With so much of our Fantasy Premier League (FPL) cash tied up in midfielders and forwards, many of us will have a bargain-bin defender or two in our squads.
And as Tom Freeman pointed out in his weekly Digest, having some FPL substitutes with good game-time prospects looks increasingly important.
Rotation usually ramps up around Christmas, while there are Gameweek 18 blanks for Manchester City and Brentford to negotiate.
Team news is also harder to come by over the festive period, with deadlines all over the place. In Gameweek 18, for example, we may only have heard press conferences from four managers before the Thursday deadline passes.
We can surely expect more surprise benchings and injuries in December and January, then.
With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the current crop of £4.0m-and-under defenders to see which of them offers the best chance of sustained starts and returns heading into the winter.
- Club: Newcastle United
- Current FPL price: £4.0m
Newcastle United boasted one of the Premier League’s best defensive records in 2022/23 – and they’ve carried on where they left off last season:
|2023/24 total (rank v other clubs)|
|Clean sheets||4 (2nd=)|
|Goals conceded||11 (5th=)|
|Shots conceded||115 (5th)|
|Shots in the box conceded||77 (5th)|
|Big chances conceded||7 (1st)|
|Expected goals conceded (xGC)||10.30 (3rd)|
No-one marries clean-sheet potential with attacking threat quite like Kieran Trippier (£7.0m) but Fantasy managers looking for a budget route into the Newcastle defence will have had their interest piqued by the latest injury update on Sven Botman (£4.6m).
Eddie Howe’s initial comments on the Dutch defender’s injury last month implied that he might be back around the November international break.
But facing the media ahead of Wednesday’s EFL Cup tie at Old Trafford, Howe hinted that Botman’s absence could be longer.
“Botman is unclear at the moment. So we are going day by day with that one.
“There’s an issue there and we are working through it. We have various options to try to diagnosis the injury.
“Perhaps [it might be a longer-term injury]. We are still waiting for clarity on what is happening with his situation.” – Eddie Howe on Sven Botman, speaking on Tuesday
So there’s nothing concrete on Botman at present, and Howe isn’t exactly the most trustworthy when it comes to team news.
Taking a leap of faith that Botman is indeed sidelined for a considerable period, then Jamaal Lascelles (£4.0m) becomes an attractive prospect.
The club captain has been deputising at centre-back in the absence of his Dutch colleague, starting the last four league matches and keeping clean sheets in two of them.
Howe does have another option at centre-half, moving Dan Burn (£4.7m) centrally and introducing Matt Targett (£4.3m) or Lewis Hall (£4.3m) at left-back, but Lascelles has been mostly impressive since his recall and his manager is usually reluctant to tinker with his back four at Premier League level – and that should remain the case while results are positive.
You may get lucky with an attacking return for Lascelles, too, given that he ventures forward for Trippier’s wicked corners.
FAVOURABLE FIXTURES OVER THE WINTER
After the tricky-looking Gameweek 11 clash with Arsenal, seven of the Magpies’ subsequent eight fixtures are against teams beneath them in the table.
Lascelles is arguably ‘startable’ – or at least a great first sub – in every Gameweek 12-19 fixture bar the trip to Tottenham Hotspur in Gameweek 16.
The excellent fixture in Gameweek 18 is another boon, with Man City and Brentford blanking then.