Thou shalt not pass! Time to run the rule over the defenders of the game

Guest post by Chris Martin aka Sutton_Chris

So, using our trusty spreadsheet once more (big thanks to Paul for sharing and to Frank for sharing the original raw data), it’s time to take a look at the defenders of the Dream Team game and see if we can pull out any useful information from the season just passed.

From Paul’s spreadsheet I’ve added the same three columns which I used for the goalkeeper analysis:

  • PPM (points per million) for the starting price
  • PPM for the end price
  • Average PPM between the above two figures

When these values are calculated and the average PPM is sorted from best to worst within the spreadsheet, the first thing that jumps out and me are the starting prices of those top 12 defenders. Only one player had a starting value of above £3m or above within those dozen (Maguire). This illustrates that value can indeed be found within the defenders category to maybe “enable” the big bucks to go on those midfield and striking positions.

Another stand-out within that top 12 is that 4 of them are Sheffield United defenders. As unsurprising as it may seem now I’ll bet nobody could have predicted this result at the start of the season. They proved to be a very well organised, hardworking outfit with an intelligent manager at the helm. A remarkable first season in the Premier League for The Blades.

Another stand-out figure for me is the sheer number of minutes Maguire played last season. Apart from Coady of Wolves, no other defender could actually get close to him for game time. He also seemed to be a bit of a Whoscored favourite with the ratings system as well which all explains just why he scored so highly from a points perspective.

If we turn our attention to those full-backs who like to fly forwards and join in the action, it’s unsurprising to see TAA and Robbo topping the charts of the assist column with 15 and 12 respectively. Serge Aurier was the surprise 3rd placed defender within this category.

How about goal threat? We find Doherty leading the way here with 6 which emphasises how he still loves to get forwards when he gets the chance. VVD shows his threat from corners by finishing in second place with 5 goals.

“But what about clean sheets?” I hear you all cry. After all, this is the bread and butter for the boys at the back. Well there two teams especially who stood out within the Dream Team game and these were Man Utd and Wolves. As Paul has alluded to previously, part of this could be put down to playing inferior opposition in the earlier stages of the Europa League. No doubt rotation would sometimes occur, but when you look at Maguire who played most games this season, he managed to amass an impressive 23 clean sheets in total. Will the defenders of Spurs, Leicester and Arsenal be line for a few easy clean sheets when they compete in the Europa League, with Spurs having to go through the qualifying rounds before then group stages? Food for thought.

The defence is certainly an area where a few budget gems can be unearthed. I’m keen to learn the prices of Leed’s fullbacks this season for instance as I think Leeds stand a decent chance of doing well in the Premier League under the stewardship of Bielsa. Bielsa has a superb reputation as one of the best coaches in the game and Pep adores him. I think Leeds have the potential to do similar things to Sheff Utd this season and whilst I don’t necessarily think they’ll be as tight at the back, they will surprise a few teams next term in my opinion. Ayling and Dallas both managed 5 and 4 goals respectively with them sharing 7 assists between them. Dallas is actually an out of position left-back as I understand it and this could further add to his appeal if he’s classed as a defender but is later deployed further up the field. In terms of conceding goals, Leeds were able to keep 22 clean sheets (5 more than any other team) last season, conceding just 35 goals in total for their Championship campaign. Of the other teams that came up, no other defenders from the promoted teams appeal to me at the time of writing.

So is going “big at the back” dead as an option now? I think it would be folly to rule it out as a strategy all together. I believe the figures for defenders this season (predominantly City and Liverpool assets) have been skewed somewhat due to the injuries of both Alisson and Laporte respectively. For instance, Adrian came in during Alisson’s spell on the sidelines and played 17 games, achieving a rather paltry 3 clean sheets in that time. Now let’s presume that Alisson didn’t get injured and that he played in 15 of those 17 games, achieving 9 clean sheets within that period rather than Adrian’s 3. What would that have done to the points totals of those Liverpool defensive assets? Let’s give VVD,

Robbo and TAA an average points return of 6 pts for each of those extra clean sheet games (6 of). Here’s what the season totals may have looked like:

TAA – 246
VVD – 233
Robbo – 206

All of a sudden those three players are achieving points returns which propel them up the points standings. They may well have scored a higher average than 6 points for those games knowing what those three players are all capable of. Whilst this may all be pie in the sky, I think it’s worth illustrating that by tweaking a set of circumstances last season just a little, you can see that there may be life in the old dog yet when it comes to considering the “big at the back” strategy.

23 thoughts on “Thou shalt not pass! Time to run the rule over the defenders of the game

  1. Great article. I really like the title.

    Harry Maguire was one player I identified quickly from my last pre season preparation. Now like I previously mentioned I don’t look at his stats in great detail (Apps, PPM – maybe I should ) but gave him a score based on my observations, his strengths and weaknesses as well taking the club in consideration. So when I did his final score, I was slightly surprised that his tally (8.6) was just below Van Dijk (9.0) who cost was nearly twice as much. So I brought him pretty much straight away in my TFF game and played a big part in helping finish in the top 50. Why not straight away in the SDT game you may ask? Well, I had my doubts about his number of minutes especially in Europe. I was right in a way as he only played in 3 of the 6 group games (Jones took over his role in the team) and I might be wrong but I don’t Utd kept many clean sheets in period Aug-Dec compared to Jan-Jul. One of the reasons why is probably Utd was missing the defensive qualities of Matic who is missing (dropped or injured I can’t remember) from the first team in the first half of the season as Fred was playing more but is a bit forward thinking (my observation shows he takes a lot of long shots without much success). So Matic in the Utd team, in comes Maguire for SDT game in January as wrote this at the time ‘Man Utd have been defensively good recently and are starting to pick up a few clean sheets. They do face Liverpool this weekend but their fixtures afterwards are not that bad. Maguire is a defender that is similar to Van Dijk: he will play in nearly every game (league, FA cup and Europa league) and he can be a threat at set pieces. He has not scored yet but usually scores two or three goals a season so I am hoping he will get me some goals before the season is over.’ He then scored three goals and I feel he should scored in the FA cup semi final . Now the problem will be not whether I put him in team next season as he will probably at the 5m mark.

    1. Thanks RR. I think you identify a really important aspect of the game here that often gets overlooked when it comes to selecting players. Who are those players that are playing alongside our targets? As you say, for United last season, upon Matic’s return to the starting XI, they began to look a much more solid outfit from a defensive perspective.

      The stats alone don’t ever really tell the story with situations like this and those unsung hero’s, that will never be Fantasy Football options themselves, can however help influence our decisions just by their inclusion in the starting line-ups week on week.

      Players such as Kante, J Henderson, Fabinho, Fernandinho etc can really influence a team as a whole and when players like these go missing from the starting line-ups, it can often have a detrimental effect on those assets you’d expect to score well. So when you look at those starting line-ups, don’t just focus on making sure your assets are starting………..take a look at the rest of the team sheet too and you’ll begin to get an idea of which players have both a positive and negative impact on your asset. These finer details can sometimes be the difference between success and failure.

  2. Keep up the good work guys I’m soaking it all up 👍…… jumping the gun here but thoughts on Timo Werner?

    1. Not seen Werner by the eye test but I heard he plays as a wide forward on the left so his role might be different at Chelsea as may be play through the middle. How will he perform? Anybody’s guess but good opening fixtures would help him to settle in.

  3. yep , good reads 🙂 .. Top Defenders seem to have great PPM , just makes them undroppable even though we all want those great midfield/striker assets

  4. Just a question: Do Liverpool defenders offer value for money? TAA granted may see his price increase to a predicted 5.5m or 6, Van Dijk price might to stay the same at 6, Robertson increase to 5. The cheapest best defensive option likely to be Alisson (will see price decrease so 4.0) as no idea if Mario or Gomez is first choice.

    1. I would be very surprised if TAA is not 6m, I think he could be value for money if less than that. I would expect Robbo to be 5 at least, more likely 5.5, I don’t think Liverpool signing a new lb will make any difference to his minutes either.
      I think it’s important to bear in mind that if price changes do revert to 0.3 per week (and based on 2 weeks scores) that higher priced players need more points to maintain their price, and if Liverpool for example only keep one clean sheet in the first 3 games you could quickly find yourself half a mil down on each player

    2. Well each one of them returned less points than the previous season (VVD and Robbo significantly so) so I’m not sure that warrants a price rise at all, if anything VVD and Robbo could possibly drop? Trent should either remain or have a very small rise.

      All that being said I’m not going to try and second guess what DT Towers come up with. I’ll worry about it when they launch the game or begin to drip feed those prices.

      1. I think the point I am trying to make it is that for the Liverpool defence may not offer good PPM. If that is so, should we ignore them or focus on the fact that they are still likely to the highest scoring defenders as well being the most expensive in the game. A Liverpool defence is a powerful weapon in the game.

      2. I don’t see Robbo dropping, at 4.5 at the start of last season and scoring 170 points anything less than 5m is too cheap. Yes I think you have to take into account the players score change from the previous season but also their score in relation to the other players in their position and overall in the game. Their is also the fact Alisson missed a lot of games (as you’ve previously mentioned Chris) has dragged the scores down significantly, whether that will be taken into account regarding the pricing is yet to be seen.

        My take on ppm is that it has a diminishing effect as player prices rise. I think it is reasonable to expect a 3m player to be able to score 150 points but a 7m player is highly unlikely to 350 points, however you can’t expect to win with only players who have a high ppm, you still need the high priced players big points totals, yes you can win without having Salah all season but you can’t win without having any 5m plus players and their big points. It’s up to the individual where to draw the line but a 40 ppm for over 5m players seems more realistic to me. Can a 5m player get 200? 6m get 240? 7m get 280? I think they can and you will need the 40 ppm players to win.
        There is also the fact that a player can be on course for a 50+ ppm season for half the year and then completely tail off. Take Sterling for example, I don’t know the exact figures but I would think he was close to a 25 ppm for half the season then didn’t score a point for 3 months.

        1. Agreed District – a team purely based on points per million wouldn’t score enough to finish in a good position and those big hitters need to be accommodated to get their big point halls. For me, it’s more useful in finding those players who can fill the gaps.

          1. Excellent points by District. One of the reasons why I don’t invest much time on stats like PPM. Like I mentioned before, I don’t think my game has suffered as a result.

        2. Spot on District. PPM only goes so far and I’ll be honest, I rarely apply it myself to those premium assets. Handy though for trying to potentially unearth those enablers.

          I take your point on Robbo and with this only being my 3rd season playing I’m not totally accustomed to the price swings between seasons if I’m honest.

          Some more work for you there Paul, a column with a 40 ppm calculation put into that spreadsheet. 😉

          1. How do you calculate points per million for players from promoted teams? and without the players prices being released?

            1. You can’t 😂. If I’m being honest – I can’t see me considering any of those players anyway.

          2. Haha I should be able to add that in. I’m just waiting to add the new prices as well when they are officially released.

    3. I think for me it’s all going to come down to those starting prices. I’ll be trying to forecast what I’d expect each player to score and will compare this to their price. Regardless of this, I still think it would be risky to not have a Liverpool defender.

  5. Just catching up on comments, once again a big thank you to Chris for pulling this together. A really fantastic piece of insightful information.

    1. I enjoy doing them and thanks for the kind words guys. I’m no expert with this game by any means but I’m very keen to improve and learn and to ultimately share my findings and thoughts. The amount of time I’m actually spending thinking about SDT at the minute is insane. 😳😂

      1. I know the feeling 😂 although I’ve been flat out the past two days with other things. Great to come back to so many comments though.

  6. Great article Chris – really got me thinking about ‘the back’ (oh err) and also really enjoyed reading through the comments as well!

    Paul having these guest articles from the likes of Chris & RR only help to enhance the content of the site and well worth the £3.5 or £6 alone!

    I’m actually buzzing right now with excitement waiting for full launch and to get selecting my draft team! Good luck all!

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