Gone are the days when big-name strikers and marquee midfielders hogged the fantasy spotlight. Modern football has seen the rise of the attacking fullback, and that real-life evolution has turned defenders into valuable assets in the scoring framework of official FPL as well.
Defenders have become the best value-for-money position in FPL, and with their increased attacking, they’re among the top earners overall. Last season two defenders finished with over 200 points: Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (208) and Man City’s Joao Cancelo (201). No forward at any price point cleared that mark, and the three midfielders who did cost £13.0m (Salah), £12.0m (Son), and £8.5m (Bowen). TAA comes in at just £7.5m, while Cancelo is even lower at £7.0m. This is why many FPL managers have decided that the best way to construct their squads is to build from the back.
Choosing the right defenders has therefore become essential, so let’s run through the best names to consider at each FPL price point.
Neco Williams – Nottingham Forest
Min-priced defenders are popular FPL bench fodder because they are among the least-expensive players in the whole game, serving as cover for any outfielder in a squad. Unfortunately the vast majority of them are scrubs for their real-life teams too, so when we find one who is assured of regular starts, we’ve struck fantasy gold.
Williams, a 21-year-old former Liverpool defender, enjoyed a brilliant loan spell with Fulham last season, producing two goals plus two assists in 14 outings during the Cottagers’ Championship-title campaign. He now joins Nottingham Forest as a permanent transfer as the Tricky Trees attempt to avoid a one-and-done season in the Premier League.
Williams’ ownership stands at 24.7% at the time of writing, his low price, security of starts, and two-way return potential suggesting that his ownership will only increase as opening weekend draws nearer and the “mob” discovers this uncut gem.
Sven Botman - Newcastle
Deep-pocketed Newcastle’s financial power has allowed them to make some strong moves in the summer transfer market, one of which was signing Sven Botman from Lille for around £35 million.
The 6’ 5” defender played an important role in Lille’s Ligue 1 title-winning campaign in 2020-21, during which Les Dogues conceded a total of only 23 goals. He now joins a Newcastle side that pulled off a remarkable turnaround under Eddie Howe. The Magpies have only further strengthened their squad with the summer acquisitions of goalkeeper Nick Pope and fullback Matt Targett, among others.
Botman netted three times for Lille last season, so on top of his clean sheet potential he also adds the bonus of some attacking threat. That will make him a popular choice at £4.5m.
For more about Botman, please see our Spotlight article on him.
Oleksandr Zinchenko – Arsenal
The Ukrainian international joined the Gunners’ from Man City where he played a key role in important matches as a left-back. But for his national team he has showed that he can excel as a midfielder too, and that’s what makes him an intriguing asset in FPL.
He’ll definitely own the left back position while Kieran Tierney is out injured; as a former assistant under Pep Guardiola, Mikel Arteta will love having a player who already understands the role of an inverted fullback in a Pep-like system. And even when Tierney returns to fitness, Zinchenko may continue to find opportunities in the starting XI as a midfielder — which would make him an FPL defender playing out-of-position.
Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier warrants special mention here as well. The Magpies have strengthened their defense over the summer, and Trips is nailed-on, and he hogs set pieces. If he can stay healthy this season, then he’s going to pile up FPL points.
Honorable mentions: Arsenal’s Gabriel, Brighton’s Marc Cucurella, Aston Villa’s Matty Cash, and Man City’s Kyle Walker.
Ivan Perisic – Tottenham
Tottenham really looks like a solid team given Antonio Conte’s managerial brilliance and the club’s demonstrated ambition in the summer transfer market. One of those new additions is Ivan Perisic, who joins from Inter Milan. Despite being 33 years of age, he will surely make an impact in the left wing-back position.
Over the past two Serie A campaigns, the Croatian winger scored 12 goals and registered 11 assists. And with Conte’s focus on defensive stability, Perisic will be layering those attacking returns on top of clean sheet points. For me he’s the clear choice at £5.5m.
Honorable mention: Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly
Reece James – Chelsea
A fan-favorite for his mercurial play, James was the joint-top goal-scorer among FPL defenders last season with five, and ranked third for assists with nine. This was despite the fact that due to injuries he played in only 68% of Chelsea’s league matches!
In fact, the Blues’ fullback recorded six double-digit game-weeks in just 22 starts last term, claiming more than 18 points three times. An injury-free Reece James offers massive attacking threat on top of clean sheet potential, all for just £6.0m. It’s no surprise that his name currently appears in 43% of all FPL squads.
Honorable mentions: Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, Man City’s Ruben Dias, and Liverpool’s Joel Matip.
Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool
He’s the only option at this price point, but he also happens to be a good one. The Dutch international is dangerous from set pieces and has been a massive threat at the far end of the pitch. VvD had the third-most shots in the box and the second-most headed attempts on goal among defenders last season. His attacking prowess, combined with Liverpool’s tight defense, means that he offers many ways to make good on his FPL owners’ investment.
Cancelo – Manchester City
Manchester City’s Cancelo has become one of the best fullbacks in Europe. The 28-year-old broke the 200-point barrier in FPL last season, one of only five players in the entire game to do so. He could fare even better this season, given that new target-man Erling Haaland will be hungry to convert Cancelo-service into goals. One of the players least prone to Pep roulette, he started in all but two of the Citizens’ league matches last season. And City’s league-best defense means clean sheets will be there for him too.
Andy Robertson – Liverpool
Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson deserves mention at this price point as well. The Scotland international piled up 186 FPL points last season, and played a key role for the Reds with his marauding threats down the left channel.
Despite featuring in only 29 games, Robertson scored three goals in the league and assisted another 10. He’s a top player worth his FPL price tag.
Trent Alexander-Arnold - Liverpool
No-brainer here. Only Mo Salah and Son Heung-min earned more points than TAA last season. Besides, he’s the only FPL defender who wears this price tag, so...
Easily the top-scoring defender in the last FPL campaign, he cleared the 200-point mark for the second time in three seasons. The 23-year-old scored only twice in 32 EPL appearances for the Reds last term, but he also provided 12 assists. He was also a bonus points magnet, with 32.
Given his attacking threat, top-class passing and delivery, set-piece duties, and clean sheet potential, he fully justifies his status as most the expensive FPL defender in the game.
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Which premium defender is the best choice for the 2022-23 FPL campaign?
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