Sometimes, looking back at whether you had a good round of FPL or a bad one, it comes down to one simple question - "Did I pick the right captain, or not?"
Mo Salah decided how your round went. If you captained him, you had a great week and moved up in the ranks. If you didn't, depending on how the rest of your side got along, you likely had an average round, with a small shift in rank, whether up or down. And then, of course, if you don't own Salah at all, well, you are probably ready to put the last round behind you.
Looking back at my picks last week, I am ready to put the round behind me too. It's not as though I made a bunch of bad picks, it is just when one stands out, it is a difficult pill to swallow. Such is the case when I nominate a player to buy, especially at the forward position. Yes, I am referring to last week's touting of Raúl Jiménez, who was rested with a cameo off the bench in Week 16. Surely, level-headed readers would recognize it was a tough break. A rest that no one could have predicted, but only a handful of players start every match in a season, so no shock to see the rest when it happens. Hey, I did nominate teammate Matt Doherty at the defender position...I suppose it cancels out, much like my gameweek where I owned Salah but did not captain him.
You might recall that I played my triple captain on Salah already, going against convention for the first time when I used the chip in a non-double gameweek. I thought I could capitalize on the terrible defense of Fulham, but it was not the return I was hoping for. Still, last week's hat trick certainly proves that, with good timing, you can make the most of that chip in a non-double gameweek. I had the right player, I had the right circumstances, but it was the wrong time. Another lesson learned in the school of hard knocks.
Let us forge ahead how and look at the landscape ahead of Week 17...
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: Hugo Lloris - Want a piece of Spurs at the back? I do. Their fixtures are looking sweet into the new year, so I want to get some representation, but boy, their defensive isn't exactly settled at the moment. With injuries and stiff competition for spots, it can be a minefield right now. Kieran Trippier would be my front-runner, but he's not 100% at the moment. So why not go with Lloris? Yes, for a premium keeper, he has not been talked about much, but he did miss four starts due to injury. Going for less than his starting price now and cheaper than all defenders not named Juan Foyth, now's a good time to invest.
Player to sell: Mathew Ryan - No clean sheets in six for Brighton after they had a nice defensive spell prior to that, it is time to ship Ryan out. In the next three, the Seagulls get Chelsea, a very good Bournemouth attack, and Arsenal. But what makes this decision easy as pie is that Ryan will be away from the club in January to play with Australia in the 2019 Asian Cup. It will be awhile before he returns to fantasy relevance.
Player to hold: Jonas Lossl - I don't think I trust Huddersfied for clean sheets enough to invest in Lossl, who has a really fine schedule ahead, but if I owned him already, I would stay patient. Lossl has been near the bottom in terms of form at the keeper position, but the Terriers are set to embark on their best run of fixtures this season, so if they have designs on survival, they need to pick up points and with a pretty weak attack, clean sheets are vital. I think they will get some. Newcastle and Southampton at home in back-to-back rounds starting this weekend...Huddersfield have to keep at least one of those clean.
Player to avoid: Joe Hart - Hey, Burnley kept a clean sheet! Feel like traveling through time all the way to...last season, when they would do this regularly. Well, do not get your hopes up on the start of a run, at least not for a couple of rounds, because the Clarets are going to get a double dose of North London (sort of) as they play Spurs and Arsenal away in the next two rounds.
Player to buy: Sead Kolasinac - Kolasinac had his second huge return in his last four in Week 16, collecting five bonus points in total. Since not playing a minute for the first ten games of the season, he has carved out a starting role and now his form is beginning to shine. We have seen glimpses of his attacking threat since his arrival at Arsneal. With five solid fixtures in their next six, and only costing a flat 5m, he's got everything for him as a fantasy option.
Player to sell: Ricardo Pereira - This pretty much goes for Ben Chilwell or any other Leicester defender you might own currently. While I will concede that it is possible to get something out of the Foxes trip to Crystal Palace this weekend, the next two opponents surely will make you want to switch him out, those being away to Chelsea and then hosting Manchester City. Simple economics here - just a a tick above Kolasinac's price tag, there is your transfer plan.
Player to hold: West Ham defenders - Yes, West Ham's defense is not their strong suit. They've kept only one clean sheet since, oh, somewhere around "forever". But, if you own one currently, they are likely your #4 defender who maybe starts some weeks, but is on the bench just as much. So, given their fixtures, I think you stay the course with the likes of Balbuena and Diop, because if West Ham do get a on a nice defensive run, the fixtures ahead of them now seem the right time.
Player to avoid: Lucas Digne - The pundits of the FPL community seem to all be in agreement that Digne is a solid emerging fantasy weapon, possibly among the elite in the second half of the season. But, you have to pump the brakes until Boxing Day. Everton's next two opponents are Man City and Spurs - two sides that can score and keep opponents out. So while Digne certainly has the chops to get points on either side of the ball, these are two of the toughest opponents in which to expect something. Put him on your radar though.
Player to buy: Robert Snodgrass - Having already made one reference to a time machine in this column, I have already reached my limit, so let's use the term "retro" when talking about the veteran Snodgrass. Once a fantastic budget option for Norwich City back in the day, the veteran has emerged for West Ham, with attacking returns in three straight. Yes, Felipe Anderson is the one you want if money is no issue, but the value that Snodgrass has at his price, with all the set piece work he does and great fixtures against lower-tiered opponents (who he has already been getting returns against), he should be the perfect MID#4 during the festive period. The cash he would free up could help finance a Harry Kane or something like that.
Player to sell: Paul Pogba - At least 10% of FPL teams are ghost teams, teams with no week-to-week management, just the same squad since August or September that the manager gave up on. I say at least 10%, because that is the percentage of teams that own Pogba. His ownership is higher than Gylfi Sigurdsson and Heung-Min Son, for example. Well, since Week 3, Pogba has averaged around 2.5 points per game. You could throw a dart at a list of midfielders and find a more productive option. This is it, this is the last time I will bother to say it. Get Pogba out of your team.
Player to hold: Riyad Mahrez - When it comes to the "player to hold" in midfield, it has turned into a Manchester City carousel. Having started the last two league games, Mahrez owners may be thinking this weekend he is prone to getting dropped. Well, if Pep Guardiola is all about keeping his options fresh, then Mahrez is actually the most likely to start, as Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling put a full shift in during their midweek Champions League match. One of those two is more likely to see the bench on Saturday so keep it going with Mahrez.
Player to avoid: Richarlison - Goals in back to back weeks sees the Brazilian shoot back up toward the top of the midfield options, but, as is the case with Digne, this is not the opportune time to invest. Allow the matches against Man City and Spurs to pass and then look back his way.
Player to buy: Raúl Jiménez - I must really have a lot of nerve. I nominated Jimenez here last week, and he didn't start, giving owners a 1-point cameo return. Well, the rationale should be simple to see. Jimenez got his rest and, barring some injury we don't know about, he will be back in the XI this weekend guaranteed. Wolves host Bournemouth. It seems anyone playing the Cherries produces goals galore on both sides. With Jimenez's established consistency, I am very confident in an immediate return on Saturday. So, if you didn't take my advice last week - you won. You can win again by taking the same advice now.
Player to sell: Romelu Lukaku - Last week, the advice was to hold the Belgian, because it is a pretty solid mantra to never sell an attacking player ahead of a matchup with Fulham's defense. Well, the Red Devils are about to get the opposite end of the spectrum when they travel to Anfield this weekend. You got a Lukaku goal, now is the time to sell.
Player to hold: Harry Kane - Kane broke a ton of hearts last weekend when he was given a rest and then twisted the knife further by making a one-point cameo, crushing managers that gave him the armband and made Mo Salah their vice-captain. It is a rough situation, staying firm with a player as expensive as Kane is, but let's be reasonable - he got his rest, Spurs are riding high with a ticket punched to the Round of 16 in Champions League, so he could explode on Burnley's defense this weekend. Not only do you keep him, you captain him with confidence.
Player to avoid: Lucas Pérez - Feels like I am setting myself up for a trap here but I just don't like the optics surrounding Perez. Yes, his immediate brace as a replacement for Marko Arnautovic got our attention. However, he is still without anything close to a track record and he is dealing with a foot injury, which worries me about his fitness now that he is being thrust into a big role. What allow me to say "avoid" is that if you want to take advantage of West Ham's form and fixtures, Chicharito is a more reliable option.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Harry Kane
2) Mo Salah
5) Eden Hazard
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, 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.