It is Thanksgiving night if you are stateside, which means you may be reading this halfway into a food coma as you begin to question the choice of going back for a fourth plate earlier in the day.
Yes, Happy Thanksgiving and though I have many things to be thankful for, the only one I will mention here is that I am thankful that a third and final international break in the 2018 section of the season has come and gone. It feels like the moment the season gets into a flow, the international duties come around and stops all momentum. Well, prepare to flip the switch. Not only are we free of international breaks for a long, long time, the first of several midweek rounds is coming up just around the bend. We have a Monday-nighter this round, then only three days off before a Friday-nighter kicks off Round 14, and then the following Tuesday, just two days after Round 14 ends, Round 15 begins. Another midweek round comes again on Boxing Day and New Years, so all those prolonged breaks we suffered through in the opening months are about to be made up for in a big, big way.
So, before we dive into this week's picks, I have to address the elephant in the room going way, way back to the results of Week 12. I had teased in the previous column that I was toying with the idea of giving Mo Salah the Triple Captain chip with Liverpool playing at home to Fulham. In my mind, there was legit reason with Fulham's historically woeful defending combined with a fit and productive Salah. In the end, I quite literally flipped a coin and the coin said go for it. Well, the result was not as desired. Salah did have a return but when you play this chip it feels like anything short of two attacking returns is a loss. My side did well overall, and by playing the chip I had a round score in the top 20k, which gave me a nice bump in the ranks, but I know deeper into the season I will be kicking myself for not having that chip in my arsenal. Still, while there may be some regret, I do not feel foolish. I felt something was right and I went with it, and watching the match, Salah could have easily gotten that second return and made the move look positive enough. And, now that there has been a managerial change at Fulham, their defense can only improve so the tactic of picking on them for fantasy purposes may have come and gone.
As is usually the case coming out of an international break, there are a slew of injuries to look into, as you are probably staring at a squad with a yellow flag or two. Many times, the minor injuries are magically swept away once league action resumes, but as I have said before, while it is generally good practice to refrain from using your transfer early in a round, it is especially true for international breaks. So, hopefully you've held on to your one or two free transfers and can make a better decision as we learn more about the status of these players. I would wait until Saturday morning before committing to a move.
This will be addressed somewhat below but I feel it is worth pointing out up top - this is a very strange week in the transfer market. Usually, the problem I have in selecting a player to buy, sell, etc., is too narrow the selection down to one. But this week, in three of four positions, I am finding it difficult to see any standouts, both for adding and dropping. The position where I see the most benefit is in midfield. You may see Anthony Martial as my cover boy, and he is my pick of the week, but another advanced-role midfielder like Felipe Anderson or Richarlison are also trending big. So, by all means, take into account what I have provided at all positions, but if you need an area to focus on that is not obvious to you already, then target the midfield.
Right then, let's take a look at Week 13, as I serve up another slice of pumpkin pie...
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 - This seems a week, more than usual, to skip the keeper position for your transfer plans. None jump out at me as a buy that will pay off immediately this weekend and looks good for longer term. Ryan remains at the top of the list because Brighton still have a solid run of the next four rounds against Leicester, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace and Burnley.
Player to sell: Asmir Begovic - Begovic is the clear player to ship out at the position. First of all, he is injury flagged with a hand issue. If there is one part of the body for a keeper that even a minor injury should cause worry, that would be it. But, even without the slight doubt, the Cherries just have a nightmare schedule that includes Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool in the next four rounds.
Player to hold: David De Gea - When I say this is a week to ignore the position (Begovic owners with no second option excused), I really mean it. Yes, David De Gea, he of the 6m starting price tag who has kept a grand total of one clean sheet, none at Old Trafford, should remain in your side. As underwhelming as United's defending has been, the fixtures has me thinking the clean sheets they are due may come fast and furious. Home to Palace and Fulham, with a trip to Southampton sandwiched in between, over the next four weeks, I think United's clean sheet total will triple from one to three.
Player to avoid: Joe Hart - This pick has not changed from the previous round. I would also say to avoid the keeper situation at Fulham, because Claudio Ranieiri could go one of three ways, but I doubt anyone is looking to the worst defense in the league to fill the GK spot. Burnley, of course, have been poor defensively as well, but Hart has been relevant enough thanks to a penalty save and six bonus points in the opening months. The issue is the pending return of Nick Pope. Though the Clarets bounced back defensively in their last game, one would think when Pope is fit and the Clarets have their next poor showing, a change could happen.
Player to buy: Ricardo Pereira - Pereira has not been completely ignored in the fantasy community in his first season with the Foxes, but he seems to be pretty under-hyped to me. An interesting stat came across my Twitter feed this week - to no surprise, Marcos Alonso leads all defenders with an atttacking return (goal or assist) every 135 minutes. Benjamin Mendy is virtually tied but of course he is crocked. The card-happy Jose Holebas and injured Kieran Trippier are next in line, followed by Pereira. True, as a defender, his defending has much to be desired, but the gig is all his at the moment with Daniel Amartey on the shelf. Leicester have a good run fixtures, so even though their assets may not have been great of late, Pereira looks the best player among them to represent your fantasy team.
Player to sell: Southampton defenders - The way the Saints have looked in attack and the way Claudio Ranieri has approached Fulham's first game with him charge, it could be a 0-0 this weekend between the two, though I fancy Fulham to score. Ryan Bertrand is serving a ban and is not worth hanging onto because even if the Saints defense stops the Cottagers, they have to face Man United, Spurs and Arsenal in three of the following four rounds.
Player to hold: Matt Doherty - Did Alexander-Arnold owners hold last round like I advised? Hope so. Doherty owners need to listen up this time. Yes, the moment he became a must-have, returning scores of 12, 12 and 15 between rounds 5-8, Doherty's production has dried up, seeing no returns on either side of the ball in four straight. During the break, he is seeing more transfers out than in. Do not make that mistake. Wolves had to get through some tough fixtures. Yes maybe the best cluster of returns this season may have already happened for the Republic of Ireland international, but he is still a legit threat and I have to think over the next four weeks, where Wolves get Huddersfield, Cardiff and Newcastle, that a big haul is looming.
Player to avoid: Juan Foyth -What a fortnight it has been for Foyth since my last column - he has turned in Man of the Match performances for both club and country, an impressive feat for an established star, but jaw-dropping for a young man with little experience at that level of competition. It certainly bodes well for his future and with the array of injuries in the back for Spurs, he could well be called on again this weekend. But, Jan Vertonghen has returned to training and has a guaranteed spot waiting for him, so as long as Toby Alderweireld stays healthy, Foyth will be option three for two spots.
Player to buy: Anthony Martial - It is a very interesting run of fixtures across the league right now. Everywhere I look, there are these four round chunks where clubs either have three very good matchups or three very bad ones. In the case of the Red Devils, they are of the good variety. Martial is currently injury flagged but consider it a blessing as it will put potential buyers off. He has resumed full training and will continue to build on his sizzling form (five straight games finding the net) against Palace this weekend. Martial is looking fixture-proof at the moment and is fantastic value in the midfield.
Player to sell: David Brooks - The breakout for Brooks this season has been a fun story to follow. No one expected him to be as influential as he has been, and he has proven to be an excellent fifth midfield option at his cut rate price. But I fear he may go missing for some time. He was quiet in his last two games and the Cherries now have a brutal schedule that lasts a long time. Ryan Fraser deserves a longer leash because of his set piece work, but relying on open play goals from Brooks may be too much to ask. You also have Junior Stanislas trying to re-establish himself in the XI and, though Eddie Howe has used a formation that allowed for Stanislas, Fraser and Brooks, you have to think the kid will be the first to get dropped should Howe go back to his formation of old.
Player to hold: Eden Hazard - I will admit, things can go either way with this guy. When you cost as much as Hazard does and you return an average of two points over four rounds, it is hard to argue cutting him. Going on the road to play Spurs this weekend may seem the opportune time to do it, but I am personally keeping the faith. Sometimes these breaks allow players to get back in the zone and Spurs will not have their full strength defense. Playing home to Fulham just a few days later, you may wish you did not let him go. Though, if he blanks this weekend and midweek against the Cottagers, then it is time to replace him.
Player to avoid: Man City options - Has Fuzzy finally lost his mind? Perhaps. Here's the deal - current owners of Man City midfield options can by all means stick by their player, but if I am looking to find a new midfielder, I would not try and force a City option in there for the sake of coverage at the moment. The uncertainty of playing time is a factor but what makes me bold enough to advise this is that there are a ton of interesting options, mostly out of position playing forward, available for a fraction of the cost and no concerns over playing time barring injury. This would include the aforementioned Martial, as well as Felipe Anderson, Callum Paterson and Richarlison. I would pick from this mini-list before opening the wallet for a City option.
Player to buy: Sergio Agüero - I have heard enough of the arguments - He doesn't play the full 90, he barely gets an hour before he is subbed off, he is too risky to captain because of it...well, somehow he has managed to sit as the top scoring forward in the game. If anything, Pep Guardiola has been your best friend, managing the talisman's minutes so that he doesn't miss a start. So, despite being the most-owned player in the game, I still need to speak to the 2.5 million or so managers that currently do not own him. Get him in, and keep him in. Worry about your ten other spots.
Player to sell: Jamie Vardy - This call has to be double-checked before the deadline. Currently, Vardy is facing a late fitness test though the reports would indicate he is more likely than not to be active this weekend. He has gone five straight without and attacking return, which is unfortunate because Leicester are in the middle of a good run of fixtures. Of course, major events off the pitch in that time may have given him an understandable distraction. It is a strange week for transfers so, I will admit, my call on this is not feeling super strong. If you own Vardy and think it best to keep him, I understand. But his poor form cannot go unnoticed and I feel Leicester are capable of one goal at best in their trip to Brighton this weekend. So, long story short, I would wait for any follow up on his status before Saturday's deadline. Any hint that he's not 100% ready to go, then you have my blessing to sell. I will be joining you.
Player to hold: Alexsandar Mitrovic - In the last round, Mitrovic was my choice to drop, and I have no regrets on that call. Now though, with the managerial change, if you still happen to own Mitro, now I say keep him around. He may be a streaky striker that causes transfer headaches but if there was reason to think a positive streak is on the horizon, the arrival of a new boss may be the ticket. Fulham need points in a home game against Southampton. If Mitrovic doesn't look lively in this one, then we go back to the "sell" label for him.
Player to avoid: Salomon Rondon - Forgive me for picking on the Magpies, as I had Ayoze Pérez in this spot last time out. Well, Perez did nothing but Rondon exploded for two goals, making him the highest-scoring forward of the round. This is easy for me - do not buy into this one. Rondon is a physical presence week in, week out, but his nose for goal come in spurts way too few and far between. Even if he scores against Burnley this weekend, I won't consider avoiding him a bad call. You will know it was a bad move the day you go to sell him if you are brave enough to buy him. Raul Jiminez remains a far superior option in that price range.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Mo Salah
4) Sadio Mane
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.