Who Am I?
Hey there! The article you’re about to read is written by an author that’s penned under a couple pseudonyms. For those who’ve never read a single Twitter (is it “X” now really??) thread or combed through an early days Draft Society article, I am FPL_Murph, ChelseaBlues24, or just Murph. I’ve popped in and out of the Twitter Fantrax Community for the last 7 or 8 years and have been playing this wonderful Premier League fantasy format since the days of Playtogga. I’m a Chelsea fan through and through, and I let my team bias get in the way of Fantrax success every weekend. Some years, I’ve been in over 10 leagues across the community. More recently, I’ve slimmed down to just two leagues – my main home league that started in 2017 and a newer three division (10 team) relegation/promotion system. My main home league runs a modified custom scoring format that addresses some of the flaws of the default system (if that sounds interesting, I’d be happy to write about that – just comment!). For all content posted to the website though, assume I’m using default Fantrax scoring when references stats, PPMs, etc.
Zach and Nate have graciously invited me to join them in the journey of creating informative, fun content related to the Premier League and the Fantrax Fantasy platform. This is a debut, and hopefully the first of many written pieces. Enjoy!
The Season is Taking Shape
The Premier League is well and truly underway. An objectively short two-month offseason, for me, felt like an eternity of waiting. With three gameweeks in the books, some narratives pick up right from where they left off – Arsenal and City domination in and out of possession, Everton struggling to avoid relegation, Crystal Palace in 12th place*. New motifs are emerging – Angeball and life without Kane, Poch’s Chelsea, and red cards for everyone and their mother.
I am writing this article on the 28th of August at 7:30 PM. Why is this important? Because in football timing is everything. In the time it takes to write this article and upload it, Fabrizio may announce a blockbuster $90M signing for Arsenal. Unlikely, but the point is that I have only the context of the football world as of 28th August. With that in mind, I’m here to give you 10 waivers and free agent pick-ups worth making ahead of Gameweek 4. This is one of the most unique waiver weeks as we have the end of the summer transfer window. Thus, I’ll take some liberties in presuming certain transfers happen.
This Week's Targets
The Player: Kudus Mohammed, West Ham (Midfielder)
Kudus joins West Ham on a reported €45M transfer fee from Ajax, where he’s played for 3 full seasons. In his most recent season with Ajax, Kudus amassed 11 goals and 3 assists in 19 starts and 1793 minutes played. According to Fbref.com, Kudus has an eye-popping comparison scouting report with 98th percentiles for non-penalty xG, goals scored, and successful take-ons. Like every talented young player developing in the Ajax mold, Kudus has played significant minutes across several positions, in the midfield and forward areas. His player profile radar shows a winger with the ability to create his own space with speed, decisive dribbling, and a hard left-footed shot.
The Projection: MID3 with MID2 potential. 15-20 starts || ~1700 minutes
Kudus enters a Moyes Hammers team that thrives on counter attacking football, preferring to be ruthless clinical on limited chances rather than attempting to have methodical build up phases from the back, defending third area. Like any incoming transfer – especially those players coming from Eredivisie – there is always the chance Kudus is a slow burn both in fantasy terms and in real life. Moyes is notorious for being slow to trust new players entering the first team group. Additionally, there is not an immediate first XI gap Kudus is marked to fill. Quite the opposite, his preferred position of the inverted right winger role is firmly occupied by Jarrod Bowen. Kudus’ quickest path to fantasy minutes and relevancy is down the middle. Age before beauty, as Kudus needs to displace an in-form Antonio and keep Ings warming the bench to get central striker minutes.
The counterpoint to all this negativity is that we are discussing a player scouted and bidded for by Brighton, Chelsea, and other top European clubs. Regardless of what you make of the West Ham transfer strategy and the Moyes system for fantasy output, Kudus has the makings of a generational winger if the development and pacing of improvement continues for him.
The Claim: 50% of your FAB budget, 5-8th spot rolling waiver
Forwards are a premium, and it’s truly disappointing to see Kudus listed as a midfielder, in my opinion. Having said that, I would cautiously treat Kudus as a MID3, pushing MID2 if a lot of caveats fall the right way for the player. Due to all the summer transfer hype and twitter/X compilations of Kudus breaking ankles before a thunderbolt 0.00xG worldie goal, I suspect 50% of your FAB (5-8 spot waiver claim in 12 team) won’t land you Kudus, but I would have reservations of spending more.
The Player: Jeremy Doku, Manchester City (Forward)
Like the majority of Manchester city signings in the last decade, we will all be left with hands in pockets wondering how Manchester City plucked another Ballon D’or player with no competition and no bidding war. Doku has lightning pace, world class (seriously world class) dribbling technique, and enough tricks and flicks in the toolbox to keep these City defenders very sharp in training. The high level plan is for Doku to take Mahrez’ role as the right winger for many years to come.
The Projection: FWD4 with FWD2 upside when starting; <10 starts, 950 minutes.
No, I’m not the Grinch. But I am a realist. Manchester City tactico accounts with more time and knowledge of Pep than me have already broken down the likely first season outcome for Doku. Spoiler: It’s not great for fantasy. Pep does not rush in young attacking talent into his first XI. The evidence is plain for all to see. Sane, Grealish, Alvarez, Foden, Torres. Pep demands so much from his attackers within this system. Haaland is an exception to the rule, but I mostly think this is due to his positioning as a central striker and that he has no ability to play any other role within the team. Pep’s recent systems in EPL and UCL do not require blistering pace wingers. More often than not, it’s Grealish and Silva recycling possession from the corners. The last month has seen Walker much more advanced as well out in the winger zones. I love the player and the skill, so when he does start, he should be rostered and starting in every fantrax league, as is customary for Pep-era City assets.
The Claim: 20% of your FAB, 10-12th spot rolling waiver
You had a bad draft. Your bench includes the likes of Antony Martial, Alfie Doughty, and the recently benched Michael Keane. Your team through injury or incompetent drafting is truly abysmal. 0-3 and already you’ve got nothing to lose. Or maybe your team already has 4 Manchester City assets and you’re looking to assemble the final Exodia piece. You know Pep needs to field XI players, and now you’ve hit the critical mass of Man City assets where rotation issues do not affect your team. These are some of the only corner case scenarios where Doku is really worth the capital to spend. Similar to Kudus, there are a few things that would need to go right for this to work out.
The Player: Lewis Hall, Newcastle United (Defender)
A Cobham Academy Chelsea product, Lewis Hall has had “flash in the pan” moments over the past two seasons. Lewis Hall has the technical proficiencies to play in the midfield, but most senior appearances to date have been at left back. Due to poor planning, Chelsea ended up with Chilwell, Cucurella, Maatsen, and Hall this season competing for fullback minutes. Lewis Hall, despite his age, shows a high volume of defensive actions coupled with strong driving progressive runs. His crossing ability and final third decision making is far beyond his age.
The Projection: DEF2 with DEF1 upside, 8-20 PL Starts, 700-1600 minutes
Lewis Hall’s projection is very tough to predict. Much depends on injuries, how far Newcastle go in non-PL tournaments, and Eddie Howe’s evolution of the Newcastle 2nd phase build-up. Firstly, Injuries. Botman at this point in time seems to have escaped a severe multi-month injury but reports are sparse. When Botman came off vs Liverpool, Burn slide over to CB and Targett came on. They then lost the game. Small sample size, but Howe appears to not greatly rate Targett, so Lewis Hall is already the 2nd choice left back. Thus, anytime Burn is covering Schar and Botman through rotation or injury, I’d expect Hall to see starts. Secondly, rotation and fixture congestion. If Newcastle can progress through UCL group stage and the early games of EFL and Carabo, the schedule congestion will demand rotation. Hall minutes further expected. Lastly, the tactics. This is bit too deep for a waiver article, but opposition teams are sorting how Newcastle build out from the back and Bruno G. is critical to those progressive patterns upfield. But cutting out Bruno with a man marker, Newcastle need another proficient passer to step into midfield to pair into a 3-2-5 system (the kind we see all the big teams running in variations). Enter again, Lewis Hall.
The Claim:15-20% of FAB, 8-12th rolling waiver
No need to over do it. Only Newcastle and Chelsea supporters should really know this player’s worth as his name ID is relatively low against his counterparts in this waiver window. I think this is the type of claim where you’re trying to get really high value for points compared to capital spent. Because Hall has played a minute yet for Newcastle and the Botman injury is still unclear, this is the best chance to grab and stash Hall now.
The Player: Nicolo Zaniolo, Aston Villa (Midfielder)
Zaniolo is a bargain buy for Aston Villa and Unai Emery for a number of reasons. Primarily, he’s been outcasted from Roma By Mourinho and most of the club management – moving to Galatasaray for short spell before this transfer was completed. Zaniolo was linked as an Emery target prior to several injuries for Villa, so this feels more of a proactive scouting effort than a reactionary knee-jerk to the Buendia injury. Lacking some depth for left-footed forwards, Zaniolo comes into a squad that should provide good opportunities for minutes. He ranks among the top tiers of forwards across the 5 Big Leagues for shots taken. With Villa continuing to overperform above club and individual expectations, there’s every chance the Villa scouting department hits right on this lottery ticket.
The Projection: MID3/4, 15 PL Starts, 1600 minutes
There are some injury concerns and a potential settling period that scares me from jumping on the hype train for one of the once touted best young assets coming out of Italy. The pros for Zaniolo is that there should be minutes given the existing injuries in the squad and the need for rotation amid Europa fixtures. Question is whether he will seize the opportunity. Based on his profile, he’s similar to Barnes and Rashford. Don’t expect a ton of key passes or peripherals, but when he’s on form, there will be goals and shots on target. Therefore, you can’t rely on him week in week out, but he’s the player you want one or two of in a squad to steal a gameweek.
The Claim: 10-15% of FAB, 6-10th rolling waiver
Zaniolo is potentially already a free agent in your league so check that out. It’s also possible (because I witnessed it in my league) that he’s been claimed and already dropped back in amid the early season transaction churning. Don’t overstretch yourself, but he has Kudus ceiling potential at a quarter of the price.
The Player: Kevin Schade, Brentford (Forward)
Unlike the previous players, Schade is the first recommendation not tied to a transfer. He’s been with Brentford for over a year developing in their first squad. In the world without Ivan Toney, Coach Frank is leaning heavily on an “attack by committee” system where the entire XI is being asked to increase their G/A contributions. Schade is tall, pacey, and direct with the ability to play high and wide, as well as, more centrally close to goal. He’s already seen significant minutes in the first three weeks but he only just opened his account last weekend vs Palace to save a point.
The Projection: FWD3, 30 PL Starts, 2600 minutes
It’s already clear Schade is a firm part of the plans this season for Brentford. Brentford’s model relies on players developing and growing into valuable assets, so there is no reason to expect Toney to siphon his value at the January mark when he returns from suspension. Quotes from the coach put Schade in close competition with Keane-Lewis Potter but the minutes are the clearest evidence of his true choice at the moment.
The Claim: 20% of FAB, 6-8th rolling waiver
Schade’s ownership across Fantrax leagues is greatly misaligned to his projected minutes and potential value. Eye test shows a player on the brink of breaking out as a certified baller, and the lagging stats from previous seasons will mask that he’s worth targeting on watchlists. Grab him now.
Other Speculative Adds:
These players may or may not get moves in the next week, and could be acquired cheaply in most leagues.
- Nuno Tavares » Nottingham Forest (Completed as of 8/29)
- Matheus Nunes » Manchester City
- Marc Cucurella or Sergio Reguilon » Manchester United, as cover for Shaw/Malacia
- Ian Maatsen » Burnley
- Cole Palmer » West Ham, Brighton, Burnley
- James McAtee » Sheffield United
- Conor Gallagher » Tottenham