To start things off, I want to acknowledge the passing of baseball legend Frank Robinson. I loved my local sports teams growing up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. At that time, the local baseball team was the Baltimore Orioles. I was obsessed with the Orioles and Frank Robinson was a huge part of my best memories, as he managed the 1989 team, a team that had lost their first 21 games of the season the previous year and was the laughingstock of the sports world. He guided them the next season to within a game of winning their division. It is without question my favorite single-season of any team in any sport...and they didn't win a thing. Just a second place finish in their division. But it was a magical season. Everyone loves an underdog story in sports and this was the one I experienced over the summer of 1989, at the impressionable age of twelve. Admittedly, an anecdote that may only be self-serving, but one I wanted to share it in print, if only to add one more salute to a legend that deserves it.
Rest In Peace, #20.
Right, how to transition into this? Do we really need to talk about Double Gameweek 25? Do we have to?
Fine. Let us face this head on. First, a deserved round of applause for those that got it right. And by "right", I mean that you had Aguero and/or Laporte in your side, and you gave one of them the armband. Extra credit if you had Raheem Sterling without dropping Eden Hazard to get him. Otherwise, you are probably feeling like me -- completely mortified by the events that unfolded. On paper, the toughest blow was Leroy Sane starting only one game of the double and providing no attacking returns. But truthfully, that was less of a shock for me. Let me just sum up all the blows in list form, in no particular order, that I feel top the misfortune of Sane starting only once...
1) Keeping Aubameyang instead of taking a 4 point hit to add Aguero
2) Giving Sane the armband
3) Pep subbing Sane off on 59 minutes in his only appearance (total troll move)
4) Adding Richarlison and Keane as DGWers
5) Benching Jimenez's 9 points because I added Richarlison
6) Benching Bednarek's 7 points because I added Keane
And yet, after screwing virtually everything up for my team, a friend and colleague pointed out to me this week on Twitter that, despite my misfortune, I still wound up with four more points than he did in the round. Things were tough all over if you did not have Aguero. Not having Laporte is something to be happy about, but it does not hurt nearly as much as bypassing Aguero, because, if there is anything that should be established by now, it is to never go without a fit Aguero in a double gameweek.
So, apologies for what turned out to be mostly bad advice in the column before the double gameweek. I mean, I did say Aguero was one to add and that if you are going to get a City defender, it needs to be Laporte. Heck, I even said how Everton seem to fall short of expectations every time a double gameweek rolls around for them. But, I have to own it. I have to own that I was confident Sigurdsson would start both games of the double (he didn't). I was confident that Sane was a safer bet than Sterling (he wasn't). I felt it wise to avoid using the triple captain on Aguero based on the chance of him only getting one start (wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong). I made a series of wrong calls in a round that garners extra attention for the potential a double gamewek can offer. I own it. Now, for my own well-being, let me move on.
With this week coming, this may sort of spoil the column for you a bit, but it would be incredibly wise for you to save your transfer. Remember, the following week, we have blank fixtures for City and Everton, as well as Chelsea and Brighton. As one that currently owns Eden Hazard (probably the only good decision I made for my own side last week), I will be looking to ship him out, along with Richarlison, with my two free transfers between now and the blank and, at the moment, I have the funds to replace them with Heung-Min Son and Paul Pogba. That still leaves me with Keane taking up space on my squad, but when normally only starting three defenders and the other four options have at least something appealing about them, having Keane burning a hole in my roster is not anything to enjoy, but it is tolerable.
What was I thinking? Wait -- if I remove the word "what", it makes the question even more valid...Was I thinking?
We have an international break coming after this round (remember those?) and, if Week 26 is as disappointing as Week 25 was, it could not come sooner. So, let's take another stab at this thing and look at the landscape ahead of Week 26, as we enter the final third of this FPL season...
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...
*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: Neil Etheridge - Looks as though all twenty clubs have a clear-cut #1 choice at the position with no injury concerns, so this really should be an area to avoid spending a transfer on. If you insist though, if you simply cannot stand the sight of the keeper you currently have, then Etheridge is my top choice at the moment, based on a combination of form, fixtures and price.
Player to sell: Kepa Arrizabalaga - Of all the keepers to have a blank next week, Kepa is least-worthy of staying in your squad, whether you have a second keeper who starts or not. Not only does Chelsea have a blank next weekend, they play City this weekend, and then they get Spurs immediately after the break.
Player to hold: Everyone else - Save your transfer or use it somewhere else, like removing an outfielder that has a blank next week.
Player to avoid: Matt Ryan - Have to beat the same drum. Just as a courtesy in case it has not sunken in yet - avoid adding anyone from Brighton, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton, for they have a blank the following week. I highlight Ryan because Brighton have a good fixture this weekend and some fantasy managers may make a mistake in not looking farther ahead.
Player to buy: Matt Doherty - It is once again a ripe environment for adding Doherty. There are loads of potential for Wolves over the next four, with Newcastle, Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Cardiff as the opposition. You know what you are getting with Doherty, one of the more productive attack-minded defenders in the game at a friendly price. What makes him more attractive is that, even though Wolves aren't known for keeping clean sheets, you feel one or two could be had over the next four given the schedule.
Player to sell: David Luiz - Last week, I nominated Marcos Alonso in this spot, which was a solid call as he was dropped for the Huddersfield match. That, combined with an undesirable schedule after the Terriers led to that nomination. Luiz is being mentioned here for mostly the same reasons. I do not feel his place is under threat, but with the Huddersfield game done and dusted, I would cash out now on the defender who just scored you a goal.
Player to hold: Liverpool options - After delivering nearly every single week for the first several months of the season, the Reds defense has come down to earth in recent times, and managers are beginning to lose patience. There could be some truth to it all. It would not be the first time that a club starts the season strong defensively only to lose the plot as this stage and turn mediocre. However, wait at least one more week. See if you can get something out of a home game with Bournemouth. If things still look bleak, then dropping the following week will be painless as Liverpool will play away to Man United.
Player to avoid: Jeffrey Schlupp - It would be oh, so nice if Roy Hodgson could figure out a way to make Schlupp a regular, because he would be a fantasy darling - an out-of-position defender playing wide midfield who has the ability to contribute to the attack plus nab you clean sheet points, all for a price below 4.5m. But, that is not the case. I would imagine after his big game last week, Schlupp will get the call again in a decent matchup, home to West Ham, but it would be the first time Schlupp has started consecutive league games since the first day of September last year.
Player to buy: Heung-Min Son - It was only two installments back that I had Son as my "player to avoid", as he was getting an early return from the Asian Games and reports of fatigue straight from the player had me concerned he was not an automatic shoo-in to make the Week 24 XI. Well, all he has done since then is average 10-point returns over two games. Clearly the focal point of a Kane-less attack, Son may not score goals every week, but he puts in the work to always make you think he is in the cusp of his next one.
Player to sell: Willian/Pedro - Back in January, I had Pedro as a potentially smart addition as rumores were strong of an exit for Willian and this was before Chelsea picked up the services of Gonzalo Higuaín for the remainder of the season. Well, Pedro was not a smart addition and, with Willian remaining and Eden Hazard ready to stay put in his customary left wing role and Higuain at the top, it will continue to be a rotation/hot-hand situation on the right wing, rendering both of these players, who can be quite productive with their minutes, pretty much worthless for FPL managers.
Player to hold: Diogo Jota - If he wasn't currently injury-flagged, Jota may have nearly edged out Son as my midfielder to buy. But, what is paramount to current owners (and good for you if you are one of them) is that you do not let the flag steer you into offloading him. Even if Jota were to be ruled out for the weekend, I would stash him on the bench and just use another player already on your team in his place. Reason being, it is a knock that is not considered serious, and he has the international break to fully recover and Wolves still have three very attractive fixtures waiting for him then.
Player to avoid: Pascal Gross - Timing is everything. If it weren't for Brighton's blank next weekend, Gross could very well be one I'd advise to buy. His stats in recent weeks are impressive, and we have seen him be a solid fantasy weapon in his price range when he finds his form. The problem, once again, is that Brighton have a blank. Yada, yada, yada...you get that by now. But, I do want to highlight him particularly because, once the blank passes, that means the Seagulls will have a double gameweek in their future and Gross will likely be one of my top picks for that.
Player to buy: Raúl Jiménez - The respect for Jimenez has finally come in recent weeks, as he is now the second-most owned forward in the game. That said, seven out of ten managers still do not own him and I cannot figure out why. Despite costing over 1m more than his starting price, Jimenez is providing ridiculous value as no one could foresee how effective he would be this season. As mentioned earlier with Doherty, Wolves enjoy a nice run of fixtures, so it is now or never for this one. I stand by my thinking that this is a good week to pocket your transfer unless you must make a move, but if there was one player I would offer my blessing to bring in this week if you don't own him already is Raúl Jiménez.
Player to sell: Marko Arnautovic - Perhaps you jumped back on Arnie when he stuck around after the transfer window closed, or perhaps you never got around to selling him while he was rumored to be on his way out of West Ham. Whatever reason you have for being a current owner, it makes no difference to me. Sell him. I will give you two reasons why - Jimenez and Rashford. Two inexpensive forwards who are performing as the elite at their position, they should be on your roster, meaning you have the finances to put a big name in as your other striker - like an Aguero or an Aubameyang. I never had much trust in Arnie due to his injury history, but right now, I have no need to trust him.
Player to hold: Wilfried Zaha - I still maintain that Rashford and Jimenez should be on your team, so someone like Zaha probably doesn't fit the framework. But, if you currently have him, you may look to ship him out after missing out entirely last weekend. That is perfectly fine if you wanted to get Rashford or Jimenez in. I simply wanted to point out that you should not dump him simply because he wasn't there for you in Week 25. He will be there this weekend.
Player to avoid: Gonzalo Higuaín - Higuain seems to be the threat to the forward template at the moment, and he's coming off a very productive round. He cannot be added now though, as Chelsea will play Man City, have a blank, and then host Spurs. Mind, if he produces in any of the two tough fixtures, it only makes his appeal stronger once those fixtures out of the way. He should be firmly on your watchlist but not be a part of your transfer plans until the end of the month.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Mo Salah
3) Paul Pogba
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 on Saturday. 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.