FPL Q&A: Best Newcastle picks, mid-priced midfielders + a later Wildcard

Throughout the 2022/23 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) season, our stellar team of Pro Pundits, Hall of Famers and guest contributors will be sharing their thoughts and own transfer plans.

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Here, seven-time top 10k finisher Zophar takes some questions from the Fantasy community and reveals his own Wildcard team plans for Gameweek 8.

This has been one of the trickiest weeks I have encountered in FPL, as sudden postponements and blanks have thrown plans into a tizzy.

In this piece, I attempt to answer some of the most relevant topics.

Q. Who do I pick from Newcastle United? Who is safer, Alexander Isak (£7.0m) or Allan Saint-Maximin (£6.4m)?

(via @teobakkis)

A: For kick-off, there’s still some doubt about whether Saint-Maximin will return for Newcastle this weekend. If he is fit, it’s a big boost for Newcastle players: while he himself is not a great FPL asset, Saint-Maximin makes everybody around him better with his ball progression and the drawing of opposition defenders towards him.

In terms of game-time, I think both he and Isak are equally secure when fully fit but I just always have injury concerns about the Frenchman. It feels like he’d be a transfer out waiting to happen, due to his fitness record. Granted, this could change but in terms of a long-term set and forget, I prefer Isak.

There are some concerns around him, of course. The Swede is more versatile than Callum Wilson (£7.2m), which might lead to him being played out wide when the latter returns but I think that, with four of their next five fixtures being against Bournemouth, Fulham, Brentford and Everton, it is a risk worth taking.

Q: Nick Pope (£5.1m) is hugely popular on the Wildcard but are Newcastle really worth a defensive double-up? Cheaper options like Emi Martinez (£4.9m), Bernd Leno (£4.5m) and (the injured) Jordan Pickford (£4.5m) all have good fixture runs up to the World Cup and Danny Ward (£4.0m) offers a good rotation option in their tougher Gameweeks. Is Pope worth the extra cash?

(via @FPLBeanCounter)

A: I think each pick needs to be looked at in isolation, irrespective of whether you already own Pope or Kieran Trippier (£5.3m). Pope looks to be the outstanding goalkeeper because Newcastle tend to concede lots of low-quality expected goals (xG) shots which means that he has plenty of opportunities to rack up saves and bonus points.

Meanwhile, Trippier is second for chances created (11) by defenders – behind only Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) – so he is a good pick in his own right. There is a school of thought about not putting too many eggs in the same basket but I disagree with that. If you see a good basket and you are not putting enough eggs in it, you are basket-wasting.

Q: Which three £7.0m-£8.2m midfielders would you include in your team, in order of priority?

(via @sankrish01)

A: This is a tricky question to answer this week because Wilfried Zaha (£7.2m) is the standout pick in this bracket but does not have a fixture. However, after the Gameweek 9 match versus Chelsea is out of the way, there is an outstanding run of fixtures that goes all the way up to the World Cup. No midfielder has been afforded more big chances than the five of Zaha.

The second name is James Maddison (£7.9m). Leicester City have been poor this season and their xG numbers rank amongst the league’s worst but after the international break, they face Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Leeds United.

Leicester have traditionally been flat-track bullies and all of these four games have double-digit potential for Maddison.

The third one is Jarrod Bowen (£8.1m) and this is purely a fixture pick. He has had just one shot on target and one big chance involvement so far, meaning there is absolutely nothing from an underlying numbers perspective. Yet fixtures breed form and he is likely to be involved whenever West Ham United score.

Q: Who is the best cheap defender/midfielder fodder you could keep ready for both Gameweek 8 and Manchester City’s blank in Gameweek 12?

(via @RyanHemmings)

We did a monster podcast this week, with all three of us on Wildcard. We discussed picks, strategy around the blanks and a lot more. I cannot recommend it highly enough, check it out here.

See you after the break!