Important Information: While the second Spurs goal v Stoke City has now been awarded to Harry Kane after review, this will not be reassigned in FPL in accordance with the game rules and therefore points will not be modified.
Well, that is a fine "How do you do?"
If the massive double gameweek ahead is to serve as the climactic scene of your personal FPL film, this past weekend was that part of the movie right before the payoff, where the hero is at his lowest point and everything that seemingly can go wrong, does. The average score in Week 33 was a paltry 32 points. Compare that to Week 31, when only 40% of the league was playing, and the average was 46 points. Yes, Mo Salah has everything to do with the Week 31 average being a solid 50% higher (one week he breaks the game, the other he does not feature), but even an average Salah return that week would have kept the average score among managers higher than the week that just passed. It was really, really bad. Now, if a round like this happened in the first 30 weeks of the season, or thereabouts, it would have left managers feeling a bit peeved, but for such a low round in a week where so many managers in the top 10% are on a fresh wildcard team, setting up a squad they expect big things from this coming double gameweek, it felt like a real punch in the gut. Nervous times.
Is there any way to compound frustration for thousands of managers out there, turning a bad week turned into a true nightmare? YES. With Harry Kane returning the previous weekend, albeit from the bench, managers who passed on him in their wildcards because of injury concerns were now scrambling to get him back in their sides. Perhaps not such a big deal for most players you bring in, but when you are talking about the most expensive player in the game, getting him back in is not the easiest task. It probably came at a price for some. Imagine feeling the irresistible urge to buy Harry Kane at the expense of a four point hit, freeing up money at another position and thereby transferring out a player that was set to play two games in Week 34, and for your efforts, you watch the weekend unfold with all of your players producing nothing and then Kane delivers the "shoulder of God" goal.
In a rare move by the league, the late goal that was given originally to Christian Eriksen was, days later, reassigned to Kane. So now you've spent money to get Kane in, he has a goal in the record books for Week 33, and you get nothing for it. One could attempt to argue that Eriksen owners were lucky in this outcome, but in my personal view, it was Eriksen's goal with my eye, and I find it petty to change the call for what can only be to help Kane's search for another Golden Boot. Eriksens's FPL score is deserved, his owners should be happy. However, the Kane goal that wasn't,, and then was will go down as one of the legendary heartbreaking moments in FPL history.
So now we arrive at the blockbuster round of the season, or at least, the first of two blockbuster rounds. Once again, I am faced with a bit of a dilemma as far as how to approach advice in the column this week. Many managers are in the same boat as me - their squads are already set. This round is all about using one of your chips and, for the majority, the Bench Boost is the chip of choice. If you have a free transfer this week, you are likely keeping it for next weekend's shortened round. If you have two free transfers, one will be wasted if you do not use it. If if happens to play out that way, it is not the end of the world. Just because you have a free transfer that will be lost if not used does not always been using that transfer will be to your benefit. Sitting on two transfers myself, I plan on letting one go unused unless there is news about one of my players between now and the deadline to cause me to make a change. Otherwise, I have to roll with the wildcard team I assembled for this very round. There is no looking back now.
Last week, I presented picks for players specifically chosen for their double gameweek eligibility. If I were to simply present "the best players to have in Week 34", it would be very much a rehash of last week's column. Frankly, my mind is more focused on next week, asking myself how many points I am willing to spend to build a squad that, at the moment, only has four players with a match. But, there are a few players I want to touch on based on what transpired this past week. The plan is, then, to look at eack of the teams on a double gameweek again and see if there are any changes in philosophy.
Right then, you have been preparing this for months, let us take a look at Week 34 - a week that better return me 100 points minimum.
SPECIAL TEAM BY TEAM PICKS (for clubs with a double in Week 34)
AFC Bournemouth (liv/MUN - poor investment) - The status of Junior Stanislas remains the same, he is out of the picture. Ryan Fraser should be safe and is a decent enabler as a cheap midfielder. Those who invested in Josh King were given a fright when he was not in last weekend's XI, but he scored from off the bench and that should give Eddie Howe confidence to put him back in. Otherwise, very limited optimism from this bunch.
Brighton (cry/TOT - mediocre investment) - Last weekend's result may spell trouble for the Seagulls two most popular fantasy prospects. Both Pascal Groß and Glenn Murray were subbed off on 75 minutes and 66 minutes respectively. I am certain both, assuming fitness, that both will start one of their two games this week, but now I have some doubt about them starting both. I am more confident in Groß but I have a hunch the veteran Murray could make way for one of Leo Ulloa or Jurgen Locadia. A switch from Murray to Burnley's Chris Wood has my endorsement.
Burnley (LEI/CHE - good investment) - I suppose the biggest question here is who will start between the sticks for Burnley, now that Tom Heaton is officially available. Best to avoid that situation. Chris Wood continues to look very promising despite coming away without an attacking return last weekend and it was third option Sam Vokes that scored among Sean Dyche's forwards. The biggest concern is for those who bought Johann Berg Gudmundsson. He was out of action last weekend with a minor calf injury. If he is fit, he will get his role back this weekend, but is he fit enough to start both games of the double, considering they are the only club to play twice and again in Week 35.
Chelsea (sou/bur - strong investment) - Another week, another lackluster result from Chelsea, who managed just a draw at home to West Ham and once again failing to keep a clean sheet, something they have managed to do only once since Week 24. Both of their games are on the road. Southampton managed a couple of goals against at The Emirates last weekend while Burnley's attack is much more potent with, yes his name again, Chris Wood. I certainly feel skiddish about forking over the money for the services of Eden Hazard but I still think Willian makes for a decent investment. This is not to say that defensive representation is a bad idea, but they are far from essential.
Leicester (bur/SOU - very strong investment) - Leicester are another side that is seeing strong investment heading into the weekend but are coming off of a poor performance, losing at home to Newcastle. Riyad Mahrez, who many are counting on, went quiet and the defense failed but those who invested in Jamie Vardy got a reward. Despite the bad game, I still think the Foxes are a team to believe in this coming week, with Mahrez, Vardy and a defender comprising the three maximum representatives.
Manchester United (WBA/bou - very strong investment) - While many clubs we are counting on this week did not do well the previous round, there is heightened optimism in United after their impressive victory in the Manchester derby. Most noticeably, Alexis Sanchez put in arguably his best shift since joining the club and has now scored double digit points in consecutive weeks. His price makes it tough to place him easily into your side, but if you have the means, I back the move. Romelu Lukaku may have let owners down, but you should keep the faith with him rather than make a switch to Kane. Considering the two opponents, United have a shot at putting up three goals or more in both games. As was the case last week, one defensive rep from the Red Devils is essential.
Southampton (CHE/lei - mediocre investment) - Last week, I pegged Charlie Austin as a nice flair pick. Well, now he is just a solid pick, period. Catch the train while his fitness exists, cause his goal rate when he plays makes a mockery of his price tag. Otherwise, I still think the only nice weapon to have is the inexpensive Alex McCarthy. Goalkeepers have strange ways of getting points and his cheap price makes him an attractive second keeper to use with your Bench Boost.
Tottenham (MCI/bha - strong investment) - This will be the decision of the week. To imagine entering a double gameweek where Spurs play twice and a healthy Harry Kane is NOT in your squad seems an insane scenario. But, that is the situation I find myself in. I am sure there are some case-by-case situations where a four point hit to get Kane in makes sense, but if you are currently sitting on a front three of Lukaku, Vardy and a budget striker, I think you have at least decent chance of fading Kane. Lukaku's fixtures lead me to think it impossible he doesn't return a good haul and Vardy has scored in three straight and seven of his last nine. Worry more about working Kane back in before the double in Week 37. At least one midfielder is required, with Eriksen the premium choice, but I see nothing wrong in doubling up with Heung-min Son. The Brighton fixture is enough for me to want a defender from Tottenham as well.
Mo Salah (BOU - ??? investment) - What to do about Salah? Well, those who sold him before last weekend looked smart when he was omitted from the XI in the Merseyside derby, but Salah is back already, scoring yet another wonder-goal midweek in Champions League play. If you have him, you stick with him. But, the relationship could be soured if Jurgen Klopp decides to rest Salah in Week 35, a week where only 60% of the league is in action and part of the appeal of holding on to him through the double gameweek is to have a strong weapon in Week 35. In the end, unless he is officially ruled out, he stays. He has simply done too much for me to risk the potential punishment of dropping him.
MY WEEK 34 TEAM
GK: David de Gea, Alex McCarthy
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
2) Harry Kane
3) Alexis Sanchez
4) Jamie Vardy
5) Eden Hazard
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.