The main talking point in Fantasy Premier League last week happened before a ball was even kicked.
With the transfer deadline less than two hours away, a single online article quickly sent the FPL community into meltdown.
Pep Guardiola considers dropping Sergio Agüero for Huddersfield match https://t.co/8ypfWsJyjD b— jamie jackson (@JamieJackson___) August 18, 2018
Speculative football articles are not uncommon and are usually taken with a generous pinch of salt - but the fact that it came from a source as respected as The Guardian made those who had earmarked the City striker as their GW2 captain immediately sit up and take notice.
A hectic debate among FPL managers on merits or otherwise of the article soon followed, with many concluding (not unreasonably) that the risk of a one-pointer compared to the relative security of a Salah captaincy simply wasn’t worth it.
Another tweet, a hairy six minutes before deadline, sealed the deal for many.
Info on this: the understanding is that unless Jesus/someone else goes down Aguero set to be dropped🦄🦄🦄 https://t.co/AqksC4n3Bn— jamie jackson (@JamieJackson___) August 18, 2018
Of course, we all know what happened next - Sergio Aguero (MCI, 11.1) ran riot against Huddersfield.
Those who had captained Salah lost out a significant, yet hardly season-changing, 11 points - but by then, the venting was already well underway.
Unfortunately, much of this was aimed at the journalist himself, and while some responses were proportionate, the questioning of his integrity and some shocking personal abuse gave a thankfully rare glimpse into an ugly side of the FPL Twitter community.
It later transpired that the story may not have been as contrived as many quickly assumed it was.
The lessons to be learned from this sorry affair?
Although we were spoiled by Anfield Express last year, it remains the case that anything that’s not directly stated by a club manager must be treated with varying degrees of caution (and even they can't always be trusted).
It's also worth remembering that everyone who writes, tweets or podcasts about FPL are all making educated guesses about what the future holds for this team or that player. It’s not easy, and even the most informed will get it wrong from time to time.
Nobody can click those confirm buttons for you - your team is your responsibility alone. Accept it, embrace it, and take the highs and lows with good grace.
The fact of the matter is that players will be rotated, now more than ever - so think about adjusting your strategy to compensate for it.
There was a time when seeing a player “dropped” sounded the death knell for him as an FPL asset. Times have changed, however, to the point where having one of your players benched can often (rather counter-intuitively) actually make him more attractive for the following Gameweek, given that he’d be rested by then and perhaps more likely to play!
Which is why the days of having three bargain-basement players on your bench are surely coming to an end. Just as real-life managers have realised the importance of squad depth, so should we - and that means having a reasonably strong first sub.
With this in mind, Gameweek 2 saw yet more surprisingly tempting midfielders emerge in the £5m bracket.
Will Hughes (WAT, 5.0m) reminded us all of his potential with a screamer against Burnley.
Will Hughes, a player with 0.6% ownership, was excellent today. Javi Gracia said he’s encouraged him to shoot more when outside the box & his finish today was sublime. Not just that, but his work on the ball caused many problems down the right.
At 5m he looks an absolute steal.— FPL Vinnie 🇨🇽 (@FPLVinnie) August 19, 2018
David Brooks (BOU, 5.0) is one to keep an eye on after firing six shots on goal, including four in the box, so far - although he has yet to play a full 90 minutes.
Joe Ralls (CAR, 5.1) is earmarked to take penalties and corners for Cardiff - just don’t expect much in the way of clean sheet points.
My under the radar differential pick from one of the newly promoted sides
👉 Joe Ralls- Cardiff City 🤫👀 #FPL
▪️ box to box midfielder
▪️ 7 goals, 4 assists last season
▪️ made the most passes & 2nd most key passes for Cardiff
▪️ nailed on to start
As mentioned in last week’s column, much has been made of the new role for N'Golo Kanté (CHE, 5.0) at Chelsea. It remains to be seen how long this experiment will continue, but for now, the World Cup winner is looking like a solid investment.
N'Golo Kante's game by numbers vs. Arsenal:
93% pass accuracy
4 chances created
2 tackles won
Sarri's bringing out his creative side. 😲😲😲 pic.twitter.com/e43ywzn1Qs— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 18, 2018
If you’re eager to include multiple rotation risks and willing to shell out a little more for a striker, it's worth noting that only Sergio Aguero took more shots than Danny Ings (SOU, 5.5m) in GW2.
His place seems secure after Mark Hughes heaped praise on the former Liverpool man, and if he can develop an understanding with one of Saints’ cast of strikers, the points should soon follow.
Be warned - an unfortunate by-product of this bench strategy is that you will be leaving some points on your bench from time to time. However, if you can brace yourself for those weeks, the times where you see that cheap penalty taker pop up with a 10-pointer will more than make up for it.
The search is neverending, but it’s not often that you find a player priced at £4m who you can trust in FPL.
This season has more than most. Ryan Bennett (WOL, 4.0) has started both games for Wolves and Jon Stankovic (HUD, 4.0) is even playing out of position in (defensive) midfield. All eyes will be on Huddersfield on Saturday (OK, but maybe a few more than usual) to see if goalkeeper Ben Hamer (HUD, 4.0) can retain his place after shipping six against Man City.
Players in this category are typically enablers, however - serving a simple mathematical function of filling a space and freeing up cash elsewhere. Any points they provide are deemed an unexpected bonus.
Not since Danny Simpson's 120 points during Leicester's crazy title-winning season have we seen a £4m defender with the potential to become a mainstay in our FPL teams - until now.
Should Aaron Wan-Bissaka (CRY, 4.1) keep his place (and there’s nothing to suggest he won’t) he has the potential to match or even eclipse Simpson’s total - and yet this week over 100,000 managers have already decided to transfer him out.
An attack-minded defender in a mid-table team who are more than capable of earning a clean sheet at home priced at just £4.1m is a season-keeper - it’s as simple as that.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka completed 4 dribbles in the first half vs. Liverpool, no player on the pitch managed more.
Wonderkid.👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/tgJpFDYqlI— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 20, 2018
Any manager who doesn’t have the bench to cover his one-game suspension should be far more concerned about their players who aren’t starting because of injury or poor form.
Nearly fifty thousand have transferred out Wam Biscuit.. he is suspended for one game.
A:) The person you are bringing in must be of a lower standard unless money in the bank
B;) your bench must be awful@if you can’t not play him for one game
C:) it’s one game— FantasyFootballTalk (@FPLFantasyTalk) August 21, 2018
Heve you ever been curious about who Premier League players pick for their FPL teams? Of course you have! Well, you can check out a few of them now on the FPL Chief’s legendary blog.
Who knows more about players than the players themselves, right? The top-scoring 'keeper in FPL might even pick himself next week!
He may be playing in a more orthodox back four, but we may have underestimated the desire of Marcos Alonso (CHE, 6.6) to get forward.
***dont get alonso he’s not at wingback this season***... ding dong easiest goal of life— FML FPL (@FMLFPL) August 18, 2018
An injury crisis at right back could hardly have been more poorly timed for their next opponent (Newcastle), and should Eden Hazard be permanently deployed on the right instead of Willian, the pair could link up to devastating effect, as they did with the winner against Arsenal.
Claude Puel has been teasing Ricardo Pereira (LEI, 5.0) with a place on the wing, even starting him there on the opening day of the season.
Since then, Pereira has been pushed back into defence at times, but that hasn’t stopped him enjoying 11 touches in the penalty box, eclipsing even the likes of Mendy (8) and Robertson (9).
Even if the 24-year-old ends up being permanently stationed at right back for the Foxes, both of his assists have come while playing in defence, and the return of Jonny Evans bodes well for Leicester’s clean sheet prospects.
We may only be two games into the season, but already managers who opted for David De Gea (MUN, 6.0) are looking for an exit strategy.
Much of De Gea’s points (not to mention United’s clean sheets) last season came from his prodigious save count.
This season however, he has saved less than half of the shots he has faced so far - his 42.7% save rate currently the worst among all Premier League 'keepers.
Since the World Cup, David De Gea has conceded 10 goals from 14 shots on target in competitive matches. pic.twitter.com/HROHAZlr36— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 19, 2018