The Gameweek 1 deadline is now upon us which gives us an opportunity to have a look at some differential options for the start of the season.
As always, we’ve selected three players with an ownership of 5% or less at the time of writing, who represent viable alternatives to some of the more popular assets out there.
- FPL ownership: 6.6% (4.8% at the time of writing)
- Price: £8.5m
- GW1-5 fixtures: bha | LIV | wba | CRY | SOU
Despite a slow start, Christian Pulisic (£8.5m) enjoyed a fine first season at Chelsea, and hit top gear upon the Premier League’s resumption back in June.
The United States international contributed a combined eight goals and assists in just nine league appearances during Project Restart, and went on to score in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.
That kind of output suggests a big campaign lies ahead.
In yesterday’s press conference, manager Frank Lampard confirmed Pulisic is in contention for Monday’s trip to Brighton, and with an ownership of just 4.8% at the time of writing, could be an explosive differential for those willing to gamble on him starting. Saying that, an appearance off the bench might not be the end of the world for owners, considering his ability to haul from limited minutes, as evidenced at Anfield last season.
The Blues’ opponents in Gameweek 1, Brighton and Hove Albion, head into the season with plenty of optimism themselves after a busy transfer window, though it’s worth noting they shipped 11 goals in just three home games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United during the restart, while doubts linger over their ability to keep things tight against the best attacking setups in the league.
Following the arrivals of Kai Havertz (£8.5m), Hakim Ziyech (£8.0m) and Timo Werner (£9.5m), competition for places at Chelsea is fierce right now. However, we think this could have a positive effect on Pulisic, who could now take his game to another level and thrive alongside such quality.
- FPL ownership: 4.7%
- Price: £6.0m
- GW1-5 fixtures: cry | TOT | bur | WBA | che
James Ward-Prowse (£6.0m) may only have registered nine attacking returns last term, but with the Saints going from strength-to-strength, we’re backing the England international to kick on this season.
A product of the Saints academy, Ward-Prowse has become a vital part of manager Ralph Hasenhüttl’s midfield unit, and played every minute of the club’s 2019/20 Premier League campaign.
It has been suggested the departure of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (£5.0m), and re-introduction of Oriol Romeu (£4.5m) to the starting XI, will give the Southampton captain a bit more freedom to get forward, which is encouraging, but there is no getting away from the fact his ability from set-pieces and delivery from wide areas is the main attraction.
Ward-Prowse whipped in a massive 72 crosses from Gameweek 30+ onwards, more than any other player, while his 20 shots ranked joint-ninth amongst midfielders. Add to that free-kicks, corners and a share of penalties with Danny Ings (£8.5m), and we think there is a lot to like here.
After a disappointing start to last season, Southampton performed well once Hasenhüttl had settled on his 4-4-2 / 4-2-2-2 system. Their away form was only bettered by Liverpool and Manchester City, while just the Manchester clubs collected more points during Project Restart.
The Saints are unbeaten in their last five league matches on the road, and take on a Crystal Palace side in Gameweek 1 who have won just four games all calendar year, all of which bodes well for Ward-Prowse and Southampton’s prospects this weekend.
- FPL ownership: 3.3%
- Price: £8.0m
- GW1-5 fixtures: EVE | sou | NEW | mun | WHU
This season feels like a defining moment for Dele Alli (£8.0m), after another disappointing campaign last time round.
However, his performances under Jose Mourinho in the early weeks of his tenure offers hope he may be able to find his best level again.
Under Mourinho’s stewardship, there was an immediate improvement in Alli’s output, which saw him go on a run of four goals and three assists in five matches, while his underlying statistics suggest he may be being overlooked.
Since Mourinho’s first game in charge, amongst midfielders, only Raheem Sterling (£11.5m), Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) and Sadio Mané (£12.0m) accumulated big chances at a faster rate. His expected goal data was also encouraging, and trumped that of team-mate Son Heung-min (£9.0m), despite seeing fewer minutes.
While I’m unsure how much we can read into pre-season, Alli’s displays have offered promise, having registered two assists in a 3-0 home win over Ipswich Town before scoring in a 4-1 victory at Reading.
Up first for Tottenham Hotspur is Everton. While the Toffees’ will no doubt look a much better unit with their new midfield recruits, it may take time for them to gel, while their poor away record last term saw them concede 35 goals – only five teams gave up more.
Heading into the new season, it is vital for Alli to keep himself fit and find a bit more consistency in his performances. If he can do that, while retaining an attacking midfield role, he could be in for a big season.
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