Defences have struggled in the Premier League this season but it may not be time yet to shift your FPL spending away from the backline.
Manchester United and Liverpool are among the top flight’s leakiest defences, largely due to respective heavy defeats against Tottenham and Aston Villa.
The underlying numbers expect both to improve, to differing degrees, while Brighton have also been seemingly unlucky.
Big guns should improve
Managers are deserting Liverpool’s defensive unit, and on the face of it the reasons are obvious.
Alisson Becker and, in particular, Virgil Van Dijk will not be scoring you any points any time soon, and their absence poses ongoing problems for a unit that conceded seven to Aston Villa and has only one clean sheet this season.
But the FPL Threat metric tells another story. Historical analysis shows around 100 points of threat typically leads to one goal – while the Reds have conceded once for every 48 points faced this season.
They have faced on average 125 points of threat per game and while that still suggests over a goal a game, it is nowhere near the 2.6 per game they have conceded.
The same is true of United, but even their average of 197 threat points faced would tend to lead to two goals per game compared to their current three, meaning their often expensive defenders look unreliable options.
Those backing Lewis Dunk, Tariq Lamptey or Mat Ryan as sub-£5million options have been largely frustrated so far, compounded by the former’s own goal against Manchester United and sending-off against Crystal Palace.
Dunk has been transferred out by almost 100,000 managers this week as he starts his ban but his team-mates have room to improve, having conceded 2.2 goals per game on a league-best 105 points of threat.
Halving their goals against in line with that figure would typically be worth an extra point per week for their defenders, with the potential for clean sheets to drive up their totals.
Regression coming for Villa
Aston Villa lie second in the Premier League with maximum points and the best defensive record – two goals conceded, four clear of the pack, while their three clean sheets matches Wolves for top spot.
However, they more than any other club appear out of kilter with their underlying defensive performance.
They have conceded only once for every 318 points of threat faced, or 0.5 goals per game against 159 points of threat – meaning they are over-performing expectations by a full goal per game.
Emiliano Martinez, Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa have rewarded managers at low cost but those considering bringing them in should proceed with a note of caution.
Blunt Blades due to find cutting edge
The same numbers can also be used to find the attacks over- and under-performing expectations.
Standing out in the latter category are Sheffield United, with only two goals so far but the chances to suggest a goal-a-game expectation. They have averaged 278 threat points per goal, almost 100 more than the next worst side Burnley – so the opportunities should be there for the £4.5m Rhian Brewster to help them turn the corner.
Liverpool have 13 goals in five games despite slightly under-performing their threat level, while city rivals Everton have over-performed by almost a goal per game – is Dominic Calvert-Lewin due to crash back to earth?
The same is true for Villa while at the other end of the scale, Crystal Palace’s six goals in five games could be even lower on the evidence of their league-low 92 threat points per outing.
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