By Stuart Thomson
Once again, international breaks have proven to be hideous creatures as last week’s tie between Ireland and Wales saw Seamus Coleman break his leg in a horrific challenge that will keep him out for the rest of the season.
As the second top scoring defender in FPL—with an ownership of just under 20% before his injury, Coleman’s absence leaves many fantasy managers in need of a replacement for both the upcoming week 30 fixtures and beyond. This is arguably the biggest concern for many this week, so here I’ll focus on some potential candidates to bolster up your defense. Given Coleman’s £6.1m price tag before his injury, I’ll be focusing on premium options that could be real difference makers to your fantasy side for the rest of the season. Aside from the guys I mention here, there are a number of other picks that could come in and do a good job, I just didn’t find them useful or appealing enough to write about.
Chelsea’s Alonso (£6.8m) has scored 4 and assisted 4 so far this season, and has racked up 12 clean sheets along the way, helping his side keep the best defensive record in the league—alongside Spurs—conceding only 21 goals. Alonso however doesn’t have the best run of fixtures, facing off against both Manchester sides in the next four games. Still, with Chelsea looking to secure the Premier League title, I wouldn’t bet against them continuing their strong form.
For Spurs, marauding right back Kyle Walker (£6.4m) provides a slightly cheaper option than Alonso, and with 6 assists and 12 clean sheets—as well as 18 bonus points— his fixtures may be too tempting to ignore. Facing 5 bottom-half teams in the next 5 outings, 2nd place Spurs have a great opportunity to keep up the pressure on Chelsea and Walker will have multiple opportunities for clean sheets and attacking returns.
Coleman’s Everton teammate Leighton Baines (£5.7m) has impressed less than Coleman in the last few months. After chipping in with 2 goals and 2 assists in his first 9 games back after injury, Baines has since gone 9 games without any attacking points. In that time however, he’s still clocked 5 clean sheets so hasn’t been a complete bust. With 2 tough away matches against Liverpool and Manchester United up next, his chances for clean sheet returns aren’t as appealing, but with Coleman out Everton may lean more on Baines’ attacking potential on the opposite flank. As a longer-term replacement, Baines will be a good shout, but I would probably avoid him until those fixtures are out of the way.
Fool me once, right? During preseason, Valencia was one of my top defensive picks. Often playing in a more attacking role for Manchester United, he was bound to benefit from the clean sheets and the extra opportunity for attacking points. Fast forward 3 months into the season and he had only 3 clean sheets and no goals or assists to his name. Recently though, he’s shown the promise that was expected of him with a goal, 2 assists and 3 clean sheets in the last 5 games. Now priced at £5.7m, he’s becoming worth a look again and is one of the most transferred in players this week in FPL. He also has the advantage of having 2 extra fixtures to play between now and the end of the season, a fact that will surely be appealing to those that like to plan ahead for their double gameweeks.
I consider these 4 players to be the best options for those looking to replace Seamus Coleman. Or even if you don’t have Coleman but you do have some bum stinking up your fantasy team then take a look at one of these guys anyway. There are arguments for taking any of them, but out of these 4, my personal choice would be Walker. His fixtures are just too good to pass up and his attacking prowess combined with Spurs’ defensive shrewdness across these games could propel him above the Chelsea defenders in FPL by the end of the season.
…Speaking of bums stinking up your fantasy team, when is Hector Bellerin going to get better? After a huge season last year, I really expected him to push on to bigger and better things this season. Another player with 2 double gameweeks to come before the end of the season, Bellerin should be a strong option to boost any fantasy defense. Unfortunately, given Arsenal’s horrendous form and reluctance to even just look interested on the pitch (excluding Alexis Sanchez—who I feel more and more sorry for each week) he can’t really be a consideration. Until, of course, Wenger resigns and he pulls a Vardy (or a Hazard) and starts trying again.