Welcome to a brand new season of the Differentials XI here on FPL Updates. If you’re new to the site, give this initial draft team piece a read and join me for a season of literally playing the percentages of FPL! Below I will explain the rules, pick an initial team (that is subject to change before the campaign) and hopefully you’ll understand why that percentages joke I just made is funny. Guys? Guys?
Because what is having fun without rules right? No, really, think of this as more of a challenge. The key rule is simple; the entire 15 man Differentials XI squad must be made up solely of players with less than 10% ownership (team selected by %). This of course rules out a lot of the league’s biggest hitters quickly – because even high prices rarely deters over 90% of users from selecting a Harry Kane or an Alexis Sanchez. This means that ultimately, we’ll likely never use up the full 100m budget.
The challenge for me as manager then, is continually picking a team under that percentage marker. If a player hits form and goes above that 10% threshold, he has to vacate my team before the upcoming game week. It’s not an easy way to play FPL, but it’s fun and different and I’m up for the challenge.
Picking the team
So with the rule as my guidance, I set about picking my first draft team. Of course, with over a week to go until the season begins, the percentages of these players could change, forcing me to pick new faces.
Advice I learnt from @FPLAvids, who managed the team last year, is to not be afraid to take risks. What we’re doing here is essentially looking for 11 hidden gems to kick off with and hope that they stay under the radar. The problem of course, is when they hit form, everyone will want them.
Elite players from smaller, bottom half clubs are going to be important, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll ignore players from the top six or seven clubs either. Ultimately, I want to pick as strong a team as I can, just full of players who not many other people want yet.
Well, after much deliberating, here’s the FPL Updates Differentials XI first draft squad….
Okay, ignore what I said about budget, this lot, to begin with, max out my 100m. Once I started, I just couldn’t help but spend the money. Admittedly, this team is hardly a ‘Who’s who?’ of Premier League unknowns, but it sticks to the rules (at the time of writing), so I’m happy with it.
Cech (5.5%) and Begovic (6.9%): I was a tad surprised to see Cech’s TSB% so low, but I suppose it makes sense given some of Arsenal’s early fixtures. That said, by pairing him with Begovic – who will surely shine back as a number 1 with Bournemouth – means the first five games of the campaign will see me field keeper’s with the following matches: Leicester (H), Watford (H), Liverpool (A), Bournemouth (H) and Brighton (H). Clearly, there’s only one outlying anomaly there and I’ll simply have to decide between sticking with Cech at Anfield or backing Begovic to stop Man City’s abundance of firepower.
Kolasinac (6.7%): Having played 3-5-2 throughout pre-season, it appears Arsene Wenger is happy to stick with the formation which brought some success towards the end of last year for Arsenal. Free signing Kolasinac has been signed to provide power and fight down the left, and the marauding Bosnian loves to get forward and make things happen.
Vertonghen (9.6%): One of a few men in this team that are bordering on ineligible, it wouldn’t be a shock to me if I had to remove Vertonghen before play begins. The Belgian was obviously a key part of a solid backline for Mauricio Pochettino last year, but Spurs are an interesting proposition this season due to playing their home games at Wembley.
Van Aanholt (4%): Ah, my fantasy bae. I don’t know why, but I bloody love Van Aanholt – a romance that has stemmed from his Sunderland days. The Dutchman has a wicked left foot and I think he’ll thrive under his compatriot Frank De Boer. Injuries played a role last season for PVA, but if he can stay fit, he’s likely to begin the year ahead of fellow January signing Jeffrey Schlupp.
Martina (1%): Ronald Koeman liked this guy at Southampton, and he clearly liked him enough to bring him in at Everton too.Fantasy heavyweight Seamus Coleman is a long term injury doubt, means there’sa place in Everton’s new look backline until his return. Martina is likely to fill that right back role capably in the meantime, and is the cheapest outfielder in my squad.
Maguire (1.5%): Two things happened at Hull City from January. FIrstly, Marco Silva provided them genuine survival hope. Second, he built his backline around young Englishman Maguire. Hull’s relegation unsurprisingly saw both men leave the club, with Maguire joining Leicester in June. With Robert Huth sidelined until mid-September, the 24-year-old could really stake a claim in Craig Shakespeare’s team.
Mkhitaryan (5.8%): Not gonna lie, I had picked Sadio Mane for this position but as I took one last look, his ownership went up above 10%. So now I have Mkhitaryan and in all honesty, I’m pretty happy about it. I was a huge advocate of him in his Dortmund days and his slow start last year surprised me. But even I have to reluctantly admit Jose Mourinho managed him well, as he ended the season as one of United’s better performers. I expect him to really kick on this season, becoming a key part of the Red Devils set up and the way they play.
Ramsey (4.7%): Another unknown plucked from obscurity in my midfield is two time FA Cup winning goalscorer Aaron Ramsey. Admittedly, I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the Welshman, who I seem to select each season hoping for that precious 2013/14 output. This summer though, my faith is placed slightly differently, as I believe the 3-5-2 system Wenger intends to play will suit Ramsey’s strengths massively. And yes, I’m more than aware that he’ll frustrate the hell out of me and likely be out of this team come October.
Sane (6.8%): Watching Leroy Sane grow last season was a joy to behold. The German started slowly but as we fell into 2017, he was becoming an important part of City’s attack. Yes, competition for places is fierce, but the German has already proved he’s got the tools to succeed and stand out. I expect an impressive second season from the former Schalke wideman.
Arnautovic (3.6%): You know what? I get the percentage here, I really do. Arnie is a guy who has flattered to deceive at times, since he came to English football. I always felt that he thought he was far bigger than Stoke, and now he’s got the chance to prove it. Alongside Javier Hernandez at West Ham, the Austrian will be a key part of Slavan Bilic’s new look attack. In my eyes, it’s a second chance to prove how good he really is.
Fraser (1.5%): The cheapest option in our midfield, Fraser actually clocked up 12 attacking returns last season – around about one every game and a half. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not elite level figures, though at 5.5m I wouldn’t expect them to be. Still only young, the expectation is that Fraser will improve and become a vital part of Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth team.
Aguero (9.1%): Who’d have thought it, eh? Sergio Aguero with less than 10% ownership with just over a week until the season kicks off. Clearly, the emergence and obvious talent of Gabriel Jesus are deterring people here, but I think it’s naive to rule out Kun at this point. I think Pep Guardiola quite likes the idea of both forwards playing together and I also believe Aguero will be keen to prove he can still be City’s main man. Their first six games also scream ‘goals’ to me – of which the Argentine will surely score a few.
Rashford (6.3%) I have to admit, I had Benteke in this slot, but his TSB% snuck up to the threshold whilst I wrote this piece, so out he went. Anyway, young Marcus is his replacement, and I’m more than happy to have him. His pre-season form is good, he looks capable of playing with or wide of Lukaku, and miraculously, Jose Mourinho appears to trust him. He won’t start every week, but with United back in the Champions League, I think he’ll feature a lot.
Rodriguez (3.3%): After a torrid couple of years with injury, I’m hoping a fresh start at West Brom is what Rodriguez needs to get his career back on track. Remember, a few years ago he was an England hopeful, but his horror couple of seasons put paid to that. Now a Baggie, I expect him to get far more game time than he did last term at Southampton. If he can rediscover his scoring touch, he could prove to be a real bargain this term at 6.0m.
Written by Joe McPhee (@JPMc99)