We’ve put together our Scout Picks ‘bus team’ ahead of Double Gameweek 28 of Fantasy Premier League (FPL).
This is a new feature we first rolled out last month and it’s essentially a first draft of our regular XI, partly in response to feedback from some users who wanted certain articles to be available sooner in the week.
The Scout Picks widget on the home page is generally only in use for a very short space of time (one or two days a week, at most) and becomes largely redundant once the deadline passes, so this new article strand will also hopefully give it a bit more shelf-life.
The pre-deadline picks will stay as they are and cement our weekly selection based on the Scout Squad long-list entries, midweek action/minutes and fresh injury updates but this ‘bus team’ – a term coined by the Always Cheating boys, As it’s the XI you set at the start of the week in case you get hit by a bus before the deadline – will discuss the players who are likely to be in the running.
Here it is, then: our early, rambling thoughts on the runners and riders up for selection in Gameweek 28, followed by the preliminary picks themselves.
THE LIKELY LADS
We could see some real divergence in FPL scores this week, as there really aren’t too many players – at this early stage — who you would say are ‘nailed’ for Scout Picks duty or are deemed must-have selections for Gameweek 28.
With so many of the sides who double offering us affordable budget or mid-price options, there ought to still be room for a premium asset or two from the ‘single’ Gameweek sides.
And so, to the inevitable: Mohamed Salah (£13.1m). The current results of our captaincy poll (which we will relaunch on Wednesday night if/when Norwich v Chelsea is moved to Gameweek 28) reflects the esteem in which he is held. Despite the lack of a second fixture for the Egyptian, he is top of the pile with over 23% of the vote.
Registering a mite over nine points per start this season and delivering only four blanks at his 23 starts, he’s on a different level to even the other heavy hitters and has banked nearly twice as many points as the top-scoring forward.
That other Scout Picks staple from Anfield, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.5m), looks less sure of inclusion in Gameweek 28, with West Ham scoring in 22 of their 27 matches this season and indeed putting three goals past the Reds in the reverse fixture.
As for the teams who definitely double (more on Chelsea in a bit), it’s arguably Wolverhampton Wanderers’ fixtures that appeal the most. Two home games, one of which is against a Watford side who have scored just twice in Roy Hodgson’s six matches in charge, do jump off the page. Ryan Ait-Nouri (£4.4m) Raul Jimenez‘s (£7.5m) benchings in Gameweek 28 is off-putting as Wolves get set for another three-game week, so the security offered by the likes of Jose Sa (£5.3m), Conor Coady (£4.8m), Max Kilman (£4.6m) Romain Saiss (£5.0m) – who have started every single league match that they have been available for this season – might be the way to go in this congested period. It’s just one clean sheet in seven matches for Bruno Lage’s side, admittedly, but they still have the fourth-best defensive record in the top flight.
If Chelsea do get a Double Gameweek 28, as it seems likely, we can move the Blues from ‘in contention’ to ‘likely lads’.
A double-header against Burnley and Norwich City is close to perfection as a double-header, notwithstanding the Clarets’ recent upturn in form. From a defensive point of view, the two fixtures particularly appeal: these two sides are the lowest scorers in the division and, even during their recent purple patch, Sean Dyche’s troops have still only found the net on six occasions in their last seven games.
Thomas Tuchel’s cautious words on the fit-again Rece James (£6.2m) call into question the wing-back’s game-time in the league over the coming weeks, so Antonio Rudiger (£6.1m), who has started every single top-flight match that he has been available for this season, is comfortably at the front of the queue of Chelsea defenders for Gameweek 28.
Further forward, with the fitness of Hakim Ziyech (£7.3m) in some doubt and Romelu Lukaku (£11.5m) in indifferent form, Kai Havertz (£7.8m) Mason Mount (£7.5m) are the stand-out attacking options. Havertz was favored by Thomas Tuchel over Lukaku up front for the EFL Cup final and his versatility means that he stands every chance of starting even if the Belgian does, as happened in Gameweek 26. Havertz, indeed, has started the last five Chelsea matches at home and abroad, scoring twice, and he impressed with his chance creation at Wembley at the weekend.
Representation from Aston Villa, Southampton and Newcastle United seems likely – but who? Ollie Watkins (£7.5m), Philippe Coutinho (£7.4m) or Jacob Ramsey (£4.8m)? Che Adams (£6.9m) or Armando Broja (£5.5m)? Tino Livramento (£4.4m) or Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.8m)? Joe Willock (£5.7m), Ryan Fraser (£5.3m) or the half-crooked Allan Saint-Maximin (£6.8m)? There are club-specific dilemmas across the park, with arguably the less-fancied options in each case having the edge.
Walker-Peters and Adams are the form Saints picks in their respective positions, for example, with the latter registering attacking returns in each of the last four Gameweeks and the former in such good shape that an England call-up is being touted.
As for Villa, might the change in formation in Gameweek 27 rekindle dwindling interest in Watkins? The forward, Ramsey and Coutinho have very similar minutes-per-expected goal interference (xGI) figures since the Brazilian made his debut but the move to a more compact 4-3-1-2 on Saturday seemed to most benefit Watkins of that trio , even if he did manage only one shot all match. Steven Gerrard’s less expansive set-up also could boost the clean sheet prospects of Lucas Digne (£5.1m) Matthew Cash (£5.1m) going forward, although in-form Southampton and a Leeds side that may be reinvigorated by the appointment of a new head coach are potentially tricky defensive tests.
We saw what confidence did with Willock last season when he embarked on a superb scoring run and, with two goals in two matches and shots aplenty attempted, he’s high on the watchlist. Fraser could also come into the reckoning, although Saint-Maximin’s return see the Scot moved back over to the right flank, where he’s been less creative.
The in-form Geordies have kept three clean sheets and conceded just four goals in their last seven matches, so cheap enablers like Dan Burn (£4.4m), Fabian Schar (£4.3m) Matt Target (£4.7m) also merit mentions.
Away from the doubling teams, and it’s the same teams that courted interest in Gameweek 27 – Spurs and Manchester City – that stand out.
Harry Kane (£12.3m) was in superb form against Leeds, a week after his starring display against his would-be employers, so the striker and Son Heung-min (£10.8m) are tempting picks against an Everton side that have been dismal on the road both before and after Frank Lampard’s appointment.
With rotation set to ratchet up a gear in the front three due to clearing injuries, Joao Cancelo (£7.1m) Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) look the securest routes into a City side for the Manchester derby. Two below-par displays in Gameweeks 26 and 27, plus United’s very decent recent record against their cross-city rivals, have to be acknowledged, however.
We’ve not covered Watford and Leeds so much in this piece so far, despite the two sides enjoying two fixtures in Gameweek 28.
With regards to the Whites, they’re simply an unknown quantity as we don’t know what to expect from Jesse Marsch and whether he can reinvigorate Rafinha (£6.5m), who admittedly is still posing a goal threat despite looking off the boil since returning from the winter international break.
And as for Watford, two goals in six matches doesn’t scream ‘buy’, while opponents Arsenal and Wolves represent arguably the toughest double-header this Gameweek.
GAMEWEEK 28 ‘BUS TEAM’
ABOUT THE SCOUT PICKS BUDGET
The Scout picks budget always increases in the second half of the season to reflect ballooning team values and player prices but at the heart of our selection is the key principle that the first XI should still be affordable to those with a budget of £100.0m – so we increased it by a mere half a million to £83.5m in Gameweek 27, leaving £16.5m for the cheapest bench fodder options in the game (currently a £3.9m goalkeeper, a £3.7m defender, a £4.3m player and a £4.4m forward).
Our own bench is not made up of these non-playing cheapies, but instead provides a home to some low-priced alternatives to many of the pricier names in our XI.
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