In part 2 of this watchlist series, I’m breaking down players I consider to be ‘calculated punts’ for the 2021/22 FPL season. These are the players I feel are primed to have a big season, but don’t quite make the Mr. Reliable category. Think of these as your medium-low risk players. Some seem obvious to do well, others may surprise you. So if you choose them and get it right, you could end up being 1 step ahead of your fantasy rivals, or not faltering behind (depending on their ownership).
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Now that all the plugs are out of the way, onto the calculated punts…
Robert Sanchez – 4.5m – Brighton
At that price, considering Brightons defensive form at the end of last season, we could be looking at this years Martinez. Although 12 clean sheets appear modest, some of Brightons underlying stats from last season looked great (Shots conceded – 358 – 4th in the league; Shots in the box conceded – 222 – 3rd in the league; Big chances conceded – 51 – 3rd in the league). So with Brightons opening 5 fixtures looking good, I feel he has a great chance of continuing last season end of year form. In pre-season, I’ll be monitoring how they perform as a defensive unit without Ben white, and whether Brightons new young goalkeeper Kjell Scherpen (4.5m), has any chance to up-tick Sanchez.
Luke Shaw – 5.5m – Manchester United
With his current form & confidence levels, Shaw should easily outperform his price tag this season. Whether he plays the first game week or 2 is speculative at this point due to the Euros. But once he plays you’ll regret not having him. With a 46.1% ownership, I feel his tantalising Euro performances have given him so much fantasy respect. The question is whether this is post-Euro bandwagon hype or the real deal. I’m thinking the latter. Depending on how you view the fixtures, he’s got 4-8 appealing fixtures to start the season. Get him in early.
Lucas Digne – 5.5m – Everton
I couldn’t decide what category to put him in, but I knew he had to feature. In the past 3 seasons, he’s averaged close to 9 attacking returns per season. But having only kept 9 clean sheets per season in his last 2 seasons, it might be enough to stray managers away. But now that Rafa is at the helm, I’m confident Digne will reach the levels of his first season with Everton (13 clean sheets). He also has 6 very favourable opening fixtures, which is almost making him a must-have to start the season. A smart, calculated risk.
Coufal – 5.0m vs Cresswell – 5.5m – West Ham
I’ve decided to compare the two West Ham full-backs. Whilst the hype is around Cresswell at 5.5m for his performances last season, I personally see Coufal as the best West Ham defensive asset. At 0.5m cheaper with a similar attacking output, my fantasy money is on him. He managed 9 assists last season to Cresswells 11, but this was Coufal’s first year in the league. Meanwhile, Cresswell has set-piece duties and has a proven track record of picking up attacking returns. But, if history has taught us anything, teams competing in the Europa League tend to underperform in the Premier League. So I think any West ham player is a bit of a risk long-term. But short term, without Europa League qualification this year, those opening 4 fixtures of Newcastle, Leicester, Crystal Palace, and Southampton sure look appealing.
Kai Havertz – 8.5m – Chelsea
If you looked at last season’s FPL returns broadly you’d think he’s overpriced. But his end-of-season form, change of position, and talent suggests to me he could get 180+ points this season & that price would be a great return. This really is a calculated risk. I’ll be paying close attention to what areas of the pitch he plays in pre-season, and how often he contributes. If the fixtures were more positive after game week 1, he would have been a shoo-in for me.
Mason Greenwood – 7.5m – Manchester United
In his final 9 appearances last season, he scored 7 goals with 1 assist. That’s some series FPL returns. The lad is a natural-born finisher. So with Cavani staying one more year rather than them targetting Kane, I feel this could be Greenwood’s year of reckoning. It might also be his last season classified as a midfielder in FPL. With Rashford getting surgery and Sancho the new kid on the block, I fully expect Greenwood to come out all guns blazing to prove he belongs in the first 11. My personal favourite calculated punt.
Raphinha – 6.5m – Leeds United
With such a high ceiling, this could be Raphinhas breakout season before he places himself within the high-tier price bracket. I can easily see his price rising to 7.0m by game week 5. He was a difficult player to place within these categories, as I’m expecting a big year from the Brasilian, and so are a lot of people. With only 133 points last season, he hasn’t quite proven himself to be reliable, so I’ve placed him in the calculated punts list as it seems a smart, relatively low-risk choice to own him. An opening fixture against Man United might be enough to scare managers away, but he notched 2 assists in the same fixture last season. His tough opening run of fixtures could be a great platform to showcase his talents to the ‘top 6’.
Ollie Watkins – 7.5m – Aston Villa
14 goals, 9 assists, and 168 points is some feat in your maiden Premier League campaign. And it could easily have been more. Mr woodwork himself could go either way in his second season. I personally think the only way is up for him. But with so many good strikers available at this price point, it’s going to cause a headache for most managers deciding who & how many make the final cut. I expect he will make mine.
Kelechi Ileanacho – 7.5m – Leicester City
His end-of-season form was some serious business, scoring 12 goals in the last 17 games. If Rodgers continues with 5 at the back & thus 2 up top he could be set to continue that rich vein in form. The problem is, we don’t know how Rodgers plans to set them up, but pre-season should give us an idea. Another thing to monitor – Thursday night – Sunday games due to the Europa league could cause inconsistent lineups. But the positive is Leicester’s squad has been well rested over the summer, so I’m expecting their starting 11 to come flying out the blocks.
If you haven’t already, check out the first part of this watchlist series where I break down the most reliable players for the FPL season ahead. Part three is Bargain Basements, and part four is Risky Business.