It is hard to believe this season is already entering Week 25. Whenever Week 25 rolls around in a given season, it sets off endorphins in my head as I feell a mixture of excitement for the run in and depression because the season is winding down. Like most story arcs you read in novels or see played out in films, there is a three part structure - Acts I, II and III. Week 25 is the start of the third and final act and, when you throw in the drama behind blank gameweeks, double gameweeks and FPL chips being used, the season really does build to a climax in its final third both in fantasy and in reality.
Last week, I think I did a pretty good job on highlighting the best players to grab at every position. I make a habit of pointing out my bad calls too, and I suppose that was the case with Patrick van Aanholt. I thought Crystal Palace, with the arrival of Sam Allardyce, were going to tighten up defensively, as Big Sam has a reputation of saving clubs from the drop as was the case at Sunderland last season. So to think of how Sunderland defensive options were actually a viable one down the stretch last season, I assumed Crystal Palace would follow suit. The Eagles host the Black Cats over the weekend, giving van Aanholt an immediate shot of motivation to make a good impression with his new club while facing his old one. Palace were a defensive disaster and delivered nothing on the attacking end either. I find it difficult to believe, given the pieces Palace has in place, that the club will continue to perform as miserably as they did last weekend, but it certainly has me pumping the brakes on looking at them for fantasy options.
The other three "buy now" options were a hit. Ben Foster delivered another clean sheet. Gylfi Sigurdsson found the net once again for the Swans. And Romelu Lukaku, well I hope four goals is enough of a return for you. To be fair, I co-nominated Christian Benteke at the forward position and explained how he can give an option to those who were unable to afford Lukaku or didn't want to sell one of their other big forwards. But, I did emphasize that you were getting a more consistent producer in Lukaku and suggested that he would make for a good armband option.
If only I had the ability to follow my own advice. I brought Lukaku in last week, but i didn't give him the armband. That was the difference between getting a giant green arrow and what I wound up getting - a tiny red arrow. As we enter this final third of the season, yes, we must plan accordingly for blank and double gameweeks and other ways to get an edge, but it cannot be stressed enough - getting the armband right on a fairly consistent basis is the key to success in FPL/
Right, there is no time to waste. Let's push on and take a look at the have's and have not's as we enter Week 25:
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TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
So now it is time to look at the players to think about ahead of Week 4. As a reminder, there are four categories of players which I feel are worth mentioning week to week when making decisions about transfers....
1) Players to buy
2) Players to sell
3) Players to hold onto
4) Players to avoid buying
I will also include later in the section, my top choices for the captain's armband. While I will consider every player from A to Z, it is pretty hard to look past the A (Aguero) or the Z (Zlatan).
Right, so let's dive in...
*Just as a reminder, keepers should always be the last position to think about using transfers for, unless there is an urgent need. So, when you see who I have listed here, bear in mind that my keeper advice does not carry as much weight as the outfield positions.
Player to buy: Ben Foster - Four straight weeks for Foster in this spot, and I think this may be the final week i designate him as the best keeper to buy at the moment. There should be solid returns in the next three weeks, two of which are home to Bournemouth and Palace. It gets tougher for the Baggies after that but keepers should stay through those stretches in your side rather than spending a transfer and no matter who the opponent is, the Baggies always have a chance for home clean sheets.
Player to sell: Fraser Forster - Last week, I asked Forster owners to give him one more week to prove his worth and he came up short. It is alarming to see the Saints let three past them on their own ground and the sale of Jose Fonte coupled with the ankle injury to Virgil van Dijk has left the center of defense in shambles. Add in the fact Southampton have a blank the following week and it makes this call easy
Player to hold: Victor Valdes - Middlesbrough have very little attacking punch so it appears their key to survival in the league is the defense. They have a very respectable one. Given their table position, you might not realize that only three clubs have conceded less goals on the season. Valdes is starting to pick up save points, one in each of the last two rounds and Boro's fixtures look to contain a clean sheet or two in the coming weeks.
Player to avoid: Tom Heaton - There are many owners of Heaton out there and I am one of them. Those who've read this column during the season know I've backed him since day one. Just to make clear, I am not suggesting current owners should sell. However, non-owners should not buy him now. The bulk of Burnley's success is at home and after this week they play four straight on the road. This week, they are home, but playing table-topping Chelsea. It will be a while before I advise non-owners to pick up Heaton.
Player to buy: Chris Brunt - Having come away with only appearance points in Week 24, I urged Brunt owners to keep the faith. He bounced back with a nine point effort last week, the fifth time in eleven weeks he has scored 8 points or higher, proving Brunt provides more than clean sheets. He gets attacking returns, he gets bonus. Buy him soon before the fixtures start to toughen.
Player to sell: Bournemouth defenders - Considering Charlie Daniels currently has a red flag in FPL as he hopes to recover from a knee injury in time for Monday night's kickoff, so many may be selling the highest-owned Cherries defender already. However, if you have any Bournemouth defenders, I would look to sell as last week's mauling at the hands of Everton was a wake-up call. True, Bournemouth defenders like Daniels and Adam Smith offer some attacking threat, but the state of defense and the fixtures upcoming outweigh any attacking potential.
Player to hold: Swansea defenders - Maybe you are like me and still have Jordi Amat taking up space as a non-playing 5th defender, in the side since the season started, but if you happened to pick up another budget Swan along the way that is now a regular in the side, like a Kyle Naughton or Alfie Mawson, you are in good shape. The Swans gave up two goals last week, but give them a bit of a pass playing at the Etihad. In general though, they are improving under Paul Clement and they have some very attractive matchups ahead. So don't just hold them, use them.
Player to avoid: Lamine Kone - Remember how big Kone came through at the end of last season? Well, he has not been talked about this season as the Black Cats have had a dismal defensive record. Kone immediately thrust himself back into fantasy manager's minds last week though, scoring a goal and collecting a clean sheet for a huge points haul. It would be chasing points now. Yes, he is cheap and nailed on, but so are some of the Swans I mentioned above and their future looks brighter for returns than the options one can buy from Sunderland.
Player to buy: Gylfi Sigurdsson - Siggy makes the top midfielder buy for the second straight week and why not? I had the courage to elect him ahead of a road match against Manchester City, so I am positively gushing over his prospects ahead of this weekend's hosting of Leicester, a club who simply cannot defend, especially away from home. Open play, free kick, penalty kick...there are all kinds of ways for Gylfi to score a goal, perhaps more, in any fixture these days.
Player to sell: Mesut Ozil - Arsenal nailed-on attacking options come with a premium price tag, so when they blank in Week 26 it will be felt benching a player like Ozil. I think Alexis Sanchez is the only one worth keeping and benching, because you will probably want him back immediately and you may not be able to afford his price, which will be higher than what you sold him at, assuming you've had Sanchez for a while. The other thing is though, it is no longer a slam dunk that the fixture this weekend, home to Hull, will be as lucrative as once thought. The Tigers have transformed into a tight unit at the back, keeping back to back clean sheets against Manchester United and Liverpool.
Player to hold: Matt Phillips - There is a reason I had not bought Phillips yet this season. There was a window to make him my #4 midfielder at one point but I went Robert Snodgrass instead. I simply do not trust West Brom for attacking returns. Yes, they come, sometimes in bunches, but I don't have faith in a consistently solid attack. That said, those who did buy in on Phillips are starting to have doubts as he has gone four straight without attacking returns. I want to advise, given what Phillips has shown he can do and the Baggies fixtures over the next three, to give the man a little longer leash before cutting ties.
Player to avoid: Pedro Obiang - When you get a goal and an assist in the same match and you cost under 4.5m, you are going to get people's attention and that is what Obiang accomplished last weekend. I mean hey, if you like to start three forwards, everyone needs a cheap 5th midfielder for bench fodder and as long as they start regularly, they are returning value. Anything more than that and you have people racing out to buy, as was the case earlier in the season with Etienne Capoue. Before his big day though, Obiang had a total of zero goals and two assists in his two seasons with the Hammers. Even though his role is not as cemented, I'd rather have Tom Davies at the same price, who has basically matched Obiang's attacking return over two seasons in a matter of a few weeks.
Player to buy: Jermain Defoe - He has gone and done it again. I sold Defoe, replacing him with Giroud for a few weeks, then most recently put Romelu Lukaku in that spot. As great of a week as Lukaku had, Defoe proved to me yet again that there is really no reason to move him in and out, he should just stay put as your third striker, especially now that we know he staying in a known role with Sunderland rather than get sold in January. Hosting a Southampton side, whose defensive troubles have already been mentioned, it could be another big day for the veteran talisman.
Player to sell: Sergio Aguero - I have never seen the film "Frozen" but I don't need to have seen it to not be well aware of the film's hit song, "Let it Go". Starting the week owned by 20% of FPL managers (now sinking into 17.5% range), it is clear there are several thousand managers who want to keep the faith with Kun. I mean, what happened? The best striker in the league for the past half decade is just going to play the role of substitute until the season ends and he's sold to another club? I have a hunch we haven't seen the last of Aguero as an FPL giant. But, at this stage, sell him. When it comes to the most expensive player in the game, there should never be a doubt to their starting role. Clearly, there is doubt. Clearly, you must sell.
Player to hold: Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Some managers are forced to transfer out a player already because they have a few who blank next week and they need to get started replacing those non-playing players now. Zlatan is the one I plan to sell next week ahead of United's blank but I, along with other owners, are certainly interested in the fixture this weekend, home to Watford. He is still a potential armband option. So if you need to sell a player from United, City, Arsenal or Southampton - make it someone who has less of an impact than Zlatan is capable of.
Player to avoid: Gabriel Jesus - Everybody calm down for a minute. Are we witnessing the passing of the torch at City from Aguero to Jesus, and the latter will be one of the central figures in fantasy for the next several years? It is looking very much the case. But, people are already buying him up like the doors to Walmart just opened on Black Friday. Look, I am excited about potentially investing in him too. But, not the week before City have a blank. Give me another week to see what Pep does with his XI. Don't worry if you wind up buying him at 9.6m instead of 9.2m. If he is to be the main man up top, any price under 10m is a fantastic bargain. Just be patient.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Alexis Sanchez
2) Zlatan Ibrahimovic
3) Diego Costa
4) Harry Kane
5) Gylfi Sigurdsson
That's it from me this week folks. Please, bear in mind much can change between the publishing of this column and the FPL deadline Saturday morning. Remember, some injuries are not revealed until just before the deadline. Always try to refrain from executing your transfers for as long as possible to avoid wasting it on a player who turns out to have had a problem in training. That said, if you only have just enough money for the player you are looking to bring in and that player is at risk of rising in price, then sometimes you need to take a calculated risk and hope the fantasy gods will be kind to you.
Good luck, and may your arrows be green.