After a well-earned winter break, the Scout Squad panel are back to offer their long-list of players to be considered for our regular Scout Picks feature on Friday.
The 72 nominations listed will be narrowed down to a squad of 14 (with the starting XI not exceeding a total cost of £83.5m) ahead of the Gameweek 22 deadline at 11:30 GMT on Saturday.
The usual foursome of Joe, Peter, Paul and Az – who have five top 1,000 finishes between them – are reunited to expand on their notable selections and omissions in the article below.
|GK||Vicente Guaita||Neil Etheridge||Kasper Schmeichel||Neil Etheridge|
|Tom Heaton||Vicente Guaita||Tom Heaton||Tom Heaton|
|Neil Etheridge||Tom Heaton||Neil Etheridge||Kasper Schmeichel|
|Marcos Alonso||Lucas Digne||Marcos Alonso|
|Patrick van Aanholt||Ricardo Pereira||Andrew Robertson||Trent Alexander-
|Ricardo Pereira||James Tarkowski||Sead Kolasinac||Lucas Digne|
|Sean Morrison||Aaron Wan-Bissaka||David Luiz||James Tarkowski|
|Lucas Digne||Sol Bamba||Aaron Wan-Bissaka||Sol Bamba|
|MF||Mohamed Salah||Eden Hazard||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah|
|Son Heung-min||Mohamed Salah||Eden Hazard||Eden Hazard|
|Eden Hazard||Leroy Sane||Leroy Sane||Richarlison|
|Raheem Sterling||Richarlison||Victor Camarasa||Son Heung-min|
|Dwight McNeil||Callum Paterson||Son Heung-min||Callum Paterson|
|Sergio Aguero||Sergio Aguero|
|Sergio Aguero||Harry Kane||Harry Kane||Ashley Barnes|
|Marko Arnautovic||Jamie Vardy||Roberto Firmino||Callum Wilson|
|Marcus Rashford||Ashley Barnes||Ashley Barnes||Troy Deeney|
Most popular picks: Neil Etheridge, Tom Heaton, Mohamed Salah, Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (four), Lucas Digne, Son Heung-min, Harry Kane, Ashley Barnes (three)
Finding value in defence could be key to this week’s selection, with a number of big-hitting attackers going head-to-head with less-than-resilient opponents.
That has persuaded me to overlook Marcos Alonso, in spite of Chelsea’s plum home clash with Newcastle.
As the season unfolds under Maurizio Sarri, the Spaniard’s role as a left-back is curtailing his instincts to attack – indeed, Alonso is without a goal or an assist since Gameweek 11.
Patrick van Aanholt and Ricardo Pereira are the top two ranked defenders for goal attempts in the last four Gameweeks, with nine and eight respectively.
Both could also bring home clean sheets in home encounters with Watford and Southampton.
Cardiff centre-half Sean Morrison boasts a big goal threat for the visit of Fulham – his 19 shots in the box ranks third in defence.
The Bluebirds have also tightened up defensively, with three of their five clean sheets for the season arriving in the previous six.
Burnley wide man Dwight McNeil is my differential midfielder and looks a decent enabler at home to Fulham.
Costing just £4.4m, he has a goal and an assist in two appearances since being installed in the starting XI in Gameweek 20.
McNeil’s six shots and five efforts in the box both rank second for the Clarets in that period. Fulham, meanwhile, have conceded 28 goals on their travels, more than any other side.
Among form premium assets, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looks the most enticing this week. He takes top spot among my forward selection as he prepares to take on a West Ham side with a solitary clean sheet in their last six Gameweeks.
Strong underlying statistics are also in his favour. Over that same timeframe, the Gunners’ marksman has notched a record 11 big chances, scoring four and assisting a further two goals along the way.
Taking my top midfield slot is Eden Hazard, who is at home to a Newcastle outfit that has conceded the third-highest number of close-range efforts over their last six away matches.
He could do particularly well if Alvaro Morata fails to recover from a hamstring injury, as most of the Belgian’s attacking returns this season have come when the Spaniard has been off the pitch.
Mohamed Salah leads our captaincy poll and should get on the scoresheet against Brighton but I’m not sure he will beat Hazard and Aubameyang’s returns. Over their last six home matches, the Seagulls have only handed opponents seven big chances: the joint-second-best tally alongside Liverpool and Crystal Palace.
Manchester City also face a resilient defence when Wolves drop by but I still think one of Sergio Aguero or Leroy Sane is worth including. While Nuno Espirito Santo’s troops have performed well against top sides, they have conceded in all seven league meetings with Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Burnley and Cardiff look the best teams for bargain-hunting this week as they take on Fulham and Huddersfield respectively.
The Clarets’ backline looks particularly appealing having halved the number of shots they have faced since the goalkeeper’s jersey was wrestled from Joe Hart in Gameweek 20. James Tarkowski looks the safest option. I’ve also tentatively included Hart’s replacement Tom Heaton, even though he now faces competition from last season’s number one Nick Pope, who returned to action in the FA Cup this month following a lengthy injury lay-off.
With the festive schedule behind me, I’m turning attention to the battle against my own team’s slide. With so many heavy hitters performing well and there existing a strong template of defenders and cheaper midfielders, I am struggling to find many gems to help make my way back up the rankings.
This week looks a potentially intriguing one with many of the top sides enjoying favourable fixtures, though there are also good-looking home games for teams such as Everton and Cardiff. I really like the look of Victor Camarasa this week, who is in fine company in my midfield selections!
Getting the right heavy hitters in your own FPL teams looks key to surviving the next few months. My top picks this week are Mohamed Salah and Sergio Aguero, the latter of whom I think is being overlooked in everyone’s clamour to get Salah. Aguero looked razor-sharp against Liverpool and should lead the line against Wolves, who do always put up a fight against the top sides but may find the challenge too great at the Etihad.
It’s hard to separate Harry Kane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. I feel as though Kane may be over-performing on his FPL points based on the matches I’ve seen him play, whereas Aubameyang has been very unlucky. I’m reluctant to take Kane out but I do think Aubameyang can do some real damage to me this week and beyond.
My defence selection looks strong and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of these players make the final squad. Lucas Digne, Andrew Robertson and Sead Kolasinac all offer so much going forward for their respective sides, while David Luiz and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are slightly less exciting picks but both have good-looking home games nevertheless.
Two premium midfielders (Eden Hazard and Mohamed Salah) and two premium attackers (Sergio Aguero and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang) account for nearly half the budget this week, resulting in drastic cost-cutting measures elsewhere. My selections are therefore somewhat sullied as I scratch around at the unromantic venues of the Cardiff City Stadium and Turf Moor.
It’s an odd quirk of the fixture computer that the bottom two sides (Huddersfield and Fulham) visit two sides just outside the drop zone (Cardiff and Burnley respectively) and, despite going all-in on the pair of hosts, I must acknowledge the fragility of both the Bluebirds and the Clarets.
Nonetheless, I’ve gambled on penalty-stopper Neil Etheridge and Sol Bamba to shut out a Terriers attack with eight away goals all season. That said, Huddersfield’s far-from-irresistible force meets an infinitely movable object, with Cardiff’s the leakiest home defence in the division. I may, therefore, be relying on attacking returns from Bamba (level with Marcos Alonso with 16 attempts in the box this season) and from team-mate Callum Paterson, should he continue in his “out of position” role up front.
It’s a fairly similar story at Turf Moor, where I cross everything in hope that Burnley’s defence – almost as porous as Cardiff’s – can repel a Fulham attack which boasts just seven goals in 11 away games. Again, I may be relying on attacking returns from my defender, with James Tarkowski’s three goals leaving him behind only Shane Duffy as the top-scoring defender. I’m also hopeful that Ashley Barnes can continue his slightly improved form against Fulham’s much-maligned defence.
That at least frees up some cash for the aforementioned fab four who, at the time of writing, top the captaincy poll, suggesting I don’t need to wax lyrical about their potential this week.
Instead, I will seek to justify my selections of Lucas Digne and Richarlison, with Everton failing to record a clean sheet in the last eight Gameweeks and Richarlison managing just six shots on target during that time. What better game to bounce back from (from an attacking perspective at least) than against the Cherries, who also appear to have forgotten what a clean sheet looks like (Brighton in Gameweek 18 aside) and are haemorrhaging an average of three goals a game over the last six Gameweeks. This fixture has the smell of goals about it, and I’ve also added Callum Wilson to the squad in anticipation of a Sunday afternoon thriller.
The Community Champion
This week’s challenger is FPL_SUNNY, who is currently ranked just outside the top 20k having reached a season-high rank of 1,829 in Gameweek 10.
The Community Champion who has the best lead over the Scouts during 2018/19 will win a £100 Amazon voucher (currently we can only offer Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com vouchers).
fclackless’s Gameweek 10 victory over the Scout Squad crew by a score of 77-44 remains the deficit to beat.
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