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.