Hello and welcome to another edition of Most Popular. Goalkeepers were first up and now it’s time to get stuck into analysing the most popular defenders. Just quickly, for those unaware the purpose of this article is to analyse the most popular selections throughout pre-season and determine whether they justify their position in your team, lets get stuck into it!
Luke Shaw – Who would’ve thought hey? Go back one year and Luke Shaw is an 18 year old playing for Southampton now he’s signed with one of the biggest clubs in the world and one of the most popular selections in Fantasy Premier League so far. Luke Shaw has found himself in a whopping 28.7% of teams and has received a massive price increase since the start of the season last year. Shaw is no doubt one of the most exciting full backs in football at the moment and this has been well reflected with his move to Manchester United. There won’t be any game time issues with Shaw after his hefty transfer fee and news that Patrice Evra has now moved away from Old Trafford this season. With an amazing first 8 fixtures where Manchester United face Swansea, Sunderland, Burnley, QPR, Leicester, West Ham, Everton and West Brom, there is plenty of room for clean sheets! A lot of people are waiting to see if Manchester United sign another centre half as there have been links with Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen but I believe the biggest thing to watch out for is their pre-season form. United have four pre-season fixtures all against very good teams (LA Galaxy, Roma, Inter Milan & Real Madrid) so if they’re looking good defensively, then Shaw could well become a very good selection. Personally I’m saving the 0.5 and going with his teammate Phil Jones, only because of Shaw’s somewhat inflated price tag!
Ron Vlaar – Next up is the man from Aston Villa, Ron Vlaar. Vlaar had a very good World Cup with the Netherlands and with his slim price tag of only 4.5m has found himself in 26.7% of teams. No doubt a lot of those managers will be selecting him for bench coverage because he is a guaranteed starter for Aston Villa but he doesn’t seem like a very good option after analysing Villa’s fixtures. Aston Villa face Stoke, Newcastle, Hull, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton in the first 8 weeks of the season! For a team that only kept 9 clean sheets last year this is an incredibly tough opening run and a lot of pressure on their defence to be producing clean sheet points. Due to this I wouldn’t recommended jumping on the Vlaar bandwagon, instead coughing up an extra 0.5m and getting someone with a decent opening run or shopping around for someone similarly priced but with better fixtures!
Mathieu Debuchy – The third most selected defender in Fantasy Premier League thus far is the recently transferred Mathieu Debuchy. Debuchy joined Arsenal from Newcastle United as recently as last week and as a result has found himself in 25.4% of teams. Priced at 5.5m Debuchy is cheaper than most of his teammates but will still receive the same amount of points whenever Arsenal keep a clean sheet. Arsenal kept an equal best 16 league clean sheets last year meaning Debuchy should be in line to increase his scoring output from last year now that he’s at a bigger team. 1 goal and 4 assists last year along with 9 clean sheets handed Debuchy 93 points but I predict his output will only increase exponentially this year due to his recent transfer. Arsenal have a mixed opening 2 months, facing Crystal Palace, Everton, Leicester, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Chelsea. There are definitely opportunities for clean sheets and if Arsenal are to challenge for the title this year they’ll definitely have to win the big games against Everton, City, Spurs & Chelsea. With the sale of Bacary Sagna to rivals Manchester City, Debuchy is set to own the right back position at Arsenal and be given the license to replicate Sagna’s work of the last 7 years. This means bombing up and down the wings, providing in crosses for the likes of Giroud to hopefully head in! At 5.5m Debuchy should be a lock due to Arsenal’s solid defensive work last year and his possibility for an increased amount of assists! Lock and load.
Alex Bruce – The fourth most selected defender so far this year is the man from Hull City, Alex Bruce. Bruce has found himself in a modest 20.8% of teams, mainly due to his low price tag of 4.0m. Last campaign Bruce was in and out of the Hull City team and as a result only registered 1589 minutes played. When he did manage to get on the park, he only managed a measly 2 clean sheets. This selection seems to be based more on price rather than the amount of minutes he’s likely to get. As for this I would avoid the trend and, like Vlaar, spend the extra 0.5m on someone who is guaranteed minutes and even the chance of clean sheet points. Hull do have a nice opening month, facing QPR, Stoke, Aston Villa and West Ham but if he’s not playing these games he’s wasting a spot in your team. Keep an eye out as Hull start to play their pre-season friendlies and see whether he’s getting a run, if not I wouldn’t be selecting him at all.
Per Mertesacker – To round out the top 5 we have the big friendly German from Arsenal, Mertesacker. Per was the 5th highest scoring defender last term and played an influential role in the Gunners making the top 4. Mertesacker has found himself in 19.8% of teams so far mainly due to Arsenal’s solid defensive efforts last season. Arsenal kept an equal league best of 16 clean sheets last year, which both Mertesacker and fellow centre half partner Koscielny, benefited from greatly. 2 goals, 1 assist, 16 clean sheets, 23 bonus points and 157 overall points was how the German finished off last year and will no doubt be looking to replicate those efforts again this year. Unfortunately though I don’t think Mertesacker is worthy yet of being in our teams, only due to his inflated 6.0m price tag. With newly appointed right back, Mathieu Debuchy costing 5.5m it seems like a no-brainer to save the cash and select the Frenchmen. With forwards becoming so expensive this campaign that extra 0.5m can be the difference between getting the player you wont and not being able to afford him. For that reason I’ll be going with Debuchy, but as we found out last year there is nothing wrong with selecting two defenders from the same team, especially if they’re looking solid down back. However this does come with added risks, if the team does happen to concede then the majority of your defence has already failed!
Well that wraps up the Most Popular Defenders. Gary Cahill, Geoff Cameron, Cesar Azpilicueta and Laurent Koscielny were all unlucky to miss out on the top 5, being selected by 17.7, 17.6, 15.5 and 14.6% respectively. Up next is the Most Popular Midfielders – until then, cheers!