets proving that there is almost no difference (1.37%) in their likelihood.

In the previous three seasons to this one there was statistically a 7% higher chance of clean sheet playing at home vs playing away. Attacking threat seems to be less potent all round this season with home clean sheets up 3% and away clean sheets up a whopping 8% in comparison to the three seasons preceding this one.

It’s going to be interesting to see if this trend continues as fans are slowly reintroduced towards the end of the season, but I suspect next season will be the real test for this. For now, safe to say, defenders are as important as they have ever been in FPL and you no longer need to fear your defenders going on the road.

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 by 29th March 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 by 29th March 2021).

Given there have only been 5 fixtures since we last reviewed form not much has changed on that front. In those games Liverpool kept a clean sheet at Wolves, Spurs kept Villa off the scoresheet and Brighton rewarded everyone who had faith in them for gameweek 29 by shutting out Newcastle. Regular followers and adopters will have been rewarded for following my double Brighton defence tip from the last article.

Those of you that drafted in defenders from Villa, Spurs and Leeds to optimise your gameweek 29 team are rewarded with a decent set of fixtures for their defenders this week. They all present solid value again this week and most wont need to consider benching them / transferring them out at least until gameweek 31 when there is a decided shift in fixtures, for Leeds and Villa at least.

Spurs bounced back from a disappointing week to keep a clean sheet vs Villa last time out and now face hapless Newcastle (16th for xG), though there is still question marks over their preferred starting 11. Leeds will be expecting to restrict perennial low scorers Sheffield United (1 goal in their last 5 games), and Villa face a Fulham side who are averaging only a goal every 2 games and vastly underperforming their xG.

Chelsea still top the pile for current defensive form, conceding only 1 goal and 2 big chances in their last 5 games. Given their plum fixture against West Brom this week (18th for xG in the last 5 weeks, converting only 1 goal from 10 big chances) if you haven’t already, it’s time to get their defenders in your team.

Azpilicueta (£5.8m) and Rudiger (£4.7m) remain the best picks with the former the most secure (he’s played every PL minute under Tuchel). Rudiger was rested for one game in gameweek 27 but is a much cheaper option. Personally, I’d like both in my team this week.

Whilst the Brighton double up was invaluable last week, they travel to Old Trafford this week and I favour benching them or even switching to their opponents this week. Luke Shaw (£5.2m) and Aaron Wan Bissaka (£5.7m) have both been in scintillating FPL form, though Shaw provides better value. United sit 3rd for xGC and have only conceded 1 goal in their last 5, however Brighton (4th for xG) are starting to deliver against their impressive underlying stats.

Everton have a very attractive tie against Crystal Palace this weekend so for those of you still holding an Everton defensive asset they are also a good option this week. They can be somewhat Jekyll and Hyde, and their defensive form isn’t great (15th for xGC and BCC), but I like Digne’s assist potential and Keane’s set piece threat. Palace have Zaha back though so I wouldn’t be rushing to transfer these assets in, given other better options stated above.

Upcoming Fixtures

If like me, you intend on Wildcarding in gameweek 31 you’ll have been keeping a keen eye on the last 8 gameweeks of the season. Spurs, City, Fulham and Southampton are the only guaranteed blanks in gameweek 33. The fixtures moved due to FA Cup Semi-Finals in gameweek 32 are likely to move to midweek and be added back into that gameweek. Thanks as ever go to @BenCrellin for saving us from that particular heart attack!

So, based on a gameweek 31 Wildcard I have been looking to get defensive options lined up that are going to give me good overall coverage over those 8 gameweeks. I don’t like using transfers on defenders so wherever possible I want all 5 defenders playing, and at least 5 or 6 out of 8 fixtures where I want them in my team. For the others, I want to be able to rotate my defenders well.

Chelsea’s fixtures are standout for me. Other than gameweek 35, they only really have Leicester where I wouldn’t be comfortable with their defenders playing for me. West Brom, Palace and Brighton in the next three is particularly enticing. Similarly, once Liverpool have played Arsenal this weekend the only game I wouldn’t want their defenders in for is Man Utd in gameweek 34.

Leicester have a tough finish (Man Utd, Chelsea, Tottenham) but have 5 good fixtures after this week (Man City) and provide all important cover on gameweek 35 when they play Newcastle. Wolves also have a good run after this week (Fulham, Sheffield United, Burnley West Brom, Brighton) before finishing with Spurs, Everton and Man United. Arsenal’s run is also particularly attractive after Liverpool this week, barring Chelsea in gameweek 36.

In conclusion, I would be looking at: Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester, Wolves and Arsenal.

Attacking Potential

Presented below are the goal threat stats for the top 10 defenders in the premier league across the last 10 gameweeks, ordered according to best xG (stats taken from after all games completed by 29th March 2021).

Presented below are the creativity stats for the top 10 defenders in the premier league across the last 10 gameweeks, ordered according to best xA (stats taken from after all games completed by 29th March 2021).

Interestingly, we now have 3 players making both attacking threat lists. Joao Cancelo and Joel Veltman have been in and out of these lists over the last 7 gameweeks and are now joined by Marcos Alonso in both. Unfortunately, whilst Cancelo’s underlying stats are great, he has somewhat flattered to deceive and with City’s clean sheet tap turned off he isn’t the standout option anymore.

Veltman rewarded those who backed in him in gameweek 29 with a goal and clean sheet but with United, Everton and Chelsea in their next 3 games his attacking return opportunities are likely to be lower. Alonso, is the really interesting option. He makes both these lists having played at least 2 or 3 games fewer than all the others. If you are prepared to take the punt that he’s first choice, or if you have adequate cover if he doesn’t play, he’s an amazing option.

It’s hard to ignore Craig Dawson’s stats. 3 goals in his last 10 games rank him first for goals, xG and headers and joint first for big chances. West Ham have a reasonable fixture this weekend vs Wolves (19th for xGC and joint 18th for headers conceded). They play Leicester and Chelsea in their next 3 but then have a much easier run in than most. He’d be my choice for most likely defender to score this weekend.

Following that theme, it also makes Cresswell similarly attractive. If Wolves are likely to concede from a header you would expect it to be him adding to his already rank leading assist and expected assist stats.

As mentioned earlier, Luke Shaw remains a great option and like Cresswell also has 4 assists in his last 10 appearances. I think Alexander Arnold will become a popular choice in the final 8 gameweeks but I think there are better options this week. Look out for a discussion of TAA next week!


I feel like gameweek 31 will see a transition and not just because I am Wildcarding. Defensively, I think everyone will be trying to eek that last little bit of value out of their Spurs, Villa and Leeds defensive assets before a step change towards Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal defenders from next week onwards.

They are great options this week but be prepared to bench them and or move on next week. Stuart Dallas is my personal favourite from those teams.

If you’ve got Chelsea defensive assets you’re already ahead of the game and you might want to double up for this week and for the following 8. Given their lack of attacking options a defensive triple up might even be on the cards, though if that were the case, I’d probably opt for their goalkeeper Mendy, rather than a rotatable full back. The Bookies odds alone warrant it this week!

Dawson and Cresswell at West Ham have great attacking threat and future fixture upside. I’ve been singing Luke Shaw’s praises for weeks now and he continues to be a great option. I can see United dominating Brighton this week, we just need to be mindful that he faces Spurs, Leeds and Liverpool in 3 of his next 4.

I wish you all the best for this gameweek and beyond. May your full backs raid, your centre backs strike, your defence hold firm. You should be over your Pep rotation fears by now (defensively at least – that ship has sailed), so let’s just hope Tuchel doesn’t do anything daft this weekend. How much is Kepa again?

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