At long last, the final international break of the season is upon us… after which we have almost two straight months of uninterrupted Fantasy Premier League action! With us, as always: our good friends Hass, Joanna, and Tim. Thanks for dropping by, gang!
From the October break until now, we’ve had four more Gameweeks pass us by. How’d your teams perform over the last month? What notable roster moves did you make, and how did they turn out? Tim, we’ll start with you.
Three green arrows, including a kickass GW8 where I finished ~32k in worldwide FPL and correctly picked Gabi Jesus and not Harry Kane as my captain. One red arrow (GW10) when all my attacking players whiffed and I survived off of four clean-sheets from my defense.
Brought in Azpilicueta for GW10 and he's dominated with 20 points in just two weeks. Also bought Doucoure as a value midfielder, with no immediate payoff. Sitting on two free transfers for GW12 and mulling the next round of swaps.
Slow and steady has been the story of my team over the last month with my captain selections really inhibiting any chance of a top ranking score. Much of that has been caused continually backing Harry Kane with the armband, and overlooking the consistent Mo Salah who has been by far my best acquisition of the season.
I also fell for the charm of last season's FPL darling Marcos Alonso where Azpilicueta would have been a much wiser (and cheaper) pick.
I beat the average two of the last three GWs, so fantasy continues to be the only thing saving my season from abject despair, as an Evertonian. I grabbed Otamendi just in time for GW9’s 15 point haul, which made me feel a little better with the stinkers he put up in the last two GW’s (I had to check that he even played GW10).
Salah has been welcomed back into the fold, despite my reservations about owning the reds, and Choupo-Moting has been a pleasantly surprising budget performer.
I too have enjoyed green arrows three of the prior four weeks, although my 39-point effort in Gameweek 9 set me back quite a bit. I also took a beating in my second Copa match in Gameweek 10, which is quite unfortunate. Hopefully Captain KDB can turn my fortunes around this upcoming weekend!
Jumping now into our most popular subject: the Wild Card Chip! There are several teams, such as Liverpool/Chelsea/Everton/Tottenham, who are entering some very favorable runs of fixtures, while others appear to be entering much more difficult stretches. Is now a good time for managers to consider popping that Wild Card if they haven't already? Joanna, as the only manager out of all of us who hadn't used it yet during the last roundtable, we will start with you.
Of course, after I bragged about wanting to hold my Wild Card until this international break, I went ahead and used it for GW9. I probably would have been fine holding onto it, but my defense was sputtering, and that was around the time when everyone was trying to move three City players into their team. It paid off immediately (pulled in 68 vs. the 50 point average that week).
If I still had my WC, I might be tempted to hold it even longer into the holiday stretch of games. The frequency of matches up until January 3 (GW23) will be punishing on even the best of the FPL assets. I’d want to have it ready for a GW when injuries and rotation doubts came to a head, and the likelihood of fielding a full squad was in doubt… kinda like what I’m facing this week. Great.
IMHO, if you do activate your Wildcard in this stretch, having a playing bench is going to be key, as rotation becomes a threat for nearly everyone but the most locked-in players on the thinnest squads (hello Shane Duffy). Time to ship out the Mbembas, Grujics, and Hünemeiers.
My wildcard is long gone but if I had one, I wouldn't use until after GW12, perhaps even GW13, to see how starting selections shake out for the top teams. There's some ongoing rotation risks among some big teams and big players. Mane & Lallana returning to Liverpool will boost their attack but creates immediate doubt over player selection, especially in midfield. Morata and Kante are coming back into Chelsea's squad, which means less time for the likes of Pedro, Willian and Fabregas. United's attack is unsettled with the eternal Martial vs Rashford revolving door and Mhky's disappearing act. Pep's selection is always a dice game and if City stop averaging a dozen goals per match, FPL managers won't know which City players to favor.
Long story short, welcoming fixtures are enticing, but only when you can trust who will actually play. Save that wildcard until the Prem has settled back in from international hibernation.
International breaks have historically been a popular time to use the Wildcard as it gives managers time to really assess the forthcoming rounds of fixtures and also manage their squads through the injuries that players often pick-up on international duty.
That being said, we are about to enter one of the most congested periods in the Premier League calendar. That will inevitably lead to rest and rotation for a lot of players so it's vital that your Wildcard teams have 15 players that are getting minutes. There will be a week where Pep decides to rest his star men, or when Zlatan takes over from Lukaku, so we need a fully functioning bench to deal with the inevitable squad rotation of this stretch.
Great advice, everyone. The holiday season truly is a tough time to pop that Wild Card chip, given the frequency at which matches are going to be played (and injuries will inevitably accumulate) during this span.
Let's pivot over to injuries - always a popular topic during the international break period. What significant injuries do you think will have a major impact on the FPL game, if not your specific lineups? Conversely, are there any players returning soon that you have your eye on for future pickups? Hass, kick us off here.
Paul Pogba. With him in the side, United were able to overpower teams with his drive from the heart of midfield. Since his injury, they've struggled to recapture that same attacking verve, and it's had an effect across their entire attacking line. An injury to one of the Man City attackers (purely from an FPL perspective) may actually have a positive impact in terms of security of starts for the rest of the team. It would certainly help to end my weekly heartache of reading Pep's team sheet every week.
Looking at my squad, it's the defence that I have concerns about, with the ever-present (but always doubtful) Phil Jones looking like he might finally succumb to injury, ending his run as a budget route into the most frugal defence in the league.
Phil Jones has offered consistent defense points but his thigh troubles seem to be reaching critical mass. I watched him sub off in the England friendly and he didn't look too happy or mobile. Granted, Phil Jones never really looks mobile and "happy" is hard to detect from the face that launched a thousand memes. Regardless, the thigh is concerning and the imminent return of Marcus Rojo creates a rotation risk that will tempt Mourinho.
The other big injury is Toby Alderweireld. New boy Davinson Sanchez has looked decent in previous games and assuming he slots right into central defense, he could prove an immediate points-getter and possible differential star (owned by 0.5%).
I’ve been fretting over the prospect of an injured Kane ever since he went off holding his hammy after beating up on Liverpool. I’ve stuck with him for now, but at £12.8 he’ll be hard to keep with if he looks like he’s playing at only half speed, or benched. Everyone said he’d come back and explode against Palace and he definitely did not…
Aguero getting in car accidents and fainting on the pitch is not giving me a ton of confidence in my other power striker at the moment. No idea what’s going on with him, though he’s taken to Twitter to make sure Pep knows he’s ready to be in the squad this weekend. Managing City’s injuries, suspensions, and rotations has become a full-time job for me, but they’re just too damn good to ignore.
Pogba’s impact on United is clear, given how they’ve played without him, so I’m tracking his return. I’m not only thinking to bring him in, but potentially to bring Lukaku back. No one in that squad looks the same without Pogba.
Switching over to matters near and dear to our hearts: our favorite EPL clubs! I'm very excited for this one, as I'm expecting some red-hot takes from both the top and bottom of the table. How have your clubs performed, and what fantasy players (if any) do you recommend from now until the New Year? Tim, take the first crack at this, if you will.
The only question = Is it too soon to start wondering if this City squad can be the greatest team in Prem history? Pep's team is so good right now that even the default City expectation of impending collapse is virtually nonexistent. For sake of argument, I'll cast two immediate doubts before declaring this team as godly.
First, international breaks are notorious momentum killers, so let's see how City's form resumes against Leicester. Second, lack of depth in defense is an ongoing concern. If either Otamendi or Stones suffers a long-term injury or ban, is Kompany going to be fit enough to play? There's also no left-back over if Delph goes down. These problems might only exist for the next 2 months, as I expect Pep & Co to aggressively address this situation in the January window.
In terms of players, I will go back to my first bold prediction of the FPL season. KDB will finish as the FPL points king this season. Yes, I know he's expensive. Yes, I know he's playing more in a holding position. Despite all this, he's currently 7th in FPL points. And he's started every match! GET KDB.
International breaks are not so bad this year because they save Evertonians from the utter shit the blues are seeing fit to field. I said it last time and I’ll say it again: don’t own any Everton players. This is the first season I haven’t touched a Toffee in FPL. They can’t be bothered to play for their club, so how can you expect them to deliver on your squad? The shocking (and fun, but still incredibly ugly) comeback against Watford showed a slim glimmer of hope for the blues. I wasn’t even sure we could manage one goal, let alone three, so that’s something. But it’s still the same shitty band of mercenaries and kids who don’t look like they even know each other’s’ names, let alone the system they’re meant to be playing. Is there a system? Who knows.
We spent loads of money on total garbage. I legitimately enjoyed Sigurdsson at Swansea and Iceland, but he’s a £45m ghost. All the excitement and talk of our transfer business over the summer belied the fact that the players are shite and the system they were being squeezed into was haphazard, at best. Square pegs into road holes. A field of 10 defensive midfielders. The only one who escapes scrutiny is Pickford. Steve Walsh, the fabled director of football who put together the cup-winning Leicester squad, has to be called to serious question. Koeman’s time was up, good riddance to that ham hock. Unsworth “gets” Everton, has done a fabulous job for our U21s, but continues to make similar mistakes to his predecessor.
They can’t keep clean sheets, they can’t score goals, and they can’t fight it out as a team (Watford excepting), so what’s the point of them? I’ve never been so unhappy watching Everton, not in the darkest days of Martinez’s reign. In fact, this run has polished that turd so much I’m damn near nostalgic for the “phenomenal” defensive nightmare of Martinez’s last season.
The problems run deep, but I have to hope that with some more business done in January, we can see this year out just atop the relegation zone. I have to believe that. Everton’s spent the most seasons in the top flight of English football of any club (114). In the Premier League era, only Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea, and Everton have avoided relegation. That’s rarified company.
But the hard fact of the matter is that no team has a right to avoid the drop. If we can’t fix some of our many problems, we’re as much at risk as any team. History counts for nothing in the year-end table.
So yeah, don’t own Evertonians.
Over the last few years, I've been stuck in football purgatory with Arsenal. Consistently awful starts to the season, followed by a mini-recovery that ends with a loss to a “title rival". The lack of drive and ambition around the club runs deep, and that has resulted in these farcical scenarios that we're seeing with our star player's contracts being run down. We have a manager that is no longer able to keep competing at the top, but a board that seems to be too afraid to do anything about it.
From an FPL standpoint, I can't honestly recommend anyone at this stage. Our defence hasn’t managed a clean sheet for the last month, and our attacking returns have been split across the team as Wenger continues to appease Alexis and Ozil with starts despite them clearly having no intention to stay at the club. I've also watched on as our club record signing has failed to complete 90 minutes since Gameweek 1, despite being by far in a way the best finisher we have. Aaron Ramsey has provided some value over the last three Gameweeks, and if you must select an Arsenal player, I'd punt for his value at 7.0m.
Tim, I'm jumping aboard the KDB bandwagon with you. As of this moment, I'm making him my Triple Captain this week, in the hopes of propelling my team to a much-needed Copa victory!
Lastly, let's move on to the greater FPL universe. Any specific players jumping out at you that you're considering bringing on board? Equally as important: who are you looking to drop from your clubs? Hass, let’s hear your thoughts.
My squad is looking particularly fragile at the back, with both Phil Jones and Jamaal Lascelles looking like they'll miss out through injury, and Nicolas Otamendi ruled out after picking up his 5th Yellow Card of the season. I'm looking at Burnley & Bournemouth for defensive alternatives as they both embark on a strong run of fixtures, with Ben Mee & Charlie Daniels my preferred choices in those squads.
Further forward, Jesus' lack of minutes is a concern, but if Aguero's fainting episode with Argentina rules him out, I'll be willing to resist the temptation of Lukaku or Morata for another week.
For defenders, I wish I had the funds for Azpilicueta, who’s coming up on tasty fixtures and is cheaper/better than Alonso. Jones would be nice, too, but he always seems to have an injury concern, so I keep waiting on him only to have Mourinho play him regardless. Bournemouth has the best fixtures, so Daniels is back on my radar, though they have been less convincing overall. On a budget, Duffy is a sure starter, Brighton has looked pretty solid, and he’s a sneaky goal threat, given how far advanced he tends to get.
For mids, Sane has been so amazingly great since I decided to go for Sterling, instead. If Eriksen continues to produce such middling returns, I may have to swap them. Richarlison is clearly this year’s surprise budget star, and a holder of that title in previous seasons, Mahrez, has been sneakily in-form. I’d rather Richarlison at this point. Gross or Knockaert would also be great to have on my squad, given their consistent returns.
Finally, with forwards, I’d like to have Morata if I could afford him. Their fixtures look great, even if he’s still easing back. I think he’ll explode again in the next couple of gameweeks.
I suddenly have some red flags in my squad (as often happens over the international break), so I’m probably going to have to consider doing something about Atsu, Sterling, and/or Lascelles, who are all injury concerns. As I said above, Eriksen’s form has been less inspiring as of late, but I probably won’t have the luxury of dealing with him for several gameweeks, considering I also have an unplaying Hünemeier. So let’s just hope he comes good again. Now that I’ve said that, he almost certainly will not…. (do you see what Everton has done to my confidence?!).
I expect Doucoure won't be long on my roster. He's the Capoue of this season -- a handful of opportunistic goals to start a season, but not really playing in a position to get consistent fantasy points. Aaron Mooy is another value midfielder on my team who needs to be replaced by an option that gets more consistent chances. I covet many players but I won't bring myself to separate from either Kane or KDB or Eriksen in the foreseeable future. This leaves only Gabi Jesus as my high-priced player who might be replaceable, but his scoring rate makes that a hard commitment.
One possibility is a double swap where I replace Jesus with a City midfielder - either Sane or Sterling - and then fill the forward spot with a lower priced scoring option.
Players I want but can't afford at the moment include Wilf Zaha, Sadio Mane and Eden Hazard. I also like Aaron Ramsey's production - he's finding himself in all sorts of scoring opportunities lately - but I have less overall trust in Arsenal's consistency.
Joanna, I've been on the record about this in previous editions, but I'm 100% on "Team Richarlison" with you. He could be another sneaky, Odion Ighalo-esque fantasy performer for Watford this season.
Well team, that about wraps it up for the November edition of the SoccerCaptains FPL RoundTable! As always, your thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated - thanks for taking the time to chat! Any last shoutouts before we head out?
Being based in the UK, I'm used to being only able to watch "selected" PL matches live on TV, however, I'm away this weekend and subsequently found out that I can literally watch ANY game I want. Queue an all-day PL marathon! (My partner is going to love me for that....)
All you City haters...Get ready for a LOOOONG winter. Love, Tim.
Shoutout to the NBA, the most entertaining league in the U.S. As a long-suffering fan of Everton and the Giants, I’ve been looking for something to fill the black hole of sports enjoyment in my life, and it turns out the NBA has everything. Old news, I know, but let me have this. Just look at what Joel “Shaq with soccer feet” Embiid did Wednesday night.
Have to agree with you here Joanna, Embiid might be my favorite player in the NBA. The fact that he's also a meme legend only further elevates him in my eyes.
Anyways, that'll do it for this month; thanks to everyone for reading, and best of luck this weekend!!