Fantasy Premier League managers would do well to consider players at the wrong end of the table when picking their squads for Project Restart.
Even in a normal season, Gameweek 30 is usually when we start identifying which clubs have more to play for than others, and those in danger of relegation always fall into this category.
The fact that we have all been given unlimited transfers makes considering these options even easier.
After all, the form book has been chucked out of the window but the league places remain unchanged.
Those hovering around the bottom end of the table will do everything possible to secure top-flight survival during their final run in.
So, it’s time to look at what’s on offer with a fresh pair of eyes…
- Price: £6.4m
- Ownership: 21.3%
- Next four fixtures: SHU + CHE | new | WOL | liv
A player under £7.0m with 14 attacking returns in less than 30 games is one that simply can’t be ignored.
In many ways, it’s puzzling to think how a player of Jack Grealish’s (£6.4m) calibre is playing for a 19th placed Premier League team than one challenging for European honours. If things had been different he would have been a full England international by now.
In my view, he is a must-have for the final run-in, for several reasons.
Firstly, Aston Villa will be featuring in the Double Gameweek with two games at Villa Park. Of course, the ‘home factor’ may be less significant with the absence of fans but they are must-win games for Dean Smith’s men.
At this stage, they cannot afford to sit back and hope for the best. They will have to go for goals, even if they concede a lot in the process.
Since August, among all sub-£7.0m players, Grealish is top for goals scored, second for final third touches (836) and second for shots.
He the absolute talisman for Aston Villa too, having been involved with 41% of their Premier League goals this season. You would need to have a really good reason not to have him in your FPL team.
- Price: £6.5m
- Ownership: 12.9%
- Next four fixtures: SOU | EVE | ars | BHA
At the start of the season, it seemed that Teemu Pukki (£6.5m) could do no wrong. He began his Premier League career by scoring six goals in the first five games, becoming the first real bandwagon of the campaign.
But by Gameweek 13 Pukki and the Norwich attack seemed to be finished, as he failed to score in eight consecutive matches.
Since then it has become clear that the Norwich forward likes to score in batches, going on a run of goals before tailing off again.
This kind of pattern is frustrating but at least we know that his next purple patch could always just around the corner. Will we have to wait for long?
He may be completely overlooked by many FPL managers as Norwich don’t have a Double Gameweek but their fixtures in the next few weeks do have some appeal.
And, as far as value is concerned, he compares well with similarly-priced assets this season.
Among forwards priced at £6.5m or less, he ranks second for penalty area touches (158) and second for goal attempts (74).
Only Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.5m) has scored more goals than him in that price category.
In keeping with the theme of targetting players with something to motivate them, I think there could be a strong case of sacrificing a Double Gameweek 30+ player for Pukki.
Norwich cannot afford any more slip-ups and face a Southampton team who appear to be relatively safe from relegation first-up.
But even after that, the Canaries face Everton, Arsenal and Brighton, all of whom have had defensive issues this season, so even if you were to go all-in for the Double Gameweek, I think you could consider him beyond it if you’re Free Hitting or Wildcarding in the near future.
- Price: £6.4m
- Ownership: 2.7%
- Next four fixtures: LEI | bur | SOU | che
Ever since Nigel Pearson was appointed manager at Vicarage Road, Watford have defied the odds and have shown their strength as a tough unit to beat. Their win against an unstoppable Liverpool team was a sign of how far they have come.
One player of the most influential players for the Hornets pre-lockdown was Ismaïla Sarr (£6.4m).
Since Pearson arrived in Hertfordshire, the winger has scored four goals and registered four assists.
To give you an idea of just how tricky he has been to defend against, he has attempted more take-ons than the likes of Harvey Barnes (£6.2m) and Todd Cantwell (£4.7m) this season, despite not being a first-team regular for much of the campaign and missing out through injury too.
Also, Sarr has only scored one less goal than Mason Mount (£6.2m) despite registering almost half as many minutes as the Chelsea man.
As with Pukki, there’s a strong case to have Sarr in your team as early as next week.
Watford may be out of the relegation zone but they will certainly need to score more goals to keep afloat and if there’s anyone that will be producing substantial attacking involvements for them it will be the Senegal international.
- Price: £7.4m
- Ownership: 4.7%
- Next four fixtures: CRY | wol | NEW | mun
It has not been the best of seasons for Callum Wilson (£7.4m) or Bournemouth, but he did show some promise just before March’s coronavirus outbreak.
In the last six matches before the league was suspended, the mid-priced forward found the net three times.
Now, whether Wilson can instantly get his scoring touch back after a long break does remain to be seen.
That said, his struggles in front of goal haven’t been for lack of trying this season.
After all, he has more penalty area touches than the fellow forwards Troy Deeney (£6.2m) and Calvert-Lewin this season. And for strikers priced £7.5m or below, Wilson is fourth-highest for big chances created, hinting at some assist potential too.
Bournemouth are due to face Crystal Palace and Newcastle United in two of their first three games back from lockdown and perhaps those tests could be an early indication of where Wilson is at.
In the last 12 months we have seen two different sides to the England international.
Last season he registered 26 attacking returns as Bournemouth finished 11 points away from the relegation zone in 14th place.
But despite some early promise in 2019/20, Wilson went on a completely barren spell between Gameweek 8 and 23 with his price duly falling by £0.5m in the process.
But we know this is a man with proven Premier League and international pedigree, so maybe all he needed was some rest and bit of luck on his side again. Only time will tell.
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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