Gameweek 12 of the Fantasy Premier League was certainly one to forget for many of us, with most of the traditional ‘big-hitters’ failing to justify their lofty pricetags.
If you’re one of the managers whose captain flopped, at least you’re not alone - over 80% put the armband on a player who scored three points or fewer.
We’ll take that crumb of comfort with us into GW13 - but the blame game has already begun in earnest.
The likes of Philippe Coutinho (LIV, 8.8) and Eden Hazard (CHE 10.2) (who actually created five chances against Boro) earn a reprieve - we know they typically shine at home encounters anyway.
SCOUT: A blank from Hazard having returned in his last 4 Gameweeks. Only 1 of Hazard's 7 goals have come away from home. pic.twitter.com/RCH47zig6V— Fantasy Premier League (@OfficialFPL) November 20, 2016
And of course we take pity on the our lesser lights in our team; but when it comes to players around that £10m+ bracket, we’re not as forgiving - and the FPL knives are being sharpened for three culprits in particular.
Yep, him again.
No one player personifies this season of uncertainty and shifting fortunes quite like Sergio Aguero.
There is a traditional perception among FPL veterans that managers who neglect to own the Argentine are basically dooming their season, but the stats aren’t really bearing that out this season - almost half (46.1%) of the current top 1,000 players don’t own him.
He may be adjusting to Pep Guardiola’s system, but Aguero is no longer the inevitable end-point of Man City’s plan of attack like we was in seasons gone by.
Banking that £13.2m certainly opens up all kinds of options elsewhere, but knowing that he could score a hat-trick at any given moment, selling him is not for the faint of heart and the FPL community is understandably divided.
Re: Sergio Agüero.
For me it's simple.
He's the best striker in the league.
3 goals in his last 3.
Keep him.— FPL General (@FPLGeneral) November 22, 2016
We can make some allowances for that long trip back from South America, but if he can’t score against Burnley on Saturday, his prospects against an imperious Chelsea defense look grim and it could be time to make the toughest call there is in FPL.
UPDATE: This comment from Pep has sent FPL into meltdown, prompting an overnight price drop.
PEP: Sergio is not injured but he has a problem in his foot. Today he has traIning at 4pm and we will see his condition. Zabaleta as well.— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 25, 2016
Cheaper alternatives: Harry Kane (TOT 10.8) and Diego Costa (CHE, 10.5) are obvious replacements. You may want to hold off on recruiting Costa until after he gets that suspension-triggering fifth yellow card - but then that’s been the case since GW 7 (or, to put it another way, 48 POINTS AGO... ).
This Costa yellow card thing is really starting to frustrate me. I know for a FACT if I put him he'll get suspended. He's killing me!!! #FPL— FPL (@FPLMatt) November 20, 2016
The unrest among Alexi Sanchez (ARS, 11.3) owners is really starting to build now.
His days as a false nine appear to be numbered, given the re-emergence of Olivier Giroud - who also looks to have been handed penalty duties.
Plus, those nagging doubts about Sanchez’s fitness have surfaced again, with Wenger talking about “tightness in his hamstring” and mentioning that he would like to give the Chilean a winter break.
Wenger plans on giving Sanchez a winter break to stop him suffering burnout and to ensure his availability for the season run-in #AFC [Mail]— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) November 22, 2016
Sanchez’s determination to play through injuries is admirable, but leaves an FPL manager wondering if he can really be trusted to perform.
And he’s not the most consistent player at the best of times - blanking for at least four league games in-a-row on three seperate occasions last season.
He’s always capable of a double-digit return, and Arsenal have some great fixtures coming up, but it may be time to put a plan to replace Sanchez in place - especially if you have a weak bench.
Cheaper alternatives: Theo Walcott (ARS, 7.8) is the obvious replacement, although a dip in form, a “slight problem with his toe” and the prospect of baby Walcott making his debut any day now doesn’t inspire confidence.
Looking outside Arsenal, you can’t go wrong with Coutinho or Firmino (LIV, 8.8), and Sigurdsson (SWA, 7.2) is a fantastic option.
He’s not that much cheaper, but there’s always the reassuring consistency of Kevin De Bruyne (MCI, 10.8), who has now scored or assisted in his last five matches for City in all competitions.
After a good run of form between GW 4-10, the old ‘Blankaku’ has returned to torment his owners.
A comparison between of his average stats from the last two games and those of his first 10 makes for some stark reading.
Everton’s form is patchy at present, and the Toffees face a very awkward run of fixtures right up until the end of January. There's not much to debate here - it’s time to get rid.
Cheaper alternatives: It might seem like slim pickings in the sub-£9m bracket, but it’s worth bearing in mind that managers who put their faith in Jermain Defoe now own the second-highest scoring attacker in the game for an outlay as little as £7m.
Consider Charlie Austin (SOU, 6.8) too - he has some great fixtures right up until December 28.
Of course, misfiring big-hitters haven’t been the only false prophets this season, lest we forget the…
Maddening mid-price midfielders
Etienne Capoue, Son Heung-min, Joe Allen, Ilkay Gundogan - admit it, we’ve all owned at least one of them.
They’ve soared to previously unimaginable heights, only to crash and burn like Icarus himself - right around the time you sold a perfectly good player to get them into your team!
Worse still, most have been usurped by more expensive players who aren’t really viable candidates at this stage.
It would take a brave manager to bring in Bojan (STO, 5.6), and although Yaya Toure (MCI, 7.6) is an intriguing option and certainly has the pedigree, it’s too early to see how much gametime the 33-year-old can realistically expect.
So where to go from here? Well, for a start, unless you really want to get on this heartbreaking merry-go-round again, don’t get Matt Phillips (WBA, 5.2). He scored those 27 points in a new position during the two games when Chadli, who could return against Hull, was injured.
You know, there’s still a lot to be said for the relentless, monolithic drip-feed of points and extra cash a Darren Fletcher (WBA, 4.4) or Marten de Roon (MID, 4.3) can provide.
If you’re looking for a safe midfield starter but still crave that little bit of excitement in your life, the 5.1% owned Nemanja Matic (CHE 5.1) remains hidden in the shadows of his high-profile teammates, despite his six assists and status as and ever-present in a winning Chelsea team.
Of course, you could go for the most transferred-in player this week - Etienne Capoue! Give me strength...
Chelsea defenders almost seem like guaranteed points at this stage. Get at least one of them in if you can, before their prices rise even more.
That Negredo shot was the first time Chelsea conceded a shot on target since Tadic did it in 27' in #GW10— Andrey Arshivan (@arshifpl11) November 20, 2016
Gylfi Sigurdsson (SWA, 7.2) has been an FPL darling for some time now, and experience has shown us that when he starts hitting his stride, it’s time to jump on that bandwagon.
He has the form, Swansea have the fixtures, and he’s absolutely central to their attacking play - as his frankly ridiculous 60% goal involvement rate shows.
Pedro (CHE 7.2) has really flown under the radar, despite posting some seriously impressive scores.
There’s plenty of Chelsea candidates to choose from, but if you can’t afford a Hazard or Costa, he could be your guy.
Marcus Rashford (MUN, 6.8): A great young player, but much like Michail Antonio, he’s been shoved from pillar to post by his manager and just can’t find his rhythm.
Top of the League
Well, it just goes to show - bad Gameweeks can happen to the best of us!
Micheàl Nevins and his MultipleScoregasams team scored a disappointing 33 last week, seven points below the average, but it was enough to keep his place at the summit of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 251768-521616). It's sure to give the chasing pack plenty of encouragement though.
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