Fantasy Premier League pre-season is nearly over and the Gameweek 1 deadline is almost upon us – so it’s time to go over some of the key lessons we learned this summer.
The World Cup made for an interesting set of friendly matches in July and August and the affects of the tournament will still be felt well into the 2018/19 campaign.
We’ve had a look at how the line-ups have responded to missing players, and any other stand-out pieces of information that Fantasy managers need to know before Friday’s deadline.
The Mane man
Sadio Mané (£9.5m) has made a case to be the cheaper alternative to Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) this season, or the perfect partner for the Egyptian if you are looking to double-up on Liverpool’s attack. The Senegalese international has, so far, just edged Salah in pre-season registering two goals and two assists in just three appearances.
Furthermore, Mané has taken two penalties in that time, the second of which was won by Salah and scored while other spot-kick candidates Fabinho (£6.0m) and James Milner (£5.5m) were on the pitch – the latter of those missing one earlier in the summer. If the former Southampton man can lock down penalty-taking responsibilities he could become an even more powerful FPL asset, given that Liverpool’s free-flowing style should result in plenty of fouls in the area this season.
Making a Marko
Marko Arnautovic (£7.0m) has emerged as the go-to mid-price forward for the upcoming FPL season. No other player in his price bracket has topped his tally of five goals and one assist in six pre-season matches. That sort of form definitely suggests he could be fixture-proof during a run which sees West Ham face Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in the first six weeks. But among those matches are home matches against Bournemouth and Wolves as well as a trip to Everton in Gameweek 5. Once West Ham come out on the other side of Gameweek 9, their run of games gets much more attractive, with Manchester City the only tricky opponent between then and Gameweek 22.
Help me Obi Wan-Bissaka
It appears that there are just two viable £4.0m options for Fantasy managers in 2018/19. The first, and more effective, is Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka – currently in 6.6 percent of squads. The 20-year-old has started five of the Eagles’ seven pre-season matches and the only colleagues of his to have registered more minutes than his 366 are James Tomkins (£4.5m) and Mamadou Sakho (£5.0m), with 373. Wan-Bissaka’s chief competitor Joel Ward (£4.5m), has just two starts to his name and his involvement has largely been as a substitute (290 minutes).
The other bargain-bucket asset is Cardiff City’s Lee Peltier, backed by just 1.9 percent of Fantasy managers at the time of writing. The right-back has started four of the Bluebirds’ summer friendlies, compared to Jazz Richards’ two. Furthermore, Peltier played 85 more minutes in pre-season than the former Swansea City man (295 to 210), and probably would have boasted a larger gap had he not been taken to hospital for a concussion at one stage. He has since returned to action follow that incident.
Wan-Bissaka is probably the more favourable of the two with Palace’s arguably better fixtures from a defensive point of view. They face Southampton and Newcastle in the first six Gameweeks as well as travelling to Fulham, Watford and Huddersfield. Meanwhile, Cardiff, have a much harder run with Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City following an opening trio of Bournemouth (away), Newcastle (home) and Huddersfield (away).
It looks as if Marcos Alonso (£6.5m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.5m) will be difficult to include in our Fantasy squads this season, at least at the beginning. Maurizio Sarri’s new-look Chelsea system, based on a 4-3-3 formation, has pushed the full-backs back deeper into their own half.
Our research into the Community Shield data showed that, while Alonso still touched the ball a lot in the opponent’s final third, he was nowhere near as creative and lacked goal threat too. Obviously a large portion of the player’s price for 2018/19 is based on his seven goals and two assists last season, but it looks like it’ll be difficult for him to replicate that this time around.
Given that Chelsea appeared to be a few weeks away from their best, as they adapt to Sarri’s new system, paying £6.5m for one of their defenders feels nothing more than a waste of the FPL budget. David Luiz (£5.5m) offers a much cheaper alternative if you feel Blues cover is needed.
After something of a troublesome pre-season tour, there looks to be only one real sure starter in the Manchester United – and that’s goalkeeper David De Gea (£6.0m). That could cause something of a dilemma for Fantasy managers hoping to operate on a budget rotation in goal this year because covering the United clean sheet may prove difficult with defenders.
The most used defender in pre-season Eric Bailly (£5.5m) is now an injury doubt after being forced out of Saturday’s friendly defeat to Bayern Munich, while Chris Smalling (£6.0m) has played a lot less (264 minutes to Bailly’s 456) after struggling with a minor knock last month. Phil Jones (£5.5m) made his comeback in a second-half performance at the weekend. As for the full-back areas, Matteo Darmian (£5.0m) has now racked up 447 minutes, more than any defender other than Bailly, despite being linked with a move away. Even though he is technically first-choice now with Antonio Valencia’s (£6.5m) injury, it is hard to justify investing in him, unless the transfer window closes with him still at Old Trafford. On the other flank, Luke Shaw has played at least 75 minutes in all but one pre-season game (accruing 394 minutes), but was reportedly poor against Munich and faces real competition from Ashley Young (£6.0m), who returned to training this week.
For the last three seasons, no Premier League side has registered more shut-outs than the Red Devils and with some favourable fixtures on the horizon, they are begging to be covered by Fantasy managers once more. They host a Leicester side without Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) and no Riyad Mahrez (£9.0m) anymore in Gameweek 1, they have trips to Brighton, Burnley and Watford to look forward to in Gameweeks 2, 4 and 5 and they host Wolves in Gameweek 6. With the aforementioned selection dilemma, De Gea looks the only option to cover that. Those hoping to give United defence a miss, may just have to hope that all those problems stack up enough for them to be less tight at the back as usual.
It has slowly become apparent that Alexandre Lacazette (£9.5m) could match Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s (£11.0m) output at Arsenal in 2018/19. Both strikers have found the net six times during pre-season, with the former Borussia Dortmund man winning out on assists by three to two. However, in Lacazette’s favour is the fact that he achieved his pre-season numbers in fewer minutes, 251 to 290. He averaged a goal involvement every 31.36 minutes, Aubameyang every 32.22.
If the two players can continue that form into the new season than Lacazette becomes the more attractive option based on the saving of £1.5m over Aubameyang. However, there is a case to be made that Lacazette’s lower minutes tally should count against him, after all, it was rare for him to complete a full 90 last season. There was such a disparity between him and Aubameyang’s pre-season minutes because he started in three of the five public friendlies, while Aubameyang featured from the beginning in four of them. Both of them came on as substitutes when they did not start.
Ryan Sessegnon’s (£6.5m) impressive season with Fulham on their way back to the Premier League has 11.2 percent of Fantasy managers believing he can replicate that in 2018/19. However his double-figure ownership should pay close attention to the fact that he is not always deployed on the left-flank of the attacking front-three.
In Fulham’s final pre-season match before Gameweek 1, Sessegnon was utilised at left-back for the third time this summer. New signing Maxime Le Marchand (£4.5m) has played there for large spells in July and August but the versatile defender was tried in a central role for the second time, while Andre Schürrle (£6.0m) played in Sessegnon’s usual attacking position.
As previously mentioned, it was not unusual for the 18-year-old to be used so deep in Fulham’s line-up, so there’s every reason it could happen during the season proper too. Sessegnon has hardly set the world on fire during the off-season either. Despite no Fulham player featuring more often than his 402 minutes, his only return was one assist, in the 3-1 win over Atletic Bilbao.
While the Community Shield final reminded us of the sheer quality of FPL legend Sergio Aguero (£11.0m), it also pointed us in the direction of another important asset for 2018/19. That was Bernardo Silva (£7.5m) who looks set to be the key to beating the Pep Guardiola rotation trap, at least in the early weeks.
The Man City manager said after the match: “Right now it’s Bernardo and 10 more, but it’s about what you do over the season. In this moment Bernardo is far above the other guys.” The fact that no City player was involved in more goals (two scored himself and another two assisted) than him this summer, combined with Guardiola’s comments should make him the go-to option when looking to invest in their attack.
Outside of the Portuguese international, we simply don’t have enough data to be able to predict who will start in Gameweek 1. The Community Shield final was the first match that the Citizens were able to boast more than three senior first-team players in their starting line-up, making it difficult to assess who has favour in each position. Kyle Walker (£6.5m), Benjamin Mendy (£6.0m) and Aguero are probably the three most likely to play. There are little viable alternatives in the full-back area while Guardiola has hinted he may use a 3-5-2 formation in the Premier League season, which could remove the rotation risk for Aguero and Gabriel Jesus (£10.5m) too. But we still need more information before settling on the most assured options.
Short of options
Tottenham look to be in a sticky situation ahead of their Gameweek 1 trip to Newcastle United. Key figures such as Harry Kane (£12.5m), Dele Alli (£9.0m), Kieran Trippier (£6.0m), Jan Vertonghen (£6.0m), Toby Alderweireld (£6.0m), Hugo Lloris (£5.5m), Mousa Dembélé (£5.0m), Eric Dier (£5.0m) and Danny Rose (£6.0m) did not make a single appearance in any pre-season matches, leaving them short of first-team options.
Perhaps the biggest warning worth issuing is that Rose’s absence will not necessarily turn Ben Davies (£6.0m) into the nailed-on left-back many might think. The lack of options in the centre of defence mean that the Welshman has actually been deployed at the heart of defence three times in the four public matches Spurs have played this summer. While he should feature at St James Park on Saturday, after registering 283 minutes this summer (more than any Spurs defender), it is unlikely to be in a position where he can display his attacking abilities. Those who have played on the left in his stead in the off-season have varied from Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.5m) to Anthony Georgiou. The former has more minutes, his 265 the third-most of any Spurs player.
Midfield is also looking rather bare for Spurs with so many either delayed by World Cup leave or simply injured. Erik Lamela (£6.5m), Victor Wanyama (£5.0m), Moussa Sissoko (£5.0m) and Harry Winks (£5.5m) are all fitness doubts for Gameweek 1. That’s why youngster Luke Amos has played at least 80 minutes in all four of Spurs’ public friendlies, and has registered more pre-season minutes than any of his team-mates.
Read more with Scout
Pick your FPL team for 2018/19 using our list of best available players, sorted for your convenience by position and price:
Also check out our detailed statistical analysis articles on every team comparing data for the last two seasons to highlight the players to sign and the players to avoid:
Arsenal | Bournemouth | Brighton & Hove Albion | Burnley | Cardiff City | Chelsea | Crystal Palace | Everton | Fulham | Huddersfield Town | Leicester City | Liverpool | Manchester City | Manchester United | Newcastle United | Southampton | Tottenham Hotspur | Watford | West Ham | Wolves
Become a Member and access our data
Memberships for the 2018/19 campaign are now available for the pre-season price of just £12.50. This will increase to the regular price of £15 after the first Gameweek of the season.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 130+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.