The art and value of attacking defenders

Attacking defenders are a key component of Fantasy Premier League. They are the defenders who supplement their clean sheets with goals and assists.

Such defenders have come to prominence in recent seasons because there has been a dwindling number of clean sheets. We didn’t see any clean sheets at all in some gameweeks last season.

Leighton Baines epitomises an attacking defender: a full back who constantly bombs down the left flank, firing in cross after cross. He’s also a free kick, corner and penalty taker. The ultimate attacking defender who scored 5 goals and made 11 assists last season.

I could reel off and talk about some other big name attacking defenders too.

Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Chris Samba, Robert Huth and Nemanja Vidic spring to mind, but I’d like to dig a little deeper and see if there’s some less obvious names who could emulate the likes of Vidic and Huth this season.

David Wheater (£4.5m) – Bolton

The young English centre half, who can also play right back, is a towering figure at 6 foot 5 inches, and will definitely cause teams trouble on set pieces.

He scored 3 goals for Middlesbrough back in the 2007/08 season and I’d back him to beat that if he gets regular football this season.

He’s competing with Gary Cahill and Zat Knight for a starting place but he’ll likely step into the side if, or when, Cahill departs for a bigger club.

Bolton have a horrific run of opening fixtures (including Man City, Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool), so Wheater is probably one for later on, but that does give us chance to see if he’s a regular starter.

James Collins (£5.5m) – Aston Villa

The Welsh international, who scored 3 goals last season, isn’t afraid to throw himself where it hurts and often pops up with goalscoring chances from free kicks and corners.

McLeish will look to solidify the Villa defence, so Collins could supplement attacking returns with clean sheets.

Watch out for Ciaran Clark though. He could put Collins’s place under threat.

Thomas Vermaelen (£7m) – Arsenal

Vermaelen had an outstanding debut season in 2009/10, scoring 7 goals, but missed all last season through injury.

He’s now fit again and ready to challenge for a centre back spot. But it won’t be easy.

Vermaelen is already competing against Djourou and Koscielny. We also know Wenger is in the market for a new centre back.

But it’s worth keeping an eye on Vermaelen. He’s a bit pricey but could be worth it if he can recapture his goalscoring form.

He’s a dab hand at direct free kicks, too.

Ryan Shawcross (£5m) – Stoke

Shawcross used to be one of the must have goal scoring defenders, but was completely overshadowed by team mate, Robert Huth, last season.

But Shawcross is still a big threat from set pieces and will always get opportunities in a Stoke side that base their game around the set piece.

Shawcross is now £1m cheaper than Huth, so while the German remains the stand-out choice, Shawcross is more affordable and just as capable.

Joleon Lescott (£6.5m) – Man City

Lescott is an incredible fantasy football defender who always guarantees goals. He just seems to have a knack of getting on the end of things.

He scored 8 goals in 2007/08, when at Everton, and finished that season as one of the highest scoring players.

He became much less affective when he signed for Man City, playing second fiddle to Vicent Kompany and Kolo Toure, but Toure’s drug ban opened the door for Lescott and he chipped in with 3 goals towards the end of last season.

It’s looking like Lescott will start this season first choice, so you could do far worse than pick him.