Gameweek 7 of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) is almost upon us, which gives us an opportunity to have a look at some more differential options.
This time, we’ve selected low-owned picks at Aston Villa, Arsenal and Chelsea who we think have the potential to make an impact.
As always, to qualify, the player must have an ownership of 5% or less at the time of writing.
- FPL ownership: 1.5%
- Price: £7.3m
- GW7-11 fixtures: tot | WOL | ars | WHU | sou
Ollie Watkins (£7.3m) was a key reason behind Aston Villa’s successful 2020/21 season, as he netted 16 goals and provided five assists in all competitions.
Ahead of the current campaign, he enjoyed a productive pre-season, but then suffered an injury which kept him out of the opening two Gameweeks. However, after a brief cameo against former club Brentford in Gameweek 3, he has now started and completed 90 minutes in every match since, and despite not scoring, has impressed.
Key to Watkins’ appeal has been a recent change of formation at Villa, which has seen Dean Smith’s troops line-up in a 3-5-2 shape. The new system enables Watkins and Danny Ings (£7.9m) to play in their favoured central roles, while also adding more stability at the back.
At Old Trafford last weekend, Watkins forced David de Gea (£5.0m) into a couple of smart stops, with his six shots at Chelsea in Gameweek 4 highlighting his ability to trouble even the division’s best defences. A total of 10 goal attempts – including two big chances – in 281 minutes this season is encouraging, too, given the opposition.
Up next for Villa is a trip to Tottenham Hotspur, who rank 16th for xGC and 18th for shots in the box conceded since Nuno Espirito Santo took charge. To follow the fixtures detailed above, it’s also worth noting that they take on Brighton and Hove Albion (h) and Crystal Palace (a) before the end of November, so longer-term, the prospects look good.
Villa’s recent performances suggest that they are building some momentum, and as Watkins improves his match sharpness, could become a smart forward differential for our FPL squads.
EMILE SMITH ROWE
- FPL ownership: 4.2%
- Price: £5.3m
- GW7-11 fixtures: bha | CRY | AVL | lei | WAT
After a challenging start to the season, Arsenal have now taken nine points from their last three games against Norwich City, Burnley and north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, with the latter performance particularly impressive.
During the match, Emile Smith Rowe (£5.3m) provided a season-high haul of 12 points – via a goal, assist and two bonus – which coincided with him playing in arguably his best position.
With Martin Ødegaard (£5.5m) installed as a no. 10 in Mikel Arteta’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Smith Rowe featured off the left, but would often drift infield into more central areas where he could affect the game, with Kieran Tierney (£4.9m) supplying the width down that side. The duo combined excellently with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£9.9m) throughout, with Smith Rowe offering balance to the attack by making runs in behind, but also coming shorter to link-play.
The big question for Arsenal is: can they keep it going? Lateriser and three Gunners’ fans had a go at answering that in his recent column, which is well worth a read, and the general consensus seems to be that they can. Key to that confidence is their forthcoming schedule, which includes a run of back-to-back home matches against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Watford, Newcastle United and Southampton before Christmas.
Buying a cheap Arsenal option makes a lot of sense right now, and with fixtures easing, Smith Rowe could be an effective midfield enabler.
- FPL ownership: 4.1%
- Price: £6.0m
- GW7-11 fixtures: SOU | bre | NOR | new | BUR
With uncertainty around Marcos Alonso’s (£5.9m) minutes, investing in one of Chelsea’s more secure backline options may be the sensible move for FPL managers.
Since Thomas Tuchel’s appointment back in January, Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) has started 22 of the Blues’ 25 Premier League matches – more than any other defender – and having played for just over an hour against Juventus on Wednesday night, should feature again in Gameweek 7. His ability to play as both a right-sided centre-half and wing-back is another appealing factor, too.
Across Chelsea’s opening six matches, they have conceded just two goals – a Mohamed Salah (£12.6m) penalty and a deflected Gabriel Jesus (£8.6m) shot – with clean sheets produced against Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, Arsenal and Crystal Palace.
Azpilicueta’s defensive numbers are solid during that run, as he leads the way amongst team-mates for tackles won and clearances, and while you aren’t buying him for his attacking threat, he could chip in with the odd assist, especially if handed a wing-back role.
With Chelsea sitting top of our Season Ticker for ease of fixture between Gameweeks 7 and 14, there is real potential for multiple clean sheets, and as one of the most nailed-on options in the Blues’ backline, Azpilicueta could thrive as a defensive differential.