The season is only four weeks old - but already Fantasy Premier League is handing out some tough lessons for some of the more unfortunate managers among us.
First there was Sadio Mané's sending off to deal with - and those who moved too quickly to replace the Liverpool midfielder learned the hard way why you should always wait during a Champions League week.
27,640 #FPL managers replaced Mane with Pogba before his injury— Fantasy Premier League (@OfficialFPL) September 13, 2017
Kevin De Bruyne expertly trolled the 300,000+ who sold him - but nobody knew FPL pain quite like this poor sod...
There were more minor quibbles, too.
Not everyone was pleased with FPL’s calls on Obiang’s goal or Fonte’s assist. Chris Löwe and Bruno Grau both collected clean sheet points despite their teams conceding, and although they didn’t pick up two bonus points like Nyom last season, it was pretty funny nonetheless.
But as we prepared to dust ourselves off in preparation for Gameweek 5 and look for midfield reinforcements, one question did spring to mind.
Who the hell is Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting?
Two goals against the previously imperious Man United defence made us all sit up and take a look at Stoke City’s Eric Choupo-Moting (STO, 5.6).
The quick influx of transfers understandably provoked familiar cries of “knee-jerk” throughout the FPL community.
Chupa Chups buyers are chasing points that have already been scored. #FPL— Fly🔻 (@FPL_Fly) September 11, 2017
However, although we can hardly expect such explosive returns too often, a look at his stats does offer some encouragement.
Since starting in GW2, he's fired an impressive 12 attempts on goal, including nine inside the box, placing him alongside the very best midfielders in the game.
Early days, but this is Choupo-Moting (GWs1-4) vs Josh King (last 4 GWs of 2016-2017). Very similar goal threat 🤔 #FPL c/@FFScout pic.twitter.com/kGxUJCWFXB— FPL Mongoose (@FPL_Mongoose) September 14, 2017
His 45 goals and 22 assists in 204 Bundesliga appearances probably gives us a better indication of what we can expect from the 28-year-old in the long-term.
You could take your pick from the endless carousel of exciting yet inconsistent sub-£6m midfield prospects Choupo-Moting has taken his place alongside, but for those looking for a reliable big hitter to fill that Mane/Pogba-shaped holes in their squad, there are some pretty straightforward alternatives.
Christian Eriksen (TOT, 9.7) is the obvious candidate, especially given Dele Alli’s recent dip in form - although with European and international bans in effect or pending, the England man seems strangely determined to focus on the Premier League.
— ÉL STATTO (@FPL_ElStatto) September 10, 2017
For those who have him already, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (MUN, 8.4) is the logical sideways move, although his lack of willingness to shoot will concern new and long-term owners alike.
For those untroubled by midfield worries, attention has shifted to the forward line, and a question some believe we shouldn’t even be asking.
Is it actually time to ditch Lukaku?
At the start of the season, if you told Romelu Lukaku (MUN, 11.7) owners they would be considering shipping out the striker after four goals in as many games, few would have believed you - but it’s a question his millions of owners must now contemplate.
So why consider the kind of move that would seem unthinkable during any other season? As always, it comes down to value for money.
Álvaro Morata (CHE, 10.2) looks very much the new Diego Costa - relentlessly scoring headed goals - but without the frustrating knack of avoiding bonus points.
Kane + Morata much more effective than Kane + Lukaku for captaincy GW8 on. https://t.co/QKgYfANiVq— Andy Bastable (@andybastable) September 14, 2017
After his quiet start, FPL managers know this may be the last chance to grab Gabriel Jesus (MCI, 10.4) before both his price and 9.8% ownership skyrocket.
Both are producing similar points returns for significantly less outlay.
One-time FPL must-have Sergio Aguero (MCI, 11.4) and Alexandre Lacazette (ARS, 10.4) deserve to be part of this conversation too, especially for those looking for an explosive differential.
Up front. Kane, Firmino and one of Lukaku/Morata/Jesus/Aguero/Lacazette gives you 3 viable captain options.— FPL Guidance (@FPL_Guidance) September 14, 2017
There’s also the need make space for Harry Kane (TOT, 12.4), who looks like he’s found his shooting boots at last.
His two goals against Dortmund should have tipped the balance for anyone unconvinced by his goals against a criminally obliging Everton defence.
1.07 – Harry Kane has the best goals-per-game ratio of any player in Europe’s big 5 leagues in 2017 in all comps (min. 10 goals). Lethal. pic.twitter.com/szarFFrSrG— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2017
Losing a player as highly owned as Lukaku brings with it significant risk, but whatever striker combination you go for, it looks like hiding behind the couch will simply be a fact of life this season.
Those who opt for just two up front will probably need an entire three-piece suite.
Saving money in defence
Three premium forwards won’t come cheap, so you’ll need to cut the usual corners in defence.
Benjamin Mendy (MCI, 6.5) or Sead Kolasinac (ARS, 6.0) have emerged as exciting alternatives for anyone whose budget can’t quite stretch to Marcus Alonso, but can we justify the outlay?
4 - Sead Kolasinac has now had a hand in four goals (two goals, two assists) in five appearances for Arsenal (inc. Comm Shield). Impact.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2017
Happily, there are some attractive alternatives in the budget range, but a note of caution before you make your moves - defenders are notoriously prone to price drops, and are slow to recover that value.
They are also far more at the mercy of their fixtures than their goal-greedy teammates elsewhere on the pitch, effectively ruling out prospects like Scott Dann (CRY, 4.9) until GW9.
Similarly, three consecutive clean sheets have seen Francisco Femenía Far (WAT, 4.5) come from out of nowhere to become the second-highest scoring defender in the game - but Watford’s upcoming fixtures should curtail investment in this bonus-points magnet for now.
More defensive woe for #watfordfc Silva confirms Kaboul and Prodl will both miss out. Britos [susp] and Catchcart is sidelined until January— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) September 14, 2017
Starting in goal, Rob Elliot (NEW, 4.0) has become one of those rare ‘no-brainer’ moves for any FPL managers with a wildcard or spare transfer in their pocket. He also rotates well with Jack Butland (STO, 5.0), or perhaps Nick Pope (BUR, 4.5) if you’re short of cash.
Classy centre-back Florian Lejeune (NEW, 4.4) is due back after injury and represents another cut-price route into Rafa’s well-drilled Toon rearguard.
Newcastle have conceded 1 goal this season playing with 11 men - 3.5 matches#fpl— FPL % OWNED (@FPL_OWNED) September 10, 2017
Ireland’s own Shane Duffy (BRI, 4.5) came so close to scoring against Georgia, Moldova and West Brom in recent weeks, a Premier League goal surely can’t be too far away.
Those attracted by a pure Moneyball approach to FPL will already be eyeing up 0.6% owned Aaron Cresswell (WHU, 5.0).
The return of Andy Carroll saw under-pressure Slaven Bilic go back to basics against Huddersfield, bombarding their area with crosses.
Set-piece and corner duties could see him become chief supplier to West Ham’s front men, and he faces a procession of notoriously goal-shy teams until GW12 (Spurs being the obvious exception).
If you’re happy to go without attacking threat, now is the optimum time to pick up Stoke’s Kevin Wimmer before that £4.4m pricetag disappears.
Finally, if you’re looking for some excitement in your life, Alberto Moreno (LIV, 4.5) is your guy.
This A. Moreno not the one from last season. He's doing a Marcelo: coming inside, once as a striker, and of course the left like in goal— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) September 13, 2017
It’s that pesky Friday transfer deadline again folks - make sure you have your business done by 7pm GMT today.
⚠️FPL GW5 deadline is Friday 19:00⚠️
You've been warned...don't forget! ⏰
RT #FPL— Fantasy Football Community (@FFCommunity_) September 13, 2017
The prevailing pre-season prophecy spoke of how a cut-price Spurs defender would provide us with attacking returns and clean sheets galore. The only snag is that his name isn’t Kieran Trippier - it’s actually Ben Davies (TOT, 5.7).
FPL’s current top points scorer has created an astonishing 13 chances so far, compared to Marcus Alonso’s six. He’s also top among defenders for crosses (32) and takes his share of set-pieces.
His place in the side is dependent on Danny Rose’s knee injury, so the conservative position might be to steer clear - but we’ve all seen what ‘overthinking it’ can do sometimes...
"Don't go for Davies because Rose is almost back"
"Don't go for Costa because he's a yellow card away from suspension" #FPL— The Mad One (@FPLMad) September 10, 2017
*whispers very loudly* Ben Davies might be better than Danny Rose.— Cartilage Free Captain (@cartilagefree) September 13, 2017
Some tough opening fixtures and the appeal of similarly-priced Firmino have overshadowed Jamie Vardy (LEI, 8.5), but the Leicester striker looks hungry and finally has some inviting fixtures to look forward to. Ignore him at your peril.
Jamie Vardy has now scored 11 goals in 18 Premier League games under Craig Shakespeare.
Tucked away from the spot. pic.twitter.com/9yZ1XAvVa4— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 9, 2017
Should his Sevilla miss see Firmino lose penalty-taking duties, we may have to re-evaluate their relative merits.
Anyone who bought Ahmed Hegazi at £4.5 and harvested those 25 points should now pat themselves on the back, sell high and bank a cool £0.2m profit. With Evans, McAuley and possibly Dawson now vying for a centre-back berth, this is no time for misplaced loyalty for “a player who’s done well for me”.
Chasing points that have been and gone— FantasyFootballTips (@fantfoottipster) September 9, 2017
Top of the League
We have a new leader at the top of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 158003-520394). A 63-point haul was enough to put Martin Molloy and his puntastic Michu at De Gea Bar team over the top - Davies, Lukaku and Jesus coming up with the goods. How he deals with his Pogba problem could be crucial in deciding whether he stays there.
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