Hello everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of the FPL Roundtable here at SoccerCaptains.com! This is the third edition of our roundtable discussion so far this season, or as we’ve taken to calling it around here, “The ‘USA DIDN’T QUALIFY FOR THE 2018 WORLD CUP AND EVERYTHING SUCKS’ Edition”. We’re still reeling from Tuesday night’s results on this side of the pond, so needless to say the return of Fantasy Premier League is a much-needed distraction. With us this week once again: our good friends Hass, Joanna, and Tim – as always, it’s good to speak with you all!
Well team, we’re approaching the end of the October international break, but we were able to squeeze in four Gameweeks prior to this. How did your teams do during that stretch? Did you make any roster decisions that worked out amazingly (or blow up in your face)? Joanna, start us off here.
Opting for a super-sized forward line, I was on green arrows in three out of four of those gameweeks, ending on 401 points, so I feel pretty good about my team in general. I’m still waiting on a big breakout GW and spent some time chasing the returns of players like Aguero and Morata in that stretch. I got one good week out of Aguero (but missed his massive GW5 haul of 20 points). When I brought in Morata for Aguero after his trip to Amsterdam, I probably transferred the jinx and ended up with a 1 point dud from the Chelsea forward. Luckily, I kept the faith with Kane and was rewarded for it.
My strong start continues, with 425 total points, inside the top 3% of FPL managers. But - in addition to some injures (Mendy, Ruben L-C) and bans (Hemed) - I made one big mistake. I blew my wildcard in GW5, picked up Ben Davies with my wildcard transfers, but after he surprisingly rotated in GW5 against Swansea, I hastily dropped him for Otamendi. Thankfully, City have been racking up clean sheets so the damage was minimal, but I missed out on Davies combined 17 points in the past two gameweeks. Boo.
My incoming transfers have been strong until they get injured 2 weeks later (see: Morata, Alvaro).
I pulled the trigger on my team and wildcarded in Gameweek 6 and have moved my way up the rankings after a truly abysmal start to the FPL season. Persisting with Harry Kane has certainly paid dividends in recent weeks as he reminds us all why he's the reigning golden boot winner and probably the best striker in the Premier League (Yup.. an arsenal fan just said that). I also punted on a budget Everton striker... but Joanna didn't tell me that I was supposed to pick Oumar Niasse over Dominic Calvert-Lewin! Safe to say that punt didn't really work out.
I wish I could say my GW4 Wildcard granted me the same fortune - unfortunately, it kicked off a run of sub-par fixtures instead. I somehow managed to pull in a measly 26 points that round despite wildcarding, headlined by a Sadio Mane red card and a Paul Pogba injury. The one highlight of this run is that I did enjoy a big win in our knockout side-league with 68 points during Gameweek 6 thanks to the use of a Free Hit chip.
As always, international breaks are rife with injuries to fantasy-relevant players. There have been a few big names that have been injured both on the pitch (Sadio Mane) as well as off of it (Sergio Aguero). Which additions to the injury list stood out to you the most, and which players do you believe have a chance to step up and provide fantasy returns in their absence? Hass, take the lead on this one please.
You've mentioned a couple of big names already, but I think that Alvaro Morata's potential absence from the Chelsea squad could provide the biggest opportunity for two of his team-mates in particular to shine. Michy Batshuayi and Eden Hazard both appeal to me for very different reasons; Batshuayi is the only other recognised striker in the Chelsea squad, so it would make sense for him to take the mantle for some really appealing fixtures over the next few Gameweeks, but in Eden Hazard, we have FPL royalty. The Belgian star is working is way back to full fitness and scored a brace for his Country as they wrapped up qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
The Morata injury looms largest because Chelsea lack a straightforward replacement. Will Conte trust Batshuayi with a start against Crystal Palace? He clearly didn't trust him against Man City when Morata hobbled off. Does Pedro get a look-in? Does Hazard lead the line?
Mane's injury is Ox's chance to get starting chances for Liverpool, but his early performances for his new club won't have anyone rushing to buy him (for good reason - yikes). Perhaps Firmino can reignite his scoring form from the first few game-weeks...he still provides good value for price in FPL.
Aguero returned to full training Thursday and I actually expect him to play as a substitute against Stoke. In the meantime, any City attacking options looks enticing - Jesus, Sterling, Sane...take your pick. City may score 13 against Stoke. Aguero might score 3 of those with a half-busted rib.
Public Service Announcement! Always wear your seat belt!
As you’ve all said, Aguero stands out the most in this category. His injury was a big blow, since it felt like he was just returning to the fantasy form he held in 2015-16 (“Always Captain Aguero” season). I mean, it was just a matter of time before he was injured, but the manner in which it happened felt like a cruel joke on the guy. Like Tim, I think he’ll be back in the squad sooner rather than later, but will hold off on picking him back up again. The powerhouse forwards are just getting taken out one by one. Morata hamstring, Lukaku’s got some kind of niggling ankle injury, Vardy had a groin/hip thing... The latter two should still start this week, but it’s worrisome.
I’m hoping Jesus holds the line for me in Aguero’s stead, but there are a lot of City players that could fill in on your fantasy squads, as Tim said (he is LOVING this, isn’t he?). Chelsea, I’m less sure of; Hazard is expensive for someone who has been so boom-or-bust for so long. He’s always been a frustrating fantasy option for me in years past. I’m with Tim in my hesitancy on Batshuayi and would only recommend him to someone sitting low in their mini-league looking for a super-differential (he’s only owned by 1%). Morata and Aguero could be back in a week, so I’m not too worried about long-term replacements.
I couldn't agree with you more on the seat-belt comment, Tim. Buckle up, everyone!
Moving on to another popular topic: Wild Cards! The last roundtable, each of you had held on to your chips through Gameweek 3 (unlike myself, who was completely unable to resist the temptation to blow it all up). If you’ve used it since then, how has it worked out? If not, do you have a specific round in mind as to when you’ll be using it? Tim, kick us off here.
I used it. I was riding high, top in my mini-league, and figured I would use it as a fancy-free strategy in GW5 of maintaining my dominant lead. The result, a GW ranking of 4.7M. The wildcard curse at its worst. Now let us never speak of it again.
As I mentioned earlier, I pulled the trigger on mine in Gameweek 6 and I am yet to regret it two weeks on. Other than keeping the faith with Harry Kane, I chose to sacrifice the hugely owned (and annoyingly consistent) Romelu Lukaku in favour of Sergio Aguero to try to capture the explosive Man City points. Now with Aguero's freak accident taking him out of short-term contention, I've been able to take punts on alternatives who can keep the seat warm for when he returns to the fold.
Still the master of my domain. I’m expecting to use it during the next international break in a month, barring any surprises in the meanwhile. I haven’t found myself in a position where I’ve wanted to move 5-7+ players out, which is my threshold. I’ve been lucky with my initial team and have used a couple hit transfers to my advantage. Other than Eriksen, my midfield is a joke, but there is a real drought of well-priced talent in that position this year, though there are more players finally emerging in recent GWs. Almost everyone’s either overpriced, underperforming, or both. Add injuries to the likes of Pogba and Mane, and there’s comparatively little on offer.
Most top FPL teams are opting for a strong forward line financed by focusing on their defensive line over the more-expensive midfield. With twice as many cleansheets this season compared to this point last season, that strategy has worked out well so far. I’m hoping that when that starts to change and the midfield takes up more of their historic share of points, I’m ready to move to strengthen.
Thanks for the feedback, all. Time to quickly move on so I don't have to revisit my Wild Card disaster.
Onward to a potentially more volatile subject: let’s talk about your favored clubs and how they performed in September. Who were the fantasy studs and fantasy duds? Are you potentially adding or dropping any players from the club ahead of Gameweek 8 or beyond? Hass, take the first crack at this, if you will.
After the customary shambles that is August, Arsenal's September had the semblance of a team that could compete at the top of the Premier League. In 4 league games, we won 3, drew 1 and scored 7 goals in the process. We also managed to keep 4 clean sheets(!) a stark contrast to August in which we conceded 9 times. In terms of FPL prospects, Alex Lacazette has shown his quality in moments, but it's the defenders that warrant the most attention. Both wing-backs (Bellerin & Kolasinac) will provide attacking returns to supplement their points but Nacho Monreal deserves special mention for his form over the last month. Coming in at just 5.5m, he racked up 38 points in September, earning bonus points in each fixture, as well as scoring in Gameweek 7 against Brighton.
UGH. Everton fans are at perhaps their darkest point in 30 years. There has been so much hope and many false dawns in the last few years, Koeman just being the latest, but perhaps the most painful after a summer finally splashing cash around… for nothing. Somehow his steady, well-regarded brain has contracted the same rot that Martinez showed after his first season (just look at his post-match comments to see the “Phenomenal Martinez” language creeping in). He still doesn’t know our best 11. He inevitably fields the wrong team, which miraculously plays better in the second half when he decides to sub on the likes of Davies or Calvert-Lewin, repeats the cycle every week, and is shocked when we don’t get the result. We’ve had the toughest schedule at the start of the season—fine—but I have no confidence that this team will look any different against the bottom of the table. There’s no pace, no width, no finisher. There’s abysmal Ashley Williams at the back breaking Evertonian and Welsh hearts alike (he gave away the goal to knock Wales out of the World Cup and every Evertonian feigned surprise). It feels like we have 10 defensive mids on the field and we still are leaking goals. Dark, dark, dark days.
Fantasy studs? No one. Not one. Rooney looked strong to start the season and I made the mistake of thinking that his experience alone would carry him to points through a difficult opening schedule. Wrong. If Koeman would play his strongest 11, which includes Calvert-Lewin, I’d say he’s your best bet on an Everton side that is entering a more favorable schedule. However, Koeman is stubborn and refuses to use the (albeit lackluster) tools at his disposal to correct our most glaring problems. Instead, he prefers to play everyone out of their preferred position, packed in the center of the pitch. So, pick up Evertonians at your own peril.
Lots of people considering Niasse as a differential, but Koeman hates him, and he looked lost when he started the game against Burnley. He may be best used as a sub. DCL would be great, if Koeman ever played him consistently, so I’d wait to see if that happens (don’t hold your breath). Rooney is starting to get rotated and when he’s not, he’s isolated. Sigurdsson is a complete non-entity for us, while he continues to shine for Iceland—a total waste of money, at this point, as he’s being used as a square peg in a round hole. Davies shows so much promise and pace, but is on heavy rotation. If you wanted an Evertonian in your squad as they come up on easy fixtures, I’d go with Keane or Baines in the back, but even that is a major risk. I won’t have any Toffees in my team until I see major changes in the squad’s energy and manager’s decision-making.
City have been...well...um...the best team on the planet? Mendy's injury was a soul-crusher though. Otamendi is my stop-gap replacement, but if this defensive form continues, I'll gladly collect clean sheet points and hope for the occasional header from a delicious KDB corner.
Truth be told, with Otamendi & KDB at present, I've got the wrong City players to own in FPL. Silva, Aguero, Walker, and now Sane are probably better FPL options. Jesus hasn't quite ignited yet but will get his chances in the month ahead.
Next to De Gea, Ederson is probably the best FPL keeper to own as well. I knew this of course when I started the FPL season with both on my roster, though Ederson has long since been replaced by Lossl (who will never, ever start on my FPL team...like, never).
Lastly, let’s turn our thoughts to the rest of the Premier League, specifically thinking about both recent performances as well as the upcoming three or four matches. Who are you considering bringing aboard now or in the near future? Equally as important: who are you looking to drop from your clubs? Joanna, let’s hear your thoughts.
My defense and midfield could use a facelift, but I’ve been so focused on shuffling out my injured forward line in the last few GW’s that I’m losing ground on some of the stars. If you still don’t have Southampton defenders, I’d recommend one for at least the next four gameweeks, as they play Newcastle, West Brom, Brighton, and Burnley (I have had Yoshida all season and have been pleased). City defenders also look like good investments, so I’d probably look to pick up Stones (for his price tag, compared to his teammates). Sterling, Sane, Silva, and Salah are all on my radar for midfield. I definitely want to watch for Morata and Aguero returning, and Jesus will likely make way for them if they return to form.
I’m probably moving out Hegazi to capture his early-season price increases before he starts to fall, as WBA enter a difficult stretch. Thanks for the memories, Ahmed; you were a pleasant surprise. Carroll (SWA) and Oriol Romeu (SOU) have been in my squad since the start as two 4.5 midfielders (to free up funds for my supercharged forward line), but they have been steadily-disappointing, 2-points-a-week budget mids. The lack of standout budget mids is a real problem this season. I’ve been desperate to move them out for weeks, but can’t find a way to replace them without bringing in equally-disappointing mid-price midfielders at the sacrifice of my better, expensive players elsewhere.
The teams that currently stand out from an FPL perspective over the next few weeks are Man City & Chelsea. However, they both currently have injury doubts to their main FPL points scorers with Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Morata sidelined for "unknown" periods. I've mentioned the alternative attacking options that I've considered at Chelsea (see above) but it would also be wise to consider defenders, who are proving to be a valuable source for FPL returns this season. Marcos Alonso set the trend for the now fashionable wing-back position, and with good reason too. He gets the benefit of cleansheet points, but spends most of his time in the oppents half of the pitch attacking the left wing channel, and taking set pieces, what's not to love!? From a City perspective, I'd consider Gabriel Jesus as a viable alternative to Sergio Aguero, but with a buyer beware tag on his minutes as Pep manages his sqaud for the Champions League.
In terms of who I'm looking to drop, Henrikh Mkhitaryan could be on borrowed time with United's fixture list stiffening. The Armenian's creative output has tailed off in the last couple of weeks, and annoyingly, he seems to be the player to be substituted first to make way for the late game impact of Martial/Lingard/Rashford far too often for my liking. In fact, he hasn't completed a full 90 minutes to date in the Premier League this season.
I picked up Nathan Redmond in my GW5 wildcard and NOW is his time to bring me points. Four fixtures (3 at St Mary's) against middling sides. His advanced FPL metrics have been solid but he's registered 0 goals and 1 assist in seven games. It's either points or the heave-ho for this saint.
Players I'm keeping my eyes on are Rashford, Richarlison and Shaqiri. And absolutely no one on Arsenal.
I don't really have much to add to that, you all pretty much crushed it. Tim, I'm all aboard the Richarlison bandwagon myself - the kid has some real talent, and barring injury or severe regression, he's pretty much a lock for me during Watford's favorable stretch from Gameweeks 10-13.
Well gang, that about wraps it up for the third edition of the SoccerCaptains FPL RoundTable! As always, many thanks for taking the time to shoot the breeze during this international break. Personally, it’s been a welcome distraction following the United States’ disastrous finish to the World Cup Qualifiers. Any last shoutouts before we sign off?
One more sleep… AND THE INTERNATIONAL BREAK IS OVER!
With United's run of soft fixtures ending, Spurs not yet solving their Wembley bugaboo, and Chelsea managing a Morata outage, the stage is set for Man City to put their foot down and stretch an October cushion above the Prem table. The "typical City" in all City fans will recall that this time last year is when City faded hard from their early push. But this is 100% Pep's team now and I fully expect City to run rampant over the next 4-6 weeks.
I will need that type of joy to recover from the USA Soccer debacle.
Taylor Twellman, for this epic addition to the genre of sports rants.
And that'll do it! Thanks again to our FPL braintrust for participating, we'll see you during the November international break!