If you haven’t used your wildcard yet on Fantasy Football, I doff my proverbial cap to you.
Usually at this stage, most of us have bitten the bullet and made wholesale changes, while others are determined to stand by their original cast, refusing to give in to temptation and shuffle the pack when one unsuccessful matchweek yields just 30 points.
After all, this was supposed to be your year, right? The summer months were spent meticulously planning your ultimate XI, chopping and changing on an almost daily basis as the fixtures were released, players shone in a short-lived pre-season and real-life transfers were made.
But, if this season has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. That one player who was supposed to be Mr Reliable has failed to deliver, while that throwaway substitute has proven an unexpected masterstroke — and now everyone has him!
So, who are the biggest surprise performers so far, and who are the biggest let downs? Let’s start with the let downs to purge our collective frustration…
Fantasy Premier League Football let downs
Adama Traore (Wolves)
After a blistering season at Molineux last time out, Traore’s contributions were as prominent as the baby oil on his bulging biceps. His league performances culminated in 13 direct contributions with four goals and nine assists, but he is yet to do either this term and has started the past three matches on the bench.
His price has dipped to 6.3 and it may be time to cut your losses and trade him in for his cheaper successors: Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence.
Mason Greenwood (Man Utd)
At a modest price of 7.5, Greenwood looked a shoo-in to make most squads, such was the form he was exhibiting towards the end of last season.
Post lockdown, the Red Devil phenom made six direct contributions in seven games (five goals, one assist) and looked destined to carry that form over to the new campaign.
Alas, the England international has gone off the boil and his value has decreased to 7.2. A grand total of zero goals and zero assists in the Premier League is not the stuff of Old Trafford legend, but he did hit the back of the net against RB Leipzig in midweek.
He will undoubtedly rediscover his best form at some point and Greenwood owners now have a dilemma on their hands.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Hailed as an absolute ‘must’ this year, Alexander-Arnold was the ridiculously talented playmaker full-back that almost redefined the role single-handedly in 2019/20 with a campaign laden with assists.
It’s not that the Liverpool full-back has had a bad season this time per se, it’s just that he hasn’t lived up to the world-class standards he set himself last year.
One clean sheet and just one assist have seen his value dip slightly to 7.4, and without Virgil van Dijk to target from set-pieces, or help stabilise the defence, it may be worth swapping him out.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has failed to produce a shot in a Premier League game when playing the full 90 minutes for just the third time:
◎ Feb 2018 vs. Spurs
◎ April 2019 vs. Leicester
◉ Sep 2020 vs. Liverpool
Thwarted by the reigning champs. pic.twitter.com/W8zXAYogY8
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 28, 2020
A solitary goal and an assist for the Arsenal skipper is not the sort of return you would expect of an 11.7-rated ‘midfielder’.
He opened his account for the season against Fulham and followed up with a fine assist in the 2-1 win over West Ham on matchday two, but he has since gone AWOL.
He has fired a blank in five successive games in the Premier League but is surely expected to pick up soon, right?
Matt Doherty (Tottenham)
A Fantasy Football cult hero, Doherty was expected to take his Wolves exploits and revolutionise the backline for Spurs.
However, he has racked up just 10 points and is currently being outscored by Serge Aurier, his competition at right-back for the club.
Having started with a value of 6, Doherty is now down to 5.8 and is seemingly not guaranteed a starting berth under Jose Mourinho.
Fantasy Premier League Football surprise performers
Aaron Cresswell (West Ham)
Aaron Cresswell has played every possible minute of Premier League football so far this season and is yet to commit a foul.
His delivery isn't bad either. ? pic.twitter.com/m3a7VdEG8s
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 24, 2020
If you followed proceedings in east London over the summer, you will know that the priority position among most fans was in the left-back area.
The club failed to bring a new one in, so David Moyes has pragmatically deployed two in recent games, presumably to nullify the vulnerability of playing just one.
Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku have shone together in an unorthodox three-man defence, with wing-backs, but it is the former who has truly excelled.
With two clean sheets and three assists, Cresswell has rebuilt his reputation among Hammers supporters and has made the left centre-back role his own.
James Justin (Leicester)
A masterstroke if you stuck him in from day one. Very savvy. Owing to Ricardo Pereira’s injury, Justin has proven excellent cover for Brendan Rodgers and a very cheap alternative to his Portuguese counterpart.
Foxes full-backs are usually hot property and Justin is simply en vogue at the minute. He may not accumulate tons of assists or goals, but Leicester are a tidy team defensively and are usually good for a clean sheet more often than not.
Patrick Bamford (Leeds)
⚽️ 55': Six-yard box
⚽️ 67': Outside the box
⚽️ 74': Centre of the box
Patrick Bamford's left foot is a lethal weapon. pic.twitter.com/DH5g1aLGtk
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 23, 2020
Many wrote him off before a ball was kicked, but Bamford has now etched his name in the ‘Chelsea reject XI’, playing alongside Romelu Lukaku up front, with Mohamed Salah flanking and Kevin De Bruyne threading through-balls.
Marcelo Bielsa has achieved many great things in the game, but transforming Bamford into a lethal Premier League striker is up there amongst his finest work.
Anyone who watched his masterclass against Aston Villa will know he means business this season, a hat-trick of pure brilliance.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton)
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the first player from Europe’s top five leagues to score 10 goals across all competitions in the 2020-21 season.
He's played seven games. ? pic.twitter.com/9Q8KJwataO
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 17, 2020
He was good last season, make no mistake about that. A 13-goal return in the Premier League is not to be sniffed at, but few would have expected the 23-year-old to explode the way he has this campaign.
Calvert-Lewin finished last season having fluffed his lines in 10 consecutive games just before and post-lockdown, but seven in six this term has seen him burst onto the England scene and now rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mohamed Salah for the Golden Boot.
Tyrick Mitchell (Crystal Palace)
Zaha has been the main man this season for the Eagles, but Mitchell has been a fashionable stand-in while injuries have hit Roy Hodgson’s backline.
He began the campaign with a value of 4 but has seen his stock skyrocket with some mature performances in the Palace defence.
The 21-year-old has a job on his hands now that Patrick van Aanholt has recovered from injury, but he has showcased an appreciation for tackling and a positional awareness that won’t make it easy for his Dutch teammate to stroll back into the XI.