Winning in Fantasy Premier League all about bringing in players who are performing well and getting rid of the ones who aren't - it's as simple as that. Except when it isn't.
Take a look at the game's most expensive player, Mo Salah (LIV, 12.9), who has looked a shadow of his former self in recent matches. No doubt we’ll learn the reasons behind his lack of composure and uncharacteristically frustrated body language in a future autobiography, but right now he’s become an expensive liability in FPL.
Salah is now the 5th most owned FPL player, falling behind team mate Sadio Mané in the ownership rankings ⤵️October 3, 2018
By contrast, after a sluggish post-World Cup start to the season, Harry Kane (TOT, 12.5) is now looking sharper with every match - culminating in that trademark goal against Barcelona in midweek.
Kane pulls one back for Spurs!
Tottenham 1-2 Barcelona.October 3, 2018
After firing a brace past Huddersfield last week, the prospect of Kane facing an equally brittle Cardiff defence at Wembley has obvious appeal. Selling the out-of-form Salah would fund such move with cash to spare - but it’s a road littered with obstacles and pitfalls.
Firstly, there's the logistical problem. If Salah was classified as a forward in FPL, swapping him out for Kane would be relatively straightforward, but as it is, you're looking at a minimum of two transfers to make it happen.
Secondly, there are fixtures - if a home tie against Cardiff is reason enough to spend a transfer on Kane, is it not worth keeping Salah for the same tie?
I can’t bring myself to sell Salah. Not with this run of fixtures on the horizon. Surely a matter of time before he finds his form. Who knows, by GW9 he could even become something of a differential! 👀🤷🏻♂️#FPL #GW7 pic.twitter.com/aenHDE8Ylb— #FPL ꓙꓙ (@FPL_JJ) September 30, 2018
Liverpool play the Premier League's gruesome twosome - Huddersfield and Cardiff - in GW9 & 10. Anyone without the Egyptian for those weeks will surely want him back and will probably end up rearranging their squad again to do it.
By contrast, Tottenham's fixtures turn decidedly awkward from GW9 onwards, on paper at least, although Kane is one of the few players in the game capable of earning that prized "fixture-proof" accolade.
Kane's historical performance against his next 10 opponents in the Premier League since 14/15 (his breakout season), with apps less than 60 mins filtered out, courtesy of TransferMarkt.
The final factor is form, and although the Tottenham man clearly has the edge here, as we know, nothing in FPL guaranteed.
Injury will deprive him of the support of key teammates like Christian Eriksen (TOT, 9.2), Dele Alli (TOT, 9.0) and Mousa Dembélé (TOT, 4.9) against Cardiff. He has also been playing a deeper role earlier this season, and although it has improved his chance creation, his propensity to shoot has suffered.
However, whether it's by design or necessity given Spurs' current lack of midfielders, Pochettino’s decision to have Kane revert to a more familiar lone-striker role in recent matches seems to have paid dividends.
As for Salah, the international break is well timed for him to resolve any personal or fitness issues, and should he fire against the bottom teams, as expected, his confidence could be quickly restored.
Of course, there’s nothing technically stopping you from owning both, but for most managers, it would mean sacrificing one of Eden Hazard (CHE, 11.1) or Sergio Agüero (MCI, 11.4) to maintain anything resembling a balanced team structure.
Hazard is simply undroppable at present, and for all the doubts around Salah's form and Aguero's minutes, they both still represent the go-to attacking options in the two standout teams in the league.
Let's go over some early #EPL numbers, starting with Expected Goals per match.
Already, we see City are in a league of their own.
Liverpool are a firm second, and then we see... Wolves.
Arsenal and Manchester United are in obscure mediocrity here. pic.twitter.com/k6uMyrntUM— 11tegen11 (@11tegen11) October 1, 2018
There's also a reluctance to play a second premium striker at a time when many mid-range forwards are outperforming their price brackets.
One way around this that some managers are considering is a Kane-Aguero "hokey-cokey" - swapping Kane in for that lucrative Cardiff fixture, before swiftly bringing Aguero (who has never scored a goal in a competitive match at Anfield) back in again.
In general, this is a strategy best avoided. Using two precious transfers just to end up having the same squad you started with rarely makes sense - team value often takes a hit and it deprives you of the opportunity to make hit-free adjustments elsewhere.
That's not to say it can't work on occasion. You'll be relying on Kane to outperform both Aguero and the player you were going to captain, as well as the less tangible opportunity cost of what any alternative transfer could have earned you.
No so it comes down to
Kane x2 + Hazard
Hazard x2 + Aguero
Even though I can do for free it still means I need to use 2 transfers just on this move as I'll reverse the following week— Adam Hopcroft (@ahopcroft13) October 3, 2018
In summary, those holding Salah are faced with massive potential from a player looking increasingly unlikely to deliver on it. With Kane, it's pretty much the opposite.
Some stats on the big 4
◽All of Kane's shots have been in the box
◽Salah is missing big chances which are having an effect on his bonus
◽Aguero is scoring & assisting
◽3 of the 4 are on penalties
◽Hazard has played 140 minutes less than Kane who has played the most minutes pic.twitter.com/hd3OHi6G3D— TheTinkerMen (@TheTinkerMen) October 2, 2018
Form or fixtures? It's your call - but whatever you do, make sure it happens before the early deadline at 7pm (GMT) on Friday.
Taking another look at Alonso
Be it positive or negative, once we develop a certain perception of a player, it can often be hard to shake off.
There will always be times when we need to follow the herd and make the obvious transfer - but when an FPL manager can spot shifting sands and react to it before everyone else, that's what legends are made of.
To do this, we must be constantly re-evaluating our players and avoiding a blind "set-and-forget" mentality.
Take Marcus Alonso (CHE, 6.9) for example. After scoring an incredible 44 points in the first four Gameweeks, he quickly became regarded as a must-have, all-out attacking defender.
He is now without an attacking return in his last three matches, and while excuses can be made that a more conservative role was necessary against Liverpool, the same can hardly be said of clashes against Cardiff and West Ham.
The falloff in some of his underlying stats is pretty alarming.
He's not worse off in every department. His average baseline BPS has improved, marginally, and he's creating 1.3 chances per game compared to just one previously (although none of these were rated as ‘Big Chances’ or resulted in assist).
Most of us will have bigger fish to fry, but for managers with a settled team and a burning ambition, taking profit on the Chelsea full-back could pay dividends.
With all this focus on attackers, it’s worth noting that it’s goalkeepers and defenders are providing by far the best value for money in FPL so far.
Have a quick look on the FPL site - select "Value (Season)" in the “Sort By” drop-down menu. You’ll see that only two midfielders and two attackers managed to make the first page.
Another 12-point haul alerted all and sundry to the appeal of Matt Doherty (WOL, 4.6) last week.
Managers who snapped him up for £4.4m will be feeling pretty pleased with themselves, but those who missed out shouldn’t allow stubbornness to stop them from following suit.
Looks like last chance to get Doherty at asking for 4.5m! Likely price rise tonight. Doherty has clocked up a impressive return of points, perfect for managers looking to save or take funds out their defence to spend elsewhere! #FPL #fplcommunity pic.twitter.com/om6iQcRmOX— FPL RemoteBot (@FRemotebot) October 3, 2018
The Irish international is always up and around the opposition box, registering 202 touches so far in the final third. Azpilicueta and Alonso are top among defenders with 203 - but then Doherty has played 21 fewer minutes.
Yet despite this licence to get forward, manager Nuno Espirito Santo’s recent proclamation that "...most important is the clean sheet. You can always win a match when you’re defensively organised, that is the starting point" should mean that owners won't have to rely solely on attacking output.
On the defensive side, we can see where Fulham and Brighton get hurt, everywhere.
City are just plain good, both defending in open play and in set pieces.
Spurs defended well from set pieces, but less so from open play.
And the running theme of all numbers, Wolves are good. pic.twitter.com/yI3SAotniu— 11tegen11 (@11tegen11) October 1, 2018
Gameweek 8 could be a fruitful time for Wolves defenders, too - opponents Crystal Palace have yet to score a goal in front of their home supporters this season.
Unfortunately, buying Doherty might mean eventually parting company with budget-friendly Ryan Bennett (WOL, 4.1) - having double Wolves defence for clashes against Spurs and Arsenal in GWs 11 and 12 is probably less than ideal.
Sead Kolasinac (ARS, 4.9) is one for the watchlist. The Bosnian international was a firm favourite of FPL managers for a time last season before fading from view, but new Arsenal manager Unai Emery had him in an advanced role in the Europa League last night.
Should the arrival of Bernd Leno (ARS, 4.8) into the first team finally bring them some defensive solidity, £4.9m isn't a bad price to pay for a wantonly attacking full-back at Arsenal.
It was all too good to be true, insofar as having a Cardiff player can be described as such.
As predicted, Danny Ward (CAR, 4.5) did indeed turn out to be that classic FPL trap when the out-of-position midfielder was benched against Burnley.
Just replace him with Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (SOU, 4.5), Philip Billing (HUD, 4.5) or even Pedro Obiang (WHU, 4.4) if you need a bit of cash, and accept the fact the fact that
if you really need some excitement in your life, your fifth midfielder isn't the best place to find it.
Top of the League
Faith in Johann Berg Gudmundsson finally paid off for Mary Walsh Kilkenny and her Molls Misfits, who still sit proudly atop the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 19990-119302) on 527 points. Big scores from Seamas O'Brien's Purple Cobras and Rohan Chaini's chelsea10 put them into second and third respectively.