The most-sold player of Gameweeks 5 and 6, Chelsea’s Nicolas Jackson (£6.9m), has finished five of his six Fantasy Premier League (FPL) appearances with just one point.
Already frustrating his owners by missing a high number of chances, the 22-year-old ignored his head coach’s plea for intelligence by picking up his fifth yellow card at the weekend. That means Jackson will miss Gameweek 7 due to suspension. Naturally, he then netted in Wednesday’s EFL Cup match.
Over 1.3 million managers have ditched him in recent weeks but the lack of obvious replacements is a concern for those who haven’t yet. It’s a struggle to settle on just five midfielders but finding a reliable forward to (usually) go alongside Erling Haaland (£14.1m) has been equally challenging.
However, using Members Area stats and upcoming fixtures, a few candidates do start to emerge.
OLLIE WATKINS (£7.9m)
After a drip-feed of four assists and five-point scores, Ollie Watkins bagged his first goal of the season in Aston Villa’s weekend win over Jackson’s Chelsea.
Last season’s first 18 matches saw just three goals before things changed under Unai Emery, scoring 11 times in 12 between Gameweeks 21 and 31. But 13 shots inside the box and five big chances were missed in these first five rounds, explaining why Watkins is still one of the biggest expected goals (xG) underachievers (-1.58).
Whilst seemingly being safe from rotation is a positive for managers, his lack of penalties is not. After missing one in May, these spot-kick duties have been taken over by Douglas Luiz (£5.4m).
Therefore, when it comes to covering Villa’s great fixture run from Gameweek 8, some may prefer the cheaper alternative of two-goal Moussa Diaby (£6.6m). Oh great, another top midfielder!
TAIWO AWONIYI (£6.6m)
Once Watkins’ hot streak ended in the spring, Nottingham Forest’s Taiwo Awoniyi started one of his own. In and out of the side until then, the Nigerian international found some late-season rhythm and scored six times during the final four matches.
This continued into 2023/24’s first three Gameweeks, before settling for ‘just’ an assist in the following two. Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Manchester City was Awoniyi’s first blank in ten matches.
Underlying stats look weak, though. 16 forwards have had more attempts (nine), 13 better his nine inside the box and 11 exceed his xG (2.34).
On the other hand, Forest will face none of the last campaign’s top four over the next 12 matches.
JULIAN ALVAREZ (£7.0m)
Another Man City v Forest blank belonged to Julian Alvarez – bought by over 1.3 million managers in the week’s build-up. Nobody has risen in price more than the World Cup winner, already moving from £6.5m to £7.0m. Yet he continued the curse where each Gameweek’s most-bought player immediately blanks in the next match.
Throughout the game, only team-mate Haaland had more attacking returns than his seven. Alvarez is also the forward that has created the most chances (16), assisting on five occasions.
It’s only natural to fear rotation when Pep Guardiola is in charge. Only once last season did he start more than two successive league matches and – even though he’s begun all six so far – a 57th-minute Gameweek 6 removal could hint at what’s next chapter for Alvarez.
Then again, he was substituted after 74 minutes of Man City’s EFL Cup defeat when chasing a one-goal deficit. That suggests that Pep intends to start Alvarez at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
But those managers still without Alvarez may feel like it’s too late to get on board. Price rises and attacking returns have been missed out on and fixtures are about to toughen for the champions.
CARLTON MORRIS (£5.5m)
Meanwhile, a switch from Jackson to Carlton Morris does two things. Firstly, it gets you a penalty-taking Double Gameweek 7 asset who goes against Everton (a) and Burnley (h).
Secondly, it raises some money for any potential purchase of either Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) or Son Heung-min (£9.2m) that wouldn’t require a Wildcard activation.
Although Luton Town are the worst for goals scored (three) and shots on target (11), they’re only fifth-worst for attempts (63), big chances (10) and xG (6.66). And this is from five matches, rather than six.
Morris has scored twice and is the player with most aerial duels (57) from all positions. Indeed, Luton average more crosses per game than anyone else (25.4). Combine these and you get a focal point of direct football who is heading into a Double Gameweek.
DOMINIC SOLANKE (£6.4m)
A knock to the ankle picked up in Wednesday’s EFL Cup win has added a yellow flag to Dominic Solanke. It’s a shame because he’s quietly had a strong start to the season.
“Unfortunately, he couldn’t finish the game. Probably the worst part of the evening. We’ll see how he presents (today), if the ankle is swollen or not. But we have a very tight schedule, not even three days. It’s going to be tough” – Andoni Iraola
The lowest-owned of the top 15 forwards, he ranks sixth on 29 points thanks to three goals. Furthermore, no forward assisted more in 2022/23 and none have made more touches inside the box this time (46).
If passed fit, penalty-taker Solanke could be a great differential pick for Bournemouth’s imminent fixtures swing. From Gameweek 8, it begins with Everton (a), Wolves (h) and Burnley (h).
Elsewhere, a hamstring injury looks to have ruined Odsonne Edouard‘s (£5.6m) appeal. The highest-scoring FPL forward that doesn’t belong to Man City, Edouard has scored four goals this season.
Both he and Yoane Wissa (£6.0m) are joint-third for shots in the box (19) but the latter is on four consecutive blanks, whereas Rasmus Hojlund (£7.1m) could be a way to cover Manchester United’s nice-looking fixtures without using a precious midfield slot.
Rotation is a big issue at Liverpool, Brighton and Hove Albion and Newcastle United. Otherwise, Darwin Nunez (£7.4m), Evan Ferguson (£6.0m), Joao Pedro (£5.4m), Alexander Isak (£7.6m) and Callum Wilson (£7.8m) would’ve been very interesting replacements for Jackson. Darwin is almost level with Haaland for minutes per shot this season; if you can guarantee his minutes, you know the chances will come.
Even at Everton, following a win with back-to-back home games against Luton and Bournemouth, there’s slight uncertainty whether it’s Beto (£6.0m) or injury-prone Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.8m) set to lead the line.