This regular precursor to the Scout Picks returns ahead of Blank Gameweek 31.
In this article, our four regular panellists each submit an 18-man squad of Fantasy assets, with the focus exclusively on the coming Gameweek.
The 72 nominations listed below will be narrowed down to a squad of 14 (with the starting XI not exceeding a total cost of £83.5m) ahead of the forthcoming deadline at 14:00 GMT on Saturday afternoon.
Paul, Peter, Joe and Az expand on their notable selections and omissions in the article below.
|GK||Artur Boruc||Lukasz Fabianski||Lukasz Fabianski||Lukasz Fabianski|
|Artur Boruc||Artur Boruc|
|Tom Heaton||Jordan Pickford||Kepa Arrizabalaga||Tom Heaton|
|Aaron Cresswell||Cesar Azpilicueta||Declan Rice||
|Lucas Digne||David Luiz||David Luiz||Harry Maguire|
|James Tarkowski||Declan Rice||Nathan Ake||James Tarkowski|
|Ricardo Pereira||Harry Maguire||Emerson Palmieri||Lucas Digne|
|MF||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah|
|Sadio Mane||Sadio Mane||Sadio Mane||Sadio Mane|
|Ryan Fraser||Eden Hazard||James Maddison||Eden Hazard|
|Eden Hazard||Ryan Fraser||Eden Hazard||Ryan Fraser|
|Gylfi Sigurdsson||James Maddison||David Brooks||Manuel Lanzini|
|FW||Callum Wilson||Callum Wilson||Callum Wilson||Callum Wilson|
|Jamie Vardy||Ashley Barnes||Jamie Vardy||Jamie Vardy|
|Marko Arnautovic||Ashley Barnes|
|Ashley Barnes||Salomon Rondon||Ashley Barnes||Gonzalo Higuain|
|Javier Hernandez||Marko Arnautovic||Salomon Rondon||Salomon Rondon|
Most popular picks: Artur Boruc, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Eden Hazard, Callum Wilson, Ashley Barnes, Jamie Vardy (four), Lukasz Fabianski, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Declan Rice, Ryan Fraser, Salomon Rondon (three)
There is an obvious nucleus of form players for Gameweek 31’s reduced fixture list.
Five of my squad – Eden Hazard, Jamie Vardy and Sadio Mane, as well as Bournemouth pair Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson – all delivered double-digit returns last weekend.
Along with Mohamed Salah, they are likely to populate many Free Hit squads, which raises the importance of seeking out differentials.
Aaron Cresswell, James Tarkowski and Gonzalo Higuain are all under 6% ownership in FPL and could be standout overlooked picks.
In Cresswell’s case, it’s more about the opposition, with West Ham set to host travel-sick Huddersfield.
The Terriers seem to have a particular weakness on Cresswell’s flank since moving to a midfield diamond in Gameweek 27.
Huddersfield sit in the bottom two for both chances conceded and crosses conceded down their right-hand side over the last four Gameweeks.
Cresswell, meanwhile, is second only to Robert Snodgrass for crosses (20 to 30) in the Hammers’ last six and should be given license to roam forward on Saturday afternoon.
Tarkowski has already found the net on three occasions ahead of Burnley’s home clash with Leicester.
The Clarets’ centre-back also boasts some strong recent numbers – no other defender bettered his five attempts in the box in the last four Gameweeks.
Given that ten of Burnley’s 34 goals have been headers, Tarkowski’s contribution could be key against the Foxes.
With managers rushing to Wilson and Vardy up front, and Hazard’s appeal on the rise after his late leveller at home to Wolves, Higuain has mainly been ignored.
Yet since arriving at Stamford Bridge, his total of 25 shots on goal is more than any other player.
Indeed, only Sergio Aguero – and marginally, at that – has surpassed his efforts in the box, by 18 to 17, over the last six Gameweeks.
Away to an Everton defence that fell apart spectacularly at Newcastle, Higuain can add to his three-goal haul on Sunday afternoon.
Despite the reduced fixture list there are still plenty of options across all positions this week – well, except among goalkeepers that is. Between the sticks there are really only two options this week, West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski and Bournemouth’s Artur Boruc.
The Hammers man has two clean sheets in his last four home matches and hosts a Huddersfield side that has mustered a mere eight goals on the road.
Meanwhile, the Cherries stopper takes on Newcastle at home and also has a pair of shutouts over the same timeframe in front of his own fans.
Tripling up on Liverpool and Chelsea, who travel to Fulham and Everton respectively, looks vital this week. But a key consideration for the Scout Picks committee will be whether to double up on their assets in attack or defence.
I marginally favour an attacking double-up of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to exploit Fulham’s awful defensive form, particularly at home. Over their last four Craven Cottage run-outs, they have conceded a record 65 shots and 48 close-range efforts.
In contrast, I’m backing a defensive double-up for Chelsea given Everton’s far better home form, with two clean sheets in their last four Goodison Park encounters. The Blues erratic attack of late is also a concern. While they recently beat Spurs 2-0, they worryingly laboured to a 1-1 draw against Wolves last time out.
With three assists, two clean sheets and four bonus over his last five matches, Cesar Azpilicueta offers an excellent range of points for our selection.
David Luiz also gets the nod, with a goal and bonus over the same timeframe and three double-digit hauls this season. The Brazilian is also among the top five defenders over their last quartet of matches in terms of shots in the box.
Top of that list is Harry Maguire, with five close-range efforts. While I expect Leicester to concede when they travel to Burnley, the England centre-back’s aerial threat at set-pieces could be key given the Clarets’ frailty at dead-ball situations.
Elsewhere, Callum Wilson and Ashley Barnes top my forward selection having scored three in their last four home matches.
A limited selection of players this week but I still think there are some decent differentials out there for anyone looking to close the gap on mini-league leaders or who are seeking a boost in the rankings. My advice is get in the ‘core’ players (who sit high on my list) and have a bit of a punt on a couple of low-owned players who could deliver this Gameweek.
Of all the games, it’s Liverpool versus Fulham which looks the most plum fixture for the highly owned players. Owners of three Liverpool players are surely licking their lips at the prospect of seeing their men go up against Fulham, who ship goals for fun. The question is, who looks set to prosper?
I’ve gone for set-piece taker Trent Alexander-Arnold, the red-hot Sadio Mane and the a-bit-out-of-sorts Mohamed Salah, who I’ve picked top of my list but do have some doubts about after Wednesday’s game – as I’m sure many of you do, too.
James Maddison and Marko Arnautovic look like good punts for anyone willing to roll the dice. Maddison is creating chances for fun and Arnautovic should hopefully lead the line after a very poor Hammers performance against Cardiff. These guys can go alongside your West Ham defenders and Jamie Vardy, all of whom you’ve got in your teams already, right?
The one player I really wouldn’t want to be without this week is Callum Wilson, who erupted back on the scene last week. I think he’s a better pick than Ryan Fraser, who has been poor recently. I reckon Wilson is the stand-out option for any brave managers who aren’t planning on giving a Liverpool player the armband this week.
With apologies to any fans of the Terriers and the Lillywhites, I’m writing your sides off even in this truncated Gameweek, which gives me just eight teams to work with and also some inevitable conflicts of interest, with defensive selections up against attacking choices in some cases.
It’s also worth reminding readers that we’re limited to a maximum of three selections per team, so it’s not simply a case of listing, say, the likely first XI for Liverpool.
There is a strong English core to my defensive choices (assuming that Declan Rice completes his “switch” to Gareth Southgate’s side over the next month), with Lucas Digne joining from across the Channel and my selections are supported by compelling statistics from the excellent recent Free Hit article on defenders.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s stunning rate of creating chances (ten in the last four Gameweeks) sees him top of the bill.
Meanwhile, Leicester’s visit to Turf Moor is a tough one to call but both Harry Maguire and James Tarkowski are top of the (active) defenders list for shots in the box with five apiece recently. The pair also tie with three goals and one assist for the season, although Leicester are (perhaps surprisingly) bottom of the table for goals scored from corners.
Rice carries a slight goal threat in his “OOP” midfield role, but the main reason for doubling up on the Hammers defensive pair of the youngster and Łukasz Fabiański is, of course, the abject away form of Huddersfield, with Jan Siewert’s men failing to get on the scoresheet in any of their last five road trips.
Those of us with both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané will have to make our own peace with our captaincy choice this week, assuming we rely on the consistent failing of Fulham’s obliging defence, which has conceded at least two goals in all ten of their league matches in 2019 and last kept out the aforementioned Huddersfield, back in December.
The Egyptian’s recent struggles in front of goal are well documented but it’s also worth highlighting Mane’s Jekyll and Hyde home and away form, with over 80% of his goals coming at Anfield. Perhaps, then, we should be open to a differential option when we peruse this week’s Captain Sensible article?
Callum Wilson returned with a goal and assist this week and boasts a points per match score of 5.7 over the season, level with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and just behind Harry Kane and a certain Argentine who plies his trade at the Etihad.
Wilson’s impressive link-up play with Ryan Fraser ensured double-digit hauls for the pair of them against Huddersfield and, although the Magpies are likely to prove a tougher nut to crack, the fact that this weekend’s clash occurs at the Vitality Stadium should not be overlooked. Twenty-six of the Cherries’ 41 goals have been scored on their own turf, with only title-chasing Liverpool and Manchester City and, er, Southampton, denying them.
And let’s not forget Ashley Barnes, a stalwart in my own team since Gameweek 23 who, like the cartoon The Cat Who Came Back, has found himself rejected and maligned but generally finds a way to return and who has helped himself to five goals and one assist in that time.
The Community Champion
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).
Last week, Bøss star narrowly beat our Scout Picks 68-67 with a 3-4-3 line-up of Guaita (1); Alexander-Arnold (2), Chilwell (2), Robertson (1); Anderson (1), Brooks (3), Sterling (21), Mane (14); Vardy (16), Aguero (5), Zaha (2).
fclackless’s Gameweek 10 victory over the Scout Squad crew by a score of 77-44 remains the deficit to beat.
The Community Champion for Gameweek 31 will be announced in our Scout Picks on Friday.
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