Red cards, diving, goals galore - Gameweek 18 had plenty to keep Fantasy Premier League managers on their toes.
It even saved the best 'til last, as one penalty seemed to have something for everyone.
Fabianski in goal and DCL up front. That glorious penalty scored me 9 points (+bonus potentially) #FPL— Peter Blake (@mathsafe_fpl) December 18, 2017
It wasn't all fun and games, unfortunately - some of the complaints and more lurid speculation around David Silva's recent absence were as distasteful as they were ill-informed.
The idea that some people feel entitled to an explanation as to why he needed to attend to what must be a serious family matter boggles the mind. To their credit, most FPL players shrugged their shoulders acknowledged it as part of
the game life, and moved on.
Back in the fantasy realm, the debate in the FPL community around whether to hold or sell Harry Kane (TOT, 12.8) reached such a critical mass it was given its own name.
Certain expectations come with being the highest-priced player in FPL - and it's fair to say that the Tottenham man has mostly failed to live up to them.
The cold logic contained in statements like "if you're not going to captain a £12.8m player, why own him?" was hard to refute - up until the FPL gods conspired to dangle the shiny bauble of a season-changing Double Gameweek right in front of our noses.
Nevertheless, Tottenham's alarming deterioration in the form - particularly that of Dele Alli - as well as the outside chance of a suspension for Kane in GW20, has convinced some brave souls to take the plunge.
But much like its political namesake, Kanexit is risky, and you better have a good plan in place for when it happens. For those intending to bring Kane back for DGW22, other premium forwards have become temporary placeholders.
After finally recovering some form in front of goal, Romelu Lukaku (MUN, 11.3) has been the most popular replacement so far. Fixtures against Leicester, Burnley, Southampton, along with the return of Paul Pogba (MUN, 7.9), should see some returns for United - who have actually scored more goals than Liverpool.
Should Lukaku return in two or more of these matches, he could yet provide a headache for managers reluctant to let him go - making Sergio Aguero (MCI, 11.5) an intriguing short-term alternative.
Having sat out the Carabao Cup tie, he should start GW19, and while constant rotation has all but ruled him out of our long-term plans, the former FPL favourite could yet provide suitors with a memorable swansong over these next three fixtures.
My theory on Aguero
He has Bournemouth, Newcastle & Palace
Kane has Burnley, Southampton & blank
Let's say Aguero misses one of those games
I'd still gamble on Aguero to score more in his two fixtures than Kane in his— FPL Partridge (@FPL_Partridge) December 20, 2017
For some FPL managers, the question of replacing Kane became moot after Álvaro Morata (CHE, 10.7) piled on yet more misery on his long-suffering owners last Wednesday.
Teammate Marcus Alonso had provided a textbook execution of that time-honoured method of avoiding a league suspension just days earlier.
"A fifth yellow card of the season was conveniently picked up for time-wasting against the Saints while taking a corner. Alonso has never attempted to take a corner for Chelsea in his entire career at Stamford Bridge to that point." - brilliant!— Abdullah Eid (@AbdullahEidFC) December 21, 2017
Morata's attempt could have been perfect, were it not for one crucial detail - doing it the wrong way around!
Nobody can blame the FPL owners who have rage-transfer him out by now, but he remains Chelsea's only viable option in that lone striker berth, and his enforced rest against Everton should banish any future rotation concerns.
He was always a pick for the long-term, given Chelsea's long run of favourable fixtures right up until the end of February. Patience can be a virtue in FPL - just ask KDB owners - although Morata is now testing that concept to its absolute limit.
But with the big-money players taking so much our attention, have we been distracted from the shortcomings of those value players we thought we could "set-and-forget"?
Three weeks of blanks were enough to convince swathes of FPL managers to start abandoning Pascal Groß (BRI, 5.9) - and that was soon proven to be the right call.
Yet with just a single assist and two shots on target in his last six Gameweeks, the idea of selling Richarlison (WAT, 6.6) somehow seems altogether more difficult - despite his higher pricetag.
Although Watford's calamitous run of red cards has limited his freedom to attack, recent comments from teammate Sebastian Prödl seemed to banish any hope of the Brazilian "playing himself into form".
Prodl believes fatigue could be a factor in Richarlison's dip in form.December 21, 2017
Sales of Kane and Morata will see most upgrading the Watford man to the likes of Philippe Coutinho (LIV, 9.0) and Raheem Sterling (MCI, 8.5), but for those looking for a straight(ish) swap, an able alternative awaits in the form of Marko Arnautovic (WHU, 6.8).
Joint-top in FPL for shots in the box since GW16, he's been playing with a new-found pride and intensity recently, having been trusted with a central attacking role by Moyes.
The suspension of Brighton rock Shane Duffy (BRI, 4.6) may convince Richarlison owners to hold for GW19, but he may soon have to make way as the case for that fabled Power 5 Midfield grows more convincing by the week.
The prospect of owning an "out-of-position" player has always attracted FPL managers, but it can be a cruel mistress.
Sure, owning a defender playing in midfield has clear benefits - so long as his team isn't conceding every week - but beyond that, the waters start to get a little muddier.
Just look at Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.9) in recent weeks. A role as a 'false 9' promised much, but we've seen that the further forward the Belgian plays, the less effective he becomes.
Two efforts on goal in his two matches without Morata is a memorable example of how playing out-of-position and greater points potential don't always go hand-in-hand.
The lack of value among top-priced strikers has forced us to re-evaluate the prospect of investing in Kevin De Bruyne (MCI, 10.3).
With the Belgian's role as "defensive midfielder" now but a distant memory, he's now starting to produce the FPL points to match his undoubted potential.
Four league starts have seen Andrew Robertson (LIV, 4.6) firmly established as the replacement for the injured Alberto Moreno in Liverpool's defence,
Reds fans, in particular, won't need convincing that the Scot is a better defender than Moreno, and he has managed to concede 0.5 goals per match compared to Moreno's 1.4.
More surprising however is that Robertson seems to outperform Moreno across almost every attacking stat you care to mention, including his number of goal attempts, crosses and penalty area touches.
A clean sheet against Arsenal tonight might be asking a lot, but Liverpool face Swansea, Leicester and Burnley after that, by which time Klopp will have had time to enjoy the relative serenity offered by a defence without Moreno.
Similarly, keep an eye on the returning Shkodran Mustafi (ARS, 5.4) as a cut-price route into the Arsenal defence once this bus-free fixture is out of the way.
It was fun while it lasted, but with Spurs, Man Utd and Liverpool in their next four, and tough home fixtures until GW28, now is not the best time to own Burnley defenders.
The prospect of a few save points here should keep Nick Pope in most teams, but with Ward injured and Tarkowski suspended, clean sheets will prove hard to come by before January.
Top of the League
No change at the top of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 158003-520394) as will c and his 420 Fedora Fanatics stay top - but only just. A defensive full house helped Niall Gavin's niallys close the gap to just one point!
Happy Christmas all!
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