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Lucas Digne
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Player Analysis

FPL.com Price Review: Defenders

by Sean Sullivan
Updated On: July 10, 2019, 5:21 pm ET

Lights, camera, FPL!

Tinker season is underway, and that means the return of the FPL Price Review Series.  Just like last season, Andrew Gastelum (@gastelumEPL) and I will run through each position and highlight our favorite players in the FPL.com format.  On the heels of Andrew's look at the forwards, the second edition of FPL Price Review Series is a look at the defenders.

 
FORWARDS | GOALKEEPERS (Thursday) | MIDFIELDERS (Friday) 

As expected, Liverpool duo Andrew Robertson (£7.0) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.0) are the most expensive players at the position.  Only three players provided more points than Robertson, who's 213 points were the most ever by a defender in a single season.  Alexander-Arnold, meanwhile, finished as the eighth highest scoring player across all positions (185 points) and placed third in assists (13). Coming in just below the two Liverpool full-backs at £6.5 is their teammate Virgil Van Dijk, as well as Marcos Alonso and Aymeric Laporte.  Of the notable price increases, budget heroes Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5) and Matt Doherty (£6.0) have risen by 2.0m and 1.5m, respectfully.  With all the price rises to take into consideration, let's look at some positively priced picks for the 2019/20 season. 

 

Defenders 

Lucas Digne, Everton (£6.0)

Digne is the premium defender who offers the most bang for your buck.  He was the eighth highest scoring defender last season with 158 points, mostly thanks to his abilities as a scorer and a provider.  The Frenchman was one of eight defenders with four or more goals, but just one of three to notch four or more assists as well. In addition to his nine FPL goal involvements, Digne led all defenders in minutes per chance created (supplying one every 42 minutes), placed seventh in shots (34), and led the league in crosses (280).  Looking at his numbers across the board, he stacks up rather well with Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold

Digne’s body of work is supplemented by Everton’s inviting early run of fixtures.  The Toffees won’t face a top-six side until Manchester City in GW6 and will have just one more encounter, against Tottenham in GW11, in their opening 14 matches.  With all three newly promoted clubs included in that span, Digne is well worth his £6.0 starting price.  

 

GW

Opponent

GW

Opponent

1

Crystal Palace (A)

8

Burnley (A)

2

Watford (H)

9

West Ham (H)

3

Aston Villa (A)

10

Brighton (A)

4

Wolves (H)

11

Tottenham (H)

5

Bournemouth (A)

12

Southampton (A)

6

Sheffield United (H)

13

Norwich City (H)

7

Manchester City (H)

14

Leicester City (A)

José Holebas, Watford (£5.0)

The Watford left-back has gained a reputation as the quintessential 'hit-or-miss' defender.   Holebas posted career numbers in goals (3), assists (7) and total points (93) last season but also earned the joint-most yellow cards (12) of all defenders.  While his disciplinary issues are a headache some managers won't want to deal with, the Greece international's body of work in 2018/19 suggests he's underpriced at £5.0.

Playing as a wing-back in Watford's 4-2-2-2 formation last season, Holebas created the seventh most chances (38) and eighth most big chances (8) of all defenders.  Compared to all defenders who produced more than 20 scoring chances, his creation rate of one chance every 62 minutes was sixth best. On top of Holebas' open play production patrolling the left flank, he offers set-piece upside as one of Watford's dead-ball specialists.  The 32-year-old handled 65% of Watford's corner kicks last term and ranked third of all defenders in accurate crosses (25) from those situations. 

One issue that hindered his production last season was Watford's defensive record.  The Hornets injury issues saw them shorthanded for most of the campaign, resulting in them conceding the eighth most goals (59) and keeping just seven clean sheets.  With the spine of the backline entering the season fit, plus the addition of Craig Dawson, improvement seems realistic. The combination of offensive contributions and potential for more clean sheets has Holebas primed to outperform his starting price.

 

Matt Targett, Aston Villa (£4.5)

Aston Villa landed Southampton defender Matt Targett to address their need at the left-back position.  All signs point towards Targett—a pacey, attack-minded full-back—displacing current left-back Neil Taylor, who started 31 games for Villa last season, as the first-choice man on the left.  It needs to be noted that clean sheets could be hard to come by for Villa since the club conceded the second-most goals at home (36) during their promotion campaign. Targett, however, isn't a defender who will need tons of clean sheets to be relevant in FPL.

It's a small sample size from Targett's spell filling in for Ryan Bertrand last season, but his attacking figures across 1187 minutes of action suggest the 23-year-old could produce enough to be a fifth defender in FPL.  Compared to defenders who made 10 or more league starts, Targett ranked fourth in minutes per chances created (52). Improvement on that number seems unlikely since Targett, who played primarily as a wing-back role for Southampton, is expected to play in a traditional full-back role for Villa.  The tactical change, though, shouldn't be viewed as a nullification of his ability to create chances. Targett had the highest cross completion rate (29.9%) of all defenders who attempted 70 or more last season and was the seventh best defender in terms of minutes per cross (15.4). If the underlying numbers hold, he could emerge as one of the better options in his price bracket.      

 

Fabián Balbuena/Issa Diop, West Ham United (£4.5)

The case for both Balbuena and Diop is how West Ham United's defense performed with and without them last season.  West Ham conceded 20 goals and earned five clean sheets during the 18 matches with the couple at the heart of the defense.  During the 18 games without both center-backs anchoring the backline, they allowed 35 goals and posted just two clean sheets.

With the duo entering the season as the clear-cut first-choice pairing, FPL managers should give them a look following their season-opener against Manchester City.  Matches against Brighton (a), Watford (a) Norwich City (h) and Aston Villa (a) represent one of the best runs the start of the term has to offer. If I had to pick between the two right now, I would lean towards Balbuena because he's a target on set-pieces.  The Paraguay international had 15 headed attempts on goal from set-pieces last season, matching Aymeric Laporte, Harry Maguire and Ben Mee for eighth-most of all defenders. FPL managers should value Balbuena as a fourth differential defender.