FPL’s Best and Worst of 2021/2022: Part 2
Welcome back for Part 2 of 2 in looking back at the Best and Worst FPL had to offer in the 2021/2022 season. Late last week, I had posted Part 1 of this informal ceremony. For those who did not get a chance to read it and want to catch up now, here is the link to that column.
Right, so that should get you caught up with what we are doing here. Today, we will look at the ten remaining clubs, and mention some names that helped carve out this year’s chapter of FPL history, whether for better or for worse.
Bear in mind, if things were not made clear in the first segment of this column, these are choices based completely on observation and opinion, not necessarily a statistic-driven model. For example, leading off with Arsenal in Part 1, I considered Aaron Ramsdale the “Best” FPL performer from the past season, though from a points-only perspective, one may argue that the honor should belong to Bukayo Saka. Between position differences, position scarcity and cost, however, it is my personal opinion that Ramsdale was more “valuable”. That being said, I am going with gut feelings here.
Picking up where we left off, going in alphabetical order, we have three big clubs to look at right out of the gate, starting with league runners-up Liverpool…
The Reds are loaded with fantasy gold. Taking a look at the Premier League’s recently released Best XI for the season, it is no surprise to see six Liverpool representatives there. A club so dependable for production and, unlike the next club we will cover, relatively settled enough to make their options dependable for long stretches of the season, for most successful managers in the FPL game, it was not a question of whether you would roster as many of the three maximum players from one club or not, it was, WHICH three players did you decide were worthy of a slot in your team.
The Best – It is no surprise here. Despite several names that would be top picks on almost any other club in the league if you could simply transfer the production over, one player truly shined as the big fish in the big Pool. (Sorry) Yes, Mo Salah had a sensational season. The first two thirds of which, he simply could not be unrostered nor uncaptained. Yes, his production did trail off and other players around the league began to catch up to his points total, but he still finished co-winner of the Golden Boot and put up one of the top fantasy seasons in FPL history.
Now of course, there were other Reds who had fantastic seasons and deserve mention. I will do my best to mention them in order of importance. That in mind, it seemed pretty much irrational to go without at least one of Liverpool’s all-world fullbacks, Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andrew Robertson. TAA definitely seemed deserving of his extra .5m price tag versus his Scottish international teammate for the first half or so of the campaign, but as the season went on, Robertson began to be the more productive one. Even if you found yourself struggling to afford these premium talents, it was back to another fine FPL season for Virgil Van Dijk, who offered another route into the defense and started in every one of Liverpool’s 21 clean sheets.
A debate that is actively going around the FPL community is whether or not some position changes are needed to be made in the game, and one area of particular dispute are attacking wingers and whether they should be reclassified as forwards, where we saw such a lack of fantasy production. This may perhaps give the two positions a little more balance in the FPL game and could make “template” teams a bit more difficult to form. Along with Salah’s top-notch season, we saw another solid campaign from Sadio Mané but who really earned a ton of investment was Diogo Jota, who carved out a role that did have to contend with a bit of rotation, but, considering his extremely-friendly FPL price tag, was an absolute bargain. If you did not invest during his seven-game stretch from Weeks 12 through 18, in which he scored six goals in seven, then you likely experienced hyper-FOMO.
Finally, some quick hits…Kostas Tsimakas was the 4m or sub-4m darling in FPL last season if you found the right moments to use him. Joel Matip was the least nailed down in defense but still had a solid season at his price tag. Luis Díaz showed us some flashes in the brief time he had that did not begin until Week 24 of the season and is a good bet to be on FPL radars for seasons to come.
The Worst – For a side as settled and as productive as Liverpool are, it makes it the toughest task to find a “worst” performer. I mean, one could pick on their midfield three, but the way Jurgen Klopp sets his side up, attacking production was not meant to come from that part of the pitch and no one was missing out in fantasy if they ignored the likes of Jordan Henderson or ThIago. That said, with a bit of trepidation, I suppose Roberto Firmino takes this dubious distinction by default. Still a key player that started more often than not, at least until Diaz’s arrival at the end of January, Firmino usually was found seeking out teammates or helping to create space, doing the things that do not translate to FPL production, ending up with five goals and four assists.
From one league giant to the next, we now shift over to the title-winners of the 2021/2022 season, Pep Guardiola’s Citizens. As they do every season for the past decade now, City find themselves at or around the top again when it comes to scoring goals and defending against them. What separated them apart from Liverpool from an FPL perspective though was the tricky task of figuring out which players were getting a run of starts and not burning a hole in your pocket due to Guardiola’s tendency to utilize the dearth of talent at his disposal and rotate players in and out of Starting XI’s.
The Best – That considered, despite a club full of premium talents, I find picking the fantasy MVP from this edition of Manchester City to be relative easy. That’s right, I am talking about the versatile and dependable production of Joao Cancelo. The Portuguese international finished a close second behind Trent Alexander-Arnold for top scoring defender and is one of only five FPL assets to break the 200-point threshold this season. On a club where finding the right player to roster in City’s front three was like playing fantasy whack-a-mole, Cancelo provided exactly what fantasy managers crave – a consistent starter with plenty of attacking threat and loads of clean sheets. Some games, Cancelo would find points on both sides of the ball, but for the majority of the time, you could pretty much count on points coming from somewhere every single round.
Just as clear as I feel Cancelo is the top pick from this edition of City, I am equally confident in naming Kevin De Bruyne the runner-up to the honors. Injury at the beginning of the season, combined with his time on the sidelines last season took a lot of the shine off of the Belgian playmaker and FPL managers were at first rather hesitant to invest major funds in the proven star once he had his second stint in the treatment room that kept him out of the Starting XI from Weeks 12-16. As the season carried on, KDB became more and more a dynamic differential for those brave enough to invest before the bandwagons came around. Despite all the time he missed, he still finished with 196 points, just four shy of a club that has only five members this season.
The Worst – Jack Grealish comes to mind first, but I would say, in general, unless you were very skilled and/or fortunate with your timing, that all of City’s attacking options not named De Bruyne were not worth the headaches of rotation. Raheem Sterling had the most points out of this crew, but you had to spend big to get him. Bernardo Silva was consistent in the season’s first half, but for most of the FPL community, they were convinced too late of his relevance and brought him in just when his production began to dry up. Phil Foden was looked at as the emerging talent to back from this group, but he never went on any kind of run that made rostering him a must. Riyad Mahrez was next to Foden in points but he was probably the least predictable talent in a soup of unpredictability. Gabriel Jesus was…well, let’s just expect the Forward position next season to get a shot in the arm with the introduction of Erling Haaland.
Ahh, the legendary franchise that is Man United. In a world full of twists and turns, one could always depend on the Red Devils to be among the elites, if not, THE elite club in England. Well, in the post-Ferguson era, some of the luster has begun to fade and, with this most recent season, we have seen United fall to about as low of a status as I can recall. Rife with inconsistent performances, Manchester United finished in sixth place. They were still in the running for a top four spot as late as April this season, but ultimately were lucky to finish where they did, wrapping the campaign up with a goal difference of (to borrow a line from Animal House) zero-point-zero-zero. For comparison, Crystal Palace finished with a +4 goal difference and they were 12th in the table. Expect this club to be “worst-heavy” in my summary.
The Best – Do I really have to? In a somewhat controversial decision, I will give a three-way tie to Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and David De Gea. If, for no other reason, they are the ONLY three players who, at some point in the season, at least got our collective attention, even if it was just in spurts. Eighteen goals are nothing to sniff at but, considering his price tag, Ronaldo probably caused as much frustration as he did joy for his owners. Six of those goals came in two hat-trick performances. If you did not have him for those games, then you likely will feel he did not serve you well. Fernandes saw much of his production go toward Ronaldo and saw his stats regress heavily from last season, but he still had some big performances, most memorably during United’s first double gameweek when folks like myself successfully backed him for captaincy. De Gea was “serviceable” as your FPL keeper, but that was due to finishing third in the league in saves, not due to United’s clean sheet record.
The Worst – Honestly, this side was a disaster from an FPL perspective. Many of the players in the game felt overpriced to begin with, as if United’s legacy made any player 1m more than he would be anywhere else. But, as we saw play out, the club is not as elite as the price tags of their players would suggest, so across the board you had players not meeting value. Particularly in defense, United were downright shambolic, with Raphael Varane finishing the club’s top scorer at the position with a paltry 75 points. Other than Watford and Norwich, the two clear-worst sides in the league, no other club’s top-scoring defender scored less, even Leeds, who had a terrible goal record, had Diego Llorente’s 77 points.
But here is how you know that United had a season to forget from an FPL perspective. Their highest-scoring outfield player, other than Ronaldo or Fernandes…was (are you ready for this?) Fred. Let me repeat that – Fred. Remember in preseason when Jadon Sancho was being shown the blueprint teams of many an FPL manager. Yeah, that did not pan out. We saw very little from Marcus Rashord as well. There is another wide attacking young English player who took an even bigger step backwards, for reasons so shameful, I won’t even give him a mention. Paul Pogba might have tricked some into investing for a hot minute, but that came and went. Yes, it was indeed a true dumpster fire at Old Trafford this season, by their standards, but there is a silver lining to the cloud for FPL managers – it made one club with elite-priced players completely removed from the equation, so, no FOMO to be had here.
The Best – What a season it was for the Magpies. You wouldn’t probably know simply by looking at the final standings, but there is a story there. Newcastle had a woeful first half of the season, and were in position to be relegated. However, an ownership change allowed the club to start in a new direction which involved Eddie Howe appointed as a manager and plenty of money to be spent in the winter window to help the club out of the relegation swamp and turned them into a highly competitive side. For that reason, and since I make the rules up as I go along here, my MVP from Newcastle has to be Howe. Under his guidance, the club began to flourish, top to bottom, so any player that may have given you fantasy production likely owes it to Howe.
That said, let me mention a player or two. As far as the new signings go, I feel like one has to bring up how impactful Bruno Guimaraes was on his arrival. He already had the physical makeup to be an upgrade in Newcastle’s midfield possession game, but, not arriving until Week 24, he also chipped in five goals, a solid return rate for a 5m FPL price tag. Newcastle had some players, including the new signings, produce some solid returns in the second half of the season, but looking at the season as a whole, then Allan Saint-Maximin is your best fantasy weapon here.
The Worst – Despite finishing as Newcastle’s top scoring midfielder in FPL, Joe Willock is a clear standout disappointment, but to be fair, the expectations were always too high for him, on the heels of a breakout run of games while a loanee from Arsenal at the end of last season. He came over in the summer on a permanent deal and, with the shape of the roster at the time, he was counted on to be one of the main goal threats on the club, but it did not materialize for him. As for the rest of the side, it was not really a matter of who was worse, but more an issue of when. As mentioned, the club got off to a terrible start and it wasn’t until the season’s final third that any rational manager would even consider a Magpie for their FPL side other than Saint-Maximin.
The Best – Yeah. this might be difficult. Up now are the Canaries who, to put it mildly, were not very good this season, finishing dead last with an ulcer-inducing goal difference of -61. Every other club in the league at least had a moment of quality that would last beyond a single game, even Watford, but such was not the case for Norwich. They started poor, they finished poor, and they were poor between those two markers. That being said, picking their MVP is a breeze. Yes, it is another party for Teemu Pukki, who, if you can believe it, finished the third-highest scoring forward in the FPL game. No really, think about that. The club that scored, by far, the least goals in the league have a player who actually would take up a spot in an “FPL ALL-XV”, with three players slotted for forward. Further evidence that the position could use an overhaul next season.
The Worst – I mean, let’s be fair here. There never were expectations for Norwich to take the league by storm. So, the concept of designating a player as the “worst” feels a bit harsh, if no one ever had a fleeting thought of rostering them. I suppose Billy Gilmour could get an unfortunate nod here. The Chelsea product came over on loan and, while no one expected big things, his 4.5m price tag made him a consideration as a minimum-priced 5th midfielder with some attacking threat. The threat never materialized (no goals, one assist) and even his playing time, which seemed nailed on coming over, eventually began to regress in the second half of the campaign.
The Best – I have a pick that comes straight from the heart but if I am looking at it through an unbiased lens, then James Ward-Prowse, entering the prime of his career, had what was for him, his best fantasy season to date. Perhaps the very best on dead balls in the entire league, Ward-Prowse could be counted on to offer a threat from every possible set piece. He is also the kind of player who will start every game when fit and play ninety minutes of those starts pretty much every single time.
As poor as the forward positon has been, the Saints actually had more than one option with fantasy relevance, in part due to their low-price/low-risk situations. Che Adams was the only FPL option from Southampton to break 100 points this season, and had a couple of decent runs where he was helpful in fantasy, but even more impactful was the loan spell of Armando Broja, who, at times, looked like a star of the future. But I cannot talk about “Best” players without a nod to Tino Livramento. Every season, I always have my heart set on finding that 4m defender worth rostering and find him fast. For this most recent campaign, Livramento, when fit, filled that role quite well.
The Worst – Adam Armstrong. There, I said it. This pick is admittedly a bit personal. I backed Armstrong as fantasy player to watch at the beginning of the season, convinced his goal involvement while playing for Blackburn in the previous year would help him transition without too many bumps into the top flight. Basically, I had vision of another Danny Ings in my head, but it just did not pan out for him. The Saints put good money into his capture, so they surely were expecting more from him, but he was pretty much a bench weapon for more than half the season.
Ah yes, my beloved Spurs. A season with plenty of drama finished in a place that feels like a positive one, as they qualify for the Champions League next season. Much changed between the start of the season, with Nuno Espirito Santo in charge, and where it winded up, with Antonio Conte lifting the club to a top four finish just in time. Even when things were not going right, Tottenham were a tough club to figure out. They beat Manchester City in both fixtures, they drew with Liverpool in their two matchups, no other club can boast such a record against the top two sides, but then they would get a result like that and follow it up the next game with, for example, a loss to Burnley. Ultimately, though, there were some stand out good and bad players here.
The Good – Snubbed from the PL’s Team of the Season, let me try and make up for it by saying, “Heung-Min Son, you are an FPL god”. Co-winner of the Golden Boot and finishing second in total FPL points, only seven behind Mo Salah, Son’s performances, which went from steady and dependable to pure elite status as the season went on, is the top reason Tottenham were able to fight their way into fourth.
With less than half a season and brand new to the league, the capture of Dejan Kulusevski was another key moment in Tottenham’s campaign, and he finished just a point shy of 100. If my math is correct, then that puts him in the 200 point range over the course of a full season. Harry Kane did not have one of his better seasons statistically but still had plenty of fantasy relevance, both from hitting runs of form and because of the scarcity of talent at the position. Matt Doherty looked like the attacking wingback that Spurs were waiting for but he had a limited run before a season-ending injury.
The Bad – Speaking of wingbacks, I suppose the biggest disappointment here is Sergio Reguilón. Over the course of the season, he went from being perhaps the first defender to be penciled into the XI to one of the last. He had some moments and chipped in with a couple of goals and four assists but eventually fell completely out of favor and, it has to be said, Tottenham got better results more consistently in that final quarter of the season when Reguilon was no longer starting. Opposite wingback, Emerson Royal, met a similar fate.
The Best – Despite a season in which they had a one-year stay in the top flight, the Hornets had a pretty clear cut FPL option, Emmanuel Dennis. He was pretty much a must-have in the first half of the season, which may be difficult to believe now, but his eight goals by Week 20 made him one of the very best forwards to roster, with a bargain price tag that made it all the more appealing. However, this bandwagon hit a major pothole at the halfway stage of the season, as he would go on to score just two more the rest of the way, with many a manager, myself included, sticking with him, burning up a roster spot, because finding a productive replacement in that price range was pretty much blind luck. It wasn’t just a one-man show though and folks have to wonder if things may have panned out different were Ismalia Sarr able to stay fit and, perhaps more importantly, was not asked to go to AFCON immediately following an injury layoff. He scored four of his five goals in the first six games of the season.
The Worst – From an FPL standpoint, this was the worst defense in the league. The top scoring defender here was Kiko Femenía with 53 points. He wasn’t in the XI for about 1/3rd of games, so even if he were to start every match, that would extrapolate to about 80 points. So, given how poor they were at the back, and had several players moving in and out of the lineup, my designated worst player here would be Craig Cathcart, who led Watford defenders in minutes played. Hard to imagine a player priced at 4.2m could underperform, but that’s what happens to a starting defender with three clean sheets, one assist and one bonus point. Bad, even for his own standards, as his 50 points this season were eclipsed two season prior with 77 points in Watford’s last top flight appearance, with pretty much the same number of minutes.
West Ham United
The Best – A no-brainer in my estimation. As mentioned before, only five FPL players broke 200 points this season, and the last one to be mentioned in these columns plays for the Hammers, one Jarrod Bowen. West Ham broke out this season like gangbusters, and for a long time, were among the top four or five clubs in the table. However, as the season went along, their form began to dip and they would finish in seventh, but that is still good enough for European competition next season and no one is more responsible for positive results than the versatile Bowen, who would typically play wide of the center forward but looked just as comfortable as the #9. Bowen had an impressive 29 goal involvements in the campaign (12 goals, 17 assists), a number surpassed only by Salah and Son. and you could have rostered Bowen for a fraction of the price. In retrospect, I am not sure Bowen was given as much praise as he deserved and, despite this breakout year and a sure bump up in price for the next season, he might actually be an underrated option when next season starts.
The Worst – Of course, in the opening weeks of the season, one might have had a different choice for best FPL option here, and that was Michail Antonio. Incredibly, Antonio went ballistic in the first three games of the season, scoring four times and assisting four other goals. Eight goal involvements and the summer window hasn’t even closed yet. You HAD to have him. The problem was, and the reason why I include him here is, if you brought him in, say in Week 3, you only got that one last big game left and from then on, Antonio went through a major drought. If I had to guess, if there is a player who had the highest ownership while offering the least production to warrant said ownership, it would be Antonio-post Week 3. Six goals and six assists for Antonio the rest of the way, which is still not dreadful for forwards this past season, but considering where is ownership was, say, midseason, you would never have guessed Antonio was in the middle of a long drought.
The Best – I like a good easy pick for the “best” and, now looking at the final club, we get to end with an easy one. Brought in over the summer to replace Rui Patrício between the sticks, it was a fantastic first season of Premier League football for Jose Sa. It is no surprise that three of the top four scoring keepers in the league also finished top four in the table, the one that is not like the others is Sa, who finished fourth despite Wolves smack dab in the middle of table finishing tenth. Two other keepers got “MVPs”, Ramsdale and De Gea, and in both cases, there was at least a case to be made for at least a share of the honor. Not the case here for me, as Sa was clearly top Wolf. Connor Coady provided solid returns if your defensive rep from Wolves was not at the keeper position, and deserves some love as well as it was definitely Wolves’ defensive record that was responsible for the majority of their positive results.
The Worst – The attack. Just…in general. Raúl Jiménez returned from a long-term injury to re-establish himself as the club’s talisman, and technically he was, the only attacking player to break 100 points this season. But, he barely accomplished that and, when you add in the lack contributions from the wingers in the front three, where not a single player scored above 70 points, you begin to put the story of Wolves season together pretty simply. The defense carried the club while the attack struggled. Adama Traoré showed flashes and there’s a reason a club like Barcelona swooped in to sign him in January, but the remaining winger options, Daniel Podence, Francisco Trincao and Pedro Neto all fell below expectations.
Right, well, there you have it. If there is one thing that is certain, for one reason or another, some being good, others being extremely bad, the 2021/2022 season was certainly a memorable one, both in reality and in FPL. Thank you for taking a trip down recent memory lane with me and, if nothing else, I had a good time reminiscing on the past year. Now we play the waiting game. FPL will be going live for the next season at some point in the near future. Until then, enjoy the mental break holiday.