And then there were ten.
Ten rounds remain in our FPL season, though technically, we are still waiting for an eleventh round to end, At the time of this writing, it is 24 hours before the final fixture of Week 28, with Arsenal hosting Manchester City after the latter of the two took the Carabao Cup over the weekend. As such, this week's column has to navigate around giving advice on players from either of these sides. It is not fair to either the reader or myself to speculate about what to do with the likes of Raheem Sterling, who may or may not return from injury Thursday night, or Sergio Aguero, as whatever involvement Gabriel Jesus may have against the Gunners will be the crucial factor in that decision. So, it is best to address these two clubs immediately and to advise, as I always do, on holding off making a transfer too soon.
I would like to say that I follow my advice to a tee with every decision I face, but Week 28 saw me commit they very foolish error of making an early transfer. I wanted to make a double move, and I had just enough cash to do it, but one of the players who would be leaving my squad was set to drop in price on the Saturday night immediately following the previous deadline. It was two weeks between deadline and I realized on the eve of Week 28 that one of the players I brought in was not going to play and was already a doubt for the following weekend. So, a four point hit turned into an eight point hit. The round started off nicely, getting a good haul from Xherdan Shaqiri, but when all was said and done, Shaqiri's haul, minus appearance points, was canceled out by my points spending. The round ended with an overall green arrow, underlining just how important getting the captain right is, as putting my trust in Mo Salah once again paid off.
If you recall from last week's column, I was laying out the upcoming series of blanks on the fixture list in Week 31, with an eye toward making transfers in such a way as to get an XI out without using a chip. Well, considering the trouble I put myself in with my transfer blunder, I think I am set on playing the Free Hit chip that week. My rationale this time - If I were somehow able to field and XI without using a chip in Week 31, that leaves me with a wildcard and three chips to use it what would be only seven weeks remaining, keeping in mind that only one of these chips or wildcard can be used in a given round. So that would have meant four cards to play in seven weeks. It may wind up where I held too much for too long, and one of these chips get wasted or, at minimum, are not utilized to its fullest extent. I declare that I have been a good boy up until now, keeping my hands off of these handy weapons, but it is time to open one of these gifts under the tree.
Also last week, I emphasized how much sense it made to focus on Tottenham and Liverpool for players to bring in, because whether you are playing a chip in Week 31 or not, both sides offer solid fantasy options with in-form players and good fixtures, so if you change your mind one way or another, you are still in good shape to come out of Week 31 ahead. Well, with Spurs going through to the next round of the FA Cup, another fixture has been postponed in that week, bringing the total number of clubs playing down to eight. I must give credit to a reader who alerted me when this column first published that Tottenham were now out of the Week 31 picture, which certainly has me leaning much more toward playing the Free Hit chip in Week 31.
Right, so let's get into Week 28 then, keeping in mind that players from clubs who have a game in Week 31 are weighed more in my thoughts while those who do not play that week have less appeal.That said, if you are sure about playing a Free Hit or WC to deal with Week 31, then of the clubs who blank that week, Arsenal have a nice set of opponents. Consider a Gunner once their match with City, which by the way, as of this writing, could be postponed again because of weather, is over. They travel to Brighton next weekend, and then, with the blank involved, they have three straight at home to Watford, Stoke and Southampton. Arsene Wenger cannot afford a bad result from these fixtures. There could be tons of fantasy points on hand among the Gunners.
But I digress, we need to look at the coming weekend:
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: None - This is a Fuzzy first. With Tottenham's Week 31 fixture off, my initial pick of Hugo Lloris drops out of the picture and I just cannot recommend one this week. The keepers left that have a game in Week 31 do not offer many chances at a clean sheet. The one that may, Loris Karius, is one I simply cannot bring myself to recommend. I have to feel 100% about a keeper's job security and Karius is still only at about 75-80% for me.
Player to sell: Thibaut Courtois - Courtois stays here for a second straight week and it is easy to see why. Chelsea has the toughest fixture for any defense - a trip to City this weekend. They also have no match in Week 31 and then have to face Spurs the week after that. Courtois out, Lloris in.
Player to hold: Jonas Lossl - In the last seven rounds, Lossl has exceeded more than two points only one time. No surprise it came with the only clean sheet during that span. It is encouraging though that Lossl has five bonus points from the Terriers last two cleanies. There chances of getting their next one this weekend is very slim, but, they play and Week 31 and have a run of kind opponents after this weekend's trip to Spurs.
Player to avoid: Jack Butland - In reality, Butland is probably still kicking himself for the own goal he committed last weekend, but in fantasy, he is only a hero, amassing six points the hard way: three by way of stopping nine shots and three more in the form of bonus...mostly because of those nine saves. Yes, Stoke play in Week 31 and perhaps they can manage a rare clean sheet against the Saints this weekend, but, even an improved defense from the Potters is not necessarily a good defense for fantasy and as soon as this deadline passes, you will not be optimistic about what Butland does next against Manchester City.
Player to buy: Andrew Robertson - Last week, I backed teammate Virgil van Dijk, but seeing another solid shift from Robertson, further cementing his status as the regular left back, I wish I had reached for him. .8m less than VvD, Robertson has the chops to offer attacking returns, collecting his second assist of the season last weekend. A good shot at returning a haul immediately as the Reds host Newcastle this weekend.
Player to sell: Crystal Palace defenders - I nearly looked as foolish as I ever have last weekend, as the Eagles gave Tottenham problems and nearly escaped with a shocking clean sheet. Given the injury crisis they currently face, their performance was admirable. It is still a situation I want no part of, despite the fact that Palace play in Week 31. If you look at the defensive options for Palace on the FPL transfer page, the top seven scoring prospects are all injury flagged, with six of them likely not in contention this weekend.
Player to hold: Harry Maguire - This could be stubbornness in all of its glory on display here but I will go down with the Maguire ship that I boarded a few weeks back. He came so close on a couple of occasions to providing attacking returns last weekend, including a shot off of the post, but in the end it was another dud on the fantasy front. Four matches running, he is averaging a one point return. One. But if my hunches are correct, this is the prime example of FPL trolling managers into a potential meltdown. Sell now at your own risk but I am happy to give him another chance at home to the Cherries this weekend.
Player to avoid: Watford defenders - There were only two clubs who managed to keep clean sheets last weekend, Tottenham and Watford. While I fully support buying into Spurs for defensive help, the same cannot be said for the Hornets, who will likely attract potential owners after so few returns from the position in Week 28 and considering they have a nice matchup with a home game against West Brom this weekend. Yes, they play in Week 31, but its a trip to Anfield, which is probably, at best, one fantasy point better than having no defender at all. Also, they have a trip to Arsenal next weekend to contend it.
Player to buy: Xherdan Shaqiri - Shaqiri has been one of the rare players this season that not only paid off when I suggested buying him and has been paying off ever sense, but he was my transfer that week as well, so I got to benefit from my own advise. With his form continuing and Stoke having a decent matchup both this weekend and in Week 31, he should be a popular choice in the transfer market this week.
Player to sell: Alexis Sanchez - Has the move to Old Trafford severely cut the value of one of the league's most dynamic players? After seeing him in four league games now, I think it is safe to say the answer to that is an unfortunate "yes". In his four league games with the Red Devils to date, he has fantasy returns of 2, 5, 2 and 2. That is not acceptable for a midfielder that costs 1m more than the second-most expensive mid. Several managers took the plunge on the Chilean when he made the move a month ago, but now it is time to sell, free up some cash and work toward an optimal Week 31 team.
Player to hold: Riyad Mahrez - Mahrez returned to the starting lineup last weekend and he has been a popular addition since his appearance off the bench the previous week. He did not pay off against Stoke but he was certainly the focal point of Leicester's attack as we would expect. Keep the faith with this fantastic differential as I predict at least one major haul in the next two for Mahrez, with Bournemouth and West Brom the opposition.
Player to avoid: Brighton mids - The Seagulls may have had the most surprising result of last weekend, notching four goals in a PL match for the first time in their history. Points were everywhere, with Anthony Knockaert and Jose Izquierdo getting the most attention from the middle of the pitch. Consider investment here a red herring. While Arsenal and Everton, the next two opponents, are not impressing defensively of late, they will both be tough sides to handle the way Swansea was. Then there is the blank to follow.
Player to buy: Roberto Firmino - Forgive the multiple examples of repetition this week, but it is hard to look past Liverpool as an option for transfers, especially when it comes to the forward position. From here through Week 31, it is hard to imagine a squad without Mo Salah and Firmino. It is only a matter of whether to bring in a third Red.
Player to sell: Romelu Lukaku - Since Harry Kane and Roberto Firmino are must have's in my view, that leaves room for one more striker and it will likely need to be one under 10m. So the likes of Lukaku needs to be on the chopping block. Since the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, Lukaku's returns have been "OK", but below the standards I would set for a player of his price. So with matches against Chelsea and Liverpool followed by a blank, I would bid farewell to the Belgian.
Player to hold: Callum Wilson - It has been a rough couple of rounds for Wilson owners, as the striker has missed some glorious chances to add to his goal tally. The anger was palpable on Twitter, with shouts of "get out of my team" and "why do I have you?". I will say this. If you are committed to playing a chip in Week 31, you have my blessing to cut ties. With Jermain Defoe back in the mix, it makes even more sense. But, this is advise for those not planning to use a chip in Week 31. Unless you can sell him and still field an XI for that round with taking a points hit, you need to stick with him and hope for the best as long as he is remains a starter.
Player to avoid: Guido Carillo - Carillo dipped into attacking points for the first time since joining Southampton, providing an assist on a big equalizing goal in the 90th minute. The problem is, he was terrible for the first 89 minutes and, save for that one cross at the end of the game, he has been terrible since his arrival. It wouldn't surprise me to see Manolo Gabbiadini, who scored the big goal, challenge Carillo for a spot in the starting XI this weekend.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Harry Kane
2) Mo Salah
3) Roberto Firmino
4) Sergio Aguero (Thursday night match from Week 28 still outstanding)
5) Riyad Mahrez
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.