We look to the waiver wire and free agent pool each week to highlight some under-the-radar players who could be a short-term or even long-term solution for your Fantrax EPL fantasy teams. Our Sleepers XI provides fantasy managers with a full squad of differential picks, and some high upside options to plug in if they are in the starting lineup. Don't sleep on these underappreciated gems as you put together your roster for Gameweek 8!
We'll be focusing on players that will bring us not only attacking returns or clean sheets, but also those players that score Ghost Points in the sophisticated and statistics based Fantrax Scoring System!
Fantasy EPL Gameweek 8 Sleepers XI
For this article, we use the % rostered from Fantrax. Our only rule is that each player we highlight is required to be rostered in 60% of leagues or less at the time of writing. Therefore there's a good chance some of these players will be free agents in your Fantrax Draft League! As always, we'll take form, fixtures, projected points, and a healthy dose of intuition into account to make our selections. Additionally, I've included the rostership percentage from the "Big 3" -- the twenty 12-team divisions that comprise the ultra-competitive DraftPL Community League and International Genie League, as well as the eight equally competitive 10-team divisions in the Discord Super League -- to provide some additional context for who is likely to be available and where you might want to follow the wisdom of the crowd.
It was a mixed bag for the Gameweek 7 selections, with Nayef Aguerd (20.75) and Sam Johnstone (16.5) in particular coming good and Victor Lindelof (-2), Serge Aurier (1.25) and Nicolo Zaniolo (1.5) flattering to deceive. The 64 points for the week (without any DGW players) brings the season total to 451.5 and keeps the weekly average right at 64.5 points. Hopefully this week will see another improved score and a greater number of players worth selecting. Midweek European competition will almost certainly make the involved teams a bit trickier to predict, but for the most part I'm steering clear with the aim to provide more assured starters for you to draft into your ranks.
The Sleepers XI table below includes a full team of Starters, as well as 5 Reserves -- high-upside players with some question marks around whether or not they'll start in Gameweek 8. Keep an eye out when lineups drop and pick them up if you see them starting and need to fill a spot on your roster. Read on below for the rationale behind each of the Starter selections.
Jordan Pickford (G, Everton v. Bournemouth)
Everton have had a difficult start to the season, currently only outside of the drop zone on goal difference. They've found it a challenge on both ends of the pitch, struggling to score goals as well as keep them out, but there is a bit of a silver lining in that this weekend's opponents are struggling just as much. Everton's home hoodoo has to come to an end at some point, and I think a match against the Cherries could be the antidote. Pickford has gone from a fantasy stalwart under the defensively ill-disciplined Frank Lampard to a low-ceiling liability given the reduced volume of low-quality shots allowed by the defensive unit in front of him under Sean Dyche, but I can't shake the feeling that the England #1 is set for his first double-digit score of the season. Call it a hunch.
Issa Diop (D, Fulham v. Sheffield United)
We're starting to get into the territory of streaming players who face the promoted teams, and while Fulham hasn't exactly been in excellent form themselves, I think they're one of the teams with the best chance of keeping a clean sheet this weekend. I never recommend banking entirely on a clean sheet with a stream, though, so here's some additional justification for considering Diop this weekend: Sheffield United are currently the second best team in the league for opposition defenders to face, allowing 9.7 points per game on average. Similarly to Luton (though not quite to the same extent), the Blades also rely on long balls and crosses to get into scoring positions, which leads to plenty of aerial duels to contest. While the more attack-minded fullbacks Robinson and Castagne (or perhaps Tete, if he's fit) will be more popular options, Diop could surpass their scores by dominating the defensive side of things for the Cottagers.
Jamaal Lascelles (D, Newcastle @ West Ham)
After a bit of a shaky start, we've seen Newcastle get back to their best defensively in recent matches, keeping clean sheets in 5 of their last 6 matches in a run that included matches against AC Milan and PSG. With Sven Botman continuing to be sidelined through injury until at least the international break, Lascelles should retain his spot at center back alongside Fabian Schar. The club captain has had to settle for a bit-part role over the past couple seasons, but has done well when called upon. The skipper delivered 12.25 points in their win over Burnley last week and, while West Ham will likely provide a sterner test, I can see him being heavily involved in the team's defensive actions as the Magpies look to add to their impressive recent displays.
Marc Cucurella (D, Chelsea @ Burnley)
In a shocking turn of events, Cucurella has reestablished himself as a capable defender in the Premier League. After spending nearly all of last season making Brighton look like geniuses for offloading him, the Spanish fullback has made a compelling case for his inclusion in the first team even when Chelsea have most of their defenders available. It's unlikely the 25 year-old will keep his place ahead of Reece James or Ben Chilwell when (if) they're fit, but he could easily keep Malo Gusto on the bench at right back or offer Mauricio Pochettino another option by slotting in at left back and giving a rest to 39 year-old Thiago Silva. Cucurella didn't do a huge amount from a fantasy standpoint against Fulham, only tallying 8.5 with a clean sheet, but we know from his Brighton days that he's got a much higher ceiling (13, 21.5, 15.5 and 11.5 in his last four matches with the Seagulls in 21/22) and I think we'll see an improvement on his GW7 score against Burnley.
Amadou Onana (M, Everton v. Bournemouth)
Onana has been a favorite of Sean Dyche's going back to his appointment last season, with the Senegalese midfielder starting nearly every game he was available for last season and 7 out of 7 to kick off the 23/24 campaign. The 22 year-old offers boundless energy as well as a good balance of attacking and defensive skills to be a mainstay in the Toffees midfield. He hasn't been as effective in terms of fantasy output as his midfield partner Abdoulaye Doucoure, but he's still putting up respectable scores, including his 9.5 in the loss to Luton in GW7. Bournemouth are currently the best team for midfielders to face, as well, so there's plenty of reasons to place your faith in him for GW8. There is a slight chance that Onana could be dropped from the side to accommodate the return of Jack Harrison, with James Garner moving into a central role like he did when Harrison subbed on in GW7. Be prepared to pivot to another option if you have live lineup changes. If not, keep an eye on team news for clues or consider looking elsewhere for a more assured bet.
Jacob Murphy (M, Newcastle @ West Ham)
As is the case with his teammate Lascelles, Murphy is a short-term play just for this gameweek, but one that can pay huge dividends given the form of this Newcastle team at the moment. Anthony Gordon is suspended for the match against the Hammers, and with Harvey Barnes and Joelinton both set to be out through injury (there's a small chance the Brazilian could return to fitness, but it would be unwise to risk him with an international break on the horizon to aid in his recovery), Murphy should get the nod to play on the left wing. When he was in the starting lineup last season, Murphy was a high-upside, low-ceiling player (read: "boom or bust"). You're likely looking at a score of 3-5 or 12+, but I wouldn't bet against this team at the moment, coming off a massive 4-1 win over PSG in the Champions League. Newcastle have only been shut out once this season (the 1-0 loss to Man City in GW2), so the potential for attacking returns should be there for any of the front three.
James McAtee (M, Sheffield United @ Fulham)
There wasn't an immediate return to the Blades over the summer for Man City midfielder McAtee, who was an influential member of Sheffield United's promotion campaign, but the 20 year-old secured a loan return towards the end of the summer window. The center mid has stepped straight back into the starting lineup in place of Oliver Norwood and has offered some solid displays so far. We haven't seen a whole lot just yet to get excited about for fantasy purposes, but McAtee did deliver 9 goals and 3 assists in the Championship last season, so the attacking potential is there. The youngster had a poor game against West Ham last time out with three dispossessions and a yellow card contributing to a negative score, but he put up 5 points in the 8-0 drubbing against Newcastle and 6.5 in the loss to Spurs. With less daunting competition, he'll have an opportunity to improve on his scores to date. I'm not expecting a huge score, but somewhere in the 7-9 point range isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Will Hughes (M, Crystal Palace v. Nottingham Forest)
The injury crisis at Crystal Palace went from bad to worse this week with the news that Eberechi Eze is set to miss around 6 weeks through injury. With Michael Olise also still sidelined, that leaves set piece duties up for grabs and it will most likely be Hughes who steps in to take them. Whether he has many suitable targets to aim them at is up for debate, but it's an additional benefit to factor into the midfielder's scoring potential. The 2 points he scored against United last time out was a disappointment, but prior to that he had scored 10 in a 0-0 draw with Fulham and 6.5 in a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa. If the former Watford man can tack on a couple key passes to his output against Forest, he'll be in great shape to contribute to a winning score for your team. The Eagles have a difficult couple fixtures after the international break against Newcastle and Tottenham, but if it looks like he'll hold down the role and command set pieces for a while longer, he could be well worth holding onto with Burnley, Everton and Luton on the horizon after that.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (F, Nottingham Forest @ Crystal Palace)
A long-time community favorite and late-round lottery ticket in drafts, Hudson-Odoi finally got a Premier League move to a club where he will get substantial playing time. You can see from the buy-in from the Big 3 leagues that CHO is something of a known quantity for managers who have been playing the draft game for long enough to have seen his scores when given the chance to start for Chelsea over the years. While Forest may not be at the same level of quality as those Chelsea teams (it's more debatable over the past year and change), Hudson-Odoi should find plenty of joy for his new team. He's already shown his incredible upside potential with a 22-pointer in his Forest debut against Burnley. I think an injury-ravaged Palace side may struggle to keep him at bay this weekend as well. If he's available in your league, go pick him up and don't look back.
Dango Ouattara (F, Bournemouth @ Everton)
With the sheer number of wide attackers at Bournemouth, I'd be remiss not to say my recommendation of Ouattara carries a significant risk of a non-start with it. Andoni Iraola can choose any of Dango, Semenyo, Sinisterra, Brooks, Kluivert and Tavernier to occupy the two wing berths in his team, so this is one to keep an eye on when lineups are announced and scoop whichever player is available and starting in this role. Given the difficulties the Cherries have faced so far this season (the 5 goals they've scored in the opening 7 matches is joint-worst in the league), I wouldn't be surprised to see the manager shake things up and start with the more direct attacking style of Ouattara and/or Sinisterra in an attempt to earn their first win of the season. Dango's fantasy fortunes have been mixed at best, but there's an undeniably dangerous player in there that may just need a bit of trust to build his confidence and get the best from him.
Leon Bailey (F, Aston Villa @ Wolves)
Bailey was declared fit by Unai Emery and started Villa's European Conference League match mid-week. Although he went the full 90, he could still be in line to start again this weekend against Wolves. Moussa Diaby and Jacob Ramsey are both struggling with injuries and most likely will not be risked when they'll have the opportunity of a break after this round of fixtures. Bailey is very much a boom-or-bust fantasy player and can be massively frustrating to roster, hence his availability for selection here. But the potential is there as well, and we've seen the forward put up 15+ points on multiple occasions since joining the Premier League in the 21/22 season. I'd be willing to take a gamble on him this week given that explosive potential, even if it is against a Wolves side that just shut down Man City.
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