As Fantasy managers we’re all guilty of paying too much attention to the goalscorers and the Fancy Dans – or rather the Fancy Edens, Santis and Shinjis – but what about the case for the defence?
After a Gameweek 7 which saw goals for Leighton Baines (£7.5m), Aleksandar Kolarov (£5.7m), Branislav Ivanovic (£7.2m), Steven Caulker (£4.7m), Jonny Evans (£5.8m), Patrice Evra (£6.8m) and two from Jose Fonte (£4.0m) – not to mention the large amount of clean sheet and bonus points handed out to defenders – perhaps it’s about time to appreciate the men at the back as much as those further forward.
A solid back line can make or break Fantasy seasons in the same way that a Polish roof can determine whether a game goes ahead or not, and we start our celebration of the often underappreciated with the man at the top.
Baines is the most expensive defender in Fantasy Premier League, yet there aren’t many better ways of spending imaginary money outside a game of Monopoly.
With two goals and two assists so far this season, Baines might be behind Chelsea’s three-goal Ivanovic in terms of points at the moment, but the Everton man’s penalty taking prowess suggests that it won’t be long before he bypasses the Serb at the top of the defenders’ table.
He scored a penalty in Everton’s last match away at Wigan, but it is Baines’ frequent forward runs and regular chance creation which make him worth the admittedly expensive punt. Money doesn’t so much talk as shout in the case of Baines, but with the Blues no doubt confident of taking something from their trip to Loftus Road to face QPR on Sunday, he could be a man to bank on again and in the weeks and months to come.
Whilst Baines’s price indicates that most would have predicted him to be a defensive star throughout the campaign, there are cheaper options who have also muscled their way towards the top.
At the start of the season the odds of Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson (£5.1m) being a hit amongst Fantasy bosses would have been as high as Felix Baumgartner was at one point on Sunday evening, but a series of consistent displays have seen the Gunners full-back find himself in more than a fifth of teams.
Having played every minute of all seven of Arsenal’s league games this season – and seen his Fantasy price rise by almost £0.1m per game as a result – Jenkinson appears to have matured as a player from the Bambi roller-skating on ice tribute act he often resembled during his debut Arsenal campaign, and with a potential England call-up on the horizon he’ll be in a mood to impress when Arsenal go to Norwich on Saturday evening. A clean sheet looks on that horizon too.
Manchester United and Liverpool will also be confident of keeping their own sheets spotless as they host Stoke and Reading respectively, and whilst Rafael (£5.9m) and Glen Johnson (£6.4m) are perhaps the best long-term defensive options from both sides, Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom (£4.5m) presents an interesting choice after starting the Reds’ last two league games. The 19-year-old has slotted into the team at right-back, and picked up three bonus points in Liverpool’s last match against Stoke.
It is to a man who has long left Liverpool behind that we turn to for our third main defensive choice though, as John Arne Riise (£5.5m) looks to help build on Fulham’s reasonably optimistic start to the season.
The Norwegian – who has over 100 caps for his country – has yet to score for the west Londoners, but he has contributed three assists so far this season, and will be hoping to add to that total when Aston Villa head to Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon. Paul Lambert’s side haven’t exactly been prolific this season, and so the potential for clean sheet points cannot be ruled out.
They might not be as glamorous as the ones you get from your big name attackers but they all count the same in the end.
The Fancy Leightons, Carls and Johns deserve their moment in the spotlight.