Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The £5.0M Defender Debate in Fantasy Premier League: John Stones, Ashley Williams or Ramiro Funes Mori?

Recent transfers have conspired to shred apart the defensive templates of FPL teams on the eve of Gameweek 1. Specifically, it’s mid-priced defenders where the new trouble is. Williams, now of Everton with teammate Funes Mori and Man City’s Stones all occupy the 5.0 bracket. Stones appears to be the cheapest entry route into Man City’s starting line-up while the other two are most likely to be the starting central pairing for the Toffees. FPL managers expect that both teams will shore up their respective defences under new management which were previously their Achilles Heels. Williams also carries the distinction of being known in fantasy circles as a “bonus points magnet” and Stones is favoured because he’s a young English defender that tries to pass the ball for a title challenging club. But who’s actually the best pick? I’ll try dispel some myths about various players so that reasons for choices become fact-based and try to make a recommendation myself too. You could see this as a follow up to my recent article about FPL defenders.

**Click on the image to zoom in**

The real attraction to Ashley Williams is quite clearly his bonus points potential. He comprehensively outscored Stones and Mori on bonuses last season despite being part part of a shaky Swansea defensive unit. Obviously, most if not all of those bonus points came in the few games that Swansea kept clean sheets and when Williams scored.  Williams got max BAPs against Watford in the 1-0 win over Watford and the night he scored in the late 2-1 victory over Arsenal. Why was Williams so good at winning the bonuses in the Swansea clean sheet games though? Why him and not Fabianski or Fernandez or whoever else was there? The answer to that lies in how bonus points are allocated and how often Swansea scored. There were 8 games in which the Swans kept a cleanie where the scored one or no goals. In one of those, Williams scored the goal. Hence there were 7 games where there wasn’t many attacking players to be rewarded for goals and assists in BAPs. Meanwhile defenders were being richly rewarded for successful tackles, high pass accuracy (so weren’t hoofers), blocks, clearances, interceptions and recoveries along with their clean sheet. That’s why Williams, the defensive titan and leader in the middle did so well. Things may not be that straight-forward at Goodison where Everton’s attacking players should score often and hoover up a lot of bonus points Williams would’ve got back in Wales.

One of the players who will be putting a vacuum to Williams’ bonus points is his soon to be partner in clean sheets Ramiro Funes Mori. Both players will benefit from more clean sheets this year. Roberto Martinez proved himself unable to form a fortress at the back last season but Ronald Koeman won’t allow that porosity remain. However the above graph shows that Funes Mori poses a goal threat that his teammate could only dream of. 4 goals last year in only 28 games is huge strike rate for a 5.0 defender. Unfortunately for him, Everton’s consistent lack of clean sheets (6 in the 28 FM played) and decent scoring at the other end meant that he rarely got in among the bonuses. I believe that Funes Mori should be more of a BAPs magnet than his teammate in 2016/17 but only if he stays disciplined. Both players pick up cautions regularly which could hamper their chances of picking up bonuses even in tight 1-0 victories as Coleman and Baines will get preferential treatment in the system for their up-field play.

John Stones just left Everton for Pep Guardiola’s Man City and immediately becomes an enticing FPL prospect. His attraction lies in the team he plays for, not in his own personal contribution as he provides almost no threat in front of goal (or providing assists for that matter). But Man City’s defence are hardly trustworthy based on previous seasons. Last term, Joe Hart was error prone and the cause of his own demise on multiple occasions and their new signings were pathetically poor. Hence, they were joint 5th on goals conceded with Southampton on 41. Guardiola has so far failed to fully replace this unit and it’s impossible to see a complete reversal in their fortunes. Only compounding the case against Stones, for the present at least, is City’s defensive injury crisis – they were forced to start Kolarov and Fernando at the back against Arsenal last weekend. None of this bodes well for selecting Stones instead of the other options for GW 1.


It seems to me that Funes Mori is the best option among the 5.0 options for Gameweek 1 so long as he starts. Some uncertainty still hangs over whether he or Phil Jagielka will partner Williams into the coming campaign but all indications are that the Argentine will get the nod. He scores more than either of the others and he should also outscore them on bonuses this season. In the long term, Stones may prove to be a brilliant route into a solid City defence but as of now, he does not provide that and should be avoided.

FPLStag is a wannabe FPL genius and tea enthusiast. You can follow the highs and lows of the 2016/17 season on his Twitter feed here.