FPL’s Best and Worst of 2021/2022: Part I
Hey there folks. How is your summer going, then? Have you had a chance to decompress after an exhilarating 2021/2022 season? For me, I am still in the process of fully exhaling, but I did want to put a piece together to reflect back on the season from a fantasy perspective, so I am doing a two-part column in which I will give my thoughts on the best and the worst, the highs and the lows for each club, ten today, ten more in a few days time.
Consider this a “casual” affair. No black tie needed or anything like that. No critical analysis here. We can save that for August. The FPL game has yet to go live for the new season, so let’s just keep things chill and look back at the players who caught my attention, for one reason or another.
Some clubs had more to offer in terms of memories than others, so in order to hopefully keep Parts 1 and 2 somewhat balanced, I will go over each club by alphabetical order. Probably an unnecessary detail to share, but hey, I am a self-conscious guy. Cut me some slack. It’s the summer.
Right. We will make it up to and including Leicester City today. Let’s get started…
The Good – For me, even though a case can certainly be made for Bukayo Saka, the player of the season, even for fantasy purposes, was Aaron Ramsdale. One of the early storylines of the season was the Gunners horrific start in which they lost three straight by a combined score of 9-0. The defense was absolutely shambolic and drastic changes were needed. Honestly, when Arsenal added Ramsdale in the summer, I didn’t feel he would amount to more than a backup/spot-starter, particularly having endured relegation on two clubs already, AFC Bournemouth and, most recently, Sheffield United. But he made an instant, positive impact on all ten players in front of him. That said, in fairness, his form did dip in the final third of the season. He kept 12 clean sheets, a bargain for a keeper priced at 4.5m. But, he failed to keep a single cleanie in the last twelve games. That is nearly a third of the season.
Runners up for the top player go to Bukayo Saka, who found his way into a large percentage of FPL teams and was as consistent a producer of points as you could ask for for a sub-7m priced midfielder. It will be interesting to see how high his price is raised for the coming year. I would imagine something in the 8m range. The other notable will go to Gabriel Martinelli. He got off to a slow start in terms of pitch time, but once he earned regular playing time, his FPL price was down to a paltry 5.2m. He was a nice budget asset as a 5th midfielder in many a roster.
The Bad – I suppose the easy choice for “bad” would be the now-departed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. This season, perhaps one of the most noteworthy aspects was just how disappointing so many premium forwards were. PEA had a decent stretch of six games, Weeks 4-9, in which he scored four goals and had an assist…the sort of production we would expect with a player of his track record. However, that last contribution during that run of form would also be his last for the club, as he was shipped to Barcelona in January. A falling out with the club would lead to his transfer, and things must have gotten pretty ugly, because it was not like Arsenal had much depth when it came to natural center forwards.
Runner up would go to Nicolas Pepe. He probably took the crown the year before. After having not met the potential Arsenal were expecting over the winger’s first two seasons with the club, Pepe would not make another start in this season after Week 8. He scored one league goal and finished with a higher price tag than any other Arsenal midfielder. Maybe the best thing for FPL to do is take Saka and Pepe’s starting prices and switch them.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Ramsdale, Ben White, Gabriel Martinelli, Nuno Tavares. (No, I did NOT roster Saka all season. Maybe that’s why a 40k rank was as good as I could finish.)
The Good – my top player this season for fantasy is no surprise as I pick the player who scored the most points, which is Matty Cash. Yes, in a roster where you had last year’s FPL stud from Villa, Emi Martínez, along with scoring duo of Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins, and a midfield that included a breakout season for Jacob Ramsey and a “welcome back to England” period of magic for Philippe Coutinho. Ramsey may have helped FPL managers by being a cheap 5th midfielder with upside, but for most that brought him in, they were a bit late in timing and Ramsey’s production wore off. Cash, meanwhile, was a terrific asset and contributor, and those that reaped fantasy points from him deserve a pat of the back, because he spent a large chunk of the season out of FPL social media conversation. Only those with a keen eye and belief in their ability to see potential got the best of Cash this season.
The Bad – Speaking of wearing off, and perhaps I am being a bit too harsh here, but I have to bring up Coutinho in this section. Yes, upon arrival, he was making one highlight reel play after another. But when the production dropped off, it absolutely plummeted. Coutinho did not contribute a single goal or assist in Villa’s final twelve games, except for the goal in the very last game, at a point where nothing was really on the line. Sure, you could point to disappointments like Emi Buendía and Leon Bailey who did not hit the ground running with his first season of English football, but what makes Coutinho “bad” is that he built a large bandwagon that, by the time the majority of people got on, he was falling off, so he burned a hole in FPL managers’ XI’s whereas those other guys were simply ignored. I was personally trapped keeping him on my roster through the final month and change because I wanted that form to come back and once he was in, with double gameweeks to come, I simply had to stick with him.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Cash, Lucas Digne, Coutinho, Ramsey, Watkins.
The Good – It was a successful first season in the top flight for the Bee who got off to a strong start, endured some valleys mid-season, then picked up the pace yet again down the stretch to finish in a solid, respectable mid-table finish. My top player from this side would have to go to Ivan Toney. Toney was not exactly “consistent”, he scored in bunches, but if you timed your ownership well with him, you were quite blessed. Typically, promoted sided with a small budget lack a striker who is top-flight seasoned. Toney scored twelve goals and made 17 goal contributions in all. Not bad for a forward priced below 7m in a season which, again, were rife with disappointing forwards. Runner up award goes to Bryan Mbeumo, who offered just enough to warrant an FPL roster spot at his budget price at different points in the season. Also, we cannot forget the January addition of Christian Eriksen, who raised the Brentford attack to another level with his customary creativity.
The Bad – I feel like Brentford had a very impressive season. They were the only promoted side to survive and they did it without much stress. Again, this is a very small club with very little depth. So I feel a bit savage in pointing out the “bad” player, but I would have to give the unwanted moniker to keeper Álvaro Fernandez. Fernandez made 12 starts in the middle of the season and kept only one clean sheet in the process. David Raya, meantime, kept eight cleanies in his 26 starts. Had Raya played the entire season, he could very well have made the “Good” section, but it was abundantly clear the Bees lost a key man when Fernandez took over. Its no surprise that Raya’s return saw Brentford’s form pick back up again.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Toney. That’s it. I wish I would have brought in Eriksen for sentimental reasons, but it just did not work out. Love you, Erik.
Brighton and Hove Albion
The Good – As a franchise, not many clubs are ticking upward as quickly as the Seagulls are. It feels like, with one or two really good signings this summer, we could see Brighton battling for a spot in European competition next season. It truly is a “team effort” for the Seagulls. No one player really jumps out as the standout stud. So, going simply with the eye test of what I personally saw from them this season, my top player award would go to Marc Cucurella. Yes, he is by no means FPL royalty…yet. He did not make it into too many FPL squads. But, he was their second-highest scoring player in the game and he is not even close to hitting the peak of his career. He is definitely one to monitor next season. If the Seagulls have a favorable fixture schedule to start the next season and assuming Cucurella’s starting price will remain at 5m, he will definitely be on my radar. Runner up would have to go to Brighton’s top FPL point-getter Leandro Trossard. He was their best attacking player, though, as was the case with most of Brighton’s offensive-minded players, his patches of form were spotty.
The Bad – Like Brentford, I feel like Brighton punched above their weight and had a season to be proud of. So when that’s the case and the majority of players from those teams are budget-priced, its a bit difficult to be very critical. I will say I remember in preseason when they signed Adam Lallana and there was a mini-bandwagon for half a second. Clearly, that was not the case. Lallana’s days of fantasy relevance are far behind in the rear-view mirror. Also, I think the days of Neal Maupay being atop the striker depth chart are likely over. I would imagine a better striker would be Brighton’s biggest mission in the transfer market this summer. Eight total goals and none since Week 25.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Maupay.
The Good – Having been relegated this season, it would be difficult to imagine too many players falling into this category. Heck, even in previous seasons when they would finish mid-table, not many players would make this list, particularly in the attacking positions. Yeah, things tend to move pretty slow at Turf Moor and their top player, in my opinion, is an example of that, as he has probably been their most important piece for the last several seasons – Nick Pope. Pope is a class keeper and, as much as there likely is loyalty and respect between player and club, he is simply too good to be playing in the Championship. Now may be the best time to ship him. He’s at a prime age for the position and the money he could generate would go a long way toward the rebuilding phase. Runners up for the “good” would include Connor Roberts, who broke into the side and made for a nice budget differential with some attacking potential, along with two players that, if only they could maintain some form, were Wout Weghorst and Maxwel Cornet. Even though it did not work out for them, I thought selling Chris Wood and turning around to grab Weghorst was a slick move. However, his contributions were not as consistent as one would have hoped. Cornet, meanwhile, “should” be the hands-down pick for the best player, but consistent injuries and AFCON commitments really never allowed the attacker to get into a grove. I think his best role is to be a bench player on a top-tier club, because he seems to have that spark you’d want if needing to turn a result around, but not the stamina to be a regular starter.
The Bad – Dwight McNeil is the first name that come to mind. Burnley have always leaned on their defense for results and have been waiting year after year for their attack to level up. McNeil was on a path to be that impact player in the attack. How many goal contributions did he make this season? One. No goals, one assist. That is WOEFUL. That is the epitome of “Bad”. I could fill up the rest of this column listing the names of players who have contributed to more returns, who aren’t even attacking players. Oriel Romeu had two goals and two assists for crying out loud. There’s an example. I think the Clarets need to do the opposite with McNeil and hold him. His stock is down after this stumble of a season and a year in the Championship, where he has a chance to play against competition not nearly as stiff, perhaps he can develop into a fantasy option if the Clarets get back to the top flight in the next season or two.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Weghorst, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Barnes (don’t ask).
The Good – I am going to sit directly in the middle of the fence here, an uncomfortable position were this not simply a metaphor, and split the award for top player between two Blues, one in defense and one in attack. Defensively, I may ignite a few “harumph”s from readers here, but I give the award to Antonio Rüdiger. Yes, I love getting me those wingback attacking returns, and I did have some nice hauls from Reece James and Marcos Alonso along the way, but at the end of the day, Rudiger was a “set it and forget it” defender, who you could count on to start and wound up the club’s highest scoring defender. If James and Alonso were “hares”, Rudiger was the tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race. On the attacking end, no big surprise in heaping praise onto Mason Mount. On a roster full of all-world talent, where the likes of Romelu Luaku, Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz struggled to hold their place down for an extended period, Mount was the one guy who was consistently contributing.
The Bad – Wow, was Lukaku horrible. It brings back another early season memory where I had started a head-to-head league and then deleted the league in Week 2, when, due to some glitch in the FPL draft game, I was not given #1 waiver priority in the first round of waivers despite having the last pick in the draft. The default rule in this regard in any H2H league in any sport is that the team who gets the last pick gets that first crack at free agents on the waiver wire, going in reverse order. ESPECIALLY in a league with an odd number of rounds. With 15 rounds, you pick last in the first and last rounds…so you better get first crack at waivers. Anyway, Lukaku was transferred in by Chelsea but had yet to be added to the FPL roster, so my genius move was to make my FW3 spot my last pick and to go heavy on defense and midfield, knowing I was going to be dropping someone like Josh King to get Lukaku when waivers went through. Well, somehow I got skipped over, tried to work out a civil resolution with the manager who got him, he basically laughed at me, apparently forgot I was running the league, so I said “Right, he’s all yours.”, and deleted the league. In hindsight, I wish I had kept the league going. Not because what I actually did was petty (if it happened again I would do it again), but because I would love to have seen this guy pull his hair out, wondering why Lukaku finished with less fantasy points than Danny Welbeck. Boy, I hope that dude is reading this.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Mount, Lukaku, James, Alonso, Rudiger.
The Good – Probably my favorite player from a neutral perspective in the first half of this season was Conor Gallagher. It was a case where my ability to see good talent and potential was in tip-top shape. Having been out of contention Week 1 with Palace playing Chelsea, his parent club, I remember I assigned to cover the Palace match the following week against Brentford and, even though he did not finish that match with any goal contributions to point to, anyone watching him play could see that he was a major influencer. He was one of my first transfers in of the season and, even though others got on the bandwagon, because he was still green in FPL-land and not having earned trust from managers too impatient to withstand back-to-back blanks, that’s when I stuck with my gut and held him, sure of a return to form, and I got. I got those precious post-bandwagon points. Those are the sweetest. For runner up, obviously you have to mention Wilfried Zaha. He has been the main man at Palace for several years now. Michael Olise had a nice developmental season and I expect big things from him down the road.
The Bad – Pick a Palace forward. Just pick one. Heck, even Palace’s manager didn’t seem to really know at times which one(s) to turn to. But, between Odsonne Edouard, Jean-Philippe Mateta, Jordan Ayew, and Christian Benteke, no one forward could rise above the rest and be a dependable fantasy option at any stage of the season. Just when one of these guys seemed to be hitting form solid enough to start creating bandwagons, that same player wouldn’t even be in the next game’s XI. In a season where forwards frustrated, the Eagles may win the unwanted award of Most Frustrating.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Gallagher, Zaha.
The Good – For the majority of the season, nothing “good” was happening at Goodison Park. The Toffees struggled mightily for the entire campaign, only a late run of decent form enough to keep them from being relegated. Needless to say, most players fell short of expectations, and it is really difficult to nominate any Toffees as outright “good”, but, if we are going with the best of what you have, then I think you have to go with the value of 4.5m-priced midfielder Anthony Gordon. I remember thinking in the early days of Gordon appearances, where he would raise an eyebrow with an attacking contribution, “Hmmmph. Would love to stash him as a MID5 for that price, but will he be able to earn regular playing time? The answer was clearly “yes” in hindsight. For a runner-up, I suppose Richarlison deserves the nod. It was by no means an impressive season, but given his price tag, the lack of good options at forward, and his contributions down the stretch, just in time for managers like me to get rewarded…he gets some credit.
The Bad – Oof. Can we just start with how dreadful Lucas Digne was before he was shipped off to Aston Villa in January. He played 14 games with the Toffees before being transferred and did not register a single attacking return in that time. However, he did manage to come away with scores of less than zero on three occasions. I mean, he was putting up fantasy numbers you’d expect from a backup center back on Norwich, not one of, who was considered at the start of the season, the “elite” attacking fullbacks in the league. The Toffee defense across the board was pretty poor all season long, and the long-term injury to Dominic-Calvert Lewin did not help the attack. But was has got to be the worst of the worst was the two signings Everton made in January – Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli. van de Beek scored one goal, which came in the final game of the season with survival from relegation already in the bag, and had no assists…that’s more than you can say about Alli, whose legacy continues to fade quickly after such a bright start to his career.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Richarlison, Demarai Gray, Jordan Pickford, Mason Holgate.
The Good – Leeds barely survived this season. Barely. Compared to last season, they regressed massively and are fortunate to still be in the top flight. Naturally, with that as a backstory, not too much “Good” came out of Bramall Lane. Still, the one player you would expect to win the top player, did, that being Raphinha, of course. That said, he did not exactly tear up the league. Only once all season did he have a double-digit score, and that was a ten-pointer, not twenty-two or something like that. Jack Harrison would be my runner up. Not an impressive enough campaign to be a runner up for the best on the majority of PL clubs, but by Leeds standards this season, he gets a mention.
The Bad – Oh, there is so much bad. So, so much bad. Before the season even began, you knew it would be bad for Stuart Dallas, who was an FPL-relevant player the previous year, but by having his position changed from defender to midfielder, his worth and interest in investment fell off a cliff. Then, you have a litany of injury issues, the most impactful probably going to Patrick Bamford. The Raphinha/Bamford combo make both players solid fantasy options, but remove one from the equation and it hurts the other as well. But if we want to talk bad, like on an historic level, then we have to talk about my pick for WORST FPL player of the season – Júnior Firpo. A Barcelona product, Firpo was the marquee signing of the summer for Leeds. A nailed-on left back with his best years ahead of him, sure to elevate Leeds to another level. Yeah, that wasn’t the case. Firpo’s season was going so bad that I was tweeting weekly an update on his season stats. Here’s an example:
Minus an 8 pointer v WAT in GW7, appearance points by Firpo this season: -1, 0, 1, 1, -1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, -1, 2, 1, 0, 1
Could he possibly smash it today and bag a 2 pointer? You never know!
Firpo would get a clean sheet in the final month of the season, a six-point haul. Add that to his 8-pointer versus Watford and there’s 14 points. The rest of the season COMBINED – he scored 8 points. A total of 22. Absolutely abysmal. If they price him at 5m again next season and not 4.5m, I may have to protest.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Raphinha, Bamford, Luke Ayling (hey, it was my Week 1 side…I didn’t know how bad the defense would be).
The Good – It was kind of a mish-mash season for the Foxes. I think in general, you would have to chalk it up as a disappointing campaign. They never really threatened for a spot in Europe. But, keep in mind they did have European commitments this season, which always makes things tougher to win consistently in the league, especially if you get hard with the injury bug, which was certainly the case for Leicester, particularly in defense. With a strong finish to the season though, I think you have to consider James Maddison as the top fantasy player here. Honorable mention to Jamie Vardy, who was solid when fit. Also, a nice breakout developmental season for Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. They jury is still out on whether he has FPL appeal down the road, but he has certainly been a great find for the Foxes. And I will give a nod to Daniel Amartey. I love me some 4m defenders and Amartey was able to help FPL managers out a time or two this season.
The Bad – At the risk of sounding silly (too late), the “bad” for me on this club was the constant injuries, particularly at the back. Had Leicester manage to play with a fit and settled defense, I think they could have earned another European tournament appearance, but Ricardo Pereira, Timothy Castagne, James Justin, Çaglar Soyuncu, Wesley Fofana and Jonny Evans all spent considerable time on the sidelines. Needless to say, clean sheets were hard to come by, so even investing in Kasper Schmeichel, who you could at least depend on to be fit and starting, did not garner much interest.
Players who made my FPL squad at one point or another this season – Vardy, Maddison, Barnes, Amartey.
Right, thank you for taking a stroll with me down memory lane. Any glaring omissions, whether good players or bad, that you think are worth mentioning. I’d love to hear about them. Tweet me @FuzzyWarbles and let me know. I will bring them up in the intro for Part II of this column some time in the next week.