The Headline Pick: Luke Shaw (£5.5m) – Manchester United
Following a fantastic campaign for England in Euro 2020, it’s no surprise to see Luke Shaw as the highest owned player in Fantasy Premier League ahead of the new season. His attacking threat down the left has come to the fore: he managed one goal and five assists last season, before netting a goal and three assists at Wembley this summer.
Given the signings Manchester United have made this summer, including winger Jadon Sancho, I can only see the team improving as a whole, which will of course be good news for Shaw as a fantasy asset. Manchester United kept 13 clean sheets last season: that puts them in the top four clubs from a defensive perspective.
It’s also worth noting that Manchester United have one of the kindest fixture schedules to start the new season. In their first four games they face Leeds United, Southampton, Wolves and Newcastle United. Three of those sides were ranked in the bottom half of the table for goals scored last campaign, so there’s a good chance of clean sheets.
Manchester United are now available to back at 13/8 to keep a clean sheet against Leeds United in their opening game.
The Budget Pick: Ben White (£4.5m) – Arsenal
Ben White has earned a big money move to Arsenal, offering us fantasy managers a rare value route into the defence of one of the big six. We saw how crucial he was to Brighton in the second half of last campaign: only Manchester City and Chelsea kept more clean sheets than the nine shut-outs Graham Potter’s side managed.
It’s now a third different defence for Ben White in three seasons, but you can bet that he delivers again this campaign. Arsenal themselves vastly improved over the final half of their campaign, reducing the number of shots conceded, big chances conceded and increasing their clean sheets.
The fixture list is a mixed bag for Mikel Arteta’s men, with games against promoted sides Brentford and Norwich, plus clashes with Chelsea and Manchester City. However, at this price, it’s easy to rotate White with other budget defenders and put him on your fantasy bench in the more challenging fixtures.
The VAR Pick: Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) – Liverpool
Liverpool’s Andy Robertson put together another consistent fantasy season in 2020/21, surpassing 20 fantasy returns combined: one goal, eight assists and 12 clean sheets. With Virgil Van Dijk back at full fitness, we should see an increase in clean sheets for Liverpool in this campaign, which gives us more reason to invest in their defence.
While many fantasy managers will be looking to Liverpool’s opposite flank and Trent Alexander-Arnold to start the season with, there’s a case for going with the cheaper option at left-back, or even both if you can afford it! Robertson is the VAR pick as he had more touches in the opposition box than any other defender last season, with a huge 98!
Liverpool are another side with a great run of games to start the season: they play all three promoted teams over their first eight games, while also meeting Burnley, Leeds United and Crystal Palace. Given the various ways Robertson can accumulate fantasy points, you’re likely to start him in every game, irrespective of fixture difficulty.
Liverpool are available to back at 11/10 to keep a clean sheet against Norwich in Gameweek 1.
The Sleeper Pick: Michael Keane (£5.0m) – Everton
Everton defenders are going slightly under the radar ahead of the new campaign and while there has to be caution urged on Merseyside after Carlo Ancelotti’s shock exit from Goodison Park, Rafa Benitez should keep things tight. Everton impressed in their final ten matches of last campaign, keeping five clean sheets – more than any other side.
One key benefactor of this upturn in form was Michael Keane, rated as one of the best defenders during the run-in in terms of fantasy points accumulated. He’s in less than 5% of fantasy squads right now. He’s always finds a way of accumulating points throughout the season, with three goals and one assist last campaign. He’s a constant aerial threat on set-pieces.
Taking a longview of the fixtures, the Toffees face just one top four side from last campaign in their opening 11 fixtures and so are worth backing from the start. Keep an eye on who Everton recruit this summer: a new attacking right-back signing could pave the way for three centre-backs and further improvements defensively.
The Wildcard Pick: Ben Chilwell (£6.0m) – Chelsea
Selecting a Chelsea player in Fantasy Premier League always comes with jeopardy with Thomas Tuchel as their manager: he’s taken the tinkerman crown from Pep Guardiola since arriving at Stamford Bridge. However, the Chelsea defence have been particularly tantalising since he took the reins, keeping 11 clean sheets in the second half of last season.
Ben Chilwell is arguably the most attacking of Chelsea’s defenders, either in a back four or five, although he does often see his minutes managed with Marcos Alonso. He was preferred in Chelsea’s victorious Champions League final, so he is expected to keep his place as first choice left-back.
Chilwell managed nine attacking returns last season: three goals and six assists. He managed those returns from 27 appearances – scale that up for the whole season and he could provide a monster FPL score. Chelsea do have a tough start to the campaign though, facing Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City in their first six games.
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