Fantasy Football coach: Man United's Antonio Valencia is a premium choice while Arsenal's Rob Holding is our punt

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The new Premier League season is fast approaching and with it comes the return of Fantasy Premier League.

Each week, Sport360 will bring you tips for the English Premier League’s official fantasy football game. Fancy pitting your wits against us? You can join “Sport360 Fans’League” using the code 2529004-595062.

In many ways, how you pick your defence decides the efficiency of your budget allocation. If you’re too frugal, it can catch up with you in low-scoring Gameweeks but if you spend big, you lose out on premium attacking players who generally dominate the point-scoring.

You want to pick defenders who have a high probability of keeping clean sheets but there’s value in those who offer a goal threat as well. For example, West Brom kept just six clean sheets last season, only Hull City kept fewer (5).

However, Gareth McAuley was one of the bargains of the season and placed in the top 10 defenders with 131 points.

It’s crucial to find the right balance in your back-line and here, we look at the best defender picks to help you out.


KYLE WALKER | Manchester City | £6.5m

Manchester City splashed the cash on Kyle Walker this summer and if you want him in your team, you’ll have to do the same. The full-back could prove to be worth it though, especially if City get their act together.

Pep Guardiola has invested heavily in his full-back options so the natural conclusion to draw from that is they will be vital to the way his side play this season. City’s midfield don’t offer a lot of natural width with Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling unlikely to feature together often.

Instead, Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne look set to be key figures in that attacking midfield space. As a result, much of the width in attack will have to come from the full-backs and that’s where Walker comes into his element.

The England international will have the freedom to attack and could be primed for a few goals and assists. The top three highest scoring defenders in the game last season were Chelsea players, Walker was fourth with 142 points and led the way in terms of assists with six to his name.

City should keep more clean sheets this season as they get accustomed to Guardiola’s tactics, something Walker should benefit from.

Kyle Walker

Kyle Walker

ANTONIO VALENCIA | Manchester United | £6.5m

In an ever-changing back-line last season, Antonio Valencia was Manchester United’s most consistent defender. He was a permanent fixture in the team’s Premier League defence until the last month or so of the campaign as focus shifted to the Europa League.

The Ecuadorian has plenty of experience under his belt and is a force going forward, shuttling up and down that right flank. He likes to get forward and cross the ball and with a proper target man like Romelu Lukaku to aim for, he could well improve on his three assists last season. He managed 41 successful crosses last term, the third highest among FPL defenders.

With the defence bound to be more settled in Jose Mourinho’s second season and Nemanja Matic shielding the back-line, Valencia should also benefit in terms of clean sheets. United had the second best defence in the league last season, conceding just 29 goals.

Meanwhile, Mourinho has experimented with three at the back in pre-season which saw Valencia feature at right wing-back. If that formation is utilised often this term, he will be far more likely to get forward and score more points.

Antonio Valencia

Antonio Valencia


CRAIG DAWSON | West Brom | £5.0m

The FPL community was largely split into two divisions last season; those who drafted Gareth McAuley into their teams and reaped the benefits and the rest who were continually frustrated by the defender’s goalscoring streak.

However, the 37-year-old may not be a permanent fixture in the side this season but that could see Craig Dawson assume his role as an FPL phenom.

The centre-back scored four goals himself last term and ended up with a healthy tally of 102 points. West Brom only managed six clean sheets and if they can improve on that this time, Dawson could be set up for points.

The Baggies rely heavily on set-pieces and the defender is one of their chief threats from those situations. If McAuley isn’t as prominent a figure anymore, Dawson could be the one who takes centre stage.

Craig Dawson

Craig Dawson


Everyone needs that one defender who comes at an absolute base price just so it frees up funds to invest in other areas of the pitch. It’s worth having that player even if it means confining him to the bench given that he only manages a handful of appearances all season.

However, in Angel Rangel, you could get more than that. The Spaniard has been in competition with Kyle Naughton for the right-back slot at Swansea and still managed 18 appearances despite missing the last 10 games through injury.

At this stage, Rangel promises more playing time than any other £4m defender.

Angel Rangel

Angel Rangel


ROB HOLDING| Arsenal | £5m

The popular option in Arsenal’s defence is Hector Bellerin for obvious reasons. The Spaniard has plenty of pace and has shown great potential in attack but his position has come under threat since Arsene Wenger switched to a three-man defence, often favouring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at right wing-back instead.

Like the England international, another player to benefit from the change in formation is Rob Holding. The 21-year-old arrived from Bolton last summer and went on to feature heavily in the tail end of the campaign once the system required three centre-backs.

At just £5m, he represents great value in that Arsenal back-line. The Englishman managed more passes (51.8) and shots blocked (0.7) per game than any of his defensive team-mates in the league.

Of course, the gamble with Holding is that his place is far from guaranteed. Even with that extra central defensive slot, there are plenty who could join Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, including Gabriel Paulista, Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac.

Rob Holding

Rob Holding


1 – For playing up to 60 minutes
2 – For playing 60 minutes or more (excluding injury time)
6 – For each goal scored
3 – For each goal assist
4 – For a clean sheet
-2 – For each penalty miss
1-3 – Bonus points for the best players in a match
-1 – For every 2 goals conceded
-1 – For each yellow card
-3 – For each red card
-2 – For each own goal

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