I (Brian) know how it is. You probably made your transfer or transfers for the week already. That’s fine. But playing FPL has taught me that it’s never too late to acquire information that makes you second guess all your decisions.
With that in mind, here is a list of differentials with an eye on week 3 and hopefully beyond. As of Thursday, August 23, all are currently less than 5% owned, though the goal is to find players owned far less so you can reap the rewards reserved for only the riskiest risk-takers.
Wayne Hennessey – Crystal Palace (£4.5, 2.6% owned) – What scared you most? The arrival of Vicente Guaita, or that it’s Wayne Hennessey? Well fear no more because this is what we know:
1.) Roy Hodgson clarified it is Wayne’s shirt to keep as long as he doesn’t royally mess up.
2.) Liverpool is the only top-tier club that Crystal Palace face in their first 9 matches.
Perhaps if we said this after week 1, some of you unsavory types could have accused us of kneejerk intrigue based on his 9 fantasy point, Man of the Match-quality performance vs. Fulham. However, since we all witnessed Palace’s heroic effort against one of the league’s best attacks in Liverpool, I say your FPL trust in him should be growing. Assuming Mamadou Sakho stays healthy and/or continues to have refs ignore clumsy tackles in the box (sorry, André Schürrle), Hennessey should continue to benefit.
Whoever Fulham Put In Goal (£4.5, Fabri 0.4%, Bettinelli 0.2%, & Rico 0.2% owned) – On one hand, you can’t argue with 15 saves and 8 fantasy points, including 2 bonus points, in two matches for Fabri. On the other hand, Fulham fans might argue that Fabri sucks and there are 2 other keepers ready to take his shirt. The Cottagers allowed 20(!) shots on target in the first two matches, more than lowly clubs like Huddersfield and Arsenal each did against Chelsea & City. It’s a bit of a mixed-bag schedule for Fulham the next 5 weeks, but as many keepers including Fabri have shown, it’s not all about clean sheets because those save points really add up. Let’s call this a wait-and-see situation, but I am interested to see who Jokanovic ends up choosing because if their defense continues like this, “Fulham goalkeeper” could break the saves record by February.
Ricardo Pereira – Leicester (£5.0, 4.7% owned) – The Foxes showed a lot of promise in the first two weeks, and this post could very well be about Ben Chilwell who is a ridiculous 0.7% owned, so go ahead and read this as a bit of a 2-for-1 special. However, since we can prove we were impressed with Pereira’s potential in the preseason (check our Transfer Window podcast from June), we would be dumb not to talk about him here while he’s still below 5% ownership. Most importantly for your FPL team, he had an assist in each match so far. We could be talking about his three assists if not for a first half wonder-save from David de Gea on James Maddison when the Foxes fell to United. What I love to see is that his overall stat sheet is like Mauricio Sarri’s cigarette storage closet: very full. He is third in the league in tackles which as you might guess also leads the Foxes, he also leads the team in aerial duels won, but has supplied nearly as many crosses and key passes as Chilwell. If he continues to do this, he will be in contention for bonus points every week, regardless of goals conceded; he narrowly missed out on a bonus point in week 1 despite Leicester conceding twice but he had all 3 bonus points in week 2. Whether he plays at right wing (as he did vs. United) or right back (as he did vs. Wolves), few players at his price offer his attacking potential.
Arsenal Defender, Especially Nacho Monreal (£5.5, 0.8% owned) – Perhaps this is too obvious, even though the Gunners find themselves locked in a life-or-death relegation battle after two weeks. I’m 98% kidding about that and 99% in favor of adding one of Arsenal’s back four to your FPL squad. As this is a differentials piece, I’m looking at anyone not named Hector Bellerin, who is also a good choice but already 12.7% owned. Sokratis (2.1%) and Mustafi (1.3%) would work, but I’m looking at Nacho Monreal (0.8%) who certainly missed selection in many season-opening FPL teams due to injury and matchup doubts. Doubt no more because Nacho is no longer chipped (sorry), and the Gunners’ schedule relaxes considerably in the next 6 weeks, and beyond that in 10 of their next 11 matches. You should also know that Nacho scored 3 of his 5 goals last season against teams he’s about to play in this stretch (West Ham, Everton, Crystal Palace). Plus, his involvement vs. Chelsea nearly mirrored Bellerin’s: each had three penalty area touches but one of Nacho’s was a shot attempt, both supplied a key pass, and Bellerin had 3 crosses to Nacho’s 2. Arsenal spent the last 2 weeks on the short side of an approximately 60/40 possession disparity, a statistic they will likely flip in these upcoming matchups, so I look for his attacking stats to rise proportionally. Defensively, the Gunners still look suspect, but with a favorable run of opponents and a potent-looking attack, you’d be remiss not to consider Nacho.
Will Hughes – Watford (£5, 1.0% owned) – FPL managers always seem so quick to react to goal scorers, so where is the rush to own Will Hughes? His goal vs. Burnley was outstanding, the only Hornet who has attempted more than his 5 shots is Troy Deeney (who has 6), and he leads the league in tackles with 12. Sure, you don’t love to see Spurs, United, and Arsenal in 3 of the next 5 matches. However, Watford scored at least once against all 3 of them last fall, and those matches occurred about the time of the club’s turmoil surrounding former manager Marco Silva. That is to say, Watford has better stability to start the season, their current attacking form looks promising, which Will Hughes certainly helps, and the combination of form and quality can offset matchup concerns. As we said in our season preview podcast, his £5 price tag makes him one of the most desirable players at his position, not just from Watford.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson – Burnley (£6, 1.8% owned) – Quick, who finished with the 6th best assist total in the Premier League last season, tied with Pascal Gross and one more than Roberto Firmino? That would be ol’ IceBerg, and if his involvement so far this season is any indication, he should be able to repeat or surpass his 2 goals and 9 assists from last FPL season. His activity in the attacking half vs. Southampton led to two very good scoring opportunities, one of which is likely a goal if not for a timely block by Jack Stephens. Only two players for any team attempted more crosses than Gudmundsson’s 10 vs. Southampton, and his 6 accurate crosses is tied for the league’s best. Heck, only two other Burnley players even have one accurate cross so far. His importance to the Claret’s attack is clear, so it is a mystery to me why 3.7% of FPL managers own Fred when The Berginator is like the Icelandic Richard Marx: right here waiting for you*.
*Must be aged around 30 years to possibly care about this.
Steve Mounie – Huddersfield (£6, 0.3% owned) – This is the maverick’s choice. Do you want real differentials, or do you want me to tell you to buy Danny Ings like everyone else? (Note: You should consider buying Ings and also Raul Jimenez.) If your eyes stayed in your head after you rolled them at the name “Mounie” or possibly at “Steve,” you can read on. As he showed vs. Manchester City, Steve can help your fantasy team even when Huddersfield look like flaming garbage. Of course, if you also saw the match vs. Chelsea, you know he was wildly unlucky not to score when his first half header hit the inside of the post, so we could very well be talking about a goal and an assist for him in two very difficult matches.
**Stat That Seems Odd But Actually Isn’t**: He won a league-leading 21 aerial duels in the first two weeks, 11 vs. Chelsea and you can do the math on how many he won vs. City. Odd, perhaps, until you realize he was 8th best in the League last season doing that very thing. What’s good for the Terriers is that 3 of their next 4 opponents (Cardiff, @Everton, Crystal Palace, Leicester City) are at home and also do not include Manchester City or Chelsea. If Steve can produce in the club’s toughest matchup this season, you certainly like his chances against newly promoted Cardiff, a so-far shaky-looking Everton defense, an unproven (but admittedly quite good-looking) Palace side, and a Foxes defense that was 2nd worst in the league last season defending set pieces.
Remember: being different is fun and good. Good luck in week 3!