Fuzzy's Feelings: Part II

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Welcome back for Part II of II in a mini-series that has been cleverly titled “Fuzzy's Feelings”, in which I take a look at all twenty clubs in the league and give my thoughts to which teams and which players to invest in or avoid as you build your all-important Week 1 squad ahead of the first deadline, which is now less than a week away.

Saturday night, or afternoon, depending where you are, the Community Shield will take place with Liverpool and Manchester City doing battle for that first piece of hardware, and it gives us a chance to see how both of these important sides, who typically have heavy fantasy investment, are looking.

Do not forget to look around the rest of the league for preseason results as well, as each club, for the most part, have one more friendly to play before preparing for Week 1 of the regular season. I have done my best to assemble what i feel is all the relevant info as things stand right now, but that last round of friendlies could create some news that changes things, particularly injuries.

In case you missed Part I of this two-part column, click on this link to get you caught up with the first ten clubs I covered, then come back on over here to finish things out. RIght, otherwise, let's dive in…

Leicester City

Opening Fixture rating: C-

The Foxes have some very attractive fixtures, mixed in with some pretty tough ones. Folks typically want to build a Week 1 side with players that look promising for at least the first four games, and for Leicester, two of the first four are away to Arsenal and Chelsea. If one can live with that, you also get two home games against Brentford and Southampton.

Top Pick: Some things never seem to change and, in the case of Leicester, Jamie Vardy continues to be a solid FPL pick when fit. Injury issues kept his total points down this season, which explains his more-than-fair price of 9.5m. But we have seen for years now, when he is fit, he is typically firing and he enters this season with a clean bill of health. Being one of the top strikers in the league, Vardy is the sort that could be labeled at least somewhat “fixture-proof”, in that, he is capable of scoring in those tougher matchups, which is why it makes sense to back him, if any Leicester option, in the opening weeks.

Other options: James Maddison took his game to the next level last season, particularly in the second half, and should be quite influential once again this time around. He is a more popular pick than Vardy to start the season and, while Vardy may have pens, Maddison dominates all other dead ball scenarios. Seldom talked about but worth considering in that frisky 5m midfield bracket is Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. He came into his own last season and looks to have solidified a spot in the XI. Though he does not have the traditional attacking midfield role we typically look for for our FPL side, he does have assists in him and the odd goal.

To avoid: Despite what may eventually be the home of a couple of solid FPL picks, it is probably best to wait on Leicester's defensive assets. To have all their potential starters, including some attack-minded fullbacks, priced at 4.5m is a gift from the FPL gods. The problem is, after a season rife with injuries at the back, Brendan Rodgers now has a full compliment of defenders from which to pick and there is not much separation in talent between who will wind up starting and who misses out. For example, Ricardo Pereira, Timothy Castagne and James Justin are all solid fullbacks, all have provided FPL appeal in the past, but one will have to be omitted for sure, and it may be a case where all three are untouchable if Rodgers rotates them around. The center back situation is pretty much the same.

Liverpool

Opening Fixture Rating: A

The Reds are a pretty bankable side from which to depend on steady point-earners, week in and week out, but their opening seven weeks this season are so attractive, it is pretty much a given that almost every FPL manager will want to use the maximum three players allowed for their squad. The toughest matchup would be probably away to Manchester United during that side, but what matters most is that the likes of Man City, Chelsea and Spurs do not show up on the schedule until far down the road.

Top Pick: Trent Alexander-Arnold. I know, I know. Mo Salah SHOULD be the easy choice here, right? To be honest, BOTH are essential in the minds of most fantasy managers. Trent gets the nod in this pundit's view due to his excellent value in terms of a ”point per pound spent” basis. Probably the best value player in the entire game. Not much needs to be said, he is the best attacking fullback in the league and arguably the world. Salah is still right there, too, make no mistake.

Other options: There are so many. Andrew Robertson is another premium fullback that should once again be among the top scorers at the position. Alisson gets a .5m reduction in price this season, despite being the top scoring keeper last year. Virgil Van Dijk may not be the “sexiest” pick, but he continues to find himself on the leaderboard at the end of the season. In attack, it is all about ignoring the midfield three and looking at the attacking three. With his intro to the PL already out of the way, Luis Díaz looks primed to have a big season and perhaps make a mockery of his 8m price tag, as he effectively fills the vacancy of Sadio Mané. Darwin Nunez was brought in to be the center forward for the coming years and, with Diogo Jota not fit to start the season, Nunez should have a path to starts (though folks shouldn't forget that Roberto Firmino, while not a very good FPL option for many years now, is still in the mix.

To avoid: Since the midfield three has already been established as not FPL-friendly, by default, Joel Matip would be the choice here. Yes, he did well to earn his regular spot partnering Virgil Van Dijk last season and found himself on Page 1 of top scoring defenders…it just seems in this pundit's mind that there are other Reds with more dynamic ability while, at 6m, one could go after, say a Chelsea fullback/wingback instead.

Manchester City

Opening fixture rating: A+

As good an opening run Liverpool has, one could argue, as I am right now, that City's is even better. These two sides, who are a cut above the rest of the league, is where you want to concentrate on when building a side. If there's a way to build a side with three players from each, then you should be in good shape. Other than a home game to Spurs in Week 7, and keep in mind, Tottenham won both matchups last season, its a breeze of a schedule until Week 11.

Top pick: Joao Cancelo. Like Liverpool, its tough to pick one “best” option, because so many players find themselves near the top of the points chart at every position, but Cancelo has two things going for him. One - he's only 7m and can deliver the kind of point totals that any of the attacking players in the side can, who cost as much, typically more than Cancelo. Two - In a side kind of notorious for big talent players getting rotated in and out of the lineup, Cancelo is very much nailed on, capable of playing on the left or right and, with City short on backups at the position, he simply has to play.

Other options: The only other senior player who is a fullback is Kyle Walker until City add someone else. And, considering we are on the eve of Week 1 and Pep Guardiola having a habit of easing new players into starting roles, even if someone like Marc Cucurella arrives in the near future, I think Walker is safe for at least a good four to five games, and you can get a 5m ticket into City's clean sheets. Obviously, Kevin De Bruyne should never be discounted, though, among the premium players out there, he is not seeing too much investment. One reason may be the arrival of Erling Haaland, who many expect to hog all the goals. It would be foolish to say he might be worth waiting on before investing such a large chunk of money, considering he is currently rostered by more than half of FPL managers, but that's a personal judgment call there. Jack Grealish is starting to become more appealing. The left wing spot seems to be his with his preseason performance and the departure of Raheem Sterling. He may wind up starting more often than the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden, each who cost 1m more than Grealish.

To avoid: No disrespect to Ilkay Gundogan or Bernardo Silva. They have had stretches of seasons where they have earned the right to be considered FPL material. But, if Haaland is going to be the target man this season, and plenty of solid finishers on the wing, while de Bruyne plays the central architect, while I am sure Silva and Gundogan will have their share of big gameweeks, I just do not see them as FPL material. You either want a player who is perhaps not explosive but consistent, or may be streaky but can explode. For me this pair falls into that middle ground.

Manchester United

Opening fixture rating: B-

The Red Devils may be a good place to give a short term punt a try, a player you may not have too much trust in, but can see potential this summer, as the opening two games are quite favorable. Then, Liverpool come in Week 3, Leicester and Arsenal in Weeks 5 and 6, respectively. Still a big club with lofty goals, if United can get off to a solid start under new management, this will likely be the club with the most player bandwagons started.

Top pick: A month ago, it would be outlandish to say, and perhaps it still is, but I think the edge has to go to Anthony Martial here. Once a forgotten man in a squad that could have used more solid play, Martial has taken the opportunity opened by the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and has played heavily in preseason, scoring several goals. For a price of 7m at a position that was difficult to find good value from last season, I think the scarcity of quality at forward makes Martial the best pick, at least to begin the season.

Other options: I freely admit, either of Jadon Sancho or Marcus Rashford, who are expected to be the starting wide attacking players, could be just as solid a pick as Martial, if not better. Sancho, in particular, has looked good in preseason and, with that first season in the PL out of the way, hopefully along with the growing pains, as well as new management to possibly guide him to be his best, he has a chance to live up to the hype we were generating when he made the move over to England last summer. I am expecting United's defense to tighten up compared to last season and it has a been a while that I can remember a starting fullback from their side coming in at 4.5m, but that seems to be the case for Diogo Dalot, who has featured like he is the starter so far in preseason. Eventually, Tyrell Malacia could be the first-choice left back as well, and may be even more FPL-friendly, but Dalot looks safe to back to start those first two nice fixtures.

To avoid: Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen. This is a bit of a misnomer, because, should one of these two be playing regularly, then they have a decent shot at being FPL-worthy, but, with the way United typically line up, these are two players who offer the same kind of skill set battling for one open spot. Clearly, if Eriksen were to establish himself as a regular, he would be a fantastic pick at a fraction of the cost of Fernandes, but this is probably a situation best left alone for now.

Newcastle United

Opening fixture rating: C-

It is a tricky situation for the Magpies, as they have what would typically be considered a “no way, Jose” schedule. By that, I mean they have to play Manchester City and Liverpool in two of their first five games. That said, this is a club that is beefing up with more and more talent and the first two matchups are appealing enough to perhaps want to try and exploit with at least one of their assets.

Top pick: It is a close call for me but I will give the slight edge to Kieran Trippier. With Sven Botman added to the back line and Nick Pope between the sticks, the Magpies should see a certain increase in clean sheets and Trippier also has a lock on the majority of set pieces. He had a limited run before injury cut his season short when he arrived this past January, but he was fantastic in his introduction to Tyneside.

Other options: The player I debated getting top pick, and the “x” factor who I really think is the reason Newcastle are heading in a positive direction is Bruno Guimaraes. Yes, he is by definition a deep-lying midfielder, but he has had such a great start to his Newcastle career, doing the physical work to win balls in the possession battle, but he has good vision to find assists and a nice finishing foot, who can score from distance. There are not many 6m midfielders in FPL that I feel great about starting in my side every week, but Bruno is one of them. Simply for his price and a path to playing time until Newcastle bring in some form of competition, Miguel Almirón is looking to be the option wide right, playing the opposite flank of Allan-Saint Maximin. Expectations should be tempered, but for 5m, there could be some value there.

To avoid: For now anyway, which should not be too difficult to do given the Magpies do not have the best run of opening fixtures, it is probably wise to pass on either Callum Wilson or Chris Wood. It would seem the way they are lining up preseason that only one will be starting. According to FPL's pricing, one would assume Wilson is first choice, and he likely is, but I think Wood still offers a nice big target that Eddie Howe may prefer in some matchups, so I would rather ignore what could be a frustrating splitting of minutes between the two.

Nottingham Forest

Opening fixture rating: D

Like the other two promoted sides, Forest will have to dive head first into a tough run of fixtures to start the season. Perhaps not as tough as Bournemouth, perhaps a bit tougher than Fulham, but either way, there will likely be little investment here save for one player. So let's talk about him.

Top pick: Neco Williams. One of Forest's major summer signings, Williams comes over from Liverpool after FPL had gone live for the season, so he is a sure started priced at the minimum of 4m. Any fantasy manager who plan to start three or four at the back should pretty much have Williams locked in as their DEF5. He will play regularly and, though the jury is out on Forest's chances of a respectable defensive record, playing in a wingback role, Williams has an environment where he could contribute the occasional attacking return.

Other options: None at the moment, really. Brennan Johnson was the attacking star for this side in the Championship last year and will have a partner to join him up top in Taiwo Awoniyi. The tough opening run of games will at least give us an idea of who could potentially be the better pick of the two should we want to invest in a budget forward down the road. And, once fixtures turn for the better, of course we will not be able to help monitoring newly acquired Jesse Lingard, who seems to be an FPL commodity as long as he is not wearing a Man United shirt.

To avoid: Everyone else. Again, the jury is out on whether Forest can defend much and, even if they can, why spend more when Williams is there for 4m? That leaves the midfield which offer virtually nothing appealing, apart from Lingard.

Southampton

Opening fixture rating: D

The Saints will be happy to collect what points they can in the opening rounds as they have to content with the likes of Tottenham and Leicester away, Manchester United and Chelsea at home in the opening five rounds. Without a mega-budget option like Armando Broja or Tino Livramento to choose from (the latter not expect back until January), at least at this point, then odds are very few FPL sides will feature a Southampton representative.

Top pick: It may sound odd, but I am going to say Adam Armstrong. I do not say it with any heavy amount of conviction, but here;s the rationale: With Broja back to Chelsea after his loan spell, Armstrong seems set to partner Che Adams up to should the Saints line up the way we are accustomed to. Yes Armstrong's first season in the top flight was a bit of a dud, but he could be one of those take-a-second-chance-and-run types. That said, the only reason he makes sense for your FPL team is that you want the cheapest budget forward that should actually play regularly, with some upside potential to boot. I say all this while also admitting I am not considering Armstrong at all. He will need to prove a thing or two, first.

Other options: This is where most folks would have said “he's the top pick”, and of course, I am referring to James Ward-Prowse. For me, he has never quite reached the level of “attractive”, at any price point he's been listed at over the years, because, while he does put up season totals that justify his price, he just does not get on the scoresheet often enough. The type of player that can go seven weeks without a return and then, BAM, curls two free kicks into the back of the net for a massive haul. So, given the tough start to life for the Saints, fixture-wise, he's a low-end option.

To avoid: Everyone else. Ralph Hassenhuttl has a good reputation for getting the most out of the talent around him, but I expect in the opening weeks, the Saints could get battered, particularly in defense. That has kind of been their recurring story every season - get hammered early, then ring in massive changes, only to see Southampton start to put results together. So, if we are to have that happen again, best to just avoid probably everyone here.

Tottenham

Opening fixture rating: B

Spurs have an early test when they get a derby matchup against Chelsea in Week 2, but in general, many solid matchups from which to expect from this side.

Top pick: Kane by a nose. The world's worst kept secret is how great a tandem Kane and Heung-Min Son make, and of course, with Son co-winner of last season's Golden Boot, he deserves the love. I just think between the .5m less Kane costs, the differential he can provide over those opting for Haaland at that position and price, and scarcity of players you can trust at the position, Kane is the more “valuable” of the two. That said, I have no reason to debate anyone who feels Son deserves the title. It's a photo finish. Bottom line, it is probably a good idea to find room for one of them in your FPL side.

Other options: Oddly enough, not too many for the beginning of the season. We certainly are monitoring the wingback situation under Antonio Conte, but both sides have question marks. Ivan Perisic is certainly first choice on the left, but has had very little action in preseason and may not be ready to go, while Matt Doherty seems to have the best chance of playing on the right, but we have seen Emerson Royal log significant minutes, Lucas Moura has actually been used in that spot a couple of times this summer, plus the transfer of right wingback prospect Djed Spence, makes the situation a bit murky.

To avoid: Clement Lenglet is a big name from a big club coming over on loan, but Ben Davies is still around for the left-side of a back three role, making both too risky for my blood. Dejan Kulusevski would be a great Week 1 punt, as he is sure to start with Richarlison banned, but come Week 2, how are minutes going to be divvied up, considering Kane and Son are going to take up the other two spots in the attacking three 90+% of the time. We've seen Richarlison and Kulu justify FPL investment before, but there is too much risk that they will eat into each other's minutes to make them worthy of inclusion in out squads.

West Ham United

Opening fixture rating: C

The Hammers have to contend with Manchester City in the opening weekend then get Spurs in Week 5, so that hurts their grade, but the other matchups around those are pretty nice, so perhaps one pick from this side is worth finding space for.

Top pick: Jarrod Bowen. Hands down. The man had a staggering twenty-nine goal involvements last season and was one of only four players in the entire game to score more than 200 points. Historically, that fact alone would see him priced at 10m, easily. And yet, he goes for only 8.5m. Even with a bit of a reduction in output from last season, say, take two goals and two assists away…he still far exceeds value at that price point. An argument could be made that no side playing in Europe this season has a player with as much individual influence as Bowen has for West Ham.

Other options: Because Bowen dominate the attacking end of things and because of those two really tough opponents over the first five weeks having me not look at Wes Hams defensive options with any excitement, I do not really see any options for a Week 1 side. Some may develop into good options. Aaron Cresswell continues to be a relevant FPL defender and should be again when fixtures improve.

To avoid: Michail Antonio. Antonio had one of the hottest starts to a Premier League season EVER last season, but his production fell off a cliff. Finally, West Ham have brought in a second striker option, which could be a blow to Antonio's appeal, Gianluca Scamacca. So, what was once a job with no competition suddenly has some. This is not to suggest Antonio is incapable of still holding fantasy relevance (I think he's worth taking a chance on more than, say, Pablo Fornals) but, even though he finished top 3 among those classified as forwards last season, there just isn't anything about his situation that is improving, only adding more doubt.

Wolves

Opening fixture rating: A-

Wolves look like a nice side to find some budget players from as there are many kind prices and a solid run of opening fixtures for the first six weeks, only a trip to Spurs in Week 3 presenting a daunting challenge.

Top pick: Pedro Neto. When the game went live for the upcoming season and all the player prices were put before our eyes, one of, if not, THE first players to be considered a “bargain” and given a nice opening run of fixtures as well, is Neto. Only 5.5m, he should be nailed on every week and, now with Raúl Jiménez sidelined for around eight weeks, could be Wolves' clear talisman ( a term I use hesitantly considering Wolves struggled to score much last season).

Other options: With the kind schedule and a pretty good defensive record last season, options at the back to help fill out your defense looks a solid play here. Whether you want to back Jose Sa as your keeper, or maybe try out one of their wingbacks, Jonny and Rayan Ait-Nouri, odds are this group of options should serve fantasy managers well.

To avoid: Midfielders not named Neto. Again, Wolves struggled to score one goal a game last season, let alone two or more, and they have not made any new acquisitions to bolster their attack so far this summer, so the only real “addition” is a healthy Neto. So, while Rúben Neves scores the occasional cracker and Jose Moutinho chips in the odd assist, they do not have the potential Neto has in contributing attacking returns on a more consistent basis.

Right, that covers all twenty clubs then. It has been a pleasure giving you my thoughts on every nook and cranny of the FPL universe, and I hope this information will help you get off to a flying start this season.

I've said it many times before, honestly, I should have had it trademarked…but the sentiment will always be there - Good luck, and may your arrows be green.