The key to success in any draft version of Fantasy Football is to find some reliable options outside the thinking of your rivals.
One of the main differences to appreciate between this edition of the game and the standard Fantasy Premier League affair is that you are looking, ideally, to acquire a team of season-keepers at the draft or auction. You simply do not have the luxury of assuming that all players remain at your permanent disposal to jump from one bandwagon to another and/or play the fixtures.
That isn’t to say that you can’t do the latter, but it’s a strategy that will leave you at the mercy of other managers. Remember that a dropped player can very quickly find their way into one of your opponents’ teams, with no means of prising them back.
Once you have understood the fundamental nature of FPL Draft, or its auction-based counterpart Fantasy League (FL), it makes planning a great deal easier. In FPL, you can always adopt a ‘wait and see’ strategy, in the knowledge that the worst outcome is that you miss out on one big haul and have to pay marginally more to bring a player in.
FPL Draft and FL are all about identifying those hidden gems (or not so hidden, given that I see FPL people talking about ‘waiting and seeing’ with the likes of Werner and Havertz!) and putting your instincts on the line at the outset.
So who are my own ‘under the radar’ players (relatively-speaking) whom I think will produce over the full season? I have identified three players from each positional category barring goalkeepers as, given the vast differences between scoring for goalkeepers in FL and FPL, as identified in my article last season.
The defender category is, generally speaking, the hardest place to find hidden gems ahead of a new season as it’s rare that an Andrew Robertson or Trent Alexander-Arnold will appear almost out of nowhere. Very often it is about finding the teams which no one expected to keep clean sheets but which are suddenly more watertight than before.
For example, during last summer’s FFS FL auction, we all laughed at Neale (SkontoRigga) when he picked up Jack O’Connell from newly-promoted Sheffield United. Did he not realise that the Blades were set to be Premier League whipping boys? Well, we all know what happened next and it is to Neale’s immense credit that he didn’t rub our noses in it every single week.
So who do I think will be this season’s surprise defensive packages? While in past seasons there would have been nothing revolutionary about saying Spurs and Manchester United, a quick look at their defensive records last season will reveal that Spurs had a season-long shocker and even though United managed 13 clean sheets in total, only three of them came in the first half of the season.
However, this is going to be Mourinho’s first full season at Spurs and I would expect him to tighten up at the back considerably, and with United, I suspect that attack will continue to be the best form of defence and, provided they continue their post-lockdown form, we should see a lot more consistent clean sheets from them.
Eric Dier/Toby Alderweireld
The Spurs centre-back pairing of Alderweireld and Dier is pretty tempting and very much overlooked judging by 2.4% and 1.4% ownership respectively in FPL.
Yes, I know that Doherty, Aurier and Ben Davies are the more obvious choices but this is about finding players that others aren’t likely to want in FL or Draft FPL, meaning that you get them on the cheap or late in the draft without having to waste an early-round pick.
Alderweireld, in particular, is a decent goal threat from set-pieces and no Spurs player had more headed attempts than him last season; in fact, he had almost double the next best (Moura, and not Kane, surprisingly).
Similar to Spurs, United’s first choice centre-backs are not well-owned, indicating that they could also be cheap/late acquisitions, but it’s Luke Shaw that could be the forgotten gem here (1.2% ownership in FPL).
Don’t forget that he missed a large chunk of last season with injury but, fully fit and on song, he’s a significant attacking threat with his love of getting forward and putting in crosses.
Expect him, if he stays fit, to surpass by a good margin his 67 and 18 points in FPL and FL respectively from 2019/20.
Now I appreciate that there’s nothing innovative or hidden about Bruno Fernandes, at least not since he landed on these shores in January and set the Premier League alight with his incredible skills.
I’m not a Manchester United fan but he was an absolute delight to watch and, more importantly in the context of Fantasy Football, a genuine points machine.
Aggregated up to a full season, he would have been the top scorer in both FL and FPL. It’s for that reason that he is my number one pick out of all players in any position for the new season and I would be more than willing to forgo Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Raheem Sterling in my draft pick to get him.
Of course, in FL, you could probably get at least four out of the five but it would leave you with seriously depleted funds and the rest of your squad may not look too clever, but you could certainly look forward to watching Liverpool, City, United, Arsenal playing every week.
Bowen is the next of my January midfield signings and whilst, coincidentally, it is interesting to note a general theme I have observed over many years of playing Fantasy Football that the psychology of numbers means that a lot of managers only look at the absolute figure rather than considering their context.
What I mean by that, per my Bruno example, is that the season-long figure may not have come from a full season and, all points were acquired over the space of less than half a season.
However, some people in your draft or auction mini-league will only look at the total points and disregard the lower-scoring players.
I appreciate that for the majority, if not all, of those reading this article, I’m largely preaching to the converted, but it explains why these players can often be picked up on the cheap in FL, or acquired quite late into an FPL draft.
Last season in FPL, Bowen scored a measly 44 points and just 11 in FL, but a quick look at the underlying statistics tell you the whole story.
The former Hull City man had a minutes per expected goal involvement (xGI) figure of 186 (courtesy of the FFS Premium Members’ Area), which is the same territory as Phil Foden, Willian and Harvey Barnes.
Unlike the latter two, he didn’t have the benefit of playing a full season in a familiar league but, before signing with West Ham, he’d already scored 16 goals in 29 appearances for Hull in the Championship.
Bowen is no slouch and his pre-season form suggests that he could be about to replicate his Hull City form for West Ham.
I keep reading that the Hammers don’t score many goals yet they were 10th best in the league in that department last season (and only three goals behind eighth-placed Wolves) and I need only remind you of Michail Antonio’s form during last season’s run-in to show you what a West Ham player is capable of doing. As a result of that form, a lot of the attention will be on the forward this season, but Bowen could quietly tick along too.
Minamino is my cheeky punt to emerge from the Anfield woodwork and take the Premier League by storm this season.
Liverpool haven’t changed formation since Coutinho left, with Klopp sticking rigidly to his preferred 4-3-3, but I wouldn’t be overly surprised if that becomes more of a 4-2-1-3 or 4-2-3-1, with Minamino sitting either in the middle or on the flanks (considering we know Salah, Mané and Firmino can all play number 10 or centre-forward).
He took time to find his feet but a January signing rarely hits the ground running (I can think of very few examples over the years, with Bruno being far more the exception than the rule), and a goal in the Community Shield.
He followed that up with a standout performance against Blackpool in last week’s pre-season friendly, suggesting he is ready to show the league why Liverpool bought him in from FC Salzburg.
I also don’t want to tempt fate for Liverpool fans, nor wish injury on any player, but Liverpool have been incredibly lucky with no long-term absences to any of their front three in recent seasons, and surely the law of averages suggests that one of them is going to face some time out at some point. More so than Origi, I can see Minamino coming in to replace any one of them should the need arise.
I can see the supply to Brighton’s forwards being much improved this coming season and Maupay, as the first-choice striker, should be the principal beneficiary of this.
Adam Lallana is the sort of player that will stand out at Brighton, as he did at Southampton, and Leandro Trossard having had a full season under his belt, should be another source of assists for Maupay.
Last season, the former Brentford man underperformed on his expected goals (xG) by more than three (he scored 10 in total) and so I would see his xG both increasing and a reduction in the delta between xG and actual goals resulting in more points this time out.
A season in the shadow of Danny Ings has meant that it’s easy to forget that Adams started last season as Southampton’s first-choice striker after his move from Birmingham City where, in the 18/19 season, he scored 22 Championship goals.
It took him a while to find his feet and losing his place to Ings won’t have helped his confidence or adjustment to the new league.
However, he ended the season in a good run of form and while just four goals (against an xG of just over five goals) is hardly something about which to get overly excited, I think he could be one of the league’s surprise packages this season. Do I expect him to surpass Ings? No, but then I’d expect to pay a fraction of what Ings will cost (and represent better value for money) or get him later in a draft.
I fully expect Rodriguez to start this season as one of the two first-choice strikers for Burnley, even when Ashley Barnes returns from injury.
In my mind, Wood and Barnes are so similar that it makes little sense to play them both as a matter of course when there’s a striker with the guile of Rodriguez who can give them something different.
He only scored eight Premier League goals last season but 16 of his 36 appearances were from the subs bench. This is my one pick which is fewer stats based and more gut instinct but Rodriguez is a player I’ve always liked and, if I can find the room, would want in my team this coming season.
Best players by position:
- Goalkeepers: Budget
- Goalkeepers: Premium
- Defenders: Budget
- Defenders: Mid-Price and Premium
- Midfielders: Budget
- Midfielders: Mid-Price
- Midfielders: Premium
- Forwards: Budget
- Forwards: Mid-Price
- Forwards: Premium
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