It's like riding a bicycle, isn't it?
FPL returned last weekend and it did not take long to be reminded how much fun and how much heartbreak this lovely little game can bring, week in and week out. For the most part, everything went as expected for me. Looking back on the advice given in the first column of the season, I am feeling pretty proud. Seeing many managers on my Twitter feed gushing about their scores, consistently in the 80's and 90's, put a huge smile on my face. Now, if only I could take better advantage of my own advice.
I will go ahead and get the horror story out of the way, because despite finishing my personal round with an "average" score, I am feeling very optimistic about my team selection. So the horror story was this - I was set to begin the season with Ederson as my GK1 and Pedro as one of my two 6.5m midfielders, along with Richarlison. On deadline day, a colleague of mine planted a seed in my head. With Heung-min Son's obligations for South Korea, Lucas Moura should be nailed on for the first several weeks of the season. I decided he was worth the .5m more than Pedro, but how do I come up with that extra bit of cash? Where would it hurt the least? In the end, I decided to downgrade Ederson to Jordan Pickford. I felt with the late signings by the Toffees, and already happy with their schedule to open the season, I made the move. Ederson and Pedro OUT, Pickford and Lucas IN. How did that turn out? Well, it meant 14 points flushed down the proverbial toilet.
Ahh, but as I said before - Fuzzy is in a good mood. I was not the only pundit to back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, but I am pretty sure I am the only one to go so far as to say he should be the most owned player in the game. I made the call that it was worth the risk to start with Trent Alexander-Arnold but also urged investment in Andy Robertson. Both are looking like defenders to keep all season long. Yes, some picks came up empty, but from the game footage I watched, none of the picks that flopped have me worried. One week does not a season make. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang WILL finish the season with more goals than Roberto Pereyra...I promise.
Anyway, with Week 2 upon us, we return to the column format that was in place for most of last season. Going position by position, allow me to put the spotlight on players worth buying, selling holding and avoiding...
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: Ederson - Just to make it clear, I see no good in spending a transfer at this position heading into Week 2. There are too many outfield players to consider, and you only can bring one in for free. If you insist though, look no further than Ederson. City look to rack up clean sheets for many weeks to come. He will outscore whoever you have in now. Just try to wait another week or so unless your outfield is perfect.
Player to sell: Bernd Leno - This only applies if your 2nd keeper is not a nailed-on starter. If you have a starting option as a GK2, I would wait another week. His price looks likely to stay as is through the next deadline. Otherwise, chalk it up as a bad idea to start the season and replace him.
Player to hold: Everyone NOT named Jonas Lossl and Bernd Leno - You have the scoop on Leno. The only other keeper conundrum is at Huddersfield, where thought-to-be-first-choice Jonas Lossl was eclipsed by Ben Hamer. (I wouldn't say "Stop! Hamer Time!" just yet folks). Other than that, I frankly do not care who your keeper is and how disappointed you are that they returned only a point. Too many important moves to make at other positions.
Player to avoid: Joe Hart - Burnley's keeper situation is a tricky one. They have three legit options that can succeed if given the gig. Problem is, one of them is the club captain with a small injury, one was the preferred choice last season but has a long-term injury and the third is a new acquisition that has already kept his first clean sheet. What a difference a year makes. 365 days ago, Heaton was hands down the #1 and gunning for the England #1 job, Pope was just a name in the squad with no hype and Hart was unceremoniously exiled to West Ham on loan after being City's #1 for ages. Right, long story short - it's nice to think one can have access to Burnley clean sheets for only 4.5m, but I would guess Hart's chances of staying the #1 for long-term are super-slim.
Player to buy: Benjamin Mendy - I promise not all my picks will be this obvious, but in this case, despite returns from many a defender in Week 1, Mendy has to be the one to get. As mentioned with Ederson above, City look destined to pile up several clean sheets over the next two months. We saw Mendy's attacking might on display against Arsenal. Expect more of the same. This is a player worth spending 4 points on in a double transfer. He will pay it back surely and that allows you to own him before his price inflates more.
Player to sell: Luke Shaw - Not only do I advise against buying Shaw after his big first week, I am suggesting you sell him if you have him already. One condition - wait to sell until his price goes up once more in order to turn a profit for your team value. It may happen by Saturday. My feeling is, he and Ashley Young will be splitting time at left back and Shaw just delivered what is very likely his highest-scoring round of the season. So cash in.
Player to hold: Nicolas Otamendi - As it must happen, big names were left out of Pep's XI in City's first league game of the season. Otamendi's omission really hurt for those that invested. This is the reason Ederson and Mendy should be the targets for fantasy from City's back. That said, I would keep Otamendi one more week. He could very well come in and deliver the week you sell him. City players like this, it is better to sell them the week AFTER they start, because those players are closer to a rest/rotation. Remember this, Stones and Laporte owners.
Player to avoid: Aaron Wan-Bissaka - Say what, Fuzzy? That's right. Last week, I could not have been more clear that Wan-Bissaka should be in your squad. If you did not make a space for him, don't do it this week. The downside, he will cost you 4.2m this time next week, 4.3m tops. That is still well below the price he should be going for, as a clear starter on a mid-table side with attacking ability. So don't use your FT in a week where the Eagles play Liverpool. Do it next week.
Player to buy: Sadio Mane - An in-form Mane is one of the best visual treats the Premier League has to offer and the Reds had their attack flowing like a fine wine in their opener, with Mane moving all over the place. With his pace and good positioning, he will have several chances to score on a weekly basis. This is a bandwagon worth jumping on immediately. If a day comes where you wonder if Mo Salah is worth 13m anymore, dropping him becomes much more easy to cope with if Mane is there for coverage.
Player to sell: Pascal Gross - I did not have much love for Brighton prospects to begin the season, mainly due to a tough schedule. That schedule is even tougher now that Watford is out of the way. And the Seagulls attack did very little to trouble a Hornets defense who arent know for their prowess. Now, Brighton's fixtures turn brutal, with Man United and Liverpool the next two opponents. Drop Gross before his price does, which will likely be tomorrow.
Player to hold: Felipe Anderson - West Ham had very little to be excited about. Unlike Brighton though, the Hammers have some excuse. They had to contend with a well-oiled Liverpool attack at Anfield. Anderson played just over an hour in his PL debut, but those minutes should increase this weekend. Give him another chance in his home debut against Bournemouth. The Cherries kept a clean sheet in the opening weekend, but that was home to Cardiff. We should see reverse performances from these two sides in this matchup with West Ham showing what quality they have and the Cherries showing where they are vulnerable.
Player to avoid: Roberto Pereyra - Every season, there comes a big score in the opening weekend from a budget midfielder, sending investors into a frenzy. The odd thing is, that player seems to come from Watford every time. Yes, Pereyra is more prone to scoring than his defensive-minded teammates from the previous two seasons that started hot - Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure - but this is a clear case of chasing points for a guy who has eight total goals combined in his previous two seasons. Doucoure, as a comparison, scored seven last year alone.
Player to buy: Jamie Vardy - Riyad Mahrez is no longer around. Iheanacho gets the start ahead of you...and Jamie Vardy simply does not care. Word was the England legend was going to be left out of the XI for week 1. Well, we can easily pencil him in for Week 2. Vardy's consistency makes it very difficult to ignore him as a perfect FWD#2, as he is on an island with his 9m price. The better forwards worth owning are 2m more and up. The budget ones worth owning are 2m less and down. Roberto Firmino is the only one I find comparable and, now that Mane has become a need, it lessens my appeal for Bobby Firm. I am always looking for a player that I believe in enough long term, so that I do not panic in weeks he does not produce. Vardy is that man.
Player to sell: Alvaro Morata - Example of a Vardy-priced player that you should immediatley be dropping to get Vardy. I have no confidence in Morata to be consistent when he starts and, more importantly, I have no confidence he consistently starts. Olivier Giroud will always be a hearbeat away from getting the nod and, if Pedro can make a case to stay in the XI with Willian, then Eden Hazard could potentially give another go at a false 9 role. A match against Arsenal this weekend makes the drop easier for me if I owned him.
Player to hold: Too many to mention - Only one forward in the entire game scored more than 6 points in Week 1, no one scored as many as nine. It is safe to say, most managers were disappointed in at least one of their front men. Whether it be Sergio Aguero, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Romelu Lukaku, it is understandable that their price tags followed by no attacking returns equals "panic mode". Every week, the PL offers some strange aberration and the lack of punch from the strikers is the "Stranger Things" of the opening round. Keep the faith unless injury/playing time is a certain question mark.
Player to avoid: Callum Wilson - What a difference the 91st minute can make. After 90 minutes of action, interest in Callum Wilson for fantasy was non-existent. One stoppage-time poke later, he is the highest-scoring forward on your transfer page. I preferred Josh King before the season started and still do, projecting him at around a dozen goals while Wilson is a few behind. If you started the season with Wilson, good on you. I would not suggest a rush to remove him. But he is not a bandwagon I want to step on.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Mo Salah
2) Sergio Aguero
3) Sadio Mane
4) 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. 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.