The start of January saw the first Double Gameweek of the Fantasy Premier League season - and like most of them, it brought plenty of disappointment with it.
Let’s rip off one particular Band-Aid right away - the decision to triple captain Harry Kane (TOT, 12.9) was an unmitigated disaster for those who took the plunge.
What’s 3 x 1? Asking for a friend! #FPL— Black & White FPL (@Barrick88) January 2, 2018
The fact that 10% of world's top 1,000 managers joined them may provide comfort, as should the relative scarcity of those willing to rub their noses in it.
Simply put, the rest of us were relieved - we know how different it could have been.
Even if it’s only a single extra fixture, there’s something about a Double Gameweek (DGW) that gets the blood flowing.
You’d think the fact that goalkeepers and no-name Stoke defenders end up as top scorers in past DGWs would be enough to curb our fevered optimism, but alas, we never learn.
Forster's pen save again shows the you should captain a 'keeper/defender on a DGW #FPL
DGW37 ?? pic.twitter.com/wLCCAw9q3k— #FPL Stag (@FPLStag) May 7, 2017
There is a long-running assumption that Double and Blank Gameweeks represent a chance for ‘serious’ FPL players to steal a march on their less dedicated rivals.
It evokes images of these so-called ‘casuals’ innocently skipping through fields, blissfully unaware of the metaphorical treasure chests and bear traps that surround them.
Yet while planning for these eventualities is undeniably beneficial, when the dust settles, the reality rarely matches the hype - particularly in these “small” DGWs.
Lessons to be learned from DGW22
One approach some managers took was to load up on as many Tottenham and West Ham players as possible, often using their Free Hit chip or taking points hits to do it.
This meant that in the extra game between the two sides, any points scored by attackers on one team negated defensive points on the other, limiting the maximum points ceiling.
The fact that the match ended in that most dreaded of all results in FPL (1-1) just rubbed it in.
Stock up on DGW players, they said
There's a lot of points to be won, they said pic.twitter.com/br05Rchvjm— FPL Partridge (@FPL_Partridge) January 4, 2018
While many gung-ho managers will be happy to hold their new acquisitions, for others, some painstaking rebuilding of their squad awaits.
Flooding a squad with DGW players makes perfect sense in the closing stages of the season when they only hang around for another week or two anyway, but when it arrives earlier, having one good candidate for captain in a DGW can often be enough to enjoy a decent score while keeping your squad balance intact.
Another unfortunate consequence of the clamour to recruit Spurs midfielders was some ill-advised offloading of season-keeper Mo Salah (LIV, 10.1).
Perhaps the community ‘echo chamber’ was to blame for the belief that his price would plummet - but it didn’t, leaving some experienced managers to rue a sharp slump in their team value.
He never dropped... I’ve made a huge mistake! Anyone got a spare £0.5 million lying around? 😳 https://t.co/S3r27UM4NR— Fantasy Football Community (@FFCommunity_) January 11, 2018
With positive injury news emerging, many are already looking for a way to bring him back in, while others have been distracted by players threatening to usurp the Egyptian as this season’s ‘must-have’ player.
The new ‘essentials’?
A once ubiquitous term among FPL commentators, you’ll rarely hear the word “essential” used without some kind of qualification these days. Players such as Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy set the bar high, while the likes of Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.7) hardly inspires such faith.
However, the value and/or explosive points potential offered by three players recently has it being whispered in hushed tones.
Top of the pile is Chelsea defender-come-all-out-striker Marcus Alonso (CHE, 7.3).
A return of 53 points in his last six games had made his faithful owners suitably chuffed.
My only points hit this season was to bring Alonso in a few GWs back. This was a factor in my decision to keep him on free hit this week.
From what I seen of the game tonight he could have had a hat trick (free kick just over & good header saved by Cech).
Happy owner.— #FPL General (@FPLGeneral) January 3, 2018
So were the rest of us mad to dump him earlier in the season?
Well, no, actually. Clearly, he has lost all interest in playing in his own half in the past six weeks compared to his less productive period, as this heatmap comparison shows.
In that time, his goal attempts are up from 1.5 to 2.5 per match. Shot accuracy has jumped from 19% to 53.3% - unsustainable perhaps, but some of this can be put down to his 1.7 shots in the box per match recently compared to 1.1 in GWs 3-16.
It’s difficult to argue against owning a defender who not only promises clean sheets galore, but boasts recent attacking stats to rival all but the best premium forwards. Just keep an eye out for any regression in his positioning.
Another name that has the FPL community buzzing lately is that of unlikely Man United goalscoring sensation Jesse Lingard (MUN, 6.3).
Jesse Lingard has now scored or assisted 10 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions for Man Utd. Red hot form 🔥🔥🔥. pic.twitter.com/KclczX52lB— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 5, 2018
It may have taken nine Gameweeks with 53% goal involvement, but Lingard seems to be finally shaking off his reputation as just another United fringe player.
Just as we did in seasons past with the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Josh King, Jamie Vardy and a certain Harold Kane, it may be time to look past the pricetag and recognise a points machine when we see one.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Manchester, another player could soon be reminding us of his previous undroppable status.
With the injury prognosis for minutes-sharing strike partner Gabriel Jesus ranging from the uncertain to the doom-laden, depending on who you read, the way is clear for Sergio Aguero (MCI, 11.7) to relive past glories in a free-scoring Man City side.
With 22.6% ownership, he’s not exactly a differential, and Man City’s busy schedule is a concern - but his 7.55 points per 90 mins this season sits alongside his best periods in a City shirt.
For FPL managers needing to make up ground, he’s a captaincy option capable of the kind of season-changing scores to send them shooting up the rankings.
But be warned - everything you’ve read so far here, and elsewhere for that matter, comes with a massive caveat, that being...
The January Transfer Window
Unlike Ross Barkley’s move to Chelsea, the upcoming wave of Premier League transfers will upset the pecking order in many clubs, throwing many FPL teams into disarray in the process.
The future of Alexis Sanchez (ARS, 11.8) could see a change of role for many high-profile FPL assets, for example, but nowhere is the threat of disruption more prevalent than in our neverending quest for a decent cheap third striker.
Already Cenk Tosun's arrival at Everton has dented Dominic Calvert-Lewin's prospects, and Alex Pritchard at Huddersfield could shake things up for Depoitre or Quaner.
It seems that every day brings a new transfer that consigns another of our cheap enablers to the FPL dustbin.
Looks like Crystal Palace will soon have a new goalkeeper - details of deal for Getafe's Vicente Guaita being sorted now— Dean Jones (@DeanJonesBR) January 11, 2018
Oumar Niasse (EVE, 4.7) could become an option again when he exits Everton, but much will depend on where he ends up, with Crystal Palace, Brighton and West Brom all in the frame.
Clearly, now is not the optimum time to be making wholesale changes to your squad. If you can, tread carefully and save two free transfers for GW26.
You’ll be glad you did.
I have to give a quick mention to the Fanfeud podcast, which sadly reached the end of the road this week.
This is very difficult news to relay, but unfortunately the Fanfeud podcast as we know it is no more.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed & listened over the years 😢there are too many to mention now. When I get my head re-focused I'll be back with more info. Thanks friends— Amigo Don 🇨🇽 (@FPLMarple) January 9, 2018
Hosted by Ireland’s own Donnacha Brennan, and previously Dave O'Grady, I was fortunate enough to have been invited on myself a few times. It was always a great source of guidance and entertainment, and will be greatly missed by many.
The departure of Phillipe Coutinho (BRC, 146.0) to Barcelona has had many questioning the FPL prospects of Liverpool’s remaining attackers.
However, a look at the stats so far this season reveals that far from being concerned, Salah owners could conceivably rejoice at the news!
A recent analysis by FantasyFootballScout.co.uk revealed that Salah shoots more, scores more and enjoys more Big Chances when Coutinho was out of the side than when he was in.
The same even goes for teammate Sadio Mané (LIV, 9.3), whose Expected Goals double from 0.24 to 0.49 per match in Coutinho’s absence (albeit from a smaller sample size).
The same cannot be said for Roberto Firmino (LIV, 9.1) however - his goalscoring potential took a noticeable hit when his fellow Brazilian was on the bench.
. #LFC has created 24.8 #xG with Coutinho & 20.3 without him in #PremierLeague 2017/18 at 2.01 & 2.11 xG/90 respectively. Here's how the goal involvement (#xG & #xA) was shared around in each scenario. Data @InfoGolApp pic.twitter.com/OpJXFZ4ZTS— mark taylor (@MarkTaylor0) January 7, 2018
It’s a case of take your pick from the three big guns mentioned earlier, really. Is buying Marcos Alonso just “chasing points”? Is Jesse Lingard the real deal? Will Pep frustrate us once again by rotating Sergio Aguero?
Pep admits that he must protect Aguero a little bit.😨January 10, 2018
It’s time to go with your gut.
If you’re lucky enough to have all the captaincy options you need, there’s plenty of value to be found in defence.
Top 10 by Points Per Game under £7.5m (Min. 1000 mins):
1. Azpi 5.7
2. Alonso 5.5
3. Otamendi 5.5
4. Ramsey 5.4
5. DDG 5.2
6. Valencia 5.2
7. Jones 5.2
8. Rooney 5.2
9. Rudiger 5.0
10. Pope 4.9
2 GK/6 DEF/1 MID/1 FWD.
Hard to overlook the value in defence this season. 💰#FPL— FPL Viper (@FPLViper) January 2, 2018
You don’t even need a big transfer kitty. Despite becoming a regular in one of the most reliably tight defences in the league since GW14, Phil Bardsley (BUR, 4.3) has flown well under the radar. The same could be said for Cuco Martina (EVE, 4.4) at Everton, a straightforward swap for the soon-to-be-replaced Jonjoe Kenny.
What does this mean? Essentially, teams are registering more clean sheets compared to last season. There have been 140 so-far, compared to 111 at the same stage last season. #FPL
What does this mean? Essentially, teams are registering more clean sheets compared to last season. There have been 140 so-far, compared to 111 at the same stage last season. #FPL— #FPL Secrets (@FPLSecrets) January 6, 2018
A slow drip-feed of assists just isn't enough to justify investment in Christian Eriksen (TOT, 9.3).
Once more playing in a slightly withdrawn role, both Heung-Min Son (TOT, 8.1) and Dele Alli (TOT, 9.0) are cheaper and livelier options in the Spurs midfield.
Top of the League
It was a tough week for many, but not so for Conor White, who made good use of his Free Hit chip to see his Bayern Neverlosen team soar to the top of the Official Irish Examiner League.
The league will be closed for new entries after the GW23 deadline, so now is your last chance to join. Simply enter the code 158003-520394 and see if you can topple Conor.
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