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The FPL case for Stoke's Jack Butland and Jese Rodriguez

Stoke City are typically slow starters in the Premier League, and did not win a match until October last season. Mark Hughes's side only had to wait until Gameweek 2 to register a first victory, beating Arsenal by a single goal, with loan signing Jese Rodriguez scoring on his debut for the club. We look at the two standout options for Stoke in the Fantasy Premier League and give major consideration for their inclusion. All aboard.

Stoke's Premier League Fixtures

Before the start of the season we had Stoke pegged as a side looking at potential doom and gloom, and even maybe relegation contenders. In our Pre-Season Fantasy Forecast we asked the FPL Community who would get relegated this season, and many put Stoke, a side who have survived in mid-table security ever since earning Premier League status, in that same bracket of the sides to go down.

Two games into the season, and our heads are starting to turn. From an FPL point of view, Stoke are operating with three central defenders, and have had successive 1-0 scorelines, with one in their favour and one against, with the Potters a tough unit to crack. Mark Hughes has opened his account against a progressive Everton side, and an attacking Arsenal side, and have come out the other end having doing respectfully well. Having watched the Arsenal game, there are certainly cracks with three central defenders, but over time having adapted to the system, there might be some things for FPL players to consider.

Stoke entertain Man United and Chelsea at home, and travel to title favourites Man City, and have some good fixtures peppered around three tough ties at home. What do we see when we look at their fixtures though? Potential in Jack Butland.

The Case for Jack Butland in the FPL

Position: Goalkeeper

Price: £5.0 million

Ownership: 2.9%

FPL Performances:

- GW1 (EVE, away): 3 points (3 saves)

- GW2 (ARS, home): 11 points (6 saves, 3 bonus)

Stoke have made the eyebrows of million of FPL players stand to attention, if not for one player. As of writing, Fantasy assets from Stoke are relatively lowly selected, pushing them into the status of being differentials. Jack Butland, who is of FPL fame for a stellar 2015/16 season. In Butland's breakthrough season the England international goalkeeper kept 10 clean sheets and even claimed an assist, in a 132 point season before his season was prematurely ended whilst on international duty against Germany in a 3-2 victory for the Three Lions (courtesy of Kane, Vardy, and Dier goals).

Stoke's Starting 11 vs. Arsenal

Formation: 3-4-3 (5-4-1 defensively)

GK: Butland

RCB: Kurt Zouma

CB: Ryan Shawcross

LCB: Geoff Cameron

RWB: Mame Diouf

LWB: Erik Pieters

CM: Joe Allen

CM: Darren Fletcher

LW: Jese Rodriguez

RW: Xherdan Shaqiri

CF: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

Stoke had to make an early change with Shaqiri forced off after half an hour. Saido Berahino's introduction pushed Choupo-Moting out to the right of midfield. Stoke were defensively organised, and even though Arsenal looked likely to score, and by all accounts were unlucky not to have a goal ruled out, it was a fixture that put Butland back on the top of Fantasy thought for some players. Away from home against Everton provided much of the same from Stoke, a defensive resilience that couldn't be broken without a delightful Wayne Rooney header.

The new system is benefiting defensive returns, with Butland soaking up saves, allowing him to climb the Bonus Points Rankings system unopposed in the Stoke squad, a benefit that Tom Heaton of Burnley had last season. If this system is maintained, and with big guns in Man United and Chelsea, visiting the Potters in weeks to come, Butland could be set to repeat his heroics, though verses Chelsea he'll be without the cover of loan defender Kurt Zouma.

The only downfall with Butland's inclusion is the nature of FPL goalkeepers. Players tend to be set on a particular shot stopper, a de Gea, Courtois, Lloris, or Foster, with little wiggle room in transfer negotiations this early on in the season to consider changing a keeper that might already we working. If you're playing a wildcard though, there's no better time to consider the Stoke keeper as your one to watch for the next few weeks.

Butland looks in the clear to be Stoke's standout FPL performer this season, and we expect the goalkeeper's 2.9% ownership to massively inflate. Until then, we'll consider him as a differential for our Weekly Wildcards article each week until Butland's form catches on.

Is Jese Rodriguez the Real Deal?

Position: Midfielder

Price: £6.0 million (price rise before GW3 expected)

Ownership: 3.2%

FPL Performances:

- GW2 (ARS, home): 10 points (1 goal, 70 minutes played, 2 bonus)

The latest FPL bandwagon player, winger Jese Rodriguez, made a sensational start to life in the Premier League. A product of the Spanish youth system through Real Madrid, Jese has struggled to find his feet in the footballing world, unable like most, tonail down a position in the Madrid squad. Trying his trade at PSG his opportunities were also limited, which forced him out on loan to La Liga side Las Palmas for the latter half of last season.

Jese Roriguez's 2016/17 Season

PSG: 9 appearances (1 start, 8 sub), 1 goal

Las Palmas: 16 appearances (13 starts, 3 sub), 3 goals, 1 assist

Immediately thrust into Stoke's starting line-up against Arsenal after signing just days prior to a first game of the season, Jese was the stand-out player from the game, even though he featured or only 70 minutes of action. Producing the only moment of real quality, Jese has a habit of running in behind defences and is a perfect fit for the free-flowing counter-attack style that Mark Hughes is trying to adapt at Stoke.

Jese commanded Stoke's attacking play, and much to the delight of FPL players, he automatically assumed set-pieces for the home side, which puts him as an immediete thought for transfer. Prime targets that will make way for Jese will likely be Matt Ritchie or alternative £6.0m midfielders (Ince etc.) that have failed to get off the mark in the opening few games, or concerned James Ward-Prowse owners.

Jese will likely be rotated by Hughes, but only when the job (and points) are secured, which is a welcome benefit. Transitioning across the attacking trio throughout the game, Jese is the conductor that looks like he might be a match winner, even with some very difficult fixtures on the horizon.

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All aboard.


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