Togga veteran @SlyKingTails guides us through the waivers
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Let’s begin by identifying some of the teams I’m looking to target for defensive assets in GW29.
Spurs v HUD H
I imagine some of you are rolling your eyes at this point. I get it. All the Spurs defenders are taken, right? Well, there’s actually a good chance one of them isn’t. That man is Danny Rose. Yes, he hasn’t been playing much at all outside of the occasional FA Cup match with Rochdale. But that’s precisely the reason why I think he’ll start the game against Huddersfield in GW29. The key to this whole argument lies with Tottenham’s crucial Champions League 2nd Leg match against Juventus. The match falls in midweek between two fairly undaunting Premier League fixtures. Ben Davies, who has held the regular left-back role for most of the season, surely can’t be expected to play in all 3 games. At absolute most, I’d expect him to play in 2. And, to be honest, it seems likely Rose will play against both Huddersfield and Bournemouth.
You probably won’t need me to tell you: Spurs fullbacks are dynamite on draft sites like Togga. Of the players to play more than 2 games this season, Davies, Trippier and Aurier ALL fall within the Top 6 when it comes to the highest PPG among defenders. If we exclude Benjamin Mendy who has been injured since September, they’re all in the Top 5.
Danny Rose could also be excellent on Togga if he’s given a chance. Please have a look to see if someone has dropped him in your league. He was free in mine.
Watford v WBA H
Following West Brom’s pitiful display in an absolute must-win home game against Huddersfield (a result which looks to have effectively sealed their relegation), it’s hard to look past Watford for defensive coverage this weekend. While they had only managed to keep 1 clean sheet in their previous 15 games before facing Everton on Saturday, as pointed out by FPL Partridge, there are some statistical signs of improvement under new boss Javi Gracia:
Last 4 GW’s
Shots conceded= 4th best (behind MCI, LIV, TOT)
Goal attempts= 7th best
Trying to stay ahead of the curve
Transfer news expected later today 👀
— FPL Partridge (@FPL_Partridge) February 23, 2018
At a point where fixtures can be tricky to read and clean sheets can appear a bit of a lottery, at least they face weak opposition at home while also offering a good chance of attacking returns. Their fullbacks in particular have a tendency to fly forward and rack up attacking bonuses for crosses and shots. I’d be looking at Daryl Janmaat, certainly as when he’s in the side, he’s one of the league’s premier goal threats from the position.
On Togga, he wins you so many points for crosses, take-ons, chances created and shots on target that, on a good day, his ceiling is around 30 points. That’s pretty unusual for a defender. In GW23, he conceded twice to Southampton and yet still came away with 25 points. In GW26, he conceded to Chelsea and still came away with 19. A silly booking denied him a bigger total in GW28 but, on a week when so many defenders failed to deliver, most people would have been delighted with his 13 points.
There is a caveat with Janmaat and that comes in the shape of Kiko Femenia who has recently returned from injury and looked good himself in a 30-minute cameo off the bench. I’d recommend claiming Janmaat off waivers and then switching over to Femenia if you need to prior to kickoff. It’s very unlikely somebody else in your league will claim Femenia on the chance that he either 1) replaces Janmaat at right-back, or 2) plays in the Deulofeu role this week (as he did when he came on against Everton). Alternatively, Janmaat’s teammate Holebas is another great option due to his set piece responsibilities. Every time he crosses the ball and it makes contact with a Watford player’s head, he wins you a point. If the header the player wins goes on target, you get another two points for a “key pass” or “chance created”. Claiming set piece takers is often a great way to win cheap points in draft fantasy formats that reward things other than goals/assists.
A final caveat with any Watford defensive asset is the team’s Jekyll & Hyde nature. It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve let us all down in a very attractive on-paper fixture, but I’d like to think they’ll show up this time. Their home form has been good under Gracia and the upside their defenders offer is certainly worth the risk.
Liverpool v Newcastle H
Liverpool’s clean sheet record at home has been quietly reliable. A clean sheet here looks more than likely given Newcastle’s troubles in front of goal. Don’t let a Dwight Gayle brace against arguably the league’s worst defence (Bournemouth), a freak Diame tap-in from a corner or Matt Ritchie’s only goal all season convince you that these troubles are over. They’re not.
Aside from Van Dijk (who is almost certainly owned), the best option here looks like being Robertson. If he’s already taken, you may want to speculate on Alexander-Arnold who has started several league games in a row now and may continue to be preferred at right-back over Joe Gomez. Gomez has been slowly recovering from an injury but Klopp may decide that it’s safer to ease him back into action against Porto in midweek given their tie is effectively over. Alexander-Arnold, for his part, is ahead of premium fantasy fullbacks Kyle Walker and Antonio Valencia in terms of his PPG average this season. He’s been very effective when he’s been on the field and is certainly worth a gamble.
Rose, Janmaat and Alexander-Arnold will certainly be at the top of my own list of waiver claims this week.
Onto the other games which stand out to me as having clean sheet potential… though I wouldn’t necessarily know which way to call them:
Burnley v Everton
(two sides which have looked poor in front of goal lately. This one has the feel of the weekend’s Burnley v Southampton game which so nearly rewarded people)
Southampton v Stoke
(two sides which don’t score many goals. Saints have been awful at home while Stoke look to have improved a lot away. Butland’s own goal aside, Stoke actually appeared relatively comfortable against Leicester)
And, if you’re desperate…
Swansea v West Ham
(Swansea have been solid at home recently, though they did go and concede 4 goals to Brighton. West Ham look a lot more dangerous again with Arnautovic, Lanzini and Antonio back from injury. A couple of weeks ago, I’d have loved the look of this game. Now it feels like a trap!)
I would rank defensive players from those fixtures in the following order:
1) Burnley centrebacks: Mee/Tarkowski – Burnley came within a minute of a clean sheet last week. And their opponents Everton have looked awful away from home. Keep an eye on Tarkowski’s status. He’s been injured for a few weeks but is edging towards a return.
2) Stoke centrebacks: Zouma/Shawcross – Stoke could certainly frustrate Southampton at the weekend. And their two first-choice centrebacks are winning so many headers and doing so much defending that, before the Leicester game, their weekly floor had been around 10pts even when they concede. Zouma was averaging 14.75PPG and Shawcross was averaging 17.25PPG. The fact they’re scoring this highly (irrespective of clean sheets) gives them a safety net that most defenders lack. Just be sure to keep an eye on Shawcross’ status ahead of the game.
3) Burnley fullbacks: Ward/Lowton – these two look to have regained their regular roles as Burnley’s first choice fullbacks. While they don’t have the same kind of aerials-based cushion that Mee/Tarkowski offer, they do have a decent chance of recording a clean sheet against Big Sam’s lacklustre Everton.
4) Southampton options: Bertrand/Stephens/Hoedt – this largely depends what you’d rather rely on. Bertrand is the best bet for an assist due to the fact he takes a chunk of the Saints corners and set pieces. Stephens is the biggest goal threat in the back four by a distance, though he’s not been winning close to the number of aerials won by Hoedt recently. In Togga leagues, I’d be inclined to go for Hoedt just because he offers you the likeliest point cushion (in the event of Saints conceding) and a more plausible route to a 10+ score (in the event of a clean sheet). It feels a bit grubby, but it doesn’t usually pay off to rely on goals/assists from defenders.
5) Everton centrebacks: Williams/Keane – Look, I get it. Everton have been a defensive circus act at times… but at least Mangala is now out of the picture and this week they face Burnley who have real trouble finding the net. It feels like a game where the ball will be in the air a lot and, given how Big Sam likes to set up his teams for such challenges, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams/Keane put up impressive scores due to the sheer number of aerials they’ll be fielding in GW29. We’ve certainly seen these guys do similar things before. Williams, for example, averages a whopping 20PPG in matches against similar teams like West Ham, Huddersfield, Newcastle and West Brom this season while Keane managed 16 points and 9 aerials the last time the sides met back in GW7… despite conceding a goal! Allardyce has been switching things up a lot lately but with the injury to Mangala and the fact Jagielka hasn’t featured since GW25, we can be relatively confident the Williams/Keane combination will start the Burnley game too.
6) Everton fullbacks: Kenny/Martina – I’m much less excited about these two. But they’ve been serviceable in the right fixtures. Like Ward/Lowton, they’re a lot more clean sheet/assist-dependent owing to their lack of aerials… though they do win their fair share of tackles/interceptions.
7) Stoke fullbacks: Bauer is the one I’d target here. My excitement is limited, but he has managed to rack up peripheral contributions in all of the games he’s played and has a chance of a clean sheet against a misfiring Southampton.
8) Swansea centrebacks: Mawson/van der Hoorn/Fernandez – I’m not wild about any of these guys, to be honest. I saw the first half of the Liverpool-West Ham game at the weekend and the Hammers looked a real threat going forward. I had been targeting teams against West Ham in view of the injuries to Arnautovic/Lanzini/Antonio, but with the swift return to action of the former two, Antonio’s reemergence as a goalscoring menace and Chicharito’s dramatic return to form, it certainly feels like the wrong time to be backing teams for shut outs against West Ham. Not least teams that are coming fresh off the back of a 4-goal hammering by one of the league’s lowest scoring outfits (Brighton)! With that said, Swansea have had a certain magic about them at home of late… having pulled off big results against Liverpool and Arsenal in particular. If you’re determined to invest here, Mawson is the biggest goal threat while van der Hoorn offers the best chance of a floor due to his penchant for winning aerials.
9) West Ham centrebacks: Collins/Ogbonna – these two probably offer the safest floor among West Ham assets. Collins secured 21.75 points and 6 aerials against Watford in GW27 while Ogbonna managed 20 points and 9 aerials himself in the same fixture! They’re a less attractive version of Williams/Keane this week, for me. But they could bring their managers handsome returns.
10) West Ham fullbacks: Cresswell is the one I’d target here. He’s a lot more dependent on clean sheets or assists than the two mentioned above… but his occasional set piece/corner duties do give him a much better chance than many fullbacks of getting rewarded for his attacking contributions.
11) Swansea fullbacks: Naughton is the only one I’d touch with a barge pole. He’s shown an ability to generate some decent scores due to his infrequent assists… though, since Carvahal steadied the ship, he’s been a bit too reliant on both clean sheets and sporadic attacking output to merit investment. As Benji Wade highlighted on Sunday
From convo moments ago w/ @RotoWireAndrew – Naughton and Olsson have combined 3 key passes and 5 successful crosses in their last 11. In Togga, there are far better and less risky options through GW35.
— Benji Wade (@benjiwade) February 25, 2018
Finally, if you’re feeling really lucky…
Leicester BOU H
OK, this one’s not for the faint hearted. I know… I know… Leicester burnt a lot of people last week. They conceded a sloppy goal. But it’s not like Stoke created anything much besides that one Shaqiri chance which he curled in from outside the box. And yes, Bournemouth, for all of their defensive fragility, have scored in their last 9 Premier League matches in a row. I can feel you wincing. On paper, it doesn’t look that appealing at all. But nonetheless, I just haven’t been that convinced by Bournemouth in their last 3 matches. They’ve played Stoke at home, Huddersfield away and Newcastle at home (a dream run!) and looked really poor in all of these games. Buoyed by the home crowd, they battled back late against Stoke and Newcastle to salvage points, but I don’t see them doing something similar in an away game at Leicester. Leicester, for their part, have kept 5 of their 7 clean sheets this season at home. And Bournemouth, while threatening on the break, have historically fared far better at the Vitality Stadium than on the road. Before their recent upturn in form, they were one of the league’s lowest scorers when not on home soil.
The point is that there’s a chance of a clean sheet in this one.
And while that’s the case, a player like Ben Chilwell (who may not be owned in your league) and managed a steady 8.75 points last week even while conceding! …is well worth a desperation punt. If you add back the 2 points he lost for conceding the goal as well as the 6 points for a clean sheet, you’re looking at a potential 16.75-point effort. Like Janmaat/Holebas who I mentioned above, to have the ability to do this without the need for goals/assists is rare. I’d certainly consider rostering Chilwell if you don’t like the look of any of the options I’ve mentioned above.
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