Steve Rothgeb

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Fuzzy's FPL Favorites - GW4

Thursday, September 7, 2017


The summer is over, school is back in session and FPL now enters the heart of the season following its first international break.

 

I could potentially spend some time going over the player performances during the international break, but I tend to put less stock in international performances than most pundits. I mean, it was nice to see Alvaro Morata keep up his blossoming form, but when you are talking about Spain's 0-8 win over Liechtenstein, then one would assume all Spanish players are in the form of their lives. No, for me, the only major information to glean from international play is injury-related.

 

So, in an attempt to keep the opening to this week's column at a manageable length, allow me to dive straight in to the one topic that I want to focus on, and this week seems the best time to do it - playing an FPL wildcard.

 

First off, let's address the most common question regarding the wildcard - "When is the best time to play it?". Well, we are only in the second season of the one wildcard for each half of the season experiment, so there may not be sufficient evidence to point to any particular time to use your first half wildcard. The second half wildcard is simple. You keep it until double gameweeks roll around and play it to maximize your number of double gameweek players. There is no such obvious time in the season's first half. Now, I do remember coming across a graphic that showed, of the managers that finished in the top 1000 overall last season, when exactly they played their wildcard. Unfortunately, I cannot retrace that graph and am only going from memory but what I am certain about is that the vast majority of first half wildcards were played between gameweeks 2-6, with the international break between Weeks 3 and 4 being the heaviest week of wildcarding. So basically, any time right now is a decent time to do it. The reason for this particular week being so popular is that you have the closing of the transfer window, which gives a clear picture as to the shape of every squad and who we can expect to start and who may have just lost their spot. It also provides a two week stretch with an active wildcard, instead of the usual one week, which, in theory would allow a manager to take additional advantage of price rises. But, allow me to provide a counter-argument to this strategy.

 

In general, I think there is no "right" week to play your wildcard. I think there is never a time too early or too late with it. It all hinges on your personal needs and issues with your squad. This season, I activated my wildcard ahead of Week 3, the earliest I have ever played it. But, it was only one week earlier than last year, and I feel like there aren't any new players brought in from outside the league that I feel are so essential that I must have them immediately. Instead, I fixed what I thought to be immediate problems as soon as possible. For example, the wildcard allowed me to switch Jack Stephens to Cedric, and I feel I would have done the same this week, as the status of both Stephens and Maya Yoshida becomes a bit cloudy now that Virgil van Dijk has stuck around and the Saints also brought in another center back in Wesley Hoedt. I wound up making changes all over the shop and feel pretty good about this current side.

 

So, if you haven't played your wildcard this week, do not feel pressured in having to play it. My best advice would be to look ahead at the fixtures through December. Is there a week where the majority of your squad begin a tough run of fixtures, while you are lacking representation from clubs who are simultaneously embarking on a kind run? That may be the time that works best for you. Maybe Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez both explode at the same time in a couple of weeks, you want them both, but doing so would require major surgery. Well, wildcard then. Just let the situation dictate the decision for you.

 

One final note, when you do activate your wildcard, you want to be very active in monitoring the price changes during that week. Try not to remove players that have built positive team value until absolutely necessary. Drop all the players whose price on the market is the same, and you can move them in and out without harm. And if you see a player that you want is on the verge of rising in price at the beginning of the week, make space for him immediately. Team value does not seem to carry the same amount of importance as it did in the earlier years of FPL, but it certainly doesn't hurt to build some when you can while wildcarding.

 

So, without further ado, let's get back into some Premier League fun. With Manchester City v Liverpool the early Saturday kickoff, the drama should unfold rather quickly. On to Week 4 then....

 

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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, you will normally find the usual suspects there.

 

Right, so let's dive in...

 

GOALKEEPERS

 

*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: Rob Elliot - Much to Rafa Bentinez's chagrin, the Magpies failed to bring in another keeper before the end of the transfer window, anointing Elliot the de facto #1 option between the sticks. He's still priced at the minimum 4.0m, but is very close to a price rise, so now is the time to make him your #2 fantasy option. Newcastle has a pretty good schedule in the short term as well, so you may give him a chance in your XI.

 

Player to sell: Joe Hart - I know I nominated Hart in this spot last week, but can you blame me for doubling down after the Hammers conceded three goals or more in each of their first three games, most recently to a Newcastle side who had not scored in their opening two matches. Yes, even bad defenses can produce decent keeper options in fantasy thanks to save points, but Hart has only collected one save point in three.  

 

Player to hold: Petr Cech - It has not been the usual productive season so far for Cech, and the entire Arsenal side are in a bit of a funk to begin the campaign, but fixtures may help turn things around for the Gunners. Three of the next four are at home against Bournemouth, West Brom and Brighton. Ideally, you are "gunning" for a couple of cleanies in that stretch, so stay patient.

 

Player to avoid: Kasper Schmeichel - Schmeichel has had a nice couple of hauls over the last two gameweeks, picking up 15 combined points which puts him fourth in scoring amongst keepers. Once again, I am letting fixtures prevent me from buying in. They have two at home and two away in the next four weeks, but the home games, where the Foxes have a much better defensive record, are against two clubs that will be tough to keep out in Chelsea and Liverpool.

 

 DEFENDERS

 

Player to buy: Kyle Naughton - The Swans have surprised me with their defensive prowess so far this season. Throw out the 0-4 drubbing at the hands of a very explosive Manchester United attack, and you have two clean sheets, both on the road for the South Wales club. Naughton has been especially productive in those games, adding an assist to his stats and four combined bonus points. Yet, he flies under the radar, having yet gone up in price, and remains a tasty 4.5m option. To make the investment all the more attractive, the Swans play four of their next six at home against  Newcastle, Watford, Huddersfield and Leicester.

 

Player to sell: Crystal Palace defenders - Surely, the Eagles aren't THIS bad. But still, even if there is to be a turnaround, I don't see it happening this weekend with their trip to Turf Moor. Three of the next four opponents after Burnley include Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea. Mamadou Sakho should help the defense as the season wears on, but at the moment, he is still recovering from a knee injury. 

 

Player to hold: Burnley defenders - The Clarets have yet to keep a clean sheet on the season, but for fantasy managers that invested in defense, it is time to exercise a bit of patience. They worked their collective tails off to earn a 1-1 draw at Tottenham in Week 3 and they now get three of the next five at Turf Moor against favorable opponents Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and West Ham. Yes, they do miss Michael Keane, but even the current back four should find a clean sheet or two in this run.

 

Player to avoid: Maya Yoshida/Jack Stephens - I nominated this pair in Week 3 and now that the window has closed, the Saints having added another center back AND Virgil van Dijk did not depart, it would stand to reason that one, if not both, of these guys could very soon lose their spot. If you want to get a Saints defender, it makes complete sense to opt fot Cedric Soares, who is available at the same price and whose job is secure. Ryan Bertrand is also a fine add, but you need to fork out a bit more cash for him.

 

MIDFIELDERS

 

Player to buy: Robbie Brady -Forever on the quest to find a productive budget midfielder that can unlock funds to make upgrades elsewhere around your squad, Brady looks to be the current top dog. His crossing ability and subsequent assist potential was on display in the Clarets lone goal against Tottenham in Week 3, as he was able to pick out new striker Chris Wood. The addition of Wood and his large frame should only increase opportunities for Brady to cash in and, as mentioned above, the Clarets have a nice run of fixtures in which to collect some attacking returns.

 

Player to sell: Jese - I was surprised to see the recent Stoke signing at a near-10% ownership in the FPL game, with the majority of those transfers in likely following his debut goal. In week 3, he was taken off on 61 minutes, so he barely earned an appearance point. With pitch times of 70 and 61 minutes in his first two matches with the Potters, it appears Mark Hughes will be cautious and an early sub of the Spaniard could be a common practice. That alone is enough to put me off, but, on top of that, Stoke's fixtures are tough in the short term, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Man City in three of the next five weeks.

 

Player to hold: Anthony Knockaert - Last round, I advised giving Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu one more week, and both came good with an assist apiece. This week, the honor is passed off to Knockaert, who should be on the brink of providing the kind of production that made him lethal in the Championship last season. His minutes have been building slowly, with an 80 minute shift against Watford most recently. Now, with the two week international break, he should be in line to go the distance more often than not going forward. Two of the next three at home, with opponents West Brom, Bournemouth and Newcastle should provide a chance for Knockaert to open his account.

 

Player to avoid: Alexis Sanchez - Normally, I would not include a player of Alexis' caliber in an "avoid" section, because he is world class and capable of exploding at any moment. In fact, with Arsenal's schedule, there should be opportunity for the Chilean to produce. Keep in mind, this comes from a pundit that was the first to say ditch Kevin de Bruyne, so I am not afraid to make risky calls. It basically comes down to price with Alexis. For just about every manager, getting Alexis in will require a downgrade elsewhere and two transfers. Those sitting on two FTs heading into Week 4 are in an exclusive minority. The rest of us should wait until Alexis forces our hand. If anything, it may be in your best interest to pocket and save an extra FT in the next week or two, so that you have the means to bring in Alexis at some stage without taking a points hit.

 

 

FORWARDS

 

Player to buy: Roberto Firmino - Firmino is proving that an 8.5m-ish option is A-OK as a second striker option for your FPL side. I am regretting that I could not find a way to justify taking him over one of Kane, Jesus or Lukaku up top to start the season, but it looks pretty clear to me that you cannot have too many attacking Reds. Actually, with perhaps the exception of Sadio Mane, Firmino looks the safest for starts and avoiding rotation, which is important when fishing for prospects among Liverpool, as Jurgen Klopp is not afraid to mix things up week to week. The Reds travel to the Etihad this weekend, and I could not care less. Liverpool's attack is in such good form, there isn't a fixture that would give me pause right now.

 

Player to sell: Shinji Okazaki - There was a mini-bandwagon going after Okazaki managed to score a goal in each of the first two matches of the season. The budget option appears to be the classic case of chasing points though, as he has been around long enough to prove he is nowhere near a consistent source for goals and you will never get 90 minutes from him. Last round, owners had to deal with the dreaded 59 minute appearance. Okazaki currently is among the top 10 owned strikers in FPL at the moment. He probably should be outside the top 20. 

 

Player to hold: Javier Hernandez - West Ham look bad and many managers who brought in Chicharito following his Week 2 brace were already selling in droves after his Week 3 blank. I still have faith though that Lil' Pea is going to have a productive season and make his 7m price tag a joke. He is a poacher if I ever saw one, so while the Hammers attack can be hit or miss, opportunities will come for Hernandez to poke home the rebounds. There are a couple of options for the same price that I probably would rather have if it came at no cost, but not enough to merit spending a transfer. Remember, in all likelihood, if you own him, he is probably your 3rd forward. You have to be a bit more patient with these guys.

 

Player to avoid: Sam Vokes - I've been bullish on Burnley this week but here is a situation where i feel there could be a potential trap. Sean Dyche had gone with two-striker formation for much of last season and I thought the addition of Chris Wood would see that formation return. Perhaps it will, and Dyche chose a single striker to ease Wood into action. If, however, Dyche is going to go with a lone striker, it poses a big threat to Vokes. He ended last season hot and did the business in Week 1, but came off after just 56 minutes in Week 3. The situation is too unclear at the moment, so, despite the nice fixture run, it would be better to invest in defense or a Robbie Brady if you want a Claret.

 

TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES

 

1) Romelu Lukaku

2) Sadio Mane

3) Harry Kane

4) Alexander Lacazette

5) Roberto Firmino

 

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.



Steve Rothgeb is a contributor for Rotoworld.com and WorldSoccerTalk.com, a self-proclaimed fantasy sports oracle, and Tottenham Hotspur fanatic. He can be found on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles.
Email :Steve Rothgeb



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