The Most Popular FPL Team

You would imagine with around a month to go before the start of the Premier League season that those fantasy managers enthusiastic and dedicated enough to have created a team already are likely to have a good idea of what they're doing. In this article we test this idea and review a team created from the most selected players.

We’ve selected this in-budget team simply by sorting the FPL transfers page by ‘Teams Selected by’ and then filling the team up with the most selected players within the £100M budget, optimised to get the highest overall ‘ownership’ in the team as we can.

There is logic in doing this. In a post from the tail end of 2013/14, ‘The Winning Easy Team of the Season’, we commented that many of the overall best players from last season would have featured in many a GW1 team We really don’t think it’ll be much different this time around either. How do we think this team will fare this season, and which of today’s ‘most wanted’ players do you think will be in the end of season Dream Team?

Goalkeepers

This team’s goalies have clearly been picked with value square in the mind. A spend of £8.5M is as cheap as it gets without sacrificing the position entirely with two non-playing £4M options. WBA’s Boaz Myhill has emerged as the £4M fodder-pick of choice, no doubt because he’s the only one of this group to have at least played a few matches last season.

Tim Krul is the more interesting pick. Newcastle are one of those teams with a lot of sleeping potential – you never know what team is going to turn up and it was only a couple of season ago that Krul recorded 15 clean sheets for Newcastle, scoring 156 points a long the way. Last year’s 123 points from 10 clean sheets was not too bad for £4.5M.

His chief rival in the budget department is Sunderland’s Vito Mannone. With Newcastle and Sunderland rotating home games due to location in the North East of England the pair make a pretty attractive home ration duo, a combination we’d prefer to a non-player like Myhill.

Defence

The success of this defence hinges on the potential of Luke Shaw (£6M) and Mathieu Debuchy (£5M). The two will need to prove more value than elite picks such as John Terry (£6.5M) and Leighton Baines (£7M) whilst directly rivalling players such as Mertesacker, Jagielka, and DejanLovren (now signed by Liverpool for £20M).

We were admittedly a little reserved about Shaw’s potential in an ‘unproven’ United defence, but with Van Gaal looking likely to try him out as a wing back in a 3-4-1-2 formation his prospects certainly warrant the interest shown by FPL managers. Debuchy at £5.5M represents less risk and looks a no brainer as cheap option in Arsenal’s impressive defence. As we mentioned in our ‘World Cup Lessons’ article, Debuchy is one of the most attack-minded full backs in the league.

The defence is filled out with some cheap options. Stoke’s Geoff Cameron (£4.5M) is a good pick. He’s not returned from World Cup duty yet so we’ll have to see if he can hold down his place over Stoke’s new signing Phil Bardsley (£5M), but it is expected that he does and, if so, he’ll one of the leading options in the budget price band.

Ron Vlaar is the more popular pick at £4.5M but we expect this is largely due to influence in the World Cup – remember for Holland, not Aston Villa! The midlands side are not one of thoes handful of the lower placed sides who we think can battle defensively. Plus, they have a very difficult opening fixture list. We’ll give Vlaar a miss.

Hull City are one of the league’s more defensively sound sides, and on first glance Alex Bruce’s £4M price tag looks tempting. However, he’s only really a bit part player at Hull, used when they lined up in a 5-3-2 or when mainstays Davies or Chester were unavailable. Add to this that Hull only kept 2 clean sheets in the 20 games Bruce figured and we think there’ll be better budget options around.

Midfield

The super-elite options in midfield have certainly captured people’s imagination, Alexis Sanchez in particular. He’s the most owned player in the game right now. He is certainly an attractive proposition, despite a hefty £10.5M price tag. For this money you need to see him comfortably surpassing 200 points this season and as we saw in our ‘Hallmarks of a Fantasy Legend’ post, for a midfielder this would mean hitting around the 15-goal 15-assist mark. After 19 goals and 12 assists for Barca last year he’s obviously capable; the watch-out is that Barca did score 100 goals compared to Arsenal’s 68.

Still, with Walcott injured and Ozil likely eased back after the World Cup , he looks a very secure option at the sharp end of Arsenal’s midfield The key conundrum with Sanchez owners will be over Aaron Ramsey, priced £1.5M lower at £9M, a price which will look very generous if the Welshman can get close to last year’s form.

We commented in our ‘First Thoughts’ article that £10M for Eden Hazard looked quite kind, and we still think thisis so. He’s scored 190 and 202 points in his last two seasons, he’s still only 23 so has room to improve. As do Chelsea. Although Fabregas and Costa are going to prove completion for the Belgium in fantasy manager's teams, their quality arguably boosts Hazard’s appeal; Fabregas providing the ammo, and Costa occupying defenders.

Marc Albrighton and Jonjo Shelvey are amongst two of the very best budget midfield picks we can think of right now. Albrighton should slot straight into Leicester’s system as a very direct winger. Despite just managing 9 starts for Villa last season (in a system which didn’t favour him) he picked up 4 assists, making a very impressive 3.1 key passes per game (Silva led league with 3.2) and 2 successful dribbles; stats which should earn him a fair few bonus points if nothing else. Shelvey’s 6 goals and 7 assists last term saw him earn pick up 3.8 Points-Per-Game (PPG); priced this year at £5.5M this is good enough to get him in to the ‘Optimised PPG Team’ we’ll be featuring later this week.

With a lot of expensive options in Fantasy Premier League 2014/15 values players like Albrighton and Shelvey will prove pivotal in stretching your budgets to the max. Unfortunately, this is not something we can say of one of our pre-season budget picks from 2013/14; Ross Barkley. At £7M Barkley will have to go a long way to realise his price tag. In our experience this price band has always proved a difficult one. The player has neither the upside of a true elite player (£9m+), nor any real budget value, and tends to disrupt the shape of your team and options when it comes to transfers.

Forwards

The extreme price tags of Elite Forwards will tend to restrict their availability to many teams and the front three in the 'Most Owned' team reflects this. Daniel Sturridge has emerged as the ‘most popular’ of all elite options -  although Wayne Rooney’s form in pre-season as one of the front pair in LVG’s 3-4-1-2 has him quickly gaining ground on the Anfield striker. With Suarez gone, Sturridge is sure to feature more prominently, and this will likely offset any lack of creativity suffered following the Uruguayan’s exit to Barca. Deciding your elite forwards is going to be one of the major conundrums through this year’s pre-season and we’ll be taking a longer and harder look at these guys in particular nearer to the GW1 deadline.

Staying at Liverpool, it’s unclear how much of Loic Remy’s early popularity was due to his now collapsed move to Anfield, thought to be on medical groundsWe expect a lot of fantasy managers will go back to the drawing board now that Remy’s future is unclear.

Olivier Giroud’s high ownership will surprise a few, especially with many expecting Alexis Sanchez to feature up-front for Arsenal. We believe the French striker, however, remains integral to Arsene Wegner’s plans. It’s evident in his track record of purchases that the Gunner’s boss prefers a strong centre forward; before Giroud we’ve seen the likes of Chamakh and Bendtner tried out. Comparatively, Giroud has been a success at the Emirates. The bottom line with Giroud is if he keeps his place at the tip of Arsenal’s attack, he’ll keep chipping away with goals and assists and be worth a £8.5M price tag in your team.

Conclusion

Whilst this isn’t a team we’d want to put out on GW1 ourselves, it’s not a million miles away from where many fantasy managers will end up. Indeed, ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ should never be dismissed lightly. There will be many key decisions to be made within the heart of this team. Will Sanchez prove to be a better bet than Ramsey? Can Sturridge eclipse Rooney, RVP, Aguero and Costa? There’s also a few areas around the fringes of this team that we think can be improved, but it’s a good starter for 10.

Later in the week we’ll be looking at other ‘themed’ FPL teams. What’s the best team based on last year’s points per game and this year’s prices? Which player’s underlying shooting and key pass stats may make them the surprise package this season? Who are the new signings and big risk players that could explode?  Stay tuned

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