I have three words for you -- they should be "Sorry I'm Late", which I am, but that would only be second choice. A combination of a busy week, waiting on press conferences to get the latest injury news to assist this column and questionable fitness for yours truly has led to a late edition of this week's player rankings. Hopefully, those in the Western hemisphere are still up late enough to read this while those on the other side of the Prime Meridian will be up early enough to make use of it. But, I am already drifting off on a tangent here. Those three words for you are:
North. London. Derby.
When Tottenham and Arsenal go head to head, it is always an event. For this Saturday, the rivalry is magnified all the more with what is at stake. Both sides are in a title chase and, for the first time in a long time, it is Spurs who are in the better position. A win by Arsenal will level the two sides on points, but Tottenham will still be above them on goal difference. Still, with nine matches left for each to play after Saturday, Arsenal not yet need worry about goal difference. A Tottenham win would see them top of the table - perhaps only temporarily as Leicester City play later in the day. Still, it would be a huge level of pressure on the Foxes if they know entering the match against Watford that they are now looking at a club above them in the table that even Claudio Ranieri himself labeled as the "favorites" to win the title. The opening Saturday match of this gameweek could not be more highly anticipated.
The midweek round which just passed was something of a bust across the board. The average FPL score was a measly 35 points. It was a typical green arrow week for me. Green arrows in every league but, like most weeks when I achieve that feat, it was due more to a worldwide bad gameweek than it was a monumentally good week for me as I only managed 43 points. The run of picking a bad captain continued for me. Two gameweeks ago, I captained Riyad Mahrez, who did nothing while Jamie Vardy got an assist. This last round, I flipped to Vardy, and the results flipped on me - Vardy came up empty while Mahrez got an assist. I say this to you know because I feel like I would be doing the public a service by revealing that, like pretty much every other FPL manager who owns him, I am giving the armband to Sergio Aguero this week. Make of that what you will but at least I can enjoy a bit of comfort knowing that if this armband choice goes bad, I am losing very little ground because of it.
Right, so it is a short and sweet player rankings presentation this weekend. Next round, I will have a full week to prepare but it may come to pass that only five matches are on. At most, there will only be six. Hopefully, you have already been planning ahead for gameweek 30 but, if you are reading this and are still looking at making transactions before the Week 29 deadline, you will want to consider prospects that are assured of playing in Week 30. Let's take a look at the fixtures for the weekend now...
Week 29 Fixtures
Tottenham v Arsenal
Chelsea v Stoke City
Everton v West Ham United
Manchester City v Aston Villa
Newcastle United v AFC Bournemouth
Southampton v Sunderland
Swansea City v Norwich City
Watford v Leicester City
Crystal Palace v Liverpool
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United
While the North London derby will easily win the "match of the week" award in reality, it could be a tough sled for fantasy purposes. Most managers in FPL have multiple Spurs and Gunners, and neither side looks to completely roll over the other. It could go 1-1 with goals from unlikely sources here, which is every fantasy manager's nightmare. I have a feeling Newcastle United will bag three much needed points at home, and will see some fantasy value there. Swansea and Manchester City both look tantalizing with home games against relegation sides that leak goals regularly, though the Citizens certainly didn't impress midweek like the Swans did. Liverpool have an aggregate 9-0 score on their last two league opponents. It will be interesting if they can continue to look dominate, as they have at times this season, or continue to be inconsistent and slip up again. It only took seven months, but Chelsea are now in the top half of the table and may continue their solid form at home to a Stoke side that has been mostly horrific defensively with the absence of Ryan Shawcross. The Saints could get back on a clean sheet run, hosting the Black Cats. Leicester have a tricky trip to Watford as they attempt to float at the top of the pool.
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. You will also see how 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
Virgil van Dijk
Matt Ritchie - Read more about him in this week's Bargain Hunter
So there you have it. The best of the best to consider for Week 29. Ben Dinnery already has his Late Fitness Check up, so be a good manager and give it a read before locking in your teams. Again, the moment this deadline passes, the fantasy focus shifts to a gameweek when at least eight clubs will not be playing, so it is never to early to start planning for it. If your team looks solid as it is now, you may want to save your free transfer in the FPL game. However, in other formats, you may want to make moves now to guarantee you have a full starting lineup for Week 30. For example, while I would have liked to hold Charlie Austin in one of my draft leagues, knowing he won't be available for Week 30 and needing to add another player that has a game that week, I went ahead and dropped Austin now, rather than having to fight the waiver battle early next week. Welcome to the club Max Gradel.
Good luck this week fellow managers, COYS (sorry, couldn't resist) and may your arrows be green.