So THAT's what a green arrow looks like then? Oh, it has been so long. The shape is still the same, the color is still how I remember it. Has the pain and suffering of FPL finally passed me by for the season?
If there was one thing following perhaps the worst two-week stretch of playing FPL in all my years that made sense to me and probably no sense at all to anyone else, it was to not touch a thing with my squad. Yes, in the previous two weeks, I had dropped a combined 170k spots in the world rankings. For most managers, that kind of run would spark a major overhaul. Perhaps an four point hit, an eight point hit or even more was taken to fix what has been a bad few weeks for the average Joe. But I was not about to go down that rabbit hole. My players were fit, I knew, for the most part, that they were quality, and that the team was due to turn things around. And around it turned. I shaved 63k off of that 170k crater I dug for myself, despite having the unfortunate outcome of giving the armband to Philippe Coutinho. The first time I captain the Brazilian and it played out exactly the same way captaining Dimitri Payet for the first time last season did - they left the match early and will stay sidelined with a long-term injury.
Well, that was part of the beauty of saving my transfer last week. I can now make a double move that involves getting rid of Coutinho without spending points (though I have an inclination to take a -4 anyway. This is a time to feel optimistic. I have combed through the various social media platforms that discuss FPL and have read the horror stories of those that decided to give up on Sergio Aguero, Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Charlie Austin. They did the business for me.
My picks for last week were mostly spot on. If you bought my keeper, you got a clean sheet. If you bought my defender, you nicked a bonus point. If you went with my midfielder, you cleaned up with a 10-pointer. If you went with my striker...well, you at least freed up cash and hopefully felt a net gain with wherever you may have upgraded. Let us try to keep my form going, both with the advice I am giving and with the way my squad is producing, as we take a look at 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, it is pretty hard to look past the A (Aguero) or the Z (Zlatan).
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: Hugo Lloris -You will have to forgive me for being so bullish on Tottenham players this week, but they have such a kind schedule over the next four weeks, it is hard for me to ignore the fantasy potential at just about every position. Defensively, it isn't difficult to trust in Spurs, who are now level with Chelsea on least goals conceded on the year. So, when you see three home game in the next four, with Swansea, Hull and Burnley as the opposition, confidence in fantasy returns is at its peak.
Player to sell: Heurelho Gomes - Watford ran off three straight clean sheets between Weeks 8 thru 10 this season, but have not kept the opposition from scoring before or since. Add in the extra woe of an own goal last weekend, and there is little reason to have confidence in Gomes going forward. If you want a Hornet in the back, you get Jose Holebas and no one else.
Player to hold: Petr Cech - The Gunners have gone over a month without a clean sheet and that can start to make Cech owners, who are paying a premium price at the position, get a bit nervous. From what I've seen, Cech is still in great form, making some world-class saves in recent weeks. The Gunners had a couple of tough matchups in this recent stretch. Unless you have an extra transfer and you cannot think of another way to improve your team, just leave Cech be.
Player to avoid: Thibaut Courtois - Here me out, investing in Chelsea at the back is a smart move, probably a move that will prove good for the long term. All I am saying is, if you don't have coverage there yet, wait a week. The Blues travel to the Etihad this weekend after coming off another tough opponent in Tottenham last week. Allow this game to come and go and wait to invest in Courtois or a Blues defender starting next week.
Player to buy: Danny Rose - You may find it somewhat surprising, given Tottenham's excellent defensive record, that Rose doesn't even make the first page of defenders when looking at the top point-getters in FPL. Well, last week's suspension marked his fifth absence in 13 league games. Even Antonio Barragan of Middlesbrough, who has no goals or assists and only three clean sheets on the season, is ahead of Rose on points. Currently listen at 5.9m and bound to be back in the XI this weekend, Rose, who offers plenty of attacking threat as well, looks a great buy given Tottenham's upcoming schedule.
Player to sell: Christian Fuchs - Sometimes, I make a bad call. Fuchs a few weeks ago was one such call, though I am pretty sure most fantasy managers could have seen the same potential I did. Leicester appeared to be turning things around defensively just in time for a nice run in their schedule. Fuchs has done nothing with the opportunity. In fact, he nearly did less than nothing, scoring a total of one point in the past three weeks that included home games against Middlesbrough and West Brom. Now, with 3 of 4 on the road and the one home game against Man City, it is time to end this failed experiment.
Player to hold: Ben Gibson - Not much to be expected from Middlesbrough but those who stocked Gibson as a budget defensive option may have some brighter days ahead, starting with a home match against Hull this weekend. They also host Swansea and travel to Burnley in the next five, so there is hope for a couple of clean sheets before New Year's. The same is true for any Boro defender you might have, but I selected Gibson here has he has the highest ownership.
Player to avoid: Scott Dann - Dann dipped into attacking points once again, picking up an assist during Palace's loss to Swansea. The problem was the Eagles shipped five goals to an attack who had very little going for them. No defense has been as consistently abysmal as Palace has been this season. The other defenders on the team aren't even worth a second of thought for fantasy but, at this stage, I cannot even feel good about Dann when bad defending is eating into attacking points. The Eagles have three of four at home, but Southampton, Manchester United and Chelsea all sport solid defenses, so Dann's chances are limited on both sides of the ball.
Player to buy: Pedro - In truth, I would nominate Gylfi Sigurdsson here, but I had the vision to pick Siggy last week and I do not like to repeat myself. That said, if you don't have Siggy already, he makes a fine choice. Currently going for the same price and perhaps just a solid a pick going forward is Pedro. Six weeks should be long enough to provide confidence in prospective buyers that Pedro's spot in Antonio Conte's XI is safe. In those six starts, he has merely provided three goals and four assists, while the Blues are beating everyone. Perhaps Willian gets his job back somewhere down the line, but given current form and a price that doesn't break your bank, Pedro is worth adding despite a possible risk later on.
Player to sell: Raheem Sterling - It never feels comfortable to advise selling a player capable of a breakout performance any given weekend. But, it has been a long time coming for Sterling, who has now gone seven matches straight without a goal or an assist. Given the options Pep Guardiola has at his disposal and the emergence of Yaya Toure giving the manager another option to consider, Sterling's days as a nailed-on starter may be numbered. His removal last weekend on 56 minutes provides a warning of that possibility. Hopefully, you owned him for the stretch where he produced and he added a bit to your team value, but now you have to move on from him.
Player to hold: Robert Snodgrass - Snodgrass is the man who I brought in for Coutinho this week. I could have afforded Sigurdsson, but I wanted the extra cash to help upgrade my very cheap defense. Snodgrass rose many eyebrows by scoring three times in the first five weeks. However, many have since forgotten him, as he has only delivered one good fantasy haul since Week 6. Still, he offers what I want from him - literally, a poor man's Sigurdsson. You are still getting a comparable player in terms of set piece threat and the Tigers have a couple of fixture in the next few weeks where, considering he is the club's best scoring threat, Snodgrass should do some damage. One opponent is Palace and everyone scores on them.
Player to avoid: Leroy Fer - Considering the production he has offered for the price you can have him at, perhaps it is un-Fer for me to pick on Leroy. (Forgive the pun) Six goals to date from a midfielder that costs 5m is the definition of bargain. The problem is, I don't feel confident enough in him to use as a starter, and I can live with 1 or 2 point returns from 5th midfielders who cost less on my bench. It is the same problem as trying to properly use Etienne Capoue. Both of these guys are trolling us. Nah, I'd rather spend .5m more on a Snodgrass or Zaha, who I feel OK using in a starting role, or spend .5m less on a 5th mid bench-filler that only burns me on rare occasions, which, coincidentally Darren Fletcher burned me with a goal on my bench not too long ago.
Player to buy: Harry Kane - Spurs have gotten the difficult fixture with Chelsea out of the way and now is the time to make room for Kane in your forward line. While failing to score against the Blues, he still has five goals scored in his last five matches played ranging back to before he missed five league games with injury. The sky is the limit with three of the next four at home for Tottenham, with Swansea, Hull and Burnley the opponents. In two of those three weeks, Manchester City play Chelsea and Arsenal, so Kane makes for a nice captain choice over the likes of Sergio Aguero
Player to sell: Jamie Vardy - There is no Vardy party happening this season, at least not in league play anyway. Vardy is now on a nine-game stretch without a goal, though he does have three assists in that time to his credit. Last season, it seemed you could not go wrong with having either Riyad Mahrez or Vardy in your squad. In fact, having both was a good plan. These days though, there isn't enough attack from the Foxes to feed both mouths in fantasy and right now Mahrez is getting the lion's share of production. The Foxes have been generally poor on the road as well and have three of their next four away from King Power.
Player to hold: Salomon Rondon - Since Week 6, Rondon has only delivered beyond appearance points just once, when he scored and assisted for the Baggies in Week 12. That kind of run has caused plenty of managers to jump ship. While he does not appeal to me as a player to buy, I would feel compelled to hold the striker if I already owned him. One thing working in his favor is the return of Nacer Chadli, who should start this weekend after making a substitute appearance last week upon his return from injury. His presence will certainly upgrade West Brom's overall attack and create more chances for Rondon. Another reason to hold, two of the next three games are at home to Watford and Swansea.
Player to avoid: Divock Origi - With Philippe Coutinho out for an extended period and the usual question marks surrounding Daniel Sturridge's fitness, fantasy managers may be seeking a budget option to emerge from the Liverpool attack. Origi may just be that person. I think he is a great pickup as a free agent in draft leagues to see what he can offer in the coming weeks, but there is just too much risk involved with a coveted forward position to take a chance on him in FPL. I say this and would not be in shock if he bagged a brace this weekend. Maybe he will become essential, but I am avoiding for now.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Harry Kane
2) Alexis Sanchez
3) Sergio Aguero
4) Diego Costa
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 very late in the week. Press conferences from managers over the next two days may reveal news that can cause some of the picks I have provided to be reconsidered. 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.