The week in Fantasy Premier League: Bandwagon mania and the search for the next Milivojevic

There are now over five million Fantasy Premier League teams registered - and all the new managers got a taste of some of the many hair-pulling frustrations the rest of us have been enduring for years.

Armies of managers were well and truly “Christensen’ed” as popular players like Pascal Groß (BRI, 7.0), Riyad Mahrez (MCI, 9.0), Aaron Ramsey (ARS, 7.5) and Cédric Soares (SOU, 4.5) were all hooked before that magic 60-minute mark - the latter even being denied a clean sheet.

 

There was all the controversy around what exactly an assist really is.

 

That special kind of torture of seeing a bench brimming with points you haven’t scored was present and correct.

 

And finally - a massive midweek injury to a big-time, highly-owned player.

 

We saw the traditional bandwagon effect take hold as managers bet on who would become that next underpriced Mahrez, Vardy or Kane. Several candidates quickly rose in price - but are they the real deal?

 

Assessing the bandwagons

Given his rock-bottom price, managers were quick to pounce on Palace defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka (CRY, 4.1) - and who could blame them after that impressive performance and 12-point haul?

He could easily emerge as a genuinely viable fourth defender in that price range, freeing up valuable funds and opening the door to the likes of Lee Peltier (CAR, 4.0) and Ryan Bennett (WOL, 4.0) as fifth defenders we’d all be a bit more comfortable to see languish on our bench.

 

Already Benjamin Mendy (MCI, 6.1) is being hyped as the next Marcus Alonso (CHE, 6.5), thanks to his two assists and a touch heatmap that should really belong to an out-and-out winger.

Comparison courtesy of Fantasyfootballscout.co.uk

 

He is a slight rotation risk in the long-term (this is Man City, after all), so be sure to have a fully playing defence behind him - not a bad idea generally in this new age of rotation.

Marcos Alonso may yet turn out to be this season’s Marcos Alonso, although a heatmap comparison of the Huddersfield match (left) and last season shows he doesn’t appear to have quite as much licence to bomb forward as part of Chelsea’s new four-man backline.

Comparison courtesy of Fantasyfootballscout.co.uk

Richarlison (EVE, 6.6) is not an easy player to trust after his barren spell last season, but the price is tempting and it's looking like Marco Silva can get the best out of him.

 

Nine touches in the penalty box from Roberto Pereyra (WAT, 6.1) was second only to Raheem Sterling (MCI, 11.0) among midfielders in GW1. However, given that the former Juventus midfielder faces Burnley away, as well as Tottenham and Man United in the next four, the early-season splurge on him may be premature.

His teammate José Holebas (WAT, 4.6) was another to make an impression in GW1. Taking corners and a direct free kicks saw him create a table-topping five chances and five successful crosses - but those fixtures, as well as his reputation as a card magnet, are cause for concern.

The rise of the £5m midfielder

It looks like the days of reaping 100+ points a season from £4.5m midfielders like George Boyd, Danny Drinkwater, Étienne Capoue and Darren Fletcher (yes, really) are behind us.

With that in mind, managers are considering if it’s worth splashing out the extra £0.5 for the significant upgrade available in the £5.0m range. Even for those not planning to start with five in midfield, the prospect of welcoming a genuinely exciting first sub into your team more often than you'd like to admit will happen has an undeniable appeal.

So who is this season’s Luka Milivojevic?

So far, thousands have put their faith in Rúben Neves (WOL, 5.1) and it’s not difficult to see why.

 

Critics will point to his withdrawn position and single assist in the Championship last season, but, much like ‘Milly’ himself, that won't bother his owners won’t mind so long as he continues to get all those scoring opportunities from free kicks and penalties.

Similarly, a converted penalty against Huddersfield was enough to convince around 150,000 FPL managers to use their first transfer on Jorginho (CHE, 5.1) - despite Eden Hazard’s absence at the time it was taken.

Dare we put N'Golo Kanté (CHE, 5.0) into this category? Long regarded as the walking embodiment of a bear-trap for inexperienced FPL managers, the arrival of Jorginho may have altered his role somewhat.

Kanté’s average position against The Terriers was right on the forward tip of the centre circle - identical to the most advanced position of all of last season (which was also GW1, incidentally).

His 20 successful passes in the final third in GW1 were second only to teammate Pedro among all midfielders and his “passes received” heatmap shows promise, too.

Comparison courtesy of Fantasyfootballscout.co.uk

 

He scored 101 points despite only three attacking returns in a below-par Chelsea team last season - surely he could be expected to least match that this time around.

Under-the-radar players

Headline-grabbing braces, penalties and free kicks saw the launch of multiple bandwagons - but what about those players whose low-key GW1 totals hide the potential for much more in the future?

Goals from Raul Jimenez (WOL, 5.5) and Joselu (NEW, 5.0) kept them in the reckoning in the budget forward category, but it was Danny Ings (SOU, 5.5) who arguably impressed more.

The former Liverpool man only needed 34 minutes to create a staggering four chances for teammates against Burnley, and seems to have enough goal and assist potential to at least justify that meagre pricetag, should he stay fit.

 

Fears around Europa League rotation or fatigue curtailed pre-season investment in Burnley defenders, but we really needn’t have worried - none of the preferred back four started against Basaksehir last night. Ben Mee (BUR, 5.0) and James Tarkowski (BUR, 5.0) both picked up bonus points against Southampton and look like reassuringly dull defensive investments for the season ahead.

Had Trent Alexander-Arnold (LIV, 5.0) scored his expertly-saved free-kick against West Ham, he would undoubtedly have risen in price by now.

Given that Liverpool haven’t conceded a league goal at Anfield since February, that price is comical should he continue to keep Nathaniel Clyne (LIV, 5.0) at bay.

Finally, anyone considering knee-jerking Riyad Mahrez (MCI, 9.0) out should think twice - KDB’s injury means that the Algerian is now almost guaranteed to start for City and should remain on free kick and corner duties also.

 

QUICK TIP

The lack of points from forwards in GW1 has had many discussing the “death of forwards” and wondering if their FPL funds are better spent in defence.

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Don’t believe the hype - one Gameweek is not a trend.

Harry Kane (TOT, 12.5) may have looked bleary-eyed against after a busy World Cup and the birth of his daughter, but it’s only a matter of time before either he, or another of the big-name forwards, become a major factor in FPL again. Food for thought for anyone looking to radically restructure their team.

 

BUY

How good did Sadio Mane (LIV, 9.6) look against West Ham last week?

He was taking penalties in pre-season before Fabinho missed against Torino - expect a stampede of new owners should he puts that ball on the spot when it counts.

 

TRY

Let’s be honest - for all our sage talk of maximising points and the like, the greatest joy to be found in FPL is looking dead clever to your mates.

If you fancy looking justifiably smug for a while, then picking up a player James Maddison (LEI, 6.5) right now could bring kudos galore. If you wait a week and he scores against Wolves in GW2, well then, you’re just another bandwagon-jumper with no imagination!

 

GOODBYE

He may have grabbed a fortuitous assist, but Alexis Sánchez (MUN, 10.5) continues to look lost in a Man United shirt.

He cut an isolated figure against Leicester, registering a solitary (off-target) shot and just six successful passes in the final third.

 

Top of the League

Congratulations to Emmett Hickey - his FredTheRed side are top of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 19990-119302) on 125 points. He did what most of us would love to have done and played an early bench boost, thus sweeping up those Wan-Bissaka points. "matthew matthew" and Oscar Alcatraz are second and third respectively.

 


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