Fantasy football tips: Lose Van Dijk? Who should replace Mount?

Virgil van Dijk
Got a four-man defence? Got Virgil van Dijk? It might be time to ditch the defender and change formation

Still with us? Then well done. We'll assume that means you haven't already sacked off fantasy football and have come through the first month with a vaguely competitive team.

That, or you have already used your wildcard and are in last-chance-saloon territory.

Either way, here we are - week six. So who to pick? Who to drop? Who to set as captain?

We at BBC Sport and BBC Radio 5 Live's Fantasy 606 podcast try our best to provide the answers...

Ditch Van Dijk and switch to three at the back?

Much like skinny jeans and running around parks chasing computer-generated Pokemons, football is full of fads.

The craze in the Premier League right now is playing out from the back. When it works, you get better quality service to attacking players; when it doesn't, it usually ends up with egg on a defender's face (looking at you, Nicolas Otamendi).

The bad news for fantasy football managers is that defenders are struggling to bag the big points so far this season. Of the top 15 scoring players after five weeks, 10 are strikers and five are midfielders.

Consequently, if you haven't already done so, now may well be the time to switch to three at the back.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Lucas Digne and Serge Aurier
Trent Alexander-Arnold (left), Lucas Digne (centre) and Serge Aurier (right) could be the defenders that come up trumps this weekend

Liverpool kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League last season with 21 but this time have managed just one in five games. Virgil van Dijk is undoubtedly an absolute beast in real life but in the world of fantasy football he is simply not keeping the clean sheets while providing enough of an attacking threat.

Almost half of managers in Fantasy Premier League (49.9%) have him in their team - but now may be the time to part ways.

Alternatives? Trent Alexander-Arnold is the best option from the Reds given his tendency to be involved in their attacks. He has two assists from five matches so far this season.

Elsewhere, Everton's Lucas Digne appears offer good value this weekend. No defender has had more shots than Digne in the Premier League (eight), while he has chipped in with two assists in five games.

Those stats, and being up against a Sheffield United defence that has kept one clean sheet this season, make him a good option as part of a three-man defence.

The final place? Serge Aurier returned to the Tottenham line-up in the 4-0 win against Crystal Palace last weekend and helped himself to an assist.

He was rested for the Champions League in midweek so should be raring to go this weekend. Spurs are at Leicester City - admittedly a tricky fixture - but with Southampton, Brighton and Watford to follow he could be a good longer-term option.

Champions League toil and trouble

Ah the Champions League - brilliant midweek football treat; terrible fantasy football team tormentor.

The competition both makes it difficult to predict a manager's line-up for the games preceding it and provides a risk of picks being injured while playing in it.

Hands up if you brought Kevin de Bruyne in for last weekend's game against Norwich? Gutted.

Hands up if you brought in Mason Mount for this week? Gutted.

The Chelsea forward has been in brilliant form for the Blues so far this season, but limped out of their Champions League defeat by Valencia on Tuesday with an ankle injury.

Mason Mount on the ground after being injured against Valencia
Mason Mount came off after just 16 minutes in Tuesday's 1-0 defeat by Valencia

"It is a big shame because Mason Mount has been a very good point scorer," said Statman Dave on the Fantasy 606 Podcast.

"In terms of shots in the Premier League, only James Maddison as a midfielder has had the same amount as him with 16. Not only that, but one of the reasons Tammy Abraham has been so good this season is Mason Mount. The way he can drop off and turn a ball forward it makes him almost a double loss.

"For this week, I will leave Mason in and bench him, see how bad the injury is and maybe take him out next week."

With Liverpool up this weekend for Chelsea, it is a tough fixture for them anyway, making it perhaps not a bad time to look at alternatives for Mount.

One option to consider is Emiliano Buendia. The creative midfielder has four assists from five games for Norwich this season and was arguably man of the match in the Canaries' impressive 3-2 win against Manchester City last time out.

Norwich are at Burnley this weekend and Buendia represents potentially good value for money.

"I'd love to get Buendia in my team," Statman Dave added. "He is a wonderful player and how he feeds Teemu Pukki is really nice - but I already have two Norwich players in my team in Pukki and Todd Cantwell. If you haven't got a Norwich player in, Buendia is a good option though.

"It seems like a lot of teams have hard runs, bar Norwich."

Friday night food for thought

Callum Wilson in 2019-20
Games5
Goals3
Assists2
Total shots6
Shots on target5

Those sneaky Friday night games - destroyer of many a forgetful fantasy football manager's plans for their team.

The good news is, you are reading this so that means you haven't forgotten that we have a Friday night fixture.

Southampton and Bournemouth kick off the weekend's action (20:00 BST) and it is certainly a fixture that should not be overlooked when considering potential transfers.

Callum Wilson has been on fire for the Cherries, contributing either a goal or assist in every game so far this season, and with home games against West Ham and Norwich, and an away trip to a defensively suspect Arsenal on the horizon, now could be a good time to bring in the forward.

Back City's slickers to get back in the groove

It is hard to see beyond a Manchester City player for the captaincy this week. Pep Guardiola's side face lowly Watford and will be desperate to put on a show of strength after their defeat at Norwich.

They breezed to a comfortable 3-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League in midweek and are partial to a goal or five against Watford. Back in May they thrashed them 6-0 in the FA Cup final and have scored 20 goals against them in their last five meetings.

Sergio Aguero has scored in every fantasy football week so far this season and will be a good bet to keep up that scoring run against the Hornets.

Raheem Sterling, meanwhile, has had a bit of a lean period recently after an explosive start to the season but with seven goals against Watford in their five previous meetings, it is a toss up between him and Aguero for who would be a good shout for the armband.

This weekend's Premier League fixtures (all times BST)
Southampton v Bournemouth (Friday, 20:00)Leicester v Tottenham (Saturday, 12:30)
Burnley v Norwich (Saturday, 15:00)Everton v Sheff Utd (Saturday, 15:00)
Man City v Watford (Saturday, 15:00)Newcastle v Brighton (Saturday, 17:30)
Crystal Palace v Wolves (Sunday, 14:00)West Ham v Man Utd (Sunday, 14:00)
Arsenal v Aston Villa (Sunday, 16:30)Chelsea v Liverpool (Sunday, 16:30)

Other things to consider...

  • Tottenham striker Harry Kane has scored 13 goals in 12 games against Leicester, more than he has versus any other side in his professional career.
  • Foxes midfielder James Maddison has attempted the most shots without scoring in the Premier League this season (16 shots, one on target). Maddison has failed to net with his past 28 shots in the Premier League, last scoring against Huddersfield in April.
  • Nathan Redmond has had a hand in 11 Premier League goals under Ralph Hasenhuttl (seven goals, four assists); more than he has registered under any other Southampton manager in the competition.
  • Norwich midfielder Todd Cantwell has had a hand in four goals in five Premier League games in 2019-20 (two goals, two assists); one more than he recorded in 24 league games in 2018-19 (one goal, two assists).
  • Pascal Gross has created 148 goalscoring chances in the Premier League, 80 more than any other Brighton player in the competition's history. Indeed, only Eden Hazard (182), Christian Eriksen (178) and Kevin de Bruyne (161) have created more chances in the Premier League than Gross since his debut in the competition in August 2017.
  • Arsenal have allowed their opponents 96 shots this season so far in the Premier League, the most of any side in 2019-20 and since 2003-04 only 13 teams have allowed more in their first five Premier League games of a single season (out of a possible 340).

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