In his latest Pro Pundits article, Lateriser12 – who has overall ranks of 77th and 189th to his name – shares his thoughts on the Fantasy landscape ahead of the final third of the season and looks at possible replacements for Son Heung-min.
There is a lot to consider at this stage of the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) season. While normally you keep your eye on form and fixtures, there is a fair bit more that goes into your decision-making during this part of the campaign.
Unscheduled fixtures, blanks, potential Double Gameweeks, chip usage, fixture congestion for sides playing European football and team motivation are all factors, while now we have the ‘Son’ setting on a few FPL plans and things have gone pitch black in the blue side of Manchester.
We’ve hit a proper ‘reset’ button with this winter break before we dive into this last leg of 2019/20. I’m not even sure if form is a thing as all the players have taken a break and will take a little while to get into some ‘rhythm’. I was off-rhythm myself as the winter break nicely coincided with a mini-vacation for me on the pristine beaches of Sri Lanka, but I’m back now and ready to take on this stretch after assimilating a lot of information once I got back from my holiday.
With this article, I will address the state of FPL play for some of the more relevant teams and where I can, recommend replacements for Son Heung-min (£10.0m) despite not owning him, since a lot of you will be looking at options.
I am addressing Manchester City first because there’s a huge elephant in the room. While we all know that they have a blank in Gameweek 28, what we’re not paying enough attention to is that Manchester City have the possibility of a Double Gameweek in Gameweek 29 (with the second game against Chelsea or Arsenal).
At the time of writing, not many people know what is going to happen. But it’s good to keep your options open. While some people think that there is a strong chance of a Double Gameweek 29, fellow site user Jarvish has reason to think that there isn’t.
I’ve seen many people make up their mind strongly about selling their Manchester City assets, citing rotation, poor fixtures and a blank in Gameweek 28. My counter-argument to that is does fixture strength really matter when we’re talking about a team that has scored the most goals in the league?
I’ve seen many people mention that Manchester City will probably give up on the domestic front since league position will not matter with the impending Champions League ban for them. What we need to pay attention to is that City themselves are very confident that the ban will be overturned and we will probably not know until a lot later whether this suspension will actually stand. Keeping this in mind, one should ideally expect City to carry on as is.
In fact, my intuition says that they will have a siege mentality and I fully expect them to give a few teams a proper hiding. We also know that Pep Guardiola will prioritise the Champions League as the current league title is almost over but there are a couple of things to consider here.
Guardiola has constantly spoken about ‘match’ rhythm and this might lead to normal amounts of Pep-tation that we see from Manchester City instead of the exaggerated amounts we are assuming.
Secondly, the potential Double Gameweek 29 will come immediately before their Gameweek 30 game against Burnley on March 14. They play their second leg against Real Madrid three days after they meet the Clarets, so the major rotation for the ‘first-teamers’ can be expected mainly for the home encounter with Sean Dyche’s troops in Gameweek 30.
Additionally, the two cup games before Gameweek 29 might provide us with clues for the starters against Burnley (the full schedule is addressed here by Neale).
Lastly, if Manchester City lose their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie against Real Madrid (who are worthy opponents), what will they even rotate for?
I am looking to execute a semi-bluff for Gameweek 29 hoping that the flop of cards falls in my favour. In poker terms, a semi-bluff is when you bluff, but you still have a chance of improving to make the best hand on future cards.
I currently own both Kevin De Bruyne (£10.8m) and Sergio Aguero (£12.1m) and will definitely hold one of them through Blank Gameweek 28 with the hope that the cards (a possible Double Gameweek) fall correctly in my favour, which is why I’m currently thinking of tripling up on Manchester City in Gameweek 29.
Yes, there is the rotation argument for City especially with some really good single Gameweek 29 fixtures elsewhere but my approach to Double Gameweeks has always been to attack them. You have to play the hand to win the pot. It is also worth noting though that Manchester City will most likely have a blank in Gameweek 31. Lots to think about, I know.
Liverpool are the gold standard team here.
The Reds play in Gameweek 28 and the chances of them featuring in Gameweek 31 are decent as well, although that will depend on the result of their FA Cup fifth round tie against Chelsea.
If, like me, your third Liverpool spot is still open, I can’t recommend Sadio Mane (£12.2m) enough. Lots of people think that spending £25m on two Liverpool attackers is too much but the fixtures are lining up with defensively obliging opponents so I see absolutely no issue here.
The question you need to ask yourself here is: are Mane or Salah poor picks in isolation given the fixtures? Then why do you think that when combined, it isn’t optimal?
Mane also makes for a cracking Son replacement should you be able to afford him, especially given the nature of the defences that Liverpool will face (this is assuming you already own Salah).
But if you own three Liverpool assets already, I don’t think it is necessary to shift them around as Jurgen Klopp’s side are still keeping a lot of clean sheets and their defenders also have a lot of potential in attack.
From a European standpoint, there is not much to worry about when it comes to Liverpool – as addressed here by Neale. Also another point worth noting is that once the Reds win the title, we have no idea how they will utilise their squad. Will they give their second-string players some more gametime or will they continue using the first team and look to break all records? We’ll know only once they’ve won the title, which should be around Gameweek 30-34.
We all know that Jamie Vardy (£9.7m) is probably struggling with his newfound sleep schedule given his new role as a father. It’s difficult to find another reason for his massive dip in form. Leicester themselves are showcasing good underlying numbers when it comes to attack but few of the chances are falling to Mr Vardy.
That said, we did mention that the winter break served as a ‘reset’ button and the hiatus could have done Vardy some good, hopefully (despite him not showing any signs against Wolves).
Personally, I won’t be hurrying to buy him any time soon (unless I see some form at least) but Leicester do have a great set of fixtures, with them facing some poor defences after the Manchester City game.
While the Foxes have a fixture in Blank Gameweek 28, they do have a high chance of a blank in Gameweek 31. The big advantage with Leicester is that they have no major cup distraction and will look to finish as high as possible in the Premier League table.
There is one thing with Vardy though. Despite his poor form, it is worth noting that he’s a proper flat-track bully. I remember this because I was tracking big-hitter performance versus good defensive sides and poor ones earlier in the season (I’ve based my season strategy on this article). I remember that Vardy loved playing against ‘Bramble-status opposition’.
Southampton, like Leicester, have a tasty run of fixtures right through until Gameweek 32. Their next three opponents are the three worst defensive teams for big chances conceded when filtered by the last four Gameweeks. This should mean a fair amount of goals for their talisman, Danny Ings (£7.1m).
It is worth noting that Ings’ stats have taken a fair dip in the last four matches. That said, he still offers tremendous value at his price.
Owners of Southampton defenders, like me, should note that they are in the wrong side of the table for big chances conceded in the last four Gameweeks but this is probably due to their game against Liverpool.
Saints also don’t have a blank in Gameweek 28 and are very likely to blank in Gameweek 31.
One thing worth noting here is that a certain cut-price option is offering a lot of value at his price and could be a great option for the next five to six Gameweeks as a seventh or eighth attacker. Believe it or not, I’m looking closely at Shane Long (£4.6m).
Yes, we know that he’s a defensive striker and doesn’t do much but, at his price, he doesn’t really need to. He’s started the last five games for the Saints and, based on Ralph Hasenhüttl’s comments, he’s seemingly made his way into the Saints first team.
Arsenal have a great run of fixtures until Gameweek 32, with the exception of the blank in Gameweek 28 and possibly another in Gameweek 31.
That said, there is also a chance that they will have a Double Gameweek in Gameweek 29, but this is only possible if they are knocked out by Olympiacos in the Europa League.
Arsenal’s defensive stats are poor so I would not go there. However, given the obliging nature of the opponents they are about to face and a potential Double Gameweek 29 (monitor their result versus Olympiacos this week), Nicolas Pepe (£9.1m) is a very intriguing option for me.
This week, only Son and Dele Alli (£8.4m) had a higher xGI than the Arsenal winger. Given that he plays very high up the pitch and is on most set pieces, he’s a very enticing punt for me with a high upside.
Yes, he was dropped the previous game but I don’t expect Mikel Arteta to bench him after a performance like that. This is what Arteta had to say after his performance against Newcastle:
We just need consistency from him. From wide players, the most difficult thing to do is create chances. These are things that Nico needs to maintain game by game. The way he applied himself today, defensively as well, was top-drawer. He’s doing things he wasn’t doing in the past and when he does that, the rewards come.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m), on the other hand, isn’t doing enough for me to justify his current price tag. It is worth noting though that Arsenal do have European commitments and we have no idea how Arteta will treat this competition and in accordance, rotate. Here’s hoping he’s nothing like his mentor.
I will cover some of the other teams in brief:
The Blues have a good run of fixtures until Gameweek 34 and could prove to be interesting once Tammy Abraham (£7.7m) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.3m) return to fitness.
There is the potential for a Double Gameweek for Chelsea in Gameweek 29 should Arsenal qualify for the next round of the Europa League. If that is the case, both the attackers mentioned above are really good options.
I am also very interested in their swashbuckling wing-back Reece James (£5.0m), who has passed my eye test with flying colours in the past few weeks.
Motivation will not be an issue at all for Chelsea since they are right in the middle of a battle for European places. It is worth noting though that the chances of a match for Chelsea in Gameweek 31 are very low.
Spurs have a mixed bag of fixtures until Gameweek 34 but now with Son out of the frame for a while, they could struggle in an attacking sense with both their primary sources of goals missing.
That said, I will be monitoring how their front three lines up in the next week to see if anything interesting emerges there. I get the feeling that either Alli or Lucas Moura (£7.1m) could offer decent value if they are played up front, so I’ll be closely looking at them.
A new option has emerged for Manchester United in the form of Bruno Fernandes (£8.0m), who is now on most set pieces and is really good at them too.
With the exception of Gameweeks 29 and 30, Manchester United have a great run of fixtures right until the end of the season. They also do not have a blank in Gameweek 28, although have a high possibility of a blank in Gameweek 31.
Despite having commitments in the Europa League, I don’t see any rotation issues for Bruno or Anthony Martial (£7.7m) in the Premier League due to United’s thin squad and the importance of each domestic game. If Odion Ighalo could find some form and make his way into the first team, he could be an intriguing option at £6.5m.
With Scott McTominay (£4.9m) and Paul Pogba (£9.3m) returning to the team sooner rather than later, I see myself going heavy on United very soon. I’m hoping that, with Bruno playing instead of Jesse Lingard (£6.3m), we don’t have as much of an issue as we did earlier against a deep block. Watford this weekend should be a good litmus test.
I will likely need to make a decision on dropping one of Fernandes or Anthony Martial (£7.9m) very soon and, based on the eye test, there is not much between them. Bruno is on a lot of set pieces and I suspect he is going to be on penalties, too, given his record. Having dived into the small data set of both playing together in two games, Bruno comes out as the statistically superior option on all counts except for shots in the box.
I think I have stretched this article for long enough now but last bits of advice:
- Hold your Wolves assets. They have guaranteed fixtures in Gameweek 28 and Gameweek 31, plus good underlying numbers at the back. Willy Boly (£4.7m) has changed the defensive status of that team for me because I rate him, which makes both him and Matt Doherty (£6.1m) good options in their respective price ranges.
- Burnley have a nice run of fixtures until Gameweek 34 and have matches in both Gameweek 28 and 31.
- I would look to have two free transfers in place for Gameweek 29 because you might want to restructure your team at that point, given the new information that will be useful to you at that stage with regards to the potential Double Gameweek 29 and blanks in Gameweek 31.
Last time we spoke, it was after Mane’s Bad Beat and I was sitting at 528th in the world at that point. Since then, I have fallen to 8.9k and then clawed my way back up to around the 5,000 mark with my captain, Aguero, and De Bruyne playing on Wednesday evening.
My approach to these variances in rank is of negligence as I’m aware that my playing style will lead to a high-variance in rank and I just need to hold position until that one or two-week period where I’m able to make a big jump.
Apologies for the massively long article; I promise a shorter one soon enough. Until then, here’s hoping a certain Mr Aguero does well for me tonight. Good luck and until next time!
Fantasy Football Scout user Lateriser12 has a very impressive Fantasy CV. He has registered two finishes in the top 200 (one of them equating to number one in India) and four in the top 10,000 in the last six seasons. The secret to his success has been playing non-conventionally and fearlessly, swearing by ‘upside chasing’ and not giving ownership much of a look.
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