Defenders are often the most neglected area of a fantasy football squad.
While strikers grab the goals that can earn big points and midfielders pick up vital assists to boost teams up the rankings, the clean sheet points earned by defenders can typically be undervalued.
Any daily fantasy football manager who wants to compete for big cash prizes simply cannot afford to ignore the potential of their defence.
There are two main areas to consider when selecting defenders: those fantasy players who are misclassified and those who take set pieces for their teams.
As footballers are classified by position at the start of the season, there are always a couple of players who end up being used in another role by their manager, which can be exploited by canny fantasy football users, especially those playing daily fantasy football games.
A great example of a misclassified defender is Gareth Bale. Originally a left-back, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp began to use the Welshman as a winger in his breakthrough season.
There is no direct equivalent to Bale this season, but there are a couple of defenders who have been used in other roles by their managers. The first of these is another Spurs man, Eric Dier.
It is often said of young players that versatility is not necessarily a good thing as their strongest position will not be known, making it easy to leave them out of the team in favour of specialists. But Dier, still just 22 years old, has been a regular fixture for Mauricio Pochettino this season.
Dier’s best position is probably centre-back, but he has increasingly been used in a midfield shielding role. While still defensive-minded, this has allowed Dier to get forward and he has scored three goals this season, as well as providing one assist, for a WhoScored rating of 7.11.
Tony Pulis brought Jonny Evans from Old Trafford to The Hawthorns to play as a centre-back, but the Northern Irishman has excelled in a number of positions this season.
Evans has been used at left-back and in central midfield due to West Brom’s injuries and has always performed well. In fact, Evans’ WhoScored rating as a defensive midfielder is 7.49, while as a left-back he scores 7.58, which compares to his rating of 7.23 as a centre-back.
Southampton’s Matt Targett has been used mainly as cover for Ryan Bertrand this season, but the 20-year-old’s versatility has seen him operate on the wing in recent weeks. Targett’s three games as a wide midfielder or winger have yielded one assist and he is rated higher by WhoScored the further forward he plays. Targett is one to watch for daily fantasy football players.
Set piece takers
Set pieces are crucial in daily fantasy football and it is vital to have at least one or two specialist free kick or penalty takers in your team. If they are defenders this is even better, as it maximises your potential to score big points from your back line.
Bournemouth’s Charlie Daniels has been one of the Premier League’s breakout stars this season. The left-back has converted both penalties he has taken, against West Brom and Norwich City, providing a further three assists for Eddie Howe’s Cherries. Some pundits have even suggested he is deserving of an England call-up by manager Roy Hodgson.
Squad rotation is the bane of any daily fantasy football player’s existence, with Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini among the most frustrating of bosses in the Premier League for this. Aleksandar Kolarov is often in and out of the City team, but as one of the league’s best free kick takers he is always worth considering for fantasy selection. Kolarov’s trusty left boot has delivered two goals and two assists already this season.
Leighton Baines is fit again and will go straight on to the shortlist of many daily fantasy football players. Baines converted two of the three penalties he took last year and is regarded as one of the Premier League’s most reliable penalty takers. Baines is also a threat from free kicks and regularly hits the target, while his impeccable corners should increase the number of goals Everton score from set piece situations in the second half of the season. Baines has scored 23 goals since signing for Everton in 2007, most of which have come from his wicked set pieces.