The 2019/20 Premier League season may still be over two weeks away, but with pre-season fixtures coming thick and fast in a number of ‘competitions’ that each sound more made up than the last – the International Champions Cup? What does that even mean? – that delightful little combination of nerves and excitement is just beginning to creep in.
As fans up and down the country ready themselves for another buffet of ecstasy and despondency, with a potential pinch of hilarity thrown in for good measure; for a sizeable percentage of the country, the start of the Premier League season means Fantasy Football time!
??While many of you will undoubtedly have already spent hours pouring over your team selection and completing painstaking research in order to assemble an Avengers-level squad that will go forth and vanquish all of your enemies, some of you will still be cursing the pricing structure’s uncanny ability to always leave you £0.1m away from the team of your dreams.
If you are one of the latter, fear not, for we have compiled a list of outsider picks that won’t just save you that crucial bit of coin so you can finally get Mohamed Salah and Raheem Sterling into the same side, but also give you some sneaky points that your rivals won’t be enjoying.
All prices listed below are from Fantasy Premier League, so if you ply your Fantasy Football trade elsewhere be sure to check their pricing structure.
After spending almost the entirety of last season on the sidelines following severe ligament damage, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has already been given the cliched ‘like a new signing’ billing by Jurgen Klopp.
While these sorts of statements are usually infallible in their ability to induce groans from the team’s supporters, there is undeniable credence to Klopp’s claims. Before suffering his injury, Chamberlain had begun to nail down a starting position for Liverpool, and was arguably in the form of his career.
With the majority of Fantasy Football managers betting big on the Reds’ ‘Fab Three’, and assist-machines Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold; there is a gap in the market for a goalscoring midfielder who could benefit from defensive sides focusing all their attention upon Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane.
While the Ox has never been a prolific scorer or creator of goals, this is due more to squad rotation than technical ability. But give him a regular place and he will shine; trust us.
There may be another two weeks until the pomp, ceremony, and inevitable underwhelming crescendo of transfer deadline day, but it would take something quite remarkable for someone to make a better buy than Youri Tielemans before then.
Considered by many to be the bargain of the summer following his dynamic displays for
Leicester in the second half of last season, the Foxes managed to make the Belgian international’s loan move permanent for a mere £40m – much to the bewilderment of fans and pundits alike.
If £40m looks a good price for a young, box-to-box midfielder who seems to possess all of the traits of a top-class footballer; £6.5m on Fantasy Football is daylight robbery. Tielemans picked up three goals and four assists in his 13 appearances last season, yet the majority of managers seem to be passing him over in favour of teammate, James Maddison.
Don’t follow the crowd, opt for Tielemans as a cheaper and potentially more profitable alternative.
We’ve all been there; you’ve spent the last hour chopping and changing your squad, filling out your bench with the cheapest of the cheap to scrape together that extra bit of cash to fit in as many superstars as possible, and there’s just one slot left to fill, but the coffers are almost exhausted. How are you possibly going to get a solid point accumulator to compliment your big point players?
Up steps Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, your knight in shining armour, even if he looks more like a peasant in rags – figuratively speaking of course, I’m sure the Dane has got excellent dress sense – but he isn’t what you’d call a classic Fantasy Football choice.
However, at just £5m and a guaranteed starter, Hojbjerg is the perfect squad player. With 90 points last season – just four less than the £8.5m priced Dele Alli – the Danish international can be the constant, dependable figure to build your squad around.
Mason Greenwood has been one of the worst kept secrets at Manchester United for quite some time. With an outrageous Under-18s and Under-23s record of 46 goals and 13 assists in just 43 games, the 17-year-old looks set to be the next big United academy star.
Having already appeared for the Red Devils in both the Premier League and Champions League last season, Greenwood seems likely to become a more frequent fixture at Old Trafford during the upcoming campaign.
Indeed, having impressed during the pre-season tour, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already stated that the young striker could feature in their opening clash against Chelsea.
While he is unlikely to usurp teammate Marcus Rashford as United’s primary striker, at just £4.5m he is the absolute definition of a no-brainer, particularly for those managers looking to go with two top-shelf forwards alongside him.
Pep Guardiola may be a footballing genius, and the brand of football that his Manchester City side play is undoubtedly a joy to behold, but for Fantasy Football managers, his squad rotation – particularly in defence – makes him a right pain in the arse.
This uncertainty has led to most people playing it safe with Ederson as their City clean sheet procurer. The issue here is, while the Brazilian is the only real constant at the back for the Citizens, he is unlikely to be troubling the goals and assists columns.
For a City option that can share in that clean sheet points haul and still provide an attacking threat, Oleksandr Zinchenko could be the answer. The Ukrainian international may not have featured heavily last season, but when he did play it wasn’t hard to tell that the man now plying his trade at left-back used to be an attacking midfielder.
Eager to get forward whenever possible and not afraid to shoot from range, Zinchenko has the potential to rake in those big boy defensive points. With Mendy a doubt for the opening fixture, and the 22-year-old coming in at at least £0.5m less than the rest of City’s more established defenders, Zinchenko could be a steal for managers brave enough to gamble on him.
Surely this must be the first time in Fantasy Football history that Chelsea’s most expensive striker comes in at just £7m. However, due to a combination of a transfer embargo and a number of relatively high-profile flops, the Blues can boast of just three centre forwards in their senior squad.
While this might not be great news for Chelsea’s supporters, for the savvy Fantasy Football managers among you, this is a golden opportunity to get a top six striker for peanuts.
When deciding which of the three strikers to go with, the more conservative manager will undoubtedly look to the experience and proven track record of Olivier Giroud. However, the Frenchman has always been more of a bench player during his time at Stamford Bridge, and this seems likely to remain the case – if the pre-season fixtures are anything to go by.
Manager Frank Lampard has preferred Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham thus far, and while the former of the two cannot be discounted, it was Abraham who was handed the start in their biggest fixture to date against Barcelona.
At just 21 years old, Abraham is the young, exciting academy graduate that the Chelsea faithful have been clamouring for. After grabbing himself 25 goals during his loan spell at Aston Villa last season, the youngster will undoubtedly be brimming with confidence and could benefit from Chelsea’s transfer ban.
Being an Everton fan and watching Dominic Calvert-Lewin must be akin to fans of Manchester United and Arsenal watching Danny Welbeck. Two players with unbelievable technical ability, raw pace, and clever movement, who fall apart when they get in front of goal.
Suggesting that you include a striker who is a relatively poor finisher may seem a little counterproductive, but there is some method to the madness. Firstly, Calvert-Lewin is still just 22 years of age, and with that sort of ability it feels like sooner or later the goals will surely come.
Secondly, and more importantly is Everton’s fixture list. The Toffees will enjoy arguably the easiest start to the 2019/20 Premier League campaign of any of the 20 sides competing, with no games against any of the top six until late September.
With favourable fixtures, and the fact that he comes in at just £6m – a full £2m less than Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson – Calvert-Lewin could be the sort of big points, small price tag player, that is the stuff of Fantasy Football dreams.
With lots of managers overloading the defence following on from the heroics of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson last season, finding a cheap point scorer up top is essential.
Ladies and gentleman, introducing, Billy Sharp. The Sheffield United striker is a throwback; even his name sounds old-school, as if he should have been playing in the early 90s with Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand. But, old-school or not, the man knows how to score goals.
Sharp has played all over England, up and down the divisions, and everywhere he’s been, he’s scored goals. While he might be the wrong side of 30, his record seems to be living proof of the adage that age is just a number, with 89 goals in his last four seasons.
Another man coming in at just £6m, he’s the perfect choice for a third striker or bench option – he’ll always start, and will inevitably grab himself a few goals.
As previously discussed, every manager and his dog is throwing all their eggs in the marauding full-back basket – more specifically, the Liverpool marauding full-back basket.
While Alexander-Arnold and Robertson will definitely rake in the points again this year, the cynic inside of me cannot picture them replicating last season’s numbers. Opposition sides will wise up, form will dip, and that £14m you’ve spent on two defenders will begin to give you that dreaded sense of unease that only Fantasy Football errors can cause.
This is why a player like Joe Gomez could be the perfect tonic. Prior to his injury, people were discussing Gomez in the same rapturous fashion that has since been reserved for Alexander-Arnold.
The 22-year-old centre-back looks like a modern day Rio Ferdinand: supremely confident in possession with a delightful range of passes, while still being an intimidating presence at the back.
At £5.5m, Gomez is £1.5m less than the marauding full-backs, and £1m less than his flashier centre back partner, Virgil van Djik, yet has the potential to match them point for point.
Anthony Martial is currently at a career crossroads at Manchester United. As it stands, he is still the immensely talented but terribly frustrating ‘youngster’ who could still become a top-class player.
However, as we edge closer towards his 24th birthday, if the French international doesn’t start churning out consistently impressive performances, his label will soon shift to ‘underachiever’ and from there it’s only a few small steps to ‘flop’.
But that isn’t going to happen. This is going to be the year that he shows the world why he was the best Under-21 player in Europe back in 2015.
The noises coming from Old Trafford have always indicated that Martial’s struggles stem from being played out of position, and that he is far happier playing through the middle. This is something that Solskjaer has clearly heard and throughout pre-season has given the Frenchman a far more central role.
If Martial continues to play through the middle, the Premier League may finally begin to see him reach his incredible potential. More importantly however, from a Fantasy Football perspective, Martial is currently listed as a midfielder, and a £7.5m midfielder at that.
Four strikers anyone?