There was a time when owning three high-priced forwards seemed like the only the way to go in Fantasy Premier League.
These days we look upon our players in each of those previously coveted spots with ever-growing resentment, each one now a sarcastic manifestation of cash better spent elsewhere.
Although the prospect of an inflexible 4-5-1 is probably a step too far, it’s safe to say that the smart money right now is in midfield.
In the scramble to generate cash, big-money forwards have naturally been first in the firing line - and right now, there’s not a player among them who we can confidently say is truly worth the money.
So as we look for ways to fund our midfield splurge, it’s only natural we look to the game’s most expensive asset - and no player has divided opinion in FPL community lately as much as Harry Kane (TOT, 12.8).
Why own a £12.8m FPL forward if you’re not gonna captain him at home to a team that have conceded 15 goals in 7 away games?
Why own a £12.8m FPL forward if you’re not gonna captain him at home to a team that have conceded 15 goals in 7 away games?— FPLPriceChanges+ (@FPLPriceChanges) December 6, 2017
That moment when Harry #Kane is a differential captaincy pick against STOKE @ HOME who:
📍Have conceded the second most goals this season (30)
📍One away Clean SheetDecember 4, 2017
Another blank in GW15, his ninth of the season, has tested the patience of even his most loyal owners. His next two fixtures against Stoke and Brighton may look good on paper, but Spurs have struggled against lesser teams at Wembley already this season.
To further complicate matters, the first Double Gameweek was announced this week.
So Harry Kane will definitely blank on #GW21
No change there then— Two Footed Fantasy (@2FootedFantasy) December 4, 2017
Those in need of that little push into the unknown could always comfort themselves with a plan to bring the out-of-sorts Spurs man back for his two fixtures in GW22. Do be careful how you distribute that new-found wealth though, or you’ll take multiple hits when it’s time to get him back.
Anyone fortunate enough to have watched Liverpool’s 7-0 dismantling of Spartak Moscow couldn’t help but salivate at their goalscoring potential (we’ll assume everyone has Mo Salah (LIV, 9.9) by now - any remaining logic for avoiding him has long since passed human understanding).
When looked at in isolation, Firmino’s recent return to form would seem to justify his FPL inclusion - but when you can have penalty-taking Philippe Coutinho (LIV, 8.9) and his 60% goal involvement for just £0.4m more, it seems like such a waste.
The same could be said for Álvaro Morata (CHE, 10.8). Despite being the only striker enjoying any real consensus in the community, most of those who opted for him over similarly-priced teammate Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.8) are regretting it now.
GW16 captain is...December 7, 2017
Romelu Lukaku finally got re-acquainted with the scoresheet again in midweek, but without his assister-in-chief Pogba for the next three matches, he’s firmly off the menu.
After being finally trusted to play 90 minutes for the first time since GW1, Alexandre Lacazette (ARS, 10.3) is quietly making a case for inclusion. With surprisingly impressive underlying stats, as well as attacking returns in four of his last five, he could yet be an ace up the sleeve of anyone willing to meet his lofty pricetag.
As for Man City, too much has already been written about the guessing game that is Pep’s frontline. You’ll be spared more of it here, for this week at least.
The obvious upshot of all this is to plump for cheaper options up front to invest in midfield - but this isn't as straightforward as it may seem.
Slim pickings in the budget bracket
Current flavour of the month Dominic Calvert-Lewin (EVE, 5.2) has now joined the ranks of KDB, RLC, VVD, PVA and JWP in becoming widely referred to by his initials in an FPL community just too damn busy to be pronouncing anything resembling a double-barrelled name.
It remains to be seen if Big Sam won’t eventually be tempted by the greater pace offered by Oumar Niasse (EVE, 5.0) - although DCL certainly has a quality much admired by his new boss.
In truth, every uber-cheap third striker is either a boring two-point-per-game merchant like Jordan Ayew and Laurent Depoitre, or have some risk attached.
A little further up the food chain, Chris Wood (BUR, 6.4) was beginning to look viable, but the absence of Robbie Brady’s pinpoint crosses for the foreseeable future won’t do him any favours.
Glenn Murray (BRI, 5.8) still has his suitors, but he’s suffered a dip in both form and minutes of late and is now just one yellow card away from suspension.
Elsewhere, Tammy Abraham (SWA, 5.9) hasn’t scored since GW8, and the likes of Callum Wilson, Troy Deeney and Dwight Gayle are decent, but can’t be trusted to get the minutes.
Our hearts may yearn to give players like Charlie Austin (SOU, 6.0) and Jay Rodriguez (WBA, 5.6) a chance to repeat their heroics of seasons gone by, but our heads will usually rule.
But although both are risky right now, they are well worth monitoring - particularly Rodriguez.
Three of his six shots in the box against Palace were on target, and he could find himself at the centre of Pardinho’s more attacking system by the time West Brom’s fixtures improve.
Is your goalie a keeper?
The most ignored position in FPL was thrust into the limelight recently by the simultaneous absence of the two cheapest starting keepers in the game - Julian Speroni (CRY, 4.0) and Rob Elliot (NEW, 4.2). Suddenly, penny-pinching FPL managers were forced into a transfer they never wanted to make, or face the prospect of fielding 10 players.
The dream of rotating £4m keepers was dead but not before an especially cruel twist of fate saw Speroni came on and become the highest-scoring goalkeeper of the week.
For the unfortunate managers who had already replaced him with Hennessey, the misery was complete.
Same here, buying Hennessey for Elliot just to have a playing GK only to find out that fecker got injured in warm up, that just makes me fume even thinking about it. 😤😤😤 Of course Speroni got 11 points afterwards to make me feel better. 😂😂😂😡😡— Bald Eagle (@FPLBaldEagle24) December 3, 2017
We now know that those who were urging investment in David de Gea (MUN, 5,8) in their pre-season previews have basically been proven correct.
With all the early-season hype around wing-backs and their potential for attacking returns, the Man United stopper has outscored every defender in the game thanks to a steady stream of clean sheets and saves.
He remains a good investment even at his inflated price, but for any managers looking to go a different way, Thibaut Courtois (CHE, 5.5) offers a nice, boring route into what promises to be relatively smooth sailing against goal-shy teams.
He doesn't offer the (so far unfulfilled) attacking potential of similarly-priced teammate Andreas Christensen (CHE, 5.5), but you won't have to sweat him losing his place - a valuable luxury in this new age of rotation.
For those looking to get more from the position without splashing too much cash, a cut-price Jordan Pickford (EVE, 4.8) could fit the bill - once the small matter of a Merseyside derby is safely in the rear-view mirror, of course.
Reminder, the qualification for the fpl cup starts this week. The top 4,194,304 gw scores this week will be taking part— FPL Tomas🏆 (@FplTomas) December 4, 2017
If you want to be part of the romance and magic of the FPL Cup, you’ll need to get a decent score in GW16 - something to consider when deciding whether to take a points hit or not.
Success in GW15 was almost exclusively reserved for those who had the foresight to bring Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.8) into their team.
Now revelling in his free-wheeling Number 10 role, the Belgian’s form has become impossible to ignore. Managers who persist in ignoring him this week can’t say they weren’t warned.
Eden Hazard vs Newcastle
🔘2 Chances Created
🔘6 Shots On TargetDecember 2, 2017
For those unwilling to change formation or sacrifice assets like Harry Kane to meet Hazard’s pricetag, Philippe Coutinho (LIV, 8.9) looks like one of the few players capable of matching him.
Now seemingly on penalties for the Merseysiders, the Little Magician has been looking better with every match.
Largely thanks to his own creativity, he’s had a scoring chance every 20.1 minutes - and that’s before we even start talking about his lavish assist potential in Liverpool’s gung-ho attack.
When Salah, Mane, Coutinho and Firmino are on the pitch together, one of them scores every 23 minutes.— paul joyce (@_pauljoyce) December 7, 2017
It wasn’t long ago that he was the standout pick in a rampant Man City team, but Leroy Sané’s (MCI, 8.8) stock has fallen considerably since.
Understandably spooked by the prospect of a 5-0 defeat, opposing managers have been taking a “safety first” approach against City lately.
This has seen the German’s threat on fast breaks diminish considerably. Both the frequency and quality of his shots has declined, with his Expected Goals down from 0.5 per match in GWs 6-10 to a mere 0.1 in GWs 11-15.
Of course, choosing to sell a player of this potential always carries an element of risk with it, but then so did selling Christian Eriksen - and his former owners haven’t looked back since.
Top of the League
World number 16 Niall Gavin knows all about the value of Eden Hazard - his niallys team stay top of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 158003-520394) after trusting the Chelsea star with the armband. Valencia and Firmino chipped in too on the way to a 66-point return.
Fellow Hazard captainers Eoin O'Brien and Conor White moved up the rankings with similar returns. There's a lesson in there somewhere.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved