With only eight days until the start of the Premier League season, the time has come to begin deciding upon an FPL squad for Gameweek 1. Here is our 30-man watchlist – these will then form the basis of the final squad, plus a non-playing goalkeeper. There will be some notable omissions so don’t worry if a few of your own players are not included – this is merely one way of narrowing down the 484 player base.
Ederson: With 20 clean sheets in 2018/19, investing in the Manchester City defence is a fairly safe strategy. Whilst save points are rarely a factor for the possession-hungry champions, Ederson currently provides the most reliable way into those clean sheets, after today’s news about a potential Joao Cancelo transfer and knock for Aymeric Laporte.
Hugo Lloris: No other Premier League goalkeeper made 100+ saves and 10+ clean sheets in 2018/19. Saves will continue as long as his save percentage remains high – only Alisson, Pope and De Gea have had a higher percentage in any of the last three seasons. Home fixtures against Aston Villa, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Watford by mid-October should help to supplement those saves with clean sheets.
Nick Pope: As referenced above, Pope’s standout 2017/18 brought him a save percentage of 77% and a 152 FPL point return with it. With Tom Heaton now at Aston Villa, Pope should be clear to start ahead of Joe Hart, as long as he recovers from a groin strain in time for next Saturday’s visit of Southampton.
Andy Robertson: High ownership, 213 points last season, second for both xA and chances created amongst defenders in 2018/19 – all for just £7.0m.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: Similarly to Robertson, Alexander-Arnold is one of the league’s most productive attacking full-backs and is part of one of the best defences. His 2018/19 points per match was only bettered by Salah and Sterling.
Virgil Van Dijk: He certainly does not carry as much attacking potential as his aforementioned teammates but the cut-price £6.5m valuation is attractive and 208 points last season speaks for itself.
Aymeric Laporte: A player that perfectly fits our value criteria of 30 points per million, if last season’s performance was repeated with this season’s price on a points per match basis. Laporte also provides a reliable route into the City backline if fit, but with the odd goal or assist on top to justify his £0.5m higher valuation than Ederson.
Lucas Digne: Chance creator extraordinaire Digne laid on 21 more opportunities for teammates than any other defender, contributing to an xA only below Alexander-Arnold and Robertson. However, the departure of Idrissa Gueye does weaken Everton defensively given that the Senegalese surpassed 100 tackles and 60 interceptions in each of his three seasons on Merseyside.
Oleksandr Zinchenko: Potentially a cheap, reliable route into the Manchester City defence to start the season, with Benjamin Mendy yet to return to pre-season training due to a knee injury. An additional 27 points for clean sheets (4×9 rather than 1×9) would have resulted in a points per match of 5.07, had he been classified as a defender last season. However it must be remembered that this is a small sample, which largely occurred during City’s incredible 14 game winning run to end the season.
Lewis Dunk, Issa Diop and Max Aarons have been identified as possible £4.5m defender options as they rotate well with other players on this list. Dunk and Diop also ranked amongst the top six defenders at their price on FPL’s ICT Index, whilst Aarons was one of the Championship’s standout players in 2018/19
Mohamed Salah: The top scoring player in each of the last two seasons, with the highest xGI in each case. Next.
Raheem Sterling: Arguably the second most impressive FPL asset in the same period, providing an alternative for the captaincy in any given gameweek. Sterling also topped the 2018/19 points per match charts.
Kevin De Bruyne: A cheaper, albeit less likely to be captained alternative to Sterling. In three seasons under Pep Guardiola, the Belgian has created 54 big chances in 92 Premier League appearances – more than one every two games. His assist potential is through the roof.
Paul Pogba: The prospect of an impact half as impressive as the first twelve games under Solskjaer makes Pogba an enticing option at £8.5m. That period saw a return of eight goals, six assists and an xGI only below Aguero, Salah and incredible table topper Ashley Barnes.
Gylfi Sigurdsson: Everton avoid a top six opponent until the end of September. He is also coming off the back of a 182 point season in which only six midfielders created more chances and four had more goal attempts.
Ryan Fraser: A total of 28 big chances created was more than any other Premier League player since Mesut Ozil matched the Scot’s total in 2015/16. Assists for the usually reliable King and Wilson should be on the cards again after he topped the 2018/19 xA standings.
Wilfried Zaha: One of just nine players to reach double figures for both goals and assists in 2018/19. Now classified as a midfielder again but still priced at £7.0m, a return of 143 points has the potential to be significantly improved upon, at Palace or elsewhere.
Ayoze Perez: Another player reclassified from forward to midfielder, who also retained his starting price tag from last season, this time at £6.5m. Brendan Rodgers has spoken about the importance of adding goals to his Leicester team and there are few better options than a player entering his prime with five years of Premier League experience and who looks like a perfect fit into the club’s system.
Youri Tielemans: His impact upon joining Leicester on loan was similar to that of Gylfi Sigurdsson at Swansea back in 2011/12. Now a permanent member of the Foxes’ squad, the Belgian provides an alternative to Perez at the same price, without needing time to settle at the club.
Nathan Redmond: Ralph Hassenhuttl transformed Redmond’s fortunes in front of goal as no direct goal involvements in 14 matches under Mark Hughes turned into 11 in 23 following the Austrian’s appointment. An xGI of 10.68 came as a result – only Salah, Mane, Sterling, Pogba and Hazard had a higher value amongst players classified as midfielders in last season’s game during that period.
Leander Dendoncker: Included as the best of the £4.5m midfielders – no other player at his current price came near his xGI of 4.43, which was secured in just 1465 minutes. The lack of game time was a result of Nuno Espirito Santo only selecting him regularly following a change to a 3-5-2 formation in December.
Harry Kane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are unlikely to make the final team but provide excellent captaincy alternatives if Salah and Sterling are injured before Gameweek 1, hence their inclusion on the watchlist.
Callum Wilson and Josh King face an enticing pair of fixtures to start the season, against two of the newly promoted clubs. Backed back an xG just shy of 13.5 apiece as well and ownership in the region of 20%, both look like relatively risk free investments to start the season.
Ashley Barnes: His incredible second half of the season data was referred to both earlier in this article and in the Burnley team preview. Retaining such high levels of involvement in a tricky run of fixtures to start the season do reduce his appeal, however.
Gerard Deulofeu: Potentially the perfect foil for Barnes between Gameweeks 1 and 5 as Watford avoid a top six opponent, whilst Burnley take on Arsenal and Liverpool. A total of 15 direct goal involvements in just over 2000 minutes is not to be sniffed at either.
Mason Greenwood also makes the list as a possible £4.5m forward for the bench, with Solskjaer hinting in pre-season that he could feature against Chelsea.
(Stats from Premier League and Fantasy Football Scout)