So this article is all about building a wildcard team. With the wildcards restored for Gameweek 20 on New Year’s Day, and possibly some people still able to use their first half of the season one before then, here’s my opinion on what the best team to build for the second half of the season, assuming a budget of £104m.
This article was written 2 weeks ago and is now republished.
GK: Heaton £4.8 m; Pickford £4.2m
DEF: Vertonghen £5.7m; Fonte £5.5m; David Luiz £6.1m; Francis £4.6m; Amat £4.1m
MID: Hazard £10.3m; Walcott £7.8m; Phillips £5.5m; Lallana £7.4m; Coutinho £8.2m
FOR: Costa £10.8m; Kane £11.2m; Defoe £7.8m
Total cost: £104.0m
This is the team that I’ve selected. In my opinion it has a good balance of players from the top sides, whilst still cherry-picking some of the better and cheaper options from other sides. So let’s dig a little deeper into my actual picks. First I’ll go through the method I used, and then I’ll discuss the players I picked and why.
In my opinion, picking a good fantasy team starts with picking your star players. You need to look at the big names, and decide which of them you want to have, before building the squad around them and then altering your picks as you go.
My first picks were easy: I wanted Costa, Hazard, Coutinho, Aguero and Sanchez. In terms of points per game, I felt that these five would be the heavy hitters in the back half of the season, with Coutinho and Aguero both returning to action and hopefully form in Gameweek 19, and the other three players already firing on all cylinders.
However, I was aware that picking a team that top heavy was not possible, as these players are all incredibly expensive. One method here could have been to just throw money at cheaper options to ensure that I was able to get all of the expensive players I wanted, but I felt that a balanced team was a better choice to go with. Picking all five of the big hitters would have cost £54m, over half of my budget, leaving me an average of £5m to spend on the other ten players. Not particularly doable.
So I settled on Costa, Hazard and Coutinho right away, as they were the three cheaper options of the big hitters, and all good value for money. I then focused on midfield and attack first, since these are the area of the pitch where you secure the most points.
In terms of midfield, I wanted Arsenal coverage, and since Sanchez was too expensive, Walcott was the logical choice. I also wanted to double up on Liverpool, and with Mane off to the ACON, Lallana was also an easy pick. This left me realistically needing one cheap midfielder, and I eventually settled on Matt Phillips of West Brom.
I then looked up to strikers, where I already had Costa and knew I wanted Defoe, as he’s easily the best less expensive option. I then tried to squeeze in Aguero, but quickly realised that that was unrealistic and left me short at the other end, so settled for Harry Kane, who should be explosive in the back half of the season.
Then moving to defence, where I already had three names in the bag from when I wrote my article on defending last week: Jan Vertonghen, Jose Fonte and David Luiz. I then appreciated that I would need cheaper options in defence, so my next pick was Francis of Bournemouth, who is their cheapest regularly starting defender. Finally, after diving into the goalkeeper pool, I picked Swansea’s Jordi Amat as my last defender, because frankly he costs £4.1m and in my opinion it’s necessary to have at least one throwaway player in your squad in order to be able to afford all the better players. You have a bench for a reason, use it.
And finally I moved to goalkeepers, where I did quite a bit of tinkering. I weighed up just buying one good keeper and then throwing away the other slot, but ultimately decided that at £4.2m, Jordan Pickford was a bargain and would make an excellent option as a keeper. My main keeper was a tough call, but I had Tom Heaton enforced on me by funds.
Naturally the team took some tweaking. I picked three midfielders, two strikers and three defenders immediately and then filled in the gaps, starting with midfield and then attack, before working my way backwards. I was forced to drop Aguero for Kane, remembered at the last minute that Wilf Zaha had changed allegiances and would be off to the ACON, subbed in Amat at the last minute as I had a spare £0.2m etc.
But anyway, here are my (relatively short) justifications.
Jordan Pickford in my opinion picks himself. The cheapest keepers in the game are £3.9m, but you have to spend £4m if you want a second keeper that’s actually going to play. In my initial decision making process, I needed a second keeper who would play, as Heaton was my starter, and at £4.2m, the extra spending was extremely justified by the increase in end product, given that Pickford is the cheapest keeper who is actually playing football regularly. It helps that he’s actually very good.
It also helps to have two keeper options that are interchangeable when you can’t afford a top keeper, and having just £5m at my disposal led me to Tom Heaton. Burnley might not regularly be picking up clean sheets, but their home form is very good and more importantly, Heaton is scoring points very regularly by making lots of saves. This season in particular, where clean sheets are a commodity that only the very top clubs can afford, having a keeper that scores points is more than having one who keeps the ball out of the net on a regular basis.
David Luiz was my first pick, because frankly you need some Chelsea coverage in your back five. Chelsea’s back three of Cahill, Azpilicueta and Luiz are all guaranteed points scorers, and Chelsea are easily the best defensive team in the league, followed by Spurs. Luiz is also the cheapest Chelsea defender on offer at £6.1m compared to £6.5m for Azpilicueta, £6.4 for Alonso and £6.3m for Cahill, so represents the best value for money going forwards.
Vertonghen for Spurs was picked for identical reasons. You absolutely need Spurs coverage defensively and at £5.7m, Vertonghen is significantly cheaper than Walker (£6.2m), Rose (£5.9m) and Alderweireld (£6.3m) whilst keeping the same amount of clean sheets.
And then likewise Jose Fonte of Southampton, although Ryan Bertrand would also be acceptable at £5.4m. Virgil Van Dijk is slightly more at £5.7m, so I wouldn’t have taken him. Southampton are the third best team in the league defensively, and when picking defenders your primary concern has to be clean sheets, since you cannot rely on defenders to score goals or assist regularly.
Vertonghen, Luiz and Fonte are 13th, 14th and 15th respectively on the list of high scoring defenders, but all three are cheaper than their teammates and offer excellent value for money in terms of clean sheets moving forwards.
My fourth and fifth picks are even more about money than those three. Simon Francis at £4.6m is the cheapest defender for a Bournemouth side who despite not having the best defensive record, are keeping a more than reasonable amount of clean sheets, especially against sides in and around them. Realistically I think with the attack and midfield that I’m building you’d play with three at the back anyway, but the only other two players that I think are close to Francis in terms of likelihood of scoring points at £4.6m or less are Barragan of Boro, who also have a solid defensive record, and Erik Pieters who is now first choice at a vastly improved Stoke. I think any of those three could be substituted in but Francis would be my personal pick.
As already mentioned, Jordi Amat is a throwaway player to build funds elsewhere and won’t make it off the bottom of my bench. But at the same time, at £4.1m he’s also the cheapest defender starting regularly, even if Swansea’s defence is scarcely better for points than not playing at all.
The midfield is where it gets tasty and probably more divisive. I’ve already alluded to the reasons for not picking Alexis Sanchez, who is in my opinion too expensive, but this makes Eden Hazard and Phillipe Coutinho the first two names on my team sheet. Hazard and Coutinho have both proven to be amongst the highest PPGPM players in the league and in my opinion they’re the two best attacking midfielders in the league. Hazard is the second highest points scorer so far in midfield this season and showing no signs of slowing down and Coutinho would have only needed one goal in the five games that he’s missed to move into 4th place behind Sanchez, Hazard and Mane. I would have been extremely tempted by Mane, but as he’s off to the ACON and is over a million more than Coutinho, the little Brazilian is better value for money.
So the next two picks are mid-range but also very high-scoring. Walcott and Lallana are very easy picks to justify, given that they’re fourth and fifth on the list of points scorers, but personally I don’t think that that’s the main reason to pick them. As I alluded to, it’s all about coverage. Realistically you want as many good attacking options from the best sides as possible. For me, Arsenal coverage is a must, and with Sanchez out the picture because of price and Ozil similarly too much money for a mid-range player, that leaves Walcott as the only guaranteed attacking midfield starter for the Gunners. And it does help that he’s banging in goals for fun.
Similarly, with Mane off the table, that leaves you with Milner, Lallana and Firmino in terms of Liverpool options. At £8.5m and in poor form, I’d take Firmino off the table, and realistically Milner will only score penalties, which leaves Lallana, who has not only been one of Liverpool’s best players, but offers a genuine attacking threat constantly, and could be a real tour de force in the back half of the season if he stays fit.
And that just leaves the low money option. Having less than £6m to play with for a midfielder is tricky. Zaha was my first pick but the ACON was a problem. Gundogan would have been perfect but he’s out for the season. Etienne Capoue has returned to the mean after a flying start, Joe Allen would be a solid pick, Robert Snodgrass plays for Hull so his options are limited. But I settled for Matt Phillips who has been excellent in recent weeks for a West Brom side that are playing very, very well. I was tempted to utilise some WBA options in defence or goal, but with Phillips a guaranteed starter at the moment, and grabbing goals and assists in a solid team, he was a sensible fifth pick.
The only teams notably missing are Spurs and Man City. I have Spurs coverage up front in terms of Kane and whilst I was extremely tempted by Christian Eriksen, he would have been £8.6m, and simply put I can’t see him outperforming Coutinho in the back half of the season. As for Man City, they have limited high scoring midfield options. Silva doesn’t secure enough points, Gundogan is out for the season and at £10.7m there isn’t room in this midfield for De Bruyne and Hazard together. At £7.6m Raheem Sterling was the one player who I seriously considered but his form has been streaky, and Pep has a lot of good wingers at his disposal and has rotated them a lot.
Diego Costa picks himself. At £10.8m he is almost cheap considering the fact that he has been the Premier League’s best striker and is scoring on almost a weekly basis. Right now the way that Chelsea have been playing, there’s no indication that they’re going to slow down and triple Chelsea coverage is almost a must have, with Hazard, Luiz and Costa making themselves almost undroppable from your fantasy at this point.
The second striker pick was the cheap one and for me this was similarly easy. At £7.8m, Jermain Defoe is one of the best strikers in the Premier League and the only player scoring goals at a Sunderland side heavily reliant on him. Sunderland always pick up in the second half of the season and Defoe will definitely be a huge part of that.
And finally the third striker pick. Aguero as I’ve said would have been my preference but at £12.8m I didn’t have the space to buy who I wanted further back and didn’t want to compromise the balance of my defence for him. Kane was the best option, and whilst at £11.2m he’s the most expensive player in my team, he’s also an elite player, and he’s a player who will very much expect to be banging in goals in the back half of the season. He generally scores more after Christmas, Spurs are starting to hit form, and getting some Spurs coverage is definitely a good decision.