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Season Preview

Fuzzy's FPL Team Reveal

by Steve Rothgeb
Updated On: August 5, 2022, 11:57 am ET

Ladies and gentlemen…the time has come.

 

This evening, in London, Crystal Palace is set to host Arsenal to kick off a new season of the Premier League. Coupled with that, we near the first deadline to set our FPL teams. And, as is tradition for the opening round, today is frantic in the FPL community as managers continue to tinker with their sides, trying to think of one more clever move to make their squads just right.

 

Today, I am doing something I have never done before. While it is my sworn duty to provide the best insight on players and their fantasy potential, I am not one to typically show his own hand. But, it felt appropriate for this new season about to get underway, because I have come to find out that, even though there has been little outside influence into the decisions I have made regarding who to roster and who not to, I cannot help but notice that my side is looking very similar to many other people's sides as screenshots of squads fill up my Twitter feed today.

 

So, I've decided to put my team out there, in full. The point of this column is not to wave my arms around going “Hey, this is the best squad out there”. Instead, I want to offer definitive reasoning behind all of my selections. Yes, perhap my squad is considered “template” or even “extremely template” by some, but I am in no way lazily following the herd with the picks I have made. I have my reasons and I am here to share them with you. So, if there is a spot or two in your side you cannot make a decision on, or if you want further affirmation about a player you and I agree on, there is something here to digest in these final hours before the opening deadline.

 

 

What I have decided to do is to present my side in the order of player priority. In other words, I will start with the first name to go in my squad, no questions asked, and work my way all the way down to the 15th and final pick. So, please keep that in mind. This is not a ranking of players best-to-worst, it is a ranking of players in the order that made sense to me when building the team entire. So kick back and enjoy with just a little bit more content to prepare you for the madness that is FPL.

 

Pick 1 - Mo Salah - Midfield (13m)

 

Some folks are ready to give a Week 1 FPL side a chance without Salah included and let me just say immediately, I am not one of those brave individuals. Yes, he saw a decline in form in the second half last season, but the numbers he put up in the first half were absolutely insane. Yes, he's the most expensive player in the game, but I cannot let that factor into my thinking. The way I see it, I am not given a 100m budget. I am given Mo Salah and an 87m budget. Quite happy with the team I have assembled, I am not feeling the pinch of his price tag at all. He's a solid captaincy option nearly every week and looked good in the Community Shield.

 

Pick 2 - Trent-Alexander-Arnold - Defense (7.5m)

 

Liverpool options are FPL gold and there is no hesitation in making space for the game's most expensive defender in Alexander-Arnold. There is no argument that the Reds and Manchester City are the top two sides in the league, with a considerable gap between them and the next tier. What makes Liverpool such a treasure trove for FPL assets versus City is that the glut of FPL points come from a smaller group of people. Mainly, the fullbacks and the wingers grab all the points. Their midfield three seldom have any goal involvement and we will see how quickly  Darwin Nunez can possibly make an impact, but one thing that will remain a constant is the lucrative relationship between Salah and Alexander-Arnold down that left flank. They are a lethal tandem and I have to have them both in my side. Yes, his price is the highest at his position, but, take a look at his returns in recent seasons. He was one of only four players in the game last season to eclipse 200 points. To put up that same point total while being designated as a midfielder or a forward would surely see his price be 10m or more. Points per pound folks, that's a philosophy worth adhering to when building your team and Trent is probably the best value player in the game.

 

Pick 3 - Gabriel Jesus - Forward (8m)

 

Even though I felt Jesus' prospects would increase in his favor with the move to Arsenal, I must admit, I wasn't immediately sold on him as an FPL option when the game went live this summer. Bukayo Saka was actually an early pick, as I did find Arsenal's fixtures quite appealing and Saka was a steady source of points last season. But, two things factor into making Jesus one of the first names on the team sheet. First, he has had a monster of a preseason. Typically, you take preseason results with a grain of salt, with an eye leaning more toward position battles and players moving up the ranks, but Jesus was so explosive in every appearance this summer, his appeal just continued to grow and grow. So the second reason that comes into play, being priced the same as Saka, I came to the early conclusion that Jesus made more sense as an Arsenal representative because he takes up a spot in the forward position, an area of the pitch that was very difficult to find reliable option from last season. With an ownership on the eve of the deadline at a record-smashing +70%, he HAS to get into your side. If he struggles, the pain is minimal, because so many others will have the same result. But to go without him and he carries his form into the season, well, you could find yourself falling behind the pack very quickly, spending the next eight months or so working your way back up the ranks.

 

Pick 4 - Andrew Robertson - Defense (7m)

 

Pretty much every experienced FPL manager is going to have the maximum of three Liverpool players in their side. This summer, the debate has come down in large part whether to double up in defense or in attack. The popular attacking pick to partner with Salah is Luis Díaz, who could be excellent value at 8m, basically taking the role left behind by Sadio Mané. However, in the end, I could not ignore a more established commodity, that being Andrew Robertson. Even though Alexander-Arnold is considered by and large the better option of the two (hence the .5m more in price), Robertson was pretty much on equal footing with his fellow fullback in terms of points per game. What makes this decision pretty easy for me is that Robertson goes for 1m less than Diaz and, more importantly, offers what has to be considered a differential in an otherwise fairly template side. Only about one out of eight managers are going with Robertson as of this writing while Diaz is closer to appearing in one of every four teams. I like the 1m to spend elsewhere and I like to bet that Robertson can match or surpass Diaz's output. Less ownership means a bigger, more positive gain in the ranks if I have backed the right horse.

 

Pick 5 - Andreas - Midfield (4.5m)

 

It may seem a bit silly to prioritize Andreas so high when building one's FPL team but part of team building is finding those cheap players that can offer you something, because some player are simply going to take up space on the bench. There have been 4.5m midfielders in the past that have emerged into solid FPL options at some stage of the season, but in my memory, I cannot recall a player from the midfield that is as attack-minded and as nailed on for starts as Andreas is. I reckon Fulham are going to struggle to survive in the top flight this season and I am not expecting Andreas to put up big numbers, but he can still find my way into the XI from time to time when the Cottagers have very positive matchups while one of my go-to starters may have a tough one. Oddly enough, I think I wound up with a 4-4-2 formation simply because I felt Andreas was too good an option at a minimum price not to have as a bench weapon.

 

Pick 6 - Joao Cancelo - Defense (7m)

 

There has actually been some tinkering around with this pick, but what matters most is that I definitely wanted defensive representation from Manchester City. I think there are two ways to go about it, spend big and get the best option of the lot, which is Cancelo, or spend small, sacrifice the potential attacking returns Cancelo offers and go with Kyle Walker for 2m less. I cannot fault folks for going either way, especially with City entering the season without any competition for their fullback positions, but in the end, now having the 3-defender premium core group of Trent, Robertson and Cancelo was too juicy to resist. I now have three of the four players that surpassed 200 points last season, and three of them cost under 8m. That's good business. 

 

Pick 7 - Neco Williams - Defense (4m)

 

This pick is pretty much in line with the Andreas selection in terms of priority in that, once I knew I was going with Andreas and definitely ruling out the notion of fielding three starting forwards, the 4-4-2 shape pretty much created itself, which meant, I needed a 5th defender that was going to be on the bench. This is where the natural inclination is to find a minimum-priced option that actually has a path to regular playing time. That is what you get with Neco Williams. At least from the jump, not many are expecting much in terms of clean sheets out of Nottingham Forest, but Williams is one of their marquee summer signings and will be playing in a wingback role, so there is at least some hope for the odd attacking return to go along with the odd clean sheet. I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is indeed another 4m option who will at least, in all likelihood, start Week 1 and that is Everton's Nathan Patterson. I see why some may want to go with him instead but when Seamus Coleman is fit (and apparently he is back in training already), there is going to be a position battle between the veteran and the kid. Considering I am using this slot to enable funds elsewhere, I would rather back a player who has no competition, so Neco Williams, it is.

 

Pick 8 - Harry Kane - Forward (11.5m)

 

This pick is probably one of the bigger debates in the FPL community ever since the game went live this summer. There are two top-tier premium forwards in the game, Kane and new Manchester City arrival, Erling Haaland. Because most folks are spending more money in defense than in season's past and because the forward position had a lot of high-priced players underperform last season, the general thinking is that building a squad with both Kane and Haaland is not ideal. But, it seems essential to back one of the two. Basically, spending the cash at that spot creates an easy way to switch from one player to the other, at least before price changes start taking effect. So, heading into Week 1, I feel much better about backing Kane. I know how good he is in this league and he along with the rest of Tottenham have been looking good in the summer. The gap is closing between the two in terms of ownership, but Haaland still has a considerable larger number of investors. It only makes my choice of Kane feel even better. I prefer him anyway, with the outlet to bring in Haaland still one free transfer away. To have the differential pick on top of that is icing on the Kane, err, I mean cake.

 

Pick 9 - Gabriel Martinelli - Midfield (6m)

 

So, with more than half my squad already selected, perhaps you see a pattern that has formed. Basically, grab the handful of premium players you can't be without first, then, sprinkle in the back end of the squad with those budget players. Now, you are left with a budget that can be spent on players priced in that mid-range. For me, options among midfielders start to get thin when you dip below that fine crop priced at 8m. I feel I can shave a full 2m off to find an asset that can deliver relatively consistently and has the fixtures to back it up, along with what has been a positive summer for Arsenal's attack, so I am doubling up Jesus with Martinelli. Remember, I had Saka in my side at one point, and if money were no object, I would certainly have him in place of Martinelli, but you cannot have everyone you want and this is a concession I am willing to make. I think he is a quality player that has yet to reach his full potential and, while Saka may put up better numbers, I like the idea of putting 2m less into Arsenal's attack. Doubling up always come with a risk that a team does not perform to expectations and your fantasy side takes a beating that feels twice as hard, so I would rather spread my money out a bit more.

 

Pick 10 - Leon Bailey- Midfield (5m)

 

If you followed along with my preseason columns, I had been pointing out the emergence of Bailey since Aston Villa's first friendly when he got on the score sheet. He scored in Villa's final friendly as well and had five goal involvements in total over the summer. He has definitely played his way into a starting role for Steven Gerrard. The question is whether he can apply his preseason form to the regular season. Bear in mind, Bailey was brought in only the previous summer and the young winger arrived with plenty of expectations. Injuries and a lack of settling into the league made his debut season a forgettable one and FPL made it known by pricing him at only 5m. Had Villa been faced with some tough opening fixtures, this may be a risk I would not bother taking, but I cannot look past how Villa face, in my view, two of the worst defenses in the league right out of the gate - Bournemouth and Everton. If there was ever a time to back a player who has yet to really get anything done as an FPL option, this is it. Most people, like me, are already considering replacement options should Bailey fall flat, but I think its something to not worry about at least until Gameweek 3. You want to build a Week 1 side with as few question marks as possible. The more stable your side is from the start, the less compelled you will feel to jump on one bandwagon after the next, taking 4 point deductions along the way. Other than a switch from Kane to Haaland possible, my first nine picks are “set it and forget it” for me. So, I am okay with rostering a player like this, knowing I can have a free transfer at the ready in 2-3 weeks time. Who knows, another 5m option could hit the ground running. Worst case scenario, I think Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall of Leicester City is a 5m option worth considering longer term.

 

Pick 11 - Danny Ward - Goalkeeper (4m)

 

This is a pick that has moved up the priority queue in recent days. Typically, my 4m keeper is the last spot I fill in. But, with Kasper Schmeichel departing Leicester, and with Brendan Rodgers stating the club has no intention of signing a marquee replacement, the battle for who starts between the sticks comes down to two 4m options, so there will definitely be a starting 4m keeper. In my mind, based on seniority with the club, the job goes, at least initially, to Danny Ward over the pretty much unknown alternative, Daniel Iversen. So, knowing I am going to roster a 4m keeper no matter what, it makes sense to stick Ward in here now. A starting 4m keeper, a starting 4m defender and a starting 4.5m midfielder? Yes, please. 

 

Pick 12 - Mason Mount - Midfield (8m)

 

The next two picks are probably where I spent the bulk of my time this summer figuring out who to go for. As alluded to before, there is a nice group of options in midfield at the 8m price point, and I think it makes sense to reserve a spot in one's midfield for that price point, giving one a chance to make a switch. Just to reference who these other options are - they include James Maddison, Dejan Kulusevski, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and the aforementioned Luiz Diaz and Bukayo Saka. Diaz was eliminated once I made up my mind I was doubling up on Liverpool in defense. Saka was cut from the equation when I settled upon Martinelli. The two Manchester City options, Mahrez and Foden, both have explosive potential, but they are also in a group that includes folks like Jack Grealish who will get that “Pep Roulette” wheel spinning. As mentioned, I want to include players that are stable and minimize the need to make transfers as much as possible. Kulusevski looks great as a Week 1 option, guaranteed to start, but once Richarlison is back in the mix for Week 2, there are question marks there as well. So it came down to Maddison versus Mason Mount for me and, in the end, I felt that with being a top four side (at least, they finished there last season) and having a pretty favorable opening run of fixtures, I should find space for Chelsea representation somewhere and I felt Mount was the “boring” but steady pick that checked off all my boxes.

 

Pick 13 - Ivan Perisic - Defense (5.5m)

 

I talk about building a stable side, and yet, here I go taking a bit of a risk. It is a calculated risk, though. Like many other FPL gurus out there, I am of the opinion that a fit Perisic could make a mockery of his 5.5m price tag, as he extremely attack-minded and has excelled under the management of Antonio Conte in the past. The question mark is around how he did not play a ton of minutes in preseason and that there is some doubt as to whether he will be in the XI for Week 1. I say he will be, but I freely admit it could not be the case. But, I am willing to take it on the chin if he doesn't make the XI against Southampton, knowing it's all but certain he will be fit by Week 2. Typically, I do not gamble on a player who has a fair amount of risk to start in my Week 1 side, but Perisic is the exception. I freely admit, my Spurs bias may come into play here. However, I will say this, if there is some added doubt to his perhaps not starting this weekend before the deadline, I have a backup plan - doubling up on Manchester City defense with Kyle Walker and just keep the .5m in the bank, dedicated to upgrading Walker to Perisic when the time is right.

 

Pick 14 - Robert Sanchez - Goalkeeper (4.5m)

 

It's almost comical how much tinkering I have done at the keeper position this summer. On the one hand, I historically back who I think the best 4.5m option there is and roll with it, as I prefer to spend as little cash at the position as possible. But then, FPL threw a curveball this season by reducing the price tags of several premium keepers by .5m. So, I toyed around with Ederson and even Alisson for a while. I looked at the 5m bracket and considered getting defensive cover for Chelsea (Edouard Mendy) or Arsenal (Aaron Ramsdale) and I looked at who I could be happy with until I play my first wildcard from the 4.5m options. At first, David Raya looked a good choice, as he put up a points per game total that was similar to keepers going for .5m more. Then I thought about Illan Meslier and how Leeds, though horrific defensively last season, have such a kind opening run of fixtures and, at the very least, he should factor in some save points. But, after all this hemming and hawing, in the end, what made the decision for me was when Ward emerged as a starter for Leicester. It did not take long for people to figure out that Ward rotates pretty nicely with Brighton's Sanchez, so Sanchez it is. I will admit, it is the weakest area of my squad and rotating keepers seems to backfire as often as it works, but, given the strength I feel I have everywhere in the outfield, I am okay with giving this rotation experiment a shot.

 

Pick 15 - Cameron Archer - Forward (4.5m)

 

The last pick goes toward a position that needed a minimum-priced player and, when it comes to forwards, no one at the 4.5m price looks poised to play with any regularity. Archer winds up taking up the spot for a few reasons. 1) He's from Villa and I highly doubt I will ever want or need to stock up on more than two additional players from that club. 2) He has gotten a decent amount of playing time over the summer and, considering we now have five substitutes allowed in a match versus three, to me that gives a chance to fringe players like this to at least come on for an appearance point, which is pretty much all you can ask for from a player you are going to place as the last option on your fantasy bench. Finally, 3) his ownership is low enough where it would seem, were his price to ever drop, it would likely take longer for it to happen versus someone like Sam Greenwood of Leeds, who is currently in about one out of every four FPL teams.

 

Overall Thoughts

 

While this may be considered a very template-looking squad, and I know one needs to find those overlooked gems that pop before the bandwagons catch up to me, to begin the season, this side just screams “safe”. You cannot win FPL in the first month, but you can find yourself far behind if you are not somewhat careful. I just want to be in the mix in the early weeks, spend my transfers wisely and, as the season goes along, finding my team taking its own unique shape.

 

Are there players I have left out that I wish I didn't? Sure. I have to say, I still feel like Raheem Sterling is going to rip it up at Chelsea, where he is no longer one of several goal-scoring targets, he should be the clear talisman in his situation. What has kept many people from him is his price tag, as 10m is kind of in a no-man's-land for potential alternatives. Either you need to come up with 2m to obtain the likes of Kevin De Bruyne or Heung-Min Son, or you are going to cut 2m out and play one of those 8m options I talked about earlier. In the end, I do have a contingency should Sterling really shine…I will simply make the sacrifice with Joao Cancelo, take 2m and replace with Kyle Walker, and convert Mason Mount into Sterling. I am still keeping representation from the same clubs at the same positions, but leaving the opportunity open to go with the less-popular, but potentially more lucrative combination of Sterling and Walker.

 

Another area where there is substantial investment but is not represented in my side is the lack of a Chelsea defender. I gave Reece James consideration throughout the summer, but in the end, I feel more than armed with the premium defenders I have ready to go, and I felt that if I am going to take one player from the Blues, I want it in attack.

 

Speaking of putting .5m in the bank, like I plan to if I get cold feet on Perisic, there is another reason to bank that bit extra in my opinion and his name is Jarrod Bowen. Bowen is coming off a monster campaign but his ownership on the eve of the deadline is down there with Sterling's, for I think a couple of reasons. First, people are put off by the extra .5m he costs compared to that nice group of 8m options. Second, folks see West Ham playing Manchester City in Week 1 and immediately write him off. Well, let me make two counterpoints to those two points. 1) with 29 goal involvements last season, he was one of the exclusive group of four players to top 200 points last season, so, yeah, he IS worth the .5m more. Realistically, he should be somewhere between 9-10m. 2) The last time West Ham hosted City like they will be this weekend, you only have to go back to May of this year. Bowen bagged a brace in that game. So, while people may not like the idea of the Hammers getting on the score sheet because so many folks will have some form of defensive cover from City, the reality is, Bowen gave even the best defenses problems last year. He should be in more teams or, at least, considered for a transfer in the near future and thus, the strategy of keeping .5m in the bank.

 

Right, I could go on, but I am realizing this column has a shelf life of only a handful of hours, so let's wrap things up here. Again, the team I have built is not some sort of secret code I have unlocked…many of the picks I have are seen in the squads of countless other managers. But, I feel I have accomplished the most important aspects of building that initial squad. The majority of my players are proven FPL assets, most of them are playing for Top Four-Top Five sides (where clubs are successful, FPL points tend to follow), I have kept my risk down to a couple of players, which make me feel comfortable enough not to panic should Week 1 not be a great start. And I feel I have maximized value pretty much up and down the squad. All that is left to do is appropriately react to the ever-changing landscape that is this game for the remaining thirty-seven weeks.

 

Simples.

 

Right then folks, I should have had it trademarked back in the day, because I have seen the phrase used since I made it my column “outro”, but on the eve of this brand new season, let me express the sentiment one more time…

 

Good luck, and may your arrows be green.

 

Steve Rothgeb

Steve Rothgeb is a contributor for NBC Sports Edge and WorldSoccerTalk.com, a self-proclaimed fantasy sports oracle, and Tottenham Hotspur fanatic. He can be found on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles.