With 11 Gameweeks of the Fantasy Premier League season left, it could make sense to target teams battling at the top and the bottom of the league after the disappointment of Double Gameweek 26.
I had really pinned my hopes on an attacking approach paying dividends in Double Gameweek 26, but it all turned out to be a bit… meh.
When we reflect on what’s going on now compared to what we saw at the beginning of the season, it all appears to be heading towards a flatline.
But let’s not lose hope. There are 11 weeks of the season left and while Manchester City look like they’ve all but wrapped up the title, there will be more twists and turns in the battle for the top four and relegation.
Race for the Champions League
There are eight teams (excluding Manchester City) with a shot at the top four this season. Manchester United and Leicester are in pole position, with Chelsea, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham, Liverpool and Aston Villa all hoping they can qualify for the Champions League next season. I’m not counting Arsenal, I think their race is run.
I am half-tempted to exclude Liverpool from this list. They are now seven points behind Chelsea, with absolutely no momentum going forward. The lack of chances they are creating is simply unbelievable and players like Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.4m) look like shadows of their former selves.
I will be selling Salah this week. A tricky game against Wolves is followed by a blank and Jurgen Klopp could shift his priorities to the Champions League, as the race for the top four looks like too high a mountain for the Premier League champions to climb.
The player could have the biggest significance in our FPL seasons is Diogo Jota (£6.6m), who forced a smart save from Alphonse Areola (£4.5m) at the weekend. I fancy Jota to get back up to speed pretty quickly and will likely be used to allow players like Salah and Sadio Mané (£11.8m) to get a bit of rest in-between Champions League matches. He is the Liverpool only player I am tempted by in my Wildcard in either Gameweek 30 or 31.
Leicester have built up an impressive points tally this season but are now hampered with injuries to several key players. I was very tempted to jump aboard the Ricardo Pereira (£5.9m) train, but it seems to still be stuck at the station. Looking at Leicester’s players, there is no one I would consider until James Maddison (£7.2m) returns from injury. If Leicester are going to get into the top four, it will be by crawling over the line rather than by any strong finish, so I’ll be avoiding their players too.
Outside of this, teams like Chelsea, Everton, Spurs and West Ham all have the wind in their sails. Chelsea perhaps look the strongest, but outside of Antonio Rudiger (£4.6m) and the solid if unspectacular pick of Mason Mount (£7.0m), there’s no one else I would consider at this stage due to the huge amount of rotation, although Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.7m) has still started every match of the Thomas Tuchel era at Chelsea.
Encouragingly for Fantasy managers, the other three teams have plenty of players for us to consider. Brave managers may elect to go against the popular Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.8m) with suggestions from Carlo Ancelotti that his position may change to get more out of the supremely talented Richarlison (£7.9). I’m also struggling to think of a better defender out there than Lucas Digne (£6.2m) at the moment, who looks so dangerous every time I see him play.
For Spurs, I couldn’t be happier to see Gareth Bale (£9.4m) back in form. He’s one of my favourite players of all time and he’s showing signs that he’s not just thinking of getting a birdie on hole nine.
The trouble is, his minutes will surely continue to be managed so you’ll likely have to put up with a 60 to 70 minute appearance. He’s been devastating recently even with reduced game-time, but the logical side of my brain is telling me that Son Heung-min (£9.5m) is the better pick as Jose Mourinho continues to work him relentlessly with no sign of a rest in the league. The ownership difference between them is stark, at 5% vs. 55%, and if Bale continues to deliver, acquiring him over Son could be a season-defining move.
Lastly, we have West Ham and Villa. Two teams who, if you had told me would be fighting for a top four spot at this stage of the season, I’d have laughed you out of the building.
Other than Jack Grealish (£7.5m), I find it hard to recommend any Villa attackers for your teams, with Ollie Watkins (£6.6m) surely a contender for the unluckiest player of the season. He’s a great player and a fantastic purchase for Villa, but I’m not sure about him as an FPL option. Especially now the Villains are struggling for goals which I think will ultimately mean they fall short of playing the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich next season. Instead, it’s all about their defence, with Emiliano Martinez (£5.4m) in the running for a spot on my wall of fame next season, and the likes of Matt Target (£5.0m) and Ezri Konsa (£4.6m) offering great value in defence.
West Ham have a frankly unbelievable number of players that wouldn’t look amiss in anyone’s team. Michail Antonio (£6.6m) looks almost unplayable and I quickly remedied my decision to get rid of him last week by bringing him back in immediately. The likes of Jesse Lingard (£6.1m) and Tomas Soucek (£5.3m) are offering great value in an attack that promises goals almost every game and Vladimir Coufal (£4.6m) looks a snip at his price. Aaron Cresswell (£5.8m) is getting a bit pricey now, but if you’ve got him in your team I can’t think of any reason to let the highest-scoring defender in the game go – but I do think if you’re in the market for a defender than Coufal looks perhaps better value for the run-in.
The battle to avoid the drop
It pains me to say this as a Brighton fan, but I think we’re in big trouble.
Fulham have got something about them as they put in consistently impressive performances – and crucially pick up points. Josh Maja (£5.5m) looks a great signing – he has so much energy and if he can start to add a few more goals to his game, should help to propel Fulham up the table. The likes of Ola Aina (£4.5m) and Areola look like solid options too and, against all odds, Scott Parker’s team could be fine this season.
West Brom have been playing better lately, but, like Sheffield United, are too far gone. I think it’s going to be a two-way battle for the third relegation spot – with the Seagulls battling the Magpies to avoid having their wings clipped and a drop down to the Championship.
Looking at the teams, Brighton surely have more than enough to stay up. But the fact is, we just can’t win a game. An impressive victory against Liverpool aside, it is now five games in a row without taking three points, despite some really impressive performances, particularly against Crystal Palace and West Brom, which resulted in no points.
There’s something wrong with us up-front and there has been for two seasons now. Do not invest in our attack, that’s my main message. I’ve had messages from people who are wondering who the best options are, as Brighton have a match in Blank Gameweek 29, but none of them can be trusted.
The only players I’d consider investing in are Joel Veltman (£4.3m) and Lewis Dunk (£4.9m). With Lamptey now ruled out until the end of the season, Veltman could be a steal at his price if Brighton can start to pick up some points. He’s performed well in all the games I’ve seen him play, and I believe he is a much stronger option than the likes of Dan Burn (£4.2m) and Ben White (£4.4m) because of his attacking threat.
Dunk to me is still the standout in our team and probably our main source of goals however odd that sounds. I’m thinking of switching John Stones (£5.3m) for him before Blank Gameweek 29. He’s been a great servant, but with the threat of Aymeric Laporte (£6.0m), long term I now think that Ruben Dias (£6.1m) is the most sensible defender to own.
I’ll keep my piece on Newcastle short. The injuries mean that there is no one in their team that I would consider and while I’m pessimistic about Brighton going forward, I just can’t see how Newcastle are going to score any goals. Joelinton (£5.7m) has to be one of the worst signings in Premier League history and as Jermaine Beckford said last week, “he’s not exactly a player that you can rely on”. Too right. In fact, I’m targetting teams playing Newcastle – both with the hope they’ll lose enough games to keep Brighton safe, but also because their squad is perhaps the weakest in the league, particularly in terms of a lack of any real attacking threat.
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