Let us go ahead and nominate Week 23 as the best weekend of the season to date in the Premier League.
Right, perhaps you do not see it that way, but I do, so let me count the ways....
1) No early kickoff.
2) Covered HUD v WHM match, watched my midfield buy of the week, Manuel Lanzini, bag a brace.
3) Watched my Spurs dominate Everton, with a captained Harry Kane in tow.
4) Watched Arsenal lose.
5) Covered the match of the season, LIV v MCI, enough said.
6) Finished with my sixth green arrow on the trot and saved my free transfer as my attempt to turn a down year around continues.
Call me superstitious, but when everything goes right, I try to do everything the exact same way in order to keep up the good luck. So, when Saturday rolls around, I will be wearing the same clothes as last Saturday, eating the same foods, and checking my mailbox at precisely 4:08pm. Surely, this will help.
The season is flying by as we quickly move from the halfway point of the campaign to nearly the 2/3rds mark. Plenty of drama awaits before the current month ends, with the transfer window wide open, big name already on the move and more big names are heavily rumored. For that reason, I tend to be as conservative as possible with my transfers because it seems inevitable that I will have a week where having two freebies will be most useful.
Otherwise, the focus is beginning to shift toward blank gameweeks and double gameweeks between now and the end of the season, and how to navigate through them as effectively as possible. I still have all three chips in hand, along with the second half wildcard, so that means four of the final 14 rounds will be given a significant boost. That said, I have to be honest - I am still wondering how to make best use of the season's new chip - the free hit chip. I have a feeling it would have been best used during one of my horrific rounds over the first few months. At the moment, I am eyeing Week 28 for the Free Hit, when Arsenal host Man City and Chelsea host Man United. I think it makes sense to play it in a week when more than one fixture features two big clubs going head to head, but I am not sure.
What I AM sure of is that I am ready for more football. Let's take a peek at the landscape ahead of Week 24 then:
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: Kasper Schmeichel - I feel good about last week's picks, save for one in which I advised selling Schmeichel ahead of Leicester's trip to Stamford Bridge. Naturally, he goes out and scores 13 points, the highest among keepers. Clearly, the loss of their captain, Wes Morgan, did not negatively impact them and now with Chelsea out of the way, Leicester's fixtures are looking good. Three of the next five are at home against Watford, Swansea and Stoke.
Player to sell: Ben Foster - West Brom picked up a clean sheet last weekend, their second in four games, but I would not expect good returns from Foster or the rest of the defense for the next several weeks. Trips to Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea in three of the next four weeks offers little encouragement.
Player to hold: Jordan Pickford - No cleanies in the last three for Everton, but two of those opponents were Man United and Spurs. Keep the faith with Pickford, because Everton's fixtures improve massively beginning this weekend.
Player to avoid: Nick Pope - Burnley have recently announced that Tom Heaton has returned to training. As good as Pope has been, he will relinquish the job as soon as Sean Dyche deems Heaton fit. If you own Pope currently, you should be fine for a couple of gameweeks but it is too late to buy him now.
Player to buy: Kyle Walker - Despite conceding four goals and suffering their first loss of the season, Walker still managed to grab an assist for Manchester City. For some time, I didn't feel his price was a value, when Nicolas Otamendi began the season a million pounds cheaper. That gap has almost completely closed now, with Walker just .1m more than his teammate. He should be getting more crosses in over the next few weeks as City have a great schedule that includes three of the next four at the Etihad.
Player to sell: Burnley defenders - Punching well above their weight, Burnley has been my favorite club to follow this season, and the defense is the main reason why. That said, their clean sheet rate has slowed down a bit and I worry that, historically, smaller clubs like Burnley tend to see a great first half of the season turn into a humdrum second half. The breaking point is the fixtures - in the next four, they play twice away from Turf Moor and the two at home are against both Manchester sides.
Player to hold: Andreas Christensen - Christensen was providing serious value to those who bought in early, but appears to have lost his place after returning from a minor injury. He did replaced Gary Cahill last weekend, with the latter limping off and a doubt for Saturday's early kickoff. It is a gut call but I think Antonio Conte needed to find a spot in which to get Christensen back in the team and I expect to see him starting.
Player to avoid: Serge Aurier - It is looking more and more that Aurier is firmly ahead of Kieran Trippier in the pecking order and the Ivorian international tied for the fourth-best score among defenders in the last round. Still, I fear Trippier will find intermittent starts enough to give Aurier owners a headache. It helps looking past him when you realize Tottenham's schedule gets tough after this weekend.
Player to buy: Manuel Lanzini/Marko Arnautovic - Big self-pat on the back for nominating Lanzini in this space last week, as he bagged a brace. Arnautovic justified the extra .2m he costs versus Lanzini by playing a part in three of West Ham's goals. I have no reason to doubt them going forward, though I prefer Lanzini, so investment should continue to be thriving as the Hammers play three of the next four at home against Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Watford.
Player to sell: Alexis Sanchez - Most of you are probably aware that Alexis has one foot out of the Emirates already and that is why he did not make the squad last weekend in the loss to the Cherries. For those who do not know the deal off the pitch and see him unflagged, you need to know it is quite possible for FPL's most expensive midfielder to miss out once again this weekend, no matter what shirt he is officially wearing. It might feel like a tough cut, as many will likely buy him whenever he settles somewhere, but he's simply too expensive to have question marks.
Player to hold: Willian - It is a shame Willian cannot nail down regular starts for Chelsea, because when he does play, he is a fantasy darling. Another substitute appearance will have current owners looking to get rid, but this looks to be a round where he should start. Both Pedro and Alvaro Morata were sent off in the midweek FA Cup replay, making it hard for me to imagine Willian will NOT be among the Blues' front three. He should make an excellent differential this weekend.
Player to avoid: Tottenham mids - Attacking Spurs are a hot commodity this week, with Heung-min Son the second-most transferred player in thus far, but he, along with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen may not be worth investment, despite a matchup against Southampton this weekend that should yield some good hauls. My reason to avoid is the schedule immediately after the Saints as Spurs host Manchester United, travel to Anfield and then host the North London derby. Owning Harry Kane should be enough to get you through these tough weeks. No need to invest even more.
Player to buy: Sergio Aguero - Aguero remains the top forward to buy for me for the second gameweek running. As stated previously, the big appeal is the injury to Gabriel Jesus, meaning there should be less surprises with Pep Guardiola's XI. Aguero nearly blanked last weekend in City's first loss but still found an assist. While the loss may take the wind out of City's sails, I still think they will beat up on their next few opponents with back-to-back home games against Newcastle and West Brom the next two rounds.
Player to sell: Dominic Calvert-Lewin - It has been a breakout campaign for Calvert-Lewin but his fantasy value vanished overnight with the arrival of Cenk Tosun. Riding the bench the last two games, it is time to cut ties. That said, DCL may return to our thinking in the not-too-distant future. The Toffees' attack looked poor against Spurs and Sam Allardyce will need to juggle things if Tosun does not acclimate quickly to his new club.
Player to hold: Wayne Rooney - Speaking of Everton forwards, I would stay put with Rooney despite blanking and give him at least one more week to see if he can take advantage of the fixtures. West Brom, Leicester and Crystal Palace all make trips to Goodison Park over the next four rounds and odds are Rooney will return a big number from at least one of those games.
Player to avoid: Jordan Ayew - It can be very easy to overlook but Ayew is in the form of his professional career at the moment. He has found the net in three of Swansea's last five league games and scored again this week during the team's FA Cup replay. That kind of form and his budget price tag could attract buyers but just as his stock gives us notice, the Swans hit a rough patch in their schedule. Three of four are at home but Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester and Burnley will be difficult for a low-scoring side like Swansea.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Harry Kane
3) Eden Hazard
4) Alexis Sanchez
5) Sergio Aguero
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.