Here’s the second of Rob Reid’s the “Legends of Fantasy Football”. Rob marks his 25 years of playing fantasy football to look at the legends of the game. Having completed goalkeepers he now moves on to Defenders. Make sure you vote in the poll at the end.
Rob Reid’s legends of fantasy football – Defenders
Remember to vote in the poll at the end of the article
Also, here’s Rob Reids first legends article on goalkeepers
Hello and welcome to the second part of my FPL Legends series celebrating the end of my 25th season playing Fantasy Football. In this series I’ll be looking at the players that have stood out to me over the years and selecting my Legends Fantasy Football Squad based on the current FPL template of 2 goalkeepers, 5 defenders, 5 midfielders and 3 strikers. I’ll also be picking some honourable mentions, who along with my squad selections will go into a Poll in which the Fantasy Football Geek readers can vote to form the reader’s Legends squad. Last week I covered goalkeepers, so it’s onto defenders this week. Here are my choices for my Legends squad.
Legends – Defenders
There’s been a lot of talk about attacking full-backs in FPL this season, but they’ve been around as a Fantasy Football option for a while! It’s therefore no surprise that 4 of my 5 defensive selections are full-backs and the first of these is Leighton Baines, a stalwart of FPL who represented both Wigan and Everton. His days at The Latics didn’t really stand out from a Fantasy point of view, but a move to Goodison Park sparked an incredible FPL career that at one point saw his value go as high as 8.1m. 8.1m for a defender! Madness!
The 2010/11 season is the one that has gone down in fantasy folklore – 5 goals and 11 assists to add to 9 clean sheets. The key to this? A healthy share of set-piece duties – corners, attacking free-kicks and of course spot-kick duties. He followed that season up with 5 goals, 7 assists and 11 clean sheets in 2012/13 and 5 goals, 5 assists and 13 clean sheets in 13/14 as Everton defenders became key FPL assets due to the rise of fellow Toffees full-back Seamus Coleman on the other flank. Injuries sadly started to curtail his career after this, though he did still manage 9 assists in 14/15. I’ll be interested to see where his career takes him this summer after limited game-time this year, a move to an EPL team where he gets regular minutes could make a fine swansong to an already fantastic FPL career.
Another inevitability in this section is that defenders from 2 key Premier League defences would feature. The Arsenal defence of ‘The Invincibles’ era is one and the Chelsea defence from the first Mourinho era is the other. And here’s a player that covers both! Cole is a highly decorated player, with his medal cabinet boasting 3 EPL titles and 7 FA Cups with 2 different clubs as well as both a Champions League and Europa League winners medal. One of the big surprises for me is that he didn’t receive more international recognition with a ‘meagre’ 39 England caps. You’d have thought he’d have got at least 50!
From a Fantasy point of view, it’s in the clean sheet department where his stats make great reading. He was never hugely prolific from a goal or assist point of view (he averaged a goal an 2 assists a season through his Premier League career) but a clean sheet hit rate of just under 40% is very healthy. His best seasons from a Fantasy point of view were certainly early in his career at The Gunners, where he was relatively unknown and priced competitively – the second half of 2000-2001 and 2001-02 were a great times to own him as he was low priced but playing for a top team. He was still a steady stream of points later on though and looking back it’s amazing to think he’s still playing and got very close to promotion and a last crack at FPL with Derby this season.
I’ve already mentioned the Arsenal defence of ‘The Invincibles’ era with Ashley Cole, but here’s a player from another Arsenal defensive era where Highbury quite literally was a defensive fortress. During the 90s, the Arsenal defence was simply incredible – they were frequently the best defence in the league for goals conceded (barring a major blip in the 94-95 season where they unfathomably finished 12th.) First under George Graham and then later under Arsene Wenger Arsenal defenders were key Fantasy Football assets in this period with the fashion (particularly in auction style games) being to double up on Gunners defence.
My favourite player through this time was definitely Lee Dixon, someone I felt was very underrated. He was a regular right through this period and part of that famous Gunners defensive block that also included Seaman, Winterburn, Adams, Bould and later Keown. Like Ashley Cole above, again it was clean sheets and consistency of selection where Dixon stood out, with a clean sheet hit rate of 37%. He wasn’t quite as injury prone as the more expensive Tony Adams and he could happily be used as a ‘set and forget’ type player in both the limited transfer newspaper games and auction-style leagues. It’s a mark of what an adaptable player he was that he was able to thrive in both the Graham and Wenger tenures and he certainly helped a number of my teams to solid season scores through the 1990s.
Sticking with full-backs, here’s a slightly left-field selection for my squad though I’m sure Fantasy Football fans and purists will understand why! He’s not one who obviously springs to mind when you consider talented Premier League players, and indeed in this later Leeds United days he was frequently criticised for being too slow and lacking positional sense. But what he brought to the party was attacking returns – and plenty of them, mainly due to his superb set piece ability.
His halcyon days where definitely at Leeds between 1998 and 2003 Leeds where he averaged 5 goals a season, mainly from free-kicks and from the penalty spot. He also racked up plenty of assists through this period and in the earlier part of this era got plenty of clean sheet points with Elland Road in particular providing a happy hunting ground for home shut-outs. The other reason Harte gets into my squad though is also a nostalgic one – he’s the only really tangible 3.8m defender there’s been in FPL, a rare distinction he picked up in his Reading days back in the second half 2012-13. It’s also interesting to note that he’s the only non-English player in my squad list – maybe English defenders aren’t that bad after all!
Last but certainly not least is the only centre-half to feature on this list and a player who is without question one of the stalwarts of the Premier League. Terry was the lynchpin in the Chelsea defence for a number of seasons and his honour list certainly echoes this – 5 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League. An incredible medals list for many players to envy. His talent was also recognised by his country – 78 caps for England ranks him up there with the greats of the English international game.
From an FPL point of view, points came firstly in the clean sheet department with him being part of that incredible defensive set up in the first Mourinho tenure. Later on though, he added attacking returns to his quiver – 6 goals in 31 appearances in 2011-12 and 5 goals in 38 appearances in 2014-15 were both strong seasons from this point of view. Overall, his clean sheet hit rate of 45% across 492 appearances is simply incredible and when you consider he played over 30 times in all but 2 seasons between 2003 and 2015, he also ranked highly in the ‘set and forget’ department. Is he the best centre-half to ever grace the EPL? Possibly. Is he the most consistent centre-half ever to feature in Fantasy Football? I would certainly argue so.
Another who’s price has reached hefty proportions for a defender, mainly due to his attacking returns. Not quite consistent enough to make my final squad marrying runs of potent attacking returns with long periods of 1 point obscurity. A highly frustrating player to own!
He was pretty close to making the final cut for me, but lost out due his injury record making him less of a bet for defensive gametime security. An incredible clean sheet record though of 46.6% and a classy centre-half who no doubt would rack of the bonus points if he was playing now.
It’s only right that I should mention the early Manchester United EPL era, a highly successful period for the Red Devils. Irwin was a good player to own in this period due to his penalty responsibilities and was certainly a consistent player for United through the early and mid-90s.
He may only have a proper season and a half under his belt in FPL terms (if you discount his Hull days where he was finding his EPL feet) but I think it’s only right that Robbo gets a mention after his 200+ point haul last season. A few more seasons like that and he’ll the first player in my Legends squad rather than just an honourable mention.
Another United player who just fails to make the cut and perhaps unlucky to do so. A 44% clean sheet hit rate with only his disciplinary record, injuries and United’s slightly less solid overall defence counting against him versus the Chelsea assets. A fantastic, dominant centre-half and a legend at Old Trafford.
That’s it for my defenders article, but don’t forget to vote in the Poll for the readers Legends squad. Many thanks to everyone who voted in the Goalkeepers Poll with Petr Cech and Peter Schmeichel selected for the FFG Readers squad. I’ll post the results of the Defenders Poll with my Midfield Legends article next week.
Here’s Rob Reids first legends article on goalkeepers
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