In this article, I’ll be looking to identify the most important players for any successful Sky Fantasy Football Season.

You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the Salah’s, Kane’s and De Bruyne’s of this world. But in my opinion you’d be wrong. You’d be so, so wrong.

As we all know, Sky Sports Fantasy Football is a game of strategy. Quite simply we have £100m in the bank and 40 transfers to negotiate the 380 fixtures. Dan and Will’s brilliant recent article ‘How to Win at Sky Fantasy Football‘ sums up what it takes to have success quite clearly: cover as many captaincy days as you can with as high quality a player as you possibly can.

To do this, you need high quality players, and as many of them as possible.

For example. Let’s take a team that contains: Kane, Salah, Lukaku and De Bruyne. A popular quartet of premium players, giving you coverage of the league’s most potent attacks.

Such a collection would set you back 50.6m, more than half of your total budget, on just 4/11 players. The remaining 49.4m leaves you with an average of just over 7m per player for the rest of your team. Given almost every team will have Salah, Kane and a couple of other ‘big gun’ premium players, for me, the key to a standout season really lies in what you can do with the remainder of your budget.

 

Why are budget players so important and what should I be looking for?

The best enablers are reliable, steady sources of points, that allow you maximise your budget, and minimise your transfer usage on lower quality players. Your flexible budget and abundant transfer count will enable you to fluidly shift the premium players, from the top teams around, as fixtures and form come and go.

In this article, I’ll assess some of the potential budget gems between the sticks and at the back, that have so far caught my eye ahead of the 2018/19 Premier League season.

The Goalkeepers

In previous years, goalkeepers have been a great source of value. Sub-6m options have consistently delivered stability and points returns, although this season looks a bit different.

Those hoping for a transfer merry-go-round that would unearth a dirt cheap goalkeeping option have been left disappointed – as Thibaut Courtois’ move to Real Madrid sees Kepa join Chelsea as a premium alternative at 7.6m.

Nonetheless, there are some options that come in substantially cheaper than the most expensive option, David De Gea (8m).

Fabri (6.1m)

Signed from Turkey for 5m, Fulham’s new stopper looks set to be Sky Fantasy Football’s cheapest starting goalkeeper.

He comes with some pedigree, having won Turkish League goalkeeper of the year last season, though it looks like he might have his work cut out with the Premier League new boys.

Fulham’s successful playoff winning season last time out saw them keep 15 clean sheets in 44 league games – 4 less than Cardiff and 9 fewer than Wolves.

Overall they conceded an average of 1 goal per game, compared with 0.85 for both Cardiff and Wolves.

Barring a significant change in approach from manager Slavisa Jokanovic, it looks unlikely that Fabri will be able to deliver the consistent clean sheet returns that made goalkeepers like Heaton and Pope such gold-dust in previous years. Instead, he may rely on save bonuses and the occasional MOTM award.

Fixtures

CPL, tot, BUR, bha

All in all, the pre-overhaul fixtures aren’t too punishing for the Lilywhites, so if you’re scraping around the bargain basement, the Spaniard might just be your man.

Lukasz Fabianski (6.5m)

A real fantasy football favourite, Lukasz Fabianski’s move from Swansea to West Ham gives us a budget friendly route in Manuel Pellegrini’s revamped Hammers backline.

Despite the relegation woes and leaky Swans backline of last campaign, the Pole managed to come out with 155 points, the 7th highest return from a goalkeeper. He saved 3 penalties and racked up a pair of MOTM awards along the way.

With Pellegrini’s new signings creating a buzz of excitement in East London, a change in fortunes for West Ham could see Fabianski emerge as a reliable source of clean sheets, bonus and MOTM awards, at a reasonable price.

Fixtures

liv, BOU, ars, WOL

West Ham’s initial fixtures are probably on the slightly tougher side of the scale, so it might be worth monitoring Fabianski and the sturdiness of his defence before investing post overhaul.

Ben Foster (6.3m)

Former West Brom stopper Ben Foster joins Javi Gracia’s Watford side, who’ve been pretty resolute at the back since the Spanish manager replaced Marco Silva at Vicarage Road.

During Gracia’s reign in charge, the Hornets were ninth-best for clean sheets and 12th for goals conceded. In fact, only Man City and Liverpool allowed fewer shots on goal than Watford’s 130 over that same period.

They also ranked 5th best for shots on target allowed and seventh for big chances conceded. All this bodes well for another strong performance at the back, with particularly favourable fixtures pre-Overhaul.

The main concern is Foster’s assurance of starts ahead of club favourite Heurelho Gomes. Last season, Gomes started just 1 game under Gracia, whose injury allowed Greek stopper Ostiris Karnezis to claim and hold the number 1 shirt for the remainder of the campaign. Karnezis has since departed from Vicarage Road leaving Foster the favourite to kick off the campaign.

Fixtures

BRI, bur, CPL, TOT

The Hornets’ early season fixtures are very enticing, with 3 home games in their first 4 thanks to Spurs’ delayed transition into their new stadium.

Brighton in particular in GW 1 provide a great opportunity to get off to a flying start. The Seagulls struggled on the road last season, and have failed to win in their last 13 Premier League away ties.

The Defenders

In my opinion, Defenders are the key to finding value in this season’s edition of the Sky Fantasy Football game. I’ve highlighted four options that I am currently considering below:

Callum Paterson (5.2m)

Cardiff City utility man and Fortnite celebrating aficionado Callum Paterson looks to have been seriously underestimated by Sky Sports Fantasy Football HQ ahead of the upcoming campaign.

The Bluebirds top goal scorer last season, Paterson was the only Cardiff player to hit double figures in terms of league goals. Coming in at just 5.2m, and classed as a defender, he has potential to make a mockery of his generous price tag.

Prior to joining Cardiff, the Scot’s interesting career to date had seen him play as both a forward and a defender for Hearts. His intriguing metamorphosis has continued since, with Neil Warnock shifting him into an advanced midfield after bemoaning his lacklustre defensive abilities.

Warnock, who built his promoted side upon a strong defensive foundation, conceded an average of just 0.85 goals per game last season, returning 19 clean sheets.

Recent recruits have left the Cardiff gaffer with an abundance of option in the centre of the park, but should Paterson nail down a place in his midfield, he could offer tremendous value with returns at both ends of the pitch.

Fixtures

bou, NEW, hud, ARS

Pre overhaul, Cardiff’s fixtures are pretty favourable.

Though it’s a big ask for Warnock’s squad to replicate their performances in the Premier League, there may never be a better time to invest in the side from South Wales.

 

Lee Peltier (5.4m)

The antithesis of a modern, marauding full back, Lee Peltier is a throwback to the good old days when fullbacks were fullbacks – dogged, disciplined, black-boot-wearing defenders.

2018’s answer to Gary Neville, the 31 year old right-back hasn’t netted for almost 5 years and recorded just two attempts on goal in the whole of 2017/18.

That said, he averaged over 2 tackles per game last season, and looks set to start in Cardiff’s backline.

At 5.4m I think his value should not be ignored.

Fixtures

bou, NEW, hud, ARS

Like Paterson above, now could be the time to invest in Cardiff defensive assets.

 

Willy Boly (6.1m)

One of a raft of signings from Portugal last summer, Boly was initially brought in on loan from Porto but has since made his move to Molineux permanent ahead of the new season.

The French centre-half was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, and the statistics highlight his potential appeal to Sky Fantasy Football managers.

In 36 appearances, Boly scored 3 goals (all headers) and laid on 2 assists. He also averaged over 2 tackles and 61 passes per game, which bodes well for his bonus potential in the Premier League. While you would anticipate Wolves to have less possession than they enjoyed in the Championship, many are tipping them to be this season’s surprise package.

A stalwart in the Championship-winning defence that kept 24 clean sheets in 46 league games, Boly offers a secure route into Nuno Santo’s backline, at a budget friendly price.

Fixtures:

EVE, lei, MCI, whu

A mixed bag of fixtures pre-Overhaul, Wolves would do very well to pick up a pair of clean sheets from their opening 4 games.

 

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (6.6m)

The Eagles’ flying young Right Back, Wan-Bissaka comes into our reckoning as a budget alternative to the free scoring Patrick Van Aanholt on the opposite flank.

His galivanting runs excited owners of the 6.6 rated defender in the second half of last campaign, though he was eventually side-lined upon the return of the more experienced Joel Ward.

However, Over the course of pre-season, the converted winger has registered five starts versus just two for Ward, suggesting he might’ve leapfrogged the former Portsmouth man in the pecking order.

More exciting, still, he averaged over 4 tackles per game in his run of starts last season, making him the most proficient tackler of all defenders per 90 mins played. If he can replicate this across the course of this campaign, he has the potential to make a real mockery of his modest price tag.

Fixtures

ful, LIV, wat, SOU

A fairly promising set of opening fixtures might allow for clean sheet returns from the 20 year-old fullback between now and the Overhaul.