Friday, August 13, 2010

Scanning the radar: Defenders

Having done earlier posts on forwards and midfielders, it's time to sneak in the defenders before the season starts. As indicated in an earlier piece on value against points earned, you can often find good value in cheaper defenders, along with those consistent performers who aren't flashy or exciting but do the business each year and give you consistent returns each week. Here are my favorite players 'under the radar' along with a couple of players just off the radar who need a bit of help before they become good pickups.

Under the radar

Fabio Aurelio (6.0m)
Given that Liverpool were willing to let Insua leave, it seems likely that he isn't going to be first choice at Anfield this season. There is a chance that Hodgson will bring in someone else (such as Konchesky who would become a steal at 5m) but until then Aurelio looks like he will be first choice at LB. Hodgson made Fulham into one of the best defensive units around and similar success at Liverpool, with more talented players, would make Aurelio and co very useful assets. At 6m Aurelio would be the best value (unless of course Skrtel wins the second CB job - see below).

Gael Clichy (6.0m)
Just a couple of years ago people were talking about Clichy as one of the best left backs in the league and one of the hottest prospects in all of football. After a so-so season at the Emirates he now seems to be an afterthought and is owned by just 4% of managers. True, he managed just 3.15 PPG last season but the Arsenal defensive unit should be better this year and I am backing Clichy to return to form and provide good differential value at 6.0m. I loved Vermaelen last season and I'd put him in the top 5 CBs in the league, but at 7.5m you are backing him to score 5+ goals again which seems like a stretch even for a man of Vermaelen's talents. I think Clichy is therefore the pick of the Arsenal back line.

Fabricio Coloccini (4.5m)
As I have mentioned a couple times in the pre season, I think Newcastle have the potential to be in 8-12 range of defensive units and therefore make good bargains this season. Coloccini played almost every game last year and should be one of the first names on the team sheet again this term. He doesn't bring a great deal of goalscoring or assist potential but his barnstorming style might attract some bonus points and I think he's a nice addition to any fantasy bench.

Aaron Hughes (5.0m)
Some players just never really get any respect. Hughes scored just 2 points less than Hangeland last season but yet is owned by 6% versus 19% of managers despite costing 0.5m less. Do I think Hangeland is a better player? Yes. Does that give you anymore points? Apparently not as Hangeland managed just 3 bonus points more than Hughes last year. When all is said and done Hangeland might just shade Hughes but until I see something else, give me the extra 0.5m any day.

Zat Knight (4.5m)
I've never been a huge fan of Knight and I was a bit underwhelmed when Bolton signed him a couple of seasons back. However, he has proven to be a pretty reliable defender and carries a decent goal threat from set pieces (though he managed just 1 last season). Bolton managed 5 clean sheets in Coyle's 20 games last season (having recorded 0 in the first 18 games) and for 4.5m Knight looks like a reliable defender who can be happily deployed when the matchup is right. As with Hangeland / Hughes, Cahill is a much better player (one of the league's better defenders) but I can't justify an extra 1m for talent alone.

Aleksandar Kolarov (6.0m)
Going against my mantra, this one is based on perception and judgment rather than statistical analysis as Kolarov is a newcomer to the EPL. However, what is factual were the 3 goals, 3 assists and 99 shots he managed last season at Lazio along with his nickname as the 'Serbian Roberto Carlos'. City managed 11 clean sheets last season and have added Boateng, Kolarov and Toure as protection to sit in front of what looks like a deep and talented back line. I don't love their opening fixtures but that should give you a week or two to assess whether Kolarov (and indeed City) are for real.

Off the radar

Agger / Skrtel
The winner of this battle will be decent value either for Agger's attacking potential of Skrtel's low price tag. The first couple of games (Ars and @MNC) are very tough anyway so monitor this situation and see who Hodgson likes to partner Carragher and act accordingly when the situation is clearer.

Alex / Bosingwa / Ferreira
As with Liverpool above, Chelsea have three player competing for the right to join the talented line of Cole, Terry and Ivanovic. Presuming Ancelotti likes Ivanovic at right back, Alex will be the man to win the job after Carvalho departed for Real Madrid. However, Ivanovic was originally a centre back and a shift back inside could open the way for a return to fantasy relevancy for Bosingwa or even Ferreira. Of this pair I think Bosingwa would win out when he is fit, though Ferreira should get a least a couple of games as both the Portguese right back and Alex start the season in the trainer's room.

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