FPL

2 weeks ago

FPL Value In Promoted Players - Defenders

As we approach the new Premier League season, our quest for statistical analysis continues. This week, we are looking at the value that promoted players could provide throughout the next eight months.

In our previous offering, we looked at the men between the sticks, and with that in mind, it makes logical sense to analyse the group of players that operate in front of them, as we make a case for the defence.

Read more: FPL Value in Promoted Players: Goalkeepers

Defenders

Be it a flat back four or three central defenders, defence is a key component in any Premier League outfit, and this is arguably of greater importance for teams that have just come up from the EFL Championship.

A perfect example of this would be Sheffield United last season and when you consider that they conceded just 39 goals all season, this was the undoubted bedrock of such an impressive campaign under Chris Wilder.

Not to mention the added importance that comes with this, when you look at the number of goals that the Bramall Lane outfit scored last season (39), it reinforces the adage that if you do not give away goals, you won’t lose football matches.

The Blades were undoubtedly the FPL darlings of last season and this data snapshot will tell you why:

Player

Club

Points

Alexander-Arnold

LIV

210

Robertson

LIV

181

van Dijk

LIV

178

Doherty

WOL

167

Lundstram

SHU

144

Tarkowski

BUR

143

Baldock

SHU

142

Stevens

SHU

142

Egan

SHU

133

 

Of the nine highest scoring defenders in last season’s FPL game, Sheffield United players found themselves ranked 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th – while we should not forget an honourable mention to Chris Basham who also chipped in with 123 points and finished 15th in the rankings.

 

Historical Data

As far as promoted defenders and their performance, can this cluster of high scoring Sheffield United players be considered a rather freak occurrence? We can only answer this by looking at the four previous Premier League seasons and the highest-ranked players from the promoted criteria.

Player

Club

Points

Season

Ranking

Daniels

BOU

130

2016

10

Gibson

MID

121

2017

14

Lascelles

NEW

116

2018

15

Doherty

WOL

144

2019

11

 

For each of the highest-ranking promoted defenders, it is fair to say that their respective points hauls were solid but not necessarily spectacular. If we take an overall glance at this selected sample, we now know:

The average ranking for the highest scoring defender (between 2016 and 2019): 12.5
The average points for the highest scoring defender (between 2016 and 2019): 127.75

Therefore, in the four previous seasons before the end of the 2019/20 campaign, it is fair to say that there was some value in selected a promoted defender, but certainly nothing in the way of a team cluster.

To give this notion something towards further credence, let us look at the rankings of the second-highest scoring defender (for promoted clubs) across the 2015/16 to 2018/19 seasons:

2015/16 – Cook (Bournemouth) 130 points, ranked 23rd
2016/17 – Keane (Burnley) 113 points, ranked 20th
2017/18 – Zanka (Huddersfield) 107 points, ranked 25th
2018/19 – Boly (Wolves) 120 points, ranked 16th

Even the second-highest promoted defender per season is still rarely threatening the top 20 in terms of overall rankings

Only Wolves’ Willy Boly who has entered this select club, after finishing 16th last season.

What is interesting though is that on three of the four occasions, the first and second-highest scoring defenders in these four seasons come from the same club – the only difference 2017/18 when the representation comes from Newcastle and Huddersfield.

Read more: FPL&FanTeam Premium Assets for Opening Gameweeks

Promoted Defenders vs Goalkeepers

Now that we know that a cluster of high scoring defenders is very rare and usually defenders rank lower than when compared to goalkeepers, we need to ask ourselves why the second part of this series find themselves further down the rankings.

The answer will come from the goalkeeper’s ability to earn points from multiple saves and with this additional metric in their locker, it means even a shaky defence could see the shot-stopper earn some extra points for his efforts.

This means we can surmise that a promoted defence will be kept rather busy and although clean sheets may elude them, the player behind the back three/four can at least attribute points to his own points haul.

Therefore, on the evidence of the first two positional categories, there is arguably more value in opting for a promoted goalkeeper rather than a promoted defender

That’s not to say, the latter should be ignored though.

Another thing to take into consideration is the positional variation that you will find within this and the next two parts of the series. By this, we mean the comparative roles that can be played, than opposed to a goalkeeper being only that.

Do we also need to consider whether these defenders are full-backs or centre-backs? In all honesty, we probably do and on the evidence of the last five seasons, we are provided with something of a mixed bag.

We have two genuine centre-backs, two full-backs and a player who took advantage of an arguably incorrect positional classification (that being John Lundstram at Sheffield United), so the variance in the sample here suggests no correlation between the types of highest points scorers and their exact positions.

As always, the focus now shifts to the promoted trio of West Brom, Leeds and Fulham, and knowing what we know, you may want to consider a promoted defender, but perhaps not as much as you would one of their goalkeepers.

Dan the Stat Man
Author

Dan the Stat Man

Armed with experience as a data analyst, Dan has become a successful writer during the past few years, combining his loves of football and statistics.