A lot has already been shared by my fellow colleagues (as well as community member yewtee’s FanPost) writing this week about the long-awaited return of the Premier League, with strategy for upcoming fixtures and best picks for various fantasy formats. Therefore, I won’t be going in this direction and dwelling on Chelsea’s last chance saloon game for Champions League qualification spot or West Ham’s win or die situation. I would rather evaluate the individual players’ motivation for the season run-in and base my recommendations on that.
I have recently listened to a podcast of one of the FPL’s most consistent and long-standing managers, James Egersdorff, and he shared a seemingly simple but powerful way of FPL thinking: “What is motivating the player? Is he pushing for the World Cup spot? Is he hoping for a big money transfer?” This way he guessed the bright start of Theo Walcott in Everton, Jessie Lingard’s sparkling form for Manchester United and Nick Pope’s ongoing heroics in the goal for Burnley. I’m not saying it is 100% reliable, but this certainly gives you some foundation.
On top of that, there appeared a term of a “template” team. This means having the most popular midfielders, defenders, and/or attackers, for example Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Marcos Alonso, Raheem Sterling and many more. Such players won’t appear in my selections below unless they can suddenly help you make a break-through. This is obviously great for the average score, but limits your chances of climbing the rankings and isn’t this the whole point of the game?
Last but not least, Official Fantasy game is pretty poor when it comes to rewarding players’ contributions on the pitch. You have to catch goals, assists and clean sheets. That’s it. Bonus points are just nice to have and the allocation system is weird to say the least.
So what are we looking at for GW 32, when thinking of player’s motivation, “out-of-the-template” picks and FPL specifics? Here we go:
David de Gea (5,9£)
He is the best keeper in the world. He stopped being a template player when Manchester United kept on conceding unnecessary goals. He is still the priciest one of the game, but Jose Mourinho will figure out the way, should he really want to stand in one line with Sir Alex Ferguson. Oh yes, he faces overly defensive Swansea, who additionally have their best attacker Jordan Ayew suspended.
Petr Cech (5,3£)
Arsenal has one of the best calendars to finish the season with yet another lowly position, but also a feeling of hope and a bright future. With only one game against Top 6 opposition in the remaining eight for the Gunners,the Czech veteran can be an ideal differential.
Martin Dubravka (4,5£)
I’m worried for Huddersfield in attack, and therefore feeling good about Dubravka’s chances to keep a clean sheet against them at home. A must win game for Newcastle too.
Lukasz Fabianski (4,7£)
As mentioned above, the Swans are overly defensive, but they are really well-organized and know their game these days. I see handful of saves to compensate for the potential one or maximum two goals conceded. Not bad for his price.
Nick Pope (4,9£)
Burnley travel to a doomed West Bromwich side, who aren’t going to make it. A young Englishman earned himself a place on the bench for the Three Lions and in my eyes should still be up for a trip to Russia, if he keeps Tom Heaton benched this season. Come on Nick!
Marcos Alonso (7,2£)
Yes, I mentioned that there will be no “template” players, but Marcos has cooled down prior to the break and his price tag was too hard to justify for many FPL managers, bringing his ownership to already reasonable 19,5%. I back him for a strong end of the season with plenty of attacking contributions. They host mighty Tottenham, but Chelsea must attack and must win - pretty simple.
Nacho Monreal (5,5£) / Shkodran Mustafi (5,4£)
I’m speaking highly of Arsenal in this article, while expecting their typical late season resurgence. Nacho is a goal machine and I don't see why he should stop. Mustafi plays in attack better than in defense. Nevertheless, both should be strong candidates for a clean sheet, because it is Stoke coming to town.
Virgil van Dijk (5,7£)
The Dutch captain will be flying high after keeping Cristiano Ronaldo at bay and scoring in the process. Crystal Palace will be blocking, defending, and fouling and there will be numerous chances to score from the well-taken cross. He is drastically overdue for a Premier League goal in a Liverpool t-shirt.
Jamaal Lascelles (4,7£)
In front of the home crowd and against low-scoring rival Huddersfield leaves an ideal scene for the big center-back to grab a header goal from a corner.
Matthew Lowton (4,4£) / Ben Mee (4,9£)
Lowton’s return from a long-term layoff coincided with Burnley’s return to winning ways. I see him contributing to this success directly and think he is a bargain at his price with assist potential. Ben Mee has been sensational for the Clarets this season and only God knows how he has yet to score in this season. He will eventually and a trip to West Brom looks like a good opportunity.
Leighton Baines (5,6£)
Just my hunch pick and I see less and less concentration in City’s defensive ranks. If this trend continues and Leighton Baines keeps up his resurgent form, why not make a couple of assists in an open game?
Marko Arnautovic (6,9£)
The Austrian number 7 scored three goals in two international friendless and looked in the form of his life. A lot has been said about West Ham’s recent struggles. Playing at home once more against relegation rivals Southampton, I trust him and he will for sure be in my squad.
Pascal Gross (6,0£)
This is a rather simple pick: Brighton is on fire at home and the next two must win games are at home against Leicester and Huddersfield. He costs peanuts and is known for his goal involvement (almost 50% of home goals scored with him either actually scoring or assisting).
Riyad Mahrez (8,9£)
Just shows his professionalism game after game and keeps the standards as high as ever. Leicester has nothing to play for, but I expect Riyad to be finally leaving the Foxes and he will definitely want to make a high profile move. For this to happen, his form should keep catching the eye of the world’s best. Traveling to Brighton this week is a great chance to add to his goal/assist numbers.
Jesse Lingard (6,0£)
Motivation - England squad. Current status - well on-board and showed great movement and vision in the latest friendlies. If Mourinho’s mental games won’t crush United’s season, we should see a couple more fancy dances and handshakes with Paul Pogba from the English youngster.
Kevin de Bruyne (10,4£)
I talked of a template team, but KDB costs you an extra 1-2 million compared to his partners Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane. What makes him the player of the season to me is his independence and creative force. He can score against anyone from any position. He doesn’t score tap-ins, almost because it is too easy, while possessing an ability to score from distance, when the opponent is defending with eleven at the back. I expect exactly this scenario at Everton this weekend and would prefer him to the overall favorite Sterling for example.
Robert Kenedy (4,7£)
His motivation is obvious - get back to Chelsea and be given a chance to make it into the main team. While the chances are thin, he is doing his best and opened his account at Newcastle with two well-taken finishes. It’s now a must win game at home against struggling Huddersfield and Kenedy should be prepared to fire.
In the form of his life, strong contender for the Brazil starting eleven and one of the bright spots on Chelsea’s sinking ship. He can score against anyone and costs you a penny.
It’s typical Arsenal to start rocking goals and show strong form when its already too late. There must be an Arsenal midfielder in my picks, but I will be honest: I have no idea who they are going to start with Aaron Ramsey already letting me down two games in a row, Mesut Ozil being anonymous since contract extension and Henrikh Mkhitaryan showing his inconsistency. Toss a coin.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (10,6£)
He should have exploded right after his deadline transfer from Borussia Dortmund. Nope. He could have taken advantage of extra rest from the team playing in Europa League. Dpn’t see that either. Is he talented enough to actually show anything in the season run-in? Oh yes, and this makes him one of the vital picks in my eyes. Arsenal will flourish in the coming games (as they always do in the end) and he should reap all the benefits. And you should too!!
Roberto Firmino (9,7£)
Can’t see him dropping the scoring rate, especially seeing his passion for Brazil and only a role on the bench, while Gabriel Jesus starts. This should be that extra motivational factor and that’s why I recommend you keep him.
Jamie Vardy (8,8£)
The same logic applies to high-flying Jamie, who just scored another international goal against Italy and looked convincing. England has the attacking potential and should be realistic about its defensive “strength”. This means to me that Harry Kane would need a partner and Jamie will die on the pitch in the remaining Leicester games to get that spot. Traveling to spirited Brighton, why not catch the hosts on the counter?
Glenn Murray (6,0£)
He just loves scoring at home and Brighton now enter the race against time to avoid relegation. The next two home games against Leicester and Huddersfield are simply a must and he is a strong differential contender. Currently in my team.
Gabriel Jesus (10,0£)
Scored a comical goal against Germany and should have had at least two more. Trip to Everton isn’t ideal to return the speedy Brazilian with a baby-crying face right into your team, but why not gamble?
Alvaro Morata (10,4£)
Just my hunch pick again and I obviously have a soft spot for him. His Chelsea career is currently stagnating, what resulted in a loss of his place in the Spain national team. With strong competition and great performances from Iago Aspas (yes, him Liverpool fans) and Diego Costa (yes, him Antonio Conte), Alvaro now has 8 games to make or break it. At this stage of the season I stop paying attention to the level of opposition, so Spurs’ visit isn’t a concern for me.
Those were my picks for GW32. My team is still too raw to be presented for your judgment, but I will just say that I’m one of those quick-fire managers, who has already burnt his Wildcard, Free Hit and Triple Captain chips. My strategy will rely on some tactical minus points and obviously not following the crowd. In the end, we are all here for fun, aren’t we?!
Before you go, let me ask you this:
Are you wildcarding this game week to offload all the fringe players from BGW31? Do you prefer a “template” team or will you keep tinkering with it? What do you think of my picks? And finally, will Chelsea fight for Antonio Conte agains Spurs?
Let’s chat and thank you for reading us!