But a notorious Gameweek 11 combined tiny scores with a collection of bans and injuries to well-owned FPL assets. Spurs duo Cristian Romero (£5.0m) and Destiny Udogie (£4.8m) were both sent off against Chelsea, whilst Dan Burn (£4.7m) has been ruled out for two months with a back problem.
“Dan [Burn] will be out for some time I think, a long-term problem – couple of months is sort of a speculative number for us. He landed on his spine. I think he has got a problem with the base of his spine. It’s a huge blow.” – Eddie Howe
Throw in the early withdrawal of Aston Villa’s Matty Cash (£5.2m) due to a minor shoulder issue too, with further news on that awaited from Unai Emery’s press conference on Wednesday. The four have a combined ownership of just over 100%.
Therefore one of the big questions heading into Gameweek 12 is which sub-£5.0m defenders can step in to replace them?
ANOTHER NEWCASTLE DEFENDER
Arguably the league’s best defence belongs to Newcastle United, so Burn owners will be rueing his injury and wondering whether moving to a team-mate is best.
The problem is – which one? Assuming Kieran Trippier (£7.0m) costs too much, the only other nailed-on name is Fabian Schar (£5.2m). An injury crisis has devastated Eddie Howe’s side but – until he gives a definitive timescale for Botman’s recovery – we can’t be sure that Jamaal Lascelles (£4.0m) is a 100% safe pick.
As for Tino Livramento (£4.3m) and Lewis Hall (£4.3m), there’ll likely be some occasions where the former plays at right-back, moving Trippier to the other side. But sometimes it could be Hall at left-back, as seen in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night.
The Magpies have delivered five clean sheets in their last seven league outings, including four consecutive home games. With that in mind, upcoming hostings of Chelsea and Manchester United won’t be feared. They were 1-0 and 2-0 wins last season. Furthermore, just seven big chances have been conceded, the next-best Manchester City are on almost twice as many (13).
GABRIEL MAGALHAES (£4.8m)
Of course, this pick is repeatedly proving that it comes with a risk. Benched for the opening three matches, Gabriel seemed to be regaining confidence within FPL circles until it happened again in Gameweek 10.
However, the latest rest was perhaps explained as a reaction to being overplayed rather than a tactical demotion.
“We went through all the minutes that everybody that has played in the last three weeks. Some of them had played an enormous amount of minutes.” – Mikel Arteta
As a team, Arsenal have the joint-most clean sheets (five), having allowed the fewest shots on target (22). Second-best for conceding goals (nine), shots (93) and expected goals (xGC, 9.05), the centre-back also brings an attacking threat. We’ve not seen it this season but, in 2022/23, his three goals derived from a 5.04 expected goals (xG) tally.
If William Saliba (£5.2m) is unaffordable, purchasing Gabriel for the next four Gameweeks is a cheaper – albeit riskier – alternative route into the Gunners’ backline.
MARC GUEHI (£4.6m)/TYRICK MITCHELL (£4.6m)
Meanwhile, the only other team on five clean sheets is Crystal Palace. Saturday’s shut-out at Burnley secured their fourth from six matches.
Although Guehi beats Mitchell for baseline bonuses, the latter scored the second goal at Turf Moor to end with a 15-point haul. Third-most-bought player of the week so far, Mitchell joins team-mate Joachim Andersen (£5.0m) as one of the top four defenders overall.
Moreover, their upcoming fixtures against Everton (h), Luton (a), West Ham United (a) and Bournemouth (h) nicely lead into Chelsea’s strong run from Gameweek 16.
ETHAN PINNOCK (£4.5m)
Like Gabriel, the Brentford centre-back Pinnock netted three times last season. Unlike the Brazilian, he’s already done so this time. His opener at Chelsea combined with a clean sheet to finish on 15 points.
Thomas Frank’s team has successfully kept two of their last three opponents quiet and – if you can cover their imminent meetings with Liverpool and Arsenal – there’s a nice fixture run from Gameweeks 14 to 21. Blank Gameweek 18 will have to be negotiated but there is a chance that Gameweek 20 will be a ‘double’ for the Bees, to accommodate the outstanding fixture against Manchester City.
When studying Brentford’s underlying stats, it doesn’t take long to notice they rank fifth-best for big chances conceded (21) and joint-fifth with Palace for allowing shots on target (40).
JAMES TARKOWSKI (£4.4m)
Finally, although earlier Jordan Pickford (£4.4m) owners may not agree, Everton don’t seem too bad. Or, at the very least, a corner has been recently turned.
A late own goal on Saturday prevented the Toffees from securing their third clean sheet from four, where they’ve conceded the fourth-fewest shots on target (39) over the whole campaign. Their xGC (13.81) is sixth-best.
That makes Tarkowski a viable option at a reasonable price. Although Everton’s upcoming fixtures aren’t particularly attractive, the 30-year-old has recent goals in the Premier League and EFL Cup whilst sitting third among all defenders for attempts inside the box (nine).
Alternatively, going down to £4.0m centre-back partner Jarrad Branthwaite could also work.