Defenders Under the Microscope – Gameweek 9 Preview

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 9, my first post-Wildcard gameweek and the last week before I take a break from these articles for a gameweek.

I know, Mrs. Del didn’t get the memo about syncing family holidays with International Breaks!

Article by fpldel

We’re 9 out of 10 games through gameweek 8 at time of writing and if the FPL Gods were being kind to us in the first few gameweeks, showering us with premium captaincy and mid-price midfielder hauls, they are certainly tightening the reigns and getting their own back of late.

The average points over the first 5 gameweeks was 58.2 but this has dropped to 41.33 over the last 3 gameweeks (albeit with 1 fixture of gameweek 8 left). Rotation is kicking in with European competitions and International fixtures making for a hectic schedule, whilst COVID-19 continues to influence certain travel restrictions and impact particular squads.

As ever, in this article, we’ll visit our usual talking points, using statistics and data analysis to assess their potential impact going forward. We’ll look at the best defenders for this week, who to bench, who to play and which transfers to consider, whilst all the time keeping at least one eye on what is coming down the line. The article will take the following format:

  1. Gameweek 8 Review
  2. Gameweek 9 – Bookies odds for a clean sheet
  3. Gameweek 9 – Form and Fixtures
  4. Upcoming fixtures
  5. Likelihood of attacking returns
  6. Conclusions

So, without further ado, lets get stuck in and see where we are at.

Gameweek 8 Review

It continues to be a tumultuous time in FPL at the minute. We’ve now seen 4 consecutive blanks now from Romelu Lukaku (£11.7m), 3 from Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m), whilst Mo Salah (£12.7m), and Jamie Vardy (£10.6m) continue to rip it up in the premium category. Salah was majestic as Liverpool mauled Watford and Vardy a constant thorn in United’s defence as Leicester ran out 4-2 victors.

Chelsea kept their place at the top of the table, despite Lukaku’s blank, thanks to a rejuvenated Ben Chilwell (£5.7m) getting his 2nd goal in 2 Premier League matches and Manchester City kept up the pressure on them with a 2-0 victory over Burnley which included goals for Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) and Bernardo Silva (£6.9m), as well as a single point off the bench for Ruben Dias (£6.2m).

We’ve seen 7 clean sheets so far with Liverpool, Man City, Southampton, Chelsea and West Ham all earning victories and Brighton and Norwich cancelling each other out. Chilwell and West Ham’s Angelo Ogbonna (£5.0m) both notched up 15 points for the defenders union finishing joint 2nd for points this gameweek, only behind Liverpool’s hat-trick hero Roberto Firmino (£8.8m) who is this week’s top point scorer so far.

For me it was good week, but it could have been much better. Joao Cancelo (£6.2m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.1m) both notched me a clean sheet, though I was disappointed with no attacking return from either of them, the latter correctly having an assist chalked off after review.

My tactic of having a strong bench from my newly remodelled Wildcard team looked to be paying dividends as Tino Livramento (£4.2m) and his 6 points were all set to come in for the benched Dias for me, only for Pep to decide that John Stones couldn’t last a full 90 mins against Burnley, so I ended up with 13 points from my 3 defenders. I have 53 points in total with Ramsdale and Saka still to come. If either register I should end up with a modest green arrow, so it’s a win!

Gameweek 9 – Bookies Odds for a clean sheet

These figures represent the % chance of a team keeping a clean sheet in Gameweek 9. Odds up to date as of 22:00 on 17th October 2021, according to WilliamHill.com. Please only gamble if you are 18 years of age and over. Please gamble responsibly.

TeamFixtureOdds (%)
ChelseaNorwich (H)71
Man CityBrighton (A)52
EvertonWatford (H)47
Crystal PalaceNewcastle (H)40
SouthamptonBurnley (H)40
ArsenalAston Villa (H)38
LeicesterBrentford (A)24
LeedsWolves (H)32
West HamSpurs (H)30
BrentfordLeicester (H)30
LiverpoolMan Utd (A)29
SpursWest Ham (A)27
WolvesLeeds (A)26
BurnleySouthampton (A)25
Man UnitedLiverpool (H)24
NewcastlePalace (A)24
Aston VillaArsenal (A)22
WatfordEverton (A)18
BrightonMan City (H)15
NorwichChelsea (A)8

Gameweek 9 – Form and Fixtures

Chelsea are the clear standout fixture for a clean sheet this week. They have the joint best defence sorted by goals conceded (3) and continue to outperform their Expected Goals Conceded (xGC) stats considerably. They host Norwich who have scored the fewest goals (2) and are ranked 17th for Expected Goals (xG). A clean sheet chance of 71% is the highest I have seen in 10 months of writing these articles.

The difficulty with Chelsea is predicting who plays. Chilwell has now played 2 in a row in the Premier League scoring in both, but with UCL fixtures looming next week, will we see Marcos Alonso (£5.9m) get a game this week? Reece James (£5.5m) seems to be struggling for fitness so Azpilicueta is still the nailed option for me, closely followed by Antonio Rudiger (£5.8m) once he regains fitness after an injury picked up on International duty.

Man City have the joint best defence sorted by goals conceded (3) and the best defence by xGC (4.8). They travel to Brighton this gameweek who sit 12th for goals scored so far (8), 13th for xG and are coming off of a blank versus the leakiest defence in the league.

With Dias having been rested in gameweek 8, I would say he’s the most nailed to start for City. Kyle Walker (£5.6m) also got a rest and with Oleksander Zinchenko (£5.3m) fit again it may be time for Cancelo to get a rest. As an owner, I’d like to think not but I’d say it’s his turn given that Pep has rotated everyone else recently.

Everton are currently ranked joint 10th for GC having conceded 10 in 8 games and 6th for xGC (9.6). They host a Watford side who showed little sign of improvement under new manager Claudio Ranieri last Saturday. However, that can be forgiven considering that Liverpool were irresistible. That said, Watford rank 16th for GC and 18th for xG so Everton look a good shout for a clean sheet. Michael Keane (£5.0m) is still far and away the pick of their defence with 31 points so far.

Southampton aren’t lighting up the defensive stats and currently sit joint 10th for GC (10) and 14th for xGC (12.1). They have, however, managed the joint 5th most clean sheets so far with 3 in 8 games and host a Burnley side who have scored the joint second lowest amount of goals this season (5) and are ranked 14th for xG (9.1). Tino Livramento (£4.3m) leads the way for Southampton defenders with 27 points so far and at that price, we needn’t look elsewhere this gameweek.

Upcoming Fixtures

Below are each of the 20 Premier League Teams ranked by ease of fixtures over the next 6 gameweeks.

As we’ve highlighted Chelsea and Southampton as great options for this week, it’s good to see them in the top 5 over the next 6 gameweeks. We know we can rely on them in the medium term so if you don’t already have assets from them, they present good value over the coming weeks.

Manchester City’s fixtures are good for the next 2, however they then have 3 tricky fixtures in a row. Given how solid they are though and that they are proven the best defence in the league, I still think they are a good investment. Similarly, Everton’s fixtures turn nasty in gameweek 11 so I view their assets as a much shorter term option. Fine for the next 2 if you already have them, but I wouldnt be rushing to bring them in.

Wolves and Brentford look to have attractive fixtures over the medium term and given the cost of their assets they present some exceptional value at present. They are ranked 5th and 6th for GC so far and 2nd and 5th for xGC with Brentford edging it on both counts. Both tricky fixtures this week but I favour Brentford from gameweek 10 onwards with Ethan Pinnock (4.6m) the pick for me, just edging Pontus Jansson (£4.7m) as he’s £0.1m cheaper and both have amassed 40 points so far.

Looking at the above, there is nobody else with a good enough defence that has standout fixtures for me, so the only other thing I would consider is defenders who have more attractive fixtures in gameweek 11 when Man City take on Man United and gameweek 13 when Chelsea host Man United. Brentford host Norwich in gameweek 11 and Wolves travel to Norwich in gameweek 13 so they look they look the perfect defenders to compliment City, Chelsea and Southampton assets.

Likelihood of Attacking Returns

Below are the 10 highest ranking defenders in the Premier League so far by Expected Goals (xG) and Expected Assists (xA).

Top 10 defenders by xG
Top 10 defenders by xA

If we needed any further reason to have Cancelo or Azpilicueta in our squads right now I think the above confirms it for us. Cancelo appears in both lists, so despite his rotation risk this weekend, he is still a fantastic option going forward and Azpilicueta gives me as much confidence as anyone can have in a Chelsea defender, in terms of getting on the team sheet.

An interesting option, given both appear in the top 10 for xG would be the Alonso /Chilwell double up. It would guarantee us the best attacking defender in the game and if you have the funds I think it’s a real option. The only slight concern for me is if you start the one that doesn’t play but they come off the bench. Personally, I don’t want to invest at least £5.6m in defender that will not play.

Romain Saiss (£5.0m) and Nelson Semedo (£4.9m) look to be the options if you are considering a Wolves defender to give you the cover we talked about earlier. I think I favour Saiss here since goals are more valuable than assists and he looks to be getting plenty of opportunities.

It’s almost impossible to write this article and not talk about Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m). He’s not in my team since I Wildcarded and I miss him. He notched another 6 points last Saturday and is comfortably the most creative defender available to us. Liverpool have a tough fixture this weekend but beyond gameweek 9 I still think there is plenty of scope for him to continue his great season.

As mentioned earlier Michael Keane’s goal threat and fixture this week make him a great one week punt and if you have the defensive backup to cover him through Everton’s tougher fixtures, there are a lot worse options out there. I’m also looking at Pontus Jansson now and thinking is the extra £0.1m worth it for the extra goal threat he’s carrying over Pinnock?

Conclusions

Back your Chelsea defenders, back your City defenders and back Trent Alexander Arnold. From those options there are plenty of premium defenders who should be more than capable of bagging you hauls this week, next week and beyond.

If you can compliment those defenders with Wolves and Brentford defenders with Tino Livramento thrown in for good measure I think you are in great shape going forward. For me, personally this week, I will defintely line up with Dias, Cancelo and Azpilicueta at the back. Livramento may come in for me anyway as a 4th defender, however if I chose to bench him (at my peril!!!) he’s the ideal replacement if Cancelo gets the rest he may well be due.

Thanks for reading. I wish you all the best ahead of gameweek 9. May your full backs raid, your centre backs strike, your defence hold firm, your arrows be green, and your OR be everything you hoped it would be.

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