FPL: Countdown to GW1 - Rule Change, Must-Haves, Enablers and more

Countdown to FPL GW1 with Gianni Buttice

“Who got the assist?” That’s the phrase you will hear in pubs up and down the country this weekend. Why? Because FPL has changed the way we watch football… mostly for the better, right!?

As a football fan, I’ve always had an interest in all 20 Premier League teams but because of FPL I pay more attention than ever before. I don’t only want to know each team’s formation and starting XI but which players are on set pieces, who racks up the bonus points and what their expected goals total is.

It’s my job to be on top of this and to me, being an elite FPL manager is all about the small margins that allow you to gain an edge on your mini-league rivals.


Rule change

FIFA World Cup Trophy - Qatar 2022

The FIFA World Cup has made FPL a little different this season. We’ve been given unlimited transfers between Gameweek 16 (12th November) and Gameweek 17 (26th December) – effectively we have an extra Wildcard – so what does that mean for our transfer planning?

Usually, you hear FPL experts spouting “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” and in a way, this still applies, but this rule change now splits the season in four. Four small sprints of around 9-10 games with three opportunities to overhaul your team.

To make the most of the unlimited transfer chip, we don’t need to save our first wildcard until December as we might have done previously. To maximize on the new rule change I think I will be Wildcarding before Gameweek 10 and then knowing I will be approaching the New Year with a shiny new team, I’m unlikely to need my second Wildcard until the Spring.

This should encourage us to be a little more aggressive with our FPL picks from the off.

Rather than look at steady, long-term holds we should be targeting the teams with the biggest upside in the short term, I’m not looking past the first five or six weeks and will be targeting teams who have had a great pre-season, like Arsenal, a good transfer window, like Spurs, or a really nice fixture run, like Liverpool.


Team Selection

Must-have players for your FPL team - Mohamed Salah, Joao Cancelo and Trent Alexander-Arnold

You hear the term ‘must have’ or ‘essential’ far too much in FPL. It’s a bit like hearing the term ‘world class’ in the mainstream media when commentating on football. Surely not every good piece of individual play should be dubbed ‘world class’ and nor should many players be referred to as ‘essential’ FPL picks. But I’m still going to give you three.

I’ve been tinkering with my team daily in pre-season but Mohamed Salah (13.0), Trent Alexander-Arnold (7.5) and Joao Cancelo (7.0) have been absolute locks throughout. I started there and have been building the rest around them from a group of 25ish other players on my watchlist.

Good players from good teams is the basic rule I like to use when building a Gameweek 1 squad. It sounds obvious, right? But too often I see managers fill their FPL squads with players from mid-table teams.

Ahead of Gameweek 1 we have more uncertainty than ever – no real form, no data, very few certainties. So I put my trust in the good teams who offer the strongest guarantee and as I look at my current draft, only two of my XI don’t play for last season’s top five teams.


Enablers

To accommodate so many big names, we need a few enablers. Your bench should be full of players with rock bottom prices and every season we get a stand-out 4.0 defender that becomes a ‘must have.’

Many will remember John ‘Lord’ Lundstram at Sheffield United a few years back. He ended up playing as a box-to-box number 8, whilst Tino Livramento was the go-to 4.0 defender last season as he bombed forward at every opportunity.

This season, we have two 4.0 defenders who are both likely starters and offer plenty of attacking threat from full-back. Neco Williams at Nottingham Forest and Nathan Patterson at Everton could both become stand-out bench options or even push for a place in our starting XI’s.

Elsewhere, keep an eye on midfielder Andreas Pereira (4.5, who is taking some of the set pieces in an attacking role at Fulham, and Leon Bailey (5.0), who has been on fire in pre-season and looks set to become a starter for Aston Villa.

Both are currently in my Gameweek 1 squad.


Final Thoughts

I still have a couple of question marks over a few players in my squad but, one question I will be asking of all my mid to high-priced transfer targets is, how high is the ceiling?

Attacking defenders like Ivan Perišić (5.5), Reece James (6.0) and Andrew Robertson (7.0) can deliver far more predictable double-digit hauls than any centre-back in the game and midfielders like Mason Mount (8.0), Bukayo Saka (8.0) and Son Heung-min (12.0) always seem to be involved when their teams score. They’re key men for their team and the FPL points system often rewards this.

Up top, we’ve got some shiny new toys for some of the most popular teams. I really like what we have seen pre-season from Gabriel Jesus (8.0) and Darwin Núñez (9.0), who have both been scoring goals for fun, and I’m likely to start the season with one, if not both, of them.

Anthony Martial (7.0) is back at Manchester United after a year on loan and looks set to start the season as Erik ten Hag’s number 9, whilst Erling Haaland (11.5) has over 50% ownership and will score points for fun.

We can’t have them all and compromises have to be made, but have fun with it, forget club
bias and captain Mo Salah in Gameweek 1.

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