Yesterday in Part 1 I covered my overall strategy and approach to defenders.

Today, let’s review some players to see how I would put that strategy to use in practice.

As I said yesterday, it is actually quite difficult to find defenders who are genuinely head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to performance scoring. The scoring system doesn’t really give many defenders a way to stand out.

That means we have to be a bit more creative in the way we trade, and with “quality” less of a differential, “price” plays an even more important role than usual. 

For this article, I’m going to give an example of different “types” of defender trade with a Case Study from this season so far. 

Then, I’ll share some examples of cheaper players who have some similar traits to the Case Study but don’t have the big price tag yet.

The Patient Long Term Hold

These are some genuine FI performance scoring prospects. If they are brilliant all the better, but in defence we may have to settle for “just good enough”, which is 3 out of 5 stars or greater in my rating system.

They may have some hype factors but it won’t be out of control.

Case Study: Benjamin Pavard - Bayern Munich

Pavard on the way to Bayern was about as “slam dunk profit” as it gets. And one of the perfect examples of how you can squeeze a big profit out of a relatively low key player.

The transfer was agreed well in advance, so the move was guaranteed. There was no chance the move would fall over. 

He’s a decent, if not brilliant, performance player and that can be enough at Bayern who are almost unarguably the best performance club around.

He had a sprinkle of stardust because people still remember him for that goal at the World Cup. 

These soft factors do matter and can help push a price because it made him a household name and traders like the familiar. Particularly in a Euros year where France internationals are going to have an extra buzz.

And he was cheap. Just 75p in June 2019 and £1.96 by December. That’s a big profit but does require some patience – that took 7 months to achieve.

A 161% gain – it may come as a surprise that this actually outperforms TAA over the same period despite TAA’s superb first few months of the season. And it dwarfs other overpriced defenders like Chilwell even if selling at their high rather than the post crash price. 

Social media barely stopped talking about TAA or Chilwell during their rises. Yet how often do you see social media gushing about Pavard? Rarely. Yet, there was more money in the lower key trade.

These picks will frequently profit more than the hype and will also tend to be more stable because you don’t have to step outside the realms of sensible value to get your big profit.

This means you are less likely to get those severe drops as happened to Chilwell when the hype faded away.

You also have options here. At the £1.96 high or the £1.88 now you can take your profit and be happy with it. But equally, if you want to hold you can. 

He’s 24, a Bayern and France regular and is capable of 2-3 performance wins per season (particularly during Champions League run ins with less competition). 

We aren’t going to be seeing a 161% profit again anytime soon but for a long term holder he’s a solid part of a portfolio and should grow nicely along with the market and when he hits an occasional win. 


Similar Players

Unai Nunez – 24 year old CB – Athletic Club Bilbao

Not a carbon copy of Pavard but Nunez is highly rated and has recently made his Spain debut.

His historic performance scores are awful, but what I said about not relying too much on these applies. Put any defender you like at Bilbao, chances are they will struggle.

We have to make some assumptions here about how good he may become because the historic performance scores tell us nothing here.

He has good passing ability, so we know it is likely he can improve at a bigger club. This passing ability is also fashionable for defenders at big clubs these days, and in the Spain team too.

He’s a fit for that “ball playing centre back” type. We know they aren’t going to be dominating every week, but at the right club they can do ok and snag a few wins a season. 

Whilst we are aware of those weaknesses, we are also getting him for just 78p at time of writing and that’s cheap for a player of this profile and potential. 

Price is everything. Once our player is already pushing a high price – all this “he can improve” and other if’s and but’s becomes highly questionable. But evidence based speculation is fine as long as you are paying a low price that matches the risk.

A bit like Pavard, I would expect this to need 6 months or even longer of patience. But it’s a very solid investment for a good price.

There is a chance of a big club transfer this Summer which would be a bonus, but I don’t think betting on that alone is a good idea. 


The Hidden Gem

These are cut price players who are a strong fit for FI performance scoring. To get them at value, they usually have some kind of problem or road block (lack of pitch time?) and your bet is that they overcome it, get on the pitch and blow up with a big score.

Case Study: Angelino - 23 years old LB - RB Leipzig (Manchester City)

Angelino was picked out on the site in early November at just 87p. What drew me to him was his insane crossing ability, which was the best around and one of the few to genuinely contend with TAA’s high level back then.

He quickly shot up to £1 after a game or two, but as he struggled to hold down a spot and didn’t make a big initial impact, he slid back down to 75p by January.

But then the Leipzig move happened, and the decent scores I knew he was capable of duly arrived. He shot up to £1.58 by February and is still £1.63 today.

With this sort of high potential player with some kind of problem, you have to be prepared to ride out the tough times, putting faith in your analysis that your boy will take his chance when he gets it.

Provided the price is low, and he’s young enough, you can afford a bit of patience. At 80p and under players can have problems. By the time we’re getting anywhere near £1.50 or so, they generally can’t.

Similar Players

Joules Koundé – 21 year old CB – Sevilla

Koundé’s not going to be making much of a splash at Sevilla. But, he’s got some interesting stats.

As a centre back, he’s got the strong passing ability we look for that can get him a nice baseline and will attract interest from top clubs if he keeps playing well. And he’s got some nice stats for long passes/recoveries/interceptions too. So there is plenty to build a baseline with.

What sets him apart is higher than usual goal threat, which can make him a contender. He hasn’t actually scored too many this season (2) but the threat is there for more. 

When one of these goals goes in, he’s capable of a competitive score even at Sevilla. And at a bigger club one day he can improve.

Lots of if’s and maybe’s here but that’s what you deal with in this area of the market. At 78p, I’d call that a good long term bet that  we can win if he drops on a big score or a big transfer later.

Emerson – 21 year old RB – Real Betis

Not to be confused with Chelsea’s Emerson. 

This Emerson is coming through the Brazil ranks and whilst he is at Betis he is on loan from Barcelona.

Here, the baseline stats aren’t fantastic but not terrible. What we do get though is some excellent goal threat and some assist potential. 3 goals and 5 assists this term is very solid.

He is £1.39 which is on the pricey side, yet still below the site Guide Price for a defender at £1.40 to £1.70 – so there is room to grow here. At these prices, even a 20p gain is very worthwhile.

Some performance potential here if you make the leap that he’d be a bit better at Barcelona. Plus the sprinkling of Brazil and potential Barcelona stardust is enough to make this value, especially as he was £1.56 a few months ago when IPO’d in February.

With most IPO’s I tend to come back to them after the silly hype has faded rather than plowing in on the day like a muppet.

Also consider: Moussa Wague, Kenny Tete.

The Big Transfer

These trades are always going to be driven by the hype for a move. This is fine, provided you are starting early and well before the move is being widely discussed in the mainstream media.

I like these trades but I like to have some performance suitability in the mix rather than gambling on rubbish. At least that way, if the hoped for transfer collapses, you are left with a reason they might bounce back later.

Beware the exodus and price drop with these players when the reason for their short term hype is coming to an end.

Case Study: Dayot Upamecano - RB Leipzig

A regular feature on most mainstream “Best young defenders” articles these days and a big transfer speculation source.

Upamecano was a good pick this season. Those buying on speculation and hype in July to October were probably a touch premature. But, you can get lucky. Sometimes, the player does actually improve and their ability starts growing into the big price. That’s rare though.

In this case, it did. By 24 November Scouting I’d picked out Upamecano’s vastly improving passing numbers and high goal threat. He was £1.35 at the time.

I added him to my “Explosion Imminent” on the strength of that, and he bagged his first win the following week. Textbook.

Spotting these tiny details can be huge. It was a reason to go in for him even at £1.35 which is already a fairly high price. But it felt justified.

£2.10 now with a high of £2.24 as transfer speculation keeps him pushing on.

It’s not a totally outrageous price, but this is the point in the trade where you may want to consider how greedy you really want to be. Is he really going to be good enough to justify this price long term? Depends where he ends up, but probably not.

The Arsenal or Manchester United links are there. You can push for that and may get lucky. At least if it falls apart for this Summer, he’ll likely have his time again in the next window, and RB Leipzig are a decent club. It’s not reckless to bet on this transfer for those reasons.

Equally, if we’ve bought a defender with this kind of profile at £1.35 and are cashing out over £2 we should be happy with this trade even if it does go up a bit more later.

Similar Players

Alessandro Bastoni – 20 year old CB – Inter

Solid young Italy U21 defender with plenty of minutes under his belt for Inter at a young age. 

Strong passing ability which makes him fashionable. Generally decent baseline numbers, but like many centre backs, not many reasons why that will spike and become a big score. We could expect him to improve at a different club though, Inter defenders are not particularly strong in the FI system.

All fairly unremarkable but he does have big transfer rumours and he is just 94p. There are far worse defenders up in the £1.50 range already and all you need is a bit of luck (and patience) and he can start pushing upwards.

Giovani Di Lorenzo – 26 year old RB – Napoli

A solid player, capable of a few big scores a season and some potential wins. Napoli were in poor form this year and he has the numbers to improve.

This is a decent foundation but most appealing is his potential big transfer link, which have been coming around recently. He is one of the many players linked to Manchester United.

Not spectacular but when you factor in the 78p price, there is lots of room to grow here and it really wouldn’t take much to see him up to £1. 

It will take patience but whilst you wait, he’s a decent player at Napoli and can challenge for a win every so often.

The Big Name Flop

When a decent player falls on hard times, lots of traders run away from them. I will tend to run towards them after the price drop if I have reasons why I think they will recover.

Case Study: Joao Cancelo - Manchester City

This is such a typical example of a trade on FI.

A year ago you could pick up Cancelo for 90p. Then, transfer speculation builds, he’s coming to City, and just a few months later he’s up at £1.62. 

He even held that price in early season as plenty of traders were willing to give him a chance rather than just cash in on the transfer. 

That’s very risky. You know the price is pumping and it means he has a lot to do in his first season to justify it. It’s not something I generally do unless, like I did with Fernandes, I have extremely high confidence in the potential of the player.

Cancelo has flopped and he may even be shipped out. 

But it’s not hopeless. He’s still just 25 and he does actually show some very nice performance numbers, he’s capable of improving and becoming a solid FI player for sure.

Whether that is at City, or some other decent club he will likely end up at, all we need is a bit of patience. 

At just £1.15 now he’s cheap and will be hitting his prime in the next season or two assuming he settles somewhere. 

This is the time where you can go back to them.

Similar Players

Nico Schulz – 27 year old LB – Dortmund

I had high hopes for Schulz in pre-season as he moved to Dortmund. He was cheap, had shown some solid numbers at Hoffenheim, and had made the Germany left back slot his own.

He was signed for €25 million which is a huge fee for a Bundesliga club to pay for a defender. He might not be a household name over here but that’s a big deal in Germany.

It went very well at first, you could pick him up in the 60p range in pre-season Scouting, and he was 99p by 11 August. A hefty profit.

But, things went wrong quickly. He started badly and never established in the side. He is all the way back to 60p again and must reboot his career.

Worse, he was playing badly in reality but showing some decent FI relevant numbers. This makes it hard to put him down because you know he is actually close to a breakthrough. If the numbers are bad at least it’s an easy decision to cut him off.

I file this under “acceptable losses”. Believe it or not, there are good ways to lose money on FI. Or at least better ways than others. Following the evidence will generally get us where we want to be, but we won’t get everything right.

He is far from a write off and the word is he will get another chance. With some very decent performance numbers and a bargain bucket price tag, now would be the moment to bet on him.

The Off Trend Price Drop

At various times of year, certain players will go in and out of fashion. Because we have a better idea than most of what they are really worth, we know who we can pick up and patiently wait for others to catch up with us.

Case Study: Oleksandr Zinchenko - Manchester City

Recently, with Alphonso Davies and a couple of others, I’ve discussed the price mix ups that can occur when players are shifted to a different positional category.

Zinchenko is a good example of this – he was running a midfielder type of price but became a defender and hit a bit of pitch time trouble. He’s struggled for the best part of a year under the weight of his price tag as a result.

Now though, he is probably closer to being a regular than ever, and he’s dropped from £1.89 to £1.42. 

This is probably a combination of end of season/coronavirus worry, plus frustration that a win hasn’t materialised. 

But he’s a really strong FI player. I give him a 4 out of 5 stars for potential in my ratings and I don’t screw around with those, especially in defence. There are only a handful I think capable of that level and very few so young.

Rotation is always going to be an issue at City for many players. 

But now would be the time to sign up Zinchenko, when he’s out of the limelight. He’s very capable of starting a game and winning.

Dani Carvajal – 28 year old RB – Real Madrid

Not every profit has to be a hidden gem. We’ll all know Carvajal.

He’s a solid player and capable of performance wins.

What we do need with a trade like this is a fat discount and you can get one here at this point. 

£1.31, well below the site Guide Price on the Dashboard (which represents what people are currently willing to pay for a generally well regarded defender). 

In December he was up at £1.71 and even if we can get him back to £1.50 when football resumes, that’s a really nice profit and it has not taxed our brain at all.  

It doesn’t always have to be complicated. It’s just good timing.

Also consider: Marcos Alonso, Virgil Van Dijk, Aymeric Laporte, Alex Sandro. 

The Car Crash

These trades were such obvious losses before they happened that I struggle to have any sympathy at all with anyone who took them. They were easier to spot than a freight train. It’s just bad trading. 

Either they have poor analysis skills (or haven’t even tried) or they have swallowed the rubbish that is peddled on social media. Either way, it was their own fault.

I can understand why a new trader might fall for it. But we should learn from these examples and make sure it doesn’t happen to us.

Case Study: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

One of the things I always say is “hype can get the price up there, only dividends will keep it there”.

It’s like a fundamental law of physics. Gravity.

The more hype you have (If you are an Mbappé, say) the longer you can stay afloat without them. But eventually, no player will be immune from a lack of cold hard dividend returns. 

Dividend potential is the only reason any player has any real life value at all. Without them, Adam Cole is just selling you a meaningless entry in his database. 

So, if you buy Wan-Bissaka ahead of his Manchester United move, the earlier you do that whilst he’s still doing well at Palace, the more my hat goes off to you.

But we have to know when to cash in.

Wan-Bissaka has got so little going for him outside of the initial transfer hype.

No credible performance ability. And no real reason it will get better. We did not need to wait to see him play at Manchester United to figure this out. You could do it from his Palace numbers. Certainly, after seeing the first few United friendlies you could have called it.

Yet, it took a lot of people a few games for the penny to drop and the price slide started. 

And, we know the media don’t really care about defenders outside of one off stories.

Maybe he could sustain a £1.50 or so given the trend fit etc.

But at £2.32 in August (bearing in mind this was a much bigger price back then in a smaller market) I can’t think of a single reason you wouldn’t cash that out.

To stick in, you’d have to have zero idea about his real ability or be some kind of anarchist who doesn’t like money. 

We should look to pick up players like this early but even if we were a hype trader who doesn’t care much about dividend potential – we still have to know what their real potential is to trade optimally.

Without that knowledge, we have no idea what we need to sell and what we can rationally stick with.

Other similar avoidable Car Crashes: Tomori, De Ligt, Brandon Williams, Harry Maguire.

Thanks for reading, that ended up being a longer article than I thought but I enjoyed writing it, and it was nice to cover an area of the market I haven't been into in depth for a while. And I think the research uncovered some decent prospects too.

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