Another Premier League season is about to get underway, and that means the return of Fantasy Football.
Last season, over six and a half million people played the popular game. Many of those stop playing within a few weeks, but, for others, the game is highly addictive and an unmissable part of the Premier League season.
So, whether you’re a Fantasy Football veteran, or a someone who will stop doing your team after a few months, here are some suggestions that may help.
Of course, it is hardly a tip to suggest you should consider putting Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling or Sergio Aguero in your team. You’ll need to have at least one of these premium players.
So, where possible, we’ve focused on some other must-have players – one for each position.
Goalkeeper – Nick Pope (Burnley, £4.5m)
There are two types of Fantasy managers when it comes to selecting goalkeepers. Those who pick an expensive but ultra-reliable goalkeeper – such as Ederson or Alisson Becker – and a cheap backup goalkeeper they never plan to use. There are others who select two low to mid-range ‘keepers who can be rotated. In a way, Nick Pope ticks both boxes.
The Burnley goalkeeper is cheap enough to still select Ederson or Alisson, but is also reliable enough to use as a rotation option. Pope missed all of last season after suffering a dislocated shoulder last summer but was sensational the season before.
Only David de Gea had a better save percentage than Pope during the 2017/18 campaign and only Liverpool’s Alisson has a better save percentage in the Premier League over the last three seasons.
In the 17/18 season, the England goalkeeper kept 11 clean sheets, made 113 saves in 35 matches and finished with 152 points. He also scored 19 bonus points.
Best save percentage in @premierleague over past 3 seasons (minimum 25 games played) 🧤
77.1% – Alisson
76.5% – Nick Pope
73.9% – Hugo Lloris
73.5% – David de Gea
72.5% – TOM HEATON pic.twitter.com/l2xp9lyGxR
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) August 1, 2019
Burnley sold Tom Heaton to Aston Villa and bought Bailey Peacock-Farrell from Leeds United. Joe Hart is also still at Turf Moor. However, he proved last season that his days as a Premier League starter should be over. Burnley’s form dramatically increased after he was dropped following a 5-1 hammering against Everton in December.
It is all set-up for Pope to be Burnley’s first-choice ‘keeper for this season. Sean Dyche’s side have tricky opening games – they play Liverpool, Wolves and Arsenal before the end of August – but they then have a favourable run of games until the end of November.
Yet, given Pope’s ability as a shot-stopper, he is likely to collect bonus points even if Burnley fail to keep clean sheets. At just £4.5m, he is a must-have. Pope is also only selected by just 4.5 per cent of managers, making him a differential option.
Defence – Andy Robertson (Liverpool, £7m)
Andy Robertson is an obvious option – but the Liverpool full-back is just too good to avoid including in your team. He has been selected by 34.8 per cent of Fantasy managers, but that figure should arguably be a lot higher. Robertson is one of the best full-backs in the division and one of Fantasy Football’s most productive players.
Last season, Robertson registered 12 assists and was part of a defence that kept 21 clean sheets. He’s guaranteed to be a pivotal part of Jurgen Klopp’s team for this campaign. Unlike the equally impressive Trent Alexander-Arnold, Robertson is less likely to be rotated.
Other, less obvious choices, include Kyle Walker-Peters and Caglar Soyuncu.
Walker-Peters is Tottenham’s only fit right-back and costs just £5m. Soyuncu could start in central defence for Leicester after the club sold Harry Maguire. The Turkish defender is priced at just £4.5m.
Midfield – Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa, £6m)
The Aston Villa midfielder has a wand of a left-foot and is a dead-ball specialist. Villa may have spent £100m on new players this summer, but Hourihane is likely to remain an important part of their team.
In the Championship last season, Villa scored 24 goals from set-pieces – more than any other team in the division bar Rotherham. Hourihane created 40 chances for his teammates from dead-ball situations and registered 12 assists. Of course, few would expect him to replicate those numbers in the Premier League. But, if the Ireland midfielder can be even half as productive, he will have a great campaign and record a lot of Fantasy points.
The Corkman is also a goal threat, as he showed with his excellent free-kick goal for Ireland back in March. Hourihane scored seven times for Villa last season and also scored two free-kicks for his club in their final pre-season fixture of the summer.
Ahead of Friday’s deadline, Hourihane has been selected by just 0.3 per cent of managers, making him an incredible differential option. He costs only £6m and Villa’s fixtures are appealing – they play just three of last season’s top six in their opening 10 games.
Forward – Joshua King (Bournemouth, £6.5m)
Fantasy Football veterans will be no stranger to Joshua King. The Bournemouth forward recorded an impressive 178 Fantasy points in the 2016/17 season, when he scored 16 goals and registered three assists. King had a productive campaign last season too, scoring 12 times for the Cherries. He represents excellent value for the upcoming campaign.
The Norwegian’s strike partner Callum Wilson will be a more popular choice for Fantasy managers, but King is £1.5m cheaper and has one, significant, advantage over his teammate – King is Bournemouth’s penalty-taker.
With the introduction of VAR this season, don’t be surprised to see a rise in the number of penalties awarded.
Eddie Howe’s side also have a favourable start to the season. Of the top-six teams, Bournemouth will only play Man City and Arsenal in their opening 10 games. They also play two promoted sides – Villa and Sheffield United – in their opening two games of the campaign.
King is a solid option alongside a more expensive striker, such as Jamie Vardy, Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.