Let's get down to brass tax folks.
FPL managed to do what I have come to expect. Despite my captain choice Sergio Agüero missing out of the squad, it was a solid round for yours truly, but I have no time at all to reminisce. We have one empty day between the end of one round and the beginning of another, and when this coming round is through, I will be scrambling to put together my Week 16 picks for Saturday's deadline.
Please, do not get me wrong. I love this stretch of the season. I think I actually benefit from having less time to ponder decisions. I cannot tell you how many times I made a solid transfer plan when a new gameweek starts, but by the end of the week-long buildup, I find another transfer idea that winds up shooting me in the foot. My gut and I, we have trust issues. Hopefully some therapy and counseling can allow me to trust it more.
Another reason I am happy to have a midweek round is it offers a chance to more-quickly release the grief of a derby loss. Yes, while my fantasy had a solid week, reality had to go and knock me down off my cloud. But, that is the beauty of having two ways to enjoy football. If one disappoints, whether reality or fantasy, there is a good chance the other can minimize one's misery.
So a huge midweek round that is bound to have plenty of twists and turns is upon us. Basic advice would be to make sure you are happy with your bench, because that should start to come into play more and more in the coming weeks. For instance, I currently have Raúl Jiménez as my first sub. While I may normally feel panic about benching someone who has been as consistent as Jimenez has been lately, I also take comfort in knowing it is quite likely one of my starters will not feature. In fact, that is why I am likely sticking with Aguero for this round and holding off a switch to Kane or Aubameyang until the weekend. Of course, Aguero may just start and bag a brace, and he suddenly becomes undroppable again. Or, Jimenex comes in. I can deal with that.
Hey, it's FPL - a league designed to subvert expectations. Right, so plenty to get to on a short week - let us dive in now for Week 15 have's and have not's...
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: Lukasz Fabianksi - Suggested him as one to hold for those that already own him. He returned a road clean sheet and now the Hammers have a lovely run of opponents - Cardiff, Palace and Watford at home; Fulham, Southampton and Burnley away.
Player to sell: Joe Hart - A bad defense can still produce an effective fantasy keeper, and Hart ranking 6th in points at the position is a perfect example. I would cash out in him now though. With Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal in the next three, I doubt save points will do little more than cancel out the goals conceded.
Player to hold: Hugo Lloris - Spurs with just one clean sheet in five and are coming off their worst showing, giving up four goals when the most they previously had conceded this season was two. Even so, the defense is starting to work its way back to full strength with Kieran Trippier nearing a return and Jan Vertonghen back. The latter is banned for this round, but I doubt it will hurt much as Spurs host the Saints. They do not play the likes of City, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal again until Week 28.
Player to avoid: Kasper Schmeichel - Don't look now, but Leicester have kept three cleanies in their last four matches. Very promising for the outlook of the rest of their season, but now may not be the time to buy it. A trip to Fulham this week offers a decent chance at a return, so that and current form could attract investment. However, once the Cottagers are done with, Leicester face Spurs, Chelsea and City over the next four rounds.
Player to buy: Patrick Van Aanholt - Palace defense has stepped up. Tested with a brutal fixture run, they finished strong, having given up only one goal in the last three, with Man United and Spurs two of their opponents. The schedule looks a lot brighter now and I see PvA as a strong buy before the big haul. He's had only one goal and no assists since Week 1, but anyone playing this game for more than a year know of his track record. When it comes to attack-minded defenders with an established track record, I go with the "He's due" philosophy and PvA is certainly due.
Player to sell: Manchester United defenders - Have you seen the FPL page recently? Of the seven United defenders who have scored more than a single point this season, SIX of them are injury flagged. The Red Devils shipped two to a normally-dormant Southampton attack, and we've seen them struggle to lesser attacks already this season. The club is a mess and I want no part of their assets.
Player to hold: Toby Alderweireld - Mauricio Pochettino decided to omit Alderweireld from the North London derby, but owners should not fear. The boss felt it justified to continue with the blossoming Juan Foyth but Toby should regain his regular role in midweek. He's guaranteed to with Vertonghen's suspension. But, more importantly, with the manager promising rotation during this busy period, at least Alderweireld got his rest out of the way and owners should feel confident he will be in the XI for several rounds before another benching.
Player to avoid: David Luiz - Luiz may not be the most popular name among defenders, even within his own club, but he does have a decent amount of ownership and is the cheapest route to the Chelsea defense. I have had a chance to watch him in recent weeks though, and he seems to be making a few too many mistakes. The Blues are not a shambles defensively by any means, but I wonder if the back four, which has been virtually unchanged all season, is due for a bit of a shakeup. My hunch is Luiz gets dropped, at least rested, in the coming weeks.
Player to buy: Felipe Anderson - Anderson has had three big hauls in his last four games, scoring four times in that span. His form is no secret now, but he still needs a bit of marketing in terms of fantasy. As mentioned earlier with Fabianski, the Hammers have a really attractive fixture through the festive period and I doubt the Brazilian is going to be rested anytime soon. Ride the hot hand.
Player to sell: Roberto Pereyra - Pereyra owners have enjoyed good value on their investment, provided they bought him relatively early. He was the star during those early impressive weeks for Watford but now we have seen a regression. Just 1 and 2 point returns in his last four games and now tasked with facing Manchester City this week, it is time to cash in. Both he and Ryan Fraser have a tough run of fixtures, but I think Fraser is worth keeping. He has several ways to get on the score sheet where Pereyra does not.
Player to hold: Richarlison - Just when Richarlison's was garnering massive appeal, he takes a dip in form, finding no attacking returns in his last three. Owners are likely kicking themselves for not going with Gylfi Sigurdsson instead, but I would urge Richarlison owners to stay patient for two more rounds. Everton play the next two at home against Newcastle and Watford. If he still hasn't paid off with those matchups, then you have my blessing to part ways.
Player to avoid: Raheem Sterling/Leroy Sane - Seems like I just set myself up for egg on my face when I dare go against a City option. My gut has been pretty good so far this season on the shuffling practices of Pep Guardiola. Both Sterling and Sane have been on a run of starts and, with three matches in eight days, the third being a big clash with Chelsea this weekend, this Watford match this week could be the opportune time to rest one of them. Of course, if you own either, you make no move and hope for the bench. There could be points had as a substitute. I just would not be buying. I would definitely buy for the week after one is rested, cause that should mean at least a few round of not having to worry about another rest.
Player to buy: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - PEA has caused me much pain. I had him in my Week 1 side and stood by while he returned nothing in the first three weeks. There was talk about him getting dropped at that stage, so I sold. Since then, naturally, he has catapulted himself to the league's top goal scorer, culminating in a big haul against my Spurs. So, I am personally not happy at all with this man, but I would be a fool to suggest there's a more sensible add at forward than him. In past years, even a player in great form might have been avoided for an extra week when they are faced with a fixture at Old Trafford, but those days are over. Playing United should not sway your decision. Invest and enjoy.
Player to sell: Álvaro Morata/Olivier Giroud - The Chelsea striker position has always been one to consider for fantasy purposes but the situation right now seems very uncertain in terms of a clear-cut starter. I have a feeling the pair will be splitting starts and whoever does start a particular match is highly susceptible to an early substitution for the other. I would ditch now and avoid further headaches.
Player to hold: Glenn Murray - Murray was on the bench in Week 14, so the alarms were going off for current owners. Hey, he's been doing the vast majority of his damage at home, so stick with him as he is certain to start this midweek home game, and the Week 14 rest is hopefully enough to keep him in contention for the next round this weekend with a trip to struggling Burnley.
Player to avoid: Alexsandar Mitrovic - Mitrovic is probably the most fantasy-relevant player that is currently sitting on four yellow cards. If you own him already, simply address a fifth yellow and suspension when it comes, but this is enough for me to look at other 3rd forward options during the festive period.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Harry Kane
2) Mo Salah
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 Tuesday night. Remember, some injuries are not revealed until just before the deadline, and there are usually a few extra surprises in this regard coming out of an international break. 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.