Will last season’s top picks shine again in Fantasy Premier League? (Getty/PA/Reuters)
Fantasy Premier League is back for another season and the deadline for gameweek one is fast approaching – it’s time to join your work leagues, make promises to stay involved more than a month this season and, perhaps, try out the different league scoring systems too.
Here, The Independent’s sports desk have combined forces to pick out 30 players to consider adding to your squad for 2023/24: Five goalkeepers, nine defenders, nine midfielders and seven forwards who we feel could be big points-earners across the campaign.
Ederson, Manchester City – 5.5
Despite conceding the joint-lowest number of goals last season, the Man City shot-stopper notched up just 11 clean sheets. That tally is the exception and not the rule, however, for the first-rate Brazillian who, prior to last season, had recorded at least 16 clean sheets in his five seasons at the club. As one of the few City players safe from Pep Guardiola’s rotation strategy and with Josko Gvardiol’s (5.0) arrival further strengthening City’s defence, he should be expected to hit those heights again.
Emi Martinez, Aston Villa – 5.0
After the top-rated goalkeepers, the World Cup winner might be the best of the rest in terms of consistency, clean-sheet potential and the odd bonus points pickup. Unai Emery’s teams are habitually strong at home, but first and foremost concerned with not losing matches on the road – perhaps leading to a few more dull games, but shutouts for Martinez.
Aaron Ramsdale, Arsenal – 5.0
With David Raya’s arrival set to provide competition, Ramsdale made his case to remain No.1 even stronger after his display in Arsenal’s Community Shield victory over Manchester City. For now, he looks set to start the season between the posts for the Gunners and with four three home fixtures in their first four games, the Englishman could notch up a few early clean sheets and cement his place in the starting eleven. At 5.0m, and with the second-most clean sheets last season, he’d be a solid addition to any FPL team if that’s the case.
Mark Flekken, Brentford – 4.5
David Raya finished last season with the most points of any goalkeeper (166) due to Brentford’s defensive organisation and hard-working style. But with the Spaniard set to leave this window, summer signing Flekken looks set to take the No.1 jersey. The Dutch international has enjoyed two successful seasons with Freiburg in the Bundesliga and should fit seamlessly into Thomas Frank’s well-oiled machine.
Jason Steele, Brighton – 4.5
The 32-year-old was a surprise name on Brighton’s team sheet towards the latter half of the season having impressed Roberto De Zerbi and usurped Robert Sanchez, who has since departed for Chelsea. The Englishman kept six clean sheets in his 16 starts and could well offer a valuable route into the much-fancied Brighton defence although he could face competition from summer signing, Bart Verbruggen.
Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele could thrive as Brighton’s No1 (PA Wire)
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool – 8.0
Naturally it’ll feel an obvious pick, but such is Liverpool’s new vice-captain’s impact that he’s a full 1.5m more costly than any other defender this season. Even so, we’d go as far to suggest he’s a must-have if you’re looking for attacking points in deeper areas. Alexander-Arnold isn’t just a set-piece taker, he’s now playing much higher up in midfield in possession, has scored for England from that area and looked in incredible creative form at the back end of last term too.
Kieran Trippier, Newcastle – 6.5
His starting price may have risen 1.5 from last season but the experienced English right-back still offers plenty of upside, having scored 42 more points than the next best defender last season. One goal, nine assists and 16 clean sheets was an excellent return and, despite a tough opening run of fixtures this season, he should be primed for another excellent showing this season.
Luke Shaw, Manchester United – 5.5
With the most clean sheets and third-fewest number of goals conceded, Manchester United’s defensive performance last season may have gone under the radar. Despite his nightmare debut, Andre Onana’s signing should improve Erik ten Hag’s side in that capacity with Shaw set to play a key part once again. The 28-year-old take some set pieces, offers a threat of attacking returns and scored more points last season than his Liverpool rival, Andy Robertson, who is 1m more expensive.
Pervis Estupinan, Brighton – 5.0
The 10th most points from defenders last year (128), a goal and seven assists was a great return. The left-back has a gentle start to the season with four of the favourites for the drop including Luton, Wolves, West Ham and Bournemouth in Brighton’s first six games.
Pedro Porro, Tottenham – 5.0
Pedro Porro quietly assembled an impressive debut fantasy season for Spurs after arriving in January. With three goals and three assists from just 1,132 minutes, you could be looking at a top-five defender under Ange Postecoglu if things break right. Pervis Estupinan, a comparable full-back alternative, played 2,674 minutes last season for Brighton in the Premier League, finishing with the 10th most points, if Porro replicates that game time with last season’s output, he’ll score 139 points, enough to rank sixth among defenders last year.
Illia Zabarnyi, Bournemouth – 4.5
While it has been a case of gentle regeneration at Bournemouth this summer so far, they did make waves in January so there’s a bit of a head-start on a new-look team just by integrating faces only at the club half a season. Defender Illia Zabarnyi is chief among them, handed a few starts at the end of last term and surely ready to push for more action this year. He’s a top prospect among European centre-backs and might be a decent gamble to add a low-cost defender to the squad.
Sven Botman, Newcastle – 4.5
While other Newcastle defensive assets, like Trippier and Fabian Schar, have risen in price, the Dutch centre-back remains at an enticing 4.5m price point. Like Trippier, he will have to contend with tricky opening fixtures, but as a nailed-on starter and the joint eighth-highest-scoring defender last season (129), Botman also has an aerial threat from set-pieces and is one to consider if you are looking for a cheaper way into Eddie Howe’s defensive quartet.
Pau Torres, Aston Villa – 4.5
The much-coveted Spaniard made the move to Aston Villa for £31.5m after a number of impressive seasons with Villareal and will reunite with former boss, Unai Emery. As an early summer signing, he has had time to adapt to Villa’s system and bed in with his team-mates in pre-season and should improve the already-solid Villa defence right off the bat.
Levi Colwill, Chelsea – 4.5
Although the 20-year-old has yet to make a first-time appearance for Chelsea, his new, six-year contract with the club should be a signal of how highly he is rated by the west London club. Colwill will likely have to compete with Benoît Badiashile, Trevor Chalobah and Axel Disasi for the other starting berth alongside Thiago Silva but having impressed on loan at Brighton last year, he could well be fast-tracked into the starting eleven and worth a punt as Mauricio Pochettino looks to rebuild at Stamford Bridge.
Levi Colwill could step into a starting role immediately at Chelsea after Wesley Fofana’s injury (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)Midfielders
Mohamed Salah, Liverpool – 12.5
Perhaps overshadowed by Erling Haaland, the Egyptian still managed 32 goal involvements last season (19 goals, 13 assists) and the highest number of points for any midfielder (239). With Liverpool’s midfield refreshed after a summer spending spree and talks of a move to Saudi Arabia firmly denied by his agent, the 31-year-old looks set to hit the ground running for another season. He’s 0.5m cheaper than last season and now 1.5m cheaper than Haaland, meaning he could provide an intriguing differential captaincy pick if you are willing to bet against the City forward.
Son Heung-Min, Tottenham, 9.0
After a disappointing season last year for Son, which still saw him register 10 goals and six assists, it’s worth remembering that he was the second-highest point scorer in 2021/22 after notching up 23 goals and 10 assists. Now priced at just 9m – a 3m drop from last season – the 31-year-old could well offer plenty of value if revitalised as part of Postecoglu’s gung ho, attacking system.
Bukayo Saka, Arsenal – 8.5
If Erling Haaland is selected, then savings need to be made elsewhere. Users may look to surround Saka, as a premium option at 8.5, with other bargain midfielders. And while Salah (12.5) offers huge upside, Saka’s 14 goals and 12 assists (plus a healthy 19 bonus points) last season returned 202 total points last season. Kevin de Bruyne has only topped that twice in his career, and the City star is 2.0 more expensive. With Kai Havertz and Declan Rice strengthening the Gunners’ XI, Saka should hold those exceptional numbers.
Dominik Szoboszlai, Liverpool – 7.0
One of Liverpool’s two new midfield recruits, Szoboszlai should prove a far more regular goal-getter than the club’s usual midfielders, with a long-range threat and great ball-carrying skills to go along with his set-piece prowess. He’s guaranteed as a starter too, given the number of players who have left this summer, and is cheaper than teammates Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz.
Kaoru Mitoma, Brighton – 6.5
Electric last season for the Seagulls, returning seven goals and nine assists, with an extra 11 bonus points. Look for the Japanese star to take on even more responsibility this season, and at just 6.5, there are 23 more expensive midfielders, having finished 20th in total points from midfielders last season. His arrow is pointing up and a start against three relegation-threatened side – (Luton (H), Wolves (A) and West Ham (H) – offers up a chance at an early return.
Bernardo Silva, Man City – 6.5
Twice in the last five seasons, Man City’s Portuguese schemer has clocked up over 150 points. In 2021/22, he managed eight goals and eight assists as a vital component of the title-winning team. Last year both that output and his minutes on the pitch were reduced – but with Ilkay Gundogan’s drive from midfield gone and so too Riyad Mahrez’s goals from the flank, is Silva the man to fill the void for both in different ways? Pep Guardiola wants him to stay; if he’s a regular starter, the price is a steal.
Bruno Guimaraes, Newcastle – 6.0
A decent point-scorer last season, but he might be far more impactful in FPL terms this term if Eddie Howe’s plan proves to be to start new addition Sandro Tonali as the deepest midfielder and push Bruno Guimaraes further forward as a No.8. Between his creativity and his penchant for scoring important goals for Newcastle, the Brazilian could prove a total bargain if that’s the case. Over 100 points from defensive midfield; how many more if he’s unleashed?
Liverpool have strengthened their midfield with Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai (REUTERS)
Philip Billing, Bournemouth – 5.5
The Bournemouth midfielder finished inside the top-25 highest-scoring midfielders last year, with his seven goals and two assists a solid return for a midfielder within his price range. In fact, Everton’s Dwight McNeil – set to miss the start of the season through injury – is the only midfielder priced below 5.5m who matched Billing’s goal output last season. With new manager, Andoni Iraola likely to have the team playing on the front foot, the Danish attacking midfielder could provide a low-cost option with an eye for goal.
Josh Brownhill, Burnley – 5.0
Previously known as an industrious, combative midfielder when Burnley were last in the Premier League, the Englishman enjoyed a new lease of life under Vincent Kompany in the Championship last season. Playing in a more advanced role, Brownhill notched up seven goals and eight assists and could offer a valuable rotation option off the bench for any FPL side.
Erling Haaland, Man City – 14.0
Does this really need explaining? With 36 goals and nine assists from 33 starts last season, the Man City forward more than justified the hype around his signing from Borussia Dortmund. Now, in his second season at the club, Haaland is 2.5m more expensive but still impossible to ignore. You could get creative and explore other captaincy picks but to leave him out of an FPL team entirely feels like a massive risk given the fact he is owned by nearly 90% of teams already.
Cody Gakpo, Liverpool – 7.5
The starting point for many is Kane or Haaland, with a few managers no doubt trying to cram in both. But who is best of the rest up front? To start with, Gabriel Jesus is injured, so too Christopher Nkunku, Ivan Toney suspended, Aleksandar Mitrovic potentially leaving and both Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak could cancel each other out in rotation. From the most expensive forwards, your eyes may then be immediately drawn to Liverpool’s duo of Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo. The Dutchman has the centre-forward jersey right now and he’s also played in midfield in pre-season, so even if Nunez features, Gakpo could still do so alongside him.
Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa – 8.0
While your eyes may be drawn to Liverpool’s free-flowing forward line, it’s important to not forget about the superb season had by Villa’s Ollie Watkins last time out. With Danny Ings departing in January, Watkins repaid the faith shown in him, with his 15 goals only bested by three strikers – Haaland, Kane and Wilson. With new signing Moussa Diaby adding more creativity down the right, users would be brave to bet against Watkins this season.
Nicolas Jackson, Chelsea – 7.0
After Christopher Nkunku’s injury, Nicolas Jackson is destined to start up front for Chelsea for the foreseeable future. Without Nkunku’s creative side, Jackson’s output takes a hit, but at 7.0, the value is there for a player who can be trusted to provide assists for runners in behind if Mauricio Pochettino can inspire movement in the final third. If the Senegalese can match his goal or assist every 100 minutes for Villarreal last season in LaLiga, fantasy owners will be delighted.
Ollie Watkins offers reliability for FPL owners with his role for Aston Villa (Getty Images)
Evan Ferguson, Brighton – 6.0
Roberto De Zerbi’s team were excellent to watch even under Graham Potter, but the Italian coach has brought end product and a bit of ruthlessness to the team. Irish teenager Ferguson was a beneficiary of some more direct, sustained attacking play and there’s every reason to think he’ll take another step forward this year as a regular goal-getter – he managed one per 161 minutes last season which isn’t shabby at all, given he was essentially a rookie and how many times he was subbed on or off.
Yoanne Wissa, Brentford – 6.0
A big problem for Brentford this year will be replacing the goals of Ivan Toney who continues to serve his ban for gambling-related offences. Thomas Frank’s side haven’t turned to the transfer market thus far, meaning Wissa could be the man to lead the line next season. With seven goals last season, he showed his capabilities with a goal and an assist as Brentford won 3-1 away at Tottenham late on in the season. If you are looking for a budget option to partner alongside Haaland, the 26-year-old could be your man.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin – 6.0
Injuries have hampered his last two seasons and this pre-season, but with minutes and a goal in Everton’s most recent friendly against Sporting, he may well be nearing full fitness at long last. The Englishman notched up 16 and 13 goals respectively in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons and could thrive in Sean Dyche’s system with regular minutes. At 6.0m and with a favourable fixture list to start the season, he could be one to consider.