In the Scout Squad, our in-house panelists attempt to pick out the best Fantasy Premier League (FPL) options for Gameweek 12.
The selections go a long way to forming the final Scout Picks, which will arrive ahead of Saturday’s deadline.
Seven players are given unanimous support this week, with four others getting three votes, and many of these assets will feature in our glorified ‘Free Hit’ XI on Friday.
Our team of Sam, Marc, Tom and Neale have each been explaining their notable inclusions and omissions in the article below.
MORE ABOUT THE SCOUT SQUAD
The focus is only on the upcoming Gameweek with the Scout Squad, so there’s no medium-term planning involved.
The players who get the most votes are much more likely to make the Scout Picks, although the final XI can’t exceed £83.0m. Occasionally, therefore, cheaper alternatives have to be found.
Each of our writers must meet the following requirements for this feature:
- At least one sub-£5.0m goalkeeper
- At least one sub-£5.0m defender
- At least one sub-£6.0m midfielder
- At least one sub-£7.0m forward
- No more than three players from the same club
SCOUT SQUAD: BEST FPL PLAYERS FOR GAMEWEEK 12
|GK||Nick Pope||Andre Onana||Alisson Becker||Sam Johnstone|
|Alphonse Areola||Sam Johnstone||Sam Johnstone||Alisson Becker|
|Guglielmo Vicario||Alphonse Areola||Nick Pope||Alphonse Areola|
|DEF||Kieran Trippier||Kieran Trippier||Ben White||Kieran Trippier|
|William Saliba||William Saliba||Kieran Trippier||Lewis Dunk|
|Joachim Andersen||Lewis Dunk||Lewis Dunk||Lucas Digne|
|Lewis Dunk||Tyrick Mitchell||Matty Cash||Oleksandr Zinchenko|
|Eric Dier||Jamaal Lascelles||Marc Guehi||Harry Maguire|
|MID||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah|
|Bukayo Saka||Bukayo Saka||Bukayo Saka||Pascal Gross|
|Anthony Gordon||Bruno Fernandes||Gabriel Martinelli||Gabriel Martinelli|
|Kaoru Mitoma||Kaoru Mitoma||Son Heung-min||Bruno Fernandes|
|Jarrod Bowen||Anthony Gordon||Anthony Gordon||Anthony Gordon|
|FWD||Erling Haaland||Erling Haaland||Erling Haaland||Ollie Watkins|
|Ollie Watkins||Ollie Watkins||Ollie Watkins||Erling Haaland|
|Darwin Nunez||Rasmus Hojlund||Evan Ferguson||Darwin Nunez|
|Evan Ferguson||Evan Ferguson||Rasmus Hojlund||Eddie Nketiah|
|Eddie Nketiah||Eddie Nketiah||Taiwo Awoniyi||Evan Ferguson|
Most popular picks: Kieran Trippier, Lewis Dunk, Mohamed Salah, Anthony Gordon, Erling Haaland, Ollie Watkins, Evan Ferguson (four), Sam Johnstone, Alphonse Areola, Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah (three)
With Gameweek 11 firmly in the rearview mirror and, hopefully, never to be mentioned again, Gameweek 12 is like a shiny new piece of paper that offers so much promise. So many of the key FPL picks have good fixtures this weekend and should be able to return points for their owners – the emphasis being on ‘should’ there are after last week’s debacle.
In goal, Nick Pope and Newcastle United face a Bournemouth side who have registered just nine goals so far in 2023/24; only Burnley have scored fewer. Meanwhile, Newcastle’s total of five clean sheets is tied most across the league. Kieran Trippier completes the Magpies’ defensive double-up and should probably be my first defensive pick every week: once again the right-back returned all three bonus points in Gameweek 11, taking him to 15 in seven matches.
Guglielmo Vicario is a wildcard pick given the potential issues in front of him, with Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie suspended and Micky van de Ven out injured. Vicario will likely have the untested partnership of Eric Dier and Ashley Phillips in front of him as a result but his save potential is significant and he could still rack up the points even if the clean sheet doesn’t stick on Saturday lunchtime.
My final goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola, comes up against Nottingham Forest, who have struggled on the road this season: the away team have scored just four goals on their travels, with only Sheffield United finding the net on fewer occasions.
The bookies suggest that Arsenal have the best opportunity for a clean sheet this weekend against a Burnley side who have scored the fewest goals in the league so far with just eight. William Saliba gets the nod from me, as a result.
Joachim Andersen is fast becoming one of my favourite defensive options. I have Marc Guehi in my own team for budgetary reasons but if I could have afforded Andersen, I would have gone with the Dane. The centre-back offers a good bit of attacking threat, while Palace boast a great defensive record under manager Roy Hodgson, especially when facing the division’s also-rans. Further up the A23, and like Andersen, Lewis Dunk couples shut-out potential with a goal threat: the Brighton man has had 14 shots this season, the joint-second-most among Fantasy defenders.
In midfield, a rare blank for Mohamed Salah doesn’t put me off, although I am hoping to see Kostas Tsimikas back in the starting XI. With Trent Alexander-Arnold playing in his usual inverted role, Salah was seemingly the one offering width against Luton Town and was much less effective. Alongside the Egyptian, Bukayo Saka – if he’s fit. Whilst the winger hasn’t been at his best since returning from injury, he has created 24 chances and registered 19 attempts on goal so far this season. This has resulted in nine attacking returns, a tally that only Salah can better amongst midfielders.
With Callum Wilson leaving the field early in the Champions League, I am expecting big things from Anthony Gordon this weekend. Gordon has returned in all bar two of his last nine Premier League matches for Newcastle, including scoring the winning goal against Arsenal in Gameweek 11.
Rounding off the midfield, Kaoru Mitoma and Jarrod Bowen both have appealing home fixtures this week and have a great opportunity to follow up their attacking returns from last Saturday.
Up front, we all held our breath for Erling Haaland after he was subbed at half-time in Gameweek 11 after rolling his ankle. However, the forward returned to score a brace in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening, so looks set to start against Chelsea in Gameweek 12. The Blues struggled defensively against Spurs before the two red cards (and even conceded chances after that point), so I think he will be too much for the Blues’ defence this weekend.
Ollie Watkins hasn’t returned since I brought him in in FPL ahead of Gameweek 10 but Aston Villa’s fixture looks good, with Fulham struggling in front of goal having scored just once in the last three matches in the league.
Darwin Nunez was top for xG underachievers in Gameweek 11; it feels like we say that quite a lot! But nine attacking returns in 500 minutes is still very good indeed, and the law of averages – and his recent good form – says that those chances won’t stay unconverted for too long.
Evan Ferguson and Eddie Nketiah round off my forward picks, with all eyes and ears on Mikel Arteta’s press conference on Friday after the Arsenal striker missed out against Sevilla. However, if he is available in Gameweek 12, I want him in my Scout Squad picks.
When it comes to the notoriously low-scoring Gameweek 11, there’ll always be one more rant inside of me. Because the pain is still fresh. How can both Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah blank against Bournemouth and Luton Town? Of the 38 players with over 10% ownership, how can only three of them exceed six points? Injuries, red cards, and inconceivable nothingness – we desperately need Gameweek 12 to bounce back in style.
That’s why I’m focusing on four already-popular teams who are about to face the ones already cut off at the bottom. Arsenal, Newcastle United, Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester United go up against Burnley, Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Luton. I’ve trebled-up on each.
Should Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka be fit, I back them to do well versus the Clarets – although we should probably be aware that Arsenal surprisingly sit in mid-table for attempts (158) and big chances (24) so far. Their underlying defensive stats look better, as no team has gifted fewer shots on target (22) to opponents whilst being second-best at avoiding goals (nine) and shots (93). William Saliba is a safer pick than Gabriel Magalhaes, as we keep witnessing.
Joining the Gunners on five clean sheets so far are Newcastle and Crystal Palace. For the latter, typing out Tyrick Mitchell’s name hurts so much – I was on the verge of buying him last week but instead plumped for Kostas Tsimikas out of fear. Guess which one not only started his match but bagged 15 points: the one who becomes the second Eagles player inside the four top-scoring FPL defenders. Team-mate Sam Johnstone is joint-top of the goalkeeper standings, with Everton coming to south London.
As for Newcastle’s defence, an injury crisis continues to devastate their squad and there’s a genuine dilemma over who to back during Dan Burn, Matt Targett and Sven Botman’s absences. Eddie Howe giving an eventual timeframe on Botman’s return will determine whether to opt for Jamaal Lascelles, rather than Tino Livramento. The trip to Bournemouth breeds confidence in both Lascelles and Kieran Trippier, as the Magpies have kept five clean sheets in their latest seven league matches. Low squad depth increases Anthony Gordon’s minutes and they could even take place as centre-forward, depending on Callum Wilson’s possible knock.
Evan Ferguson is starting most of Brighton’s league games now that Danny Welbeck is out, so he has to get a nod for Sheffield United (h). He’s played 606 minutes and – of those under 850 minutes – only Callum Wilson has more shots on target than his 13. Stats show that Kaoru Mitoma is less productive without Pervis Estupinan joining him on the left side, so the latter’s potential return boosts the winger’s prospects. With Lewis Dunk, my thinking is that surely – eventually – Brighton will register a clean sheet, right? He’s also joint-second amongst defenders for attempts (14) thanks to taking occasional close-range free-kicks.
In a similar way, Rasmus Hojlund will sooner or later net his first Premier League attacking return. Five goals have arrived in his four Champions League games but – despite starting their last seven outings – there’s been nothing else from the young Dane. But I think he, Bruno Fernandes and stopper Andre Onana will succeed at home to Luton.
Meanwhile, faith is being kept in Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah, I’m hoping Ollie Watkins already deployed his surprise home blank two weeks ago, and Alphonse Areola is merely a pick based on hope. West Ham United are allowing the third-most shots to be conceded (190) and have picked up only one successful shut-out.
In a Gameweek where I can overlook Kaoru Mitoma, Jarrod Bowen, Bruno Fernandes and Eberechi Eze despite all four enjoying winnable home matches, there really is a wealth of choice in midfield for the Scout Picks on Friday.
Burnley are in dire straits as they head to Arsenal in Gameweek 12 but second-guessing Mikel Arteta’s starting XI is a difficult task. Bukayo Saka was forced off in midweek after appearing to land awkwardly, but I’m going to assume he will be okay, while Gabriel Martinelli grabbed an assist for the England international and I think the Clarets’ approach could suit him, with neither of Vincent Kompany’s right-backs – Connor Roberts and Vitinho – in great form.
The fact Burnley look a bit toothless in attack without Lyle Foster leads me to nominate Ben White, meanwhile. Takehiro Tomiyasu’s midweek injury, plus Thomas Partey’s ongoing issue, raises the possibility of another start for the right-back.
Returning to my midfield selections, the home form of Mohamed Salah convinces me to give him the nod against a decent Brentford outfit, while Anthony Gordon is second among sub-£6.0m midfielders for non-penalty xG this season. It’s also worth noting he could be used through the middle if Callum Wilson isn’t available, further boosting his appeal.
As for Spurs, I’ve included Son Heung-min while I await further news on James Maddison’s fitness after his withdrawal in Gameweek 11. If the playmaker recovers in time, I’ll be more than happy to include Son, who should thrive off his through balls and get some joy in behind Wolves’ centre-halves. If budget is an issue and a cheaper midfielder is required, I’ve seen enough to be sufficiently impressed by Brennan Johnson, who has looked great as a left-winger under Ange Postecoglou.
Elsewhere, a home fixture against Sheffield United, who are bottom for xG and xGC in 2023/24, fills me with confidence with the double-up on Lewis Dunk and Evan Ferguson. A positive update on Pervis Estupinan’s fitness could see him sneak in ahead of the Brighton captain, but for now, he feels like a nice compromise given his heading ability and the Blades’ weakness in defending set plays.
I remain cautious on Man Utd assets for the time being but have found space for Rasmus Hojlund, who was efficient with the ball against Copenhagen in the Champions League on Wednesday and grabbed a brace. However, it’d be wrong to put him ahead of Erling Haaland and Ollie Watkins as the top forward picks in Gameweek 12, given their form across the season.
Finally, Bournemouth’s concession of a high number of chances from their left flank leads me to Kieran Trippier, while Fulham’s more adventurous left side could leave space in behind for Aston Villa’s Matty Cash to exploit. Even if neither defender grabs an attacking return, they have decent clean sheet prospects.
Arsenal and Brighton and Hove Albion enjoy perhaps the best-on-paper fixtures of Gameweek 12, so ideally you’d like heavy representation from both clubs. But both Mikel Arteta and Roberto De Zerbi are capable of springing a surprise or three with their teamsheets, and home fixtures against two relegation candidates seem like an opportune window to rotate, rest or experiment.
I’ve gone with Oleksandr Zinchenko for this reason. Arteta seems increasingly keen on playing the more defensively competent Takehiro Tomiyasu in the ‘bigger’ matches but on home soil and likely to hog the ball this weekend, Zinchenko’s midfield inversions seem like a better fit. Tomiyasu was substituted at half-time against Sevilla with “discomfort”, too, so I can’t see his manager taking a risk against Vincent Kompany’s struggling Clarets.
Flat-track bully Eddie Nketiah gets the nod from me if he’s fit but I’ve gone for Gabriel Martinelli over Bukayo Saka for the sole remaining Arsenal slot. Part of it is the idea of the Brazilian being up against the defensively suspect Vitinho (Kompany may indeed recall Connor Roberts for this, not that he’s much better), while the other train of thought is that Saka has barely contributed at all in an attacking sense over the last three league matches: Martinelli has shot or made a key pass on 15 occasions in the last three Gameweeks, Saka just six. The latter bounced back to form against Sevilla but the knock he sustained in the Champions League win raises another doubt.
As for Brighton, the best bet we have for the Scout Picks is to study the starting XI and minutes from tonight’s clash with Ajax and take it from there. Pascal Gross and Lewis Dunk have mostly escaped the breathers this season, while Evan Ferguson has been leading the line domestically in recent weeks as the Pedro/Fati combination is preserved for Europe. Sheffield United being right towards the bottom of the table for headed chances allowed and opportunities conceded from set plays is another reason why I’ve sided with the corner-taking Gross and the aerially dominant Dunk.
Only one team has allowed more chances to be conceded from free-kicks and corners than the Blades: Bournemouth. It seems like a match made in heaven for Kieran Trippier and his dead-ball deliveries, given what happened at Bramall Lane earlier this season. While there are legitimate concerns over rotation for Brighton and Arsenal, there are few such worries about Newcastle given their lengthy injury list – and if Callum Wilson joins that list in Gameweek 12 with his hamstring tightness, then Anthony Gordon will be leading the line on the south coast.
I’m far from confident about the clean-sheet prospects of my three chosen goalkeepers this week (Everton, Brentford and Forest are capable of scoring against supposedly bigger clubs, as seen in Gameweek 11) but the three of them have so far proven adept at compensating with bonus and/or save points, something that is even more important this season in these 100+ minute games when shut-outs are harder to come by.
Confidence is not something you have in Manchester United either but the bully-boy Red Devils have won all five of their league matches this season against clubs ranked 13th or lower, and now they face a Luton Town side hovering just above the drop. Bruno Fernandes has delivered attacking returns in four of those five matches, so is the best of a poor bunch.
Elsewhere, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool assets are backed to make amends after the laughable sequence of huge misses and niggling injuries conspired to make Gameweek 11 so bad it was headline-worthy.