Rotation Risks; The Return Of FPL

So finally, FPL is back, after what feels like a lifetime’s absence. But with there being just 39 days between the return and the last game of the season, and with at least 9 games per team left to be played, there should be much more caution applied when picking the teams than there would usually have been.

Here, I’ll look at some teams who are likely to rotate more or less than others throughout this packed schedule, and some of the key players who are likely to get more game time…

Wolves

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We’ll start with a side who barely seem to rotate from their established squad, pandemic or otherwise. Nuno Espirito Santo has 11 players upon whom he relies week in, week out, and I’d say that won’t change too much after the restart, especially without any domestic cups to worry about.

Players such as Rui Patricio, Connor CoadyMatt DohertyRuben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Willy Boly, Romain Saiss and Raul Jimenez should all still be regular starters, providing stability and a clear knowledge of the manager’s system.

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Furthermore, Doherty, Jimenez, Neves and Moutinho aren’t massively well backed up, in terms of squad depth. Jimenez, especially, seems to be an almost un-droppable feature of this Wolves squad, with only youngster Benny Ashley-Seal as a true number 9 for cover.

Neves and Moutinho really only have Leander Dendoncker for cover, and in the same vein, Doherty really could only be truly covered by Adama Traore, but even then, Wolves have shown that they struggle without the Irishman on the field.

Of those 4 players, only Doherty has missed games this season (due to a knee injury), while Jimenez has started on the bench just once, with Moutinho doing so twice, and Neves being benched for 3 out of the 29 games played this season.

The two players who have started all 29 league games for Wolves this season; those being skipper Connor Coady, and ‘keeper Rui Patricio, who has to be one of the outstanding goalkeeper set-and-forget options for the rest of the FPL season at £5.1m.

Manchester City

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We all know that there’s a lot of rotation about in the Man City ranks, all thanks to their massively deep squad. But of their incredible talent, Kevin De Bruyne is the player who has the joint-most appearances (26) and starts (25) for the Cityzens.

The Belgian is a player who is nigh-on essential for the way that Man City play, and averages an attacking return per start (8 goals, 17 assists) from the centre of a star-studded squad.

Given his comparative lack of rotation, and the time between fixtures for City, KDB has to be a serious candidate for captaincy in DGW30+, along with Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling.

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Sterling has played 24 times, the same number of times as Bernardo Silva, and once more than Riyad Mahrez, although the return of Leroy Sane to full fitness may restrict the minutes of all 3 of the other wingers.

In terms of Aguero, he has more starts (17) than Brazilian Gabriel Jesus (13), although Jesus does have more total league appearances (Jesus:24, Aguero:22). These two strikers are more than good enough to start, and there is a massive rotation risk between the two. Barring injuries, it’s nearly impossible to settle on one, although you’d think Aguero still pulls rank for the time being.

Meanwhile, Aymeric Laporte has seemed to be a more than welcome returnee to the City defence. The Frenchman has played in 3 league games since returning from his long injury layoff, and City haven’t conceded in any of those 3 games.

With extra time to return to full fitness, Laporte should be a staple in that City defence for much of the rest of the season, and although he is unlikely to get attacking returns, he should be very much nailed on for defensive ones, save for the Liverpool game in GW32+ of course.

Liverpool

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Now, onto the curious case of Liverpool, who should have to play their default front three for as long as it takes them to win the title.

There’s no doubting that Klopp should at least take the Merseyside derby very seriously, which should, of course, mean starts for the likes of Mohamed SalahSadio ManeTrent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Roberto Firmino.

After they seal the title, however (which could be as early as 2 games after the return), their starting squad is put in massive doubt.

We all know that Klopp isn’t afraid to leave it to the U23s, so the likes of Curtis JonesHarvey ElliottSepp van den Berg and Ki-Jana Hoever may get the chance to impress, and maybe enough chances to pick up a Premier League winners medal, which is earned after a player plays 5 games in a title-winning season.

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Jones does already have 2 substitute appearances in this season’s Premier League, and has notched 2 goals in this season’s FA Cup, in 4 appearances. Not bad for a midfielder, it has to be said.

Harvey Elliott does also have one substitute PL appearance to his name, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the young winger getting chances, either at the same time as Xherdan Shaqiri, or even ahead of the Swiss international.

Van den Berg and Hoever are still yet to make their PL debuts, but I can see both slotting into the team if there is a vast amount of rotation, with Hoever being the better option of the two, as he is usually a right back.

However, it’s equally likely that Klopp will stick with his strongest side, so for a couple of games after the title is wrapped up, it may be a waiting game for FPL managers to see which direction the Reds will go towards.

Norwich

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I’ve seen a lot of talk about Norwich in the community this week, most specifically around Teemu Pukki. However, a friendly victory at Tottenham might make me a little less convinced that the Finn will be the star of the show for the Canaries in this run-in.

It might just be a thing for scoring at Tottenham (as he did in the FA Cup), but Swiss international Josip Drmic added himself to the scoresheet in a 2-1 victory over Spurs on Friday, with Bosnian Mario Vrancic also grabbing a goal from a free kick.

Meanwhile, popular enabler Todd Cantwell should still retain his place in Daniel Farke’s starting eleven, although there is a lot of depth on the wings waiting to come into the side, in the form of players such as Onel Hernandez and Lucas Rupp.

The rest of the Canaries line-up should remain relatively similar to what they had before, so full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, who I’ve also seen mentioned, should retain their places.

Sheffield United

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Onto another team who were in the Championship last season, but have enjoyed vastly greater success in the top flight. The Blades have a double gameweek first up, playing at Aston Villa on Wednesday 17th before a trip to Newcastle on Sunday 21st.

Sheffield United have always been very set in their squad selection at the back, with Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell starting as the three centre-halves in Chris Wilder’s system, while George Baldock and Enda Stevens start as the wing-backs.

All of the above players, except Egan, have started every game this season, with Egan missing just one game in the middle of that back three. The only other player to have started every game for the Blades is midfielder Oliver Norwood, with Dean Henderson only having missed out against parent club Manchester United.

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Although of course, all the talk is really about FPL Lord John Lundstram, who has 23 starts to his name this season. The question around this out-of-position defender is, quite simply, will he start ahead of United’s club-record signing Sander Berge?

Now the simple answer is, probably not. Wilder clearly sees these two fighting directly against each other for their place in the team, but Lundstram has only started once in the 4 games since Berge’s arrival, with that being in the last game before lockdown; a 1-0 home win over Norwich, where Lundstram managed an assist.

But don’t be too quick to count out the Lord. In just 60 minutes of substitute appearances, spread over 3 games, he has scored a goal in a win over Bournemouth. And with there being such a congested schedule, and Berge still having to get used to a very particular system, Lundstram could still start some games.

Now, Sheffield United don’t have starting strikers set in stone, so Oliver McBurnieLys Mousset and David McGoldrick are the ones who fight it out for a starting spot up top, with Billy Sharp generally being used in the “easier” games, or as an impact substitute.

These lot aren’t exactly prolific either; the most that any one of these strikers has scored is 5 goals so far this season, by Mousset, with McBurnie on 4 goals, Sharp on 3, and McGoldrick yet to score this season.

Arsenal

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We’ll finish this off with another of the DGW teams, in Arsenal. Lots of people are both jumping on and steering clear of Arsenal’s assets, and there are more than enough reasons to do both.

Let’s take the captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. For a start, as the captain, he should be playing a very high percentage of matches, although we all know this isn’t always the case.

But for Aubameyang, he has played in 26 of the 28 league games that Arsenal have played this year; missing 2 because of a suspension. So he should still get more than enough game time, but not necessarily in his favourite central striker role.

Before the break, the Gabonese international played on the left wing in all of his previous 8 games, but did notch 6 goals from that position, including a brace in their 3-2 victory over Everton.

But the central striker in those 8 games was either Alexandre Lacazette or Eddie Nketiah, with the one who didn’t start often coming on for the one who did, as an impact sub. It may be well worth watching the rotations on these two, especially if the £4.4m Nketiah ends up as a regular starter.

Closing words

So there we have some of the teams I’ve seen talked about ahead of the much-anticipated return of the Premier League, and of FPL. Of course, it is always worth keeping an eye out for any rotations that become common, as this is going to be a wildly unpredictable end to the season, compared to any other season we’ve seen.

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