With many of the highly-owned players failing to deliver in recent weeks, differentials are becoming more and more important to Fantasy Premier League managers.
In Gameweek 7, the top 10 points-scorers all had single-digit ownership levels, proving that many of this season’s top performers are still hiding away.
It was another good week for this regular column though. Andriy Yarmolenko (£6.0m) and Chris Wood (£6.2m) lived up to their billing by registering a goal each.
Let’s hope for more of the same this weekend. Here are three exciting players owned by 5% or less ahead of Gameweek 8.
GW8 Opponent: Wolves (H)
A player averaging 6.4 points per game is always hard to ignore in FPL, although Riyad Mahrez (£8.6m) is much more of a hidden gem right now because he plays for Manchester City.
Had it not been for their ‘Pep Roulette’ rotation system, the former Leicester man probably would have been an essential asset weeks ago.
However, a unique opportunity has emerged which makes Mahrez a viable option, at least for now.
With fitness concerns over Kevin de Bruyne this weekend and the risk of Bernardo Silva missing out (perhaps long-term), Mahrez seems likely to be involved from the start against Wolves.
Despite only starting four league games since August, he has registered two goals and five assists – one every 57 minutes.
Mahrez has the same amount of FPL points as Sadio Mané despite offering a saving of £3.0m, which shows how appealing his points per million is.
The Algerian’s underlying statistics almost seem too good to be true and some may say that they are skewed. But form is all that matters to me.
Over the last two Gameweeks, among all midfielders, Mahrez has the most number of touches in the opponents’ half (127) and the most number of touches in the final third (90).
For good measure, he’s also had 9 attempts on goal during the same period – only John McGinn has had more. That in itself speaks volumes and boosts his credibility.
Man City are due to face a potentially fatigued Wolves team this weekend that lacks the squad depth to effectively manage their Europa League and Premier League commitments. If Mahrez starts, it would be hard to say he won’t be involved in the goals.
GW8 Opponent: Crystal Palace (H)
For this first time this season, I’ve decided to repurpose one of my picks from last week.
Yarmolenko’s wnership has increased by 2.7% but is thankfully still below the 5% threshold and capable of propelling his owners up the rankings.
The West Ham midfielder has now registered three goals in his last four league games. For all midfielders priced at £6.5m or less he currently has the best points per game average (5.5).
Also, during the last two Gameweeks, Yarmolenko has registered the joint-fifth most amount of touches in the final third among all midfielders (54).
This Michu-esque form shows that he’s getting in the right advanced areas and is being rewarded for his efforts.
It is clear that Yarmolenko’s minutes were being managed in August and early September, to ease him back in after his long injury lay off but he’s now beginning to play the entirety of games.
For this campaign, he is currently averaging a goal for every 125 minutes played, which is very respectable for a budget midfielder.
Provided he stays fit and can maintain good performance levels he could end up with at least a dozen goals by the end of the season.
West Ham’s next opponents are Crystal Palace. The Hammers have scored 10 goals in their last five matches against the Eagles and I expect more from them with Yarmolenko at the helm.
GW8 Opponent: Watford (A)
If you’re short on cash up top and are willing to take a substantial risk on an uber-differential then look no further than Oliver McBurnie (£5.9m).
The Sheffield United forward has started four consecutive Premier League games for his team and, since Gameweek 6, among players priced at £6.0m or less, he has the joint-third highest number of shots on goal.
That period has pitted the Blades against Everton and Liverpool, so there’s every reason to believe he can continue to provide threat against Watford.
Of course, it’s a concern that he’s only scored one Premier League goal during his entire career, which includes an additional 16 appearances for Swansea City.
But last season he demonstrated his ability to find the net regularly and seems to be gradually adapting to life as a top-flight centre-forward.
In the Premier League, he clearly won’t match his goal tally from last season but I expect him to gradually improve by each Gameweek.
Vicarage Road on Saturday could serve as an ideal opportunity for him. The Hornets have been completely woeful recently, even after their managerial change.
McBurnie and Sheffield United could cause them more trouble after having impressed against some of the league’s more established teams since Gameweek 1.
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