It seems that everybody already has the big stars of this FPL season: Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (currently selected by 51% of FPL managers), Leicester City forward Jamie Vardy (50%), Sheffield United defender John Lundstram (47%), Liverpool midfielder Sadio Mane (39%), et al. If you don’t already have them in your team, there may not seem much point to adding them now, particularly since their prices have risen steadily over the season.
Differential players — those selected by a relatively few fantasy managers — are not for everybody. But in certain circumstances, they can make all the difference in the world... hence the term “differential”! If you are chasing your mini-league leader, or if you are your mini-league leader who is itching to move up the worldwide ranks — for instance, from the top 1M to the top 100K, or from the top 10K to the top 1K — a productive differential can provide that magic spark.
With that in mind, whom should you target when considering a differential player — defined in this case as someone selected by under 10% of global FPL managers — in the hopes of making a major impact the rest of the season?
CHRIS: Tottenham MF Son Heung-Min (6% FPL Selection)
The key to a killer FPL team is finding the top fantasy scorer — or close to the top scorer — at a position for less than the highest price, and replicating that across all or most positions. (Easier said than done, I know!) Jamie Vardy is the highest scoring forward, but has only the 4th dearest price tag at the position, while the same is true for Kevin De Bruyne in midfield, and also for Kasper Schmeichel at goalkeeper. Meanwhile, John Lundstram is the 2nd highest scoring defender and he still costs peanuts. Fantasy managers who got in on those players at the start of (or early in) the season are currently enjoying lofty positions in the global ranks. Now it will be vital to hunt for bargains in the same vein who can fashion that success the rest of the way.
Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-Min is tied for only the 8th highest score at the midfield position, which may not sound very impressive, but that comes despite missing five games this season due to suspension and suffering two -3 point penalties due to a pair of red cards (one of which was later rescinded, but still counts in the FPL ledger). No, he is not going to be able to catch the top scorers in midfield for the entire season. But the dynamic wing attacker has a legitimate chance to be the highest scorer at the position (or at least close to it) for the rest of the campaign, making him an attractive option due to his cut rate price compared to the current scoring leaders in midfield.
Right now Son costs only £9.8m, a bargain compared to fellow midfielders Sadio Mane (£12.3m), Mohamed Salah (£12.3m), Raheem Sterling (£11.8m), and Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m), allowing you to spread your money around and upgrade your team elsewhere. Following Son’s latest ban, fantasy managers quickly dropped him like a bad habit, and many will be wary of adding him back. But you shouldn’t hold such trepidation. Son is a tantalizing differential pick now that he has just returned to availability (though I certainly wouldn’t blame anybody for waiting either after Spurs’ GW22 tough tilt against league leaders Liverpool or following the DGW24 for Mane and Salah since holding onto them for that possible boon makes sense).
DAVID: Everton FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin (5%)
My Best FPL differential for the rest of the season is Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.8). He first caught my eye two seasons ago when he played for an Everton side whose senior attackers (Wayne Rooney, Oumar Niasse, Cenk Tosun, and Theo Walcott) struggled for goals. That opened opportunities for a 20 year-old DCL to feature, and he flashed glimpses of his impressive potential over the 18 league starts and 14 sub appearances he was granted. He finished that season with 4 league goals, followed by 6 in the next campaign.
Fast-forward to this season, where after 21 games he’s already netted 8 times. That’s more than his Brazilian teammate Richarlison, and only 2 fewer than superstars such as Sergio Aguero and Mo Salah, who cost twice as much as DCL. Over his last six matches he’s averaged 7.2 ppg and has claimed maximum bonus points twice, so it’s no surprise that he currently has the second-highest Form Value of any FPL forward. And yet the 22 year-old is owned by only 5% of FPL teams.
Now firmly-established as Carlo Ancelotti’s first-choice No. 9 in an Everton side that has been reinvigorated under new management, and with an upcoming fixture list that reads BRI, whu, NEW, wat, and CRY, Calvert-Lewin could be a low-cost difference-maker who sets you apart from the pack in the near term and beyond.
OMAR: Arsenal MF Nicolas Pepe (2%)
Arsenal’s last two fixtures contained enough evidence that the Mikel Arteta led renaissance is well underway.
Nicolas Pepe’s goal and overall performance against Manchester United on New Year’s day should see him lock in his starting role. I believe we should start seeing consistent returns to justify his hefty price tag (£9.1m) through the end of the season.
STALL: Everton MF Gylfi Sigurdsson (3%)
My selection for the lightly owned FPL player to run with in the weeks ahead will bring a warm feeling to many fantasy football fans. I’m going with a brilliant player and Yahoo/Fantrax FF legend, the one and only Gylfi Sigurdsson.
He will cost you £7.3M in FPL where he has a ownership of less than 3%. In Fantrax he is yours for $10.42. Upcoming fixtures are Brighton & Hove Albion (H), West Ham United (A), Newcastle United (H), Watford (A), and Crystal Palace (H) in the next 5 fixtures before Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are the opposition.
Siggy has done so much for my fantasy sides over the years, so I’m without doubt wearing some rose tinted glasses, but you will get a proven EPL player who could be back on pens, and I like his quality on the ball to become a feature of Everton under Carlo Ancelotti.
JEFF: January Transfer TBD (0%)
Save an extra transfer (and your 2nd-half wild card) for the crop of new-boys who should start showing up any week now. Nobody owns them yet, so if you can discern which one(s) will be immediately thrust into starting roles (e.g. a young, under-worked future star who’s loaned to a relegation threatened team to get him more minutes), then you can reap the rewards.
There’s also a hole in Man City’s defense where Vincent Kompany used to play. Pep didn’t fill it during the summer, and Fernandinho doesn’t really fill it in my book. So watch that space to see if he buys in January, though predicting immediate starts is much harder when it comes to Pep roulette, especially with Aymeric Laporte returning to fitness soon (he has resumed training). Speaking of Aymeric Laporte... he will immediately become a differential as soon as he is fit to start, so watch his progress this month.
[NOTE: Statistics and pricing came from the official fantasy Premier League and Fantrax sites.]
Do you have your eye on a differential player for your FPL team the rest of the way? Take the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section as well!
What player do you think will be the best FPL differential the rest of the season?
This poll is closed
January Transfer TBD
Someone else (name in comments)