The week in Fantasy Premier League: Budget pitfalls, 'forgotten' defenders and how to avoid Arsenal

So how was your Gameweek 9? If your honest answer is 'Meh', you've done exceptionally well.

Widely dubbed as "the good Gameweek to have a bad Gameweek", an average score of 43 meant that there was little movement in terms of overall rank - or none at all, in some of the more bizarre cases.

It was a week where Benjamin Mendy (MCI, 6.3) reminded us - both on the pitch and on Twitter - that he is an indispensable FPL asset.

A second double-digit haul in as many weeks saw Anthony Martial (MUN, 7.3) become the most transferred-in player, although any potential suitors would do well to familiarise themselves with the potential pitfalls that come with such a move, as I discussed in this week's 3 Amigos podcast.

Meanwhile, long-suffering Mo Salah (LIV, 12.8) owners had plenty to cheer about as the Egyptian's gradual return to form continued.

As reasons to hold the most expensive player in the game go, being confirmed as the second-choice penalty taker must surely rank among the flimsiest of all-time - yet it feels like manna from Heaven for the Salah faithful who can now finally feel good about captaining him again.

Even the sight of a bandage on his shoulder hasn't quelled a resurgence in demand for the Egyptian star as Liverpool prepare to "welcome" lowly Cardiff to Anfield on Saturday. Yet given that massive price-tag, the clamour to bring him in could see some managers risking damage to their team structure that could take weeks to repair.

Budget forwards - the road to ruin

Finding £12.8m in your budget is no easy task, but some FPL managers seem to be openly considering makeweights like the mediocre Sam Vokes (BUR, 5.3) and even temporary Troy Deeney replacement Isaac Success (WAT, 4.5) to make it happen.

Simply put, non-playing, super-budget forwards players will only create massive headaches for managers later in the season, particularly in those injury-heavy winter months.

Nobody wants to use a double-transfer to generate the cash just to buy a playing substitute, especially in a season where the choice of mid-priced forwards has never been better.

When it comes to spending £4.5m on a player, the best value can traditionally be found in the goalkeeper and defence positions. Finding the right one at the right time can be tricky of course, but we know that there are plenty of them there.

The player you pick doesn't even need to be that good individually, thanks to those shared clean sheet points on offer.

There are massive bargains to be found in the West Ham defence at the moment for those looking to stretch their budget to the limit.

Pablo Zabaleta (WHU, 4.3) and Issa Diop (WHU, 4.3) are available at rock-bottom prices and look to be assured of minutes.

Those with an extra £0.1m to spend could opt for either Fabián Balbuena (WHU, 4.4) or the increasingly assured Declan Rice (WHU, 4.4) for the Hammers' tempting run of fixtures. 

Shane Duffy (BRI, 4.5) could be the man to go for as Brighton embark on a seven-match run of favourable match-ups, while Wolves' Jonny (WOL, 4.5) is a Matt Doherty (WOL, 4.8) waiting to happen, and remains a solid long-term pick despite upcoming clashes against Spurs and Arsenal.

In midfield, two goals and assured starts have made Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (SOU, 4.5) is the go-to £4.5m enabler at the moment, along with Philip Billing (HUD, 4.5), but there are alternatives in that most unlikely of places.

By now, we've become accustomed to ignoring Cardiff except when it comes time to picking a captain to play against them, but take a look at Víctor Camarasa (CAR, 4.5)

Now level on points with Højbjerg, the Spaniard impressed against Fulham, and once Liverpool are out of the way, Cardiff won't have to face one of the current top six sides until January.

That's good news too for his teammate, Aron Gunnarsson (CAR, 4.4). Seemingly hewn from the very rocks of Iceland itself, the long-throw specialist and club stalwart should be a regular once he fully recovers from injury.

   

All of them should bring you more points and much less stress than a budget forward.

Rather than opting for Vokes, for example, upgrading to starters like Danny Ings (SOU, 5.6) and Raúl Jiménez (WOL, 5.7), who at least have the potential to come up with the odd goal or assist, will probably the best £0.5m you'll ever spend in this game.

It may not seem like much, but you know where you stand with these guys. If only we could say the same for players from a more high-flying outfit.

Who can you trust with Arsenal investment?

Arsenal's impressive run of form shows no signs of stopping, and with it, the uneasiness among FPL managers who have yet to share in it. 

Unfortunately, although the Gunners look set to continue their winning ways, actually picking one of them for your team is a strangely frustrating endeavour. 

Just two clean sheets over nine league games (even Southampton and Palace have more) hardly inspires confidence in their defence. Players like Héctor Bellerín (ARS, 5.4) and Nacho Monreal (ARS, 5.5) have goals and assists in their locker, but relying on attacking returns as a primary source of points from expensive defenders can be a chastening experience.

Midfield is similarly problematic. Contract rebel Aaron Ramsey (ARS, 7.3) is seeing his minutes restricted, whilst you get the feeling that Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ARS, 6.9) wouldn't score if was given 180 minutes every week.

That leaves Mesut Özil (ARS, 8.4) - the very embodiment of inconsistency, and a maddening player to own in FPL. 

His performance against Leicester turned heads and his international retirement can only be a good thing for his FPL prospects, but the jury remains out on the German.

Whilst much has been made of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goal record over the last two games (mostly at the expense of Alexis Sanchez), the idea of buying a £10.8m substitute just feels wrong.

While his stellar 33.3% goal conversion rate (carrying on from last season's 32.3%) helps make up for those limited minutes, you can't help but wonder what he could score if he had more starts - and what on Earth he has to do to earn them.

The cheaper Alexandre Lacazette (ARS, 9.7) remains a viable option, despite his failure to register a seventh attacking return in a row in GW9.

There is an easier way to deal with the guilt of going without Arsenal cover thus far, however.

The Gunners face some tricky fixtures against Liverpool, Wolves, Spurs and Man United in their next six - plenty of time to re-evaluate their assets before more lucrative ties against Huddersfield, Southampton and Burnley.

Just grit your teeth, mutter something about "chasing points" and simply carry on as you were before. 

QUICK TIP

Short-termism is something we must be ever vigilant to guard against - take this week's murmur of optimism about the Bournemouth defence, for example.

The Cherries may have recorded back-to-back clean sheets, but when those come against 10-man Watford and a Southampton side that would struggle to score in Copper Face Jack's, you begin to see why investment here might not be the smartest move.

BUY

It's only natural when considering a player to compare him to alternative options in his price bracket - especially when it comes to defenders.

It's perfectly reasonable and correct thing to do of course, but there are times when it can prevent us from seeing a player's true value in the context of the overall game.

In seasons past, the idea of a £5.1m regular in a rock-solid defence would be an automatic pick. So maybe it's time to take a(nother) look at Joe Gomez (LIV, 5.1)

Improving with every game, his return to central defence against Red Star Belgrade in place of Dejan Lovren is as good an indication as we'll get that he is a mainstay in a Liverpool defence that rivals Man City for both clean sheets (5) and goals conceded (3). 

Owned by just 3.1% of managers, he may not offer the attacking potential of his teammates, but if you're looking for a steady source of clean sheet points at a knockdown price, look no further than the classy 21-year-old.

TRY

FPL managers can have very short memories. In our endlessly futile search for the next season-changing saviour, how quickly we forget what, until very recently, was right under our very noses.

Those who hesitated in bringing back Benjamin Mendy missed a 10-point haul in a week when it would have made a huge difference.

José Holebas (WAT, 4.8) has also become one of those "forgotten" players, even to the extent to which he has become one of the most transferred-out defenders this week.

As frustrating as his penchant for getting booked undoubtedly is, the Watford left-back is a crossing machine - a factor which should become all the more significant as Troy Deeney (WAT, 6.0) quickly nears full fitness.

With Huddersfield, Newcastle and Southampton up next, there might even be a clean sheet or two along the way!

GOODBYE

Four attacking returns in five games saw Anthony Knockaert (BRI, 5.5) become an attractive differential for anyone unconvinced by the Ryan Fraser bandwagon.

However, after being unceremoniously benched by Chris Hughton last week, FPL managers are looking elsewhere.

Top of the League

Unsurprisingly for the week that's in it, there wasn't much movement in the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 19990-119302)

Mary Walsh Kilkenny and her Molls Misfits remain on top, extending her lead by four points over second-placed Paul Hanover.

Will O'Shea, Shane Keaveney and Gurjit Sahdra are all six points further back on 629.

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