We’ve put together our Scout Picks ‘bus team’ ahead of Double Gameweek 29 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 29, followed by the preliminary picks themselves.
THE LIKELY LADS
A below-par Mohamed Salah (£13.2m) made it 311 minutes without a goal from open play when blanking in Saturday’s win over West Ham United but you’ll struggle to find a Fantasy team without him this week, as evidenced in his runaway lead in our Gameweek 29 captain poll. You’d need a darned good reason to omit FPL’s leading points scorer in a single regulation Gameweek but when the Egyptian ‘doubles’, any talk of going without the Liverpool winger is verging on being a non-starter, despite his recent mini-slump .
At least one of Andrew Robertson (£7.2m) Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.5m) also seems like a no-brainer. The pair are first and second for FPL returns (goals, assists and/or clean sheets) in the last 16 Gameweeks, with Robertson averaging 8.2 points per match over that time. Saturday opponents Brighton and Hove Albion are woefully out of form at the present and while Arsenal may pose a stiffer test, Alexander-Arnold’s highest score of the season came against the Gunners in the reverse fixture.
Albion’s other Gameweek 29 opponents are Tottenham Hotspur, and there’ll surely be room for at least one of Son Heung-min (£10.8m) Harry Kane (£12.3m) in the Scout Picks this week despite Spurs’ Jekyll-and-Hyde displays under Antonio Conte.
Writing before the Lilywhites take on Everton on Monday night (who knows what will transpire at Goodison Park, with Everton also blowing hot and cold), Kane and Son are second and 10th respectively for non-penalty expected goal involvement (xGI) since Conte took charge. The Korean has actually outperformed his strike partner in that time, delivering 11 returns in 13 appearances.
Spurs will be facing a Brighton side who have conceded nine goals in their last four league matches, plus a Manchester United outfit whose defensive deficiencies were again badly exposed in Sunday’s derby.
It’s a fair bet to assume that an Arsenal attacker will worm their way into the Scout Picks, too, even if one of their two Gameweek 29 matches is against Liverpool.
Bukayo Saka (£6.5m) Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m) are perhaps the stand-out picks: both their purple patches started in Gameweek 16 and, since then, they’ve plundered nine and 10 attacking returns respectively. The oft-derided Lacazette, in fact, is the best-performing FPL forward for goals and assists combined in that time. Gabriel Martinelli (£5.3m), he of the eye-catching price and xGI figures, is also back on the radar after Sunday’s goal, although positional rival Emile Smith Rowe (£5.8m) will presumably be free from Covid-19 in time for Gameweek 29.
There is more confidence in Spurs and Arsenal attackers than there is in their defensive counterparts, for different reasons.
The Gunners’ two fixtures look a bit iffy from a clean sheet perspective, with Leicester and Liverpool ranked seventh and first for goals scored in 2021/22. Aaron Ramsdale (£5.3m), at least, can compensate with some save points if he does get the nod.
Even Conte has kept admitted that the Lilywhites are streets behind the division’s leading clubs and, to back this up, they’ve only one clean sheet against a top-half club under the Italian (v Crystal Palace, who have only just moved into 10th !). Still, they’ll be encountering a goal-shy Brighton and a Manchester United outfit who may have one eye on next Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid.
Staying with the north London side, and Dejan Kulusevski (£6.1m) is certainly on our ‘maybe’ pile: he has actually outperformed Kane and Son for shots in the box and penalty area touches since his first start in Gameweek 26.
Liverpool also have their cheaper attacking assets worthy of consideration, although with Roberto Firmino (£8.7m) nearing a return to action, it’s at least five players competing for three spots in attack, leaving Luis Diaz (£8.0m) Diogo Jota (£8.3m) looking at restricted game-time across the two Gameweek 28 fixtures. Sadio Mane (£11.7m), with four goals in his last three outings, merits more than a passing mention, too, but is a pricy proposition Salah considering the risk to minutes.
So far, so ‘big six’. But there are three other teams who ‘double’ in Gameweek 29, one of which is in-form Newcastle. The Magpies are on the division’s joint-longest current unbeaten run of eight matches. They also might be facing Chelsea at the perfect time (three days after their trip to Norwich and immediately before a Champions League tie against Lille) and will be swiftly renewing acquaintances with an Everton side they blew away a month ago.
However, Eddie Howe has repeatedly pledged to rotate during this busy period of back-to ripe-back Double Gameweeks and the Chelsea game in particular looks for a few changes, coming as it does around 65 hours after full-time in the clash with Southampton . The last time Howe encountered a three-game week, for instance, only two outfielders started all three matches. Joe Willock (£5.8m) Ryan Fraser (£5.3m), as they were the last week, are the stand-out picks; just don’t be relying on two starts.
Everton are making their ‘Double Gameweek’ debut in 2021/22, with home matches against an out-of-form Wolves and Newcastle to come. The fact that they are on their own turf makes them more attractive Fantasy propositions, as the Toffees are bottom of the table for away form this season. Lampard’s first two fixtures at Goodison Park also saw fine performances delivered against Leeds United and Manchester City.
We’ll get the gauge their squad some more – including the fitness of Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.7m) Demarai Gray (£5.5m) – in the Spurs game on Monday night but initial thoughts turn to Anthony Gordon (£4.5m). The corner-taking Gordon is top among Everton players for goal attempts, shots in the box and penalty area touches since Lampard took charge, starting all four matches under his new boss. Jordan Pickford (£4.9m) and co are also considerations: Pickford racked up more saves per match than any goalkeeper from Gameweeks 24-27 (Lampard’s first four fixtures), which doesn’t smack of a backline in great form but at least should help him compensate for any clean sheet loss. Sunday’s opponents Wolves are also on a three-game losing streak.
THE LONG SHOTS
Despite their ‘double’, Brighton were a long way from our initial Scout Picks thoughts, with neither form nor fixtures on their side. Graham Potter’s selections are hard enough to second-guess at the best of times but he’s even more prone to tinkering when things are going badly, as they are at present, although fatigue-led changes may at least be less of a concern with the Saturday -Wednesday turnaround and the subsequent two-and-a-half-week breather.
Defensive assets like Robert Sanchez (£4.5m) Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m) are hard to make a case for with just two clean sheets in 14 matches and four losses on the bounce. And as if to underscore the uncertainty with Potter, anyone of note from an attacking perspective – Leandro Trossard (£5.9m), Alexis Mac Allister (£5.2m) Neal Maupay (£6.5m) – have tasted bench duty in the last three Gameweeks. One goal for Albion in their last four matches is also a league low.
There are, of course, a number of ‘single Gameweek’ sides with appealing fixtures that oughtn’t to be discarded out of hand: Southampton at home to Watford and Leeds v Norwich are two that stand out. Chelsea v Newcastle is another that leaps out from the page, although less so when we consider the Magpies’ form. In all of these cases, we’ll likely see what happens with game-time and benchings on Thursday night, as it may well have a huge saw in minutes for Gameweek 29.
Crystal Palace v Manchester City won’t be a cakewalk for the reigning champions either. It’s hard to see any of their premium options making the cut over ‘doublers’ like Salah, Son and Kane but a cut-price John Stones (£5.2m), starved of competition at centre-half, is a name that we’ve penciled in, especially with Palace’s record for conceding from set plays.
GAMEWEEK 29 ‘BUS TEAM’
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