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Here, FPL Focal previews Gameweek 9’s Fantasy Premier League (FPL) action, running through 10 lessons learned ahead of the next deadline.
Leicester City continue to be a team to target after six goals were conceded to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. They sit rock bottom of the Premier League, and an opposition match against the Foxes at home has now produced more double-digit hauls than any other fixture (eight). Their 22 goals conceded is the most that any side has shipped after seven games of a Premier League season, and the most in the English top flight since 1965-66 (West Ham United, also 22).
They are a very unbalanced team, with a lot of quality in attack such as James Maddison (£7.9m), Harvey Barnes (£6.9m) and perhaps even Patson Daka (£5.7m), but in defense, even Danny Ward is representing poor value at £4.0m. Remarkably, the identically priced Asmir Begovic (£4.0m) – who filled in for the injured Jordan Pickford (£4.5m) at the weekend – scored more points in Gameweek 8 than Ward has all season.
After five blanks in a row, Son Heung-min (£11.7m) hit back with a hat-trick off the bench in just 13 minutes. It was the first time in seven years a player has scored a treble as a substitute in a Premier League game. We’ll talk shortly about the template and where he might be heading but is he one to consider after the break?
Tottenham Hotspur face Arsenal in Gameweek 9 and Son has a good record against them. In his last six league games versus the Gunners, he has four goals and four assists. In fact, his only blank in that run was the 2020/21 season when he went off injured after 19 minutes. If you disliked the template, it’s certainly being ripped up now with a bunch of new names emerging.
Alexander Isak (£7.1m), who had a fairly quiet game against Bournemouth on Saturday, with just 0.16 non-penalty expected goals (xG). However, he did take the penalty won by Kieran Trippier (£5.4m). The two of them were discussing who would take it but Isak had the ball in his hands and wouldn’t entertain the idea of Trippier stepping up. A penalty taker is a wonderful attribute to have in an FPL asset as over the season it can net you several extra goals.
However, Calum Wilson (£7.2m) is confirmed to be back after the international break, which will have an unknown impact on Isak, as it’s the first time the two of them have been available. Some have speculated they start together in a two-striker formation, or perhaps Isak could be pushed wide. It’s also possible that Wilson is benched but eats into Isak’s minutes off the bench. If you’re looking for a mid-priced striker, Ivan Tony (£7.2m) Alexandar Mitrovic (£6.9m) are perhaps better picks.
It was a brutal Gameweek for many managers, including many top-ranked ones: 79 managers in the top 10k started Nathan Collins (£4.5m), who received a straight red card against Manchester City for -3 points. One manager in the top 10k (surely a hack?) even Triple Captained Jesse Lingard (£5.7m), who was benched and then came on for one point, while someone benched Son, too. Ouch!
We have already got 14 postponed fixtures that will form part of Double Gameweeks to come, so chip strategy again looks like it will be key this season. There was a strong case to suggest that the Wildcard was the way to go in Gameweek 8 if you still had it but with bigger blanks and certainly many Double Gameweeks to come, perhaps there was a better time to use the Free Hit. Don’t sweat it if you used it, though. One thing I always try to bear in mind is to be open to new approaches, as every season proposes new challenges. I’d never Wildcarded into a Blank Gameweek before, but it was logical and so far has been successful – although longer-term assessment is, of course, needed.
Brighton and Hove Albion have found their Graham Potter replacement in the form of Roberto De Zerbi. Juventus were reportedly looking at him, which is perhaps a statement of his quality. He’s expected to provide attacking football but perhaps a less resolute defense than his predecessor.
It’s challenging for a manager to come in mid-season, as there is no pre-season to spend time with the squad when you can teach your way of playing and philosophy. He does at least have the international break so we’ll see how they look further down the line once the fixtures ease. He has experience of punching above his weight with a smaller club in an elite European division, so could be an excellent replacement.
Emerson Palmieri (£4.0m) and Neco Williams (£4.1m) both frustrated owners in Gameweek 8, with the former coming off the bench in the dying seconds and Nottingham Forest conceding three times to a fellow promoted club for the second fixture in a row.
Nathan Patterson (£4.1m), meanwhile, put up a six-pointer for the second game in a row and is perhaps the new king of the cheap defenders, and a great pick on a Wildcard.
For £0.2m more Tyrone Mings (£4.3m) had a good game at the weekend, securing maximum bonus with a clean sheet for nine points. With many of us running with a front-three formation, these are the types of defenders we need as our fourth or fifth defenders.
A reminder that if a player reaches five yellow cards before their cut-off point, they are suspended for a game. There are six players currently on four cautions, notably Anthony Gordon (£5.6m) Gabriel Jesus (£8.1m). This doesn’t necessarily mean we must immediately ignore these players, as those who have been around a while will remember Diego Costa (£5.5m), who infamously went on a long run of getting no yellow cards after he’d reached four. However, it’s still worth noting. In Jesus’s case, there are alternatives like Toney, Isak and Mitrovic who are cheaper with better fixtures.
A recurring point to make but one worth remembering: impatience can lead to poorer decisions so don’t get caught in the vicious cycle. As it stands, 35 points separate 100k to 1m. Just 19 points separate 1m to 2m. The ranks are still condensed, and as the saying goes it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
You might be in a position where you’ve only used a Wildcard or Free Hit. Overall, 27% of managers have used their Wildcard, 12% have already Free Hit and 7% have already Bench Boosted. 250,000 managers have already used three chips!
In my case, I started the season on the back foot, opting for Harry Kane (£11.4m) over Erling Haaland (£12.0m) Lucas Digne (£4.7m) over pretty much anyone else. That put me at 2.7m and I have now made up a fair bit of ground to 300k. Think of higher ranks as something you chip away at through good decisions; you don’t get there in one swoop, it’s a gradual process. It’s not as high as I’d like to be but it’s a fine start and there are 30 Gameweeks to go.
Last season’s winner was 120k overall after eight Gameweeks, 84 points behind first place. The manager who finished 11th in the world, meanwhile, was 800k at this point last season.
Above is the template, built from the most-owned players in the game without a budget limit. In FPL it pays to be proactive rather than reactive, and it pays to get ahead of the curve if you can predict where the game’s heading. Arsenal have Spurs and then Liverpool, then in Gameweek 12 they are blank, so there’s an opportunity to move Jesus to Toney, Mitrovic or Isak.
Brighton at home is a fair fixture for Luis Diaz (£8.2m), although Maddison is home to Nottingham Forest, who are worst in the league for expected goals conceded (xGC). Wilfried Zaha (£7.2m) is another notable name missing, who is under 15% owned. Crystal Palace’s fixtures are so good right up until the World Cup. That’s a few names missing from the template, and most are in my team or in my plans in the hope that the game moves in that direction.
In terms of where the fixtures are heading, above is the Fantasy Football Scout ticker sorted by difficulty over the next five Gameweeks. Arsenal and Manchester City are bottom due to having one less fixture but at the top it’s Leicester. It’s hard to imagine them continuing such poor form with such good fixtures, so don’t write them off. Fulham and Crystal Palace are right up there, too. Again Mitrovic and Zaha are the two talismans of their teams and are both on penalty duties. If you need a cheaper striker, Dominic Solanke (£5.7m) could be one to look at too.