How does that saying go? "If at first you don't succeed, try and fail miserably again", or something like that, right?
Welcome back to another week of FPL talk, specifically the traditional version of the game and, judging by the returns of managers I have seen reported on social media following Week 2, there aren't too many success stories to go around. If there wasn't a three-player maximum on ownership from a particular club, I think everyone is ready to fill their squads with Manchester United giants and Huddersfield enablers. Across the rest of the board, people's preseason expectations are not bearing fruit. These are the trappings of the early part of the season where we get acclimated with the overall look of every club in the league and the influence of individual players. There are a ton of 50/50 calls one has to make when building an initial Week 1 squad, and getting it wrong early can certainly cause panic for unlucky managers.
Personally, my biggest flaw was skepticism in United's attack. It was not a question of whether they had the talent, the pieces, to bully clubs around. The weapons were there. I was just riding the history of a post-Sir Alex Ferguson club, which, by fantasy standards, has been an underachieving side. In my mind, I figured, if this version of United is the real deal, let them prove it to me first and then I will fork up the premium cash. Well, as soon as Romelu Lukaku opened the season with a brace and I was sitting there with Harry Kane and Gabriel Jesus doing nothing in return, before the first weekend was over, I had to face the facts...I am not finishing #1 overall this season. That opportunity has likely passed me by. I would like to see who finishes on top this season when all is said and done. I am willing to bet they began the season with a captained Lukaku. Add in a benched Mohamed Salah, going Alli over Eriksen in a 50/50 call which has cost points and thinking West Brom were going to continue to look like the ineffective defense that we saw on display for the entire second half of last season has proven wrong. Perhaps Tony Pulis' new M.O. is to rack up the points to ensure safety in the first half of the season and then tank. Either way, I suffered a paltry round score that included a points hit, though most scores I had seen rolling in were in the 40s or low 50s. So if there is a week to see an XI filled with "1's" and "2's", I suppose this was a good one.
While I have plenty to stew about regarding my own side, including whether or not to activate my wildcard earlier than I would have wanted, I will save talk about wildcarding for my next column, which will fall during the international break and after the closing of the transfer window. That appears to be the customary target for using one's first half wildcard and talking about it then should be of use to more people. All I will say regarding the first half wildcard is - play it when you feel it. Yes, it is early now, but it is only one gameweek earlier than a great deal of managers will be playing theirs.
The week wasn't a disaster when it came to making some calls for you in Week 2. I feel pretty content with addressing who to buy and sell in midfield. If you had sold Kevin de Bruyne, which was by no means an easy call to advise in print, and replaced him with Aaron Mooy, well congrats on that. Mooy's cracking goal assured that all eyebrows have been raised, but hopefully I helped you get in a week early. He won't be scoring goals like that with regularity, but the occasional score and double digit assists would make his price tag too good to resist. I do apologize for advising to hold James Ward-Prowse. Mario Lemina's immediate inclusion in the Saints XI at JWP's expense came as a bit of a shock to me. But what may matter most is the concern in Manchester City's attack. With the role de Bruyne played Monday night, which admittedly was compromised when Kyle Walker was sent off, along with how Gabriel Jesus is looking, how the wingback formation doesn't seem to be providing width...City's attack looks discombobulated. When you consider the premium prices of their players and the lack of certainty week to week of pitch time for many, perhaps coverage from this usually-goal happy side is not vital.
Elsewhere, hanging onto James Milner as suggested paid off for owners, and I still feel he will find enough starts to keep him in the FPL conversation, especially if he is to make the bulk of those starts in a midfield role. Like City though, Liverpool have a slew of proven FPL commodities but a bounty of which to choose from and managers who are willing to shake things up in a moment's notice. Helping the Reds to a win and clean sheet and then getting the night off for the League Cup, I would suspect Milner will be starting somewhere in Week 3, though don't expect a clean sheet in the usually-high scoring fixture of Liverpool v Arsenal.
This will definitely be a week to study all results around the league. Normally, the first international break feels like it comes too soon, but after stumbling out of the gate, I am ready to capitalize on the chance to take a proper break, sort out the aftermath of the transfer window and remind myself why I cannot get enough of this game. So, on to Week 3 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: Ben Foster - Foster is destined to rise above his starting price of 4.5m and it has to be said that after two weeks and looking at the schedule ahead, Foster looks like the keeper to buy if you positively must use a transfer at this position.
Player to sell: Joe Hart - Will the Hammers continue on their current pace of conceding 3.5 goals per game? Highly unlikely. But, they certainly look vulnerable at the back and the notion that Hart cannot help but return value priced at 4.5m may be a flawed one.
Player to hold: All keepers - I still maintain you leave this position alone unless you are sitting on a team with no other concerns and two FTs, of which you want to use one of them.
Player to avoid: Kasper Schmeichel - The Foxes are coming off a solid performance in Week 2 which saw Schmeichel keep his first clean sheet of the season. I would avoid Leicester defensive options though, based purely on short term fixtures. Manchester United are up next, then Chelsea and Liverpool comprise two of their next three opponents. Even Harry Maguire in defense, who is looking extreme value at 5m, is worth waiting a few weeks before investing. Even if he rises to .1 or .2m in that timeframe, he is looking like a defender deserving of a 5.5m tag.
Player to buy: Phil Jones - They way United are set up, I am feeling more and more comfortable with the notion that, despite a plethora of options, Jones is nailed on at the back for league games. He certainly has done nothing in the first two weeks to think otherwise. If he can stay healthy, he could be a season-long keeper, and why not? 5m for cover of what looks to be the at or near the best defense in the league? Done and done.
Player to sell: Charlie Daniels - It has been a disappointing start to the campaign for the Cherries, with their defense particularly giving cause for concern. On paper, they look to have upgraded the area from last season, but so far, it is not playing out that way. The first two fixtures gave investors promise and it did not pay off. Now, the Cherries host Manchester City next and also have road trips to Arsenal and Everton in two of the following three. There are some much more promising 5m options out there right now, and their price is going to go the opposite direction of Daniels. Make the switch before you get priced out.
Player to hold: Jose Holebas - Ahh, the curious case of Jose Holebas. A notorious card magnet, Holebas surprised those that know him by making it through the first two weeks without a caution. Returning a clean sheet on the road in Week 2, following an assist on Opening Day, and perhaps improvement in the discipline department all adds up to positivity for him. And then, he gets suspended for Week 3 after getting sent off in League Cup action. Unless you have no viable third defensive option to cover for him this week, I urge you to bite the bullet and bench him this week. Watford are looking like a good source of production at a discount price.
Player to avoid: Maya Yoshida/Jack Stephens - If you already own one of these two Saint center backs, I am not suggesting selling, but you will need to prepare for the possibility that one of the pair' spot could be in jeopardy after Southampton went out and bought a challenger to the position in Wesley Hoedt. That said, there is no reason to risk buying the wrong one, especially when Cedric can provide cover at the same price without the question marks.
Player to buy: Richarlison - Assuming you have at least one of Paul Pogba or Henrikh Mkhitaryan and not wanting to repeat the name Aaron Mooy for the second week straight, I designate Watford's Richarlison as the midfielder to buy this week. While it may have taken an injury to Roberto Pereyra to allow Richarlison his chance, he has taken it and run with it. I have a feeling when Pereyra returns, it won't be at Richarlison's expense. He's a midfielder but plays a wing role alongside the main striker and will see plenty of chances taken and created. The Hornets are looking goal happy now, so take advantage while you can, starting with a tasty home game against Brighton.
Player to sell: Georginio Wijnaldum - Looking at ownership percentage among midfielders at the moment, the names I see from the top down all make sense for one reason or another. Either they are proven producers, have gotten off to a hot start, or are cheap and enable the unlocking of funds for elsewhere. The first name when I scroll down the list and paused was on Wijnaldum. There are so many options I'd rather have that cost less than his 7m tag and he is such a frustrating player to own, seemingly having three games a year where he collects about 70% of his production. Go for a cheaper option like Richarlison and use the extra cash somewhere else.
Player to hold: Matt Ritchie/Christian Atsu - If you went for one of these bargain Newcastle options, you have yet to enjoy any returns, but I would be willing to cling to the hope that both will have one or two nice hauls in the next four weeks, in which they get West Ham's shoddy-looking defense at home first, followed by Swansea, Stoke and Brighton.
Player to avoid: Etienne Capoue - Capoue scored in Week 2. Last season's minimum-priced midfield starlet has opened his account for 2017/2018. Just...don't. We've been down this road before, folks. Capoue is out to troll you.
Player to buy: Javier Hernandez - Before the season started, I pegged Lil' Pea as the only mid-priced striker option I felt confident including as my third forward option. After Week 2, I am ready to find a way to get him in my side. West Ham may be wildly inconsistent this season, but they have several attacking options who are capable of brilliance on their day. Chicharito only needs one of them to be on their game to take advantage and poach goals, much like he did from a rebound in Week 2.
Player to sell: Jermain Defoe - Perhaps the veteran isn't as nailed on for Eddie Howe as most of us would have thought when Defoe joined the ranks, but the fact of the matter is, he's only been a bench weapon the first two weeks and that simply won't do for an 8m option in FPL. Perhaps he cements a starting role soon, but tough fixtures allow you to wait for clarity on it. Maybe Defoe gets going down the road but I would hurry up and cut now.
Player to hold: Harry Kane - Yes, I mentioned Kane in this same space last week and yes, he failed to deliver. The curse of August, if we are to believe it, should continue this weekend, the final league game before September. My problem is, I refuse to buy it. Statistically, Kane is on the verge of getting the goals flowing, hitting the woodwork for the second match in a row in the Chelsea loss. Home to Burnley this weekend, you are asking for a world of hurt to risk cutting him now. And yet, people are selling...
Player to avoid: Shinji Okazaki - Goals in each of Leicester's first two matches and seemingly nailed on as a starting forward for 5.5m, why ignore Okazaki? Simple. You've just witnessed what will likely be half of his goal output for the season already. He has averaged four goals a season in the previous two campaigns and the 31-year-old isn't likely to suddenly raise the level of his game. Plus, he is notoriously famous for being subbed off after about 70 minutes...every week. Tough fixtures on tap for the Foxes makes this potential mistake easier to avoid.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
2) Harry Kane
4) Sadio Mane
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 Saturday morning. 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.