It’s great to see battles heating up at both ends of the Premier League table, especially as several teams have a shot at a place in next season’s Champions League.
The more sides that have something to fight for at the end of the campaign, the better for Fantasy managers. European football is really important these days and there will be plenty of assets upping their game to achieve it.
It is these sorts of players who I’ll be turning to as I hope to recover from a tough Blank Gameweek 28. After a strong run of form, it all came crashing back down to Earth over the weekend. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
Just two red arrows in 16 Gameweeks had seen me rise from a worldwide ranking of two million to within reach of the top 100k and I felt invincible.
Then came the news that Jamie Vardy (£9.8m), the out of form forward that I’d been holding on to for his ‘golden’ set of fixtures was out of Blank Gameweek 28. My plans were thrown up in the air.
I took a hit for James Maddison (£7.5m) despite concerns with his own form, to try and get in on what I predicted to be a Leicester demolition job. I was actually close to taking further hits, and had my eye on the likes of Harvey Barnes (£6.2m) and Ayozé Péréz (£6.2m) but chose to play it ‘safe’. I’m glad I did!
Just 27 points and a Gameweek rank of 3,290,000 followed. Charlie Taylor (£4.3m) and the reliable Raúl Jiménez (8.0) were the only players who got me points. It was a poor weekend indeed.
But it’s not a complete disaster. I’m down to 114k, but my team is still in decent enough shape. We’re entering an important part of the season, with Double Gameweeks around the corner and a red-hot battle at both ends of the table has been ignited – ensuring the pool of form players remains big enough.
Liverpool may have run away with the league, but poor form for Leicester and Chelsea has coincided with a resurgence from Manchester United while Sheffield United and Wolves are still in the fight for Europe.
1. Liverpool (duh)
2. Manchester City
3. Leicester City
4. Manchester United
Third and fourth really is up for grabs right now. Leicester have a five-point advantage over Chelsea and an eight-point advantage over Wolves and Manchester United. I think this will be enough to see them over the line.
But their form is absolutely terrible, Brendan Rodgers men now four games without a win and Vardy hasn’t found the net since before Christmas. On top of that, Leicester have just one clean sheet in the last seven games; an alarming slump.
The next three matches, all against teams battling relegation are so important for their chances of Champions League football next year. Wilfred Ndidi (£5.0m) coming back is absolutely huge for the Foxes and should free up Maddison to roam the pitch a bit higher.
I do worry about the likes of Barnes and Péréz, as Rogers could switch to wing-backs as he did against Manchester City in order to pair Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.7m) with Vardy up top.
Their defenders are all pretty pricey now too, it’s a lot of money to pay for Ricardo Pereira (£6.3m) who only has a goal and an assist in 21 matches (with both coming in one game against West Ham). Those who got Çaglar Söyüncü (£5.0m), at £4.5m I imagine, will be happy to hold, however. I do think Leicester will be just about okay provided Vardy gets the party going again and Ndidi can stay fit.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have been lifted by the return of Bruno Fernandes (£8.3m), the all-action midfielder who is the pick of the litter. With Anthony Martial (£8.0m) ticking over, but looking like he’s being asked to solve algebra puzzles rather than play football on the pitch, I can see why many are making the move to Fernandes who offers set pieces, penalties, and is looking dangerous both in and out of the penalty area.
With Martial, you are looking for the odd bit of magic – of which he is capable of delivering – but Fernandes looks set to be a reliable points scorer from now until the end of the season. It seems an easy switch if you’ve got the cash in the bank.
I think these are the teams that will finish in the top four, but Leicester will be dragging themselves over the line, whereas I think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will finish the season strongly.
I’m not ruling Wolves out by any means, I just wonder how their squad will cope with advancing to the latter stages of the Europa League. Their play is based on such intensity, I fear they may burn themselves out. Diogo Jota (£6.3m) is tearing up the league at the moment, but I am a happy Jiménez owner. As he did last season, the Mexican international just keeps ticking over and he’s a joy to own whereas I feel Jota might regress at some point.
Other than Marcus Alonso (£6.0m), it’s very hard for me to pick out any Chelsea options to consider. Willy Caballero (£4.8m) is standing in for Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.4m) while he sits on the naughty step but you don’t really want to go there anyway.
Alonso is the gem of a pretty uninspiring backline (especially without N’Golo Kante (£5.0m). The midfield has been ravaged by injuries, Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.3m) could, however, provide an intriguing differential when he returns to fitness at a bargain price.
Up-front Tammy Abraham (£7.6m) looks set for a spell on the sidelines and it doesn’t seem to me that Lampard is completely convinced on the ability of Olivier Giroud (£6.5m) to lead the line despite starting the last couple of games. This is a team on the decline in my opinion, and I’d be amazed if they held on to their current position of fourth in the league.
Sheffield United are of course another outsider to finish in the top four, but I think they are going to draw too many games before now and the end of the season to really trouble the likes of Manchester United and Wolves.
In terms of options, I’m struggling to pick any out, particularly from their attacking ‘force’. Their ascent up the table has of course been built on a strong backline, but with John Lundstram (£4.9m) out of favour and the likes of Jack O’Connell (£4.7m), John Egan (£4.6m) and Chris Basham (£4.5m) offering absolutely no attacking threat whatsoever, I think you can do better by looking at the wing-back options.
But… speaking of wingbacks… Oh, how I love wingbacks. I love them more than anything and it’s so great to see two of the most attacking wingbacks in the game in Alonso and Matt Doherty (£6.2m) flourish in recent weeks.
Of course, it would be even sweeter if I owned them! Not to blow my own trumpet too loud, but I did recommend Doherty on a video I did on Instagram for Fantasy Football Scout just before he hit form… I hope someone listened!
We all know the history of these players, but a premium price point for Doherty this year, and a place on the bench for Alonso most weeks has, somewhat understandably, seen people reluctant to pick these players. However, you just need to look at their stats over the last two Gameweeks to know what you are getting.
And, like a fine cheese and wine pairing, his wingback counterpart Doherty may be the perfect accompaniment – and there’s a key difference between Chelsea and Wolves. Wolves actually keep clean sheets. It’s 3 out of 4 in the league since Wily Boly (£4.8m) has come back. The potential of clean sheets, with the attacking threat that Doherty provides is incredibly attractive.
I decided this year that I would adopt a new policy with defenders. I will only pay over £5.0m for a defender if he a) has attacking threat from open play (i.e. is a wingback) or b) has set pieces in his locker. Of course, there are many players that fit this bill, with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m), and Alonso meeting both criteria.
The form of Doherty and Alonso, combined with Alexander-Arnold’s attacking and clean sheet potential suggests to me that we are seeing another shift in where our money should be going. I for one am thinking of moving some funds around to change the balance of my squad, and a triple-up of Alonso, Doherty and Trent Alexander-Arnold fills me with excitement and joy.
Watching the marauding runs of a wing back, or a full back with Trent’s crossing ability, and set pieces in his locker, makes for a more entertaining game… and isn’t that what this is all about after all?
BLANK GAMEWEEK 28 FPL MATCH REPORTS
- Norwich City 1-0 Leicester City
- Brighton and Hove Albion 0-1 Crystal Palace
- Bournemouth 2-2 Chelsea
- Newcastle United 0-0 Burnley
- West Ham United 3-1 Southampton
- Watford 3-0 Liverpool
- Everton 1-1 Manchester United
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
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