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Pick of the Bunch – Who’s Ripe for the Picking and Who’s a Rotten Choice?
With another Fantasy Premier League season fast approaching, many FPL managers will be sitting down to pick their teams in the coming days and weeks. At the time of writing, almost 1 million managers have already chosen their initial squads and trends are beginning to show. We’ll take a look at some highly-owned assets, and some under-the-radar options, and assess their prospects heading into gameweek 1.
- Mathew Ryan, Brighton, 4.5m (17.2%)
Brighton’s number 1 features in just under a fifth of teams at the time of writing, placing him 3rd for playing goalkeepers. At 4.5m, the Australian is as cheap as they come for starting options between the sticks. Ryan accumulated 104 points last season, ranking 13th for goalkeepers. He may be considered an uninspiring pick but he’s not a bad one.
Brighton struggled for much of the 2018/19 campaign, keeping just 7 clean sheets. A change in management from the defensively minded Chris Hughton to a more positive Graham Potter is unlikely to improve defensive frailties. Nevertheless, Ryan remains a solid choice. The Aussie shot stopper made 97 saves last season, 8th best in the league and more than any keeper priced at 4.5m.
There are few viable alternatives at 4.5m and crucially, none come with the added security that David Button provides. Brighton are the only team which allow the luxury of a 4.0m back up keeper to supplement the 4.5m starter. As such, Button is currently the 2nd most picked goalkeeper, featuring in 22.8% of teams. The seagulls face just one of last year’s top 6 in their opening 6 games. A goalkeeping duo for just 8.5m is useful if you’re prepared to bank on Brighton’s gentle start to the season.
Verdict – Smart Investment
- Nick Pope, Burnley, 4.5m (1.8%)
A goalkeeper who failed to play a single minute of Premier League football for 15th place Burnley doesn’t scream “fantasy gold”. It’s no secret that Burnley struggled last season after their unexpected 7th place finish two years ago. Nick Pope was a revelation in 2017/18 and earned himself a World Cup spot in the England squad. Pope was unavailable until December last year, thanks to a shoulder injury and remained behind Tom Heaton and Joe Hart in the pecking order.
Pope has recently signed a new contract renewing hopes that he may yet reclaim his spot. Former England stopper Joe Hart lost his place in the side after a worrying start for Burnley, and was replaced by club captain, Tom Heaton. The latter is being heavily linked with a move away from Turf Moor with only one year remaining on the 33-year-old’s contract.
The goalkeeping situation at Burnley requires monitoring before gambling on any of them. However, if Nick Pope is to reprise the role for himself, he would represent good value. Burnley will look to build on their 8 clean sheets from last term, with Dyche favouring a defensively structured set up. His Burnley side like to sit deep and invite pressure, which forces their opponents to take a lot of shots from distance to break through the lines. Hart and Heaton combined to make 140 saves, only bettered by Fabianksi and Etheridge. Nick Pope himself, placed 6th in the 2017/18 campaign, highlighting his individual propensity for save points.
Verdict – Potential Bargain
- Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Manchester United, 5.5m (32.2%)
Manchester United’s new signing has been picked by almost 1 in 3 managers at the time of writing. Last year’s budget-friendly pick was a popular choice for gameweek 1 but a lot has changed since then. At 5.5 Wan-Bissaka is firmly in the mid-priced range this season. His move from Crystal Palace to Manchester United certainly appears to enhance his fantasy prospects, but this may not be the case.
AWB should have no problems securing the right back role in this Manchester United side. He has demonstrated his class in an impressive first full season with Palace, picking up 120 FPL points. Crystal Palace were a reliable source of clean sheets last year, securing a respectable 12 shut outs. Comparatively, United only managed 7, a disappointing return for a club of their stature. That figure is expected to increase, particularly with the signing of Wan-Bissaka himself.
In terms of attacking points, AWB is fairly limited. The right back produced a total of 3 attacking returns in the 2018/19 campaign, all of which were assists. Wan-Bissaka was purchased for his defensive capabilities, particularly his impressive one-on-ones. How Solskjaer sets up his team is yet to be seen, but don’t expect Wan-Bissaka to be a reliable source of attacking returns.
Most notably, AWB faces stiff competition in the 5.5m bracket. Former teammate, Patrick van Aanholt, outscored Wan-Bissaka and poses more attacking threat with similar, if not better, clean sheet prospects. At 5.0m Nathan Ake and Willy Boly equalled AWB’s 120 points, each scoring 4 times last season and present cheaper alternatives than the United man.
Verdict – Overpriced
- Seamus Coleman, Everton, 5.5m (3.3%)
Another 5.5m defender who outscored Wan-Bissaka was Seamus Coleman. The FPL cult hero returned to full fitness last season after a horrific leg break. Understandably, it took some time for Coleman to get back to top form, but he looked back to his best by the end of the 2018/19 campaign. From gameweek 21 onwards, Coleman outscored Lucas Digne, 85 points to 84 with two fewer starts.
Everton’s defensive form has been notably poor in recent seasons, but the final weeks of 2018/19 saw a drastic improvement. 8 clean sheets in their final 11 fixtures is an impressive return. The likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United were all unable to register during that run. Retaining Idrissa Gueye will be key to Everton’s defensive solidity but if they are able to do so, their clean sheets could be set to continue.
Everton’s fixtures are another plus point for Coleman. During the first 14 fixtures, Everton only face two of last year’s top six, each at Goodison Park. At 5.5m Coleman is the joint cheapest route into the Everton back line, along side Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford and, providing Kurt Zouma does not return, Yerry Mina. Coleman is a guaranteed starter when fit, making him a safer choice than Mina for the time being. The Irishman provides a greater attacking threat than his compatriot, Keane, particularly from open play. Pickford is worthy alternative in goal, but a fully fit Coleman provides a higher potential.
Verdict – Strongly Consider
- Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace, 7.0m (32.6%)
Only Mo Salah features in more teams than Wilfried Zaha amongst midfielders. Zaha’s reclassification back to a midfielder only enhances his prospects ahead of the 2019/20 season. Last season was his most productive so far, scoring 10 and assisting 11 for Palace. He is unquestionably their main threat and will no doubt replicate, if not exceed, last season’s numbers if he remains in South London. His prospects could change significantly were he to leave but it looks as though Arsenal have been priced out of a move for the Ivorian.
It is yet to see how the introduction of VAR will affect Zaha. Palace have consistently been awarded a high number of penalties in recent seasons, with much of that down to Zaha. He was the 2nd most fouled player behind Eden Hazard last seasons and ranked 5th two years ago.
Zaha’s 21-goal involvements bettered the likes of Heung-Min Son (20), Christian Eriksen (20) and Richarlison (16), all of whom have been priced higher than him. At just 7.0m, the next closest to Zaha’s output was Felipe Anderson with 15. Looking at this metric, it is quite apparent that Zaha offers great value and could get off to a strong start, facing promoted Aston Villa and Sheffield United in his first 4 games.
Verdict – Good Value
- Youri Tielemans, Leicester, 6.5m (2.7%)
Leicester have secured the permanent signing of highly-rated Youri Tielemans after his impressive loan spell last season. The Belgian has been handed a very tempting price at just 6.5m. In 12 appearances for the foxes he produced 8 attacking returns. It’s worth noting that Leicester had a kind run of fixtures to end the season, perhaps distorting Tielemans’ season-long prospects.
Tielemans should have no problem securing a starting place for Leicester. However, he may be stationed in a deeper midfield role dependant on Brendan Rodgers’ set up. Having only played 12 Premier League games so far, Tielemans is somewhat of an unknown quantity in England. His performances last season suggests 6.5m is a generous price, but it is yet to be seen whether this can be maintained. Leicester face a tough start to the season on paper, facing 5 of last season’s top 7 in their first 8.
With this in mind, it may be wiser to start the season with an alternative option. In and around the 6.5m price point the likes of David Brooks, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Andriy Yarmolenko and the previously mentioned, Zaha offer good value.
Verdict – Wait and See
- Raul Jimenez, Wolves, 7.5m (42.7%)
Last year’s pricing of £5.5m looks very kind now with the gift of hindsight. If Jimenez can replicate last season’s output, his new price of £7.5m will also look kind. 13 goals and 10 assists helped the Mexican to 181 points, 3rd amongst all forwards. Wolves had a stellar first year back in the Premier League and they’re widely expected to continue in that vein.
Qualifying for the Europa League is often considered a poison chalice of sorts. Fixture congestion can catch up with smaller squads not used to the added European midweek fixture and cause a knock-on effect to league performance. Wolves have a reasonably sized squad and may be able to handle the added fixtures, but they’re particularly short up front. Jimenez will be unlikely to miss Premier League games, but their lack of striking options could take its toll on him as the season wears on.
Wolves have a very tough set of opening fixtures, welcoming Manchester United and Chelsea to the Molineux, as well as away trips to Leicester and Everton in the first 6. Having said this, Wolves performed admirably well against the Premier League’s elite and would have placed 3rd in a table comprised solely of the top 7. Jimenez himself performed well in these encounters, netting 6 and providing a further 3 assists. The Wolves frontman certainly has the pedigree to perform from the off and is reasonably priced, but there are some unanswered questions surrounding him.
Verdict – Approach with Caution
- Troy Deeney, Watford, 6.5m (3.2%)
With over four times the ownership, Gerard Deulofeu is very much the Watford attacker of choice early on. Also priced at 6.5m, there isn’t a lot between the two. Deeney returned 9 goals to Deulofeu’s 10 and each assisted 5 times last campaign. Deulofeu achieved this in almost 500 fewer minutes and there’s little debate over who’s the better footballer.
One of Deeney’s advantages over his teammate are his penalty-taking duties. The introduction of VAR at the World Cup saw a marked increase in penalties awarded, which could prove important to Deeney’s prospects. However, there has been no significant change in penalties awarded in any major league employing the VAR system thus far.
Watford’s opening fixtures are a mixed bag. A home encounter with Brighton is a reasonable start but the Hornets face Arsenal and Manchester City in gameweeks 5 and 6. 6.5m is a fair price for Troy Deeney but there are a number of solid options at that price point, none more damaging to Deeney’s appeal than his Spanish compatriot.
Verdict – Better Options to Start With