It was inevitable. It has finally happened. Phil Jones is injured, yet again.
Much to the chagrin of his ever growing 432,725 strong ownership, Jones is a major doubt for this weekend. The timing couldn't be worse, as it comes right before a plum home clash against winless and goalless Crystal Palace. It is unlikely he will feature this weekend, and with a schedule that turns ugly after this Gameweek - Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea in 4 weeks - it might be time to get rid of Jones, who has undoubtedly served owners well, with 35 points in 6 games at a starting price of £5.0m. I take a look at the top 5 replacements.
1. Sead Kolasinac (£6.0m)
If you have the funds for the upgrade, there are not much better options in defense than Kolasinac at the moment. The wing-back has enjoyed a fantastic start to life at the Emirates. He has notched up 29 points in just 5 starts already. With Arsenal's defense improving by the day, the Bosnian tank could be a huge benefactor. Arsenal have kept 3 clean sheets in their last 3 games, and with 4 attractive fixtures in the next 4 - BHA (H), WAT (A), EVE (A) and SWA (H) - they'll be looking to add to that.
What sets Kolasinac apart from the rest of the pack is his attacking output. He has already managed 2 assists in the 5 starts, and also scored in the Europa League. His darting runs down the left flank have become a feature of Arsenal's play, and have made him a fan favorite at the Emirates already. He is almost playing as a winger. Now that the Gunners have sorted their defensive woes out for the time being, Kolasinac is a real threat to earn points at both ends of the pitch.
2. Harry Maguire (£5.1m)
A more like-for-like swap in terms of cost, Maguire is another summer signing who has settled well at his new club. Despite a horror run of fixtures to start off the season, facing 4 of last season's top 6 already, he has scored 27 points. Although Leicester have kept only one clean sheet so far, it could be put down to their hard run of fixtures at the start. They have shown signs of solidity at the back.
The imposing 6"2 figure has also shown great attacking potential through his heading ability. Despite the aforementioned tough fixtures, he has scored 1 and assisted 2 already. Amongst defenders, only Cesar Azpilicueta has directly contributed to more goals. With Leicester's schedule looking much kinder now - BOU (A), WBA (H), SWA (A), EVE (H), STK (A) in the next 5 - the 6.7% owned defender has all the makings of a an astute defensive differential.
3. Aaron Cresswell (£5.0m)
I know most of you expected hell to freeze over sooner than you saw a West Ham defender on a top 5 list, but hear me out here. Although Cresswell may have only scored 18 points so far, there's indication of much more to come here. The shift to a 3-4-3 from West Ham has benefited his Fantasy prospects a lot. As a wing-back, his attacking threat has improved a lot. Even though he doesn't have any assists yet, the stats indicate towards some coming sooner rather than later.
The England international has a league highest whopping 58 crosses in only 5 starts - 6 more than Christian Eriksen in second place. With two of the best headers of the ball in the league to supply, in Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll, it's sooner rather than later they start converting into assists. It bodes well that West Ham's defense has improved since the formation switch too, with 2 clean sheets in the last 3. The Hammers have great fixtures too - SWA (H), BUR (A), BHA (H), CRY (A), LIV (H) and WAT (A) in the next 6. Only in 0.8% of all teams, he could be another fantastic differential.
4. Wesley Hoedt (£5.0m)
Southampton's fixture list has been kind from the start, and it has no intention of stiffening up till Gameweek 12. Their next 5 fixtures read STK (A), NEW (H), WBA (H), BHA (A) and BUR (H), ripe for them to add on to their tally of 3 clean sheets in their first 6. Unlike their insipid attack, their defense has been resolute - only let down by keeper Fraser Forster on occasion.
With those fixtures, a Southampton defender is a good idea, especially with Virgil van Dijk returning. My choice of Southampton defender is Wesley Hoedt. At £5.0m, he is the cheapest amongst them all, tied with Cedric Soares. Cedric has not offered much offensively, and perhaps the bonus points advantage Hoedt offers is safer. Hoedt's BPS score in his 3 appearance is 60, compared to Cedric's 36 for the same 3 games.
5. Ben Mee (£4.5m)
If you want to make funds for other purchases and move down a price bracket, Ben Mee may be the man. In terms of defenders, his 7 shots so far are only beaten by Marcos Alonso, the most expensive defender in the game, Ben Davies and Nicolas Otamendi. Mee's 4 shots on target are tied highest with Alonso. The Burnley centre-back's 7 headed efforts are also the highest for a defender.
With EVE (A), WHU (H), MCI (A), NEW (H), SOT (A), SWA (H) in the next 6 fixtures, he can muster clean sheets in the defensive department too. His stats are great there as well. With 15 blocks, he has the most blocks in the league. His 46 clearances rank 5th. This also helps his cause with the defensive bonus department. He seems the best of the £4.5m lot, and with his goal threat there's a 15-point haul coming soon.