In his latest Pro Pundits column, former Fantasy Premier League champion Simon March talks us through his early Wildcard draft.
Writing this after the ‘+’ part of Gameweek 30+ but before the body of Gameweek 30 itself, my unlimited transfers and Bench Boost have thus far produced a relatively mediocre 55 points. That’s enough for a small green arrow overall but not enough to yet be considered an outright ‘success’.
If you’re reading this after the Gameweek has finished, my decisions to make Sergio Aguero (£11.8m) captain over Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m) and to include Nicolas Pepe (£9.3m) may seem like a slow-burn masterstroke… or they may cause you to question whether it’s even worth reading on.
For those of you who are still here, you’ll no doubt be happy to know that I immediately pulled the Wildcard trigger and, boy, did it feel good. I stress that this was the plan all along, but it felt good anyway.
Wildcards at this point in the season are usually used to take advantage of an upcoming Double Gameweek rather than mop up after one so these are fairly unique circumstances. Obviously all the usual Wildcard principles of flexibility, chasing good fixtures, balance etc all still apply, but given that there are only eight Gameweeks left, there’s also an emphasis on including players who can perform consistently but also offer the odd explosive haul to disproportionately propel you up the rankings.
Here’s what my Wildcard team looks like at the time of writing:
Brighton’s David Button (£3.9m) has been one of only two ‘ever-presents’ in my squad this season despite him not having played a single minute of football. He’s £3.9m, enough said about that.
Burnley’s Nick Pope (£4.9m) is my new main keeper. There are of course other options: Watford’s Ben Foster (£4.9m) and Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson (£5.3m) are others I’ve had my eye on but, the number of times this season I’ve thought to myself: “I wish I had Nick Pope as my goalkeeper” (no, seriously), it feels like a move I should make given the opportunity. He’s also pretty cheap and Burnley’s fixtures are decent enough.
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) has been and remains the first name on my teamsheet this season and I won’t waste anyone’s time in justifying that further.
Burnley’s Charlie Taylor (£4.3m) and Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles (£4.3m) are largely enablers in the sub-£4.5m bracket but both have good fixtures and, it seems, having a decent bench will be more valuable than ever during the run-in.
Wolves’ Matt Doherty (£6.3m) and Chelsea’s Reece James (£5.1m) fill the final two spots. These are two players who you would expect to perform reasonably consistently but, crucially, have the potential to deliver one or two hauls given their attacking threat. I’m not entirely sold on James given that he’s not 100% nailed-on so I’m keeping an eye on Chelsea’s line-up versus Aston Villa. Sheffield United’s John Lundstram (£4.9m) is an obvious alternative who keeps within this ethos.
Again, the emphasis here is consistency with the potential for explosiveness. Few fit that bill better than Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m) who is such a perfect FPL specimen you almost suspect he has a Skynet barcode hidden somewhere on his person. With nine goals and 19 assists already this season, he’s going nowhere. I haven’t even bothered looking at his fixtures.
It’s probably too early to compare Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (£8.6m) to De Bruyne as an FPL asset but, with five returns in as many appearances so far this season, there are signs that he might offer similar levels of consistency. Like the Belgian, he’s seemingly on all set pieces and, in a team with plenty of attacking threat and a great run of fixtures, that’s a great combination of things to have.
Spurs’ Son Heung-min (£9.7m) may be on course for his best FPL season yet with nine goals and nine assists so far, despite the fact that he’s already accumulated enough red cards to build a fort. Spurs have great fixtures, plenty to play for and, with under 7% ownership at the time of writing, Son has great differential potential too.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) is another player whose inclusion doesn’t require much explanation though some might question why I’d choose him over Sadio Mane (£12.5m). Truth be told, I don’t have a good answer for this other than Salah has been my ‘go-to’ option over the years and he hasn’t given me much reason to change that. The fact that he sometimes plays up front and occasionally takes penalties maybe offers him a theoretical edge but, ultimately, I think everyone has their personal favourite of the two and so you might as well stick with them.
With six goals and two assists this season, Norwich’s Todd Cantwell (£4.7m) is peerless as a ‘fifth midfielder’ and that’s exactly the spot he takes in my Wildcard squad. As mentioned, all signs suggest that a decent bench will be important during the final Gameweeks and, with a solid run of fixtures to come and lots to play for, I certainly won’t worry about Cantwell auto-subbing in from time to time.
At the moment, I’ve gone fairly budget up front, partly to enable spending big elsewhere but, also, because the current options allow it. I’d normally want the flexibility of at least one premium striker but none leap out at me as ‘essential’ right now so a budget frontline may be the way to go.
Wolves Raul Jimenez (£8.1m) is nailed on, superb value and with a great run of fixtures, so I’m actually not sure there’s any striker I’d want over him right now.
Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.5m) also looks great value and looks to be in the midst of a genuine ‘breakout’ season with 13 goals so far. For some reason, perhaps his lack of consistency in the past, I’m still not totally convinced so we’ll see if I stick with him but I can’t deny he’s an attractive option at that price.
Finally, I have Southampton’s Danny Ings (£7.1m). As I sometimes like to remind people, I’ve had Danny Ings since before it was cool so he only occupies £6.5m of my budget. Despite scoring 15 goals this season, I’m not sure I’d go for him at his current price, not least because Southampton’s fixtures are not the greatest, but at £6.5m he should still offer value. Plus, Ings has proven his ability to score against anyone, Southampton need to win games to keep out of the relegation battle and, like I said, he’s scored 15 goals!
Of course, there are other options I’m also looking at in the mid-price bracket like Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham (£7.5m) and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford (£8.8m), should I want to downgrade elsewhere.
There’s also the option of going even more budget up front with the likes of Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew (£5.2m) or Sheffield United’s Lys Mousset (£4.5m) to enable a ‘power five’ in midfield. Chelsea’s Mason Mount (£6.2m) and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish (£6.4m), in particular, look good value options.
Simon March is a member of our Pro Pundits initiative, a team of Fantasy managers here to bring you regular advice and updates on their teams. Simon won the FPL title in 2014/15 and has become a fixture on the punditry circuit ever since.
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