It has been a long and boring break for Fantasy Premier League managers but there’s been quite a lot happening over the break. Also, there is a lot to learn from the first seven gameweeks and those of you who have activated the wildcard like myself, have probably been spending the time planning and re-shaping your sides to climb up the ladder. Aside from the given facts that Harry Kane is a must own, there are two trends in FPL which managers need to be aware of when making lineup and transfer decisions; the increase in clean sheets and therefore defensive player points, and the emergence of consistent, low-medium priced midfielders.
Statistically speaking, if current scoring trends continued, as many as eight players could exceed 20 goals at the end of this season compared to just three last season. The top strikers are in sizzling form, and so you might expect defenders to be suffering as a result, however that is not the case. It may come to a surprise to learn that there have been 55 clean sheets this season compared to just 30 from last year. As a result, there are a plethora of defenders who have cemented themselves as “must own” so far this season.
Manchester United’s backline has only been breached only once in 2017/18, while Manchester City have conceded only two goals in the first seven gameweeks. Man United are coming into a more difficult phase of the season, beginning this weekend against Liverpool but they are still an elite defensive unit. City have a run of some excellent fixtures with Stoke City and Burnley coming to the Etihad and the Blues travelling to West Brom in Gameweek 10. Therefore Otamendi, John Stones, Kyle Walker all retain their appeal for managers.
At Tottenham, Ben Davies is looking really impressive this season. He faces three top sides in his next six gameweeks which means that he will probably have to rely on attacking returns to maintain his current trajectory. However, we have all seen that he has bundles of potential in that regard, with two goals and three assists in the opening 7 games.
Even teams which are struggling to pick up points to move them up the table are contributing towards FPL. Leicester City’s Harry Maguire has collected 33 points despite facing the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United over the first seven weeks. Priced at £5.1m, he is the most expensive Foxes defender but looks to justify the investment for a run of fixtures that puts him against just two of last year’s top 6 sides in the next 11 gameweeks.
Just ten points over the last four gameweeks has seen managers losing interest in Marcos Alonso. However, the Selhurst Park encounter kick-starts a run of matches that puts the Champions against two of last season’s top six over the next 14 rounds of fixtures. Other cheap options into the backline would be Swans’ Kyle Naughton and from the Seagulls, Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk. The Cherries’ Charlie Daniels is a decent pick too with Bournemouth squaring up to Stoke, Newcastle, Huddersfield, Swansea, Burnley, Southampton and Palace over the next few gameweeks.
With so many of the more expensive defenders scoring so highly, it is crucial that managers invest money in that area of the field. Luckily that has been facilitated for many, by the emergence of some real consistency from budget midfielders this season. Consistency is the key term here, as we all know that cheap midfielders can flash from time to time, but when they start doing it on a regular basis they become real facilitators.
There are no better illustrations of the consistent budget midfielder than Watford’s Richarlison (3 goals, 2 assists) and Stoke City’s Choupo-Moting (2 goals, 1 assist). They are joint second among midfielders for shots in the box this season with 18, only trailing Mohamed Salah (21). Playing very far forward for their sides, and priced at £6.2m and £5.6m respectively, they look set to continue to outperform those pricetags. Richarlison faces clashes with Arsenal and Chelsea before a kind short-term run of fixtures, while Choupo-Moting has a trip to Man City before his fixtures ease too.
With mixed fixtures for the Gunners, Aaron Ramsey at £7.1m is second only to Salah for big chances created (four to seven) among midfielders. He has 15 efforts on goal which is just one behind Alexandre Lacazette for Arsenal’s first seven fixtures. Brighton’s Pascal Gross remains a good punt, boosted by some more short-term fixtures. Chris Hughton’s three-man attack in gameweek 7 could limit Gross’ attacking potential, although, his set-piece duties remain integral to his appeal.
A major benefit of all those low priced midfielders is that it frees up funds to invest in our frontlines. Injuries to Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Morata have moved the transfer market quite a lot. Romelu Lukaku is almost assured a gameweek 8 start after proving his fitness in Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifier. Harry Kane is also free from injuries and probably in the best form of his career. He remains a fixture-proof option ahead of a mixed schedule in the next six.
Gabriel Jesus bolsters his FPL potential due to team-mate, Aguero’s absence. When on the pitch, he has played a part in 45.5% of City’s goals- more than any other team-mate as Guardiola’s men have a favourable run of fixtures coming down the road. Jamie Vardy sits fifth in the forward standings with five goals and has netted against top sides like Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. His responsibility of set-piece duties adds to his potential while the Foxes face only two of last year’s top six in the next 11 gameweeks.
Alexandre Lacazette – struggling away from home – hits the road four times in the next six gameweeks. Only the Gameweek 10 fixture with Swansea at the Emirates looks to be the stand-out fixture for him in the coming weeks. Further down the price brackets, Joselu and Tammy Abraham are decent third striker options. Joselu bagged two goals in his five starts and faces Southampton, Palace, Burnley, Bournemouth, Watford and West Brom over the next seven Gameweeks. The Swans boast four enticing home fixtures and have a trip to Burnley in the next six which could probably see Abraham fulfill his potential as a cut-down Fantasy asset.
There’s plenty of options for all you managers out there on your Wildcard this week. A powerful frontline and backline with budget midfielders looks to be the plan for many. But in the land of FPL, there is no fixed plan or formula so go out with a few differentials and popular picks using your analysis and gut!
May all of you have green arrows, the best of luck in Gameweek 8! Follow me Nekzad Bajan on twitter @NekzaDd