FPL Draft: Use your bench to get ahead

In Fantasy Draft we can use our benches to look to the future.

Unlike FPL, where the bench is often just a place to park our cheapest players, they have a very different role in Draft.

We can take a risk, we can look beyond the upcoming round of matches to those who might be returning from injury or suspension. Or coming back from an international tournament.

Essentially, we can ask: who are the players our rivals are likely to want next Gameweek?

In my last article I highlighted Aston Villa and Leeds United players – and saw immediate returns from Coutinho and Harrison. Such instant rewards were unexpected and, quite frankly, unlikely to be repeated this week. But let’s take a look at the players and teams to target.

Remaining matches

First an update on the number of remaining fixtures for each side.

With six matches more than Chelsea, each Burnley starter is set to gain 12 appearance points over their Blues’ counterpart just for turning up.

That still doesn’t make me want to load up on their players, but having someone like Nick Pope or a defender with some goal threat could be a good move. Appearance points are still points, even if they’re not very sexy.

19Everton, Leicester, Spurs, Watford
18Arsenal, Aston Villa, Leeds, Newcastle, Wolves
17Brighton, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Man Utd, Norwich, Southampton
16Man City, West Ham, Brentford

Remaining fixtures (from GW23)

Gunners Gamble

Halfway between Burnley and Chelsea, among the group with 18 or 19 fixtures remaining, Arsenal interest me. While any Aston Villa or Leeds regulars still available should also be snapped up.

Arsenal have two blanks coming up in Gameweeks 25 and 27, which may put a few off, but around those fixture-less rounds they have a favourable run.

Arsenal’s upcoming fixtures

Since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s last outing in GW15, Arsenal have scored 15 goals in their five Premier League matches and kept three clean sheets. Only Manchester City, who’ve played seven times, can better the Gunners in those stats.

Following their disappointing exits from both domestic cup competitions, Arteta’s side can focus on trying to secure a top four place. So taking a chance on one or two of their players – and benching them when they blank – could pay dividends.

And looking slightly further ahead, they are guaranteed a match in GW30, which clashes with the FA Cup quarter-finals. Their opponents, Aston Villa, were also eliminated in the third round. 

Daniel James worth a punt

For those of you who missed out on getting Jack Harrison, consider Daniel James instead.

Daniel James (left) v Jack Harrison (right)

In the absence of Patrick Bamford, James has filled in up front. As a result he’s been present with far more goal-scoring opportunities than Harrison this season.

The graphic above is taken from the Fantasy Football Scout Comparison Tool and shows that James averages a shot every 36 minutes compared to every 60 minutes for Harrison.

The problem is his goal conversion: a measly 5.6 per cent. But if that suggests underperformance, then Harrison’s 19 per cent goal conversion hints at overperformance.

I doubt the gap in finishing ability remains quite as wide as that by the end of the season.

Daniel James could be at risk when Bamford eventually returns to the starting XI. But he has played off a central striker during the campaign, so he may well keep his place.

If you can afford to take a punt on him it could prove fruitful, especially considering their fixture run up to GW32.

One Step Beyond

Some may say this is madness but I think a useful way to plan ahead is to shift the season ticker forward one GW. 

Best fixtures over the six Gameweeks from GW24

Having focused on Aston Villa last week, Crystal Palace is the team that catches my attention this time.

Not many will be considering their players with Liverpool paying a visit to Selhurst Park this weekend. Beyond that unappealing encounter, however, the fixtures improve.

The Eagles face Norwich, Brentford and Burnley before GW27, moving them up to second in the Season Ticker.

It could be worth picking up someone like Wilfried Zaha, if available, ahead of his return from the AFCON.

Buy AFCON players before they return

Zaha isn’t the only player currently at the AFCON who is worth considering now.

Others like Maxwel Cornet or perhaps Riyad Mahrez could prove real bargains, if they are available in your Draft league.

Romain Saiss, currently participating with Morocco, might prove worthwhile picking up, too.

And keep monitoring the injured Ismaila Sarr, once fit he’s likely to play a big part in Watford’s attempt to avoid relegation.

Some reports say he is likely to return for Senegal during the tournament, while other news outlets suggest he is still in Spain receiving treatment on his knee.

I hope that’s proved useful, good luck with your Draft leagues this GW!

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