In a previous article we set out the idea behind our Team Strength Tiers (TST) based on recent performances (GWs 3-6 in this case) of Premier League teams. After an early season taster, we’re now going to use those in presenting our first, full ABC Transfer Guide using data from the first six gameweeks of the 20/21 FPL season. The criteria for an individual player to be included are:
A) Returns in at least 50% of appearances (3 out of 6)
Two other markers work in tandem with that
B) Hauls in at least 15% of appearances (1 out of 6)
C) Playing at least 410 minutes (or 76% of the time available, maximum 540)
This time around 26 players managed both A and B, but one fell short on minutes. That’s an abundance of options, especially if you’ve only got one or two free transfers available, and so we’ve blended in the TST data to give an idea of the strength of opposition each candidate might be facing over the next five gameweeks.
When you look at the 25 players it soon becomes clear that they’re usually only one of two or three options from their team in either attack or defence. With that in mind, we’re going to present them on a team by team basis, starting with those in Tier A. We’ll start with the attack…
Tottenham Hotspur – TST for opposition over the next 5 gameweeks: 16 (average)Embed from Getty Images
Fantasy football’s dynamic duo of the moment are quite rightly first on our menu. Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son have been tearing up the league, though pundits including @Lateriser12 have pointed out that Son seems to be especially dangerous in away fixtures while Kane is steadier and a safer option at home. On recent form, West Brom and Chelsea away are actually the two toughest upcoming defences they face, the home slate offering almost the entire of underperforming Tier E (Brighton, Manchester City, Arsenal).
Liverpool – opposition TST: 19 (tricky)Embed from Getty Images
Striker Roberto Firmino has 3 returns from 6, though no haul so far, so our spotlight turns instead to his better owned attacking colleagues, Mo Salah and Sadio Mané who both have four returns from their opening games, though Salah has two hauls to Mane’s one and Sadio missed a fixture due to Covid-19. West Ham this gameweek look to be a harder defensive nut to crack at the moment than Manchester City the week after. Home games against Leicester and Wolves also promise to be testing with Brighton away in gameweek 10 the easiest matchup according to TST.
Aston Villa – opposition TST: 19 (tricky)Embed from Getty Images
John McGinn is the sole Villa attacker to make our elite list by right (2, 10, 10, 5, 2), but Villa, of course, are one of four sides who have only played 5 games, so we could also extend a little grace to Ross Barkley (1, 0, 7, 11, 2) and Jack Grealish (3, 8, 24, 3, 1). To qualify properly they’ll need a return each against this week’s opponents… who just happen to be Southampton, owners of the best overall defensive record in the Premier League from the previous four weeks. They stand a better chance of success in the following two gameweeks against Arsenal and Brighton from Tier E before jumping back up to Tier A, away at West Ham and then back down to Tier D at home to Newcastle.
Everton – opposition TST: 13 (promising)Embed from Getty Images
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is perhaps surprisingly the only Everton attacker on the list, which serves to emphasise how important he has become in the Toffees’ bid to overtake their Merseyside rivals. His run of five returns (equal best with Kane) was broken only by their dismal 0-2 defeat at Southampton, deprived of strike partner Richarlison who had two returns of his own before getting sent off in the derby and starved of supply from the possibly injured James Rodriguez who, like Son, has an up and down record so far (12, 2, 18, 4, 2). Lucas Digne will also be missing for the trip to Tier D Newcastle, but as the supporting cast starts to return they will face a fragile Manchester United and struggling Fulham (both Tier F) before the sturdier Leeds and Burnley (Tiers B and C respectively).
Chelsea – opposition TST: 18 (awkward)Embed from Getty Images
Once again only one attacker from a club qualifies under our ABC criteria and it is, naturally… Jorginho (12, 0, 0, 15, 5, 3). Clearly, the midfielder has benefitted enormously from the early season rash of penalties which now seems to be calming down just as the spotmeister loses his touch (and possibly his duties, though Frank Lampard appears sympathetic), missing one in Europe in midweek. Chelsea’s new expensive talents are beginning to find their feet and will avoid both the League’s most in form and out of sorts defences over the next few weeks. They first try to get something from Burnley (Tier C) before a potentially easier double with Sheffield United (E) and Newcastle (D). Sterner home tests against Spurs (C) and Leeds (B) follow.
West Ham United – opposition TST: 10 (mouth-watering)Embed from Getty Images
No Hammers players actually qualify under our ABC criteria and, as such, we wouldn’t usually mention them here. But that upcoming schedule… my, oh my. Michael Antonio is their most in form attacker with 3 returns (2, 6, 2, 8, 1, 8) but seems to be out for a run that opens with Liverpool (Tier F defensively, lest we forget, desperately short of central defenders and recent conceders of multiple goals to Leeds and Villa) followed by Fulham (also F) at home and Sheffield United (E) away. Villa (B) could be tough even at the London Stadium (though Leeds may feel differently) but then it could be back to chances galore if Manchester United haven’t sorted themelves out at the back by then. Might well be worth hanging on to Tomas Soucek if you have him or looking to Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals or Sebastien Haller to try to gain a jump on more cautious FPL managers.
Leeds United – opposition TST: 18 (awkward)Embed from Getty Images
As we said in our Tiers for Souvenirs article, Leeds have created the most chances inside the box in the last four gameweeks alongside 11 big chances, but have only managed five goals in that span, most of them scored by Patrick Bamford who looks as if he will be assisted by Rodrigo rather than replaced and is a highly recommended cheap attacker already in many FPL teams. Midfielder Helder Costa also got a haul earlier on and is still starting and looking sharp, but Rafinha and Poveda may cut into his minutes while penalty taker Klich dropped into defensive midfield against Villa once Pascal Struijk was withdrawn. Tier C Leicester, possibly missing some key defenders, are next at Elland Road and more middling defences follow with Arsenal (E) at home and Tier D Palace and Everton away before facing top notch Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Brighton – opposition TST: 20 (harsh)Embed from Getty Images
On the Fantasy Football Scout podcast @FFScout_Az mentioned that Neil Maupay struggles without a support striker (such as Aaron Connolly), though he did string together 16, 8 and 6 in GWs 2-4. Brighton face a mixed bag of defences over the next few starting with Tier C Tottenham and Burnley and then up and down the scale against Villa (B), Liverpool (F) and Southampton (A).
Southampton – opposition TST: 16 (average)Embed from Getty Images
Danny Ings blazed an injury-free trail through last season that’s seen him remain a popular forward choice this term where he has continued to bag returns (2, 11, 9, 2, 7, 10). His significantly cheaper strike partner Che Adams is now rewarding his managers, too (2, 1, 5, 2, 11, 8) and their schedule has its promising moments though Villa and Wolves (both B) away look a bit daunting. Newcastle (D) and Manchester United (F) at home balance things out before a South Coast derby at Brighton (E).
Manchester City – opposition TST: 12 (appealing)Embed from Getty Images
Many peoples’ favourites to regain their title before the season, Manchester City are struggling to find form at both ends of the pitch. Raheem Sterling is the only player to qualify for our list, though Phil Foden (9, 2, 2, 6, 6) , who interestingly has not played less than 45 minutes in any City league fixture so far, just needs a haul away at Sheffield United (E) to join him. Liverpool (F) at home looks a lot less daunting at the moment than might have been expected, then there’s a pair of Tier C outings against Spurs and Burnley before the juicy prospect of Fulham (F) visiting the Etihad.
Manchester Utd – opposition TST: 21 (tough)Embed from Getty Images
Like City, Manchester United have only played 5 games but also have someone on our list in Bruno Fernandes and another just bubbling under in Marcus Rashford. Fernandes (2, 12, 6, 11, 3) looks set to keep being involved in goals one way or another while everybody’s favourite MBE (2, 7, 2, 15, 2) might offer an alternative to Son after his midweek European hat-trick playing ‘out of position’ up front though United’s upcoming opponents get steadily harder: Arsenal (E), Everton (D), West Brom (C) and then both Tier A Southampton and West Ham away.
Newcastle United – opposition TST: 23 (painful)Embed from Getty Images
Even down here in haphazard attacking land there are a couple of final names for our list. The first is Callum Wilson (8, 2, 8, 16, 2, 5) who has been making plenty of hay with 4 goals and 2 assists despite his team’s struggles elsewhere. He has certainly been very good value so far, but before swapping him in for Bamford or Adams do consider his schedule which, according to our TSTs, is the hardest facing any attack over the next five games. They do get Everton at home and Palace away (both Tier D), but there’s also two thirds of Tier A (Southampton and Chelsea) supplemented by Aston Villa (B).
Crystal Palace – opposition TST: 21 (tough)Embed from Getty Images
And talking of Palace, Wilfried Zaha’s elevation to both the front line and penalty duties has seen him reward the faith of those chosing him as a mid-price midfielder (8, 15, 1, 2, 9, 13). If the spot kicks keep coming he could maintain this pace, but he may need penalties not to revert to the returning Luka Milivojevic to avoid being held back by Palace’s low volume attack given the immediate prospect of facing Wolves and Leeds (both Tier B) followed by Newcastle (D), Burnley and West Brom (both C).
And now, over to the defenders and goalkeepers!
Southampton – opposition TST: 14 (intriguing)Embed from Getty Images
A strong defensive showing since their Groundhog Day against Spurs has seen the Saints’ defensive assets generate lots of returns, but no actual hauls. As discussed in an earlier article, hauls are rare and somewhat random for the vast majority of defenders and keepers, though nine have actually achieved one alongside two other returns and plenty of minutes, our ABC elite criteria, already this season. Once a visit to lively Aston Villa (Tier B) is out of the way matchups against the relatively quiet attacks of Newcastle (E) and Wolves (F) followed by the fitful Manchester United and Brighton (both D) could yield good returns. Janik Vestergaard’s threat from set pieces has seen him add a fourth return to the three achieved by Bertrand, Bednarek and Walker-Peters making him the standout option among them, especially at 4.5m.
Chelsea – opposition TST: 14 (intriguing)Embed from Getty Images
Chelsea’s full backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell have both caught the eye going forward, but they have lacked consistent minutes through injury or selection and, as their defence tightens up with the addition of Mendy in goal and Thiago Silva in the centre, it is Kurt Zouma who has emerged as the most dependable option. He is also a threat from dead balls, the source from which the usually prolific Spurs finally broke down their next opponents, Burnley (Tier C) in their most recent match. Tier E Sheffield United and Newcastle follow before Spurs (A) themselves visit Stamford Bridge with an all action Leeds (D) right behind them.
West Ham United – opposition TST: 17 (rough)Embed from Getty Images
While the Hammers’ attackers must be relishing a visit to Liverpool’s beleagured rearguard the opposite must surely be true of their defenders as they anticipate a searching examination from the reds’ incisive forward line (Tier A). Aaron Cresswell’s 3 assists (1, 1, 7, 15, 5, 2) make him the prime candidate for investment here, though Fabian Balbuena also managed 3 returns and Arthur Masuaku has 2 returns and a haul. After Liverpool, West Ham get a little respite with Fulham (F) and Sheffield United (E) before entertaining Villa (B) and Manchester United (D) at home. If you fancy West Ham to remain solid at the back, Lukasz Fabianski’s legendary penchant for save points might also tempt you.
Aston Villa – opposition TST: 14 (intriguing)Embed from Getty Images
It’s a tribute to Villa’s defensive start to the season that three of their players make our list despite only playing five games. Tyrone Mings actually has 2 hauls already while new signing Emiliano Martinez is the only goalkeeper to satisfy all three ABC elite criteria and Ezri Konsa‘s goal and bonus in their opener against Sheffield United means he joins them. Villa’s defence is another unti that avoids extremes in their upcoming opposition with a trip to West Ham (C) in GW 10 looking their sternest test. They also get three matches at home against Southampton, Brighton (both Tier D) and Newcastle (E) alongside a trip to Arsenal (also E)
Wolverhampton Wanderers – opposition TST: 15 (average)Embed from Getty Images
Wolves defensive assets were popular before the start of the season and remain so with Romain Saiss leading the way amongst all defenders so far with a haul and 4 returns (15, 1, 0, 8, 7, 7). If you are concerned that he might lost playing time to Max Kilman or Fernando Marcal you might opt instead for first choices Willy Boly or Conor Coady who both have 3 returns. Kilman could also prove to be a great bargain if he can become a regular and Rui Patricio is a fine, if expensive, choice in goal. Wolves TST is a little more uncertain than some others. Southampton and Leicester are both Tier D, but have some of the sharpest strikers in the game on their day and Palace and Arsenal (E) have Zaha and Aubameyang in particular to worry about while Liverpool (A) lurk in GW 11.
Leicester City – opposition TST: 13 (promising)Embed from Getty Images
Leicester’s only elite ABC candidate, Timothy Castagne, has just been ruled out for a month with injury and may face a fight with Ricardo Pereira for his place once he returns, so we can’t recommend picking him up for your team. If James Justin is able to keep his own place he will benefit from home matches against Wolves and Fulham (both Tier F) as well as a trip to Sheffield United (E), though these are interspersed with visits to Leeds (D) and Liverpool (A).
West Bromwich Albion – opposition TST: 14 (intriguing)Embed from Getty Images
No West Brom player fully meets our ABC criteria, but, as they seem to be improving at the back we did want to mention that the fixtures for Sam Johnstone (2, 0, 3, 3, 9, 5) dovetail nicely with Alex McCarthy if you were looking for a cheap rotation pair. Johnstone’s game at Fulham (Tier F) this weekend could be a useful safe haven while Southampton journey to Villa and when the Saints host Manchester United in GW10 West Brom will play Sheffield United (E) at the Hawthorns.
Everton – opposition TST: 10 (mouth-watering)Embed from Getty Images
If only Everton were less prone to gaffes at the back! Visits to Newcastle (Tier E), Fulham and Burnley (both F) are far from scary while Manchester United and Leeds (both D) are overperforming a low chance count or underperforming a high one respectively. Lucas Digne‘s attacking returns help him on to our list, though he will be suspended for the Newcastle game. If you’d like to invest, Michael Keane’s (6, 7, 2, 1, 8, 1) ability at set pieces could be your route in.
Liverpool – opposition TST: 14 (average)Embed from Getty Images
Now ordinarily we wouldn’t be recommending anybody from a defence shipping this many goals, but when Andy Robertson (4, 6, 10, -1, 6, 2) is playing virtually as a winger in Liverpool’s A rated attack you have to make an exception. If you’re ok with him being the second most expensive defender in the game he gets West Ham (Tier C) first up before the showdown with Manchester City (D). Things get a little easier afterwards with Leicester (D) and Wolves (F) visiting Anfield. There’s also a trip to Brighton (D).
But you’ve missed out…
Jamie Vardy – he has a haul and 3 returns, which is elite, but has only played 30 minutes in Leicester’s last two.
Raul Jimenez – 4 returns, which is excellent, but no haul. And last season shows this is not surprising.
Alexandre Lacazatte – Arsenal’s leading attacker with 3 returns, but low minutes and no haul
Leeds defenders – lots of attacking play from Dallas and Ayling, but only 2 returns so far. Goalkeeper Ilan Meslier has a haul and 2 returns at a very competitive price.
Karl Darlow – A high volume of saves has given him 3 returns, but he is a bit pricey.
I’ve made it this far. I think I deserve to see the whole TST table with strength of schedule included as I am seriously considering a Fulham triple up…
And so you shall…