Been listening to podcasts and reading comments on Twitter as it relates to defense over the festive period. The unifying theme seems to be, not to invest big at the back, as clean sheets are down during this period of the season. At the time of writing this piece my defense, including goalkeepers is priced at £39.9 million (buying price). That is a big bulk of money that many other fantasy managers have moved into their midfield, opting to run with a premium defender or two and a collection of budget options.
Obviously, we have seen some great bargains standout this season, such as Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.0) and Matt Doherty (£4.5) to start the season. We saw an early season template form at the back with premium options, Andrew Robertson, Marcos Alonso and Benjamin Mendy. The injury to Mendy sent managers in a variety of directions. Many agree that pouring big money into defense during this time of year isn’t a viable option as clean sheets are down. Looking at the data over the last seasons indicate otherwise.
To start the season, clean sheets have been up over the last two season. From GW6-13, a total of 51 clean sheets were secured this season, an increase of four from last year (47). That number took a dive from GW14-17 this season, as just 16 clean sheets occurred, which is off by seven from last season (23). It appears that those promoting budget at the back seemed to get it right. That’s the worst figure over the last 4 seasons.
The 2017/18 season saw 49 clean sheets from GW14-21, which bested the previous year by four clean sheets. So while it might be a small victory for budget defenders, the premium crowd can take solace that there could be more to come to back their big back lines. Using GW14 as the start of the festive period, rotation could be the main cause of a decrease in clean sheets through the first four weeks. Looking at the history from the last three years, defenses have stepped up and posted more clean sheets from GW15-21.
The downturn in defense comes with the new year as clean sheet figures tail off. There has been a steady decline in clean sheets from GW22-29 that saw 44 clean sheets in the 2015/16 season, to 39 in following year and just 37 last season. If the trend continues, we might be lucky to see 35 clean sheets between that time frame. Time to move a few premium defenders?
If you are like me with a big investment in defense, you might stay the course through December, in anticipation of moving premium defenders in January. Looking a Liverpool, have not conceded more than one goal over 17 game weeks. We all remember the Alisson mistake against Leicester, but the Reds have been close every game. City started the season slow, but ran off six clean sheets. They only blemish on the season, a 2-0 loss to Chelsea. There is a notable difference in the two teams. The Sky Blues seem to get complacent, maybe lazy late into the game. Against Everton and Watford they conceded after 60 minutes. Couple that with two Ederson fouls resulting in penalty kicks.
For my squad, I have no intentions of coming off my premium back line and goal keeper. On the season I’ve kept 42 clean sheets, another 5 that were from bench players. Through 17 game weeks, I’ve used 64 defenders for 353 points, an average of 5.52 PPG. It comes as no surprise that my midfield has struggled for just 244 points, an average of 3.87 PPG from 63 midfielders used.
As experienced fantasy managers know, there is no one right way to play the game. If your end results seeing you achieving green arrows and climbing the OR, then by all means continue to play with your strategy. However, posting two of my worst scores of the year, I am not going to make a a knee jerk decision to break up a defense that has been successful for 17 game weeks. Much like premium forwards not hitting, it pays to show a bit of patience in the game.