FPL 2017-2018 Roundtable #2 - September International Break Edition!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the second edition of the SoccerCaptains Fantasy Premier League Roundtable! We’re very happy to host our top-notch team of Hass, Joanna, and Tim once again this week. We’ve got a lot to cover today as we break down how the first month of the FPL season has gone so far, some ideas we have as we come out on the other side of the international break, and, most importantly, whether or not managers should be popping that wildcard for Gameweek 4. I hope you have your notebooks out and your fantasy teams up on your second tab, because we’ve got some red-hot FPL analysis coming your way!

So first things first, let’s talk about how your FPL teams have fared thus far. Who has performed to your expectations, and who hasn’t? Also, what roster moves have you made so far, and are you happy with them? Joanna, kick us off.


Joanna:

Lukaku, with all his hot-and-cold tendencies, has performed as expected. He’s still a must-own for me, especially given United’s favorable schedule and the fact that they’re flying right now. My starting squad had Hegazi on it, and he’s been great for my points total and my bottom line, though I wouldn’t recommend investing in him now that so many WBA defenders are coming fit. I also had Mounie to start (for a 12 point haul); though he hasn’t produced much since GW1, he’s had good opportunities, so he’s staying for now. For disappointments, I thought Willian would fill more of the Hazard gap than he did and have moved funds around to replace him with Mane. My best transfer was moving “FPL points king” De Bruyne out in GW2. No one to rely on in that overpriced, rotation-heavy City offense at the moment. Sorry, Tim.


Tim:

Team "Bobbing for Madleys" - formerly "Ederson's Neck Tattoo" - has started strong despite whiffing with my captains picks all 3 GWs (Kane twice, KDB once). Currently near the top 10% of FPL managers. Like so many others, I've been burned by the Kane August jinx. KDB's slow start is more a Man City problem than a KDB problem and I'm holding on for a few more weeks despite the high price-tag. My successes are Eriksen, Bobby Firmino, Pogba and going HARD with an early season Huddersfield train, starting Mooy and Tommy Smith from GW1. The Terriers have rewarded my faith. Good dogs


Hass:

I think it's safe to say that I've not had the best of starts this season and I'm not yet fully satisfied with how my squad is currently shaping up. That's been reflected in the number of transfers that I've already made (probably a little hastily) in order to try and chase returns. Harry Kane's August hoodoo has burned a 12.5m hole in my budget, and my desire to "cover" the Man City attack resulted in the mistake that was Kevin De Bruyne. With that being said, my Man United coverage in both attack and defence has provided somewhat of a silver lining to an otherwise awful first three Gameweeks.


I’m with you guys on the Kane-and-KDB struggles as their poor ROI has been quite the drag on my team’s performance thus far. Thankfully, my United trio of Lukaku/Pogba/de Gea has been able to make up for some of that lost ground. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about my transfers thus far as my additions of Mounie and Richarlison each came a week too late… although outside of fantasy, they are both seeing a fair number of chances, so I will likely retain each of them through the transfer window.

Speaking of roster moves, the international break also coincided with the close of the summer transfer window (also lovingly referred to on Twitter as ‘Silly Season’). Are there any players who were involved in a late transfer that could merit consideration for your squads?


Hass:

Swansea made some very interesting moves in re-signing Wilfried Bony and acquiring Renato Sanches. If Bony is able to rediscover the form that led to his initial switch to Man City, then he could provide exceptional value to our FPL squads.


Tim:

Nothing urgent. Keeping an eye on Renato Sanches and Serge Aurier. If Sanches plays in any advanced role, he'll be involved with chances. Aurier's pricetag probably comes too high, but it's feasible he could replicate some of Kyle Walker's Spurs numbers from last season, assuming he's immediately favored over Trippier (he will be). Funny how quickly Kieran Trippier went from "better than Kyle Walker" to "defensive catastrophe" in the eyes of ever-so-savvy Spurs fans.


Joanna:

All are a “wait-and-see” for me. Aurier to Spurs is the one I’ll be watching the closest, especially as they come up on a favorable schedule.


Gylfi Sigurdsson wasn’t exactly a ‘late’ transfer, but he did technically arrive in the second half of August, so I’ll count it here. I’m all aboard the Viking bandwagon here once Everton gets past their next two matches; by the time Gameweek 6 rolls around, he should have a very good handle on Ronald Koeman’s system and could have a massive impact for both Toffee supporters and fantasy managers.

Next up, we’ve got a very popular topic for quite a few Fantasy Premier League managers: Wild Cards. Have you popped yours yet? Any advice for managers who are still deciding whether or not to take the leap? Tim, let’s start with you.


Tim:

BLOW IT UP. If you're in the bottom half of your league(s), there's really no incentive to wait. Player overlap will increase significantly over the next 5 gameweeks, and if you do week-by-week transfers, you lag on points and price value. The transfer window is done. We know who's started with good form and who hasn't. DO IT.
Thankfully, I'm a good starting position and can afford to wait, probably until the next international break to assess the rash of injuries that always occur when players go abroad.


Hass:

Despite all the talk about how I'm unhappy with my team, I've decided against wildcarding just yet. My main reason being that with only 3 weeks worth of data, I just don't know who to back. With big hitters like Alexis and Hazard coming back to fitness, I'd want to observe how they settle back into their teams over the next few Gameweeks. Should they show the form that we all know they're capable of producing, I'd then be in a position to use the Wildcard and bring them into my team.


Joanna:

Historically, I’m an early wildcard popper, but I’m still holding onto mine this year. My starting squad doesn’t have enough glaring errors yet to merit a total overhaul, so I just opted for a -4 points hit. I’m excited to have the chance to use it in a couple weeks, as teams start to settle more and we see if the returning stars (Sanchez, Hazard, Coutinho) are going to perform for their respective teams. If you haven’t wildcarded for GW4 yet, I’d be hesitant to do so. It’s always best to trigger the Wildcard early when you know you are ready to play it, in order to capture price rises and avoid drops. This is a no-brainer for veteran players, but it took me a couple years to really understand how to improve squad value and it’s one of the most helpful things I’ve learned.


I’m with you, Joanna, in that I’m notorious for popping the wildcard very early on in the season - typically no later than the second international break. The early season is such a crapshoot every year; there’s usually a couple of top-tier teams that will take a few weeks to get their feet under them (looking at you, Spurs/Everton) before we start seeing strong fantasy contributions. I’ve personally had quite a bit of success over the years popping early to shift over to players on teams playing well out of the gate with strong upcoming fixtures. The few times I’ve held off and looked to slowly update my team over time (while taking the occasional -4), I ended up falling behind quite a bit and struggled to close the gap.

Let’s pivot towards the squads you personally support. Which players have been providing strong fantasy returns that could factor into your squad in the near future? Also, from a non-fantasy perspective - what are your thoughts so far regarding their first three performances? Hass, as our resident Arsenal supporter, I’m particularly interested to hear your take.


Hass:

Thanks for this question... From an FPL perspective, I would advise against any Arsenal player for the immediate future. There's far too much uncertainty about the lineup, as well as the positions that the players are playing in. Until that settles down, I can see goals being conceded more often than not. However, if Alexis returns to the fold with the same level of performances that we saw last season, then he would be the only player I'd consider making a move for. From a non FPL standpoint, there are some seriously deep-rooted issues with my club and it's been sad to see the toxic environment that takes hold after each negative result. But, the club have been the masters of their own downfall, failing to evolve with the footballing landscape with a Manager who once revolutionized the game being hopelessly left behind. Until that changes, I don't see a sustainable turn-around in fortunes.


Joanna:

Generally, I feel like it was the right thing to avoid Everton players for this difficult opening stretch, but Rooney proved to be a major exception. He’s rewarded the FPL managers that took a chance on him. At 7.6, he’s a great price considering he’s started out as one of the most fixture-proof FPL assets. I’ll be watching Calvert-Lewin (at only 5.0), who assisted both of Rooney’s goals. Since we didn’t sign any other strikers (ugh), he’s going to be important in seeing us through to January. Come GW6, defenders like Baines and Keane have to come on your radar. And, as Sigurdsson settles into the team, he could be very attractive at 8.4. He’s already scored three goals in European and international competition in the last few weeks.


Tim:

City has started slowly and it's no secret. The win against Brighton was nondescript, the draw against Bobby Madley can be tossed out the window, and the most recent win against Mike Dean will hopefully ignite the team into a more urgent attacking form. Fantasy-wise, City are the mystery we expected. I correctly predicted KDB as the only bolt-on attacking player, but hasn't converted the minutes played into fantasy points. Going forward, I expect Gabi Jesus to start pouring in goals. Walker & Mendy (now fit) should start providing enough assist opportunities to make them worth their 6.5 pricetag. The odd clean-sheet won't hurt. I'm holding on to KDB and the points will come in a fiery rush of ginger-haired fury.


I unfortunately have nothing to contribute here, as I actually do not have a specific Premier League that I support. Say what you will, but it actually makes it easier for me to stay impartial when making fantasy decisions, which is something I constantly struggle with for my MLS fantasy team (let’s go Red Bulls!). However, I will say that my close friends who support Liverpool and Chelsea have been thrilled so far, with strong returns from Alonso and Morata with the Blues and big points from Firmino/Mane/Salah on the Reds.

Broadening the spectrum to the rest of the Premier League, how have your pre-season predictions panned out? Looking forward, where do you think the top returns will come from in the month of September as we start to see teams come together and fixture-difficulty predictions begin to solidify? Catch us up here, Tim.


Tim:

I think I've been proven right that Pogba represents more FPL value for price than Lukaku, when I opted to avoid Lukaku in my starting team. The same is likely true for Eriksen over Kane for Spurs. Perhaps the story of this season will be that the highest-priced forwards aren't worth the money. I think the top value in September probably comes from Chelsea's attacking players. Hazard is on the horizon and that should boost Morata who has already started strongly. Spurs scoring rate will increase now that August is behind us. I think the scoring rates of United and Liverpool will fade somewhat as European competition gets underway and weaker Prem sides are less naive with how they play against the northern clubs.


Hass:

Man United have certainly taken advantage of their favourable early season fixtures, but aside form that, my current lowly FPL position is testament to how wrong I've got it so far! Everton, and Wayne Rooney in particular, have exceeded expectations during their horrendous early season fixtures, whislt Liverpool's attack also looks irresistible against any defence. With the August hoodoo now passed, we should see Harry Kane deliver some big returns in the coming Gameweeks.


Joanna:

I definitely got Lukaku right; I knew he’d be a producer no matter what color kit he put on. But, I take (almost) everything I said about Liverpool back. Look at me, a bitter blue, eating crow. Every serious FPL team needs at least one Liverpool offensive target in there, especially since they seem relatively fixture-proof at this point. I have Mane, who I rated pre-season, but failed to pick up until this GW. Firmino is proving to be a great option up front, especially at his price, and Salah looks amazing (if more of a rotation risk). As for September, Tottenham is coming up on a more favorable schedule, so I expect Kane and Eriksen to really break out this month.


Like all of you, I was all aboard the Man United hype train from the start – Lukaku, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, de Gea have all been stellar. I was also very optimistic about Salah’s prospects in the Liverpool attack, but like Firmino and Mane, it will be interesting to see where his minutes end up as Liverpool goes deeper into UCL play.

Last but not least, let’s talk Gameweek 4. As I’m sure you already know, best practice dictates that fantasy managers wait until after all of the international fixtures have been played before making transfers (assuming you haven’t used your wildcard) in order to ensure money is not wasted on a player who gets injured during World Cup Qualifiers. With that in mind, who are some players you think are worth a look as we head into this weekend? Hass, lead us off here.


Hass:

Under different circumstances I'd be shouting about Arsenal assets with a home fixture against Bournemouth, but with the way the opening games have panned out, it's got to be considered a huge risk to back the Gunners at this point. But for those willing to take the risk, I'd maybe look at Mesut Ozil. He scored and was a provider for Germany over the international break, and seems to have the security of starts in an otherwise unsecure lineup. Failing that, nobody has created more chances in the Premier League than Henrikh Mkhitaryan.


Tim:

Might be time to grab Tadic (6.5) at home against Watford if you're dumping KDB or another higher-priced midfielder. I'm also curious to see Wilf Bony's homecoming at Swansea hosting Newcastle. I doubt Bony starts but a goal as a 60' substitute could pave the way toward a Bony resurgence now that's back in the comfy confines of south Wales.


Joanna:

Like I said, I’ve brought in Mane, but some Pool offense is a must-own at this point, even with them facing City this week. I think you’d be foolish to give up on Kane at this point, even though he’s been a 12.5m money pit on my team so far. I wasn’t high on Pogba before the season (unlike Tim, who predicted greatness), but I’m fully convinced by this point. You need him or Mkhitaryan in your squad.


I’m going a bit deeper into the lineup here myself. Watford’s Richarlison (6.0) is a player who could be a phenomenal 4th or 5th midfielder on many teams; he’s consistently put himself in dangerous positions on the attacking end, resulting in several high-quality opportunities thus far. If he begins to convert on a semi-consistent basis, we could be looking at another Odion Ighalo-in-2015/16 type of player here.

Well guys, that’ll do it for this edition of the SoccerCaptains FPL RoundTable! As always, thank you so much for all of the insight and expertise – I can speak from personal experience in that our inaugural roundtable discussion helped me finalize decision on at least two of my players, both of whom are performing quite well thus far. Any last shoutouts before we sign off?


Joanna

I loved watching Gylfi Sigurdsson at Swansea and on Iceland’s international team, but seeing him score a goal like this for my own club has me swooning.


Hass:

This is the real reason Alexis stayed...


Tim:

I had another kid. Shout-out to my wife for giving birth. You're Da Real MVP!


Congrats again to Tim on the birth of his second child! Thanks again everyone, I’m looking forward to the next roundtable in a few weeks!

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