Week 11 in the Premier League was very unusual. How so? In the fact that nothing too unusual happened.
Manchester City whipped another opponent. Liverpool worked a draw in a marquee matchup with Arsenal. Manchester United and Spurs got wins against opposition that they should beat, but did so unconvincingly. Burnley's defense was once again exposed. But, what might be the most predictable outcome of the round came at the very end. I knew before I went to bed on Monday night how the Huddersfield v Fulham match would go. The Terriers with their weak attack, the Cottagers with their inept defense - something had to give, right? Well, it did. Huddersfield needed the points and they got them, without scoring of course. One goal in the match and it comes from a Fulham defender scoring on his own goal. What a perfect script for that game and what a good choice by me to not stay up late to watch it.
We are officially into the meat of the season, we passed the quarter mark with Week 10 and, by the deadline of the next round, we will be a third of the way through. This is indeed a vital stretch of the season when it comes to making your transfers. Most have already spent their first half wildcards, most of the dependable options are well-owned. FPL squads get to the point where there is a template with limited variation. Once we get into the festive period, navigating around a busy schedule, we then move into the season's second half and start lining up our chips and targeting double gameweeks. Again, this basic strategy will be adopted by the majority. So it is this stretch of the season, the next 6-7 weeks, that offers managers an opportunity to break from the template somewhat and take some chances on players who aren't owned by the masses and can help gain ground in the ranks. So, my philosophy at this stage of the season is - don't kneejerk. Don't spend your transfer(s) early. Be patient and pay attention to the form of players with low ownership.
Speaking of going against the grain, and I hinted at this a couple of weeks ago, this weekend could present a golden opportunity for those brave enough to play their Triple Captain chip in a non-double gameweek. Yes, Fulham is coming off (perhaps?) their best defensive display of the season, with only one goal against, and I've already poked fun at how that came to pass, but to think that they have any chance against the Liverpool defense could label one legally insane. This will be the third road game in the last four weeks for Fulham and Liverpool should be set to destroy them ahead of the coming international break. Yes, I will admit, I am somewhat married to the concept of using the Triple Captain only in double gameweeks, but I have also seen that strategy have mixed results while single fixtures like this, which scream massive points, do not even get consideration for the chip. Honestly, as of now, I am not going to play it...but I might change my mind Saturday morning.
Right then, let's take a look at Week 12, before I torture myself any further with the thought of playing the Triple Captain chip:
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
So now it is time to look at the players to think about ahead of Week 4. As a reminder, there are four categories of players which I feel are worth mentioning week to week when making decisions about transfers....
1) Players to buy
2) Players to sell
3) Players to hold onto
4) Players to avoid buying
I will also include later in the section, my top choices for the captain's armband. While I will consider every player from A to Z, you will normally find the usual suspects there.
Right, so let's dive in...
*Just as a reminder, keepers should always be the last position to think about using transfers for, unless there is an urgent need. So, when you see who I have listed here, bear in mind that my keeper advice does not carry as much weight as the outfield positions.
Player to buy: Matt Ryan - I backed Ryan ahead of his 11-point haul against Newcastle and his 10-point return against Wolves. He was left out of the conversation last week because I didn't see a positive outcome for Brighton's trip to Goodison. That turned out correct, as the Seagulls shipped three. However, Ryan shoots right back to the top of the list with form, fixtures and price all working in his favor.
Player to sell: Hugo Lloris - Spurs are coming off a win but it was not due to their defensive display. Facing a Wolves side that was scoring under a goal a game since the opening weekend, Tottenham conceded a pair. Clean sheets are going to be difficult to come by in the next few weeks. After a trip to Palace this weekend, Spurs return from the international break with a clash against Chelsea and then the North London derby. Now would be a good time to downgrade to a cheaper, more productive option and allocate the freed up cash elsewhere.
Player to hold: Rui Patrício - After making a big splash scoring 19 points between Weeks 7 and 8, Patricio's production has fallen off a cliff, totaling a mere five points in the three weeks since. With a trip to Arsenal this weekend, I can picture owners wanting to make a switch. Though I have little faith in returns for the veteran this weekend, a look ahead shows why you hold him through the break. In three of the following four, Wolves get perhaps the three weakest attacks in the league, with Huddersfield, Cardiff and Newcastle all lined up to get Patricio back on track.
Player to avoid: Joe Hart - With the way Burnley have been defending, I doubt there are many considering Hart for their sides. Still, he deserves mention here. Reports indicate that Nick Pope is targeting a return in December. By the time we return from the international break, it won't be long before he is back training. Hart's hold on the job has to be considered under threat with a fit Pope, though to be honest, I am not sure why Tom Heaton hasn't been given a chance yet. Any way you slice it, it is a mess at Burnley. They have three PL-caliber keepers but have forgotten how to defend.
Player to buy: DeAndre Yedlin - With most of us locked in with our premium defenders - at least a pair from Marcos Alonso, Andrew Robertson, Kieran Trippier and Benjamin Mendy - I find myself focusing more every week on the budget defenders. Newcastle defenders is where to find good value right now and, for me, I want the speedy Yedlin, who has some shred of a shot at attacking returns. Yedlin is fresh off back-to-back cleanies and even dipped into bonus last weekend. In their next seven, the Magpies get Bournemouth, West Ham, Wolves and Fulham at home. Trips to Burnley and Huddersfield in that time span also offer promise.
Player to sell: Steve Cook - I highlight Cook as he is the most-owned among the Cherries defenders, but really it is time to part with any of their options at the back. They took advantage of a nice run of fixtures, keeping three clean sheets in a row before conceding twice to Manchester United last weekend. That run of good form looks to be over, as Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool are all ahead of Bournemouth in the next five rounds. A switch to a similar priced budget option from either Newcastle or Brighton makes sense here.
Player to hold: Trent Alexander-Arnold - TA-A has a grand total of six points gathered from Liverpool's last five games. Of course, he was omitted from the XI in two of those weeks and naturally owners began to ship him out. The return of Dejan Lovren has not helped owners' confidence either, with Joe Gomez shifting into TA-A's spot. I still think at 5m, he provides value despite not being as nailed on as one would like. But especially this weekend, do not give up on him. Lovren was taken ill and missed last weekend, while Gomez is nursing an Achilles' issue as he attempts to be available to England over the break. Considering the fixture, home to Fulham which Liverpool should win easily, my gut tells me Joel Matip will make a guest start alongside Virgil Van Dijk, meaning Alexander-Arnold will be seen a right back, terrorizing the Fulham defense along with the rest of the Reds.
Player to avoid: Seamus Coleman - Everton are in good form at the moment, winning four of their last five league games. Coleman was a star last weekend, scoring his first goal of the season on his way to his first double-digit haul of the campaign. He has certainly been a fantasy asset in the past and perhaps can be again, but tough fixtures keeps him out of the picture for at least a few weeks, as the Toffees play two of their next three at Stamford Bridge and Anfield.
Player to buy: Liverpool coverage - I beat this drum a couple of weeks ago, urging owners to double up on Mo Salah and Sadio Mane and it was the right call, with both putting up a massive 15-point score. You probably also remember me beating the "pick on the Fulham" defense drum for several weeks running. Well, now the two thoughts merge into one potential jackpot of a round as the Reds host the Cottagers. It is simple, if you have Mane and no Salah, add Salah. If you have Salah and no Mane, add Mane. If you have both but haven't used the maximum three players in your squad, throw Milner in for a budget option. And folks, I cannot guarantee an outcome, but if you wanted to use this week to play your Triple Captain chip, you have my blessing. I prefer, like most, to hold it for future double gameweeks, but to dismiss the idea of using it this week entirely is foolish. It could pay off big and have more of an impact because it is a move that doesn't mimic the masses.
Player to sell: James Maddison - It is rare that I bother to advising selling a player that has already been ruled out through injury. Maddison seems a special case though. Claude Puel makes it sound like the Maddison will only miss the match against Burnley and will be available again following the break. First, I do not like owning injured players during an international break. It only provides more time for their price to drop and Maddison's price is dropping rapidly. Even without the injury label though, it is time to recognize his dip in form. I gave him another chance by advising to hold him last week, given the fixtures for the Foxes, but it was another uneventful shift for him. He has the talent to return to fantasy brilliance again, but for now, he is damaged goods.
Player to hold: Man City options - The main issue with owning a City midfielder is rotation, that we all understand clearly by now. What is also clear now is that, if you are willing to accept a benching every 4 games or so, City's options are still performing at a rate that makes those benchings more digestible. Owners may look at the derby this weekend as a reason to ship out, but this is not your average Manchester derby. I expect goals in this one, mostly from City, so seeing United on the schedule does nothing to lower my expectations from their midfielders. I can understand Riyad Mahrez owners tossing this advice out, as they would hate to hold him for a second straight non-start, but fair warning, someone like David Silva is more "due" for a rest.
Player to avoid: Richarlison - It took some time, but Richarlison now looks to be comfortable in his role as striker, as he comes off a brace against Brighton. Many will be bringing him in this weekend and I can understand the urge. However, this is a case of patience for me. With trips to Chelsea and Liverpool in two of Everton's next three, I am going to play the "wait and see" game and at least allow the Chelsea fixture to pass this week before buying.
Player to buy: Marko Arnautovic - I nailed it last week by suggesting holding onto Arnie, who repaid the faith from his owners with a 12-point haul, following a three round stretch of two 1-point returns and a non-appearance. Now, he moves into the "buy' zone for non-owners. Five of the next six opponents for the Hammers currently sit in the bottom half of the table. Arnie should provide returns of a 9m striker for a 7m price in that stretch.
Player to sell: Alexsandar Mitrovic - This feels like a trap because Mitrovic is due to wake up from the slump he is in. But if there was ever a fixture to cut him and not feel panic in doing so, it is this weekend's trip to Liverpool. The oddsmakers give the Cottagers as an XI very little chance of scoring at all, meanwhile we have seen a significant drop in his influence after his hot start. I would have made a point to suggest dropping him sooner, but I thought the three previous matches against Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Cardiff would get him back on track. As we know now, that did not happen. He's also one yellow card away from a suspension. It is time to move on.
Player to hold: Jamie Vardy - Perhaps it was a pick based in emotion as it was logic, but my advice to go for Vardy last weekend did not pay off...yet. Leicester are set to play their first home game since the tragedy that took place a couple of weeks ago. Even though there are several striker options in better form at the moment, I think Vardy will rise to the occasion this weekend.
Player to avoid: Ayoze Pérez - While I am in full support of defensive investment from Newcastle, I am equally opposed to attacking investment. Perez is coming off his best round so far this season, with his first goal of the campaign and maximum bonus. The latter source of points is surprising, considering he was a halftime replacement in the win over Watford. Perhaps being dropped for the match gave him a motivational boost that led to his match-winner, and that could translate to more production during these positive fixtures on tap, but I have seen enough of Perez to conclude he is not dependable enough, even as a budget option. Raul Jiminez and Danny Ings continue to be examples of players who cost even less and provide much more.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Mo Salah (Triple Captain option)
2) Sadio Mane
3) Eden Hazard
5) Harry Kane
That's it from me this week folks. Please, bear in mind much can change between the publishing of this column and the FPL deadline on Saturday. Remember, some injuries are not revealed until just before the deadline, and there are usually a few extra surprises in this regard coming out of an international break. Always try to refrain from executing your transfers for as long as possible to avoid wasting it on a player who turns out to have had a problem in training. That said, if you only have just enough money for the player you are looking to bring in and that player is at risk of rising in price, then sometimes you need to take a calculated risk and hope the fantasy gods will be kind to you.
Good luck, and may your arrows be green.