In this, the age of information overload, Fantasy Premier League managers everywhere have been craving the merest hint of an update from a source that, until recently, seemed far too willing to provide them.
Having now missed his last four matches in all competitions, the curious case of Benjamin Mendy (MCI, 6.3) continues to plague the FPL community.
Pep has been suspiciously guarded when asked about this injury, before it emerged that a bruised fifth metatarsal was to blame.
It failed to silence rumours that, in fact, a disciplinary issue and the manager had lost patience with Mendy’s prolific social media activity.
Oops 😅 https://t.co/dVBYJNbKPM— Benjamin Mendy (@benmendy23) August 12, 2018
If true, posing with Anthony Joshua's belts late last Saturday night will have done little to improve the situation. Mind you, he wasn't the only high-profile footballer in Manchester this week who could do with putting his phone away for a while.
JUST IN! 😳
Frosty footage just in from @ManUtd's training session between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho… ❄️
At this stage, a scolding would be preferable for Mendy's faithful FPL owners - this is quickly turning into another Del Horno kind of situation (one for the veterans, there).
Perhaps it’s the cautionary tale offered by Richarlison’s recent absence that has convinced many to hold for now - the varying flavours of catastrophe generated by his most popular replacements (namely Walcott, Pedro and Mkhitaryan) reminding them of the virtue of loyalty.
Which Defenders score or assist the most often? 📈
🇫🇷 Mendy - scores or assist once every 72 mins played
🇪🇸 Alonso - 90
🇬🇷 Holebas - 107
🇮🇪 Duffy - 135
🏴 Trippier - 145
🇵🇹 Pereira - 150
🏴 Keane - 180
🏴 Kenny - 180#FPL— Fantasy Football Secrets ⚽️📈 (@FPLSecrets) September 26, 2018
Nevertheless, if Pep deigns to offer us something resembling a recovery timeline on Friday, and the news isn’t good, a replacement will need to be found - and one name has already found favour with many.
On the face of it, it’s not difficult to see why a whopping 36.8% of transfers in defence have seen Mendy replaced by Kieran Trippier (TOT, 6.1).
The prices are compatible and with a pair of good fixtures, dead ball duties and an impressive rate of chance creation, there’s certainly plenty to recommend the England man.
He even became more rotation-proof after Wednesday night, although it should be noted that Kyle Walker-Peters (TOT, 4.3) is still knocking about.
That Aurier injury (which has unfortunately reduced Spurs to 10 men) may just make Trippier a safer #FPL pick... 🤔— Lucy Highnett (@lucyhighnett) September 26, 2018
But if it's such a popular and apparently obvious move, how come something about it just doesn’t feel quite right?
Of course, nobody is under the illusion Trippier really has the potential to match Mendy’s early-season returns, but it's more than that.
It’s just hard to shake that nagging feeling that you'll already be looking to ship the England man out once those pair of easy fixtures pass for Spurs - who look far from certain to benefit from them anyway.
Is it a worry that Spurs have only kept 1 clean sheet this season?— TheTinkerMen (@TheTinkerMen) September 26, 2018
If you feel he’s right for your team, go for it - but don’t feel herded into this transfer, or any other for that matter.
Having started all of Man City's league games so far, Aymeric Laporte (MCI, 5.6m) appears to have fulfilled last season's expectation of becoming Man City's ever-present centre back, and represents a safe, if unexciting, sideways move.
Alternatively, this could be an opportunity to start moving some of that big money tied up in defence in anticipation of some investment in a premium midfielder or attacker.
Wolves defenders like Ryan Bennett (WOL, 4.1), Jonny (WOL, 4.4) and Matt Doherty (WOL, 4.4) remain excellent options - it’s only a matter of time before they rise in price.
Newcastle have now completed their nightmare run of opening fixtures, managing to keep clean sheets against the two non-'Big Six' sides they faced - and both of those were away. Players like DeAndre Yedlin (NEW, 4.5) offer potential aplenty for early adopters.
Anybody looking at Newcastle defence?
2 clean sheets in 6. Fantastic run of fixtures. Cheap defenders.
Nailed on options?September 23, 2018
Those who believe traditionally-defensive Burnley have turned a corner can pick up Charlie Taylor (BUR, 4.4) on the cheap.
There’s bargains to be had for eagle-eyed managers elsewhere, too.
Not good news for Janmaat, but could be Kiko Femenia on to the watch list. https://t.co/ETa2CvCP9G— Stephen Toumi (@6thGoal) September 26, 2018
Indeed, defence isn’t the only area where FPL managers could benefit from moving some funds around this week.
Avoiding the No Man’s Land of midfielders
After showing some promise in the early part of the season, £5m midfielders appear to have become surplus to requirements.
The abundance of attractive mid-priced forward options means that playing five midfielders is no longer possible without benching the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic (FUL, 7.0) or Danny Ings (SOU, 5.7).
This, combined with the overdue arrival of some reasonable budget midfield options for that fifth midfielder spot, has rendered the likes of Rúben Neves (WOL, 5.1) and square-peg-in-a-round-hole N'Golo Kanté (CHE, 5.0) pretty redundant.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (SOU, 4.5) looks to have established himself in the Southampton side, and while a third worldie in a row was asking a lot against Liverpool, his pair of shots in the box was still more than any of his teammates could muster.
Philip Billing (HUD, 4.5) has played every available minute of football for Huddersfield this season, even popping up with an important goal in GW4. He's the top man in the team for Baseline Bonus, and only Steve Mounie has managed to take more shots.
If you fancy someone a little different, Víctor Camarasa (CAR, 4.5), Nampalys Mendy (LEI, 4.5) and Ashley Westwood (BUR, 4.5) have played plenty of minutes and boast an attacking return each so far.
A little further up the midfield food chain, some interesting names have surfaced this week, with Leicester’s James Maddison (LEI, 6.8) chief among them.
Claude Puel chose to station the 21-year-old on the left against Huddersfield, much to the consternation of FPL managers who have always been traditionally attracted to midfielders in a Number 10 role. However, they will be comforted to know that he managed two goals and five assists in the seven times he has played there previously (albeit in less challenging competitions) and given such versatility, he appears to be about as rotation-proof as they come.
There is a perception that the 21-year-old has been lucky so far - his three goals compared to his 1.63 xG stats would back this up - but his heavy involvement, glowing "eye-test" results and dead-ball duties, his FPL suitors will care little if he manages to make more luck for himself in the weeks ahead.
Brighton's Anthony Knockaert (BRI, 5.5) is another player to attract some FPL attention recently.
After revealing how his battle with depression saw him lose focus in previous seasons, the 26-year-old has looked revitalised recently.
Three assists in six games may not sound stellar, but it’s actually more than any other midfielder besides Burnley’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson (BUR, 5.9) has managed so far this season.
A lot of talk about Knockaert (£5.5m) and the stats from last 2 game weeks back this up
1 goal and 1 assist
6 shots, 3 in the box
4 shots on target
6 chances created
2 big chances created
8 corners taken - 4 successful
After this week he doesn't face a top 6 team until gw 17.— Adam Hopcroft (@ahopcroft13) September 26, 2018
Indeed, Gudmundsson himself could be a useful differential - and not just because of his assists tally.
Targeting the whipping boys
If you're looking for a radical new strategy and have no pressing injuries to deal with, one resourceful Reddit user recently noticed something interesting.
He spotted a strange pattern in the fixtures which sees probably the two worst teams in the league - Cardiff and Huddersfield - face the same opposition in quick succession.
It might sound crazy, but recruiting and captaining players who face "on the beach" teams has proven fruitful in the past run-ins - it is that crazy to think it could also work early in a season?
The fact that you'd get two bites of the cherry is certainly in its favour, and most of these teams warrant some investment anyway.
It's already becoming a factor in managers' thinking.
The prospect of facing the two bottom clubs in GWs 9 & 10 has convinced many FPL bosses to hold Salah, while a growing number are opting for a two-week punt on Harry Kane (TOT, 12.4), hoping that his recent comments turn out to be more than wishful thinking by the Spurs man.
Obviously this a super-aggressive, high-risk strategy, best suited to Salah-less teams with a wildcard ready to deploy in case it all goes south - but there's a strangely macabre logic to betting against these two teams right now.
Cardiff and Huddersfield have both conceded more goals in the Premier League this season than they have had shots on target.
• 14 goals conceded
• 13 shots on target
It's already looking bleak at the bottom. 😰 pic.twitter.com/xHUxssrA0q— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 27, 2018
It’s becoming pretty obvious that Wolves are not your typical promoted side, and while many of their players don’t come quite as cheap as those from Cardiff or Fulham, they are still very much priced to buy.
Consider having at least two in your squad for the medium to long term.
Even with his price rise, Aleksandar Mitrovic (FUL, 7.0) still represents great value for money for the league's joint-top scorer.
So happy to get on the Mitrovic train last week, he reminds me of Lukaku when he was good at Everton, an attack minded team built to get him scoring as their main hope, he'll make a mockery of his price tag over 38 games.
All action, plenty of shots & goals, fun pick.#FPL— Freddo *Not a chocolate Frog (@FplFreddo) September 25, 2018
Fulham's attacking mindset, coupled with Everton's leaky defence, should produce immediate returns.
Raúl Jimenez (WOL, 5.5) may have only scored two goals for Wolves so far this season - but if he can up his game even slightly, many more could follow.
He has received 85 passes in the final third - more than any forward excepts Aguero and Firmino, and is joint third among strikers for shots (18), including 13 inside the box.
His conversion rate of 11.1% is so woeful, we can surely expect it to average out at a higher rate as the season progresses.
He could be a ready-made replacement for Callum Wilson (BOU, 6.3), who has looked worryingly off the boil of late.
Time up for Wilson?
0 shots vs Burnley and only 2 in the game before with a combined xG of 0.12 😕
He was subbed off 25 minutes early this weekend so could he become out of form and favour?
Price and fixtures are still appealing but there might be some better options around!— GW38 🏆 (@Gameweek38) September 24, 2018
Having being highly touted in pre-season, it’s all gone wrong for Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ARS, 7.0) at Unai Emery's new-look Arsenal.
In the context of some of the names mentioned above, that same £7m pricetag that once looked so inviting now seems prohibitive.
Top of the League
Well, it just goes to show - a failed captaincy does not necessarily lead to a bad Gameweek. Mary Walsh Kilkenny and her Molly's Misfits lead the way in the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 19990-119302) after a Gameweek score of 72. Clever differentials like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Johann Berg Gudmundsson did the business for her, as well as reliables like Alonso and Wan-Bissaka.
Emmett Hickey's FredTheRed side are just eight points behind, while there is a three-way tie for third place amoung Lasil Dias, Kevin Barber and Dave McAuliffe.