So we’ve reached the final hurdle of pre-season. If you’ve missed out on any of our articles during the past couple of weeks, or just want to go back over them, remember you can keep up to date in the pre-season hub tab. We’ve covered those players newly transferred, those who have switched between clubs, the promoted teams and the most selected! It’s time to pick up the pieces and fill in the gaps.
For the defenders I will simply go through the teams I feel are fantasy relevant, select my pick of the bunch and give my thoughts on their defensive prospects. If they don’t get a mention, I believe they’re a no go zone!
Arsenal’s defence took a massive turn for the better last season, thanks to arguably the best centre back partnership in the league. Now priced at 6.0 and 6.5 respectively, I can’t see much value in either Koscielny or Mertesacker, especially with a tough start to the season. The option to look at is definitely Debuchy, with Chambers set to act as centre back relief throughout the season he should have the right back slot all to himself. Priced kindly at 5.5, he is your route into last season’s second best defence. Gibbs is too often injured and has never really settled at left back, hopefully he can find some consistency as well. With some difficult fixtures to kick things off I will be avoiding them to begin with.
Mourinho didn’t need much time to turn Chelsea’s defence back into the powerhouse it once was. After GW 10 they kept 15 clean sheets in just 28 appearances, those are ridiculous numbers. You can reliably start their defenders in every fixture, they are always a shot at a clean sheet. The choice pick this season looks to be Felipe Luis at 6.0, he’s great value and should nail down the left back position. I reckon Azpilicueta will have the RB slot to himself, leaving Ivanovic to fight it out with Terry and Cahill for the centre back slots. With Ivanovic providing direct competition, I feel safer backing in Luis. Having said that, Mourinho has stated he would love a team of 11 Azpilicueta’s, now that’s some backing by a manager. Cahill and Terry at 6.5 both carry an aerial threat, but with the new bonus system favouring wing backs a little more, it may be smart business to save the 0.5. If you have the spare cash, Terry has to be the number one choice. Chelsea have some decent fixtures for the opening 2 months, you can’t go wrong here.
When purchasing defenders for rotation, people often make one mistake. They select players only for their fixtures, without considering how solid that team actually is. Even though Palace’s reliable options are slight more expensive, they had an unbelievable defensive record under the notoriously tight Pulis. Ward has to be the go to option at 5.0, he was fantastic last season. Keep an eye on Mariappa, if he can continue in the right back slot he is great value at 4.5. Some great home fixtures to start the season makes investment in a rotation defence a must.
Everton’s defence was solid all season, picking up 15 clean sheets. Their prospects are a little less convincing this season after a price increase on their main defensive assets. Last season’s bargain Coleman is now priced with Baines at 7.0, if you selected one it would have to be Baines. Howard was fantastic, but compared with De Gea their fixtures are enough to put me off. Jagielka is one to consider, he thrived under the new bonus point system. He would be my pick of the bunch at 5.5. Distin should partner him in defence ahead of Stones. With Arsenal and Chelsea in GW’s 2 and 3 it might be best to avoid them for your GW1 team.
Hull’s great fixtures at home are a great reason to invest, considering they kept 9 clean sheets last season at the KC stadium. The fact that they kept just 2 away makes it pretty clear they should be used for rotation only. It’s vital whether they play 3 or 4 at the back. Chester should be nailed on at 4.5, but his proneness to injury is concerning. My pick of the bunch is Rosenoir, if they play 4 at the back he is incredible value at 4.5. 1 goal, 3 assists and 12 bonus should only increase under the new rules. Bruce (4.0) could get game time if they play 3 at the back, but that currently looks unlikely.
This is a pretty straight forward one for me. They have a tough first few weeks, travelling to Man City and Spurs in August alone. Their defence was horrible last season, keeping only 10 clean sheets. With most of their assets priced at 5.5 or over, I’d be avoiding them with a 10 foot pole. Flanagan is the only cheapish option, but he still has a long way to go. Johnson is your go to man if you believe Rodgers can turn their defensive record around.
Priced in the same bracket as Chelsea, they have a lot to live up to. 16 clean sheets last season proves they’re extremely solid at the back. The key could be the possible signing of Mangala. If he signs they will finally have 2 world class centre backs, possibly allowing them to surpass Chelsea’s defensive assets. Demichellis is on the fringe of their first team and is too risky to pick. Zabaleta is clearly ahead of Sagna, but there’s the risk of rotation. If you’re considering starting off with either, Zabaleta will miss the first few weeks after his extended world cup duties, whilst City’s early fixtures put me off significant investment anyway.
Whilst researching Kompany, I came across a stat that shocked me. I’ve just presumed that he is always the key to the City defence, and these stats may not hold the full truth, but it certainly goes against the belief that City are more solid with Kompany in the starting line-up.
Manchester City with Kompany: 28 games, 9 clean sheets. Clean sheet ratio – 32%
Manchester City without Kompany: 10 games, 7 clean sheets. Clean sheet ratio – 70%
Now I know there’s many other factors including difficulty of fixtures and other defensive errors, but the stats can’t be ignored completely. Even though he’s such a threat off set-pieces, I’d be going for Terry at that price.
Ok sure, United’s fixtures scream clean sheets, but will their defence have what it takes? 2 clean sheets from their 5 pre-season games is promising, but it’s hard to tell exactly how their new system will work in the BPL. Even so, I’m still keen to have at least one in my squad. De Gea is as safe as it gets, good value at 5.5 and worthy of being your sole keeper to kick things off. Jones is my pick of the CB’s, getting the nod ahead of Evans and Smalling. Shaw could be great value if he can nail down the left flank, but he is a risk to begin the season. One that could pay off handsomely I might add. Rafael is injured and can’t yet compete with Valencia for the right wing-back role, whilst Vermaelen looks to be off to Barcelona. A shame. Keep an eye on their centre-back transfer business.
There’s certainly some bargain options in the Toon defence, but everything happens for a reason. Their defence was horrible last season, managing just 10 clean sheets. The real issue is that they weren’t at all reliable, conceding 3 at home to Sunderland one week, before shutting out Spurs the next. If you’re after a rotation pairing, it’s wise to go for those teams who have a certain pattern, for example being extremely solid at home. They did however prove back in 2011/12 that they can provide some great budget options. Coloccini is the only one you should consider at a bargain 4.5, whilst Krul can be a great back-up/rotation keeper. I’m not convinced just yet.
Expectations from the outer are low for the Saints, mainly due to the mass exodus of their key players. Because of this, some budget options may just get a run. Yoshida should be right in the mix, and at 4.5 can provide some solid value. Clyne should be locked on now without Chambers to fight for the right back slot, whilst the left back position is Bertrand’s to lose. It’s a shame that he’s priced at 5.0 rather than 4.5, he could have been great value. How the hell they managed to figure out 30 points in almost 1500 minutes was worthy of a price hike is beyond me. Keep an eye on their defensive signings for the rest of the transfer window, at this stage it’s hard to get a read on how they will travel. It’s certainly risky, but with some great fixtures to kick things off they could be well worth the investment at 4.5, and if Koeman can work a miracle and replicate last season, Clyne may be one of the picks of the season at 5.0.
After a less than spectacular season in 2013, Spurs will be looking for a fresh start under new manager Poccettino. Hopefully he will bring with him a solid defensive structure, just like at Southampton. Vertonghen is always an attacking threat, at 6.0 he could be great value if he can replicate his attacking form of 2012/13, when he managed 5 goals and 3 assists. He should partner one of 3 other options in Dawson, Chiriches and Kaboul. Avoid all 3. Walker has the right back slot to himself, whilst Davies must fight it out with Rose for the left back role. Assou-Ekotto has passed his used by date and shouldn’t be a threat. I’d back Davies to get the nod, making him the pick of the bunch at 5.0. I couldn’t select Lloris ahead of De Gea. Some decent fixtures should get their defensive campaign off to a solid start.
They are usually reliable at the back, but the loss of Pulis proved to be the start of a new era. Whilst they’re looking much better going forward, something had to be sacrificed. 9 clean sheets last season was their worst effort in a long while, however there is always hope for optimism. 7 of their clean sheets came at home, signalling a simple fact. They are perfect for rotation, but cannot be relied upon away from home. Cameron looks to be the best budget option at 4.5, however with competition now coming from Bardsley we may need to fork out the extra cash for Huth. I’ve had Begovic for most of pre-season, but their poor defensive record away from home concerns me. They do however have some great home fixtures in the first 2 months, and should be strongly considered in a rotating defence.
Home clashes against Burnley and West Brom in GW 2 and 3 means we must consider a member of the Swansea defence. With Davies transfer to Tottenham, we have a no brainer alert. Taylor will be locked on at left back and is fantastic value at 4.5. The big question is how Swansea’s defence will fare. 8 shut-outs last season was nothing to shout home about, and Monk’s keenness to rejuvenate their attacking form hurt their clean sheet chances dramatically. Monk managed just two clean sheets, both at home against relegated pair Cardiff and Norwich in his 14 league fixtures in charge. Something to consider, but with a great rotation pairing lined up with Stoke, punting on the two clubs may we worth a shout. By alternating for every home fixture, you’re sitting pretty for the first 14 gameweeks (AVL, BUR, WBA, LEI, SOT, NEW, NEW, SWA, LEI, WHM, ARS, BUR, CPL, QPR).
Finally we have the Hammers, who are having the most disastrous pre-season imaginable. Not only has Carroll gone and ruined his ankle again, they are yet to win a single game. They even lost to Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix. Big Sam has identified that he wants to play a more expansive brand of football, all plotting against a good start to their campaign at the back. A tough set of fixtures rules them out for me to begin with, let them hit form first.
So that covers the defenders! For the record, guys like Vlaar are only relevant once their transfers are completed and confirmed. If you feel I’ve missed anyone from the left over teams, feel free to query me in the comments below. I’ll see you all again for the midfielders soon! Not long to go now…