The Fantasy Premier League returns on Monday – and with the unlimited transfers granted to us during the break, we all have a golden opportunity to get our teams in top form for the resumption of the Premier League.
There are some players who are obvious choices, like Erling Haaland and Kieran Trippier who will already be in most managerial teams – but this is a chance to tinker, react to World Cup form, dealing with injuries and trying to adapt your line-up to the hectic few weeks of festive fixtures ahead.
Manchester City start with matches against Leeds and Everton and are also scheduled for double matchweeks in weeks 20 and 23.
The safest triple-up looks like Joao Cancelo, Kevin de Bruyne and Haaland, but it’s going to cost you a lot of money and could prevent you from having another premium player in your squad, like Mohamed Salah or Harry Kane.
The problem with De Bruyne’s move to one of City’s cheapest midfielders is that you never quite know when the rotation is going to hit or if a player is suddenly going to have a cold shoulder, as did Phil Foden ahead of the World Cup.
There is an argument for going with just Cancelo and Haaland for a few weeks, and assessing line-ups before adding a midfielder for double game weeks. Or you can go with goalkeeper Ederson or another defender, like Kyle Walker or Ruben Dias, if you want those three City assets right away.
There are so many great midfield options out there that you shouldn’t feel pressured into going for a City player in this position, especially since you’ll likely be handing the captain’s armband to Haaland anyway.
Mason Mount is definitely one of them despite Chelsea’s uncertain form before the break – their season resumes with games against Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest before a brace in Matchweek 19 at home to Manchester City and at Fulham .
Marcus Rashford and Miguel Almiron do not benefit from any double matchweeks. But Manchester United striker Rashford faces Nottingham Forest, Wolves and Bournemouth in his first three outings and, if Newcastle and Almiron pick up where they left off, then the Paraguayan represents ridiculously good value.
James Maddison didn’t feature for England at the World Cup but Statman Dave suggested on the Fantasy 606 podcast that it would be worth bringing him in from Gameweek 19 at the start of a promising series of fixtures for Leicester.
All of Arsenal’s midfield trios of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard appear to remain good investments, but we’re waiting to see how much Gabriel Jesus’ absence affects the Arsenal squad as a whole. .
You could go straight to Eddie Nketiah, who would offer great value at just £6.5m, but Martinelli could be moved into midfield and Arsenal could sign a new striker as well.
Now on to Liverpool and a refreshed Salah, who didn’t play at the World Cup as Egypt failed. Many managers will choose him as a second premium player alongside Erling Haaland and that makes sense.
I also think picking Darwin Nunez as Liverpool striker makes sense, particularly if you don’t plan to captain Salah, and it frees up almost £4m which could then be spent on Harry Kane.
It’s the line-up of my fellow Fantasy 606 Chris Sutton, and don’t forget that Kane is the only player other than Haaland to score over 100 points this season, having shut out in just three of his 15 appearances.
Tottenham also have a matchweek double on the way in matchweek 20 – but that’s tough with games against Arsenal and Manchester City.
It’s possible to fit Haaland, Salah and Kane into one team, a so-called ‘three-mium’, because there are so many good budget options in all areas of the pitch.
There’s Kepa Arrizabalaga, if he’s fit and a starter for Chelsea, and Leicester’s Danny Ward in goal while Ben White (Arsenal), Timothy Castagne (Leicester), Sven Botman (Newcastle), Pervis Estupinan (Brighton) and the pair of Manchester United Diogo Dalot or Luke Shaw at all great value back.
Fulham’s Andreas Pereira is the standout candidate in midfield, although Leon Bailey at Aston Vila might be worth a look from matchweek 19, and you might even be able to expand to Manchester United’s Anthony Martial or Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic as the third striker.
Don’t forget that Pereira and Mitrovic also have a double game in Week 19, with matches at Leicester and at home to Chelsea.
I’ve tinkered with ‘three-mium’ drafts, but I’m also quite tempted to opt for Haaland as my only bounty and then be able to select all of Cancelo, Liverpool’s Andy Robertson, Mount, Rashford, the midfielder of the Spurs Dejan Kulusevski, Nunez and Mitrovic, in addition to leaving me a solid bench.
Can I really brave without Salah? That’s what makes the FPL takeover so exciting, because there are so many different ways to go about it with our unlimited transfers and we won’t know who’s right until football kicks off.
Alistair Bruce-Ball presents the Fantasy 606 podcast alongside former Premier League winner Chris Sutton and Statman Dave. The latest episode featuring a preview of Game Week 17 is available via the BBC Sounds app, just search 606.