A differential is a player with low ownership that can help a fantasy manager soar up the rankings if they score well. Owning one when they produce big points can lead to significant green arrows, but probably won’t cause too much of a drop if they don’t perform. It is important not to load up on differentials, as the inclusion of too many will naturally lead to the exclusion of many high-owned, high-scoring players – this can lead to an FPL manager being left in the dust early on. However, the right one or two can really make a difference. These weekly Differential Picks articles define a differential as a player with less than 10% ownership. The aim is to pick 5 differentials that look good for points in each upcoming week.
This Differential Picks article will explore options that look good for gameweek one and beyond as no one wants to begin their season with a one-week punt.
ALEXIS SANCHEZ – £10.5m – TSB: 8.9%
The 2017/18 Premier League campaign was not the best for Chilean star Alexis Sanchez. In the prior campaign, Sanchez had cemented himself as one of the best players in the league, with 24 goals and 11 assists for Arsenal in a centre forward role. Both Manchester City and Manchester United came calling shortly after, with the Red Devils getting their man in January. However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for Sanchez since he made the big move from London to Manchester. He picked up just 2 goals and 3 assists in the 12 league games he played after joining the Reds and was heavily criticised for his wastefulness in possession. The main man at Arsenal was now playing on the left side of United’s front line with Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku taking the lone position up top.
However, this season may spell a different story for the United forward. Many players take a while to integrate into a new side – January is not always the ideal time to bring a player into a squad and expect him to make an immediate impact. This time around, Sanchez has had a full pre-season and will surely have started to adjust to life in Manchester. The Chilean’s pre-season has been very promising too. With Lukaku resting after a long World Cup, Sanchez has been playing at centre-forward – he scored against AC Milan, before registering a goal and an assist against Real Madrid. It’s important not to draw too much from pre-season fixtures, but the United man looks sharp. Lukaku is expected to return sooner rather than later, but it might be that Sanchez will lead the line at home to a Leicester side missing both Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire in gameweek one. Sanchez also appears to be United’s penalty taker, taking the only one they received since he joined the club – this is a big positive for those putting faith in the £10.5m midfielder.
JOSHUA KING – £6.5m – TSB: 4.7%
Another player who wasn’t able to replicate a great 2016/17 league campaign was Josh King. The Bournemouth forward spent the majority of that season at centre-forward, but was moved to a slightly deeper role when he returned for the most recent campaign. The result was a drop off from 16 goals and 3 assists in the 16/17 season, to 8 goals and 4 assists in 2017/18. The Norwegian has voiced his displeasure in recent months at his re-positioning from centre-forward to attacking midfield. This could have caused a rift between him and boss Eddie Howe, but King has been a standout performer in Bournemouth’s pre-season and perhaps he’s ready to force his manager’s hand.
King was impressive in a goalscoring performance against Bristol City in July, before scoring once again against Amiens, and then adding 2 more to his pre-season tally in a fantastic 5-2 victory over Marseille. King also has a big claim to be Bournemouth’s main penalty taker this season. Bournemouth have had a whole host of players take penalties for them over the past couple of seasons, including Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas. There is also talk that Jermaine Defoe might be assigned spot-kick duty. However, Defoe is not always a regular for the Cherries, and King took Bournemouth’s most recent 2 league spot-kicks, scoring both. Bournemouth face off against Cardiff, West Ham and Everton in their first 3 fixtures – King could start well.
DIOGO JOTA – £6.5m – TSB: 6.3%
Ruben Neves is clearly the most popular Wolves option, with 14.5% of fantasy managers opting to include the young star in their squads. This makes some sense – despite being a defensive midfielder, he’s only priced at £5.0m and may take penalties. However, the more expensive, but much less-owned Diogo Jota certainly has some FPL potential. First and foremost, Jota has been listed as a midfielder on the game, but regularly plays on the left of a front three and even at centre-forward on occasion. He tallied up an impressive 17 goals and 6 assists in the Championship last season and is expected to perform despite the step up in competition. He takes plenty of shots (the second most in the Championship last season), which doesn’t hurt his chances at direct goal contributions.
Quite understandably, FPL managers tend to be cautious when purchasing players from promoted sides as they’re a somewhat unknown entity. However, Wolves have signed players with real pedigree this summer such as Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho and have barely been mentioned in the relegation discussion. In the meantime, Jota has been picking up goals and assists in pre-season, impressing in preparation for the Premier League campaign. Wolves only face Manchester City from last season’s top 6 in their first 5 fixtures, and begin with a defensively suspect Everton side at Molineux. He’s one to watch.
GYLFI SIGURDSSON – £7.5m – TSB: 2.2%
Everton have plenty of options for fantasy managers to consider this season. Attacking full-back Seamus Coleman (£5.5m), new signing Richarlison (£6.5m) and Turkish forward Cenk Tosun (£7.0m) all have their merits. However, Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson might be the best of the bunch. At £7.5m, he comes in as the Toffees’ most expensive fantasy asset – but there are plenty of factors that justify his price tag. First, Sigurdsson has proven himself capable of consistently returning goals and assists in the Premier League. In the 3 years prior to joining Everton, he provided 27 goals and 27 assists for a Swansea side that did not regularly possess the kind of attacking talent Marco Silva’s new squad owns. He will likely take direct free-kicks, corners and may even be on penalties this year. First-choice taker Leighton Baines may be displaced at left-back by Lucas Digne and second-choice Wayne Rooney has left for the MLS, meaning penalty responsibilities will probably be handed to Sigurdsson or Tosun. Everton have a fantastic looking set of fixtures too, facing Wolves, Southampton, Bournemouth, Huddersfield and West Ham in their first 5.
But what happened to Gylfi last season? It is important to acknowledge that Sigurdsson did not reach the levels of seasons gone by in his first campaign with Everton. There could be a few reasons for this. A clear issue was that it was the midfielder’s first season at a new club, joining without a pre-season to help him adjust to his new team mates. Sigurdsson had some injury problems too, suffering from knee ligament damage in March just as he was hitting some form – he missed the rest of the season and just about made it to this summer’s World Cup. While Sam Allardyce did not do a bad job in his stint as Everton boss, he took a lot of heat from Everton fans who watched their side rank bottom for shots on goal – Sigurdsson appeared to suffer from Everton’s style of play at the time, regularly being pushed out to the left. As a record-breaking £45m signing, Sigurdsson cannot be entirely exempt from blame with regard to his drop-off. However, it is hard to not see him significantly improving on last season this time around, especially as he is likely to be positioned further forward in a more attack-minded outfit.
ANDROS TOWNSEND – £6.0m – TSB: 2.3%
Most FPL managers are looking for at least one Crystal Palace player for their squad to start the season with. Palace had a great run of form towards the end of last season and have options in both defence and attack, including attacking left-back Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m), cut-price right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.0m) and widely owned forward Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m). Their fixtures are kind too, with games against Fulham, Watford, Southampton and Huddersfield in their first five. One player who has been flying under the radar is Andros Townsend, who provides a cheaper route than Zaha into the Palace attack. The English winger contributed to 11 league goals last season with 2 goals and 9 assists, but there’s an argument to be made that he could do better this time around.
Of all midfielders last season, Townsend created the joint second-highest amount of big chances (16) – only Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne created more. Additionally, though listed as a midfielder on the official fantasy game, Townsend has been playing as a forward for his club. This began towards the end of last season and has at times carried into pre-season this summer, where Townsend has been impressive in producing a hatful of assists. With Palace’s early run, his form and underlying stats, everything points towards Townsend having a positive start to the season.
Written by FPL Forum (@FPLForum)