I needed a full break after the last game-week. It has been an improbable start to the season, and no one would have predicted the standings as they are. But it’s only week five, so there is a lot of football still to be played.
A few quick stats that struck me before moving onto the player picks.
- Liverpool is tied for 2nd most goals for AND 2nd most against (both at 11), and the Reds sit in 5th place.
- West Bromwich Albion have conceded at least two goals in every game.
- Sheffield United has scored just once.
- Fulham FC has conceded three goals in each of three of their four games.
- Everton and Aston Villa sit 1st and 2nd in the table.
I’m just so excited about this game-week, especially after a week off. It’s starts with the Merseyside derby, which also happens to put league leaders Everton against reigning champs Liverpool (for which we should have confirmed lineups before our deadline). Aston Villa at Leicester is 2nd vs 3rd! And don’t forget Arsenal at Manchester City, high scoring and hot teams Spurs and West Ham, plus a clash of 19th vs 20th and 17th vs 18th in early season “relegation” 6-pointers (no apologies, they earned it!).
Saturday 16 October
- Everton vs Liverpool
- Chelsea vs Southampton
- Manchester City vs Arsenal
- Newcastle vs Manchester United
Sunday 17 October
- Sheffield United vs Fulham
- Crystal Palace vs Brighton
- Tottenham vs West Ham
- Leicester vs Aston Villa
Monday 18 October
Aaron Ramsdale (SHU vs FUL, $6.64): The Cottagers have been shut out in three of four games in a season when clean-sheets are scarce. Despite the Blades’ offensive struggles, they have been stingy giving up goals. Ramsdale’s also tied for 3rd in the league in saves, and his price is reasonable.
Karl Darlow (NEW vs MAN, $14.42) He is the premium priced keeper in the game right now, for a reason. He has a league leading 20 saves but only five goals against. United certainly could break out of their offense malaise, but they have scored only five this season.
Luke Ayling (LEE vs WOL, $12.67) The Leeds defender ranks near the top of the fantasy points list, and he’s doing this with only one clean sheet, no goals or assists, and eight goals against. That means that he’s picking up the little stats along the way that make him valuable. Wolves haven’t been particularly deadly in front of goal either.
Matt Doherty (TOT vs WHU, $5.70) Doherty hasn’t exploded yet for Spurs, but there were glimpses last game of that potential for big points. He’s at a price where even a tough match-up may be worth a gamble.
Chris Basham (SHU vs FUL, $9.76): This is really for any Sheffield United defender, but he’s the best and most consistent. This is a match of the two lowest-scoring teams in the league.
Cesar Azpilicueta (CHE vs SOU, $3.40) The Chelsea captain has played exactly half of the minutes this season. In the half he didn’t play, Chelsea was outscored 6-1. Since his introduction at half time in game two, they have a 6-0 differential. This makes every other Chelsea defender more valuable. With Ben Chilwell out, Azpilicueta and Reece James ($12.45) most likely play on the wings.
Christian Pulisic (CHE vs SOU, $4.41) Pulisic has been missed. He should return this weekend, and at $4.41 should be on everyone’s radar. The American is capable of big points.
Ross Barkley (LEI, vs AVL, $5.21) Barkley started immediately for the Villans after his transfer. He scored, but was also active in general, taking six shots, earning five fouls, and picking up points here and there. Jack Grealish and McGinn too are both tempting plays if you can afford them. The Foxes sit in 3rd just below Aston Villa, but they have been winning by outscoring teams not shutting them down. There could a few goals in this one.
James Rodriguez (EVE vs LIV, $18.83) It seems a little odd to recommend an expensive midfielder against Liverpool. But the reigning champs have given up 11 goals, and Everton have scored 12. James has been one of the best players of the year. If you had him early, you’re holding on!
Wilfried Zaha (CRY vs BHA, $11.07) Zaha remains active and a threat going forward. I like this match-up for Crystal Palace, as Brighton has given up 10 goals thus far. Andy Townsend has been more consistent because he is on most set pieces, but Zaha is on penalties (and we all know PKs continue to be given).
Harry Kane (TOT vs WHU, $23.77) If you’re buying at market value, then Kane is a little tough. But I wonder if you can afford not to have him when he (and Spurs) are in this sort of mood: three goals and six assists make him the highest earning player in the league.
Raul Jimenez (LEE vs WOL, $11.79) The Mexican striker has scored twice this year. Wolves haven’t quite clicked yet offensively. Leeds play an open style so Raul and Wolves attackers may benefit.
Marcus Rashford (NEW vs MAN, $7.61) Without a doubt, Rashford and United have been disappointing so far. Anthony Martial is out because of a red card, so Rashford may be pushing up front for this game.
Riyad Mahrez (MCI vs ARS, $8.56) Injuries are mounting for City, with Kevin DeBruyne now a doubt. This makes Mahrez even more valuable as a fantasy player, as more set pieces may be coming his way.
So what diamonds have you found in the Fantrax rough? And what deep discounts are you (painfully) sacrificing to make room? Are there any subtle opportunities for NMA-17 that won’t show on NMA-11 radar? And who’s not in your squad yet but definitely on your barn-door watch-list? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and be sure to join us here at NMA for the countdown hour confirmed lineups (Everton hosting Liverpool) in our pre-deadline chat!