We’re only days away from the start of the season, so now is the time to sort out your GW-1 Fantrax EPL team (or teams if you play the NMA-17 format as well as the NMA-11 game). Unlike the official format, you can always make as many transfers in Fantrax as you like, so this is all about picking the best players for the coming week. If you need some help with the Fantrax rules, or tips on how to play the game, see commissioner Jeff’s strategy & tactics article.
GW-1 is a bit different from all other weeks, since everybody starts with players priced the same. A few hours after the last match concludes each game-week, player prices will adjust based on performances. When players have no history in the league, the adjustment can be radical, so players that you purchase this week might might be impossible to fit into your budget if you sell them and attempt to repurchase them later. You know I don’t place too much importance on clinging to player discounts, but finding a few low-priced players who are decent point-earners can create room in the budget for the high-priced players who look most appealing from week to week.
In addition, this season there is an extra wrinkle in the pricing in that when continuing EPL players inherited last-season’s prices, some of them were BELOW the intended minimum of $4.00. Come the first recalc, and all these players’ values will rise to at least $4.00 ($3 in NMA-17). Especially in NMA-17, where you can afford to carry players who might not obvious picks for any particular week, it will be worth finding some sub-$4.00 players to hold for a while. Gradually the price floor will drop, eventually reaching $1.00 around Christmas, but for the first few weeks these low-priced enablers will likely make a big difference.
Note that you have a short period after the GW-1 games (normally a few hours after the conclusion of the last game) where prices remain unchanged and so you will be able to grab these low-priced bargains after seeing how they did in week 1. We call this the “barn door” period. So all is not lost if you miss out on someone who shoots the lights out this weekend, but you’ll need to be quick and make your purchases before the barn door closes, or you’ll spend some weeks looking enviously at other teams!
Looking at player prices in general, there are currently 15 players who are priced at $15 or above, including four who are priced above $20. That means you can spend one fifth of your budget on one player, so you need to be confident he will reward you well.
Finally, the Fantrax transfer deadline is just 15 minutes before the first game each round, so you will usually be able to see confirmed starting lineups for the week’s first kickoff before the Fantrax transfer window closes. So this week you get to see the Crystal Palace and Arsenal lineups while the transfer window is still open, and can make a last minute pick or two from among confirmed starters.
With all this in mind, here are my picks for GW-1. Prices are for NMA-11 — NMA-17 is cheaper (apart from the $1.00 men on the floor).
This is an important position, since goalkeepers can score highly — last year there were two goalkeepers in the top 10 overall Fantrax points earners (Alisson and Pope), and three more only just outside (Ederson, Lloris, and surprisingly Schmeichel). The main trouble with keepers is that while they can score very highly, they can also go spectacularly negative, with defeats and goals-conceded both counting against them (you really don’t want Southampton’s keeper in the week the Saints ship nine goals each season).
Most starting keepers have very high prices, and so unless you’re prepared to shell out the big bucks (and most of us aren’t), your options are limited. Still... Keepers are rarely rotated or subbed early, so maybe we need to buck up.
Hugo Lloris ($16.30, TOT vs SOU)
Spurs should win, and could well keep a clean sheet, which would lock in 10 points for Lloris even without saves. There might not be many saves to make though, and a goal-against could result in a very low return. So this pick will probably get you some points, and is the best bet for me among the expensive keepers, but I’m sure you can tell that I don’t really think this is the best way to go.
Emiliano Martinez ($11.24, BOU vs AST)
Martinez was fantastic for Aston Villa in 2020-21 and a bit disappointing last year, but a game against newcomers Bournemouth could see some decent points. Still quite pricey though.
Dean Henderson ($1.00, NEW vs NOT)
Available at $15 less than Lloris, Henderson is my favored pick for this week, and probably for the next few as well. Between the sticks for newly-promoted Forest, he’ll go negative some weeks, but he should pick up plenty of saves. And if Forest make a strong start to the season (which can happen after some good transfers in — think Brentford last year) he’ll soon be on loads of teams. He’s a no-brainer 2nd keeper in NMA-17 but well worth the risk as an enabler in NMA-11 too.
Keep an eye on
Adrian ($1.00, FUL vs LIV)
He played in the Community Shield match at the weekend because neither Allison nor Caoimhin Kelleher were fit. Kelleher remains unavailable, but the likelihood is that Allison will return for the weekend. If late news suggests otherwise though, Adrian would be an excellent one-week pick.
Rather like goalkeepers I’m not a fan of spending a lot of money on defenders. Scoring can be quite erratic in Fantrax, and while the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold generally score well, spending over $20 in defense means you’re going to be skimping on attacking players, and that’s where I like to splash my cash.
Andrew Robertson ($14.12, FUL vs LIV)
I can’t see much value at all among expensive defenders, and I do see some very poor value there (anyone for Everton defender James Tarkowski at $15.81? - no I didn’t think so!). But if you have some leftover cash after setting up the rest of your team, Robertson might be your man. Liverpool could score clean sheet points, but more likely you’ll be after attacking returns, with crosses and perhaps assist points on offer against new-boys Fulham.
Reece James ($10.40, EVE vs CHE)
James can put in monster scores in Fantrax, and a game against Everton might be the perfect opportunity to do it. He is classified as both defender and midfielder, so if you can’t fit him in in defense, you can always slot him into your midfield (and move him to defense in a future week without updating his price).
Lucas Digne ($9.60, BOU vs AST)
Digne is a Fantrax favorite and he has a decent match-up.
There are so many to choose from! Remember, after GW-1 the league’s basement price will revert to $4.00. Grab your bargain-floor players now!
Kieran Trippier ($3.39, NEW vs NOT)
When he was fit for Newcastle last year, he was an absolute Fantrax monster, so you ignore him at your peril. And at this price it will only be injury that sees him leaving my team — Buy and hold until further orders.
James Justin ($3.70, LEI vs BRE)
One of my favorite Fantrax players and another who seems to score well whatever the result. I fancy Leicester to start strongly against Brentford, and he’s another player priced ridiculously cheap!
Wesley Fofana ($1.52, LEI vs BRE)
It might be worth doubling up on Leicester defenders for this one, and he’s another who is hard to resist at this price. Spent most of last season injured, but was an exciting player when fit and should be looking to make up for lost time. Caveat: Fofana has sale rumors.
Other cheap options
We really are spoiled for choice here, and you could probably do just as well with one of these:
Ben Chilwell ($3.84, EVE vs CHE) or Oleksandr Zinchenko ($4.76, CRY vs ARS). Caveat: Chilwell is a rotation risk, especially when Chelsea adds UCL matches to its schedule in September.
Unlike the official game, Fantrax classes many more attackers as forwards, so you won’t find Son Heung-Min, Mo Salah or quite a few other FPL middies in this Fantrax category.
James Maddison ($17.10, LEI vs BRE)
Maddison was scoring very well towards the end of last season following a slow start. If you think he’ll start slowly again, then by all means avoid him, but a home game against Brentford should give him plenty of opportunities for points.
Kevin de Bruyne ($17.84, WHU vs MCI)
KDB scores reliably and can go huge — with three 30+ scores last season. For me this fixture isn’t ideal, but I’m always worried if he’s healthy and not in my team. Note: Haaland’s presence might shift KDB’s role back from goals to assists, so he may have more floor and less ceiling this season.
I don’t see much that stands out here, although I’ve already noted the dually-classified Reece James under defenders. Here are a few others to consider if you can’t afford the premium alternatives.
Phil Foden ($11.49) or Jack Grealish ($8.54) instead of Kevin De Bruyne, and Harvey Barnes ($10.11) instead of James Maddison.
Dejan Kulusevski ($5.22, TOT vs SOU)
His Fantrax scores were a bit boom and bust, but he always looks lively, and on a good day he can go big. This is a decent fixture, so going big is quite possible, and Richarlison is suspended for GW-1, so Kulu should be nailed-on.
Ivan Perisic ($7.00, TOT vs SOU)
A new player, so starting at the default price. He has been showing well in attack and appears to be correctly classified as a midfielder in Fantrax (he’s a defender in FPL). It can be risky going with a player who is new to the Prem, but I like the fixture and he’ll be desperate to make a good impression (just like he did on Saturday in the friendly with Roma).
Bruno Guimaraes ($6.63, NEW vs NOT)
Once he broke into the team last season, he scored very impressively. This is a good fixture, and as long as he doesn’t put too many past my Henderson I’ll be happy!
Jadon Sancho ($5.75, MUN vs BHA)
His first season was rather disappointing, but that was true for the team, not just the player. He seems to be much happier under the new manager, and his price tempts.
Jesse Lingard ($1.84, NEW vs NOT)
Lingard showed in his time at West Ham that when he’s given a major role in the team he can score heavily. He could be a great pick — and remember that even if he’s not in your week 1 team, he will still be available at this dirt-cheap price for week 2 as long as you act over the weekend (ie, "barn-door" him before the GW-2 price adjustment).
This is likely the position where you’ll be splashing the cash. The main difficulty is deciding whom to pick, because there are so many options, and you can pick a maximum of only three forwards (four in NMA-17).
Son Heung-Min ($21.50, TOT vs SOU)
If I’m going to spend over a fifth of my budget on one player, this week it is Son for me. I like the match up, but do I trust Tottenham to perform on opening day?
Mo Salah ($21.28, FUL vs LIV)
With so many cheap enablers available to us, it is possible to fit both Son and Mo Salah in the same team. I’m not quite so sold on this fixture though; I am always wary of promoted teams on day 1. But Liverpool are surely a lot stronger than Fulham, and Salah has his track-record of scoring/assisting on opening day every year.
Harry Kane ($18.67, TOT vs SOU)
A third excellent option, and slightly cheaper too, Kane has a reputation for starting the season slowly. But he was injured at the start of last season, and under Conte in the second half, his earnings were excellent. He's Tottenham's penalty-taker too, so even if he’s ineffective from open play, there’s always that avenue for goals.
Jamie Vardy ($9.19, LEI vs BRE)
His price is quite low despite his very strong finish to the end of last season, because he’d been out for a long period prior to that. The fixture is good and I am very tempted by him.
Gabriel Jesus ($10.25, CRY vs ARS)
He’s the most popular player in Official, but not likely to be in Fantrax where his price is much higher relative to other forwards. He could still be a decent pick though, with a reasonable fixture and scorching pre-season form behind him.
Erling Haaland ($7.00, WHU vs MCI)
The price is tempting, and although he did miss a couple big chances against Liverpool at the weekend, he got into a lot of good positions, so I am expecting him to score this weekend. The fixture puts me off a little though; the Hammers are not pushovers. He played the whole game against Liverpool, but concerns remain that his pitch time is going to be managed, especially once Man City enters UCL competition.
Darwin Nunez ($7.00, FUL vs LIV)
Unlike Haaland, he started the Community Shield on the bench, but also unlike Haaland he scored. There are so many other options at forward that he may be a wait and see for me. With both of these new players, if they don’t score well this week, their prices will probably drop to $4.00 for next week and we’ll be tempted by them all over again!
Callum Wilson ($3.43, NEW vs NOT)
If Wilson can stay fit, he could become an extremely popular pick. It’s a big if though. This week he has a decent fixture and is definitely one to consider.
Anthony Martial ($1.00, MUN vs BHA)
This is another enabler pick, especially for Fantrax NMA-17 where you can carry an extra forward. But even in NMA-11 he’s worth considering, since he’s been doing very well for Man United in pre-season and seems to be enjoying the new regime. The uncertainty swirling around Cristiano Ronaldo further enhances Martial’s odds of starting.
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What do you think of my picks? Whom have I overlooked? Are there any who shouldn’t have made my list? What are your strategies going to be in Fantrax? What team formation do you favor? Could this be the season for the $1.00 deliberate-zero goalkeeper? Please let us know in the comments below.