The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. In the land of FPL, "often" is a massive understatement.
Last week was all about the exploits of Crystal Palace and Manchester City. Only 23 goals were scored around the league in Week 36, and nine of those were shared between these two clubs. That left 14 goals to spread around the remaining 18 clubs, leaving many of our attacking players empty-handed. If there was an All Out Defend chip, this would have been the week to play it. It was if that missed chip by Mo Salah in the early Saturday match set the tone for the weekend.
Getting back to planning, the biggest news to come out of the last round was the knock picked up by Romelu Lukaku. His injury is thought to not be serious, but with little left to play for in the league and an FA Cup final to prepare for, there is a very good chance the Belgian is rested for at least one of Manchester United's two games. For weeks, I had a double transfer set up that had cash in the bank to drop Ashley Barnes and Mo Salah for Kenedy and Harry Kane, giving me 11 starters with double gameweeks and no points spent. That would have given me a forward line of Kane, Jesus and Lukaku, a lovely thought. But, such is the case from week to week, Plan A has been squashed. Now I am considering other options. Some involve taking a -4, but perhaps it is worth it. Conversely, Salah's miss keeps him short of owning the league goal record. Had he scored against Stoke and reached the milestone, I would think his chances of being rested this weekend for Chelsea to be quite high. But, with the record still up for grabs, I think he is going to play. If Salah is playing and has motivation to score, how do you keep him OUT of your XI, double gameweek or not. So, perhaps Lukaku's injury will wind up helping in the end, being the reason I held on to Salah.
This is why I always stress to hold off confirming your transfers until the last possible moment. I think it is okay to risk an early move for monetary reasons in the early part of the season, but the later we get into the campaign, adding .1m to one's team value means less than nothing compared to getting the right players in and not accidentally bringing in a guy that pops up with an injury in training or one of countless other random events that turns a guarantee into a major doubt. So, as we head into the last major gameweek of the season, my advice is to be as disciplined as possible. One or two risky picks is fine, especially when you need a low-ownership player to help make any headway in the rankings. But, by and large, you want to have as many players who look poised to start two as possible as you can. If you are spending points this week, I am all for it. Every squad is a little unique but, in general, if you have a single game player, like a defender who has little chance of a clean sheet or an attacker with little chance of scoring on a tough defense, swap them out for a hit. The -4 is really only a -2 in these situations, provided the player you are bringing in is starting twice.
So, this week's column is pretty much a carbon copy of last week's, in that it will focus only on double gameweek options worth buying, but now it is a bit more up to date, where a player like Lukaku loses his appeal and someone like Marcus Rashford works his way onto the radar. This gameweek runs through next Thursday night, meaning we will meet again quickly to look at the final matchday of the season. It is all winding down very quickly, which always gets me a bit weepy, but thankfully this is a World Cup year. Plenty of exciting football, and fantasy, to come this summer.
SPECIAL TEAM BY TEAM THOUGHTS (for clubs with a Double Gameweek)
*As was the case last week, I am omitting Brighton and Huddersfield from consideration because their fixtures are very tough.
Arsenal (DGW: BUR/lei) - Arsene Wenger made several changes last weekend, which makes selecting fantasy prospects from their side a bit risky. Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan both picked up knocks and may be a risk to start both games of the double now. Shkodran Mustafi was a healthy scratch, which I like for the coming week. Hopefully, he got his rest out of the way. Also, keep in mind that the Gunners play on Sunday and Wednesday. Just two days off in between games, compared to Manchester United, who have six full days between games. With the injury to Lukaku, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang moves up to third in my forward ranks, behind Kane and Jesus, so there is more faith in buying him then there was this time last week.
Chelsea (DGW: LIV/HUD) - With two games at Stamford Bridge, the Blues have a chance to shine in the double gameweek. Their defensive options get a bump after collecting a clean sheet at Swansea last weekend. Willian, meanwhile, looks more of a risk of starting only one of the two, whereas I had more confidence in him the week before. The sneaky pick here could be Cesc Fabregas. Finding the net last weekend, the Spaniard has had a reputation for finishing seasons strong. Maybe not Harry Kane "three goals a game" strong, but strong and good value for his price. Forwards are off limits for me and I'd rather have two premium attackers from the likes of Tottenham or Manchester City than paying big for Eden Hazard.
Leicester (DGW: WHM/ARS) - Break out the suntan lotion because it looks like the Foxes are already relaxing on the beach following the 5-0 spanking at the hands of Palace last weekend. Despite playing at home twice, I am not confident in their options. The only one I can back is Jamie Vardy. I feel confident he will start both and I think at least one goal will come from the two. Otherwise, after that shambolic display, there could be changes made all around for a club with nothing left to play for. Someone like Kelechi Iheanacho could benefit, but it is a risk I will not go near.
Manchester City (DGW: HUD/BHA) - Between their production and the response by the market, we have to designate Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus as "must-haves" heading into this round. City seem determined to smash the single-season goal scoring record and, with two home games against promoted sides, we could see ten goals altogether. Triple attack may be a bit much, both in price and strategy, so if you have the cash for a third Citizen, I would get a defender, because at least one clean sheet looks a lock. Rotation makes it risky, but I think Nicholas Otamendi is still worth a spot on your team.
Manchester United (DGW: bha/whm) - Already mentioned in the opening, everything changes with the knock to Romelu Lukaku. If you have him already, definitely wait until the last minute to gain any potential info on his status. But, odds are, as much as it stinks to transfer out a double gameweeek option, he ties up too much cash and a crucial forward slot to risk keeping in my view. This does provide, however, an option in Marcus Rashford, who stands to benefit. Alexis Sanchez is a bit too rich for my blood but has potential to make us all look silly for not owning him. Paul Pogba enters the conversation after his recent performances, but his status flip flops too much for me to mess around with. If you do not have David de Gea as your starting GK, you are in a serious minority.
Newcastle (DGW: wat/tot) - The Magpies were red hot and then got the worst side in the league at home last weekend, only to lose and not find the net. That certainly gives their option a down arrow on the form chart, but I still think there are a couple of options that can serve as enablers to afford the big hitters elsewhere in your squad. For defense, I back DeAndre Yedlin and in attack, I back Kenedy and his sweet 4.8m price. Tottenham away may look like nothing but appearance points to be had, but as a Spurs fan I can tell you first hand, Newcastle gives us trouble. Could be some surprise points to go around.
Southampton (DGW: eve/swa) - Also playing away from home twice, but trending in a positive direction, is Southampton. They have all the motivation in the world, sitting on the wrong side of the relegation zone. The defensive setup with three center backs has vastly improved that side of the ball for them and that is where I would invest the most. Jan Bednarek looks safe after another week, representing perhaps the most attractive enabler at 4.1m. Dusan Tadic is in form on the attacking side, and is the forward-thinking Saint I feel is safe from rotation. The rest all have a chance for returns, but tons of doubt around them starting both games.
Swansea (DGW: bou/SOU) - The Swans are currently on the right side of the relegation zone, but only just, so they will have plenty of motivation between now and next weekend. If you are going heavy in midfield, Jordan Ayew is probably the best DGW option at forward for below 6m. Lukasz Fabianski is a solid keeper option if for some reason you don't already have de Gea. If Swansea are going to pick up points, I have to put more stock into their defense and would look at Alfie Mawson as a luxury pick but Kyle Naughton can suffice as a budget option. I thought the super-cheap Tom Carroll was re-established in the XI, but he missed the team sheet last weekend and is off the radar for Week 37, even as an enabler.
Tottenham (DGW: WBA/new) - This may be the club that decides how good or bad of a fantasy round you are going to have. Plenty of reason to believe in Harry Kane, who many have been waiting months for this moment to give him the Triple Captain armband. At the moment, the potency of Man City's attack has me looking at a triple captain there instead. Maybe Kane isn't essential. Christian Eriksen has provided just about the same amount of points on the season, for over 3m less. Heung-min Son and Dele Alli could easily end the round on two goals and an assist, but which one? In the end, I think you need to have Kane if you are protecting rank, because too many managers will be depending on him. Jan Vertonghen is the safe choice for clean sheet points.
West Ham United (DGW: lei/MUN) - As expected, the Hammers became Man City's latest whipping boys last weekend, but I am actually a bit more bullish on them than I was last week. First off, the away game to Leicester looks wide open. With Manuel Lanzini healthy again, he and Marko Arnautovic have a chance to score big against the Foxes. The second match against United is on Thursday night and the Red Devils may not put out their strongest side, having the final league game a few days later and the FA Cup final the following weekend. Arnautovic is a legit forward getting midfield points, so he is my top pick. Defensively, there is little confidence. I saw Arthur Masuaku as a potential enabler, but not after missing out of the XI last weekend.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
2) Harry Kane
3) Gabriel Jesus
5) Kevin de Bruyne
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 Friday night. 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.