A whopping 16 players returned double-digit scores in Fantasy Premier League last week, and now everyone is scrambling to get them in their squad. But be careful - that search for a golden goose can land you with some real rotten eggs, writes Ken Rooney.
If you learn one thing from playing 10 maddening years of Fantasy Premier League, it’s that every season is different.
Last time out, Vardy and Mahrez cost next to nothing and suddenly money was no object. It wasn’t uncommon to have £1m+ in the bank every week, and feeling weirdly OK with that.
This season is already shaping up to be a very different beast indeed. Defenders are even more unreliable than usual, and after those big GW4 scores, we could be seeing this season’s stars emerge - and we want them now!
So unless more modestly priced options come to the fore, it’s looking like this season will see our budgets stretched to breaking point.
Time for an alternative strategy?
It’s been the accepted FPL wisdom for a while now to play three up front every week, but the current dearth of decent cheap strikers, as well as modern formations effectively turning midfielders into would-be attackers anyway, has raised some doubts.
Could this be the time for some of the more adventurous fantasy managers to ditch 3-4-3 and consider a benching a cheap-as-chips striker each week instead?
If you have faith that top-scoring FPL player so far (and everyone’s most frustrating benchwarmer) Etienne Capoue (WAT 4.9m) can continue to deliver decent returns, suddenly the prospect of 3-5-2 opens up.
Points today, gone tomorrow?
But of course, you can’t have them all. They may have scored big this week, but was it a flash in the pan?
So, taking the merits of Aguero and Ibrahimovic as a given, let’s have a look at some of the in-demand big-budget players we’ve convinced ourselves that we can’t do without right now.
Diego Costa's overhead kick 👌 pic.twitter.com/rSqyk4bS96— Chelsea News & Vids (@CFCclips) September 11, 2016
Not for the faint-hearted, this one. The prickly Brazilian has been great for his owners’ points total, but not their blood pressure. He’s picked up a yellow card in every game he’s scored in and should consider himself lucky not to see a red.
Sure, he’s firing in the goals - but already just two cards away from a ban, it might be wise to wait for the inevitable and re-assess afterwards.
The baby-faced Belgian currently sits joint top among midfielders for 'chances created' with 14 - including six during his dismantling of United. This, along with his 14 goal attempts makes him a top candidate - but at £10.5, he doesn’t come cheap.
Comparing 5 premium MID's in the opening 4 GW's— Fantasy Football Fix (@FantasyFootyFix) September 14, 2016
Throw in Aguero and you’re looking committing at almost a quarter of your budget on two Man City players. When they (eventually) have a bad week, so will you.
Not-so-affectionately referred to by some in the FPL community as ‘Blankaku’ after his inept Double Gameweek display last season, the Everton striker ended his dismal barren run in some style on Monday with a hat-trick against sorry Sunderland.
A nailed-on starter in a blossoming Toffees outfit under Ronald Koeman, he’s taking a shot every 16.1 minutes with 57.1% accuracy this season, and that £9.1 pricetag won’t break the bank. But - can you trust him?
Another potential ‘troll’ of the FPL, the Chilean marksman is known for his explosive returns - but he’s prone to some long barren spells himself. If you decide to get him in, you’ll be paying a premium at £11, and his 37.5% shot accuracy certainly has room for improvement.
But with his ownership below 15%, a run of goals during Arsenal’s mouth-watering series of upcoming fixtures could see his owners pull away from the pack.
A two-goal salvo against Leicester convinced over 65,000 FPL managers to draft in the wily Brazilian. A favourite of Klopp, he’s creating a chance every 27.1 minutes, so he has plenty of assist potential to go with that goal threat.
But be warned - the question of which Liverpool midfielder to buy is set to be a recurring theme this season. Both Lallana (11) and Coutinho (17) have had more goal attempts than Firmino, for a lower price too.
Mane (LIV, 8.9m) would be my tip in the long-term, but in any case, investment in Liverpool is probably best delayed until after tonight’s Chelsea match.
Conclusion? All that glitters...
Bottom line, watching on forlornly as that player we nearly got bangs in the goals is just something we’ll all have to get used to.
But who’s to say it’s any of the above who will have us tearing our hair out this season? Take Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley - remember those losers? They were cast-iron must-haves last week!
If you can find your season-keepers and shuffle the form players in and out, you’ve got this game sussed.
And you never know who’s just around the corner, waiting to be next week’s FPL golden boy...
Fabregas remains a part of Conte's plans: "He is a great player. If he continues training in this way, difficult not to pick him." #CFC— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) September 15, 2016
With money in the bank set to be a massive factor this season, don’t forget to transfer early to take advantage of overnight price rises. But don’t jump the gun and buy a player before he’s finished playing that Gameweek, or you could waste a precious transfer on an injured player.
Leighton Baines (EVE, 5.5m): Everton are on the up, and Baines offers all kinds of points potential. He has created five chances so far, joint-second among FPL defenders, and performance against Sunderland earned two bonus points. With free kicks and (maybe) penalties in his locker, he won’t cost £5.5m for long.
Christian Eriksen (TOT 8.4m): Spurs filled their boots against Stoke last Saturday, and they face some similarly obliging defences over the next few weeks. With Lamela out of favour, and the jury still out on Alli and Kane, the Dane is creating a chance every 33.3 minutes and could be a great shout.
Shane Long (SOU, 6.3m): Sorry to say, but a lack of returns from one of the top pre-season candidates for that third striker spot has seen his ownership slump to less than 7.5%. He did well in Europe last night, but with his pitch time on the decline, it’s with a heavy heart that Irish fantasy managers must jettison the Tipperary man from their squad - for the time being at least.
Top of the League
A 37-point gameweek finally saw Gerard Hogan knocked off top spot in the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 251768-521616), and in his place comes Eoghan Greene after he enjoyed the welcome sight Capoue’s points arriving in from the bench. Greene Machine F.C. is in the midst of an injury crisis though - will Eoghan wildcard to maintain that tenuous two-point lead?
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