The scientific guide to picking the perfect Fantasy Football team 4 years ago

The scientific guide to picking the perfect Fantasy Football team

Stephen Horan is a Fantasy Football expert who knows what it takes to stay competitive as the season progresses.

Approximately 4.5 million people play the Fantasy Football game annually and over 9 consecutive seasons Stephen has an average of finishing in the top 1% of the world (0.55% to be precise). In short, he knows what he's talking about.

Below, he outlines the best goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers to choose ahead of the first Gameweek deadline at 18:45 on Friday 11 August.

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1) Goalkeepers

Last year's top performers...

  • Tom Heaton was the top scoring goalkeeper last season marginally pipping Spurs’ Hugo Loris at the post. The Burnley captain initially cost shrewd FPL managers 4.5m and managed 10 clean sheets. He made the most saves of any goalkeeper last season which was reflected by his total of 21 bonus points.
  • Hugo Loris and the Spurs defence conceded the least amount of goals from all FPL teams last season. Unfortunately for Loris owners, he reduced his chances of winning the golden glove by missing 4 games during the season with injury.
  • Thibaut Courtois won last season’s golden glove award with 16 clean sheets. However, his fellow Chelsea defenders offered a significant goal threat from defence which is worth noting again this season.
  • David de Gea was the most popular goalkeeper in FPL last season, mainly due to the Manchester giants popularity around the world and his highly controversial move to Real Madrid falling through. Jose Mourihno’s team served up 17 clean sheets last season with the Spaniard missing out on 3 of those due to rest and rotation.
  • Finally, Arsenal’s Petr Cech made up the fifth spot in our analysis from last season amassing 134 points by racking up 12 clean sheets and an impressive 115 saves over the season.

This season's popular picks...

  • At the time of writing, Man United’s David de Gea dominates FPL manager’s goalkeeping thoughts with a whopping 29% opting for ‘Spanish Dave’s’ services. United’s attractive opening fixtures, the addition of Nemanja Matic to protect the back four and Mourinho’s defensive record point towards clean sheets for the red devils in the coming season.
  • Ben Foster has been selected by 16.5% of managers as the cheapest route into a West Brom defence that only managed 6 clean sheets last season and conceded 51 goals. Tony Pulis will surely want to improve upon these numbers for the coming season and West Brom’s opening fixtures are very favourable.
  • Newcastle’s Robert Elliot is potentially the only starting 4.0m goalkeeper in the game and offers FPL managers the opportunity to save money in this position and invest elsewhere. Once the tricky opening day fixture with Spurs is out of the way, Elliot has five nice fixtures to warrant our attention.
  • Joe Hart and Asmir Begovic will set you back 4.5m following their moves this summer to West Ham and Bournemouth. Those managers happy to splash 5.0m on goalkeepers should consider last season’s top scorer Tom Heaton and Everton’s new number one Jordan Pickford.

Top goalkeeper picks

  • We really like the look of Ben Foster in the West Brom at 4.5m who rotates really well with Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski also at 4.5m.
  • Rob Elliot is the bargain basement option at 4.0m for Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle.
  • If you fancy splashing out 5.5m, David de Gea is your man with United’s attractive opening fixtures.

2) Defenders

Last year's top performers...

  • Chelsea dominated FPL points for defenders last season racking up 16 clean sheets. Antonio Conte’s troops provided FPL managers with an array of attacking options from the back and this season should be no different.
  • Gary Cahill pipped his teammate Marcus Alonso at the summit by a single point as both defenders scored six goals from the back. Cahill’s potential to pick up bonus points helped him become the top scoring defender of the 2016/17 season. Once Alonso settled in England and nailed down the left wing back role for Conte’s title winning team he racked up some very impressive performances and FPL scores alike.
  • Azpilicueta started every minute of the season for Chelsea and despite only scoring one goal finished third to his teammates.
  • Kyle Walker’s attacking performances on the right of Spurs defence registered 142 points for owners and James Milner made up the top 5 defenders mainly due to his spot kick duties for Klopp’s men, scoring 7 goals in 36 appearances.

This season's popular picks...

  • Interestingly, from last season’s top five scoring defenders, only Kyle Walker makes the top five most selected defenders list following his big money move to Man City. This proves FPL managers have rightly no loyalty when it comes to sourcing points.
  • David Luiz’s price tag of 6.0m has convinced 22.1% of FPL managers that he is the stand out option from the Antonio Conte’s defence. Alonso, Cahill, Azpilicueta and Moses are all more expensive than the Brazilian who is fond of the odd long range effort and a good tussle in the box with opposition defenders for corners.
  • Charlie Daniels has been selected by 21.7% of FPL managers on the back of 10 clean sheets, 4 goals and 3 assists for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth last season. The addition of Asmir Begovic in goal only adds to his appeal.
  • Angel Rangel has convinced 21.4% of FPL managers to part ways with 4.0m for his services but we feel that Rangel’s chances of a starting place in Swansea’s back four will be severely limited for the coming season.
  • Kyle Walker’s move to Pep Guardiola’s new look Man City will likely result in Walker marauding up and down the right flank whipping in crosses to the deadly Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero to latch onto.
  • Trippier will take over the right back position for Spurs this season and at 5.5m looks to be exceptional value in a team that managed 17 clean sheets last season. *At the time of writing it is worth noting that Trippier limped off against Juventus and the extent of his injury remains unclear.

Top defender picks

  • Southampton have a really nice run of opening fixtures to start the season and there is an array of options in Mauricio Pellegrino’s defence. Cedric, Yoshida and Stephens will all set you back a mere 5.0m while England’s left back Ryan Bertrand is the more secure option at 5.5m.
  • Chelsea’s Marcus Alonso at 7.0m really is the cream of the crop when it comes to attacking full backs, as demonstrated by his performances and points last season. Man City’s attacking full backs should also be amongst the points if you’re willing to part with 6.5m for either Kyle Walker or Benjamin Mendy.

3) Midfielders

Last year's top performers...

  • Alexis Sanchez made a mockery of his expensive starting price of 11.0m last season by ending the year with a monstrous 264 points, higher than any other player in the league. He managed 24 goals from his versatile striker or attacking midfield positions and at times was unstoppable going forward for Arsene Wengers gunners.
  • Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen both had exceptional seasons for a free flowing Mauricio Pochettino Spurs attack which is reflected in the end of season standings. Alli managed 18 goals and 11 assists while Eriksen managed 8 goals and 20 assists. South Korean Son Heung-Min, although more likely to be rotated, is also worth mentioning here as he also contributed with 14 goals and 9 assists last season.
  • Eden Hazard’s 16 goals and 9 assists played a vital part in Chelsea’s title winning season. Frustrating at times, Hazard is no doubt an FPL heavyweight who has consistently delivered exceptional returns over the past five seasons.
  • Assist machine Kevin de Bruyne makes up last season’s top five, having delivered 21 assists and 6 goals for his owners. Much is expected of the Belgian in the coming season as Guardiola seeks to build his team around him.

This year's popular picks...

  • Alli’s 18 goals last season from a position behind lone striker Harry Kane has persuaded an enormous 37% of FPL managers to pick him in the heart of their midfields. As noted above there wasn’t too much between Alli and Eriksen last season, with Alli’s close range threat proving more popular.
  • Liverpool’s midfield is providing FPL managers with many headaches as they try to decide between Coutinho, Mane and Salah, priced 9.0m, 9.0m and 9.5m respectively. Coutinho as the most trusted option has 25% ownership at present, but Barcelona remain keen on recruiting his services following the sale of Neymar to PSG.
  • Kevin ‘how can I assist you’ de Bruyne has been snapped up by nearly a quarter of all FPL managers and we can see why. Uncertainty surrounds the starting position of both Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero as Guardiola flirts with different formation options for the season ahead. De Bruyne is nailed on in midfield and is likely to pull the strings for the Manchester outfit throughout the season.
  • Ex Man United star Wilfried Zaha stands out as a cheaper option in midfield with 23% ownership. Last season Zaha kicked on scoring 7 goals and providing 11 assists for his teammates, resulting in strong interest from Spurs for his services. But Zaha has ended speculation about his future by signing a new 5 year deal with Crystal Palace and has expressed his determination to shine under new manager Frank de Boer.
  • The worlds second most expensive player sits in 22.6% of teams and is the most popular choice from Jose Mourinho’s midfield. The arrival of Nemanja Matic in midfield should free Pogba up to move into the number 8 position he held at Juventus and bomb up and down the pitch on a regular basis supporting his best friend Lukaku in attack.

Top midfielder picks

  • Kevin de Bruyne really is the stand out option in midfield to start the season for Man City. Alexis Sanchez may demand our attention should he be fit for Arsenal’s opening game, but at the time of writing it looks unlikely.
  • Liverpool score goals and deciding between decide between Coutinho, Mane and Salah is going to prove a challenge.
  • Wilfred Zaha, Willian and Georginio Wijnaldum are all moderately prices at 7.0m.
  • At the lower end of the scale we think James Ward-Prowse and Ryan Fraser at 5.5m are solid options as are Tom Carroll and Ruben Loftus-Cheek at bottom of the barrel 4.5m prices.

4) Attackers

Last year's top performers...

  • Harry Kane, with 29, 25 and 21 goals in his last three seasons respectively has been a mainstay in many FPL managers teams over the past few years. Despite missing the beginning of last season through injury, the England striker managed 29 goals, 7 assists and 33 bonus points taking the top spot for forwards in the game.
  • Romelu Lukaku scored a total of 221 points last season, just 3 shy of Kane courtesy of 25 goals, 6 assists and 33 bonus points. He started the season as a 9.0m striker and made a mockery of that price tag as he bullied defenders throughout the season with his hunger and physicality under Ronald Koeman at Everton.
  • Often controversial, there is no denying Diego Costa had an exceptional season for Conte’s Chelsea last season as he scored 20 goals, 11 assists and 25 bonus points. Similar to Lukaku, Costa looked under-priced at 9.5m last season and delivered in devastating fashion.
  • Roberto Firmino was listed as a midfielder last season, but has been reclassified as a forward this year. He scored a solid 11 goals and 11 assists in Jürgen Klopp’s flamboyant at times Liverpool attack.
  • Similar to Firmino, Josh King was listed as a midfielder last season and managed an impressive 16 goals and 3 assists for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side. Coming in as a 7.5m forward this season the Norwegian will need to hit the ground running to warrant our attention.

This year's popular picks...

  • Despite the jump in price this time around to 11.5m, Romelu Lukaku sits in 48.3% of FPL managers teams and is likely to be the most captained player in Gameweek 1. Ignore Lukaku at your peril, as with such vast ownership one runs the risk of being left behind should he explode in the opening week of the season.
  • Similar to Lukaku above, Kane has the potential to explode into life in Gameweek 1 against Newcastle. At 12.5m his is an expensive pick but as Leicester City experienced last May he can be devastating when on form as he was when he netted four times against Craig Shakespeare’s title winning side.
  • West Ham added significant firepower to their attack this summer with the addition of Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernández. Coming in at 7.0m, almost 20% of FPL managers have snapped up ‘Chicarito’ who managed 20 goals and 5 assists in his debut season in the league back in 2010/11.
  • Wayne Rooney is another cheaper option in attack for FPL managers coming in at 7.5m this time around, on the back of a poor 5 goals and 5 assists last season. Rooney only played 1,540 minutes for Mourinho’s side last season and looks rejuvenated under Ronald Koeman at Everton in pre-season. It remains to be seen if he can rediscover his form in a season where he tries to secure a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the 2018 World Cup.
  • Finally, Liverpool’s reclassified Roberto Firmino sits in 17.1% of FPL managers teams as an intriguing pick. This season he is likely to be deployed as the main striker in Klopp’s system and the pre-season signs suggest that the Brazilian has taken over penalty duties from James Milner which should further his appeal even more.

Top striker picks

  • Most FPL managers will own Kane, Lukaku or both but this will take up a big chunk of your transfer kitty.
  • Jay Rodriguez at 6.0m could be a great option should he replicate the form for West Brom that he produced in the 2013/14 season scoring 15 league goals.
  • Chicarito at 7.0m, Benteke and Defoe at 8.0m and Gabbiadini at 7.0m are also worth consideration.