4 months ago
No beef here — just a good old-fashioned debate — and we're back for a second season! Draftgym have commissioned me to continue to bring you the major talking points of the FPL/FanTeam week. With the season now less than three weeks away, the activity around the fantasy football community is starting to increase. Thank goodness we had the Euros and something else to think about for a few weeks, imagine how much it would be dragging by now without. There are plenty of talking points with regards to the pricing up of the assets that we all know and love across both the FPL, and FanTeam. So lets get into the biggest talking point of the build up to Gameweek 1!.
Bruno Fernandes was the top scoring FPL asset in the 2020/21 season with 244 points. He scored 18 goals (from an xG of 15.45) and 12 assists (from an xA of 11.28). He was a creative force that drove Manchester United forward and often stepped up to drag them over the line in games. Yes, he could be viewed as a penalty merchant (hence the nickname Bruno Penandes in some quarters) but to tar him with that brush really ignores how good Bruno looked and how well he shapes up statistically against almost all other assets. So surely there is no debate? Surely Bruno has to be in our Gameweek 1 teams? Well, not necessarily.
Lets look at the pro's and con's of starting the season with Manchester United's talismanic midfielder. Are you tempted to swing against the tide, or will you follow the perhaps logical crowd that refuse to move away from the mercurial man from Maia? Lets find out.
One of the reasons is relatively simplistic. The man has been a freak of nature since he arrived in the Premier League, averaging over 7 points per game in the Premier League since his arrival in January 2020.
The sustainability seems to be in little doubt. When you factor in that United are strengthening their team all the time and have now added Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, it should increase the quality of the attack around Fernandes and also presumably give a more solid defensive base from which to build from. Aside from the goals and assists, Bruno's attacking numbers since he joined the Premier League are gargantuan, and theres been very little sign of any let up.
The statistics show that amongst midfielders in 2020/21, Fernandes created the most big chances (20), contributed the winning goal on the most occasions (7), had the highest attempted assists (95) and averaged a shot every 25.7 minutes - only beaten by Diogo Jota, Mo Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Anwar El Ghazi. The numbers are fairly compelling whichever way you attempt to swing them. He's very rarely substituted and the reliability of returns is almost assured.
Manchester United's early fixtures (GW1-7, which is the second international break) see them face none of the other members of the 'big 6' in the Premier League, before a slightly tougher fixture run commences with Leicester and then Liverpool in GWs 8-9.
Ownership in the early season could also be a factor. Fernandes is sure to be one of the highest owned assets in both FPL and FanTeam — and swinging against him is a huge gamble. If Fernandes doesn't deliver, you may make a flying start if you are able to identify the right man to pick instead of him. But if you go against him and Fernandes does deliver in the way that his numbers from the last two seasons suggest he can, your season could be over before it even begins.
Another thing to consider is that if you don't go with Bruno in your early squad, you are likely going to be picking someone at a cheaper price and that is going to make it extremely difficult to get back to him without squad surgery — so you could be creating a problem for yourself that becomes a pain in the backside to rectify.
I think when it comes to Bruno, trying to sell you on why he's a good asset is probably a waste of everyone's time. So what are the reasons to not get him?
The biggest one here relates to value for money if you are not selecting him for captaincy. Most managers have Mo Salah locked into their starting drafts and with good reason considering their first two fixtures are Norwich (A) and Burnley (H). Liverpool also face Crystal Palace (H) and Brentford (A) in GW5-6, which means feasibly you can lock Mo Salah in as your captain for 4 of the first 6 gameweeks — and that could potentially stretch to Liverpool's fixture with Leeds in GW4 too. That leaves just GW3 in your early consideration for captaincy. While Bruno is a perfectly viable captain against Wolves (A) and Newcastle (H) in GW4, it could be argued that you could cover the captaincy by owning Mo Salah and Son Heung-Min for example. and save yourself £2m in the process to invest further.
Harry Kane's protracted rumoured move to Manchester City could also be something that leads managers to move away from owning Bruno. If Kane completes the move, Bruno feels more disposable than Salah if you feel the need to force in Kane immediately. There is, however, an argument that a City asset could wait based on the difficulty of the fixtures for City between GW 3-7.
Jadon Sancho now also provides a potential alternative option at a cheaper price point that also should be a nailed attacking asset. Sancho (£9.5m in FPL, £9m in FanTeam) should be completely secure in the team given the transfer fee and the early season absence of Marcus Rashford, and his record in the Bundesliga last season indicate a man that should be providing consistent goal involvement.
The final argument is that his numbers did subside slightly at the end of last season (he averaged 4.3pts per GW from GW 31-38) and he had a frustrating and quiet Euro 2020.
For me, the risk of going without Bruno to start is too great. It seems much easier and much more logical to start with him and move down if other options emerge. Starting without him could lead to a huge struggle in terms of early rank, but also lead to use of the wildcard to rectify the damage — immediately putting your season on the back foot.
Kane moving to Manchester City could change that — but I'd want the security of knowing that Kane is starting against Norwich in GW2 to be willing to make the move — if not, Kane could potentially wait until slightly later when Bruno's fixtures take a turn after GW7.
If you're set on going without Bruno, then the best midfield options to go in his place could potentially be Son, Mahrez or Sancho — but even when you look at Son's amazing season last season, the stats don't compare favourably.
Bruno might be template, but he's template for a reason.
The thing that captured the attention of most of the FPL and FanTeam community when the prices were announced in the game was the myriad of options at £4.5m defensively. The dilemma is identifying the right one.
Plenty of options at Brighton appeal with essentially all of their defence available at £4.5m apart from Lewis Dunk. One of those options, Ben White, could potentially become a nailed £4.5m member of the Arsenal defence which would also appeal.
Wesley Fofana was the main talking point when the fixtures came out — but the appeal doesn't seem great to me. He isn't nailed with the chance that Leicester might play a back 4 with Soyuncu and Evans — and while clean sheets are a possibility, it's likely the ceiling for Fofana. He had 11 shots last season with just 2 on target and only scored 5 bonus points. Comparing that with Dunk at £5m, who had 32 shots (14 on target) and 17 bonus points, it feels like paying more for the upside there could be worth it.
The interesting one (and I can't believe I'm typing it) could be Luke Ayling if Leeds continue their improved defensive numbers in the second half of the season. Surely 0 attacking returns isn't sustainable. is it?
Here we all are debating the concept of owning more than one Liverpool defender. It wasn't going particularly well last season even prior to Van Dijk's horror injury against Everton, and it damn sure didn't get much better afterwards. The form of TAA in the second half of last season makes him a player that could absolutely justify his price tag, but are we wrong to be looking at doubling up?
I think its a close call with all the value in the defensive areas. Robertson and Van Dijk both could become great assets and my instinct is to lean towards starting with Robertson as a 2nd defensive asset and then downgrade in GW3 if the signs aren't there, but I wouldn't talk anyone out of starting with a cheaper asset like Dias, Digne or Shaw (if fit) ahead of Robertson and using the money to potentially upgrade the third midfield spot. It seems it's likely to be the main distinction amongst the 'template'.
So. Many. Options. As we'll discuss in the next section, choices in FanTeam could be influenced by the amount of minutes a player is likely to play, but in FPL, explosivity could be an easier thing to try and target.
While Ollie Watkins feels like an obvious pick based on Aston Villa's first 3 fixtures, so many options have emerged. Bamford, Calvert-Lewin, Antonio, Wilson and Jiminez are all priced within 0.5m of each other in the FPL environment — and if you want to drop a little cheaper, promoted assets Ivan Toney and Teemu Pukki are lurking there to tempt people to invest some budget elsewhere.
Again, a lot of managers will be in this area but it will be the combined ownership of the two or three you choose that will determine how well you start the season.
An important factor to consider in your decision making in the £1m game for the Premier League in the FanTeam game is the extra point that your midfielders and attackers will get if they complete the full match. It certainly makes assets like Ollie Watkins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin appealing, but maybe casts some doubt over players like Michail Antonio and Callum Wilson who can be injury prone, or Patrick Bamford who may lose some minutes to Rodrigo.
The important thing will be to try and nail in as many 90 minute men as possible — one point per 90 minutes is a crucial difference.
For me, FanTeam got the pricing right. The difference in price between the Liverpool front three gives people genuine decisions to make and there are other examples of this throughout the game, with Sancho at £9m and Sterling down at £10m, which should hopefully lead to divergence and variation as the season goes on.
There are still a lot of decisions to be made in both formats, but my instinct is that FanTeam have created an environment where more players are an option — and that should be good for the game.
Go without Mo Salah at your peril. It feels as if his captaincy numbers for most of the first 6 gameweeks could be huge. Be bold and swing against it if you feel strongly, but be prepared to hide when Liverpool are in action and Salah is running at the Norwich and Burnley defences.
Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always valued. Credit to Fantasy Football Fix for the statistics used in this article. Stay tuned for more FPL and FanTeam content over the season including my attempt to learn to be a daily fantasy player with the help of my DraftGym colleagues! If you wish to participate in a future debate, get in touch with @rpick86 on Twitter.
The latest addition to the DraftGym crew, FPL veteran and the Debate grandmaster.