The Premier League’s Fantasy Football game is one of the most irritating games ever invented. I love it and hate it in equal measure. Perhaps I put too much effort into it, but it becomes a matter of principle. We’re just one FPL-less weekend away from the big kick off, and whilst I will be back next week with a full preview, let’s take a look at some players catching my eye. Don’t worry, this won’t be me telling you about the Lukaku’s and Aguero’s of this world, I’ll save that for next week. This is all about the more budget friendly options. My only request is no pitch forks when they all score less than 2 points…
Let’s start with 7 potential bargains
Normally I’d say ignore anybody who is a rotation risk, and as Chelsea proved last season 3 into 2 does not go. Hazard was guaranteed one of the starting spots behind Diego Costa (presumably now Morata) and Pedro took a pretty firm grip on the second spot. Well, Hazard has been injured all summer and hasn’t had a sniff of pre-season action yet, whilst Pedro is wearing a mask as his face is fractured in three places. Ouch. That opens the door for set piece specialist Willian, who will surely start the season in Conte’s 11. At a very reasonable £7m, he’ll fit in nicely in the middle of the park and leave you plenty for those juicy premium players. The cherry on the cake is that his pre-season form has been pretty good anyway.
Remember when Gabbiadini burst onto the Premier League scene last February and couldn’t stop scoring? Then he got injured and kept getting subbed on 59 minutes to the annoyance of everybody. I’m hoping he’s over those injury problems and with Southampton starting with back to back home games, at £7m he could be your choice for a budget striker. Southampton’s back to back home games also bring Redmond and Tadic (£6.5m) into my thoughts, along with any of the defence price at £5m (that also includes Forster). The draw back is that Southampton have yet another new manager, and there’s no guarantee they will gel as a team right off the bat.
Gareth McAuley is everybody’s favourite goal scoring defender but the Northern Irishman is 37 now and will turn 38 in December. He’s also injured, which makes his participation in the season opener doubtful. Craig Dawson is seen as the natural successor, strong in the air and also priced at £5m. Sadly Chris Brunt has been reclassified as a midfielder, though he’s still a decent option at £5.5m given he takes the set pieces and Tony Pulis loves a set piece.
Bournemouth are terrible defensively, don’t get me wrong. But Charlie Daniels is a really good outlet from left back, and is reasonably priced at £5m. It depends on what you want from your defence, but last season clean sheets were not easy to come by, so ploughing funds into players who might get points at the other end of the pitch could be an option. Adam Smith on the other side is also £5m, but the only spanner in the works there is that Nathan Ake will surely start at centre half with one of Steve Cook or Simon Francis, which might mean Francis pitches up at right back. He is the captain after all.
Staying with the Bournemouth theme, Lewis Cook was the England-Under 19 captain when they lifted the Euros trophy in the summer (though it feels like it was years ago already). I think he’s got to be due some starts in the Bournemouth team now, he was in the team last season before some pretty serious injuries but the lad is clearly very talented and Bournemouth have a Jack Wilshere shaped hole to fill in midfield. He’s only £4.5m too, which is lovely.
Speaking of £4.5m midfielders, Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also dirt cheap having been signed up by Palace. Palace starts at home to Huddersfield, so that’s quite enticing. Whether he makes the starting 11 or not remains to be seen, as Milivojevic seems the nailed on starter in central midfield but if Yohan Cabaye leaves as is being mooted it could open the door for the Chelsea youngster.
As it stands, Rob Elliot is Newcastle’s number one. There’s no denying Rafa Benitez wants to sign a goalkeeper, but so far his attempts have been thwarted. It doesn’t help that Newcastle have four on the books – though Tim Krul has been told to find a new club and is training with the youth team, Freddie Woodman (England’s Under 19 Keeper) very inexperienced and Karl Darlow is the subject of transfer speculation. All of that leaves Rob Elliot holding the gloves, for the time being at least, and at £4m he could be the budget goalkeeper you’re looking for. Given that Woodman isn’t even on the list of players you can buy yet, it’s looking good for Rob. Newcastle have a reasonable first 7 games, though a tough first fixture with Spurs at St James’ is unlikely to be a clean sheet it could be a save points dream. Most of Newcastle’ first choice back four is £4.5m, which could be very useful seeing as Rafa loves a clean sheet.
There are others of course, and more will become clear as pre-season clashes draw to a close. You’ll notice a lack of Everton players in my list, despite them spending huge amounts and being tipped to do quite well. The problem is the FPL prices reflect this, there’s not many bargains in there. Pickford is £5m if you think Everton will keep clean sheets, both centre halves (Keane and Williams) are £5.5 but Baines is £6m. It remains to be seen whether Cuco Martina or Mason Holgate start at right back (both £4.5m) so keep an eye on their Europa League games. A lot of people are on the Rooney bandwagon at £7.5m, which if he captures his form of old then I can see why but he has shown little sign of that in the last 18 months. After their opener at home to Stoke, Everton’s fixture are nasty.
Huddersfield also have a boat full of cheap players, they were excellent defensively for the most part in the Championship but we all know it’s going to be tougher in the Premier League. They don’t have the worst start (Palace away, Newcastle at home) and Scott Malone is an excellent addition at left back, but I think there are more sure fire picks out there for £4.5m. Stoke have a tough looking opening run which has ruled them out, whilst West Ham start with back to back away games, though I can’t deny Hernandez at £7m could be great if they get over their problematic home form.
I think that’s enough for one week, my head is fried. Good luck picking 15 players, I’ll be back next week with the Gameweek One preview to make it even worse.