The Analyst and Pundit put forward their nominees for the Premier League’s best defensive fantasy option ahead of Gameweek 13.
For most fantasy managers, top placed Manchester City have been a daily fantasy goldmine and their defenders are no exception.
Aleksander Kolarov was a notable early frontrunner. Starting straight out the blocks, the Serbian full-back looked to be repaying City’s faith in him – better late than ever – five years into his Premier League career. Through injury and slight loss of form he may have trickled off a little bit, but his creative quality can’t be understated – with 19 chances created this season he ranks only just behind Moreno for creative defenders.
More than any other defender in the league this season however, Nicolas Otamendi has left a lasting impression – and that’s only after seven games.
The Argentine got himself a goal in Gameweek 11 and a clean sheet in Gameweek 12 and I feel he’ll soon be displacing the Kompanys, Kolarovs, Bellerins and Koscielneys of this world as the go-to defensive fantasy options across PlayON Daily Fantasy Football.
Otamendi has been a solid performer lately, no doubt about that. But as a complete defender, I’m more inclined to look towards a man known to Louis Van Gaal as “Mike” – a man who actually goes by the name of Chris. Chris Smalling.
He’s 25 years old now and is putting that growing maturity and confidence to good use both on the pitch and in his fantasy ratings. His manager likes to mix it up, we know that, but Smalling has been the only ever-present at the heart of the defence and it’s no surprise to me that United have managed eight clean sheets with him on the pitch.
He got himself 1,495 PlayON points with another clean sheet against West Brom and I feel like it’s just the tip of the iceberg for this guy. Wisdom is in numbers in my book, and a hell of a lot of people are picking this man on a weekly basis.
I think Smalling’s value has been drastically boosted by the frequently Superman-like qualities of his goalkeeper. But, I take your point, he’s been a consistent centre-half and deserves some credit.
However, stacked up against Otamendi, there’s no comparison. The ex-Valencia and Porto man is a teak-tough, no nonsense battler but more importantly his stats back him up, time and again.
The trend of modern defending in the Premier League has generally seen full-backs and midfielders rack up the tackles, while centre-halves deal with the interceptions, blocks and clearances. Otamendi is an outlier – he does it all.
With 3.3 tackles per game over his seven starts for City, he beats down all other opposition to rank as the top tackling centre-back in league.
He’s done well for the most part, put in a couple of good showings, but has he come up against proper quality yet? Yes. Did he impress? No, to be honest.
Although it was billed as the biggest game of the season, the Manchester derby was a 0-0 bore-fest that should be written out of the history books. So we won’t dwell on that.
The real big test for him was the Spurs match at the Lane back in September, and he failed that test in my book. Spurs banged four past him and the big man was part of City backline that just ran out of ideas when trying to deal with the pace of Kane, Son and Lamela.
Smalling on the other hand, held both Everton and Spurs to clean sheets – two of the most attack-minded sides in the league – and has managed a very impressive 27 interceptions overall this season. With him and Daley Blind, Van Gaal has two players comfortable in possession at the back.
Not only can this boy defend, he’s also a baller.
Let’s compare and contrast.
Lined up, Otamendi outstrips Smalling in the stats that make him not only a great defender but also a fine fantasy player.
Over the past six Gameweeks, the Argentine ranks second only to Virgil Van Dijk for duels won and has come in at fourth for clearances with 50 in total. He’s no nonsense and that contributes heavily to his PlayON value.
In a head to head with Smalling, he comes up trumps in interceptions – 4.4 per game – aerial duels – 5.5 won per game – as well as clearances, with an average of 8.1 per game.
Besides I think Otamendi is more of a goal threat. He has one this season already and managed six in La Liga last season with Valencia. Given that City have created more chances from set-pieces than any other team this season – 52 – I think this could soon be a match made in heaven.
That’s all valid stuff, but in the grand scheme of things, Smalling is a safer bet.
United are just far more reliable defensively and I think Pellegrini still has some fine tuning to do.
Certainly for Gameweek 13 – with United facing Watford and City hosting Liverpool – I’m stumping for the Englishman.