After a very short break, the Premier League is returning on September 12, and that means Fantasy Premier League (FPL) is back, too. As any regular knows, playing FPL is often a tortuous experience. In the normal run of things, most of us wouldn’t be thrown into existential despair by Burnley conceding a late equaliser to Southampton, or if it turned out Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha didn’t get an assist for a Jordan Ayew goal, but that’s the kind of evil power this game can exert on usually rational people.
Still, I, like many, will get sucked back in, and I’m sure I’ll leave it until the last minute to splurge the notional £100m on my team, The Cosmo Kramers. It’s pretty obvious who FPL’s star men are (Alexander-Arnold, Auba, de Bruyne etc.), so here are a few players who might just offer a bit of value…
Aaron Ramsdale, Sheffield United, £5.0m
My first pick could have you doubting whether I have any right to be dishing out FPL advice, seeing as it’s the goalkeeper of a Bournemouth side who were relegated from the Premier League with a minus 25 goal difference. But Ramsdale performed admirably, despite the fact he was playing behind a defence that was leakier than a torn sieve. By complete contrast, his new team Sheffield United had an excellent defensive record last season. Only Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United conceded fewer league goals than the Blades. With loanee Dean Henderson gone, Ramsdale should be a regular starter for a team that will likely impress at the back again.
James Justin, Leicester City, £4.5m
At times last season the Foxes were as dazzling as their manager Brendan Rodgers’ cosmetically enhanced smile, and a Leicester player or two can usually be relied upon for a strong haul of FPL points. Jamie Vardy is the obvious one to go for, but with first choice right back Ricardo Pereira out injured, his understudy James Justin could be a decent cheap pick for the opening month of the season. Rodgers likes his full backs to attack and Leicester have some favourable fixtures early on, with Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham all coming up in the first few weeks.
Ben Mee, Burnley, £5.0m
Over the years, Burnley defenders have tended to be an affordable source of points. Last season’s top scoring Clarets defender James Tarkowski has been pushed into a slightly pricey £5.5m bracket, so go for his centre back partner Ben Mee instead (or go even cheaper for full back Charlie Taylor). However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Burnley don’t play in the first round of fixtures.
Luke Ayling, Leeds United, £4.5m
Bringing in players from newly promoted teams can be a mug’s game in FPL. If you somehow knew last season that John Lundstram would be the second coming of Franz Beckenbauer that’s all well and good, but what if you’re the twat who went for Wesley because you had “a good feeling” that he would bang them in for Villa? This time around I’m willing risk looking like an idiot in order to be proved a genius. Under Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds have been extremely impressive in the Championship for the last couple of years, deservedly going up as champions last season. There could be some value to be found in attacking full back Luke Ayling, who notched four goals and four assists in their title-winning campaign. There is, of course, also a good chance that the step up in class proves too much for the Whites and Luke’s surname ends up being a perfect reflection of both their Premier League fortunes and my FPL ambitions.
Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United, £10.5m
One of the trickiest things to get right in FPL is how many of the most expensive players to bring in and which ones should be a priority. With that in mind, Bruno is the one elite player I’m going to flag up on this list. Even at £10.5m, he represents cracking value. The Portuguese was a sensation last season, with eight goals and seven assists from just 14 games. He’s £1.5m cheaper than Auba, Salah and Mane, and £1m cheaper than Sterling and de Bruyne, and although that doesn’t sound like much, every (imaginary) penny counts when trying to build a competitive squad. Be warned though, like Burnley, United have a blank gameweek on the opening weekend.
Jarrod Bowen, West Ham, £6.5m
After moving to West Ham from Hull City in January, Bowen proved to be one of the key forces in the Hammers’ good form in the final month of the season. £6.5m is on the expensive side, but Bowen hit the bullseye with four assists post lockdown and there’s no reason why he can’t carry that good form into the new season. Actually, there is a good reason. He plays for West Ham, and they tend to be about as consistent as the Government’s covid strategy. Proceed, but with caution.
Stuart Armstrong, Southampton, £5.5m
With Danny Ings being the notable exception, it’s understandable why FPL managers tend to give Southampton a swerve. They are just, well, Southampton. But after looking like they were heading for relegation under Germany’s leading David Morrissey lookalike Ralph Hassenhutl, the Saints enjoyed a much improved second half of the season, ending comfortably mid-table. Costing just £5.5m, attacking midfielder Stuart Armstrong is an excellent squad player to have at your disposal. I brought him in post-lockdown and he bagged me loads of points – or at least he would have done if I hadn’t kept on benching him whenever he scored or assisted. This time around I’ll be keeping the faith.
Raul Jimenez, Wolves, £8.5m
Unlike in midfield and defence, you can’t really get away with having cheap strikers and expect them to do much for you. It’s all about finding value among mid-priced players and those at the cheaper end of the premium bracket. Wolves’ Raul Jimenez is your man from the latter options and is certainly worth dipping into the war chest for. He plays for a good side in Wolves, almost always starts and scores the bulk of his team’s goals. What’s not to like?
Neal Maupay, Brighton, £6.5m
After an agonising play-off final defeat for my team Brentford, my dream of being able to stick three Bees players into my FPL team died a sad death. To try and ease the pain, I’ll bring our ex-striker Neal Maupay into my squad instead. The downside of buying Brighton players is that their manager Graham Potter is a bit of a mini-Pep. He loves rotation more than a fairground Waltzer operator. But despite the fact Maupay wasn’t a guaranteed starter, he still managed to notch an impressive 131 points in his first season at Premier League level. After a high profile contretemps last season, Arsenal fans might not want to pick the Frenchman, but that could be their loss.