The second Blank Gameweek of the season is upon us, with Manchester City, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Sheffield United all without a Premier League fixture thanks to the clash with the EFL Cup final.
There are still a number of appealing Fantasy Premier League assets for our panel to consider, however, in this weekly precursor to the Scout Picks.
Regular readers will know the format of this recurring feature but for the uninitiated, staff members Paul, David, Neale and Geoff each propose an 18-man squad of players for the approaching Gameweek and explain their notable inclusions/omissions below.
The 72 nominations listed will then be narrowed down to a squad of 15 (with the starting XI not exceeding a total cost of £85m) for the weekly Scout Picks selection ahead of the earlier-than-usual Gameweek 28 deadline at 19:00 GMT on Friday.
There are requirements for at least one sub-£5.0m goalkeeper, at least one defender costing £5.0m or less, at least one midfielder listed at £6.5m or below and at least one forward priced at £7.5m or lower.
Each panelist is restricted to no more than three players from the same team, as is the case in FPL.
We will again be adding a captaincy to the Scout Picks, with details of that revealed on Friday.
|GK||Nick Pope||Nick Pope||Martin Dubravka||Mathew Ryan|
|Rui Patricio||Martin Dubravka||Mathew Ryan||Nick Pope|
|Martin Dubravka||Mathew Ryan||Alex McCarthy||Martin Dubravka|
|DF||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Trent Alexander-Arnold|
|Ricardo Pereira||Ricardo Pereira||Ricardo Pereira||Caglar Soyuncu|
|Matt Doherty||Matt Doherty||Fabian Schar||Adam Webster|
|Charlie Taylor||Cesar Azpilicueta||Adam Webster||Federico Fernandez|
|Ben Mee||Ben Mee||Ryan Bertrand||Reece James|
|MF||Mohamed Salah||Sadio Mane||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah|
|Richarlison||Bruno Fernandes||Sadio Mane||Sadio Mane|
|Bruno Fernandes||Harvey Barnes||Richarlison||Bruno Fernandes|
|Stuart Armstrong||Richarlison||Ayoze Perez||Harvey Barnes|
|Harvey Barnes||Mason Mount||Anthony Martial||Mason Mount|
|FW||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Roberto Firmino||Jamie Vardy||Jamie Vardy|
|Roberto Firmino||Jamie Vardy||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Tammy Abraham|
|Shane Long||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Raul Jimenez||Danny Ings|
|Danny Ings||Danny Ings||Danny Ings||Raul Jimenez|
|Jamie Vardy||Chris Wood||Josh King||Dominic Calvert-Lewin|
Most popular picks: Martin Dubravka, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Danny Ings, Jamie Vardy (four), Mathew Ryan, Nick Pope, Matt Doherty, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Bruno Fernandes, Richarlison, Harvey Barnes (three)
Newcastle have now gone three matches in a row without scoring, which is why I’ve gone with a Burnley defensive triple-up for my Scout Squad selection.
The Clarets tempted fate a few times against Bournemouth but their upcoming opponents have the lowest goal conversion rate over their last four home matches.
Meanwhile, Ben Mee is top for shots in the box among Burnley defenders since Gameweek 24, suggesting it could be him who benefits from Newcastle’s problems fending off set pieces.
I feel the inclusion of Trent Alexander-Arnold is self-explanatory at this point so will give more detail on selecting Ricardo Pereira and Matt Doherty.
Leicester’s right-back has had more shots than any of his team-mates over the last four, while Norwich continue to struggle going forward.
Meanwhile, only Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota have had more touches in opposition penalty boxes since Gameweek 24 than Doherty among Wolves assets, and given the defensive potential on show recently, I think there’s a chance Nuno Espirito Santo’s men can frustrate Spurs’ stunted attack too.
Returning to the scene of his first-ever Premier League goal, Mohamed Salah is joint-top for shots in the box over the last four matches for fit Premier League players and has played more key passes leading to a big chance than any of his team-mates.
Meanwhile, Richarlison finds himself top of the league over that period for big chances created while sitting behind just one fit player for shots on target over their last four matches too. His link-up with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who joint-tops the league for big chances since Gameweek 24, is proving very effective and worthy of investing in, even if it’s Manchester United next.
I think their new star man Bruno Fernandes is worth considering, as he’s on penalties and likes to shoot and play key passes regularly.
Stuart Armstrong is one of three Southampton attackers in my selection, the midfielder top of the charts for shots on target in the last four among Saints players.
Meanwhile, I’ve ranked Shane Long above Danny Ings this time around as he continues to outperform his colleague both from an underlying statistics perspective and recent form over the last two outings.
Finally, Roberto Firmino gets a stay of execution in my own FPL squad, so gets selected here. No Liverpool player has more away goals than the Brazilian this season, who was arguably unfortunate not to record an attacking return against West Ham on Monday night.
With five of the seven £10.0m+ FPL assets either injured or without a Premier League fixture in Gameweek 28, we can spread the budget around a bit for our Scout Picks selection – so there are more premium defenders than usual in my 18-man longlist.
Matt Doherty and the in-form Wolves defence are up against a blunted Spurs attack this weekend, while Ricardo Pereira and Leicester City face a Norwich City side that has scored just twice in the last six Gameweeks.
It’s not just clean sheet potential that those two players boast, though.
Doherty, who is top for shots in the box among defenders this season, posted some eye-catching numbers in the win over Norwich last Sunday, while Pereira has had more goal attempts and penalty box touches than even Jamie Vardy over the last four Gameweeks.
Cesar Azpilicueta, meanwhile, has recorded more touches in the opposition area than any FPL defender this season.
Chelsea haven’t been able to turn some promising underlying numbers into clean sheets under Frank Lampard but totally bossed Spurs last weekend, only conceding a late consolation thanks to an Antonio Rudiger own-goal.
With the hapless Kepa Arrizabalaga now demoted to the bench, the Blues may finally deliver some long-awaited shut-outs as their fixture schedule markedly improves.
Sticking with Lampard’s troops, my selection of Mason Mount may require some explanation given the mid-price midfielder’s so-so underlying numbers and recent FPL returns.
It’s hard to find a nailed route into Chelsea’s attack with hitherto regulars Tammy Abraham and Willian perhaps no longer first-choice options, so Mount, who has started 23 of the Blues’ 27 league games this season, is about as good as it gets on that front.
I’m merely echoing Zophar’s comments in his latest Pro Pundits article when I say that Mount is more of an eye test pick than a punt based on the attacking stats in our Members Area, however.
His off-the-ball work was impressive last weekend and even when Chelsea were outclassed against Bayern in midweek, he was directly involved in seven of the Blues’ nine chances.
Elsewhere, the match on Tyneside could be a low-scoring affair, given Newcastle’s involvement.
Should there be goals, then I’ve followed up my pick of goalkeepers Nick Pope and Martin Dubravka with Ben Mee and Chris Wood, given Burnley’s strength at dead-ball situations and Newcastle’s fallibility at them.
I’ve gone with away-day specialist Roberto Firmino and the fit-again Sadio Mane as my two Liverpool attackers given Mohamed Salah’s patchy record on the road and fairly ragged performance against West Ham on Monday, while the form of Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Bruno Fernandes is too good to ignore when we are down several viable premium alternatives who blank.
A triple-up on Liverpool looks an obvious tactic for the reduced Gameweek, while Leicester, arguably, also merit stocking up on.
Along with the host of obvious picks, here are some of my standout options…
Ayoze Perez’s record against opponents lower down in the league makes him my pick of the Foxes midfielders for the trip to Norwich.
All seven of the Spaniard’s goals have come against opponents in the bottom half of the table – only Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, with nine and eight respectively, can better that record among FPL midfielders.
Similar to Harvey Barnes, you’d expect Perez to come back into the starting XI after he was benched against Man City last weekend.
Josh King’s return from injury could be crucial for Bournemouth at home to Chelsea.
The Norwegian has scored all three of his goals this season and supplied two of his three assists at the Vitality.
When selected, King has played a part in 56% of the Cherries’ home goals compared with the 40% of fellow frontman Callum Wilson.
King scored twice and supplied an assist in the corresponding fixture last season and while I don’t quite expect him to repeat the feat, Chelsea’s away record – one clean sheet in 13 attempts – offers encouragement to Eddie Howe’s men.
At the back, Fabian Schar also has a home record worth mentioning ahead of Newcastle’s encounter with Burnley.
The Swiss international has averaged 4.8 points per start at St James’ Park in 2019/20, producing two goals and three clean sheets over seven outings in the first XI.
At home, Schar has recorded seven shots in the box – a total surpassed by just two team-mates.
Meanwhile, the Magpies have been in resilient form in front of their own supporters, claiming a clean sheet in each of their last three at St James’ in all competitions.
With four teams blanking in Gameweek 28, I’ve tripled up on three sides in my selections, in addition to two defensive double-ups.
Liverpool travel to Watford so I look to Trent-Alexander Arnold, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. The Reds are on an incredible run of form and Watford look short of confidence, having conceded nine goals in their last four matches.
Leicester, heading to Norwich on Friday night, lend my selection Caglar Soyuncu, Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy. I think the Foxes could run up the score a bit and they have a strong chance of a clean sheet, too, with the Canaries struggling for goals this calendar year.
I also take three from Chelsea: Reece James, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham. Chelsea need to put a run together and, while the trio isn’t in top form, a fixture against Bournemouth could be what they need to kick into gear.
In goal, I start with Mathew Ryan, who pairs with defender Adam Webster at home against goal-shy Crystal Palace despite the Seagulls having kept only one clean sheet in the last seven home matches.
I also double on the Newcastle defence at home to Burnley, with Martin Dubravka and Federico Fernandez.
Mid-priced forwards Raul Jimenez, Danny Ings and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all have the ability and service to score and are attractive options this Gameweek and beyond, meanwhile.
Finally, Bruno Fernandes looks at the centre of everything Manchester United are doing going forward, while Nick Pope will try to keep it tight away to Newcastle.
THE COMMUNITY CHAMPION
Each week, one of the Fantasy Football Scout community takes on the Scout Picks by pitting their chosen XI against ours.
The community member who beats our picks by the biggest margin over the campaign will win a £100 Amazon Voucher and a place in our Moderators and Contributors League for the following season.
In Gameweek 27, ringwraith beat our Scout Picks 78-68.
gwitbrock‘s winning margin of 23 points in Gameweek 25 is the target to beat.
Our Scout Picks article on Friday will have further details on who is representing the community this week.
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