The week in Fantasy Premier League: International break woes and the search for the best third striker

If you were merely bored during the international break, you were one of the lucky ones.

By Tuesday night, the island of Ireland was united in the shared misery of a World Cup exit - those of us south of the border were even denied the traditional scurrilous injustice to comfort ourselves with.

So now that all that unpleasantness is behind us, it’s time to open up our FPL teams again - and for many, it’s not a pretty sight.

 

One thing worthy of note for FPL managers during the break, however (what hat-trick?) was the array of fresh young faces amongst the England team.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the club performances of Tammy Abraham (SWA, 5.9), Joe Gomez (LIV, 4.6),  Harry Maguire (LEI, 5.1) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (CRY, 4.5) over the coming months as they do everything they can to be included among next summer’s scapegoats and national hate figures.

 

The Man City soap opera rumbled on as it became the turn of Gabriel Jesus (MCI, 10.5) to make way for Sergio Aguero (MCI, 11.8) against Arsenal, only to come off the bench and score anyway because that’s what Man City players do these days.

Then another unconventional injury befell Aguero in the form of a fainting incident - cue EastEnders drums - before the Argentine's  proclamation of fitness quelled the latest bout of panic selling.

 

Whether Pep agrees with his striker’s medical opinion is another matter though, and it’s worth noting before Saturday’s trip to Leicester that Jesus has started all five of Man City’s away matches in the league so far.

The Man City merry-go-round, coupled with some underwhelming performances from Romelu Lukaku (MUN, 11.5), has led many FPL managers to wonder if having a 'Power Three' up front is really all it's cracked up to be.

But then, who do you replace one of them with?

 

Shopping for third strikers

Until a few weeks ago, Firmino (LIV, 8.5) and later Jamie Vardy (LEI, 8.6) were popular candidates for our third-striker berth until both suffered dramatic dips in form. Could they be worth another look?

It’s no coincidence that Firmino’s returns ran dry when Sadio Mané bowed out in GW4 - the Senegalese speedster should be back creating disarray in opposition defences soon.

 

Those willing to take a punt on Vardy will be happy when they see those minutes rack up for the undroppable Leicester frontman over the busy festive period.

If the idea of spending up to £8.6m on what is essentially a punt doesn't appeal, there are alternatives.

Transferred in by little more than 2,000 managers this week, they don’t come much more under-the-radar than Josh King (BOU, 7.0).

  

He’s struggled to retain the 16-goal form that made him indispensable last season, but with the Jermain Defoe experiment now seemingly abandoned, he's back to being the main man for The Cherries, creating six chances against Newcastle last week.

Now available for a season-low £7m, if he can shake off a back injury, everything could fall into perfectly into place for Bournemouth just as they begin a lucrative run of fixtures.

The likes of Marcus Rashford (MUN, 7.6) and Wayne Rooney (EVE, 7.3) have been attracting interest in this price bracket also, but it's a fair chunk of change for players whose positioning and minutes can vary wildly.

Tammy Abraham (SWA, 5.9) has been the default third striker for a while now. Scoring 8.1 points per million spent, he’s offered more bang-for-your-buck than any forward this season.

  

Swansea don't score much (a mere seven so far this season), but Abraham's security of starts has been the main appeal for his, it must be said, reluctant owners. His failure to score in Swansea's last three and being ineligible to play Chelsea in GW14 has many looking for greener pastures.

Callum Wilson (BOU, 5.9) is tempting, but one for the romantics - he looked rusty against Newcastle and can be frustratingly streaky even when fit.  

Four goals in his last three games has seen Glenn Murray (BRI, 5.8) spark interest, but this one has ‘chasing points’ written all over it, unfortunately. In the long term, the 34-year-old is likely to share minutes with Tomer Hemed (BRI, 4.9), making neither an attractive prospect.

Injury has made Steve Mounie (HUD, 5.7) something of a forgotten man, but having played twice for Benin over the international break, Huddersfield’s record signing will expect to reclaim his place in David Wagner's free-flowing attack.

The downside of going for one these options, however, is that it still pretty much commits you to playing three up front. You may think it doesn’t, but when the time comes to shift that circa-£6m investment to the bench, it’ll sting.

How often would you bench the likes of Pascal Groß (BRI, 5.9) or John Stones (MCI, 5.7)?

If you’re looking for the flexibility to play 3-5-2, you’ll need a cheaper - and riskier - option.

Laurent Depoitre (HUD, 5.2) looks good on paper, but could lose his place to the aforementioned Mounie. The same could be said for Jordan Ayew (SWA, 5.1) when Bony returns.

That leaves us with the interesting case of Oumar Niasse (EVE, 4.9).

Hastily priced-up by FPL Towers after his surprise recall by Ronald Koeman, he has scored a goal every 72 minutes on the pitch, boasting 57% goal involvement.

He could emerge as a real joker-in-the-pack if he can nail down a regular place under whoever Everton decide will manage them this season - could it be former boss Marco Silva?

QUICK TIP

It's never too early to start planning your Christmas shopping - and that applies to FPL, too.

Some teams have it tougher than others in December, so keep the prospect of rotation in the back of your mind when planning your next few transfers.

 

BUY

Now that N’Golo Kante has Chelsea ticking again, we can expect the goals to start flowing once more for Álvaro Morata (CHE, 10.3).

The Spaniard enjoyed a relatively relaxed international break, still managing to score during his 45-minute outing. He’s enjoyed more Big Chances (13) than any player so far this season, and can look forward to plenty more during Chelsea's forthcoming fixtures.

TRY

There's been so much potential but so little returns at Crystal Palace this season, and nobody has encapsulated that quite like Scott Dann (CRY, 4.7).

  

Joint top with Marcus Alonso among defenders for shots in the box (six) since GW8, surely the dam will burst when Palace face their fellow strugglers in the coming weeks.

GOODBYE

Hopefully, Ben Davies (TOT, 5.8) should be out of your squad by now.

Man owners sat tight as mystery injuries saw them turn to their bench players, but when that one-point cameo from the bench against Palace arrived, it was all too much to take.

 

Top of the League

There's little change at the top of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 158003-520394) this week, with world number two (!) Damir TeNay and his Lallana Land team still dominating. Conor White and Emma Nally are bravely giving chase - it's a long season, folks.



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