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.
Only Premium Members are able to read every single one of these pieces, so sign up today to get full access not just to the editorial content but all of the other benefits, from hundreds of Opta stats to a transfer planner.
Here, seven-time top 10k finisher Zophar takes some questions from the Fantasy community and reveals what his own Wildcard draft would look like for Gameweek 9.
The September international break is finally over – this one felt particularly long!
In this piece, I will be focusing on Wildcard dilemmas/questions posed by the Fantasy community, although many of the issues discussed will also affect those FPL managers not using the chip.
Q: is Ollie Watkins a good punt?
A: I’m going to use this question to address the third striker dilemma. Erling Haaland (£12.0m) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.9m) are ‘no-brainer’ picks for the first two slots, in my opinion, and the injury to Alexander Isak (£7.1m) has left managers wondering where to go for the third forward, assuming you’re not plumping for another premium pick in the shape of Harry Kane (£11.4m). Ivan Toney (£7.3m) is the obvious one and his credentials do not need reiterating but he is quite highly owned and maybe unaffordable for some. Let’s look at some of the alternatives.
First up, as the question posed, Ollie Watkins (£7.2m). Before looking at the fixtures, his underlying stats per game read:
- 1.1 shots
- 0.6 shots on target
- 0.6 chances created
- 0.3 big chances
These are very poor numbers but the appeal is of course the fixtures mentioned. I am not convinced by Aston Villa as an attacking outfit, especially since Gerrard lost his assistant, Michael Beale. Moreover, Watkins’ game-time will constantly be under threat with Leon Bailey (£4.7m), Philippe Coutinho (£6.7m), Danny Ings (£6.7m) and Emi Buendia (£5.9m) all vying for positions in the Villa front three (or two).
If you do want to go different and don’t fancy the ‘popular’ Dominic Solanke (£5.7m), I think Patrick Bamford (£7.3m) is your man. He would have had three weeks plus to build his fitness and was on the verge of a return prior to the international break. Leeds are a front-foot side and have a decent run of fixtures, as well.
Q: Which two premium picks are best from now until Gameweek 16?
A: My fellow Pro Pundit/Podcast co-host Lateriser wrote an excellent article on this subject, comparing Son Heung-min (£11.7m), Mohamed Salah (£12.9m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£12.3m) over the calendar year and this season, so I won’t go too much into the numbers. Haaland of course does not need any discussion and I think the second spot has to go to Salah. Liverpool are too good a side to slump for an extended period and they have their first-choice players returning now. Jurgen Klopp will no doubt realise that he needs to get his top goalscorer closer to goal and with Salah being someone I would deem to be ‘essential’ from Ganeweek 12 onwards, just get him in now if you’re on a Wildcard.
Q: What is the perfect midfield for the next three weeks?
A: I think the four of Andreas Pereira (£4.6m), Wilfried Zaha (£7.2m), James Maddison (£7.9m) and Salah are certain picks in my ideal midfield. Gabriel Martinelli (£6.6m) is a debatable one. I don’t buy the argument of value lock-ins, especially for a player who’s still easily accessible with a downgrade from any of the midfielders in the future. The question is, who can deliver similar potential for a similar price?
I don’t think Arsenal’s next three fixtures are too bad: both their tough games are at home, where they will likely play on the front foot, and then there’s the trip to Leeds, which should be an open game. The fixtures after the Gameweek 12 blank are quite good as well. I’m struggling to see who can come close under the £7.0m bracket. I don’t trust Harvey Barnes (£6.9m) for minutes and the Brighton lads have tough fixtures. The Everton midfielders, maybe, but they seem better from Gameweek 13 onwards rather than now. So it would probably be Martinelli.
Q: Trent Alexander-Arnold over Joao Cancelo – or both?
A: Having covered midfielders and forwards, I will use this question to talk about defenders. Reece James (£6.0m) would be the first pick because of the advanced positions I expect him to take up under Graham Potter. For the second and third picks, it gets trickier. Do you go Joao Cancelo (£7.2m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.4m) or Kieran Trippier (£5.4m) and one of them? I personally think Trippier is still an excellent pick but there are some fixtures in Gameweeks 11 and 13 (Manchester United and Spurs away) that are off-putting, while a Gameweek 9 trip to Fulham isn’t ideal either. Going for the more premium duo will also likely mean sacrifices elsewhere to find that cash to fund it. That being said, let’s talk about Alexander-Arnold.
The Liverpool right-back has been the standout defensive option in the game for a number of years now and is still posting decent creative numbers. I like the Brighton fixture for clean sheet potential but the two after that, against Arsenal and Man City, less so. Then comes Gameweek 12 against West Ham, which is a midweek fixture, and their Gameweek 13 match is an early Saturday kick-off against Nottingham Forest. We have already seen a pre-60-minute substitution for Alexander-Arnold earlier this season when such a scenario presented itself and with the schedule so congested for Liverpool, rotation and early substitutions on/off might be a factor.
Now let’s talk Cancelo. His underlying numbers have dropped off a cliff but as we saw in Gameweek 8, even without attacking returns he is a bonus points monster and Manchester City are the most reliable team in the league for clean sheets. Gameweek 11 against Liverpool isn’t great, admittedly, and then he blanks in Gameweek 12. But, his fixtures from Gameweek 13 leading up to the World Cup are outstanding and unlike Liverpool, City are likely to have clinched top spot in the UEFA Champions League group by then and can probably afford to rest players in Europe.
I’m seeing a lot of Wildcard drafts that have gone for Alexander-Arnold over Cancelo with the Gameweek 12 blank in mind but I just ask myself, could Cancelo not outscore Alexander-Arnold over the next three games? The problem with these premium defenders is that it’s very difficult to bring them in with just transfers due to squad structure and this is why if I had to choose between one, it would still be Cancelo. I still like the value Trippier offers with his set pieces, free-kicks and open-play attacking threat, and he’s almost £2.0m cheaper than the other two right-backs discussed above. Someone like Vladimir Coufal (£4.4m) can cover Trippier’s difficult Gameweek 11 and 13 fixtures (West Ham play Southampton and Bournemouth) but of course, Gameweek 12 is poor for the Hammers (away to Liverpool).
Q. Who are the best goalkeepers over the next eight Gameweeks?
I think if you can afford him, Nick Pope (£5.2m) is still the outstanding pick. Newcastle have three good home fixtures against Brentford, Everton and Aston Villa yet to come and he should rack up plenty of saves against Spurs, United and Fulham as well. The double-up with Trippier doesn’t concern me as you know what I think about baskets.
If not, I think Vicente Guaita (£4.5m) is a close second. Palace’s defensive numbers have been poor so far this season but I think that has to be largely attributed to the fixtures. There are some concerns about the Spaniard losing his place as he has done in previous seasons but with just an eight-Gameweek horizon till unlimited transfers, it is less of a worry. Again, I’d have no qualms about having Marc Guehi (£4.3m) as your fourth/fifth defender as well.
I have already used my Wildcard in Gameweek 8 but if I was using it this week, this is what I would go with.
The rest of this article is completely free to read but requires a Fantasy Football Scout account for access – you can get yours at no cost here.
We discussed Wildcard picks across positions at length in this week’s episode of The FPL Wire. Check it out here:
Thanks for reading and see you next week!
Vote for Fantasy Football Scout at the 2022 Football Content Awards by clicking here and selecting our name in the ‘Best in Fantasy Football’ section from the ‘Editorial’ drop-down menu.
You can also vote via Twitter via this one-click Tweet template.
A huge thank you for your continued support!