So then, how did the Week 11 Halloween edition of fantasy Premier League turn out for you?
In the case of Everton investors, it was a severe case of trick or treat. Ross Barkley owners will certainly feel tricked after not playing a part of any of the six goals the Toffees put past Sunderland, whereas Lukaku owners are still on a sugar rush from the treat provided them. Of course, the sweetest treat of all was a triple scoop Ice Cream Kone, with an assist as well...almost like a cherry on top. As for the Black Cats, well, after a sixth straight Tyne-Wear win over Newcastle was followed by a two goal comeback to level that match with Everton, we were reminded quickly again how things have deteriorated there, like a pumpkin left out on the porch until Thanksgiving.
But not to worry Sunderland fans, nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain. I was about to say "a wise man once said that" but stopped short when I realized how much credibility I would immediately lose if I referred to Axl Rose as "wise". Let's just say "a good vocalist once said that".
So my thought heading into last week was that the fixtures were such that there would be points galore to be had for fantasy managers, but, outside of the crooked number Everton put up, the other matches did not quite live up to their potential. I felt especially "tricked" by Aleksandar Kolarov, who managed to get a penalty attempt, promptly miss it, and wind up with a rotten goose egg in my FPL side. Perhaps some Kone owners out there managed to break triple digits, but I wound up with a pedestrian 66 points.
Now this week, I look at what we have on tap, and I am seeing a polar opposite in goal potential. Many fixtures features either home sides that struggle for goals or away sides that are very good defensively. But remember kids, it is all relative. Perhaps you only score 45 points this week, but if the average is 42, you will survive. If my prediction is true, there are two things I think managers should keep in mind this week: 1) get your Captaincy choice right. You may only have one or two players to get you six points or better. Choose wisely. 2) I think it is a good week, depending on the look of your squad, to roll out four defenders in your starting XI. I feel more confident in clean sheets being the common theme this week versus goal-filled shootouts like Everton displayed.
I will go a bit further into depth on this talking point, but first, let's take a glimpse at this week's fixture list:
Week 11 Fixtures
AFC Bournemouth v Newcastle United
Leicester City v Watford
Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion
Norwich City v Swansea City
Sunderland v Southampton
West Ham United v Everton
Stoke City v Chelsea
Aston Villa v Manchester City
Arsenal v Tottenham
Liverpool v Crystal Palace
How crazy has it been this season, compared to what the common perception was coming out of the summer, that the best looking club playing at home this week for goals is perennial mid-table finishers, Stoke, playing against perennial title chasers/winners, Chelsea? Oh, what I would give to be a fly on the wall at a board meeting of Chelsea Football Club these days. A team as prolific as they are, playing as terribly as they are in the league, I cannot imagine any other manager not having been sacked by now. I have a hunch it may be the Special One's "special" contract, where he stands to make a mountain of cash if he gets axed. Manchester City and Southampton "should" fare well on the road, but I was expecting a bit more attacking muscle in both of their Week 11 home wins. Man United v West Brom...if there was such a scoreline as "less than nil - less than nil", this could be it. Leicester should be able to continue to score multiple goals, but Watford are the defense that been the most surprising thus far, given the talent at their disposal. It may be to Watford's advantage to LET the foxes score first, cause when Leicester trail, they always come back.
What follows are my top picks at each position. It doesn't matter what format you play, these rankings will help you figure out how players at each position compare with one another, and can help you on transfer decisions in the FPL.com game, who to start or bench in draft leagues, and who is worth putting up the cash for in salary-based leagues. This week, I have begun to highlight prospects that are especially valuable in formats like Playtogga, Fantrax and DFS, so that they are given the credit they deserve. At the end of the day though, nothing gets the points flowing more than goals, assists and clean sheets. So without further ado, let's get cracking.....
David de Gea - The irony that the MVP for the Red Devils to date this season is the one that had all the look of not being a part of the club during his "epic fail" of a transfer attempt over the summer. Three straight clean sheets, including a derby vs high-scoring City. At Old Trafford against a WBA side that could easily get blanked. A clear #1 option at the position this week.
Joe Hart - The Sky Blues finally conceded a league goal with Kompany on the pitch but I still like Hart's chances of a clean sheet on the road against an Aston Villa side in transition and sporting an attack without any consistent threat of scoring goals.
Simon Mignolet - The Klopp era is gaining momentum. I like Liverpool in home fixtures versus most opponents now, and that includes Palace who have plenty of attacking talent.
Jack Butland - This kid is something special. In my view, Roy Hodgson should be grooming him as the #1 for England come World Cup 2018. He was absolutely brilliant in Stoke's clean sheet draw against Newcastle. Chelsea does not scare me. Even if they score, Butland is going to get you some save points.
Maarten Stekelenburg - A clean sheet for the Saints last week should give the defense some confidence that the task can be repeated against a Sunderland side still licking their wounds from last week.
Virgil van Dijk - The top defender choice will always have a crack at point from both ends of the pitch and I think van Dijk is destined to come up with a nice score against the Black Cats.
Vincent Kompany - It isn't just the zero that Aleksandar Kolarov put up last weekend that keeps him off the list, it is also the return of Gael Clichy who should be fit for the first league match since returning. Kompany is the safer choice and can still grab those coveted Bonus Points.
Chris Smalling - He has emerged as a true defensive leader this season and, while not perhaps an attacking threat, is a good bet for a fourth straight clean sheet and possible Bonus.
Alberto Moreno - Since starting the last six league games, he has only one assist. No matter, the opportunities are there for more as he continues to get forward with regularity. Between attacking and defending, something good should come from one of the better value options in FPL.
Daryl Janmaat - The yellow flag next to his name in FPL shouldn't scare you off. By all accounts, he should be ready for the match against Bournemouth. The Magpies kept a clean sheet against a much better attack in the Potters and with the way the Cherries defend, Janmaat could be in the mix for an assist.
Marcos Rojo - Looking nailed on as United's left back choice these days, Rojo has three cleanies on the trot, one where he also assisted, another where he grabbed the max bonus points. Still can't believe I got him off the free agent pool last week for next to nothing.
Craig Dawson - Nothing about Manchester United's attack is putting me off, I have ranked their attacking options very low the past two weeks and have been proven right. A Baggie defender is essential it seems and Dawson is the best of the lot.
Ryan Bertrand/Cedric Soares - Back to the Saints for the next best option. There could be another slaughter at the hands of Sunderland this week and if goals are in high quantity, either of these fullbacks could get a piece of the pie.
Scott Dann - I am not convinced the Eagles can go to Anfield and keep the Reds out completely, but Dann always seems to be in the mix for a big day in non-FPL formats. (Fantrax & Playtogga special)
Jeffrey Schlupp - He is playing out of position on the attacking side of the pitch and it is only a matter of time that he puts up a monster score. Watford are tough defensively, but the Foxes are always finding ways to produce fantasy gold.
*Note - No mention of Arsenal or Tottenham options here. Advantage would be Arsenal as it has been in recent history, but Hector Bellerin is all but ruled out while Laurent Koscielny is dealing with injury and a doubt. Meanwhile, Spurs defense, while solid, have a tough test at the Emirates. Thinking a 1-1 affair is a likely outcome.
Riyad Mahrez - Any doubt as to whether this breakout superstar can get bottled up by a good defense was squashed last week at the Hawthorns. Get him in your XI and keep him there. He's currently sporting the armband in my side this week. Absolutely dynamic.
Sadio Mane - He can run circles around the best defenses so it is logical to assume he will terrorize Sunderland the entire match. Brace potential here and another armband choice.
Dimitri Payet - Last week was the first time in nearly two months that Payet did not score or assist. I don't think he is going to dry up. It was a one-off. Home to an Everton side that may have rejoiced in their goal explosion but still are leaving question marks in defense.
Dusan Tadic - I think the Saints have more dangerous attacking weapons than Everton do and you saw what the Toffees did last week to Southampton's Week 11 opponent. One assist seems the floor minimum for Tadic (Playtogga special)
Georginio Wijnaldum - This will be the third game since his four goal explosion. While I do not anticipate a repeat of his heroics against Norwich, a brace shouldn't surprise anyone against Bournemouth. Only his inconsistency is keeping him this far down the ranks.
Philippe Coutinho - Kneejerk reaction to his brace last week? Perhaps. Coutinho seems to score in bunches though, so if he is hitting form right now, it is time to ride that train till it makes its next stop. At home to Palace seems realistic enough to do something special again
Andre Ayew - Swansea look to be on the rebound and it couldn't come at a better time for Ayew owners as they get an attractive matchup at Carrow Road where Norwich are capable of letting a few get by them.
Kevin de Bruyne - Plenty of class to get a nice haul in any given week, I feel a bit more trepidation this week after City didn't dominate at home like I thought they would. Still. a goal or assist at Villa Park seems a reasonable expectation.
Mesut Ozil - Three double-digit point hauls in the FPL game in the past four weeks. Why do I rank him so low? Its a tough test in an unpredictable derby versus a good defense. You start him with confidence if you own him, this just might be a more quiet week for him.
Alexis Sanchez - Surprisingly not involved as one would hope in Arsenal's last two matches. Again, plenty of talent and always worth starting if owned, but the North London derby could be a defensive battle.
Gerard Deulofeu - Roberto Martinez likes to shuffle his options around but after last week's performance, it would be hard to imagine the skipper not turning to Deulofeu again. The Barcelona product has plenty of class to his game when he is right.
Santi Cazorla - In non-FPL formats, Cazorla is still a consistent points-getter. Continue to trust in him in these formats despite a tough matchup. (Playtogga Special)
Yaya Toure - Capable of helping in any format, he has been especially trustworthy in the Fantrax game and playing a fixture where he can certainly rack up the FPL points. (Fantrax special)
Matt Ritchie - There isn't much to be thrilled about in the Cherries attack, or defense for that matter, these days, but Ritchie's involvement with the dead ball is always a threat. I just get a feeling that he is due and a home game against Newcastle feels like the right environment for glory.
Jamie Vardy - Last week, I had the audacity to rank him fifth. Shame on me. If he can score at the Hawthorns, nothing can stop this man's scoring streak except for one thing - every streak has to end eventually. I will back him at the top until that happens. How can you not?
Grazaino Pelle - Can I pick on the ineptitude of Sunderland just one more time in this space? Good. You saw what the Everton forwards did against them. Pelle is pretty consistent and coming off a week where he scored. He and Vardy are my two armband candidates at the position this week.
Romelu Lukaku - Credit due to the performance of Arouna Kone last week, but if money is not an object in fantasy, Lukaku is still the man you want. West Ham should be more stingy in covering the outside but they will have a tough time containing Lukaku in the middle.
Odion Ighalo - All he does is outperform everyone's expectations every single week. If this match goes according to script, Watford goes up early with an Ighalo goal, then Leicester pull off the comeback win. More predictable than snow in Alaska.
Wilfried Bony - Bony went quiet against Norwich last weekend but I still think he has goals left in him before Sergio Aguero returns.
Christian Benteke - Starting tonight in Europa League action, it looks like he ready to return as a starter going forward. Had an immediate impact in his substitute appearance last week, scoring a goal and adding an assist.
Ayoze Perez/Aleksandar Mitrovic - I prefer Perez more in non-FPL formats, but both will be hungry for goals against a Bournemouth side that has averaged four goals conceded over their past three league matches.
Mame Biram Diouf/Bojan - These two should be the latest to exploit the enigma that is the Chelsea defense this week. Both could score this week, though I give the sight edge to Diouf as I think he will get more attempts. (Fantrax and Playtogga specials)
Harry Kane - I'm thinking this is a tight derby with an obscure goal from both sides. Maybe Joel Campbell who our Bargain Hunter resident backs this week, and another from Mousa Dembele perhaps for Tottenham. Still, with four goals in two and a renewed confidence, you roll with Kane against a Gunner back line that is having injury woes.
Olivier Giroud - Like Kane, Giroud is in form and would be ranked higher in most other fixtures. Still, I am sticking to my guns and banking on a 1-1 type final, where a defensive header seems as likely a source for goals as a more conventional striker connection.
Arouna Kone - I cannot omit him from the ranks after last week's performance. While I think the shift of a lifetime has come and gone for him, you still have to see him as a danger when he is coming off that amount of a adrenaline.
So there you have it. The best of the best to consider for Week 12. Where's all the Chelsea picks? Where are the United attacking options? What about Bafetimbi Gomis going up against Norwich? Form, my friends. Form, form, form. Last week, those weren't areas that paid off, and they didn't the week before either. It's been that kind of season where Eden Hazard, Wayne Rooney and John Terry - all who were top picks at their positions in recent seasons and in drafts this year, cannot so much as sniff the rankings. If there is one thing I have learned in my years covering the league though: when the tide rolls out, you can be pretty certain it will roll back in again. I have a hunch writers like myself will at some point be composing headlines that say "Rooney is back!" or "Hazard returns to greatness" at some point in the season. For now though, this storyline of this campaign is all about the talent that has emerged from the smaller clubs.
Good luck fellow managers, and may your arrows be green.