FPL Gameweek 9 – Defensive Differental Picks

In an FPL season that has been shaped by the consistency of the widely owned top performers, I'm sure many readers find themselves coasting along in their mini-leagues relatively satisfied with their performance thus far. The hardest weekly decision being made ahead of the consistently unpredictable deadline has been whether to captain the reborn again Harry Kane or the Egyptian King Mo Salah. Whether it is induced by a lack of fans in stadiums or potentially even a less bold FPL generation, who knows, but an obscenely unpredictable Premier League season has somehow made FPL more stagnant than ever before. I'm pleading with you, Jim from Limerick placed sixth in his mini-league amongst the husbands from his wife's book club and satisfied with his 'Get your Kits out' side's weekly 45-point score, to take a step into the land of unknown with me. Together we will find the modern day Michu, the next Papiss Cisse and whether you finish first or last Jim, I can guarantee that it’ll be one heck of a ride. In the translated words of Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher by occupation but an FPL manager at heart, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The first step, from a believer that goalkeepers are entirely redundant in the game, is the defence.

PREMIUM

Alex Telles, Man Utd, £5.5m, 0.7% ownership

After a promising debut proceeded by a coronavirus induced layoff, Alex Telles will effectively become the first name on the team sheet for Man Utd in the next few fixtures. In typical Luke Shaw fashion, a few promising performances followed by a hamstring injury has ensured United will are without their first choice left-back for the foreseeable future. Currently getting back to match fitness with the Brazilian squad, Telles will most likely be chosen to start against West Brom, Southampton and West Ham; all fixtures that bode well for both potential defensive and attacking returns. Telles immediately became the first-choice corner taker on his debut against PSG and his attacking tendencies could result in a shift to a three-man defence from Solskjær's side, ensuring a more attacking role for him and a subsequently higher point ceiling. Take note though! Telles has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 again while on international duty, so be sure to monitor our team news section on Friday before drafting him in.

Patrick Van Aanholt, Crystal Palace, £5.4m, 0.5% ownership

The Flying Dutchman is a fan favourite within the FPL community dating back to his breakout season of 2015-16 in which he scored six goals. Despite the sentimental value I behold for PVA, he has earned his place in this article based on his promising performance against Leeds. Often the first man in my team each year, the Dutch left-back has struggled for fitness on his recovery from injury, meaning he has only returned to Palace's starting 11 in the last two fixtures, returning a measly five points collectively. Palace have gained a somewhat deserved reputation of a one-man team and the beginning of the season has only enhanced this reputation with a heavy reliance on a ten-man defence and a top attacker in Wilfred Zaha, with the team acquiring only three shots on target in the three fixtures before PVA's return to the team. Van Aanholt is one of the few defenders in FPL capable of a 15-point haul and despite his lack of defensive reliability, he's worth the risk for his upcoming fixtures of Burnley, Newcastle and West Brom.

BUDGET

Arthur Masuaku, West Ham, £4.5m, 1.8% ownership

West Ham have sent shockwaves around the FPL community this season having manoeuvred themselves into a fairly respectable 12th place after a very tricky start to the campaign. As Ademola Lookman inched towards his penalty last weekend, most owners of a West Ham defender began to question their naivety at not only getting a Hammers player in their side but getting a Hammers player managed by David Moyes in their side. In comical fashion, the clean sheet was secured and on the balance of the overall match, this was well-deserved with Fulham only acquiring two shots on target otherwise. With many managers flocking towards Aaron Cresswell, who leads the West Ham defenders on points due to his huge 15-point haul against Leicester earlier in the season, Arthur Masuaku is being slightly overlooked. Given Cresswell's set-piece duties, Masuaku admittedly has a lower ceiling and perhaps may not be capable of the haul aforementioned. However, a three-at-the-back formation recently enforced by Moyes has found Masuaku a regular starting berth in the left wing-back position with fairly little competition. Up against Sheffield Utd, who have consistently been struggling on their right-hand side this season, I would expect Masuaku has a higher chance of attaining attacking returns than Cresswell in Gameweek 9.

Neco Williams, Liverpool, £3.9m, 3.4% ownership

This differential pick would be more out of hope than expectation with a Liverpool side lambasted with defensive injuries and having little or no choices remaining in certain defensive positions. Neco Williams, for those on a wildcard this gameweek, seems like a no-brainer as a replacement for Tyrick Mitchell of Crystal Palace. It remains to be seen whether Klopp will resort to his age-old tactic of employing James Milner in any position where a first-team player is unavailable, but the veteran looked relatively uncomfortable up against Raheem Sterling last time out. Given Gomez's addition to the injury list, I would expect Williams, now an established international player and into a second season as a Klopp prodigy, to get a few starts in the coming weeks. Given the scarcity in defensive options, Klopp could be forced to adapt his free-flowing attacking football approach to a more conservative game-plan with the full-backs and midfielders potentially being forced to stay back more often. This could in turn result in the plugging of a surprisingly leaky defence that has shipped more goals than the calamitous Fulham so far this season. With 228 minutes experience acquired last season, who could write off Williams becoming a mainstay in the Liverpool side until Trent's return?

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