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With injuries mounting, Niall this week reveals his pick of the options under 5% ownership for those in the market for budget-friendly, dependable differential picks.
As attention turns towards a hectic festive fixture schedule for Sky managers, unfortunately too many of us are continuing to face something of an autumn injury and rotation crisis.
In an October-November period where prudence on transfers is so often rewarded later in the season, many find themselves in the unavoidable scenario where dipping into the market is the only option.
That’s why this article seeks not only to highlight the traditional ‘differential’ picks that come with a high level of risk, but dependable, under-the-radar and well-priced alternatives that could serve managers for the medium to long-term – and all under 5% owned.
Aymeric Laporte (9.1) – 4.6% owned in top 1k
I did tell you these were going to be solid picks. Top of the tree is the joint-third highest points scoring defender in the game this season with 58 points from his seven starts. With over 0.9 points per minute per game so far this season, the Spanish centre-back is well inside the top 10 best value players, which really begs the question – why do only 46 of the top 1,000 managers have him in their teams?
Competition and rotation fears with John Stones (9.2) appears likely to be the main reason. However, 10 Gameweeks into this season, it appears the matter is settled in Laporte’s favour. With a 1.5m price saving over his defensive counterpart,, and an equal, if not superior propensity to pick up passing bonus, I think that Laporte could be the optimal route into a double Man City defence, alongside Joao Cancelo (9.5).
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (8.1) – 1.2% owned in top 1k
The holding midfielder is about as safe a pick as they come. Destined it seems to play almost every minute of every game, he’s starting again to show why he was so popular in Sky last season. After a slow start under Nuno Espirito Santo, it may yet be too early to predict with certainty that the Spurs man is back to his best, but if his recent run of form is anything to go by, the signs are visible.
The Dane has picked up passing bonus three times in his last four, adding tackles to that on two occasions. He also seems to be getting into the final third more often, registering a shot on target in each of his last three games. This upturn in output, if sustained, could see Hojbjerg considered in the ‘set and forget’ category of midfielders, where security of starts and consistent, steady points returns prove superior over more sporadic picks who often lead to needless transfers. Another string to the midfielder’s bow is that he could offer an alternative captain cover for single match days where a transfer to Harry Kane (12.0) or Son Heung-min (10.8) could be saved.
Hwang Hee-chan (7.8) – 4.4% owned in top 1k
Probably the highest risk pick of the players in this article, I think Hwang could be the ideal differential. Cheaply priced, strong short-term fixtures, playing out of position and in form – with an obvious standalone captaincy – I think Gameweek 12’s Monday fixture versus Everton could be the right time to pull the trigger on him.
So far, the South Korean talisman has scored in two of his four league starts, which included a brace and man of the match award at home to Newcastle. He also bagged off the bench on his debut against Watford. Clearly, he has an eye for goal and despite otherwise limited exposure in front of goal, a generous run of fixtures is (EVE, cpl, WHU, nor, BUR) still to come. For those without a captain for Monday’s individual match-day against Everton, the budget-friendly midfielder could be the ideal replacement for those facing injuries and rotation issues. Like most midfielders around Hwang’s price, he does come with the caveat that he will likely return a relatively high number of two-pointers versus other, more consistent returners like Hojbjerg, Youri Tielemans (8.5) and James Ward-Prowse (8.6). He may also face pressure for his place from Adama Traore (7.9), Francisco Trincao (7.8) and Daniel Podence (7.4) in the longer term.
Lewis Dunk (8.2) – 5.0% owned in top 1k
Dunk sailed under the radar for much of last season and ended 2020/21 as one of the highest points scorers in the game. Already he has raced into the top 10 defenders in terms of points scored despite deflated passing numbers, resulting from the presence of Shane Duffy (6.6) which has seen Dunk pushed out to right centre-back. He’s also yet to pop up with a trademark goal or man of the match award, but his performances suggest neither could be far away, registering shots on target in three of the last five games.
Crucially, with the benching of Duffy, the Brighton captain has moved back into a more central role in one of the league’s sternest defences. If Duffy continues to sit out, then Dunk once again will become one of the best value players in the game. Following the game against Liverpool, the Seagulls embark on a strong set of fixtures (new, avl, LEE, whu, SOT) where clean sheets and passing bonus could be consistently achieved. Dunk also offers the perfect price-replacement for the likes of Andreas Christensen (8.3), Joel Matip (8.4), Marcos Alonso (7.9), Ismaila Sarr (7.8) and Said Benrahma (7.8).
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