Fantasy Football Tips Gameweek 1
Welcome to Fantasy Football Tips Gameweek 1. Here we are yet again standing on the precipice of another rollercoaster of a season. Every year I moan my way through the season but deep down I must enjoy FPL as this will be my 10th season. Having enjoyed the summer months with some fantasy cricket & cycling I’m going to start the season in a positive mood but I’m afraid I can’t guarantee how long this will last. Liverpool selling Coutinho could easily send me spiralling into the depths of despair. A Dejan Lovren mistake on Saturday could do likewise…I’m f**cked. I’d best move on from Liverpool before my mood starts to ebb!
And what of FPL? You can’t win or lose FPL in GW1 but if you get off to a bad start you can make things much more difficult for yourself. Of course you can use your WC to rectify any mistakes but I’m a firm believer in holding onto that WC past GW3. With that in mind I’ve based the below tips on the opening 7 game-weeks. Why 7? The 2nd international break of the season comes after GW7 and at that stage we should have a good idea of who’s hot and who’s not. While I’m an advocate of not using the WC to pick up the all of the latest bandwagons don’t be afraid to use those FT’s or even an odd hit in an attempt to pick up this seasons Capoue! Anyway, onto the tips…
Take a quick look at the fixtures and you’ll soon see that if you have decided to start the season with a premium goalkeeper then David de Gea is the one you will want. Now I’m sure that Mourinho will find something to moan about but it won’t be about United’s opening fixtures as they do not face a team from last season’s top 6 in their opening seven games. Last season United finished the season having conceded just 29 league goals meaning they had the 2nd best defence in the league. This saw them keep 17 clean sheets with the Spaniard being responsible for 14 of these. Many fantasy managers will often avoid the premium keepers as there are better alternatives available from that keepers’ defensive colleagues but at this stage of the season I don’t believe this to be the case at United. Antonio Valencia enjoyed an impressive end to last season but at £6.5m it would appear as though there are better options available elsewhere when it comes to premium defenders. There are a number of options available at £5.5m but there are doubts over each of them starting. New signing Victor Lindelof has been tipped to go straight into the team but a couple of shaky pre-season performances might see him eased into the team. Essentially what we’re saying is that if you fancy United to pick up a number of early season clean sheets then de Gea is your best bet.
At this stage of the season the only other premium keeper whom I would consider is Hugo Lloris. Spurs were the only team to finish with a better defensive record than United last term, conceding a paltry 26 goals across their 38 games. This resulted in Spurs keeping 17 clean sheets with the Frenchman being responsible for 15 of these. Their fixtures aren’t quite as appealing as United’s but it’s worth noting that they only face one of last season’s top 6 in their opening seven games. The issue I have with Lloris is Kieran Trippier! With Kyle Walker having left for City it would appear as though Trippier is nailed (when he returns from injury!) on at right back / right wing back depending on formation and with his attacking instincts he’s likely to pick up more points than Lloris. However it is worth noting that Lloris outscored all his defensive colleagues last season!
Historically I’ve never been a fan of the mid-priced keepers. I’d prefer to go all in on a premium keeper or save the cash and get a budget option. However, Southampton’s opening fixtures make Fraser Forster difficult to ignore. They only face one of last season’s top 6 in the first 11 game-weeks! Last season Southampton & Forster kept 14 clean sheets eight of which were at home and it’s worth noting that three of their opening four fixtures this season are at home. Previously I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with a mid-priced keeper and a 4.0m keeper as I wouldn’t have had enough faith in the mid-priced keeper but given Southampton’s early season fixtures I believe that this option is worth some consideration this season.
And so we come to the perennial favourites, the budget keepers. There are always several options in this category, the problem is making the right choice as early as possible. Looking at the opening seven fixtures I believe the best bets are West Brom’s Ben Foster, Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski and Rob Elliott at Newcastle. There are of course other options such as Lossl at Huddersfield and Hart at West Ham but Huddersfield are something of an unknown quantity and didn’t exactly have a great defensive record last season while Hart is Hart and plays for West Ham. Hart could yet prove to be good value but I’d avoid him for now.
The only reason Foster is included is because of West Brom’s fixtures, they only face one of last season’s top 6 in their opening seven games. West Brom under Tony Pulis have somehow built a reputation for being defensively sound but it’s worth remembering that they only kept six clean sheets last season. Despite this Foster deserves to be considered given his £4.5m price tag and those fixtures. With eight clean sheets to his name last season Fabianski only fared marginally better than Foster but it is worth noting that five of these clean sheets came in the 2nd half of the season after Paul Clement had taken charge. Swansea made significant strides forward defensively under Clement , they gave up less shots as well as efforts inside the area while they also allowed less efforts from set pieces per match. Their opening fixtures aren’t quite as appealing as West Brom’s but perhaps they’re better organised. Newcastle continue to be linked with goalkeepers but at the time of writing they have failed to bring one in and this means that Rob Elliott remains first choice and the good news is he’s priced at just £4.0m. A goalkeeper who starts for his club and is priced at £4.0m is worth his weight in gold, the fact that Newcastle have some decent early season fixtures is just an added bonus.
Premium defenders have become all the rage in FPL circles. Currently, seven of the top 10 most popular defenders are priced at £5.5m and above. The budget defence would appear to have been forgotten. For now, at least. Interestingly three of last season’s top six are set to start with wingbacks and it’s two of these wingbacks who we now turn our attentions to.
At £7.0m Marcus Alonso is the games most expensive defender but with good reason. Thanks to six goals, five assists and 15 clean sheets the Spaniard finished last season with 177pts and was only bettered by his Chelsea colleague Gary Cahill, and don’t forget that Cahill played just over 600 minutes more than Alonso. To put Alonso’s FPL achievements into a little more context only seven midfielders bettered 177pts last season. You’ll hear it said that by picking Alonso you’re essentially picking an extra midfielder and there’s an element of truth to this. If we take a look at the midfielders available at £7.0m and what they scored last season we see that Zaha and Wijnaldum were the best with 149pts, a full 28pts behind Alonso. Food for thought! The obvious question is can he replicate it again this season? Chelsea are the reigning champions so everyone will want their scalp. They have CL football to contend with something, they didn’t have last season. It’s also worth noting that they don’t have the easiest of opening seven fixtures. Chelsea also continue to be linked with Juventus star Alex Sandro. Hmmm…I may not have made a great case for Alonso but last season’s stats are difficult to ignore. He took more shots, had more efforts from inside the box and had more shots on target than any other FPL defender last season. While only Hector Bellerin had more touches inside the opposition penalty area. I’ll leave the final call to you.
The other wingback I want to quickly mention is Arsenal new boy Sead Kolasinac. The Bosnian arrived at Arsenal having produced three goals and five assists from 25 league appearances for Schalke last season so he clearly enjoys getting forward. At times last season Arsenal were rather porous at the back and finished the season having conceded 44 goals. They did however manage to keep 12 clean sheets along the way. If they tighten up at the back you would expect an extra couple of clean sheets and these combined with Kolasinac’s attacking instincts should see the Bosnian do well over the course of the season. Aside from trips to Liverpool & Chelsea their opening seven fixtures are quite appealing and this should allow the Bosnian to get off to a good start. Bizarrely he was benched for the Community Shield on Sunday but I fully expect him to line out against Leicester on Friday night.
I started writing this article last week as I knew I wouldn’t get a chance over the weekend and the early part of this week. I shouldn’t have bothered! I’d written a great piece on the merits of Kieran Trippier and look what happens. So where do those of us who had earmarked Trippier for a place in our sides turn our attentions? Not very far is the answer. With Danny Rose set to miss the start of the season Ben Davies will once again deputise at left back. The Welsh international impressed last season making 18 starts as well as five further appearances from the bench. Despite not earning the same rave reviews as Trippier he did pick up a goal and three assists. If we compare the average underlying stats of the two there is actually no comparison as Davies is light years ahead. I will add a caveat to Davies and all other Spurs players and that is Wembley. Nobody knows how the season long move is going to affect them although the consensus is that it’s unlikely to be positive. However it will be difficult to judge this until much later in the season and I wouldn’t rule Davies or any other Spurs player out just because of the Wembley factor.
Despite their obvious problems at the back last season Manchester City still finished with the 4th best defence in the league conceding 39 goals. Pep clearly realised he had issues at the back and as a result he’s spent in excess of £160m on three full backs and a goalkeeper. Their opening fixtures are something of a mixed bag but given the levels of investment we will surely see an improvement at the back this season. The obvious pick is certainly Kyle Walker but our tip is their captain fantastic Vincent Kompany. Now we’re all well aware of the Belgians injury problems. He made just 11 league appearances last season and 14 the previous season. In fact, he hasn’t made 30+ appearances since the 2011-12 season. He did however start each of the final eight games last season and in that period picked up five clean sheets, three goals and six bonus points. It’s also worth pointing out that all of City’s defensive underlying stats improve significantly with the Belgian in the team. Obviously keeping him fit will be one of the keys to City’s season so I expect he will be rested along the way so I would suggest having some backup on your bench.
Virgil van Dijk has as you all know handed in a transfer request and while this doesn’t guarantee that he won’t play for the club again it’s a pretty good indicator. His departure you would imagine will have a destabilising effect on the Southampton defence. Unfortunately I don’t have any stats to confirm or deny such a statement but one thing I do know is that van Dijk was only on the field for seven of their 14 clean sheets last season so all may not be lost without the Dutch international. So, having established that their defence is still worth investing in, who is the best option. Cedric Soares, Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens are all priced at £5.0m. Cedric finished last season with 102pts from 2515 minutes, Yoshida with 78pts from 2070 minutes and Stephens with 60pts from 1471 minutes. Yoshida is the only one of the three to have registered a goal while Cedric lead the way with three assists. Their underlying stats suggest that unsurprisingly Cedric is the most likely to register those all important attacking points and therefore he is our tip of the three. The one fly in the ointment is the fact that he’s only played 60 minutes of pre-season football and as a result he’s surely a doubt this weekend. Before we move on from Southampton we need to briefly discuss Ryan Bertrand who finished last season with 123pts from 2507 minutes. At £5.5m he’s £0.5m more than Cedric but the question is, is he worth it? I’m not sure he is! Yes he finished with 21pts more than Cedric last season but there’s very little to separate their underlying stats and therefore I feel that the £0.5m is best invested elsewhere.
At this point it would appear as though it’s quite unlikely that any £4.0m defenders are likely to start for their respective clubs. As a result our search in the bargain basement will be confined to those defenders priced at £4.5m. Those who we feel warrant some consideration are Newcastle’s Paul Dummett, Swansea’s Kyle Naughton, Brighton’s Markus Suttner and Burnley’s Ben Mee. I had originally pencilled Yedlin in but like Trippier he went and got himself injured. I’ll admit Dummett is the least exciting of the Newcastle defence, and that’s saying something, but he appears the least likely to be rotated. Defending hasn’t always been the Geordies strong suit but they’ve certainly got the fixtures to pick up some early season clean sheets. Why Kyle Naughton? I’ll be honest here, I don’t have any great reason for including him. However as I’ve noted above Swansea improved at the back under Clement and with their early season fixtures they could very well pick up a couple of clean sheets. I’m always wary when tipping a player from one of the promoted teams and here I am tipping Markus Suttner who is not only new to the league but also new to the team and the country. He does however arrive with a certain degree of pedigree having scored four and picked up five assists in 31 Bundesliga appearances with relegated Ingolstadt last season. He appears to have settled in well and has picked up a couple of assists in pre-season. Brighton were pretty solid at home last season conceding just 14 goals in 23 games and keeping 12 clean sheets. Obviously the PL is a big step up in quality but if they can maintain their home form Suttner could prove to be an interesting choice. Burnley’s fixtures are horrendous. Actually, their away fixtures are horrendous. Their home fixtures on the other hand are quite enticing. It was their home form that kept them up last season and if they can match that this season Mee could be the source of some early season points.
Picking a Manchester City midfielder last season was difficult enough as KDB, David Silva, Raheem Sterling & Leroy Sane all had their moments. Throw new signing Bernardo Silva into the mix and things become even more of a challenge this time around. Obviously they can only field 10 outfield players. Now if they continue with three at the back and two wingbacks that leaves five places. It has been suggested that both Aguero & Jesus could start and if this happens the above five players are battling for three spots. Actually it’s probably only two spots as they’ll need a defensive mid in there somewhere. Obviously there are other permutations such as Sterling playing further forward, they might just play a back four or Sane could even feature as a wingback etc… It’s impossible to predict Pep and this proves how difficult it will be to identify the best option. Kevin De Bruyne has been their standout player in their preseason victories over Real Madrid and Spurs, and Pep is clearly a fan saying that “it’s difficult to find a player with his qualities. He runs and fights and moves and helps team mates.” The Belgian is at least £1.5m more expensive than any of his midfield colleagues but this is hardly a surprise as he scored at least 50pts more than all of them last season. He picked up a staggering 21 assists last season with only Spurs’ Christian Eriksen getting close to him. He only managed six goals last season and if he can improve on this he could very well exceed the 199pts he managed last season.
Liverpool finished last season as the league’s 4th highest scores with a total of 78 goals. The goals were distributed pretty evenly around the squad, with Coutinho (13), Mane (13), Firmino (11), Lallana (8), Milner (7), Origi (7) & Wijnaldum accounting for just over 80% of the goals. Interestingly all of these bar Origi were listed as midfielders last season which made picking the right Pool midfielder to be on rather difficult. Perhaps they’ve made it a little easier this time around as both Firmino & Milner have been reclassified. I’m going to ignore both Lallana and Wijnaldum for now as neither are guaranteed starters. So that leaves us with Coutinho, Mane and new signing Mohamed Salah. Coutinho finished last season 15pts clear of Mane and when you compare their underlying stats Coutinho leads the way. He is more involved in Liverpool’s build up play and this saw him have more touches of the ball in the oppositions half and given his desire to shoot he had more goal attempts. It should be noted though that Mane comfortably lead the way when it came to penalty area touches. And what of Salah? Obviously we can’t directly compare his stats with those of Coutinho & Mane but his stats from Serie A last season are quite impressive and suggest that he can rival them for our attentions. The arrival of Salah is going to affect Coutinho’s position on the pitch and he is likely to play deeper with Salah & Mane playing either side of Firmino up top. It’s too early to say what effect this will have on his output but he has already picked up a goal and three assists in pre-season. Clearly it’s only pre-season and it’s not a time to be getting carried away but Salah has hit the ground running with four goals and his link up play with Coutinho in particular has been superb. Mane returned to pre-season a little later than most due to his comeback from injury but appears to have picked up where he left off last season and is set to once again terrorise defences. But which one do we pick? Mane, Salah & Coutinho is the order I currently have them in. Coutinho continues to be linked with Barca and while Klopp is adamant that he’s going nowhere it will be difficult for FSG to turn down an offer in excess of £100m. Because of this I wouldn’t be confident owning Coutinho at this stage. There is very little between Mane & Salah but I have Mane ahead just because of his PL experience although if money is tight you will save yourself £0.5m by picking up Salah instead. It is worth noting that Liverpool have the first leg of their CL qualifier between game-weeks 1&2 and the second leg between game-weeks 2&3, and this may see some early season rotation.
Wembley or not it’s impossible not to tip Spurs duo Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Only seven points separated the two last season although they did accumulate their points in a slightly different way. Alli had 18 goals, 11 assists and 17 bonus points where as Eriksen had eight goals, 20 assists and 30 bonus points. In terms of ownership figures Alli is out in front as he currently features in nearly 38% of teams compared to Eriksen’s 14.5%. I suspect that a lot of managers are a little blinded by his 18 goals and understandably so. However it might be worth instead considering their underlying stats. If we do this we see that it is the Dane who has the upper hand. Unsurprisingly he’s more involved in Spurs’ build up play and averages considerably more touches in the opposition half, although Alli does average more touches in the opposition area. Because his stats are considerably better than Alli’s he will always stand a better chance of picking up baps. At the end of the day it boils down to Alli’s goals versus Eriksen’s assists and baps. At this stage of the season picking between the two is really a toss of the coin.
There are a number of interesting options priced at £7.0m. None more so than Chelsea duo Cesc Fabregas and Willian. At this stage it appears as though both are set to start GW1 but we’re unsure how long either will remain in the team. Both saw limited game time last season with Fabregas starting 15 games and Willian starting 13. Despite their limited game time both finished with respectable figures, five goals and 15 assists for Fabregas, eight goals and three assists for Willian. The underlying stats favour Fabregas but that’s hardly surprising given their respective talents. Obviously Willian is more of a threat in and around the penalty area. I’ll state the obvious here but the key to choosing between these two will be deciding which of them is likely to get more minutes. Unlike many others I think that this might be Fabregas. Yes Chelsea have bought Bakayoko to play beside Kante but Fabregas brings something to different to the party. Willian on the other hand is up against Hazard, Morata, Pedro & Batshuayi for a spot in the front three. To be honest if you are trying to decide between these two I’d just go back to the coin you used for Alli & Eriksen.
A trio of midfielders whom we feel are reasonably priced are Huddersfield’s Tom Ince (£6.0), Southampton’s James Ward Prowse (£5.5m) and Pascal Groß (£5.5m) of Brighton. You suspect it’s now or never for Ince. He’s long been a player who has stood out in the Championship but hasn’t impressed during his limited PL appearances. He has impressed during pre-season with four goals and Huddersfield’s opening fixtures should give him every opportunity to hit the ground running. The one concern is the fact that Huddersfield struggled for goals last season but the hope will be that the addition of Ince & Mounie will rectify this. JWP started 22 league games last season and came off the bench on another eight occasions. Interestingly, when on the pitch he was involved in nearly 40% of the Saints goals. The youngster has developed year on year and should he push on again this season he could prove great value. There’s every chance he could start the season in the #10 position while he will also have his share of set pieces. Groß is something of an anomaly in that he has been described as a hard working playmaker. You can be guaranteed that he’ll create chances. In each of his two Bundesliga seasons he created more chances (95 & 98) than any other player in the league. The problem is they don’t have a high quality forward to finish off those chances. There’s every chance he’ll be on a significant number of Brighton’s set pieces.
Last season we tipped Etienne Capoue in our GW1 article. Let’s see if Tom Carroll can become this seasons Capoue! He finished last season well and has impressed during pre-season particularly against Sampdoria on Saturday as he picked up a hat-trick of assists. It looks as though Siggy has played his last game for the club and in his absence Carroll has taken over on set pieces. If you happen to be in the market for a 2nd £4.5m midfielder you could consider Southampton’s Oriol Romeu. The only reason I’ve included Romeu is because he’s guaranteed to start and if you’re looking for someone to sit on your bench every week he’s what you need.
It may have surprised some to see that we didn’t include any United midfielders. While I do expect them to do well over the course of the season there is just an air of uncertainty surrounding them for now. The arrival of Matic will supposedly free up Pogba to play further forward but personally I want to see how that develops. With three goals and two assists in pre-season Henrik Mkhitaryan has certainly impressed but can we rely on Jose to play him on a consistent basis, only time will tell. The safest route into the United attack is undoubtedly Romelu Lukaku. Over the course of the season he may not prove to be the best value for money but for now he’s the best option. The Belgian is often criticised for being inconsistent and has been nicknamed Trollkaku in FPL circles but he has scored 85 goals over the last five seasons with 25 of them coming last season. While Ibrahimovic was United’s top scorer last season he came in for much criticism as he constantly slowed the play down and as we know the great United sides of the past always played with pace. Lukaku will bring pace to the side. I’m not going to suggest that Lukaku is in the same league as Ibra but his all round game is perhaps more suited to Mourinho and United. They were only the 8th highest scorers last season despite being 4th highest for attempts on target. One thing is for sure and that is that Lukaku will get the chances. United’s first seven fixtures are unlikely to give them much trouble and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lukaku is the league’s leading goal scorer after these seven games.
Lukaku may have received top billing but there’s very little to separate him and Harry Kane. To be honest it’s United’s opening fixtures which give him the edge. The Spurs hitman finished the season with 29 goals and comfortably won the golden boot as a result. This is even more impressive when you consider he missed eight games as a result of injury. There are those amongst us who don’t rate Kane but you can’t deny his ability to put the ball in the back of the net. His Premier League record stands at 78 goals in 116 appearances. Much has been made of Spurs playing their home matches at Wembley this season but it’s worth noting that Kane was just as effective away from home as he was at home last season. Granted his underlying stats are far more impressive at home but he still registered 12 goals and four assists away from home. There will be much rotation amongst the top clubs this season but this is unlikely to be an issue for Kane as Spurs really don’t have alternatives. At £12.5m he’s the FPL’s most expensive player but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Where’s that coin? You’re going to need it! Sergio Aguero has scored 122 goals in 181 league appearances. He’s available for just £11.5m. Surely he’s FPL’s most popular player? Nope. He currently features in a little over 10% of teams. There’s a new kid in town who goes by the name of Gabriel Jesus. The kid rocked up to Manchester in mid-January, made his first PL start on February 1st and scored his first goal in the same game. Injury curtailed his season and he only manged to make a total of 10 league appearances but he still finished the season with an impressive seven goals and four assists. Aguero himself made 31 appearances and finished with 20 goals and five assists. Looking at their underlying stats it is Kun who slightly shades it but let’s not forget it was the Brazilians first season in the top flight and he’s still only 20. His stats and all round play will continue to improve. Both will undoubtedly score a significant number of goals this season but if I had to choose between the two I’d opt for Jesus. He’s that little bit more versatile than Aguero and more importantly he was signed by Pep, and therefore he’s likely to see more game time. The fact that he’s £1.0m cheaper also helps.
With 11 goals, 11 assists and 17 bonus points Roberto Firmino finished last season with 180pts. A total which made him the games 11th highest scoring player. Obviously he’s been reclassified as a forward for the season ahead but I feel he still warrants some serious consideration. Had he been listed as a forward last season he would have lost out on 1pt per goal and he wouldn’t have picked up 1pt for each clean sheet. This would have left him on 158pts for the season. His bonus points would have been somewhat affected but I’m not going to get into that now! In terms of forwards who are priced at £8.5m or below only Jermain Defoe and Jamie Vardy would have bettered him last season. Many will be reluctant to spend £8.5m on their 3rd striker but the problem is that those available at a lower price don’t instil a great deal of confidence. Two strikers priced at £7.0m who are worth monitoring are West Ham’s Javier Hernandez and Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho.
At the bottom end of the market there doesn’t appear to be many great options. Hopefully someone will emerge over the opening game-weeks but for now the pickings appear to be slim. Our tips for now are Newcastle’s Dwight Gayle (£6.5m), West Brom’s Jay Rodriguez (£6.0m) and Swansea’s on loan striker Tammy Abraham (£5.5m). Gayle was Newcastle’s top scorer last season with 23 goals and while he’s unlikely get as much time & space this season it must be remembered that he does has some PL experience. During his three seasons with Palace he rarely got an extended run in the side but still managed 15 goals. Aside from Spurs in GW1 Newcastle’s fixtures suggest that he will get opportunities. Rodriguez last played a full season back in 2013/14 when he finished with 15 goals and three assists. Since then he has been beset by a couple of long-term injuries. He did manage nine starts and 15 substitute appearances last season, and this saw him finish with five goals and two assists. Unfortunately Tony Pulis sides aren’t noted for their goal scoring exploits and they mustered just 43 from their 38 games last season. They haven’t exactly impressed in pre-season either so Rodriguez is certainly fixtures over form. Chelsea have a number of talented kids on their books but for some reason they choose to ignore them and send them out on loan. At just 19 Abraham fits perfectly into this category. He impressed with 23 goals for Bristol City in the Championship last season and now is his chance to prove he has the ability to make the step up. He has looked the part in pre-season and if he can carry this form into the season he could prove a bargain at £5.5m.
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The League Codes for FF247 for the 2017/18 season are as follows:
Gameweek Tracker GW1-11