Finishing off the Fantasy Premier League 2018/19 team preview series, I look at the best picks, gambles and those to avoid completely for Southampton, Tottenham, Watford, West Ham and Wolves.
There is a RealSport league again this year, with another cash prize of £50. Head to the FPL site and use the code 20571-70568 or click here to enter.
Burnley (H); Everton (A); Leicester (H); Crystal Palace (A); Brighton (H); Liverpool (A)
It’s not the most inspiring of starts for Southampton, but nor is it terrifying. There’s plenty of potential for points with winnable home games and some interesting away fixtures.
The Saints struggled last season and only guaranteed their place in this season’s Premier League in GW37, so I’m not holding out much hope for them. However, in previous years they have been a consistent source of underpriced gems.
Charlie Austin (FWD, 6.0m)
If you can pick him up at the right time then Charlie Austin can be a hero for just 6.0m. I still fondly remember the year he came up with QPR and scored 18 goals, for example.
Since then he has struggled with injury and a rotation heavy frontline, competing with Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long for minutes. But last season he managed seven goals in a third of the campaign, so he clearly has potential. If only he can stay fit...
Mohamed Elyounoussi (MID, 6.5m)
Another new signing into the league, this time from the Swiss Super League. Mohamed Elyounoussi can play as a winger and a striker, so like Alireza Jahanbakhsh at Brighton there is potential for a cheap OOP option.
Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge However, with Austin, Long and Gabbiadini also there then there will be fewer opportunities for him to push up front. Regardless of where he plays, he has scored ten goals in each of the last two seasons, so he definitely knows where the net is.
Mark Hughes does not build strong defences. He took the definitive Tony Pulis backline and turned it into relegation material.
When he left the Potters they had the lowest goal difference in the league and had conceded 47 goals from 22 matches. Southampton’s defence wasn’t too solid under Mauricio Pellegrino and it will only go downhill under Hughes.
Newcastle (A); Fulham (H); Manchester United (A); Watford (A); Liverpool (H); Brighton (A)
Spurs have a good couple of opening fixtures against disintegrating Newcastle and newly promoted Fulham, but there are also difficult matches against Manchester United and Liverpool to contend with.
They will also be the most affected by players returning late from the World Cup as Hugo Lloris, Danny Rose, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane all staying in Russia until the end of the tournament. And Son Heung-min is off to the Asian Games after the first weekend in a bid to avoid national service.
Harry Kane (FWD, 12.5m)
Who else but the Hurri-Kane? Spurs’ talismanic striker is the key to their potential this year as he looks to break 200 points for the fourth season running.
REUTERS/Lee Smith He has scored 29 goals in each of the last two seasons — not counting the ghost header — and will be hungry to take back his golden boot from Mo Salah. Don’t listen to the talk of August curses, he’s back in training and he wants to win.
Nobody — not even Salah — took more shots from inside or outside the box than Kane did last year.
Christian Eriksen (MID, 9.5m)
Like Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Eriksen is the model of consistency. He is not going to return huge points on a regular basis, but he will chip in with a goal or an assist almost every week.
Last year he managed a personal best for goals scored, although a reduction in assists meant he fell agonisingly short of 200 points.
Lucas Moura (MID, 7.0m)
After making the move to North London in January, Lucas Moura failed to live up to the hype, although he only got 206 minutes on the pitch.
REUTERS/Denis Poroy Mauricio Pochettino has surely been easing him in gently, but now he will need to rely on the pacey winger as Spurs wait for the majority of their first team to return to action.
Erik Lamela (MID, 6.5m)
Erik Lamela will probably have a shot at the Spurs first team for the same reasons Lucas will, but he has some pedigree in FPL.
He looked good towards the end of last season when he returned from a long-term injury, and he will want to stake his claim for a permanent spot. As long as he can stay fit.
Pochettino is renowned for chopping and changing his fullbacks and that is a nightmare for FPL managers.
Ben Davies was one of the top scorers in the game after a few weeks of last season, but when Danny Rose returned from injury he was instantly rotated out and played almost every other week. But the Argentine isn’t afraid to bring them on for one-point cameos either, so stay away.
Brighton (H); Burnley (A); Crystal Palace (H); Spurs (H); Manchester United (H); Fulham (A)
Watford have a brief blip in an otherwise excellent set of opening fixtures that extends all the way into November. GWs 4, 5 and 7 (Arsenal) will be difficult, but otherwise it’s a sea of green on the FPL fixture difficulty rater.
Abdoulaye Doucoure (MID, 6.0m)
Seven goals and four assists last year announced Abdoulaye Doucoure as an FPL option worth watching. He put in all-action performances and got a respectable 136 points, outscoring all of Watford’s actual strikers both in goals and FPL points.
After a slow end to the season with just one win in the final nine, there’s not a lot of love for Watford in FPL, but they could provide some gems just like Doucoure.
Andre Gray (FWD, 6.0m)
Another puntiest of punts up front! Andre Gray came up with Burnley two seasons ago and managed nine goals despite a suspension and some rotation. His move to Watford didn’t come with a step up, but a step down as he scored just five in reduced minutes.
Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs However, in pre-season — which should always be taken with a pinch of salt — he has scored three goals in four games and set up Troy Deeney in their final match against Sampdoria. It is a huge risk, but for just 6.0m and with those fixtures it could pay off.
Ben Foster (GK, 4.5m)
Ben Foster went down with West Brom, but has found new Premier League employers at Watford. In fairness, though, he was not at fault for the Baggies' woes. It seems he has taken over from Heurelho Gomes as the number one and therefore gives us a cheap option for that superb run of fixtures.
Make sure you’ve got a rotation because Watford can ship goals against the big teams — eight against Liverpool and nine against Manchester City.
Watford have 12 of them listed! It’s almost impossible to predict which of them will start on a regular basis, so it’s not worth the hassle. Last year the most any of them managed was approximately two-thirds of a season, so look elsewhere for your cheap defenders.
Liverpool (A); Bournemouth (H); Arsenal (A); Wolves (H); Everton (A); Chelsea (H)
West Ham have a new manager and plenty of new players to look at, but maybe it’s best to watch and wait before looking closer at East London.
Three matches against the top six, plus a trip to bogey side Everton do not suggest big points hauls. It doesn’t stop at GW6 either, as they also play Manchester United and Spurs in GW7 and 9.
Marko Arnautovic (FWD, 7.0m)
Having said all that, Marko Arnautovic has been in my FPL team since I put together a first draft and he’s not going anywhere soon!
Action Images via Reuters/Adam Holt The Austrian forward was classified as a midfielder last year and became FPL gold when Moyes joined and put him up front.
A new manager and a reclassification threatened to end his appeal, but Manuel Pellegrini has shown no signs of pulling him back during pre-season, and the goals have carried on flying in.
Felipe Anderson (MID, 7.0m)
West Ham broke their club record to sign the Brazilian midfielder from Lazio — the record they set earlier in the summer to sign Issa Diop. In previous seasons he has been crucial to Lazio reaching the quarter-finals of the Europa League, providing goals and assists.
Last year he scored four times and assisted seven goals in just one third of a season. If he can link up well with Arnautovic he could be a bargain for 7.0m.
Lukasz Fabianski (GK, 4.5m)
The Polish shot stopper left Swansea over the summer and joined the Hammers, hopefully to provide stability after chopping and changing between Adrian and Hart last year.
Lukasz Fabianski has a consistent 70% save rate in previous years and, considering West Ham were the leakiest defence of last season, he could be very busy again.
However, they have signed two new centre backs and a new wing back in Ryan Fredericks, so they could be a lot more robust than last year.
Ryan Fredericks (DEF, 5.0m)
Once the difficult fixtures are out the way, hopefully we’ll know if Fredericks is a consistent starter.
Action Images via Reuters/John Clifton The young full back made a name for himself at Fulham last year as a raiding wing back, providing seven assists. Like Felipe Anderson, Pellegrini will be hoping he links up well with Arnautovic and the goals start to flow.
Arthur Masuaku (MID, 4.5m)
It’s tempting because he’s a super cheap midfielder, but the Frenchman was pushed forward by Moyes last year and will likely be pushed back by Pellegrini, making him a reverse OOP player.
He might even struggle to get game time as a defender, as he goes up against Aaron Cresswell for the left back spot.
Everton (H); Leicester (A); Manchester City (H); West Ham (A); Burnley (H); Manchester United (A)
Another team with very tough fixtures to start, Wolves play the top two from last year in their opening six, as well as making tough trips to Leicester and West Ham.
There could be some gems in here, but best to wait and see how they line up in these opening fixtures.
Diogo Jota (MID, 6.5m)
Last season Diogo Jota scored 17 goals as Wolves blasted their way to the Championship title. He can play as a winger or striker and often get put up top, making him an enticing OOP option.
Action Images via Reuters/John Clifton He is generally the centre of all the Wolves’ attacks and, if they make the step up to the Premier League, he will be their star attraction in FPL.
Adama Traore (MID, 5.5m)
New to the club after a club record £18 million signing, Adama Traore will be ready and raring to go in the new season. He turned a few heads while playing for Middlesbrough in their doomed campaign a few years ago, but often ended his runs with nothing to show for them.
He has added an end product in the Championship and recorded ten assists last year, making more dribbles than any other player in the league. Or in the Premier League for that matter.
Rui Patricio (GK, 4.5m)
The goalkeeper for the reigning European champions is available at Wolves for just 4.5m! Rui Patricio arrived from Sporting over the summer to face the new challenge of helping a promoted side stay in the league.
Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough He is clearly a top class 'keeper, having won numerous Portuguese league titles and the European Championships.
I would suggest finding a good rotation as no matter how good he is, he’s still playing for a newly promoted side, and it could get messy when they face Man City in week 3.