Five weeks in and the Fantasy Premier League season continues to infuriate and excite in equal measure.
Tormentor in chief has come in the unusual form of a 28-year-old Watford midfielder named Étienne Capoue.
We’ve seen this before of course, when fantasy managers kept thinking that a Leicester new boy who only cost £5.5m couldn’t possibly keep scoring.
Last week, hundreds of thousands of players suffered the horrifying sight of yet another massive points return under that unassuming bright yellow jersey perched uselessly on their substitutes bench - and died a little inside.
Ironically, players who have made poor choices elsewhere in the team have been celebrating, as their non-playing donkeys make way for the Frenchman to come in and score big.
The tales of woe have come thick and fast...
Bring in Capoue and bench him... Only me.
Bring in Capoue and bench him... Only me.— FPL ADVISOR (@fpladvisor) September 18, 2016
… but if you, like me, are one of the fantasy managers who has left some or all of Capoue’s 44 points on the bench this season, here’s some much-needed words of comfort.
While there are few sights more maddening than leaving points on your bench, the (surprisingly common) belief that you’d be better off having a cheap player who will never score more than three points every week just so you don't have to see that sight again is a complete fallacy. Sometimes he will come on, and when he does, you’ll be glad when he delivers the goods.
If you had Capoue in your starting team or bought him at a low price, you now have a player now valued at £5.0 and rising. While everyone else uses a transfer to get him at an inflated price, you don’t have to.
But it’s time to bring him off the bench now, right?
Hell, yes! He’s a player bang in form and some kind fixtures await. And besides, you won’t be able to live with yourself if you miss out on his points again.
Whether he should be a long-term fixture in your team is another matter entirely. There’s a good case to say that he’s been lucky so far, and his prodigious strike rate of four goals in five attempts would be impossible to maintain for Lionel Messi, never mind a Watford (not-so) defensive midfielder.
Spoiler alert! When everyone FINALLY takes Capoue off the bench next week he WILL blank!
When everyone FINALLY takes Capoue off the bench next week he WILL blank!— FantasyFootyGuru (@FPL_Guru_) September 18, 2016
But nevermind the naysayers, right now he’s proven his worth and should stay in your team until his form dips.
So when is it time to dump an underperforming player?
We've all fallen victim to the scourge of “falling in love” with a player - he’s your guy and every snigger and raised eyebrow on your mates’ faces only makes you want to stick with him even longer.
You can’t expect returns every week, but there comes a time when you must call time on a player’s place in your squad - and pray he doesn’t come back to haunt you with a couple of goals the very next week.
One rule of thumb I’ve used through the seasons is the “three-game rule” - I usually give a player three games to get points on the board or at least show some solid potential before he takes his place in line for the chopping block. If he’s expensive or about to drop in price - he goes straight to the top of the queue.
And then sometimes you just have to pull the trigger, as was the case with Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.0) this week, who managed a paltry two attempts (one on target) against Swansea and Liverpool.
Those who kept the faith were punished with a bruising hit to their team value, whilst the rest raised funds for the return of the almighty Sergio Aguero.
This is a season where cash is king, and besides - we seem to be wasting enough of it on our backlines…
Are defenders a waste of money?
Speaking of let-downs, what is it with defenders this season? Well, clean sheets are their bread-and-butter, and if you think they’ve been few and far between lately, well - you’re absolutely right!
Compare that to 33 at this stage last season, 29 and 38 the seasons before, and suddenly spending anything over £4.5m on a defender can feel like money down the drain.
So until the teams we can rely on for clean sheet begin to emerge, picking up defenders with some attacking potential is more important than ever.
Walker (TOT, 5.8m) is a big favourite at the moment. Everton full-backs Coleman and Baines are looking dangerous and have the fixtures to flourish. Holebas (WAT, 4.5) and Friend (MID, 4.5) are decent options if you’re counting the pennies.
So don’t play more than three at the back for now, and any defender costing you £5.0+ who doesn’t have a goal or assist in him should be quietly moved on.
Good luck in GW6 everyone….
Now that Capoue is coming in, it might be time to really consider going 3-5-2 for a while. Deeney (WAT, 6.9m) and maybe Austin (SOU, 6.2m) are the only promising third striker options south of Christian Benteke’s £7.6m pricetag right now*, whereas plenty of high-potential midfielders can be found in that price range.
Kevin De Bruyne (MCI, 10.7m): Pep Guardiola lavished praise on his midfield talisman after Man City’s match against Bournemouth, and with good reason. The Belgium star has scored a goal, an assist or both in his last four matches and looks to be in the form of his life.
* ...unless Marcus Rashford (MUN, 6.8m) starts getting some more pitch time, that is!
Now this is a punt-and-a-half, admittedly, but the increasing pressure on Jose Mourinho could finally see him give some regular pitch time to the wide-eyed young marksman and if he does, the FPL world and its granny will be jumping on the bandwagon.
14 - Marcus Rashford has been involved in more goals (all comps) than any other Man Utd player since his debut (11 goals, 3 assists). Star.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 21, 2016
Wouldn’t it be nice to already be on board?
Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.0m): That slump in underlying stats just can’t be ignored. When a player that expensive doesn’t even look like scoring, it’s time to let him go.
Top of the League
Five weeks in, and last week’s table-topper Eoghan Greene has maintained his place at the summit of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 251768-521616). He sure likes to hang on to that wildcard - but an injury to captain Harry Kane has now left him with four injured outfield players.
Can he really afford to wait yet another week to use it?
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