The start of the 2020/21 campaign is just days away so the Scout Squad panel reconvenes to champion the standout Fantasy Premier League assets for the first Gameweek of the season.
For the uninitiated, these picks always take the format of a ‘Free Hit’ for the very next Gameweek.
Fantasy Football Scout editor David, deputy editor Neale, video content manager Andy and Pro Pundit Tom will 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 £83m) for the weekly Scout Picks selection ahead of Saturday’s deadline at 11:00 BST.
There are requirements for at least one goalkeeper costing £5.0m or less, at least one sub-£5.0m defender, 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 Sunday.
|GK||Alex McCarthy||Hugo Lloris||Rui Patricio||Kasper Schmeichel|
|Mathew Ryan||Aaron Ramsdale||Hugo Lloris||Rui Patricio|
|Aaron Ramsdale||Alex McCarthy||Alex McCarthy||Alex McCarthy|
|DF||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Cesar Azpilicueta|
|Matt Doherty||Kieran Tierney||Andrew Robertson||Trent Alexander-Arnold|
|Rob Holding||Willy Boly||Romain Saiss||Matt Doherty|
|James Justin||Cesar Azpilicueta||Reece James||Willy Boly|
|Tyrick Mitchell||James Justin||James Justin||James Justin|
|MF||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang|
|Mohamed Salah||Sadio Mane||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah|
|Kai Havertz||Kai Havertz||Kai Havertz||Sadio Mane|
|Jarrod Bowen||Wilfried Zaha||Jarrod Bowen||Christian Pulisic|
|Allan Saint-Maximin||Allan Saint-Maximin||James Ward-Prowse||Allan Saint-Maximin|
|FW||Timo Werner||Jamie Vardy||Timo Werner||Timo Werner|
|Harry Kane||Timo Werner||Jamie Vardy||Jamie Vardy|
|Che Adams||Michail Antonio||Harry Kane||Michail Antonio|
|Eddie Nketiah||Harry Kane||Michail Antonio||Danny Ings|
|Raul Jimenez||Eddie Nketiah||Che Adams||Harry Kane|
Most popular picks: Alex McCarthy, James Justin, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Timo Werner, Harry Kane (four), Kai Havertz, Mohamed Salah, Allan Saint-Maximin, Jamie Vardy, Michail Antonio (three)
The inclusion of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah largely speak for themselves so I will dedicate a bit more time to some of my other selections.
Crystal Palace were the lowest scorers in home matches last season, while only Norwich found the net fewer times than the Eagles during Project Restart, making Alex McCarthy my preferred goalkeeper for Gameweek 1. Mat Ryan has some value going forward and should make plenty of saves at Chelsea, hence why he’s my second choice.
I’m expecting Matt Doherty to go straight into the Spurs team for their meeting with Everton and, judging by his attacking mentality at Wolves, I’m expecting big things for him in north London. Jose Mourinho has improved the Spurs defence while Everton struggled for goals during Project Restart.
James Justin looks nailed-on to start against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday afternoon and offers potential at both ends of the pitch.
Likewise, Rob Holding also faces newly promoted opposition in Fulham, while Arsenal’s defence continues to improve under Mikel Arteta.
I have my concerns about the long-term viability of Tyrick Mitchell, and Palace’s injury-hit defence fared particularly poorly during Project Restart, but he seems the most likely of the £4.0m defenders to actually start in Blank Gameweek 1.
Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are my chosen options from the Chelsea attack, which looks rather promising for the new campaign.
I have also included Jarrod Bowen, as I am sure West Ham will get a good result against Newcastle. I wanted to include Tomas Soucek and/or Michail Antonio but doubts of the two players’ chances of Gameweek 1 involvement put me off at the last moment.
I am expecting big things from Harry Kane this season, based on the way he finished last season. We all agree Spurs have nice fixtures to start 2020/21 and it was their centre-forward who registered more touches in the box, shots there and attempts on target than any team-mate during Project Restart.
On the hunt for some value in attack I have chosen Che Adams. During the final three matches of last season, he outscored Danny Ings, registering superior figures for minutes per shot, minutes per big chance and minutes per shot on target than his colleague across the whole of Project Restart.
The pre-season eye test, if that is worth anything, has shunted a few names down the pecking order or out of my 18-man Scout Squad altogether.
Harry Kane appeared sluggish for England after his period of self-isolation, Michail Antonio lacked sharpness for West Ham in their final warm-up match against Bournemouth, and Mohamed Salah has looked well below-par for Liverpool in their pre-Gameweek 1 kickabouts.
Will that count for anything when the competitive action gets underway on Saturday? Maybe, maybe not. Will my lily-livered self have the nerve to overlook the highly owned Salah in favour of Sadio Mane, as I have done in my selection above? Almost certainly not.
Gameweek 1 squads are a unique affair as there is perhaps more gut instinct going on than at any other time of the season.
We don’t know if new signings will bed in straight away, whether the end-of-season form from the previous campaign counts towards anything and, as discussed, whether pre-season displays have any bearing on what follows.
Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are two such “gut” picks. Their Bundesliga stats are impressive but there is the nagging doubt over whether Frank Lampard can seamlessly assimilate such talented attackers into what was one of the most creative teams of last season: only the top two carved out more big chances than the Blues in 2019/20 but there often wasn’t anyone reliable on the end of these gilt-edged opportunities.
Had we had a full complement of fixtures and the premium assets from both Manchester clubs playing this weekend, the likelihood is that I would have gone with tried and tested over the Premier League rookies.
Matt Doherty would be my ideal route into the Spurs defence ahead of their meeting with Everton but I am a tad concerned that he has not kicked a ball for the Lilywhites since his move south, so, having not yet heard from Jose Mourinho at the time of writing, I’ll stick with the goalkeeper with the best save percentage and expected goals prevented total in the Premier League last season: Hugo Lloris.
Obvious picks abound elsewhere but the Wilfried Zaha selection probably requires explanation.
Palace aren’t renowned for their goalscoring exploits but we have seen Roy Hodgson adopting a more attacking 4-4-2 in pre-season, with Zaha deployed “out of position” in a two-man attack.
The Ivorian found the back of the net on three occasions in the Eagles’ friendlies (which were admittedly against sub-standard opposition) and the capture of Eberechi Eze should add a bit more potency to what was a limp attack.
It’s also easy to forget that Zaha averaged over 18 attacking returns per season in the three campaigns before 2019/20.
I think Allan Saint-Maximin is possibly being oversold in the Fantasy community but, given West Ham’s continued struggles at full-back (look no further than the 5-3 defeat at Bournemouth last Saturday), I think he could still make hay this weekend.
While I’ve highlighted the pre-season woes of Kane et al, Eddie Nketiah is on a goalscoring streak after a successful international break.
He’s a rotation risk in the medium term but he seems to have curried favour with Mikel Arteta, starting in the Community Shield, so he may well get the nod at Craven Cottage against a Fulham defence with much to prove.
Finally, going back to Mane: he averaged 6.9 points per start in FPL last season compared to Salah’s 7.0, so there is little splitting the pair.
Clean sheets look quite hard to call this week.
Even Liverpool’s home tie against Leeds United is far from straightforward, but that being said, I’m more than happy to select both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson due to their attacking threat.
I’m also backing Wolverhampton Wanderers defence, via Rui Patrício and Romain Saïss. Despite heading into the new campaign without either of last terms first-choice wing-backs, I still think a shutout could be on the cards, bearing in mind Sheffield United took the fewest shots in the division last time round.
They’re joined by Hugo Lloris, Alex McCarthy, Reece James and James Justin at the back.
Further forward, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah are my heavy hitters of choice, while I’m also backing Chelsea’s new arrivals.
Brighton and Hove Albion shipped 11 goals in three home games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United during Project Restart, while in Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, Chelsea have landed two of Europe’s hottest prospects whose Bundesliga numbers are hugely encouraging. You get the feeling both could explode, and make a mockery of their respective price tags.
I’ve also doubled up on Southampton and West Ham United’s attacks.
Saints’ away form was only bettered by Liverpool and Man City last season, while only the Manchester clubs collected more points during Project Restart. They’re up against a Crystal Palace side who have won just four games all year, which bodes well for James Ward-Prowse, who may be back on penalties, and Che Adams, who looked lively at the end of last season and bagged three goals in the final two Gameweeks.
At the Hammers, I’ve opted for Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio.
Newcastle United massively overperformed their metrics last season, and were really poor at defending set-pieces. I think Bowen, who will likely be on corners, could profit from those weaknesses, and in Antonio, they possess a striker who posted some ridiculously good numbers following the restart, and should keep his centre-forward spot given his performances.
The forward list is completed by Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane, who take on newly promoted West Bromwich Albion and Everton respectively.
I think there are lots of reasons to be excited about Chelsea this season, especially if they buy a new goalkeeper. They were the fifth-best defence last season in terms of expected goals conceded (xGC) and with Cesar Azpilicueta not missing many minutes in recent seasons, there’s nothing to suggest that will stop now.
Although Michail Antonio’s sample of games is a bit smaller than most (only 1,767 minutes played last season), it’s difficult to look past his outrageous stats. Within players to play at least 1,000 minutes, Antonio was top for expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes for all midfielders last year at 0.64. In comparison, Raheem Sterling was 0.62 and Mohamed Salah 0.58.
When FPL first launched, Willy Boly was someone I wanted to avoid. It didn’t feel right backing him at £5.5m when you could get Romain Saïss (£5.0m) and Rúben Vinagre (£4.5m) for less. Fast forward a few weeks and there’s a little bit too much transfer speculation around Wolves for my liking. At £5.5m you at least get a little attacking threat and a very much nailed-on player against one of the worst attacks in the league last season.
There are rumours that Christian Pulisic might be available for Gameweek 1. Chelsea were only second to Manchester City last season for xG and when you think about the players they’ve added to their squad, there’s potential for big numbers again this year. It’s a risk starting with him, in case Lampard decides to bed him in slowly. At 0.59 expected goal involvements (xGI) per 90 minutes last season, he’s someone I want in my team sooner rather than later. No midfielder priced £8.5m or less bettered that last year outside of Riyad Mahrez.
James Justin provides a lot of upsides, but only potentially for a short space of time. We know that he’s only starting because of the injury to Ricardo Pereira, but for a Gameweek 1 punt against a newly promoted side, there aren’t many better options for the price. My only concern would be Jonny Evans missing out through injury but Leicester may still have enough for both attacking and defensive returns for the £4.5m full-back.
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.
Our Scout Picks article on Friday will have further details on who is representing the community this week.
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