The Enablers

15/03/2019 Planet FPL

The term ‘Enabler’, I discovered, has several different meanings depending on which FPL manager is looking at it. I started planning this article thinking of an enabler as a player who is on the cheaper end of the budget but still plays, so that you can leave them on your bench most weeks but know that they would be there to give you a point or two if someone didn’t play. So, I was going to give a list of players who would make good enablers for the blank and double gameweeks, whether it be transitions or free hits. Well, at least in my opinion of the term anyway.

However, when I put some polls up on Twitter to see how expensive people believed a player could be and still be an enabler, thus giving me some parameters to help with choices, I certainly got some interesting responses.

The first was one that I somewhat expected, and that was the thin line between an enabler and ‘bench fodder’. The distinction between the two, in my mind, is the ‘playing’ part as bench fodder could literally be someone who is the cheapest in their position and is so far away from the first team that they could be considered part of the kitchen staff. For example, some I would class as ‘bench fodder’ are Will Norris (£3.9m), Matthew Connolly (£3.8m), and Viktor Gyokeres (£4.5m). Now, all of these have played exactly zero minutes but are amongst the cheapest in their respective positions. However, without looking, could you tell me what club and position they play in?

Whereas, an enabler is one that isn’t that much more expensive than the fodder, but plays, whether it every minute or parts of most matches.

The other version of an enabler I wish to highlight was conveyed to me by a gentleman called Simon (@analytic_fpl), who said that in his opinion ‘enablers are about having outsized value rather than being low priced.’ Now, this obviously opens up a wider range of players you could consider as ‘Enablers’. He gives the example of ‘filling an 11m spot with an 8m players enables 3m of extra spending elsewhere’, supported by FPL Heskibo (@FPLHeskibo) when he suggests Paul Pogba and Heung-Min Son as examples.

I had not really thought about it in this way, even when saying stuff like “well getting Sane instead of Sterling enables me to get Aubameyang instead of Lacazette”.

So, with that in mind, here are some ‘Enablers’, both budget ones and not-so-budget ones, that can help you with whatever strategy you are using for this busy part of the season.

[NB. Prices correct at time of writing. They could be different by the time you read this, we all know what the FPL market is like.]

  1. Bournemouth

Kicking it off with a whole club, simply because there are numerous assets they have that can benefit your team. The Cherries are one of the teams that neither blank nor double, so consistency is the key for investors. Starting at the back and you have to mention one of the bargain goalkeepers of the moment, Artur Boruc, currently priced at a basement price of £4.1m, which has already risen once already prior to the deadline on Saturday morning, out-seated FPL’s own Asmir Begovic back in GW23 and has not relinquished the jersey since. He’s had positive returns in 4 of the 8 gameweeks he’s featured, with standout performances against Chelsea and Manchester City the highlights, collecting 16 points in those 2 games alone. Having said that, he does have his share of disappointing results, against the likes of Cardiff, meaning although he can be a save machine, he is also human. But, for that price, he can comfortably sit as your back-up keeper to one of the premium stoppers who have double gameweeks, and know he has great fixtures to cover you in the blanks.

As you probably wouldn’t want to double up on the Cherries defence, it’s in to the attackers we find our other three Enablers; Ryan Fraser (£6.2m), David Brooks (£5.1m), and Callum Wilson (£6.4m). The young Welshman Brooks was a doubt for gameweek 31, after hobbling off in the last match against Huddersfield with a suspected calf injury, but he should be fine by the weekend as he was just “fatigued”. He has had an impressive debut season for the Cherries, with 6 goals and 4 assists, and just 1 point away from breaking the 100-point mark in FPL terms. He has only just returned from a month lay-off, so hopefully for his owners he can regain that scoring touch that saw him knock up 18 points in the 2 gameweeks prior to that month-long injury break.

Speaking of those returning to the south coast, Callum Wilson made his long-awaited return to the Bournemouth squad in the last game against Huddersfield, and he certainly didn’t waste any time in getting back amongst the goals. He notched up his 11th of the season, as well as giving the assist to the aforementioned Fraser. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the partnership of Wilson and Fraser are closing in on a Premier League record, having so far combined to make 9 goals, which leaves them 1 behind the combinations of Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler & Stan Collymore (95/96) and the Arsenal duo of Dennis Bergkamp & Nicolas Anelka (98/99). Fraser even said after the game that Wilson had been missed and he enjoys playing with the England international, and they could even break the current record held by the legendary Premier League winning Blackburn Rovers SAS partnership of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton (94/95), who created 13 goals in that season. With the excellent form they’re in as a duo, and the fixture list of; Newcastle (h), Leicester (a), Burnley (h), Brighton (a), Fulham (h), Southampton (a), Tottenham (h), and Crystal Palace (a), who would bet against them breaking that record.

  1. Chelsea

When Chelsea crashed out of the FA Cup against Manchester United, it opened up a wave of players that would help our teams over the blanks and doubles. The benefit of the Chelsea assets is that they have the potential of not only playing in both of the blank gameweeks, but also potentially having a double in gameweek 32 against Cardiff and Brighton, which is enough to whet the appetite of any FPL manager. The likes of Hazard, Higuaín, and any of the defenders are all prime targets for FPL managers to get in prior to their trip to Goodison Park. The only drawback is the indifferent form that Maurizio Sarri’s side has been showing as of late. At any other time, with Chelsea being one of only two “big sides” playing in a blank gameweek, everyone would be tripling up on them and not giving another thought to it, but when you see that they’re playing away at Everton and their recent away record contains losses to the likes of Arsenal (2-0), Bournemouth (4-0), and Manchester City (6-0), it does make you question it for a moment.

Now that is a bit harsh, you could say that they are unbeaten in the last 3 league games, including an impressive 2-0 win over London rivals Tottenham, they should also qualify to the Europa League quarter finals with relative ease, so they are currently rebuilding the confidence that the crushing away defeats mentioned before had shattered. Eden Hazard (£10.9m) and Gonzalo Higuaín (£9.6m) are of course the most attractive options with the Belgian grabbing a goal and assist in the last 2 gameweeks, and the loanee striker notching up 3 goals in his 6 league appearances for the Blues. A note here, that at the time of writing, Higuaín was a doubt for gameweek 31 with an illness that had kept him out of training.

Other options from the West London club are; the usual debate between midfielders Pedro (£6.3m) and Willian (£7.1m) who look like they’ll always exist in this never-ending cycle of rotation with each other, also in defence where the choice looks to be between David Luiz (£5.9m) and Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.3m), as the usual FPL favourite in Marcos Alonso (£6.4m) has a large question mark over his place having not played the last 2 gameweeks, being replaced with Emerson Palmieri (£5.2m). Palmieri could prove a shrewd bargain as the cheapest of the Chelsea backline, but obviously only if he holds on to that starting place.

  1. The Young Saints

The last team to talk about is Southampton, and in particular the inform pair Yan Valery (£4.0m) and James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m). The two youngsters have thrived since Ralph Hasenhüttl took over the stewardship of the south coast club in December. Both have started regularly since the Dutchman’s appointment and the goals have been flying in, literally. Valery provides a bargain purchase akin to Aaron Wan-Bissaka at the start of the season, priced at only £4.0m and in a starting place in a team that will probably be fighting for survival until the end of the season. One thing that he has provided in recent weeks that his Palace counterpart hasn’t however, is goals, 2 in the last 2 games to be exact, and against Man United and Tottenham no less.

Ward-Prowse in a similar manner has been taking the weight of Southampton’s survival squarely on his shoulders, with some important goals. JWP missed gameweeks 17 to 19, but since his return against champions Man City, he has played 90 minutes in all of the following 11 games and 6 goals in the process. Like Valery, James scored against both Manchester United and Tottenham, as well as strugglers Fulham before them, meaning he’s on a scoring run of three straight GWs. So, with Valery as cheap as he is, and Ward-Prowse at a very competitive price, both should come in to consideration for Gameweek 32 onwards.

Neither will be adding to those totals this week as Southampton blank in Gameweek 31. However, they then do not have any more scheduled blanks for the rest of the season, with a fixture against Watford (a) to be slotted in to either 32 or 35 where they play Brighton (a) and Newcastle (a) respectively.

  1. Budget midfielders

The prime definition for an Enabler, at least on my opinion, is that of the cheap budget players, that still play, but are so cheap that you don’t mind leaving them on the bench and only using them as back-up if something goes wrong with your starting XI. Now, these sorts of players will not be bringing you double figure hauls each week, or even an attacking return most weeks, but the combination of price and security could allow you to invest some much-needed money into players elsewhere that will do that for you.

Players such as; Isaac Hayden (£4.4m) and Dale Stephens (£4.3m) who play 90 minutes of pretty much every game provide both the price and security. Hayden has the better set of fixtures looking forward with only the games against Arsenal (a) in 32 and Liverpool (h) in 37 as standout tough games. Stephens and his Brighton teammates on the other hand, still have encounters with 4 of the top 6 including away trips to Spurs (33 at the moment), Arsenal (37), and Chelsea (TBC), as well as welcoming the champions to the Amex (38). Between these two, there has only been four occasions that they got over 3 points, so like said, not many returns but consistency of points is key.

Two other players that have provided attacking returns in recent weeks are from Burnley, namely Ashley Westwood (£4.6m) and Dwight McNeil (£4.4m). Westwood is always a starter when fit, and his teenage teammate has started all of the last 11 league games, both grabbing assists in recent weeks, McNeil in gameweeks 26 and 27 and Westwood in gameweek 29, in addition to his goal against Liverpool last gameweek. Burnley do not have any blanks or doubles, so like Bournemouth they offer consistency to FPL managers, and are at such a low price that they don’t leave you with the feeling that you have to play them. Amongst those gameweeks, they face; Leicester (h), Wolves (h), Bournemouth (a), and Cardiff (h). They then hit a horrible set of fixtures to end the season with away trips to Chelsea (35) and Everton (37), and having to welcome Arsenal (38) and title hunting Manchester City (36) to Turf Moor. So, as said before, you could keep them there and simply leave them on the bench for the last four weeks of the season.

  1. Firmino & Lacazette – cheaper alternatives

Another version of the term ‘Enabler’ is those that aren’t merely options because they are the cheapest players in the game, but those who provide adequate alternatives to more expensive teammates, to provide that dreaded word…‘cover’. Two I’d wish to highlight are Robert Firmino (£9.2m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.2m).

When it comes to Liverpool options, Firmino has seen himself not only behind his buddies in attack Sadio Mané (£9.9m) and Mohamed Salah (£13.4m), but also drop down the pecking order behind the likes of Andrew Robertson (£6.9m), Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m), and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.6m), because of their attacking threat and much improved defensive solidness. However, if you’re not one to double up on a defense and already own one of either Mané or Salah, you find yourself unable to find the relevant funds to buy the other, that’s where Bobby comes in. Now, Firmino is not that much cheaper than Mané, in fact, he’s only £0.7m less to buy than the inform Senegalese striker. However, he is £4.2m cheaper than the out of form Egyptian. Whereas Mané has been banging in the goals, 8 in the last 8 league games, Salah has only notched up 3 in that time, and if you take out his brace against Palace, it’s only 1 in the last 7 league games. Firmino’s tally is not much better, but, having played 90 minutes for the first time since gameweek 23, he notched up a brace of his own against Burnley, to take his goal total for the season into double figures. The Brazilian could prove a worthy alternative to the misfiring Salah, who could find his place in FPL teams usurped by the likes of Sterling.

I think it’s safe to say that Arsenal have hardly been the most reliable source of FPL points this season, whether it be their disappointing number of clean sheets (5), or their lack of a solid midfield pick, it has been between the front two that has been the only real choice of who to get from the Gunners. The flamboyant Gabonese striker is the second highest points scorer for forwards with 164, only a point behind Aguero. Joining him in the top five is his strike partner Lacazette, with only 18 points less than Aubameyang but £1.4m less in price than him. The Frenchman’s form has also been much better than his pricier teammate with an attacking return in each of the last 5 gameweeks, and 3 goals in the 5 gameweeks previous to those, a total of 6 goals and 3 assists. On the other hand, Aubameyang (£10.8m) has 4 goals and 2 assists, so in terms of form, Lacazette looks a better financial option going in to the doubles with that extra money funding purchases elsewhere.

Now, having said that, their more expensive counterparts have higher price tags for a reason, but sometimes form is more important than a pricey label.

  1. Wild Cards

Now, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t throw in a couple of wild card selections into the debate, and why not a couple from Manchester. Baring a major shock in the FA Cup by Swansea, a double gameweek in 32 looks inevitable for the reigning champions, with games against Fulham and Cardiff causing FPL managers to positively drool at the prospect of point hauls. All eyes will turn to the likes of Sergio Aguero (£11.9m), Raheem Sterling (£11.5m), Leroy Sane (£9.3m), and Bernardo Silva (£7.5m), but what about Alexander Zinchenko? Yes, I know what you’re thinking, he’s a midfielder playing as a left-back, thus disadvantaging him in terms of only getting the single point for a clean sheet than the usual 4 for a defender, but it’s for the attacking returns in which you should be looking at him. He grabbed 2 assists in the 6-0 demotion of Chelsea, as well as one in the latest round of Champions League games. Now, that may not strike you as impressive for a City midfielder, but when you think that he’s only £4.7m and has played 90 minutes in all of the last four gameweeks, and that as a City fullback he pretty much plays as a left winger anyway, he could provide you with that third City asset but at a fraction of the price.

The other wild card pick is another youngster but from the red half of Manchester, and that’s Andreas Pereira. He’s a bargain basement price of £4.5m, and although he hasn’t featured much this season, he has impressed in the games he has featured in. A goal and an assist in the 3-2 comeback victory over Southampton, has been the highlight of his season so far, and with the injury crisis that has engulfed the Manchester United midfield, he could be set for a few more. He’s that risky pick if you didn’t want to go for the likes of Stephens or Westwood, as a potentially playing asset in the Manchester United midfield at a mere £4.5m

So, there it is, a relative essay about some ‘Enablers’ you can contemplate for your Free Hit or Wild Card teams in these blank and double gameweeks, and how the term differs depending on who you’re talking to. I hope you got through it ok.

What is your interpretation when you think of Enablers, and who else would you add to this list?