With two weeks in the books, the Premier League is shaping up just like we thought it would. The top four looks just like what every prognosticator imagined, right? Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and, of course, Hull City...
Last week, I mentioned the Golden Rule of the Premier League - expect the unexpected. But, with the Tigers sitting third in the table, I may have to change the wording of the Golden Rule to "expect the impossible". Credit to where it is due though to Hull City. This positive start may be just what the doctor ordered. A major concern for their chances of survival this season was the lack of signings in the summer window and, with everyone aware of the instability within the organization, it probably has been keeping many potential helpful players from wanting to sign with the club. However, perhaps with a week left in the window, Hull can get a couple players in. Rumor has it that they are after Tottenham's Ryan Mason, among others.
It was another successful week for my FPL team. Perhaps I am reaping the benefit of naming my team "Tickle Me Elmohamady" as referencing a Hull player might be the reason behind my good luck so far. My first arrow of the season is of the healthy green variety. None of my players are currently injury flagged. And, because the team is doing so well overall, I do not have any players who are dropping in price with the exception of Dusan Tadic who has fallen .1m since the start of the season. The only thing I can feel somewhat miffed about is watching Etienne Capoue, who miraculously sits as the top scoring midfielder in the game to date, put up big crooked scores on my bench for two weeks running. But hey, I started the season with him because he had been getting forward in preseason. If anything, I can hope his price begins to soar and can sell him eventually for a profit. If he scores again this week though, I seriously have to consider a way to get him in my lineup. Perhaps in Week 7, when the Hornets host the Cherries, will be the right time to use my All Out Attack chip. The other chips in the game are best used for double gameweeks but the All Out Attack chip seems like one you play whenever the mood strikes and I think I may be in the mood that week to give Capoue a run out.
As we enter Week 3, we will have a two-week layoff for an international break immediately following the deadline. If you recall in my opening installment of this column, I had designs of playing my Wildcard during the break. However, I seem to have a nice little problem on my hands. The team I have built has been doing very well so far and I even have the luxury of two transfers ahead of Week 3 after saving my transfer from last week. I am not feeling any pressure at present time of playing my wildcard. Of course, that sentiment can change in a flash with one disaster gameweek. While I dodged a bullet by not having any Arsenal or Liverpool attacking players, who combined for seven goals in Week 1, neither side scored in Week 2, so I feel no pressure in buying from those clubs as of yet. It is still to early to make any bold statements about who is good this season and who is not, but I think the biggest takeaway from the opening two weeks is that a forward line with Sergio Aguero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a must until further notice. They take up a significant chunk of one's budget, but there are budget players performing at every other position. The top two keepers were 4.5m at the start of the season, as are the top two scoring midfielders.
In all, I am sitting on a 12k overall ranking after Week 2 , a rise from my 13k rank after Week 1, with the following squad that totalled 74 points...
Fuzzy's XI: Foster; Shaw, Amat, Kingsley; Ramirez, Tadic, Mahrez, Hazard; Gray, Ibrahimovic, Aguero (C)
Bench: Jakupovic; Stones, Capoue, Ashley Wiliams
So, with two transfers in my pocket, this seems like the right time to downgrade Dusan Tadic to teammate Nathan Redmond ahead of a promising matchup for the Saints at home to Sunderland. I still think Tadic will have more points over the course of the season, but the value seems to equal out given Redmond's cheaper price. The 1.3m I will have freed up then allows me to address a possible concern in the days ahead, the status of Andre Gray. If you are not aware already, Gray is in a bit of hot water after some foolish tweets that he posted to his account several years ago resurfaced and the FA is looking to give him some sort of punishment. Whether that punishment might include a suspension is yet to be known, but, considering Burnley have some tough fixtures ahead after being the only club to have home games in their first two gameweeks, maybe it is time to make a preemptive move. So the plan I have in place ahead of Week 3 is a bit of a maverick one - Tadic and Gray out for Redmond and Christian Benteke. Trust me, I know there is some risk in buying Benteke before we get to see him settle in at Palace. I blame the schedule-makers here though. To be at home to AFC Bournemouth is just about as good an environment as any for an attacking player. Palace then have Middlesbrough, Stoke and Sunderland after that. This is bit of a dice-rolling situation but sometimes you have to take a chance and go with your gut. With the rest of my club in good shape at the moment, I feel I can afford to give Benteke a try. Hey, if he looks terrible, I guess I will just have to bench him and give myself a reason to start Capoue for a change.
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
So now it is time to look at the players to think about ahead of Week 3. 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: Jordan Pickford - Sunderland look a mess defensively but keepers do not always need clean sheets to provide value in FPL. With Vito Mannone looking set to be sidelined a while, unless David Moyes goes shopping for another keeper, the 4.0m Pickford will be the man. If you want the cheapest of GK combos, you can have Pickford and Elden Jakupovic for 4m each as of right now. For the next five weeks, at least one plays at home.
Player to sell: Victor Valdes - He is set to miss Week 3 and, with the international break looming, it will give owners two weeks to think about dropping him. If they do, you could stand to lose .1 or .2 from your team value. If you are not happy with Valdes after the first two weeks, go ahead and sell now.
Player to hold: Thibault Courtois - A disappointing pair of 2-pointers from the premium-prices Courtois thus far, but I would not panic. Antonio Conte will make the Blues a better defensive unit and the Blues look poised to sign a star center back to help before the transfer window closes. Games against Burnley, Swansea and Hull in the next five offers some optimism.
Player to avoid: Wayne Hennessey - Steve Mandanda was given the start for the Eagles in this week's Capital One Cup tie, and, while that does not guarantee the French international will be first choice for league matches starting this weekend, it certainly makes Hennessey a dangerous choice despite a nice run of fixtures coming.
Player to buy: Scott Dann - Last week, I nominated Leighton Baines in this spot and I still think he is the best defender to get ahead of Week 3. But, Dann looks a solid option too. He has a nose for goal and it showed itself again with a goal this week during cup play. With Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, Stoke and Sunderland in the next four, he has a good chance for a defensive double - a clean sheet and attacking points combo.
Player to sell: Nathaniel Clyne - I am not too worried about Liverpool's attack in spite of a goalless affair with Burnley last weekend. I am more concerned with their defense. They have Spurs, Leicester and Chelsea over the next three. At 5.5m, Clyne should not be one of your three best options during that stretch, so don't hold on to a defender that expensive if you have no designs on using him. He's currently on 11.4% ownership.
Player to hold: Stephen Kingsley - Swansea's upcoming fixtures are murder and, with Neil Taylor back in the fold, Kingsley's starting gig is all but safe. So why hold him? This is for owners who bought him at 4.0m - you may as well hold for one more week to see if he gets one more price rise so that you can sell for a .1m profit. Currently, he is 67.4% of the way to his next rise, so it could happen. Get your profit and then cut him.
Player to avoid: Curtis Davies - Davies is an instrumental piece of a thin Hull squad and an assist/clean sheet combo last week sees him joint-3rd for highest scoring defenders. I simply think Hull's start is a fluke and reality will soon kick in. You will be chasing points if you buy now. Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea comprise four of the Tigers next five fixtures. Consider me uninterested.
Player to buy: Ross Barkley - Barkley looks like one of those athletes that rotate between very good and very bad seasons. This campaign, he is due for a "good" one and, so far, he has met that expectation. With very nice fixtures ahead for the Toffees, attacking coverage looks a solid play and, while Kevin Mirallas and Yannick Bolasie may offer potential for less money, I think you pay the premium for Barkley if you can. That said, Mirallas and Bolasie do offer an alternative if your budget is tight.
Player to sell: Gylfi Sigurdsson - Gylfi is FPL gold. With set piece magic and the ability to score from range, he is capable of scoring even on days when Swansea are clearly outmatched by their given opponent. Still, I cannot overlook a run of fixtures this tough, even for him. Away to Leicester, home to Chelsea, away to Southampton, home to Manchester City, home to Liverpool...I will wait until that part of the schedule is behind him.
Player to hold: Dele Alli - Alli owners had every reason to panic when they saw that he was fit enough to make the squad last week for Spurs but was preferred to Vincent Janssen in the XI. Do not sell just yet. There is little reason to think Alli will be on the bench again in Week 3 and Tottenham still have some good fixtures ahead. I may be saying it is time to sell if he does not haul in some points after another couple of games but I am holding for now if I own him
Player to avoid: Victor Wanyama - Many have transferred in Wanyama this week and it is a mistake. Not only are they chasing last week's points, they are buying a yellow card magnet who will only return 1 or 2 points consistently. That, and when Mousa Dembele returns from suspension, Wanyama has a good chance of being a bench player for Mauricio Pochettino.
Player to buy: Christian Benteke - Sometimes, you just need to take a chance on a situation with potential rather than sticking only to statistics. My hunch is that Benteke is motivated and hungry to perform for a new club and playing one's first league match with one's new vlub at home to Bournemouth screams opportunity. He could be a bargain at his current 7.4m price. There is a risk here but it is one I personally am ready to take.
*UPDATE - Alan Pardew has revealed in his press conference that Benteke "may start on the bench" in his first league game for Palace. So, this is NOT the week to buy him. Wait until next week, friends. As an alternative option, if you are hungry for a new forward, I still like Salomon Rondon for the next few weeks and, if you somehow have the cash to accommodate a more premium option, you could get that jump on Romelu Lukaku, who looks poised to start this weekend.
Player to sell: Andre Gray - You would think a goal and assist last week would create a market that would see Gray's price go up this week, but it is not happening. Managers are rightly concerned about a possible suspension due to Gray's ill-advised tweeting history. Not to mention, Burnley have some tough opponents ahead. Maybe he continues to play and can produce in these tough fixtures, but the market is allowing you to dump now without taking a hit to your value.
Player to hold: Jamie Vardy - I am sure I am not alone when I thought ahead of the start to this season that Vardy would not be able to produce the same way he did last season. So far, that has been true, but, I still think he is a goal-getter. If you still have him, you need to ride out the storm with Swansea and Burnley at home over two of the next three weeks.
Player to avoid: Enner Valencia - People may look to Valencia as a budget route into the West Ham attack as Andy Carroll misses out over the next several weeks. But, there has been injuries all over the map with the Hammers, so as a unit, I am not seeing the goal potential there. The international break will be one less week where you can get use of him while Carroll works his way back to health.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Sergio Aguero
3) Eden Hazard
4) Riyad Mahrez
5) 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. Be sure to check in as much as possible here at Rotoworld for the latest news, especially concerning late injuries that can crop up. 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.