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FPL tips: Forwards falter as case for the defence grows

Chelsea v Manchester City – Premier League – Stamford Bridge
(Image credit: Adam Davy)

The 2021-22 FPL season has so far been characterised by a collective inability of the league’s forwards to grab the campaign by the scruff of the neck.

Instead, midfielder Mohamed Salah has streaked away with almost 50 more points than his nearest rival, while defenders are cashing in where forwards are not.

Struggling strikers

Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang applauds the fans at the end of the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday November 7, 2021

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not hit the heights of previous seasons (John Walton/PA)

After each team had completed 12 games in the 2020-21 season, five of the top 10 points-scorers were forwards while five were midfielders.

Harry Kane (107) Jamie Vardy (87) Dominic Calvert-Lewin (83) Patrick Bamford (75) and Callum Wilson (73) led the way for the strikers, but this season paints a very different picture.

Just two of the top 10 points scorers are strikers after GW12 – Michail Antonio with 63 points and Vardy with 62.

Four midfielders appear as well, while four defenders make up the top six points scorers at this stage: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joao Cancelo, Reece James and Antonio Rudiger – no defenders featured in last year’s top 10.

A graphic showing the number of Premier League players to score more than 50 points after 12 gameweeks

While nine forwards had 50 points or more at this stage last term, just six do this time around.

A short study of the traditional top six’s strikers demonstrates that – between Cristiano Ronaldo, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino – the best team’s forwards have either struggled with their form or with injury.

Perhaps most strikingly just three of the top 10 goalscorers so far this season are registered by the FPL as forwards.

But while the strikers are scrapping for every FPL point they can find, the first third of the season has seen defenders dominate.

Defenders do it all

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson (left) and Trent Alexander-Arnold hug before the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Saturday November 20, 2021

Trent Alexander-Arnold has scored 79 points so far this season (Peter Byrne/PA)

Between them, Alexander-Arnold, James, Cancelo and Rudiger have scored 300 FPL points in 12 gameweeks at a group average of 25 points per week.

Only Salah has scored more points than the first three in that list, while Rudiger comes in sixth behind the Egyptian’s team-mate Sadio Mane.

Alexander-Arnold and Cancelo have both scored 79 points each – the Englishman has managed one goal, six assists and six clean sheets as he looks to rediscover the form that made him the best right-back in the league.

The City defender meanwhile has dodged the dreaded Pep Guardiola rotation policy and played in every league game so far, with five assists and eight clean sheets along with a bunch of bonus points.

After re-signing Lukaku for around £100million this summer, Chelsea’s goals appear to be almost exclusively coming from the defence, with James and Rudiger accounting for six goals and five assists collectively.

Chelsea’s Reece James (left) celebrates scoring their side’s first goal of the game during the Premier League match at St. James’ Park, Newcastle. Picture date: Saturday October 30, 2021

Chelsea’s defence has been on form (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Despite playing 90 minutes on just five occasions in the league this season, James has managed 75 FPL points and claimed all three bonus points in each of his last three appearances.

At £12m for the Blues’ defensive pair, the value behind their huge points returns is only underlined by the fact that players like Kane are currently scoring far fewer points for twice the budget.

It might not last all season, but while the league’s top strikers continue to rev the engine, the defenders are pushing the car with great success.

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