4.5 defenders – all filler, no killer?

The 4.5 million defender(s) in your FPL team are all filler.

…. that didn’t last long!

This is because last season, the vast majority failed to score over 100 points. Further digging into the points score for the top 10 last season, it becomes evident that we need to lower our expectations when looking at this position:

Even among the top scoring 4.5 defenders, all of them relied on appearance points for over 50% of their total score last season. In essence, this means choosing a nailed-every-game 4.5 is the battle half won. This is a point further shown by the fact that then-newly promoted Huddersfield’s defenders Zanka and Schindler appear in 3rd and 4th although more than 7 in 10 of their points are attributable to simply showing up. This means it’s worth including appearance points in any comparative metric in this rare instance because it’s hard currency in this price bracket.

Things changed over as usual when the game reopened. Some of the above (Lascelles, Ward, Tarko) have gone up to 5.0. Others have been downgraded into the category, for example Cedric and Daniels.

Nevertheless, the 4.5s are incredibly important to our sides as enablers. As well as being the guys we rely on to do a job for us in a nice run of fixtures, or come off the bench if there’s a sudden injury, they provide the counterweight to the premium picks elsewhere. As such, including around two of them in our teams is commonplace.

But are any of them any good?

To investigate t his, I’ve taken a selection of players who were in the game last season, loosely based on ownership numbers at the time of writing. Newly promoted players in a “prospecting the prospects” style don’t quite fit here – they’ll score highly due to last season’s performances.

Those in the game last season

James Tomkins – Crystal Palace / 99 points / 3 goals, 9 clean sheets, 8 bonus / 3.54ppg

Tomkins was the top 4.5 in terms of points per game in FPL last season. He missed a fair chunk of the season, appearing in 26.5 games (/90 of his mins), but his contribution on the pitch in terms of scoring 3 goals and keeping 9 clean sheets meant in the time he did play he’d net you 3.54 points per game, which is great at this price point. Tomkins also bagged 8 bonus points, also 8% of his total score. He really came into his own at the end of last season, where he scored twice from nine shots on target in eight games between Gameweeks 30-38. 

Kiko Femenia – Watford / 65 points / 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 clean sheets, 9 bonus / 2.83ppg

Unfortunately, Kiko may not be assured of a place any more under Javier Gracia with the signing of about a million defenders by the Pozzos at Watford. However, if he does start, Kiko is my pick of their assets in an FPL sense due to how much he’s favoured by the BPS system, and was between Gameweeks 1-10 top of their defence’s BPS baseline. This is shown by the fact he picked up 9 bonus points (15% of his total points haul!) despite only appearing in just under 19 instances of full 90 on the field.

Zanka – Brighton / 107 points / 3 assists, 10 clean sheets, 9 bonus / 2.82ppg

Nick’s man “Zanka Claus” and his defensive partner Christian Schindler were practically indistinguishable as assets, with only the three assists managed by the Norwegian proving the difference between the two. Both were heavily fuelled by appearance, playing 38/38 meaning a whopping 71% of their points came from crossing the white line. They both created the same number of chances (nine) over the season, but Zanka had marginally more shots than his German counterpart and was presented with big chances (four to one – all missed). Either way, owning him is only really for a 2 pointer and potentially a cleanie if you strike lucky.

Charlie Daniels – Bournemouth / 94 points / 1 goal, 3 assists, 10 clean sheets, 4 bonus / 2.69ppg

Hero of yesteryear Charlie Daniels saw a regression last season, returning 40 less points than the season before (134 points after four goals and three assists) despite playing only 59 minutes less. A price drop has followed, and Daniels is the most owned 4.5 at the time of writing. However, despite the price decline, Daniels still has very similar stats to his 130 point season in 2016/17. In fact, he actually slightly improved in terms of chance creation(!), up from 28 chances (3 big) to 30 chances (4 big). Dear me. Bournemouth just couldn’t convert last season, finishing in 16th in the overall FPL points table, so maybe he was just unlucky. I am a fan of Steve Cook (11th for shots in the box last season) but now, though initially sceptical, can now see the merit in the “nostalgia pick” of Daniels.

Cedric – Southampton / 85 points / 3 assists, 7 clean sheets, 2 bonus / 2.66ppg

Chandler smile

Cedric only really showed up at the end of last season, creating four big chances in the last eight games as Saints just about stayed up – the top among defenders in that time. If Mark Hughes continues fielding him slightly higher up the pitch, in addition to potentially more clean sheets, could Cedric be the one most likely to bust the barrier at 4.5m? Famously very well statted (at least among us two!), Cedric has only ever broken the 100 point mark once in his three seasons in the Premier League, so don’t hold out too much hope – we’ve both owned him at various points and he’s flattered to deceive. But I can see the value in him too, with the form he ended last season in, and isn’t far from a final day inclusion at the moment for my side.

Dunk – Brighton / 97 points / 1 goal, 1 assist, 10 clean sheets, 7 bonus / 2.63ppg

Dunk ended the season on -3 goal difference, having put the ball past Brighton’s Aussie keeper Mat Ryan on a galling four occasions. I owned him for every time he put the ball in the net I think! He also further frustrated me with seven yellow cards. Despite all this, he currently appears in more Gameweek 1 sides than Duffy due to the yellow flag on the Irishman. Duffy slightly outscored Dunk in the defensive stakes, and also had one more chance than him (28 v 27). However, Dunk had more big chances (four to two) and actually scored, unlike Duffy. In fact, the xG for both remains really high: they were the the highest scoring 4.5s for goal attempts. Could the Seagull’s rock at the back cut out the OGs and earn a 5.0 valuation next year through a strong outing this campaign?

Yedlin – Newcastle / 88 points / 2 assists, 7 clean sheets, 5 bonus / 2.59ppg

Shame Lascelles got the 5.0, he was an excellent FPL asset. Perhaps an outside choice here, but Yedlin’s Newcastle had the meanest defence towards the end of last season. They conceded just 34 big chances in the last 10 games (with only Liverpool and City conceding less) – 6 less than Manchester United. Yedlin or Florian Lejeune emerge as the choices from the Magpies’ defence at 4.5m, with the American owned by more at time of writing. Yedlin created 0.6 chances per game last season (v 0.3 for Lejeune) but has a shot every five games on average versus Lejeune’s once in every two. It’s a poor start for them, but after that it might be worth checking out a Toon army soldier.

Conclusion

Of the guys we’ve looked at, it seems to me the Tomkins, Daniels and Cedric are the three 4.5s to really consider, with the latter two perhaps the ones we should be looking at given the  opening fixtures. Of the newly promoted defenders, we’ll have to wait and see, but I quite like the look of Willy Boly – who won an astonishing 4.1 aerial duels per game (for context, self-proclaimed great defender Dejan Lovren won 3.1 last season) – at Wolves but I’d probably stick with the tried and tested.

If you remember one thing from this article, I hope it’s that 4.5 defenders take more than half of their points from appearance. So it might be best to grab the one you judge the best of a bad bunch in this ‘necessary evil’ category of 4.5 filler enablers. Daniels and Cedric seem to have KPIs (chance creation) going for them (and my personal pick of Cook has the goal threat!), and that’s basically all we need to prefer them versus those like Zanka who just show up for the ride.