There is a much smaller pool of players for our Scout Squad panel to choose from in Blank Gameweek 29, with only eight teams in Premier League action.
For those new to this feature, Fantasy Football Scout editor David, deputy editor Neale, video content manager Andy and Pro Pundit Tom each put forward an 18-man long-list of players and explain their notable inclusions and omissions below.
The assets listed will then be narrowed down to a squad of 15 (with the starting XI not exceeding a total cost of £83.0m) for the weekly Scout Picks selection ahead of the FPL deadline at 18:30 GMT on Friday.
In each writer’s squad, there are requirements for at least:
- One goalkeeper costing £5.0m or less
- One sub-£5.0m defender
- One midfielder listed at £6.5m or below
- One forward priced at £7.5m or lower
Each panelist is also 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 Friday.
|GK||Robert Sanchez||Robert Sanchez||Hugo Lloris||Robert Sanchez|
|Illan Meslier||Emiliano Martinez||Alphonse Areola||Alphonse Areola|
|Alphonse Areola||Alphonse Areola||Illan Meslier||Illan Meslier|
|DF||Lewis Dunk||Tosin Adarabioyo||Lewis Dunk||Lewis Dunk|
|Joël Veltman||Lewis Dunk||Kieran Tierney||Joël Veltman|
|Stuart Dallas||Stuart Dallas||Stuart Dallas||Aaron Cresswell|
|Kieran Tierney||Aaron Cresswell||Joël Veltman||Stuart Dallas|
|Ola Aina||Sergio Reguilon||Aaron Cresswell||Kieran Tierney|
|MF||Jesse Lingard||Pascal Gross||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Gareth Bale|
|Gareth Bale||Jesse Lingard||Leandro Trossard||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang|
|Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang||Gareth Bale||Ademola Lookman||Raphinha|
|Raphinha||Raphinha||Jesse Lingard||Lucas Moura|
|Lucas Moura||Emile Smith Rowe||Raphinha||Jesse Lingard|
|FW||Harry Kane||Harry Kane||Harry Kane||Harry Kane|
|Michail Antonio||Patrick Bamford||Alexandre Lacazette||Josh Maja|
|Ollie Watkins||Michail Antonio||Michail Antonio||Patrick Bamford|
|Josh Maja||Ollie Watkins||Josh Maja||Ollie Watkins|
|Alexandre Lacazette||Josh Maja||Ollie Watkins||Michail Antonio|
Most popular picks: Alphonse Areola, Lewis Dunk, Stuart Dallas, Jesse Lingard, Raphinha, Harry Kane, Ollie Watkins, Josh Maja, Michail Antonio (four), Robert Sanchez, Illan Meslier, Joel Veltman, Aaron Cresswell, Kieran Tierney, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gareth Bale (three)
With fewer fixtures than usual, I don’t feel quite so uncomfortable selecting three Brighton defenders.
Over the last four matches, only Chelsea have a superior total for expected goals conceded (xGC) than the Seagulls and, even though they have struggled to convert those underlying numbers into clean sheets, a home meeting with Newcastle looks as good a time as any to deliver.
The Magpies are without a number of key attackers and have blanked in two of their last three away matches.
Lewis Dunk can offer plenty of attacking threat too, I think. In the last four matches, Newcastle rank second-worst for conceding headed attempts on goal.
Meanwhile, Joël Veltman is top among all starting Blank Gameweek 29 defenders for minutes per expected goal involvement (xGI) during the same period. Whether he can turn that into points partially relies on him staying at wing-back against Newcastle.
I have also gone for representation from the Leeds defence considering Fulham have scored the fewest goals at home this season (eight). Illan Meslier has registered nine points or more in four of the last seven matches and is now the fourth-highest points-scorer among goalkeepers this season.
Stuart Dallas remains the best-value defender this season with 23.5 points per million spent and, considering he is in 23.3% of teams worldwide, he is an easy hold or inclusion on a Free Hit this week.
I fancy Kieran Tierney‘s chances in Blank Gameweek 29, less for defensive returns but attacking ones. West Ham have conceded 19 chances down their right-hand side over the last four matches, the second-highest in the Premier League. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s left-back is joint-top among his colleagues for key passes over the same period.
Of players with a fixture in Blank Gameweek 29, Jesse Lingard is joint-second for big chances over the last four matches while no player in the top flight has registered more shots on target than him. Arsenal are worse at defending their right flank than their left, opening the door for Lingard to continue his impressive form.
Over the last four matches, Gareth Bale has two double-figure hauls while Harry Kane remains one of the best statistical performers. During that period, he is second among all players for shots on target and behind only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for minutes per goal involvement.
As an aside, Arsenal’s premium midfielder could also benefit from West Ham’s issues defending their right flank if Alexandre Lacazette starts and pushes him back to a left-wing role.
With there being such a small number of clubs from which to choose our players from, we’re faced with the unusual and borderline farcical scenario of doubling or trebling up on assets from certain teams while also selecting players from their opponents.
Fulham v Leeds United is a case in point, as I’ve plumped for three very obvious picks from Marcelo Bielsa’s side while still fancying the Cottagers to edge what I expect will be a very tight affair.
Raphinha, Patrick Bamford and the potentially out-of-position Stuart Dallas will be staples of many Free Hit squads this week and given the tiny pool of players we have at our disposal, it’d be perverse to not mention or include them even though my gut tells me that the clash in west London will go the way of the much-improved hosts.
I’ve selected Tosin Adarabioyo and Alphonse Areola as my Fulham defensive duo, with the former – whose total of 15 headed attempts from set plays is bettered by just two Premier League players in 2020/21 – capable of exploiting Leeds’ vulnerability at dead-ball situations. He’s also good for a bonus point if Scott Parker’s side do keep a clean sheet, having racked up more of them (11) than any of his teammates.
On the subject of clubs who have proven incapable of stopping the flow of chances from free-kicks and corners, Newcastle United have been shipping opportunities from set plays for fun for years.
Even just studying their last six matches, the Magpies are bottom for headed chances conceded. Joel Veltman may be the Fantasy hipster’s choice at present and posting some impressive underlying numbers but Lewis Dunk is the tried and tested option at both ends of the field; let’s not overlook the fact that he has scored more goals than Jamie Vardy and Son Heung-min combined over the last 14 Gameweeks.
Pascal Gross also gets the nod, with his role as chief corner-taker at the Albion helping him to 16 chances created over his last six matches, a total beaten by just three other Premier League players.
Incidentally, I very nearly went for the maverick pick of Andi Zeqiri and will be claiming some sort of moral victory if he delivers this weekend, while never mentioning this punt again if the opposite happens. He starred as a makeshift left wing-back in Gameweek 28 and could reprise that role against Newcastle’s suspect right flank if Dan Burn fails to recover in time for Saturday’s game.
There are barely five legitimate forwards to pick from in Gameweek 29 but there is a bit more choice in the middle of the park, with the likes of Lucas Moura (in the expected absence of Son Heung-min), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka and Ademola Lookman all having strong claims for inclusion.
I’m certainly not ruling out an Aubameyang or Saka swoop but any Arsenal selection may hinge on the type of side Mikel Arteta sends out against Olympiacos on Thursday, with the Spaniard having shown a propensity to rotate around the Europa League of late.
I’ve gone for Emile Smith Rowe in the meantime, one of the cheapest FPL midfielders in the game. He starred on the left wing in the north London derby, creating twice as many chances as any other player, and he’ll be up against a West Ham side that has allowed more opportunities to be created from their right flank than all teams bar Newcastle over their last six games.
With 12 teams blanking in Gameweek 29, I’ve tripled up on five sides in my selections.
Investing in Brighton and Hove Albion looks like an obvious tactic as they host Newcastle United. They are clearly the best defensive play this week so a double-up at the back makes sense, via Lewis Dunk and Joël Veltman.
Further forward, Pascal Groß is a solid option, but for this specific match-up, I prefer Leandro Trossard. The 26-year-old was pushed up behind Danny Welbeck and Neal Maupay during the second-half at Southampton and scored the winning goal. However, I’m hoping to see him in his usual wide left role on Saturday, given that the Magpies have conceded more chances from their right flank than any other side over the last six matches.
Elsewhere, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is my top midfield pick, providing he reacts well to being dropped. If there are concerns though, Martin Ødegaard is a nice alternative. The Norwegian international has looked sharp in recent matches and has been taking up some good positions in and around the box. Kieran Tierney and Alexandre Lacazette also get the nod but this is a hard match to call, so in a week where our player pool is vastly reduced, I’ve also opted for West Ham United’s Aaron Cresswell, Jesse Lingard and Michail Antonio.
I’ve also taken three from Fulham: Alphonse Areola, Ademola Lookman and Josh Maja. Admittedly, Scott Parker’s side have been a little underwhelming going forward of late – they’ve scored just three in their last six – but if they can start to put away their chances, Lookman and Maja look well placed to profit. I’m not sure I fully trust the Cottagers, though, which is why I’ve called up Stuart Dallas, who can at least bring in points at both ends of the pitch, plus goalkeeper Illan Meslier and Raphinha.
Without Jack Grealish, Aston Villa have struggled despite games against Sheffield United and Newcastle. And if he misses out again, it’s hard to see them scoring against Tottenham Hotspur, unless they can find a moment of magic from Ollie Watkins. That leads me to Hugo Lloris, plus teammate Harry Kane, who will be a popular captain pick this week. Gareth Bale and Lucas Moura are noticeable omissions, but as I’m predicting a low-scoring affair, I favour others.
With so few fixtures, one-week teams and Free Hit squads should try and look for the chance to do something different to the crowd. For me, that’s triple Brighton defence. Out of all the teams that play in Gameweek 29, Newcastle have the worst expected goals (xG) for the season at 27.54 (an average of 0.98 per game). The Magpies may also be once again missing their first-choice front three, so they’re even limper in attack than usual.
Since Josh Maja started his first game for Fulham in Gameweek 24, only Mbaye Diagne has a higher non-penalty xG total than Maja. In fact, his xG per 90 minutes of 0.57 is fifth-best in the league from regular forwards. This is all based on a small sample size but this weekend he faces a defence that is great at giving up chances.
Harry Kane continues to impress with 4.31 expected goal involvements (xGI) over his last six matches. That’s higher than anyone else in the league. In that same time period, Aston Villa have conceded 50 shots in the box, the sixth-worst record in the division. If Emiliano Martínez finally has an off-day, there’s a good chance for goals in this one.
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