Today's column comes hours after watching my club bow out the Champion's League. As you hopefully can understand, morale is a bit low.
At 4am my time Thursday morning, to borrow a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson, I was riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. Spurs had made a glorious comeback in the first leg against Juventus, taking a draw and two road goals back to Wembley. Heung-min Son scored a peach of a goal and Spurs now had a lead in the second leg. At the hour mark, I began to morph into a celebratory mood, imagining who Tottenham might draw next. Then, minutes 64-67 happened. In three minutes, fortune flipped 180 degrees. Such is the roller coaster ride that is football.
There, only one paragraph was needed to vent and purge my frustrations. Let us get back to the meat and potatoes of this column, the Premier League. Week 29 got off to a memorable start, with Burnley finally getting a win under their belt after a long run without one, and they did it in style, coming from behind against the Toffees. Swansea turned their form around. After losing 4-1 the previous weekend, they put four goals in for a 4-1 win over West Ham as Andre Ayew helped defeat the club he played for just a couple of months ago. The star of the week though belongs to the South Korean sensation Son, who bagged a brace after being omitted from the Starting XI the previous weekend. Because he did not start in Week 28, many managers suffered. He was sold and no replacement would have netted a profit because his 16-point haul was tops in FPL. It will be interesting to see what Spurs do in preparation for next season. Son deserves more job security than he has. In FPL terms, he should be as nailed on as Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli are. On the season now, he is right in between his teammates in total points, nine points below Eriksen and eight above Alli. When you consider pitch time though, Son tops them all. He has managed to be in the same class as Eriksen and Alli while playing about 600-650 minutes less than that duo. So, on a points per minute basis, Heung-min has been the fortunate Son. (Creedence Clearwater Revival reference request met)
So, we now arrive at Week 30. This is perhaps the last "normal" round left in the season. Starting next week with a set of only four fixtures, chips and wildcards will begin to be played with full force. While you may feel like you have been treading water in your overall rank for the last several rounds, things are bound to get more interesting. For the managers who play their chips just right, it could be an epic rise in the ranks for the run-in. For those who get it wrong, what is currently a respectable rank could sink like a stone. As mentioned last week, my plan is looking pretty set to play the free hit chip in Week 31. To me, it makes the most sense, but this is unchartered territory, so only time will tell. The rationale I have is, the free hit chip was made for a round like Week 31. I like the team I have at the moment. Playing the free hit chip means the team I have right now will be intact for Week 32, and I can play my WC ahead of a double gameweek, then bench boost during that double gameweek. That leaves the triple captain for what should be a second, but smaller double gameweek. Otherwise, I would be transferring in players from clubs I am not all that fond of, just to prepare for one round. Outside of Liverpool, where I have the max three players already, I am not keen on double or triple coverage from the other seven clubs in action. This is not to say I like some matchups in the week itself (I look forward to having Junior Stanislas in my midfield), but beyond one week, I do not want to have a club filled with players in the table's bottom half. Free Hit chip it is then, with more talk of it in next week's column. For this week, understand that my advice is somewhat narrowly focused because of next week's truncated schedule. I will offer this in advance - if you plan to play Week 31 without using a WC or chip, of course your transfer for this week would be for a player that has a match next week. I would pocket that transfer if at all possible. It is so much more advantageous to have two FTs heading into a round like that versus one. The one you bring in this week might get injured or do something to put his next start in question. If you save it, you can bring two players in with more information to go on.
Right then, let us take a look at Week 30:
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: Jonas Lossl - Prepare for plenty of Huddersfield hype in this week's column. The Terriers win the award for "team that plays in Week 31, has a good matchup in Week 31 and also a good one in Week 30". I need to figure out a way to shorten the name of that award. Anyway, Huddersfield are home the next two rounds, playing Swansea and Palace. Then they hit the road to play Newcastle and Brighton before returning home to play Watford. The schedule gives optimism for a clean sheet or two and makes Lossl a legit option beyond just a playing keeper in Week 31.
Player to sell: David de Gea - You will not find me often suggesting a sale of de Gea but the time is right for the world class keeper to go. In the next four rounds, I only see one offering a clean sheet opportunity (home to Swansea). The other three rounds include the two best attacking sides, Man City and Liverpool, along with a blank. This is a chance to free up a bit of cash.
Player to hold: Any keeper playing next week - It is pretty simple. This is the position you want to address last. If you have a keeper playing next week, even if it is an unattractive matchup, and this weekend offers little hope as well, you need to bite the bullet. If nothing else, remember rounds like this in past seasons. Some budget keeper with a tough matchup is going to make a penalty save and grab all the bonus. Just stick.
Player to avoid: Jack Butland - Butland takes up this spot for the second week running. Yes, he kept a clean sheet in the last round as Stoke's defense has improved. Though to be fair, they pretty much have to improve on the worst defensive record in the league. Those planning for Week 31 might like Stoke's home game against Everton and opt for Butland. If you are playing the Free Hit chip, that is a viable option. But as a normal transfer, the Everton match is book ended by games against Man City, Arsenal and Spurs.
Player to buy: Craig Dawson - West Brom need to start getting some positive results. I am not sure they will stay up after this season but I think they will collect some points for the run-in. It is a gamble, but Dawson stands out as a good investment among defenders. The Baggies have three of the next four at the Hawthorns, including a game next weekend. Dawson has always been a budget favorite as he offers a bit of attacking threat to go along with potential clean sheet points. *Note - If I confuse Craig Dawson with Michael Dawson in my column one more time, I will captain my keeper for the rest of whatever season I am playing in. I have Dawslexia.
Player to sell: Burnley defenders - Credit to the Clarets for getting back to their winning ways, but let's not forget the win did not come with a clean sheet. In fact, Sean Dyche's side, known for its defensive might, has not kept a clean sheet since Week 21. Let us also remember how much better they are at Turf Moor than on the road. Well, Burnley do not play at home again until Week 34. The next four rounds are away, blank, away, away. It is safe to switch out your Burnley defender.
Player to hold: Watford defenders - This applies to those who do not plan to use a chip or Wildcard in Week 31. Though they play in Week 31, the next two matchups for Watford's defense are tough, with road games at Arsenal and Liverpool. Still, if you have one at the moment and do not intend to enhance your team beyond your free transfer next week, you may as well hold. Hopefully, you have another option and can bench this weekend, but at least you have some potential for next week already in hand.
Player to avoid: Patrick van Aanholt - PvA, known for his attacking ability, scored his first league goal of the season last weekend and Palace have a fair matchup away to Huddersfield next week, so there should be some interest. However, I would rather pocket my transfer and think about him next week because I do not have much optimism about Palace's chances away to Chelsea this weekend.
Player to buy: Sadio Mane - No matter what your gameplan is, money should not be an issue heading into next weekend. Liverpool is the only club with "premium priced" players so there should be plenty of cash to throw around on players from the other sides. So, that in mind, and assuming you already have Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, you have my blessing to triple up on Liverpool and go with the differential that is Mane. It is not often that I would back a player the week he has a match away to Old Trafford but Liverpool's attack can score on anyone if they are in the mood and I definitely want Mane for next week.
Player to sell: Heung-min Son - Yes, sell last week's highest scoring player. I am just not sure Mauricio Pochettino is going to start him this weekend after a brutal shift against Juventus where he sustained harsh contact on a number of occasions, at one point looking as though he may exit early. With Erik Lamela and Lucas at his disposal, I get the sense Son will be rested. Spurs then, of course, do not play the following weekend. As much as I love Son, I can put up with one match out of the XI, but one followed by a blank is too much negativity for me.
Player to hold: Marko Arnautovic/Manuel Lanzini - West Ham were beaten rather handily by Swansea last weekend, with neither Arnie or Lanzini getting into the points. They blank next weekend but I would love to have one of these two as an option for this round, as the Hammers host a Burnley side who, as mentioned earlier, have not kept a clean sheet in a quite some time.
Player to avoid: Riyad Mahrez - Mahrez was one of only a handful of attacking players to grab a double-digit haul last weekend (he was my Player to Hold last week) but the way things are laid out, it does not make too much sense to me to buy him now. If Leicester score this weekend against West Brom, Mahrez would be the likeliest to be involved, but my hunch tells me the Baggies are going to be the hungrier side in this one. Then you have a blank followed by another game on the road. I would keep him if I had him already but I would not want to transfer him in now.
Player to buy: Steve Mounie - Backing Huddersfield once more as a club to invest in. Mounie got nothing beyond appearance points last weekend, but consider it a blessing. He scored 23 combined points over the previous two rounds, so he is not far removed from form. As mentioned before, the Terriers have plus matchups without interruption starting this weekend and they have been finding the net with more frequency. Mounie makes for the perfect 3rd striker in your side, but next weekend he may move up to your second-best.
Player to sell: Any budget striker not playing next weekend (but wait until next weekend) - Basically, this is the spot you would trade out for Mounie. I will repeat the advice from the opening of the column - it is better to pocket the transfer this week if possible. If I had, say, an in-form Jordan Ayew, I would hold on to him this week. Arsenal have a nice home game before their blank as does Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham. If I had to suggest a forward to sell in a normal week, it would be Callum Wilson. But, with the Cherries playing in Week 31, I think owners have to see out the investment.
Player to hold: Sergio Aguero - With the return of Gabriel Jesus, Aguero owners rightfully have begun to fear a rest for Aguero. Well, you are in luck. The Argentine talisman was given a rest for Man City's 2nd leg tie in the Champions League, all but assuring we will see him starting against Stoke this weekend. Not only do you keep him, you probably want to give him the armband.
Player to avoid: Cenk Tosun - It was nice to see Tosun back in the Starting XI for Everton and the "Turkish Harry Kane" came good, scoring his first goal for the club with a solid header. While Everton have a match next week, I still want no part of investing in one of their forwards. Outside of his goal, Tosun was relatively invisible and players like Oumar Niasse or Wayne Rooney could easily return to the side this weekend.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Sergio Aguero
2) Harry Kane
3) Mo Salah
4) Eden Hazard
5) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
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.