As FPL managers emerge blinking into the low, November sunlight after their forced hibernation over the Festival of Nations League, they may look, blinking, at their squad and scarcely believe that the admins have already put the Christmas decorations up. Bright red and yellow baubles everywhere and some expensive presents have been wrapped up and cannot be opened for a while. Lucky managers will have a pre-Christmas wildcard they can post to restore some good cheer, while others will be hoping to find that longed-for captain pick at the bottom of the stocking. As Santa’s elves report for pre-Yuletide training, we at the ABC Transfer Guide offer you a catalogue of elite transfer candidates.
Throughout these articles so far we’ve been keen to stress that we’re looking specifically for players that can make a strong contribution to your weekly score over the medium to long term, using our ABC criteria built from looking at last season’s data. We’re identifying players who, over the most recent six gameweeks have:
A) Returned (5+ pts) in at least 50% of appearances (3 out of 6)
B) Hauled (10+ pts) in at least 15% of appearances (1 out of 6)
C) Played at least 410 minutes (or 76% of the time available, maximum 540)
Players sustaining those levels of performance are almost certain to score 200+ FPL points over a season. Players falling a little short in one of the criteria are heading for 160-200. In Part 1 of this week’s Guide we look at the attacking players who’ve been matching those standards over recent gameweeks, starting with…
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STRIKERSEmbed from Getty Images
Much is being made of the “fixture swing” about to take place between Tottenham and Manchester City, who usher in that turning point by facing each other this weekend at the new White Hart Lane stadium. Tens of thousands of FPL managers have their fingers poised over the button to sell expensive Harry Kane and immediately buy… someone. Presumably a City forward given the upcoming home games against Burnley and Fulham that everyone is making such a fuss about. Except both City strikers are returning from injury and nobody knows which one will actually be playing. But who wouldn’t be itching for ditching an asset whose most recent FPL scores read 21, 5, 16, 16, 5, 6, 9, and is one of only two players in the league to return in each of the last six gameweeks? Sure, Chelsea have tightened up a lot, but Arsenal just gave Villa the freedom of the Emirates, Palace haven’t kept a clean sheet since the opening day and Liverpool have been conceding two a game even before embarking on a mission to shore up a backline missing 3/4 of its component parts. Add to that that Kane is likely to take penalties and be involved in pretty much any Spurs goalscoring and we’d recommend only letting him go if you have a really solid captaincy plan depending on it.
When we switched on “Teams Selected By %” for Southampton on the FPL site we had to rub our eyes. Twice. And even then we still didn’t believe that Che Adams’s ownership is a mere 4.5%. On our criteria he is behind only the Tottenham captain as the best performing attacker. Backing up Danny Ings, Che had already qualified for our list with scores of 5, 2, 11, 8, 5, but people doubted whether he could step up to the main role once his strike partner was sidelined for the next month. So he responded by giving Newcastle’s defence a torrid time and scoring to keep his great run going. The Wolves defence is very stingy and Manchester United have got their act together, but with Southampton proving very hard to handle and games against Brighton and Sheffield United on the horizon we’ll be surprised if Adams’s ownership is not soon well above ‘differential’ levels.Embed from Getty Images
Ings himself also technically makes our list, but clearly shouldn’t be purchased right now because of that knee injury. Much the same could be said for Callum Wilson whose regular returns, and hauls of 12 and 16, look to have been derailed in the short term by hamstring problems.
A lacklustre stumble at St. Mary’s (was that a Marillion B-side?) is the only fixture so far where Dominic Calvert-Lewin (I think he was the keyboardist) has failed to give his owners something worthwhile, especially at his price. His goal and assist in the last two matches came without much of his crucial supporting cast, and particularly Richarlison who is poised to return and make defences have to counter his speed on top of keeping DCL’s predatory instincts at bay. Like Manchester City, Everton play Burnley very soon but before that they face newly promoted Fulham and Leeds, both of whom have struggled to keep the opposition out. Kane, Adams and Calvert-Lewin will find it hard to keep up this rate of return, but even a moderate regression still sees them bringing back elite level FPL numbers.
A trio of newcomers are our final three ABC qualifiers up front. Timo Werner (24.5% owned) looks as if he’s going to be playing predominantly on the left after all, which might limit his hauls, but he’s starting to look like a West London Aubameyang with a goal in each of his last two starts to go with the 16 points he racked up getting in behind Southampton. Patrick Bamford‘s nine goal involvements have seen him become the third most owned FPL striker at 35%. Early fears about game time have evaporated and with Bamford’s two goal salvo at Selhurst (seriously, though) as well as Leeds besting both Liverpool and Manchester City for possession, he seems set to convert good chances in even the toughest matchups. At 6.1m he shares a price tag with the up and coming Ollie Watkins, but the former Brentford man only has a 7.6% ownership and his fixtures look easier than Bamford’s which might be useful to know if you’re struggling to decide between them.
YOU’VE FORGOTTEN JAMIE VARDY AGAIN…Embed from Getty Images We haven’t, you know. Same issue as last time. Quite a lot of minutes, but not enough. He missed a whole game as well as two thirds of another. His returns are absolutely fine if you’re OK with that, but at 10.1 he’s more money than Werner and almost as much as Kane. If he stays fit he does have a nice run of matchups incoming. Tammy Abraham has quietly put together a run of 6, 5, 1, 1, 5, 8, but the minutes are a bit low and there are no hauls. His 2.3% ownership can be put down to 1) nobody expecting him to play once Timo Werner hit his stride, 2) managers too busy trying to work out which new Chelsea midfielder is about to strike a zillion point gameweek and/or 3) trying to decide between steady Zouma, ready Mendy, heady James or going the Full Chilwell or 4) seriously, though, nobody thought he’d be a regular by now.
The standout midfielder on our ABC criteria at the moment is Mo Salah with a recent record of 5, 13, 7, 2, 8, 9. Unfortunately, thanks to positive COVID tests, standing out is exactly what he will be doing when Leicester visit Anfield on Sunday evening. We wish him a full recovery asap, obviously, but purely from an FPL perspective he could miss the following game at Brighton as well and even that assumes he is relatively untroubled by the virus itself. We would completely understand managers temporarily selling the most expensive asset in the game under the circumstances.Embed from Getty Images
In his absence, two other talismanic midfielders are emerging as must haves. As the season began we pointed out that Bruno Fernandes was threatening to overwhelm any and all barometers of FPL success. Bearing in mind Kevin De Bruyne was last season’s HaulMeister with a show stopping ten, Fernandes has already compiled three plus another return and, much as with Harry Kane, seems always to be involved whenever his side grab a goal. West Bromwich Albion at home seems an enticing next fixture, but the games get tougher straight after with trips to Southampton and West Ham followed by the Manchester derby against a newly parsimonious City.
In that same early season article we dared to suggest that last season’s 149 points at 4.26 points per game was probably exactly who Jack Grealish was and purchasers should not expect much more. Jack decided to prove us, and quite a few other people, wrong by growing into a true team leader at a rate of 8.6 points per game (better than anybody not playing for Spurs) and establishing himself in the national side to boot. As with the others at this elite level he seems capable of returning against anyone and upcoming home games against Brighton, Newcastle and Burnley look unlikely to hurt his chances.
If you’re looking for differentials that might benefit from Grealish’s form, Villa team mates John McGinn and Ross Barkley are well placed to do that, though the Scotsman needs a return imminently to replace the pair of 10s about to drop off his six gameweek record. Barkley’s returns have been more recent which could make it worth spending the extra 0.5m on him.Embed from Getty Images
Some pundits are confident that Marcus Rashford might similarly profit from the riches offered by Bruno Fernandes’s Midas touch. Speaking as a recent Rashford owner I can say that the experience can be frustrating, partly because of the constant predictions that “this is the week!” when the typical result is a 2 or a 5. At 9.6m the outlay required is also way above what you’d pay for the Villa contingent or three other midfielders meeting our elite ABC criteria.
The first of those is Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha who is quietly keeping his impressive early season run going. 7.4m is buying a steady return of goals and assists and even two hauls in the opening eight fixtures. With Burnley, Newcastle and West Brom next up it looks like a time to buy rather than for his 29.6% ownership to sell.
Pablo Fornals is the only West Ham attacker to make our list. In contrast to most other, steadier options here he either goes big (9,10,12) or goes home (2,2,3) but he now plays 70+ minutes at least and that kind of scoring is just fine for a fourth mid at 6.4m. Basically, he’s achieving what everybody thought his team mate Tomas Soucek was going to do, which reminds us how rare it is to find a regularly contributing midfield asset as low as 5m.
Saying that, Stuart Armstrong at 5.5m is showing what can be possible in the right circumstances. He was a revelation in the 2-0 win over Newcastle as, effectively, the support striker to Che Adams while Theo Walcott revelled in Armstrong’s theoretical position wider right. The next couple of defences are tough, but at that price you can most likely afford to bench him for less promising fixtures knowing he might still help out if required.
Which brings us full circle to Spurs and Heung-Min Son. You may be surprised to see him all the way down here in our list, but his record in the most recent six gameweeks is Super Fornals. Three blanks (1,2,3) and three home runs (11,13,18). When you think about it like that you wonder how Son is owned by comfortably more than half the managers in FPL and Fornals is owned by fewer than 2 in every 100. If you believe in the Fixture Turn Monster, it makes you think, doesn’t it?
What about Chelsea?
Talking of which, we fully expect a Chelsea midfielder or two in future updates, but Jorginho’s on the way out, Ziyech is on the way in and Mason never quite seems to aMount to enough (two returns from six games). Havertz has the required three returns, but no haul and is trying to get fit after his own brush with COVID.
One in ten managers now think Diogo Jota’s 6.5m price tag is worth a gamble, but he’s yet to get a double figure return (our friend Fornals has two). Theo Walcott is also promising at 5.8m, but has been in and out of the lineup so far.
DEFENDERSEmbed from Getty Images
Six defenders meet our full ABC criteria: two each from Aston Villa and Chelsea and one from both West Ham and Wolves. We’ve already mentioned the agonies many managers are having with Chelsea defensive assets, and it isn’t made any easier by the spread of prices and starting likelihoods involved. The two that pass our tests are Ben Chilwell and Kurt Zouma. Chilwell is fast emerging as “The New Trent Alexander Arnold” given the Liverpool dynamo has not been sparking lately and now faces time on the sidelines. Chelsea’s left back has stepped into the breach with a run of 18, 3, 6, 6, 8 since he arrived in the first team, featuring the full complement of 450 minutes in the process. A pair of goals and assists in that time allied to a trio of clean sheets is a potent FPL brew and more than a quarter of managers are ordering that from the menu. Given the number of high performing, low price attackers and Chilwell’s apparent freedom from rotation it’s increasingly hard to make an argument for not joining them. If funds don’t stretch that far, however, Kurt Zouma has also played every minute of the last five with returns of 13, 1, 9, 14, 2 thanks to another brace of scores and half a dozen bonus points. Zouma’s set piece prowess and strong defensive performances mean that you could potentially cover Chilwell’s pyrotechnics for 0.6m less.
Tyrone Mings is doing a similar job in the centre of Villa’s defence, though his pair of double figure opening scores have given way to steadier returns (12, 1, 7, 0, 6, 6). He’s another that stays on the pitch throughout and is 0.1m cheaper than Zouma with some promising looking fixtures, but for value you might be tempted instead by Birmingham’s answer to Chilwell, Matt Targett who is getting increasingly involved in Villa’s attack as well as benefitting from the side not yet having conceded a goal away from home despite visiting both Leicester and Arsenal and all for a mere 4.5m.
With Aaron Cresswell, it’s assists that are boosting his scores above his Hammers colleagues. Three in the past six matches, though he was unsurprisingly quieter against Manchester City and Liverpool. Add five bonus points and three clean sheets and you can see why he’s currently performing in the top five bracket amongst all defenders (7, 15, 5, 2, 1, 6) at a tempting price of 5.1.Embed from Getty Images
He only fought his way into the Wolves team in gameweek 4, but he’s been ever present since then and his (somewhat fortunate) assist against Leeds has helped Max Kilman to be our sixth and final ABC elite defender. Please do be aware, though, that Max’s father very sadly passed away this week and we would understand entirely if playing against Southampton was not his primary consideration right now.
THAT’S NOT VERY MANY DEFENDERS…
We said at the start of the season that the vast majority of defenders and goalkeepers haul (10+ points) almost randomly, so we’re a little surprised that actually this many qualify under our elite criteria at the moment. Therefore it makes sense to give a mention to defenders who are getting regular returns and minutes which, for them, are the two most significant ABC stats.
Which leads us to talk about the only player apart from Sir Harold of Kane to get a return in every single one of the last six gameweeks. Step forward (and loom impressively over us) Janik Vestergaard (watch for that second “a” there), a man delighting tennis fans everywhere with a scoreboard of 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 (I’m guessing it’s his big serve). Take a moment to consider that Janik will set you back a paltry 4.7m and then stroke your chin further as you muse on his near differential status with just a 9% ownership. Then buy him. Seriously. Team mate Jan Bednarek is also courting to be seeded in fantasy lineups with 8-6, 1-6, 1-6 (that first tie break must have been so good it earned a bonus), but Kyle Walker-Peters is also well worth consideration with his overlapping attacking threat (6, 5, 1, 5, 1, 9).Embed from Getty Images
If you’re in the market for a bargain alternative to Aaron Cresswell, then Fabian Balbuena is currently offering some of the best value in the whole game with four returns at 4.4m (6, 6, 7, 1, 1, 6). Thiago Silva seems to rack up a return every time he takes to the stage, but, like Reece James, his performances are subject to late notice cancellation. Players with three returns, but behind other options mentioned above are Cash and Konsa (Villa), Bertrand (Southampton), Coufal (West Ham) and the Wolves trio of Boly, Coady and Semedo. Two more are the only representatives from their sides. Stuart Dallas is pretty much bound to turn up somewhere in any given Leeds lineup and often appears around the box, though Leeds conceding eight in their last two shows they still have a way to go before we can trust them for clean sheets. Joao Cancelo, however, is deservedly attracting a lot of attention as he emerges as a leading chance creator amongst FPL defenders playing for Manchester City who have historically converted them for fun. He’s not cheap at 5.4m, but he’s been ever present in City’s last four (8, 5, 8, 3) and is owned by only an eye-opening 2.4% of teams. If he’s not going to be habitually rotated for Mendy or Zinchenko, or against certain types of opponents, he could rival Chilwell for TAA’s displaced crown.
Tricky as our ABC criteria are, two keepers have managed to pass them all and make it on to our elite recommended list. And differential chasers will be delighted to hear about their low ownership. Rui Patricio (8th most owned GK) saved one of Jamie Vardy’s two penalties in their gameweek 8 encounter and that, in a match decided by Vardy’s earlier success from the spot, was enough to see the Wolves man walk away with 3 bonus points for a haul of 10. Wolves have only conceded two goals since gameweek 3 and, given that their attack has disturbed the statisticians equally infrequently, you can pick Patricio safe in the knowledge that he won’t block you from picking up some free scoring frontmen. However, that dependability comes with a steep 5.5m price tag.
Lukasz Fabianski (£5m), meanwhile, carries the distinction of being not only the 22nd (TWENTY SECOND!) most owned goalkeeper at 2.7%, but also significantly lower retained than his own understudy David Martin, not to mention several other peoples’. Now we know West Ham had an unfavourable looking start to the season, but to leave the Duke of Glovebourne alone in the Fantasy Premier League, standing amongst a slate full of save points, clean sheets and triple bonuses with his reputation? Has no one thought of the consequences? (Which are, incidentally, 7, 6, 2, 7, 2, 15…)
As with defenders, goalkeeper hauls are rare and three others have managed three returns in their last four fixtures. Southampton’s Alex McCarthy has actually managed four, and at a bargain value of 4.5m one fifth of fantasy managers have noticed, making him the second highest owned custodian behind Villa’s Martinez. Plenty have noticed Edouard Mendy‘s contribution to Chelsea’s defensive resurgence, too, but at 5.1m and with so many other Stamford Bridge assets vying for our attention we can see why his ownership is only mid-level. Emiliano Martinez himself is the final man on our list with four clean sheets so far this season. Did we mention Villa have not conceded an away goal at all? Not a single one. Did we?