Did you enjoy the international break? I never enjoy watching England, so I’m glad that the EPL is nearly back and we can dive into the gameweek 4 preview! There is $7,500 up for grabs on the DraftKings main slate in the $40k Bicycle Kick, and hopefully some of you will be in with a chance of taking it down on Saturday.
I talked about planning ahead in my gameweek 3 review, and this week it’s especially important with players flying back from the international break and UCL/UEL fixtures on the horizon. Anyone that is flying back from South America is particularly at risk of rotation. Chelsea and Spurs are unlikely to deviate too far from the expected lineups, but Manchester United have enough squad depth to make several changes this week in preparation for the game against Basel on Tuesday. United are in the late game, so make sure you consider alternatives in case your players aren’t in the starting lineup.
Brighton and Hove Albion vs West Bromwich Albion
The battle of the Albions isn’t the most exciting fixture to kick off this week’s article, but there should still be some potential fantasy options in this one. Brighton start the day just above the relegation zone with one point from their first three games. However, a visit from Manchester City is one of the worst possible ways to start the new season and they had to follow it up with a trip to Leicester. A goalless draw at home to Watford doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but their defensive metrics have been average or better in the early going and Knockaert and Izquierdo should give them some extra firepower, which was sorely missed in the first couple of games. Brighton are favoured in this game, and I like their chances to get a positive result here against a West Brom side that have also been underwhelming in the first few games (points total aside).
Pascal Gross and Anthony Knockaert appear to be sharing set piece duty and both are good options here. West Brom are solid defensively but they are typically happy to sit deep and let the opposition have the lion’s share of possession, so whilst Brighton aren’t likely to score multiple goals they could still generate plenty of crosses. Gross looks like a nice salary relief option, particularly in cash games. He put in 15 crosses against Watford, which is almost unheard of from a $4,000 midfielder, although 90% of the corners were on his side of the field. Knockaert is also viable in all formats (assuming he takes corners from the right side), but you will have to pay $2,300 more for him. He showed a lot of upside last season though (0.59 xG+xA90) and managed double digit fantasy points in his first start last week.
If you read my article on transfers you will know that I think Izquierdo is a better player than Richarlison at this point in his career, and he is a viable GPP punt at $4,200 if he gets his first start. He shouldn’t be a core play this week by any means, but he will be low owned and you could certainly do worse in that price range. Markus Suttner is my favourite defender under $4k and I am fine with using him in all formats. You could pair him with Mat Ryan, but West Brom don’t shoot enough or concede enough goals to make me confident that Ryan can hit his ceiling in GPPs. It’s always worth considering a home favourite goalkeeper for under $5,000, though.
Chris Brunt and Matt Phillips are both OK options at $5,900 and $6,200 respectively if they start on the wings for the Baggies. I am expecting Brunt in particular to be higher owned than he should be this week given his recent performances for club and country. West Brom are always a threat to score from a corner, but only three teams conceded fewer goals from set pieces than Brighton in the Championship last season (0.24 per game). Brunt has a high enough floor to make him cash game viable if you really want to go there, but you might want to consider the following before you roster him in GPPs this weekend:
- West Brom only project for about 5 corners on average here (per sportingindex.com).
- Brunt market share on corners = 60%, so he will take about 3 on average. Free-kicks might account for an extra one.
- Brunt created a chance from about 15% of his set pieces last season. This season he has been running hot, taking 1.7x as many set pieces and creating chances from 24% of them. This is likely to be due to West Brom’s easy first three fixtures, including two home games. Brighton aren’t exactly a tough opponent either, but they are likely better than the public perceive them to be.
- Brunt generates 0.27 xG+xA90, under half as much as Knockaert.
Brunt can manage 7-10 points on a fairly regular basis, but he needs assists to come close to a GPP-winning score. The chances of him getting one are just not as high as people will think and I prefer Knockaert if you are looking for a $6k midfielder from this game. The fact that people have been using Brunt in DFS this season as a $6k+ LB baffles me, and this is probably the last time I will write so many words on him. Phillips is basically a slightly lower floor, slightly higher ceiling version of Brunt here.
Oliver Burke scored over the break for the Scotland U21 side; he seems more likely to be on the bench here though and if he does start I will probably still avoid him despite his $4,000 price tag on DraftKings. He will need to score to be worth rostering and I would be surprised if he plays the full 90 minutes in his first game. I would rather spend the extra $800 to get up to Jay Rodriguez personally if you want to search for a West Brom goal, but neither player is particularly appealing this week. Gibbs and Dawson are both cheap enough to use as salary relief options at defender, but you can do better in my opinion.
Southampton vs Watford
Southampton were poor in the last match against Huddersfield, but their underlying numbers so far on the attacking end are good and this is one of the better match-ups they will have all season. They currently sit just behind Watford in the table on goal difference, but I am not buying into the Hornets’ hot start just yet, and the usual Southampton players are a lock and load for me in all formats this week (surprise surprise!).
Steven Davis has started the past two games instead of Ward-Prowse and he took the majority of the set pieces against Huddersfield, which is a disaster for fantasy purposes. Davis isn’t an awful player, but there is no reason for him to be playing as a number 10 for Southampton with the likes of JWP and Boufal on the bench. His $3,200 price tag on DraftKings makes him cash game viable in this matchup if you really need the salary, although he is someone to avoid in GPPs, especially if people decide to chase his 24 point performance against San Marino over the international break. Hopefully Ward-Prowse gets the nod instead; he is a great play in all formats if starting.
Tadic, Gabbiadini and Redmond are some of the best GPP options at their respective salaries, and I even think Tadic can be considered in cash games unless Ward-Prowse is starting (I probably wouldn’t use both). It’s always scary to rely on the mercurial Serb, but he has shown an ability to put up double-digit fantasy points from peripheral stats alone, and this is as good of a time as any for him to chip in with a goal or assist. Gabbiadini is always a risky play given his low floor and the fact that he will get subbed off late in the game, but there is a great chance he gets on the score-sheet here if the Southampton attack starts to click (0.49 xG90). Charlie Austin is more expensive but I would actually prefer to see him in the lineup for fantasy purposes (0.66x xG90). Nathan Redmond is always overlooked, and he should generate just enough shots and crosses to avoid completely damaging your lineup without a goal or assist. Give me Redmond all day over Brunt in GPPs.
Cedric and Bertrand are two of the best options at defender on the slate, and it looks like Bertrand will still take a couple of corners instead of Davis, too. The Watford attack has been great so far but I wouldn’t be too concerned about using Fraser Forster here, especially if Van Dijk is thrown straight back into the team (he finally trained with the squad this week).
Watford rank 6th in xG so far this season, but they are also 17th in xG against and their shot and chances created numbers are just average. I am not interested in any Watford players here – Richarlison, Carrillo and Gray are viable as GPP punts if you are a believer in the new Watford attack, but you probably know how I feel about those guys at this point! If you play Richarlison over Redmond, you are doing it wrong in my opinion.
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur
Everton’s early stats do not look good on the attacking front (to say the least!). They have had a tough early run of fixtures though, facing both Manchester City and Chelsea already, and these numbers will improve throughout the season. However, it’s unlikely to happen any time soon, with matches against Spurs, Atalanta and Manchester United in their next three. The cup game against Sunderland can’t come quickly enough for Everton fans…
I am not high on the new-look Everton attack overall this season. With Barkley out in the cold, Koeman’s side lack creativity in midfield and it’s a tough ask for Sandro and Rooney to replicate Lukaku’s 25 goal haul from last season. They essentially sold a striker for £75m and spent £5m on his replacement…
Sigurdsson was almost matchup-proof for Swansea thanks to 8.2 Crs90 and 3 Sh90, but a lot of his shots and crosses come from dead-ball situations, which isn’t ideal against a top side like Spurs. He is a fine option here given his reasonable $8,100 salary and forward eligibility, but outside of that, I will be staying away from Everton.
Everton have been decent defensively despite their poor numbers at the other end of the pitch, and it’s hard to see Spurs scoring multiple goals here. Kane, Alli and Sonaldo are all viable in GPPs, but their ceiling isn’t as high as it would be in most weeks and we aren’t getting any sort of discount on them. This should at least keep ownership down, especially with the Arsenal and United players available for similar prices.
The best DFS option on the team is typically Christian Eriksen, who is also a bit expensive this week. Eriksen used to be a cash game lock for me on most slates but the $10,500 salary definitely makes me hesitate here, especially with Ben Davies taking a lot of the corners for Spurs so far this season. Eriksen’s floor is still a lot higher than anyone else in that salary range, but he is more of a GPP play at this point until his price comes down. That said, if you can easily fit him into your cash game lineup you are unlikely to regret it.
I would personally give a slight edge to Cedric and Bertrand over Aurier and Davies given their respective match-ups, but the Spurs fullbacks are certainly viable in all formats. Davies especially stands out given his new role on corners, giving him an elite mark of 7.6 Crs90 this season. I don’t expect him to maintain that level of production all year, but he is one of the top options at the position this week if you can afford him. If you read my article on transfers, you know how I feel about Aurier.
Leicester City vs Chelsea
Leicester missed out on signing midfielder Adrien Silva by 14 seconds, which is pretty hilarious considering the fact that they sold Drinkwater and are now left short on numbers in midfield. The Foxes will be in trouble if they pick up a couple of injuries in that area. It looked almost certain that Mahrez would be leaving the club after he was released from the Algeria squad to finalise a move, but he will still be a Leicester player until at least January. I wouldn’t touch Mahrez in cash games against Chelsea, but he is playable in GPPs at $6,800. Apart from that, I don’t think it’s necessary to look at anyone else on this side of the ball given the difficulty of the match-up.
After a rough start against Burnley Chelsea have put together back-to-back wins, and they should be able to get the job done here also. Chelsea’s offensive stats this season are similar to the numbers they put up in 16/17; they aren’t a team that generates massive attacking output and their defense is the main key to their success. That said, they should get on the score-sheet at least once against a Leicester side that have been vulnerable at the back so far this year. Leicester will probably wish they still had Kante and Drinkwater in the squad for this one…
Eden Hazard played both games for Belgium over the international break despite not featuring yet for his club, and he should start here. At $9,700 he is in play for GPPs, but I am more interested in the $1,200 discount on teammate Morata, who already has a pair of goals and assists this season. Because of the salary difference, Hazard will probably be much lower owned than Morata, which keeps him in the conversation for GPPs. He generated 0.25 xG90 last season, which isn’t bad for a winger, but it’s on par with Pedro in the model and lower than the likes of Mata and Sonaldo. The Belgian is overpriced here and if he gets an assist it will likely benefit Morata anyway. Pedro is also viable in GPPs, but he is the clear third best option of the three and there are plenty of other choices in that price range.
Marcos Alonso has been listed as a midfielder since his two goal performance against Spurs, and whilst both him and Victor Moses are GPP options, they are pretty far down the list for me this week. If Moses somehow draws the start on the wing with Zappacosta at RWB, I will have a lot more interest. Zappacosta is on par with the other fullbacks in his price range if starting; he was a cross machine in Serie A (6.5 per 90) and has a chance to take some set pieces if Fabregas is benched. Cesc himself has a decent floor for cash games but he isn’t a must-play this week, with plenty of alternatives in the $6k range. If you use Fabregas in a GPP I would pair him with one of the front three, in the hope that he picks up an assist or two. Only KDB and Payet could compete with Cesc last season in terms of chances created and xA per 90 minutes.
Arsenal vs Bournemouth
We know what we are getting with Arsenal at this point; the attack is good enough for them to beat up the weaker teams in the league, but they are in serious trouble vs anyone half-decent. Kolasinac is a fine option at $4,700 if he starts at wingback, but if I am paying up at defender this week I would rather get to the $5k range. The Arsenal defenders will be a no-go for me most weeks with Wenger at the helm.
It’s not clear whether Sanchez will play or not, given that he is flying back from Chile and appears to have fallen out with Arsene Wenger. Sanchez has been training though, and if he does start he is the top option on the slate at forward against a Bournemouth side that is very poor defensively. Danny Welbeck looks the most likely candidate to occupy the left-wing role in Sanchez’s absence; I am not too excited about him this week but $6,200 is a reasonable price-tag if you want to go there in GPPs. It’s worth noting that Welbeck improves the Arsenal ‘press’ significantly, so they might be a tiny bit better defensively with him in the side.
It wasn’t at all surprising to me that Mesut Ozil put together some good performances for Germany over the break, and I used him in my lineups in both of those games. He is an elite player when he is in a good tactical system and has other very talented individuals around him, neither of which are true for Arsenal at the moment. I said earlier in the season that an attack that includes Lacazette and Ramsey *should* help Ozil to create more chances in theory, so if the starting XI is as predicted I do have quite a bit of interest in him. Ozil appears to have wrestled set piece duty back from Xhaka, which makes him cash game viable on this slate given his salary and match-up. In GPPs I would look to pair Ozil with Lacazette or Ramsey, as most of his fantasy upside comes from assists.
As for Lacazette and Ramsey, they both stand out as great GPP plays on paper against Bournemouth and they look under-priced thanks to Arsenal’s poor form. Lacazette was inexplicably benched in the last game, but if he starts he is one of the best options at forward this weekend and is even viable in cash games without Sanchez in the team, although Sigurdsson is certainly safer in that price range. Aaron Ramsey should get some chances (3.13 Sh90), it’s just a question of whether or not he can finish them. The Welshman has under-performed xG in every single season except for 13-14, where he scored 10 goals from just 50 shots. I personally think he does more harm than good for Arsenal right now given his poor finishing and tendency to leave them exposed defensively, but he does stand out in DFS as a cheap midfielder with upside. This might sound like a hot-take, but if you trust the numbers there isn’t much reason why Ramsey should be $3,100 less than Pogba this week.
Bournemouth are basically Arsenal-lite; their attack was OK last season but they struggle defensively. Eddie Howe tried a more defensive system against Manchester City in an attempt to rectify this, and we could see him use the same formation here against Arsenal.I don’t really want a lot to do with Bournemouth here despite Arsenal’s struggles. I’m not high on the Gunners overall this season, but they are still more than capable of winning this match.
Both Xhaka and Ramsey push up too high and don’t get back into position quickly enough when Arsenal lose the ball, so anyone with a bit of pace has the potential to cause damage on the counter-attack. The one player I might consider using in GPPs is Josh King, who’s salary is finally just about bearable at $6,500. I don’t want to play him unless he is going to be very low owned, so I will likely stay away if I hear any buzz about him, but he is an intriguing addition to Arsenal stacks instead of Welbeck if you think goals will be scored at both ends of the pitch. Only Stoke and Watford have worse goal odds than Bournemouth and King was running very hot last season, so this isn’t a play that makes a whole lot of sense by the numbers, but it could pay off nicely if you are willing to take the risk.
Stoke City vs Manchester United
The Stoke write-up is going to be the same for a while – consider using Shaqiri and avoid everyone else. Shaqiri is in the Mahrez and Rooney range of players around $7,000 that is viable in GPPs if you really want to go there, but there are better spots this week; the United defense is no joke. I imagine that Butland will be fairly popular at $3,800, but I will be trying to find a bit more upside at goalkeeper personally.
Mourinho has stated in his most recent press conference that ‘by the end of September every player [will have] played, every player [will have] started matches’ (source). Whether that will be in this game or in later matches remains to be seen, and unfortunately we won’t know the starting lineup before contests lock. The main place United are likely to rotate is at the back, with Smalling and Lindelof pushing for starts at centre-back and Antonio Valencia having played 180 minutes for Ecuador during the break. Rojo and Shaw are injured, so Blind appears to be somewhat safe, with Darmian more likely to replace Valencia instead if Mourinho does want to freshen things up. Blind is still taking some corners for United; I don’t think it’s necessary to pay all the way up for him given the alternatives available in a similar price range, but he is certainly one of the better options this week.
United have a lot of options in attack, with Lukaku and Pogba perhaps the only certain starters in this one. Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford and Martial all took one corner each in the last match against Leicester and any of the United attackers are viable in GPPs if you believe that they will keep firing on all cylinders. United are very good, but I’m not sure they should be a much heavier favourite than Chelsea or Spurs on Saturday. Mata looks like the best of the bunch given his $6,500 salary, but be aware that you might have to swap to Shaqiri or Lingard if he doesn’t start. Like Kane, Lukaku is a bit overpriced here, but it’s hard to argue against him regardless, especially with Shawcross unavailable for Stoke.
Mkhitaryan has been on fire to start the season, with FIVE assists already in the first three games. Obviously he won’t keep up this pace long-term, but having Mata and Lukaku in the side is huge for Mkhi, and if he can replicate his 11 goal, 15 assist season from 15/16 he will be a fantastic fantasy asset. The ‘Armenian Messi’ managed an assist every other game in the Bundesliga that year, which is in line with his current xA90 numbers this season. Without a monopoly on corners, Mkhitaryan has a lower floor than the likes of Ozil and Fabregas, but he is a similar type of player in GPPs in the sense that he needs assists to hit his ceiling.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed the article please share it on social media! I am hoping to write a preview for the Champions League slate next week if I have time, so make sure to follow on Twitter @FantasyFutopia and @tom_whelan so you don’t miss it! Good luck in your contests this weekend.
Predicted lineups created using buildlineup.com. All data by Opta.