The Scout Squad panel are back to champion the stand-out picks for Gameweek 31.
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||Edouard Mendy||Nick Pope||Ederson||Nick Pope|
|Bernd Leno||Berno Leno||Edouard Mendy||Edouard Mendy|
|Robert Sánchez||Alphonse Areola||Bernd Leno||Bernd Leno|
|DF||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Trent Alexander-Arnold||Trent Alexander-Arnold|
|César Azpilicueta||Marcos Alonso||César Azpilicueta||Marcos Alonso|
|Luke Shaw||Aymeric Laporte||João Cancelo||Cesar Azpilicueta|
|Matthew Lowton||Kurt Zouma||Rob Holding||João Cancelo|
|Lucas Digne||Cedric Soares||Matthew Lowton||Rob Holding|
|MF||Mohamed Salah||Raheem Sterling||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah|
|Raheem Sterling||Diogo Jota||Raheem Sterling||Raheem Sterling|
|Bruno Fernandes||Bukayo Saka||Bruno Fernandes||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang|
|Diogo Jota||Leandro Trossard||Diogo Jota||Diogo Jota|
|Mason Mount||Raphinha||Bukayo Saka||Pedro Neto|
|FW||Chris Wood||Harry Kane||Harry Kane||Gabriel Jesus|
|Harry Kane||Kelechi Iheanacho||Danny Ings||Chris Wood|
|Matej Vydra||Chris Wood||Jamie Vardy||Danny Ings|
|Danny Welbeck||Richarlison||Chris Wood||Harry Kane|
|Kelechi Iheanacho||Mbaye Diagne||Danny Welbeck||Jamie Vardy|
Most popular picks: Bernd Leno, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Raheem Sterling, Diogo Jota, Chris Wood, Harry Kane (four), Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Mohamed Salah (three)
I personally think Chelsea’s 5-2 defeat to West Bromwich Albion was a blot on an otherwise impressive defensive copybook under Thomas Tuchel, so I have no qualms in selecting three of their players this week, including Edouard Mendy and César Azpilicueta. Over the last six matches, the Blues remain the Premier League’s best team for expected goals conceded (xGC) and, on Saturday, they face a Crystal Palace side who have registered the second-fewest shots on target during the same period.
Meanwhile, Trent Alexander-Arnold appears to be on the way back into fashion based on his recent performances. Over the last six matches, no FPL defender has played more key passes, created more big chances or recorded a higher score for expected goal involvement (xGI).
Luke Shaw is a close second on the key pass metric over the same period, while Lucas Digne ranks third. Ahead of facing a porous Newcastle outfit, Burnley right-back Matthew Lowton is joint-top with Alexander-Arnold for most big chances among defenders over the last six.
During that same period, Mohamed Salah is best among all midfielders for expected goals non-penalty (xG non-pen), which is particularly ominous considering he also takes Liverpool’s spot-kicks. I have doubled up with his colleague Diogo Jota, who always appears dangerous whether or not he starts matches for the Reds.
Selecting a Manchester City asset for Gameweek 31 was made harder by Pep Guardiola’s most recent Champions League line-up. I would love to have included Kevin De Bruyne considering his potential to expose Leeds from set pieces but I am concerned about his game-time now.
Raheem Sterling was an unused substitute against Borussia Dortmund and has started none of the last three Premier League matches. In any other team, that would be seen as cause to overlook such an expensive player, but it does suggest the England international starts against Leeds, probably on the left-hand side of a front three. Over their last six, Marcelo Bielsa’s men have conceded 20 chances down their right flank, which is more than they have allowed from the left and middle zones.
Chris Wood and Matej Vydra are two of my favourite forwards for Gameweek 31. The former has netted in each of his last three matches, while Vydra has two goals and one assist in his last four. This week, they face a Newcastle defence that has conceded at least two goals in nine of their last 13 Premier League matches.
Danny Welbeck has returned in each of his last three appearances and over the last six matches, is fourth-best in the entire Premier League for minutes per xGI.
As one of the few Manchester City players who hasn’t started a competitive match since the international break, Raheem Sterling looks well positioned for a run-out against Leeds this weekend. That’s half the battle with Pep Guardiola’s side: we know there’ll probably be a haul or two in the offing in any given Gameweek, it’s just attempting to second-guess who will be taking to the field on a week-to-week basis.
It’s not just the likelihood of starts that’s in Sterling’s favour, however, as he racked up an impressive 17 penalty box touches, five goal attempts and five key passes when these two sides met in the very open reverse fixture.
Raphinha is also included for Saturday’s game, as the City back four (or five) may well be disrupted again with one eye on next Wednesday’s return match against Borussia Dortmund. Ruben Dias never looks as settled when he’s alongside Aymeric Laporte as when he’s paired with John Stones, while I relish the prospect of Leeds’ chance-creating, trigger-happy Brazilian coming up against Benjamin Mendy (who was admittedly pretty good at Leicester) down the City left.
Just to cover all bases, I’ve actually plumped for Laporte as one of my defensive selections – although this is as much to do with his dormant goal threat and Leeds’ chronic inability to defend set plays as it is faith in City’s backline, who have conceded in each of their last four home league games.
Newcastle are another side who have a weakness in the air, which should be music to the ears of Chris Wood. I think the Magpies’ clash with Burnley will be more open than many are expecting, as Steve Bruce looks to be throwing caution to the wind (note their impressive expected goals tally of 4.03 against Spurs). With the typically profligate Joelinton up top and Callum Wilson still a doubt, the chances may not be converted into goals – and so Nick Pope could turn in one of his multi-save specials that have been in short supply of late.
I also think there could be goals at Brighton, with Everton potentially vulnerable through their injury-hit core.
Albion have been impressive from a defensive perspective of late but the Toffees’ away record is equally positive, with six wins arriving in their last eight on the road. Only an inspired Vicente Guaita stood between Richarlison and FPL attacking returns on Monday night, while no FPL asset has had more shots in the box than the Brazilian in their last six matches.
Mikel Arteta’s team selection on Thursday will likely dictate which Arsenal players make their way into the Scout Picks on the following day but after an injury-enforced three-week breather, Bukayo Saka will be champing at the bit for game-time. No Arsenal player has had more shots than the young winger in their last six appearances, while Sheffield United have the second-worst record for conceding chances from their left flank when filtered by the same criteria – let’s just hope that the versatile Saka isn’t covering for the injured Kieran Tierney at full-back.
Ederson and João Cancelo are my picks from the Manchester City defence in Gameweek 31. Predicting Pep Guardiola’s line-up is never usually a good idea but the goalkeeper should be nailed-on to start, while Cancelo’s rest last weekend means he could feature at right-back. Further forward, I’m not convinced anyone from Tuesday’s starting XI is safe, which leads me to Raheem Sterling, who makes the cut based on his recent breathers.
We could see a bit of rotation at Liverpool, too, but I’m not convinced there will be wholesale changes. Jürgen Klopp’s side are still in the hunt to qualify for the Champions League and a win against Aston Villa could see them move into fourth position before the sides around them play. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah are my top picks in their respective categories, while budget option Diogo Jota is getting hard to ignore.
Meanwhile, Arsenal look a good team for bargain hunting this week. Despite a poor showing against Liverpool last time out, their form since Boxing Day has generally been good, with the Gunners winning eight and drawing four of their last 16 Premier League games, I’ve selected Bernd Leno, Rob Holding and Bukayo Saka, but their inclusion may well hinge on how many minutes they are afforded in the Europa League on Thursday. Calum Chambers and Martin Ødegaard are equally good alternatives if rotation does become a concern, though.
Elsewhere, Chelsea duo Edouard Mendy and César Azpilicueta, plus heavy-hitters Bruno Fernandes and Harry Kane, are obviously decent options this week, so I’ll dedicate a bit more time to some of my other picks.
Burnley have been very un-Burnley like in recent matches. They have been much more creative and attacking, and take on a poor Newcastle United side on Sunday. Chris Wood has three goals in as many run-outs, while Matthew Lowton ranks joint-fifth amongst all defenders for chances created over the last six Gameweeks.
I’m also backing Danny Ings, who gets another call-up following his inclusion in Gameweek 30. Just by having him and Theo Walcott back in the starting XI last weekend, Southampton looked like a different team. It’s hard to imagine West Bromwich Albion keeping him quiet, especially as they will have to commit bodies forward in an attempt to avoid relegation.
The squad is completed by forwards Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck.
I did consider putting Leandro Trossard ahead of Pedro Neto in this squad but looking at recent matches, Neto is ahead across the board with six shots in the box (versus two) and eight chances created (versus three). I’m still not sure how Trossard managed two double-digit hauls recently. Fulham have conceded 5.82 expected goals (xG) in that same time period, and I don’t think they’re as watertight as many others do.
Even with Matej Vydra starting the last six matches, I can’t put him in as my budget option ahead of Chris Wood given that the latter is absolutely nailed and on penalties. He’s also had 13 shots in his last half-dozen appearances, compared to 10 for Vydra. The Czech international is a great Wildcard enabler, but not someone I’d choose over the tried-and-tested Wood.
You could probably make a very good case to include Kelechi Iheanacho over Jamie Vardy. Over the last six matches, there isn’t much that the latter wins out on. Iheanacho has had six more shots and three more efforts in the box, he’s created four more opportunities and he’s had four more big chances – all of that in 71 fewer minutes. Vardy, however, comes with guaranteed starts and penalties, so I can’t overlook him in this case.
Only an idiot would continue to try and second-guess Pep Guardiola, and that’s exactly what I keep on doing. With another important Champions League tie to come next week, there’s going to be more rotation against Leeds, which feels like a fixture we can’t ignore. With João Cancelo missing the Leicester game, and both Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling sitting out the first leg against Borussia Dortmund, they are surely near the top of the list when it comes to a start against the Whites. I can’t believe the reverse fixture ended 1-1 and feel this will be one of the highest-scoring games of the week, with whoever features in with a shout of a big FPL points total.