Why should Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers rotate their defenders?

Many FPL managers will be looking to complete their five man defence with one or two premium defenders while filling the remaining spots with cheaper defenders. These cheaper defenders will cost either £4.0m or £4.5m and the majority of them will offer limited potential for points from attacking returns (goals and assists). Instead, managers will look to them for cleansheet points and six point returns with the occasional bonus points. Hence, it makes sense to rotate these cheaper defenders so that you would only need to play them in easier games against teams with less attacking talent, increasing their chances of not conceding. In this article, I will go through four team pairings that rotate nicely for the first 15 gameweeks. I am only looking at fixtures up until Gameweek 15 as the first wildcard has to be used before or on Gameweek 16 and managers will be able to make changes to their defence when they play the chip to plan for the second half of the season.

Aston Villa and Leicester City

Aston Villa’s first 15 games (including fixture against Manchester City which is yet to be rescheduled) have a total Fixture Difficulty Rating (FDR) of 43 – an average of 2.9 per game. Leicester City has a total FDR of 46 for those gameweeks which is an average of 3.1 per game. Since the release of fixtures, an increasing number of managers have been looking at James Justin (£4.5) and Luke Thomas (£4.5) from the Foxes due to their kind opening run of fixtures. Both fullbacks offer a cheap route into a defence that was solid for the first part of the 2019/20 season and also have potential for assist points. Justin looks set to continue his role at right-back in the absence of Ricardo Pereira (£6.0) while the 19 year-old left-back will start should Ben Chilwell (£5.5) move to Chelsea.

However, they have away trips against Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Sheffield United along with a game against Manchester United at the King Power. To avoid these tough fixtures, FPL managers should look at Aston Villa’s defenders. By rotating defenders from these teams, the fixtures you would get would be:

wba, BUR, ful, WHU, AVL, LEE, lee, WOL, BHA, FUL, NEW, BHA, EVE, wba, CRY

This would allow managers to avoid starting their defenders against any top 6 opposition while playing the newly-promoted teams in six gameweeks. Options from the Aston Villa defence would be Eric Konsa (£4.5) and Matt Targett (£4.5) – both had an expected points of 5.3 per 90 minutes since the restart while Villa had the third-lowest expected goals conceded in that time.

Crystal Palace and Newcastle United

Both Palace and Newcastle have a total of 40 when the FDR ratings of their Gameweek 1 to Gameweek 15 fixtures are added up. Not many have been considering any defensive assets from these teams except for new signing Nathan Ferguson (£4.0) who looks set to come straight into the starting XI ahead of Joel Ward (£4.5). The majority of FPL teams that have him will likely plan on keeping him on the bench for most gameweeks, however, I believe that it would be much better to get him along with a Newcastle defender and start one of them each week depending on who has the easier fixture.

Roy Hodgson’s side face the champions Liverpool and Tottenham at their home ground and have tough away trips to Wolves and top four finishers Chelsea and Manchester United. Newcastle also have games against Chelsea, Manchester United and Wolves along with an extremely tough game against Pep Guardiola’s side at the Etihad in GW15. This is when rotation comes in handy – it is such that when Palace have a tough game, Newcastle have an easy one and vice versa. These are the fixtures you would get by rotating them:

whu, BHA, EVE, BUR, BHA, ful, EVE, LEE, bur, NEW, wba, WBA, lee, FUL, avl

Like the first pairing mentioned (Leicester and Aston Villa), this would also avoid any top six teams while 13 of the 15 games are against teams that finished in the bottom half of the Premier League. To rotate with the £4.0 enabler in Ferguson, I think that Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5) is the best pick from the Magpies. The Newcastle captain looks increasingly likely to be fit for the season opening and as their captain, will start every game he is fit for.

Southampton and Brighton and Hove Albion

Southampton have been given one of the best opening bunch of games, leading to FPL managers bringing Stuart Armstrong (£5.5), Danny Ings (£8.5), Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.5) and Alex McCarthy (£4.5) into their sides. While they have favourable fixtures for many gameweeks, they do face tough opposition in both Manchester sides, rivals Arsenal and Spurs along with Wolves and Chelsea. In these games, it is unlikely that the Saints will manage to not concede. Although many wouldn’t mind this as their popular defensive assets are cheap, you should consider bringing in a Brighton defender or goalkeeper as these two teams are another combination of teams that rotate well. Their rotated fixtures would have an average FDR of just over 2 and would be:

cry, new, bur, WBA, cry, WBA, avl, NEW, avl, MUN, bha, SHU, ful, SHU, ful

Unlike the first couple of team pairings above, you would still have to play your Southampton player against Manchester United or your Brighton one against Liverpool in Gameweek 10. Despite this, the rest of their fixtures are reasonably good. Managers who prefer having two starting goalkeepers that rotate should look at McCarthy and Matt Ryan (£4.5) while I would suggest having both teams’ right-backs in Walker-Peters and Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey (£4.5). For more detailed information on Lamptey and Walker-Peters, check out my earlier article ‘The Best £4.5m Defenders in Fantasy Premier League 2020/21’.

Wolves and Arsenal

Wolves and Arsenal are final pair of teams that should be considered for rotating their budget defenders. Arsenal start the season off with the best couple of games against Fulham and West Ham before embarking on a five game period where they face Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester and Sheffield. Coincidentally, on the other hand, Wolves start with two tough games against Sheffield United and Manchester City before a run of five very winnable games which all have an FDR rating of 2. Their rotated fixtures up to Gameweek 15 are:

ful, WHU, whu, FUL, lee, NEW, CRY, AVL, lee, WOL, tot, AVL, SOU, bur, TOT/CHE

Although these fixtures aren’t the best – with games against Spurs in Gameweek 11 and either Spurs or Chelsea in Gameweek 15 – these two teams have better defences than most of the other teams listed above in this article. Wolves conceded the least big chances in the league last season with 49 while Arsenal has seen a massive improvement since Arteta has taken over. From these teams the best budget defenders would have to be William Saliba (£4.5) and Ruben Vinagre (£4.5).

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