FPL: Time to Back the Fantasy Fullbacks?

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There is a temptation in Fantasy Football to splurge your entire budget on premium attackers whilst spending the bare minimum on your centre-backs and fullbacks.

It’s hardly surprising really, it’s called Fantasy football after all. In what fantasy do you not have as much goalscoring talent as possible? Who really wants to be watching a match in the hope that there’s not a goal? Well, take a look at the top-scoring players in the game so far and you might change your mind…

Four of the current five top-scoring players are defenders: Alonso, Holebas, Mendy and Robertson. They are accompanied by four-goal Sadio Mané, a lonely attacker completing the top five. Robertson aside, none of these defenders have more than two clean sheets – which is where you expect the bulk of your defender’s points to come from. So what gives? With just seven clean sheets between the four of them, how are they ahead of the big-ticket attackers?

Assist kings

Between them, the four left backs have racked up a staggering 16 assists so far this campaign – that’s over one-third of their cumulative points. Whether it’s Alonso winning penalties, Mendy raining down crosses, Robertson sliding balls across the box or Holebas’ set piece deliveries, each has begun the season with strong attacking returns. Of the non-defenders, only Callum Wilson has more assists (three) than any of this quartet. Mendy and Alonso top the assist charts, with five apiece.

Positioning

Alonso, Mendy and Robertson regularly find themselves deep in the opposition half during attacks. This, of course, has a major impact on their chances of attacking returns. This is partly due to the nature of the modern game – inverted wingers often drift inside onto their stronger foot and create space in wide areas for fullbacks to run into. This is particularly evident in teams that dominate possession. Deep-lying defences often allow the fullbacks to support almost every attack. Taking Mendy vs Huddersfield as an example, only three Man City players had a higher average position than the Frenchman, who registered two assists. Alonso’s penalty awards this season, however controversial they may be, have come because he found himself in the box in open play.

Bonus point magnets

Bonus points are awarded to whoever registers the highest score in the Bonus Points System (BPS). Players’ actions on the field result in earning or losing BPS points. Players receive between zero and three bonus points depending on their BPS score. The four fullbacks have amassed 26 bonus points between them so far this season from a maximum of 48. Again, only Sadio Mané is up there with them. Further inspection of the BPS indicates why this might be.

As defenders, these players will regularly earn BPS points through defensive work such as clean sheets, tackles, recoveries, blocks and interceptions, but they’ll also receive points from assists, crosses and creating chances. A player can earn four BPS points from a single cross even if it’s not converted, and when you consider that Mendy has attempted a staggering 27 crosses so far this season, it’s hardly surprising he’s regularly earning bonus points. Against Wolves he received two bonus points despite not keeping a clean sheet and making no attacking contributions!

Multiple avenues

We’ve already highlighted the propensity of these players to attack and how they can benefit from the BPS. This means that even if they concede a goal or don’t register an attacking return, they can still deliver points. When these elements all come together, you’re looking at a huge points haul. Don’t think of them as expensive defenders, think of them as cheap attackers that have the added appeal of getting three more clean-sheet points than midfielders.

Players to watch

As well as the four players highlighted above, other defenders have shown signs of being able to deliver similar results and should definitely be considered. Walker, Trippier, Bellerin, Monreal, Shaw, Van Aanholt and Pereira, for instance, have all been contributing to attacks. If you can’t quite stretch your budget that far then Cedric, Yedlin and Doherty have all been playing in advanced positions in recent weeks. With these players, more attacking returns could follow, at a fraction of the cost

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