What a wacky Week 4 we had in the Premier League and, of course, we would expect nothing less.
As the action on Sunday began to wrap up, I was thinking to myself - "Suddenly, I need there to be six forward positions and I need a budget of about 140m." Reason being, seemingly all the premium strikers scored in Week 4, including one Harry Kane who was happy to see the calendar flip to September. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus teamed up to net a goal apiece. Alvaro Morata continued his hot start at Chelsea with another goal. Alexander Lacazette grabbed one as did Romelu Lukaku. Even Jamie Vardy was in on the party. And to think, when the season started, my strategy was to go with two big strikers and a 4.5m enabler. In doing that, I started out with Kane and Jesus and that is how I have arrived to today - off to my worst start in FPL history. But hey, a silver lining does exist. I was able to manage a green arrow, despite another ho-hum round where my boy Sadio Mane saw a straight red.
It was heartbreak for several managers in Week 4. Those who played their wildcards, in general, did not get back an immediate reward, substantial enough anyway to make them feel happy about playing it. With the exception of Christian Eriksen, virtually none of the high-end midfielders returned anything beyond appearance points. And the debut of Renato Sanches was....meh. Instead, we watched as Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Pascal Groß become household names. Now, with Mane out until October and Paul Pogba looking at an absence of 4-6 weeks, two very highly-owned midfielders have managers scrambling for replacements. Perhaps with all the big strikers scoring and all the big midfielders doing nothing while the budget options stood out, perhaps its worth considering shifting funds from midfield to forward. Remember though, this is the Premier League. The tide rolls in, the tide rolls back out. What looks like a clear pattern one week becomes a failed theory the next.
The biggest story of the week though would have to go to Crystal Palace and the sacking of Frank de Boer after being in charge for only four league games. I think it is a shame really, how this league, whether talking football or any other sport, seems to pull the plug too soon on managers. I mean, I'm still amazed how Roberto Mancini was sacked less than a season after bringing a title to them for the second time in three years. I mean, doesn't the man deserve a down season? And you look at Eddie Howe, who is thought to be, and for good reason, one of the brightest young managers around. Well, results are results and the Cherries are sitting on no points, just like Palace, and I am not hearing Howe's name in the hot seat. Scott Dann missed a sitter of a header late on in that final game in charge for de Boer. If Dann doesn't miss it, Palace draw and de Boer probably still has a job. Such a fragile game, this.
Well, luckily I cannot be fired from playing FPL this season, despite getting off to a "de Boer-like" start. On to Week 5 then....
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: Rob Elliot - Elliot returns for a second straight week at this spot, and why not? He is coming off the top score for any keeper in Week 4, he has kept back-to-back clean sheets and, as of right now, he is STILL available for the minimum 4.0m. And he is not just an enabler. I plan on starting him in my side this week.
Player to sell: Asmir Begovic - No one keeper is jumping out at me here with the obvious exception of the injured Heaton. However, even with a nice fixture on paper this week, I have been disappointed with the Cherries defense this season. Begovic is a quality keeper and will get you some save points but the defense in general looks to have taken a step back rather than forward this season, despite having upgraded.
Player to hold: Wayne Hennessey - Mind you, this is only for one more week. Let's see how Palace get on with Roy Hodgson in charge and take advantage of a home game against a Saints side who are struggling with their attack at the moment. Regardless of how Hennessey performs, you should be looking for a replacement next week, when the Eagles have a run of three straight against Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.
Player to avoid: Nick Pope - Perhaps I would be signing a different tune if Pope were priced at 4m, but he is not. At 4.5m, I want a keeper who is a bit more proven, not to mention the Clarets may exercise an emergency loan to replace Heaton, and that replacement may be ahead of Pope. Yes, Burnley rack up points at the back when they are at home, but Heaton is at the center of that success. I would be concerned about returns from their defenders as well without Heaton, despite some nice home fixtures coming up.
Player to buy: Ben Davies - Well done, Fuzzy. You have the courage to nominate Davies, the highest scoring player to date this season in FPL, as your defender to buy. True, on the surface it seems like an obvious call. However, there was reason to hesitate in investing in him before. Heading into the season, it looked as though Davies would simply cover for Danny Rose, who was on target for a return around the first international break. Since, Rose hasn't exactly made friends with the boss after his public tirade regarding transfer movement and wages with the club. Davies has been outstanding in a wingback role, and it looking to me now that the spot is not automatically going back to Rose. Meantime, Rose's return looks to be further delayed. I think Davies is safe for at least another four weeks and Spurs have a cupcake schedule in that time frame. So get Davies now or never, he is set for a possible second price rise this week before the deadline.
Player to sell: Watford defenders - A couple of reasons to offload this group of Hornets, even the second highest scoring defender to date in Kiko Femenia: 1) the next five fixtures are tough. The two easier ones, Swanswea and West Brom, are away from home. The other three opponents are Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. 2) Job security. Marco Silva appears to have no qualms moving defenders in and out of the lineup, proof being that after only four league games, no Watford defender has started all of them. Femenia and Holebas may still be worth the risk, but only when fixtures improve.
Player to hold: Michael Keane - If you managed to brave the past several weeks with an Everton defender like Keane, you may as well deal with this weekend's tough task of producing away to Leicester. Reason being, they have three profitable matchups immediately after that, hosting Bournemouth and Burnley before a trip to Brighton. One clean sheet in this stretch should be a given, two would not be a crazy request. It is an audition for the rest of the season to be sure. If the Toffee defense cannot produce in Weeks 6-8, then investment in the back should be out of everyone's thoughts going forward.
Player to avoid: Kieran Trippier - Trippier was a popular pick to begin the season and he rewarded owners with a double-digit haul last week. His days as a starter for Spurs are numbered however with the arrival of Serge Aurier. While Mauricio Pochettino seems unfazed by a player's pedigree or wages and willing to hand starts to whoever is training hard and buying into the system, at some point, a player of Aurier's caliber is going to get his chance in the side. If you own him already, go ahead and try to squeeze another week or two out of him, but, despite being the cheapest route to Tottenham's defense, no one should be using a transfer to bring him in now.
Player to buy: David Silva - It appeared Silva was on the decline the past couple of seasons as his main role of supplier, racking up assists left and right, he was transitioning into a deeper role, usually assisting the assist and therefore providing very little in FPL terms. His fitness was another concern, as he was often prone to rotation. He is having a bounce-back season now though. He has played every minute so far this campaign, a feat only Kevin de Bruyne and Fernandinho can match, and he noticeably more present at the end result of goals, proving a pair of assists thus far. Many will be looking for a replacement for either Pogba or Mane this week. Mohammed Salah is a fine candidate, but I wonder how the Reds attack will be without Mane there. It is Mane's elusiveness that opens the door for so many chances. City, meanwhile, have a nice schedule and like to score on the road. I expect at least a pair of goals at Watford this weekend.
Player to sell: Willian - Eden Hazard made it back from injury last week but, even though he was not handed a start, Willian was dropped anyway. That does not bode well for the Brazilian going forward, as Hazard will quickly cement his spot, Pedro appears to be favored over Willian and Alvaro Morata has taken the center forward role and run with it. It is frustrating because Willian will probably get around 25-30 minutes every week off the bench and is capable of putting up numbers in limited time. But alas, FPL is no place for super-subs, not even Olivier Giroud.
Player to hold: Riyad Mahrez - It has been two straight games without anything more than appearance points for Mahrez and, when you add in the international break, it seems like forever since he grabbed a haul. We cannot forget though that he had gotten off to a fine start this season, providing three assists in the opening two games. The Foxes have and extended run of neutral-to-kind fixtures for Mahrez to make his presence known again. I nearly nominated him for player to buy, but a City player going for a bit cheaper just edged him out. If you have him now, you should have some optimism.
Player to avoid: Eden Hazard - In this space last week, I chose Alexis Sanchez. Hazard gets the honor this week for much the same reason as the Chilean. Their price tags are too high to buy simply because they are active again. Let one dynamite performance force your hand. If you avoided Alexis last week as advised, you avoided the most expensive midfielder not starting and then ruining your day with a 1-point cameo. It helps that the Blues have Arsenal and City as two of their next three opponents to make it easier to wait on Hazard, though to be fair, both of those big matchups are at home and Arsenal's defense still have plenty to prove despite last week's clean sheet.
Player to buy: Harry Kane - Buyer's remorse in August, sellers remorse in September. I know you are out there, the many of you who suffered through another stinker of an August with Kane, finally sold him over the international break, only to see him bag a brace in Week 4 and another brace midweek in Champions League action. The only test left is to get the Wembley monkey off of Tottenham's back. I think that happens this weekend against the Swans. If you haven't owned Kane yet this season, lucky you. You can have him now for .1m less than we all paid last month.
Player to sell: Sam Vokes - 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: Wayne Rooney - I was surprised to see that Rooney has had a price drop this week. Yes, it is a tough assignment for Everton with a trip to Old Trafford this weekend but remember who we are talking about here - basically the face of United for the past decade. Surely, he will be motivated and, as has proven to be the case so far this season, when Everton get a positive result, Rooney gets a good haul and is a bonus point magnet. I was actually looking at possibly bringing him in next week for the following three matchups against Bournemouth, Burnley and Brighton. Keep him.
Player to avoid: Danny Welbeck - The third highest-scoring forward in FPL to date is Welbeck. If you had told me that in July, I would have laughed my way into the nuthouse. Coming off a 16 point haul, where he scored and assisted, is it time to give him respect in fantasy. In draft leagues, sure. But I still cannot buy into him in the traditional FPL format. At some point, Lacazette and Sanchez will be the main goal-getters and it will come at Welbeck's expense. One bad performance could see Arsene Wenger try another option. Players like Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi could all play a role in knocking Welbeck off of his perch.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Harry Kane
2) Rpmelu Lukaku
3) Roberto Firmino
4) Sergio Aguero
5) Mohamed Salah
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, which is Friday night this week. 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.