If the fantasy football season were a 400 meter race, we’d be at the last turn of the finish line right now.
Nine weeks into the season, with almost a quarter of the season still to go, there’s still plenty of time to have your fill of mini-league.
Do you still have a few chips in your back pocket, ready for a big finish, or did you get out quickly and cling awkwardly to try to stay in the chase?
Many fantasy managers want to play their second wild card in Week 30 or 31, which requires careful consideration of the schedule and long-term planning. That’s my catchphrase on the Fantasia 606 podcast, mostly for the entertainment of Chris Sutton and Statman Dave.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool and Wolves are all teams that immediately stand out because they are on a pretty profitable path, so not a bad start. Don’t feel left out if you don’t have a wild card, as all of these considerations apply to any transfers you make in the coming weeks.
Tottenham have a double-header in week 32 with a trip to Everton and a home game against Southampton. So it’s worth bringing in Harry Kane as a starter, but don’t forget that the team has no problems with Manchester City, Southampton and Fulham in Week 33, so don’t let that throw you off course this time.
Team rotation is the biggest problem in trying to get it right – yes, Pep’s roulette just got riskier – especially with clubs still playing in European football. It will be very interesting to see how Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea perform in the first round of the Champions League quarter-finals next weekend.
If you haven’t done so by 31. If you can wait until the second week of the season, you have an extra week to find out what Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel think of the squad.
The biggest headache for me at the moment is whether to keep three Manchester City players – currently Ruben Dias, Ilkay Gündogan and Kevin de Bruyne – in the team.
Will Pep Guardiola spare some of his key players for the Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund?
The potential rewards are clear if all three compete, but with City’s 14 points at the top of the Premier League, the Champions League is certainly a priority now. I’m tempted to take Gündogan out and replace him with Jack Grealish or James Maddison if they can prove their form after the international break. Both play for good teams that haven’t played yet this season, and you can bet they’ll start every game.
Chelsea’s defence is another obvious haven, with just two goals against in 14 games under Tuchel. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is probably the safest acquisition, and he is still relatively cheap at £5.2 million. Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are also very cheap at £4.7m and both are starters.
Rhys James, Ben Chilwell and Marcos Alonso are more interesting in terms of offensive potential, but there is the added risk of an outside linebacker rotation.
In the case of Liverpool, Arsenal and Wolves, it’s about whether we believe their players will play in these seemingly favourable games, while the evidence this season has us doubting.
Mohamed Salah is a clear example, with just four goals, no assists and three bonus points in his last 15 appearances, but he’s still the fourth highest scorer in the game and if it clicks with Liverpool, he’ll almost certainly earn a fee.
If you can’t afford both, De Bruyne or Salah is a very interesting dilemma for fantasy managers on the skate. Personally, I would have opted for De Bruyne, but I would also have included Diogo Jota in the selection as a Liverpool recruit, or considered Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has shown signs of better form, although not enough to convince Gareth Southgate to select him for England.
If you want to support the Wolves team, Pedro Neto is the obvious choice as top scorer, although they have only scored 28 goals in 29 Premier League games, which can cost you a lot of money. Defensively they are solid, so maybe Conor Coady, Romain Saiss or Nelson Semedo are safer choices.
And why not consider Martin Odegar or Alexandre Lacazette at Arsenal, rather than the more popular Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Bukayo Saca? Odegaard cost just £6m and seems to have quickly established himself as a creative link in the team. Lacazette has earned £8.2 million and scored three goals in his last four Premier League games.
Alistair Bruce-Ball presents the Fantasy 606 podcast with Premier League winner Chris Sutton and Statman Dave. The final episode of the week 30 preview is now available on Sounds.
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