If the expression, "When it rains, it pours" is true, I need to start building an ark.
Wow, Week 30 was full of twists and turns and most of them were not of the enjoyable variety. Several players we are spoiled by with their weekly returns and had quiet rounds. But that was the easy pill to swallow. Let me clear the air with the worst part of the week for me, and that is the call I made on selling Heung-min Son. I felt he was in danger of being rested after a brutal shift put in midweek in Tottenham's loss to Juventus, and I have to be honest, after I published my column and building all the way up to the deadline, I saw plenty of chatter in the FPL community that they felt Son was in danger of rest.
Well, you know the outcome of that call and all I can say is it really ruined my weekend. As has been established many times before, I am a Tottenham supporter, so I could not even enjoy Son's goals against Bournemouth. I could only think of how I have disappointed readers who sold Son based on my advice. All I can say in my defense is, I make a point to try and make tough calls. I had a full array of midfielders to choose from to cut. I could have said to sell James Ward-Prowse, who did not start the previous the week, and felt a lot safer in a call like that. But I try to take in consideration every possible variable and nominate a player in a given section that best represents those variables.
Now to add injury to insult. The Tottenham win was about as bittersweet as can be as a fantasy manager. Not only did Son's brace leave me feeling less celebratory than usual, Harry Kane went down with an injury in that game. He is expected to return some time next month. Also, while Spurs were playing Sunday, or just before their kickoff, news broke that Sergio Aguero was going to miss the Monday night match and beyond. I have both in my side...sort of. They were both starting for me in Week 30, so the round ended with a whimper. Further complicating matter, I activated my Free Hit chip immediately after the new round started, so I cannot sell either Kane or Aguero, two players that take up about a quarter of my team budget. I have to sit and watch their prices drop, completely helpless.
So, I need to really need to make this round count and it all hinges on me getting maximum use out of the Free Hit chip. With this truncated set of fixtures, where we have only four matches going, and nearly everyone managing their team in a way beyond the typical fashion, this week's picks are presented in a different way. If you are playing the Free Hit, the players below can fill your whole squad for you. If you are not playing the chip, the 15 players that follow are listed in rank fashion, with the most important player to own first, then working down from there. I have decided upon a 3-5-2 look as I see more potential among the midfelders than I do the forwards.
Right then, let us take a look at this special Week 31:
SPECIAL WEEK 31 PICKS - Optimal XV ranked from most important to least
MID #1 - Mo Salah - The top of the list is easy to pick and Salah is the clear top option. He is already the highest-scoring and most-owned player in FPL, so you should have him already. Despite a quiet shift last weekend, he should still be considered the best captaincy option as well.
FWD #1 - Roberto Firmino - Another lack of surprise here. Liverpool has by far the most dangerous attack of the clubs playing this weekend and Firmino is another must-have for the round. Another player with a quiet Week 30, remember the Brazilian totaled four goals and three assists over the previous seven games. After blanking, he is due for some kind of return.
MID #2 - Sadio Mane - The first decision one has to make with this gameweek. Owning three Liverpool players seems a must. The question is whether to go with another attacker or get defensive coverage. While I do not think an option like Virgil van Dijk is a bad one, I feel clean sheets can be discovered from other clubs whereas someone with Mane's potential to explode is harder to find.
MID #3 - Wilfried Zaha - This is a nice addition to Week 31 that I did not see happening until last weekend. Zaha has returned from injury and made an immediate impact as a substitute, assisting Palace's only goal at Stamford Bridge. Perhaps there is some risk that he does not start, but my feelings that he will are strong.
MID #4 - Xherdan Shaqiri - The Swiss maestro had a quiet Week 30 after a nice run of returns. His form tends to come and go instantly, so I am a bit worried about his potential this weekend following a blank. Still, he is Stoke's best weapon and I think the Potters score at least one at home against Everton.
MID #5 - Junior Stanislas - It is pretty simple. When Stanislas is fit, he is very productive. He scores like a mid that would normally cost around 9m but he misses a lot of time to injury to keep his season totals down. Well, he is healthy now and has scored in three of his last six. A 50/50 shot a returns from your 5th midfielder is about as much as you can ask for.
GK #1 - Jack Butland - Despite suffering an own goal recently, Butland is still averaging over six points per game in his last three outings. I am banking on a positive result from Stoke in their match against the Toffees and feel if a clean sheet does not materialize, a save point or two will.
DEF #1 - Nathan Ake - I knew I was going to double up on either Stoke or Bournemouth in defense and in the end I went with the Potters. Still, Ake is a solid play as the Cherries host basement-dwelling West Brom. Yes, the fullbacks may be more appealing for their attacking potential but Ake has been consistent and right there with his mates on a points per game basis.
FWD #2 - Steve Mounie - With a home game against a lower-tiered side and with the Terriers scoring more consistently lately (last weekend's 0-0 notwithstanding), I felt I wanted a Huddersfield attacking player for the weekend. They may very well blank, but if they find the net, I want Mounie as my representative. He has shown the ability to get big hauls, scoring a brace on two occasions this season and another match where he scored and provided two assists. It is an all or nothing roll of the dice, but for the final starting attacking player in one's squad this week, the potential reward is worth the risk.
DEF #2 - Moritz Bauer - Managers who pay close attention to new talent that come into the league were excited by Bauer's arrival in January, as the full back offers some real attacking potential. After eight league games, he has yet to find an attacking return. For me, that only means he is due. That attacking potential gives me enough reason to support doubling up on Stoke's defense. If they do concede, he at least offers something going forward.
DEF #3 - Seamus Coleman - Based on the way I have picked my team, you can see I am bullish on Stoke, which means I do not expect a positive result for Everton. Much like filling out a March Madness bracket though, I cannot expect to get every pick right. So, Coleman is a classic case of hedging my bet. Should Stoke (Shaqiri) not find the goal, I have Coleman getting me a clean sheet in return. And, if Everton manage to bust by clean sheet attempt, at least Coleman is capable of having some piece of the attack.
GK #2 - Jonas Lossl - I feel like Huddersfield are a side capable of a clean sheet at home this weekend, but not enough to rank them above the defensive representatives I have above. I could have Asmir Begovic here without complaint. Either way, Butland will play so this spot is a non-factor
FWD #3 - Christian Benteke - As may be evident with my bench choices, I am sort of on the fence about the outcome of the Huddersfield v Crystal Palace match. If the Terriers kept it clean, I would not be shocked. If they shipped three, I would not be shocked. There are not many weeks I would back Benteke but he is a solid first option off the bench if one of my starting attacking players is a surprise omission.
DEF #4 - Christopher Schindler - This pick is basically the same as a Lossl pick. The team I trust most for a clean sheet that is not already in the XI is Huddersfield. So, if one of Ake, Bauer or Coleman misses out, I am once again getting a shot a a Terriers cleanie.
DEF #5 - Craig Dawson - West Brom makes the list, but only just. The odds of Dawson making his way into the final XI are quite slim from the the 3rd sub position but, alas, someone has to take the spot. Only the Baggies and Watford have no representation until this final pick and I'd rather go for the Baggie defender. If West Brom are going to get a positive result, I feel Dawson will be in the points.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Mo Salah
2) Roberto Firmino
3) Sadio Mane
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.