Week 13 was painful for just about everyone.
What goes up, must come down, right? So, for every manager that fell in rank after Week 13, there must have been another that rose in rank...or am I crazy? Perhaps I am, because if social media is anything to go by, seemingly every manager around the globe suffered a terrible round. Some reports of their worst round in FPL history. I would have joined in on that accomplishment, but I already had my worst-ever FPL week in Round 9. Between that round and this, my round rank was in the 5 millions. When you have a rank in the 5 millions, that is beyond simply good or bad managing, that is just awful luck. But no single act of bad luck can sum up the round like the story that was my transfer.
Last week, I nominated Jamie Vardy as the forward to sell, and I was in a tough position personally, because I owned him and wanted to sell, but the player I wanted to replace him with, Marko Arnautovic, had to get a tough fixture against City out of the way. I decided to reluctantly hold onto Vardy for one more round, have two free transfers for the next week to give me more flexibility, and then target Arnie. But, our staff is so good at doing their reporting, that it wound up costing me. Of course, I harbor no blame or ill will for the way things turned out, I can only chuckle at the complete absence of luck on my side. So, just minutes before the team news came out last Saturday, remember there was no early kickoff, injury expert (and I mean the best in the business) Ben Dinnery got the scoop that Vardy was dropped. I had two minutes to do something about it. With seconds to spare, I flipped Vardy for Arnie. The game was updating, I was feeling smug. Then FPL did what FPL does. Arnie blanks and aggravates his lingering injuries while Vardy decides to come off the bench, score the game's only goal and grab maximum bonus. A cruel game this can be.
So, in light of a downer gameweek for myself and many of you, along with the fact that we are about to enter a blitz of gameweeks during the next month and change, how about I waste no further time reflecting on a nightmare and focus instead on the sweet dreams of Week 14...
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: Martin Dubravka - I touted Dubravka a few weeks back, at a time no one was looking his way, and he has since shown to be of good value, despite a starting cost arguably .5m more than it should be. He is looking the best option for me if I was looking at the position this week, with five potentially lucrative fixtures in a row, three at home to West Ham, Wolves and Fulham and away to Everton and Huddersfield.
Player to sell: Alex McCarthy - If the Saints are going to ship three to Fulham, the festive period does not bode well for them. Southampton have to contend with Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal in three of the next four rounds, If you've patiently held on while addressing other positions, this would be the week to finally cut ties.
Player to hold: Lukasz Fabianski - Hopefully Fabianski owners had a second option last week, as a zero point return against City came as no surprise. If you wanted to cut him, last week was the time to do it. Have some faith going forward. Solid fixtures and a track record for being an effective budget keeper over the years, it should be a good month for Fabs.
Player to avoid: Jonas Lossl - If only Huddersfield could play the entire season facing promoted sides. They just came off a cleanie against Wolves, giving them three on the season, the other two against promoted Cardiff and Fulham. Those three matches account for 70% of the points they've earned in the table this season. In no other match this season has Lossl topped 2 points. That is bad. Nevermind his clean sheet, Hudderfield's fixtures, or his sub-4.5m price tag.
Player to buy: Trent Alexander-Arnold - If you missed the boat on Andrew Robertson, or if you want to free up some cash, now is the time to add Liverpool's other full back. TA-A is on fire now with clean sheets and attacking returns in back-to-back games. Is there some worry of rotation with him? Sure. But he has still found a way to be among the leaders at his position despite two healthy benchings in the opening months. No other defender in the top seven are nearly as cheap as him either. All others at the top are at least 6m and he can still be had for a mere 5.2m.
Player to sell: Arsenal defenders - The season so far has been meeting expectations for Arsenal, who are only a point off the top 4 in Unai Emery's first year in charge. I'm not sure anyone thought that their defense would be so ineffective in fantasy. Hector Bellerin is the only one among the top 30 in points, and that is barely so, Shkodran Mustafi, who has played every minute of the season, is the next best Gunner, and he ranks 40th at the position. If there was a time to finally drop one of these guys, it's ahead of the North London derby against a Spurs side in peak form, followed by a trip to Old Trafford midweek.
Player to hold: Fabián Balbuena - This may be a week when the majority of mamagers play four at the back, perhaps even five, as popular budget options like Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Ryan Bennett have good fixtures. So this may be a week to hold every defender you have. Balbuena is a good example. I have him ranked behind Wan-B and Bennett for the weekend, but, as alluded to above with Fabianski, the fixtures ripen immediately after the weekend. I doubt there will be many options as solid as Balbuena over the next month in his price range.
Player to avoid: Lucas Digne - Digne has proved a solid differential in recent weeks and current owners should be very pleased despite a tough derby fixture this weekend. Everton have two sweet home games after Liverpool, but then face Man City and Spurs back-to-back. If you don't have him already, you've missed the boat until after Christmas.
Player to buy: Leroy Sane - If you go out and by Raheem Sterling this week, I cannot question the move in the least. However, if you are like me (someone who has been without Sterling all season and now feels the burn) you may find you are only keeping pace with those that own him by getting him now. Instead, I want to roll the dice on an option that "could" match or even surpass Sterling's output in the weeks to come. With Benjamin Mendy on the shelf, I am hitching my wagon to Sane with an extra 2m left over instead. Seems almost impossible to not add one of these two heading into Week 14.
Player to sell: Lucas Moura - I am bullish on Tottenham and that makes me happy as a fan because that means they are doing well. However, you may have the wrong option still on your squad in Lucas, who was the best of their attackers in the opening weeks. Well, he was not to be seen in the drubbing of Chelsea, and that may be the norm going forward now that Christian Eriksen looks fit again as well as Dele Alli and Heung Min-Son back to their effective selves.
Player to hold: James Maddison - Whether you held on to Maddison through his one-game absence due to injury or bought him last week for his return to the XI, certainly Week 13 was rough as the creative midfielder was sent off. The good news is, his suspension was served midweek for the Carabao Cup, meaning he won't miss a beat of league play. Take away the dive that led to his second yellow and fantasy nightmare, and Maddison looked sharp. Hold on to him, it can only get better this weekend.
Player to avoid: Stuart Armstrong - I actually think Armstrong is a nice little hidden gem in the PL and, given the right situation, could be a popular budget midfield option. His brace last weekend certainly should solidify his playing time going forward, but he has a rather weak supporting cast and tough fixtures ahead to find a place on my radar.
Player to buy: Harry Kane - Despite scoring last weekend, Kane had only the 8th highest round score among forwards in Week 13, so not owning him didn't hurt much. But, with the way Spurs looked against Chelsea, and momentum carrying through their Champions League exploits, one has to think the Golden Boot maestro is capable of going on a goal explosion now that the preferred attack is fit and confident. I would not drop Aguero for him, that would make more sense for the coming midweek given the fixtures, but just about any other way to get Kane in has my consent.
Player to sell: Romelu Lukaku - Zero goals in his last eight appearances. That is simply blasphemous for a striker that costs over 10m. I probably told you to sell him a long time ago, so consider this a refresher for the few that held out for a return to form.
Player to hold: Jamie Vardy - So yeah, I said to sell him last week and he was dropped...only to come out and score from the bench and grab max bonus. Now that he was sold from my side, I have every expectation that Vardy will score six times over the six rounds, because that is the kind of slap-in-the-face season I am having. If you got him, don't let the non-start sway you. Vardy is Leicester.
Player to avoid: Josh King - After being absent for three league games, King returned to the XI and promptly got back on the score sheet, once again justifying his cost and making him a legit fantasy option. However, now is not the time to be buying him, or any Cherries for that matter, as they face the two best sides in the league over the next two weekends. In general, Bournemouth have an unfavorable schedule well into 2019. Someone like Ryan Fraser may be worth holding during this rough stretch but none should be added.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
3) Harry Kane
4) Eden Hazard
5) Mo Salah
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 Friday night. 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.