Have you ever cruised down the highway at 60 miles per hour and suddenly decided to shift your car into reverse gear? I am going to assume the answer from all is a universal "No" and that we are all aware that this is a very, very bad idea. Yet, metaphorically speaking, that is basically what we are asked to do with our FPL teams coming out of Week 33 and heading into Week 34 and beyond.
Combing through social media the past few days, many of you have the ideal solution - just get a new car. In this case, that means playing your 2nd wildcard. That will set you up now to use an additional chip in DGW35, like Bench Boost, to truly maximize your squad's potential. Otherwise, you are in a delicate position of having to make transfers, and likely taking some hits over the next two rounds, to try and hold or possibly increase your rank.
Because of this unique scenario, it makes my column for this round a bit strange. Allow me to address those who are simply using transfers this week first - Cardiff and Brighton are each on a double gameweek. Brighton have two home games in their double, plus they have another double next week. So, for me, you target a Brighton player. Now, among that set, Shane Duffy is the clear pickup. He has the potential to get points both ways and should play 180 minutes. In my mind, there are only two other choices - Matt Ryan at keeper or Glenn Murray at forward. It has been well-established that I consider keeper changes the lowest of transfer priorities and I worry about the veteran Murray's chances of starting both games of the double. He is no spring chicken, did not start both games of Brighton's Week 32 double, and has shown this season that if the Seagulls play twice in under a week, Murray is going to sit. That said, Murray has been excellent at home, will certainly start one, and both opponents are capable of being scored upon. So, while Murray may not give you the two starts you are hoping for (that goes for GW35 as well), he is still a solid bet for attacking returns this round.
Otherwise, if you are not simply adding a Brighton player this week, then you are creating a whole new squad. And if you are creating a whole new squad, then you are doing it with next week in mind more than this week. So, when it comes to my rankings this week, it will be a composite ranking of players' value for both Week 34 and 35. Make sense? I hope so.
To summarize, your free transfer this week should be Shane Duffy. There is no guarantee he will return more than another transfer you might be considering, but one simply cannot ignore two very strong double gameweek fixtures. Whether or not to give him the armband is an entirely different discussion and, after nominating Sadio Mane last week, I am not at peek confidence at the moment when it comes to captaincy. I suppose my philosophy is - it is very risky to captain a player who has a double gameweek that you would never consider in a normal gameweek. Would you captain Shane Duffy in any normal gameweek? Even say, home to Huddersfield? Personally, I would not. Meanwhile, I will tell you who IS home to Huddersfield - Spurs. So give me a place for Heung-Min Son and Duffy in my XI but Son would get my armband.
Right, keep in mind, these ranks are with both Week 34 and 35 in mind, so let's take a look at the field:
*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.
1) Hugo Lloris - Fresh off a CL penalty save, Lloris represents Spurs lovely run-in. Home to HUD this week, then a double, then home two of the last three meaning they are home for four of the final five weeks.
2) Matt Ryan - Two very strong fixtures this round, two tougher ones the next. A brutal final two weeks. If doing this list next week, he'd be much farther down the ranks, but this home/home round is very tempting to pounce on.
3) Ederson - City players don't have a lovely DGW like they did a couple weeks ago. This time, they get Spurs and the Manchester derby. That said, City are pushing for a title and, while the DGW itself may not be great, Ederson should get you premium keeper points for the run-in.
4) Angus Gunn - Looks like it's Gunn's job for the rest of the season and Southampton still have work to do to survive relegation. The fixtures are promising, a double next week, and they have no opponents currently in the top seven for the rest of the season.
5) David De Gea - With United's second half surge, they are in the hunt for a CL spot. Plenty to play for, a double next week, and word on the street is de Gea is a pretty good keeper.
6) Bernd Leno - He really should be higher on the list because Arsenal are a big club gunning for a CL spot, and he has two clean sheets in his previous three starts. But Arsenal simply do not have my confidence in the clean sheet department. Pay a bit more for a more consistent keeper or save some cash and get a cheaper one that'll likely match whatever Leno does.
7) Ben Foster - Probably unlikely to do much this weekend against Arsenal, but Watford have a pretty good double gameweek with Huddersfield and Southampton opponents. Hornets may be in danger of hitting the beach soon though.
1) Shane Duffy - This is your week, Shane. All eyes are on you. Vindicate us.
2) Kieran Trippier - With so much on the line and Serge Aurier injured, I don't think we will see much rotation as we've seen with Pochettino's fullbacks for the run-in. Kyle Walker-Peters is a thing, but Trippier is set to deliver.
3) Aymeric Laporte - Like Ederson, not the best double next week in terms of opponents, but the track record of consistent production is there.
4) Matt Doherty - Now that Wolves have been bounced from the FA Cup, maybe that annoying rotation of Doherty will subside for the run-in. If you feel that way, then he makes for a fine addition.
5) Sead Kolasinac - A much better rep for Arsenal defensive coverage because Kolasinac can get you attacking points. Considering the fixtures, I would expect a couple of nice hauls before season's end.
6) Jan Vertonghen/Toby Alderweireld - There is a chance of these two will be dropped for Davinson Sánchez if/when Spurs use a back four, but otherwise should be solid buys for the rest of the season. Coin flip between them.
7) José Holebas - Good ol' Holebas. Well, this week's matchup against Arsenal isn't too attractive in terms of clean sheet potential but, come on, when you buy Holebas you are looking for attacking returns. A solid double next week could give him a huge score.
8) Victor Lindelof - Understandably, many may not want to go here after Lindelof was only around for one of the two United games in their last double, but that appears to be the result of a newborn baby and a bit of rest. I think he is good for both in this round and, with suspension issues at fullback, he is the only United defender I would buy this week.
9) Yan Valery - He really should be higher up on the list because if you are on a wildcard, how can you NOT include him? Rock-bottom price, established starting gig, favorable fixtures and the Saints need to get some results. In terms of value (points per pound) I should have him around 4th on the ranks.
1) Heung-Min Son - He was my sneaky pick of Tottenham's previous DGW and that proved to be a mistake, as he only started once and didn't score. Now, with Harry Kane on the shelf and fresh off a CL goal midweek, Son should be the focal point for goals.
2) Christian Eriksen - Between Son and Eriksen, you have to have one by next weekend. There is a case to be made for both. Son is the better option for me because goals are worth more than assists and he's cheaper. But Eriksen has been in good form and everything else looks positive for his run-in.
3) Raheem Sterling - Week 32's double was a disaster and, of course, City had no league game last weekend, so Sterling has lost much of his shine. That is precisely why you should NOT ignore his potential. Even with a tough double in the next round, a sharp Sterling can score on anyone.
4) Diogo Jota - Such a slow start to this season for Jota but he keeps getting better and, while Wolves may pump the brakes after bowing out of the FA Cup, I think Jota is going to keep on keepin' on.
5) Paul Pogba - In the last four PL games, a total of four points. One point per game is not good. Have United finally hit a wall the moment their manager was announced permanent? That would be hella PL'ish. Negative news aside, the Red Devils still have top four aspirations and if United pick up the pace again, you know Pogba's going to be involved.
6) Anthony Martial - I recognize this is a risky call. Martial's minutes have been limited since returning from injury. However, the one start he made since his return, he scored. He came off the bench midweek against Barcelona, I expect him to start this weekend and certainly at least one of next round's double.
7) Kevin De Bruyne - Had David Silva here originally until I took a closer look. I didn't realize that Silva's production had fallen off as much as it has and it has been de Bruyne picking up the slack. Expensive pick but an undeniably intriguing differential.
8) James Ward-Prowse - I've been waiting for this dead ball specialist to blossom in the league and he is currently on his best PL run of form to date. The perfect 5th mid to own for the run-in in my view.
9) Gerard Deulofeu - Check on his status before the deadline because he is carrying an ankle knock. If he isn't cleared, then maybe think about him as a transfer in next week because that is when Watford have it set up. Even if he is fit though, chances of him playing 180 minutes in the next round are virtually non-existent.
10) Mo Salah - I had to squeeze in one non-double gameweek player, didn't I? The best of the best deserve consideration even when they play only once. Liverpool and Chelsea are the two big clubs with only one fixture next week, and wouldn't you know, they play each other. I would rather hold onto Pool assets versus Chelsea assets. So Salah or Mane stays over Hazard, Robertson stays over Azpilicueta, Firmino stays over Higuain.
1) Sergio Agüero - Back in the XI for the CL tie midweek, so thankfully his injury was not serious. That said, I worry a bit that he may not start this weekend. Still, we are looking beyond only this week and if I am to assume Aguero is still non-injured heading into next weekend, then the old adage applies - NEVER go without a healthy Aguero in a double gameweek.
2) Raúl Jiménez - Of course, he was victimized by rotation in Wolves' previous double round but, as mentioned earlier, perhaps we need not worry about that for the run-in now that Wolves are out of the FA Cup.
3) Alexandre Lacazette - The injury to Kane may have thrown plans for managers into chaos and Lacazette may have blanked last time around, but that is only the second time in the last ten games Lacazette did not produce an attacking return. Arsenal's fixtures are sweet and they have it all to play for. Plenty of rotation to dodge in the attack but I think Lacazette is the representative that will pay off for owners.
4) Marcus Rashford - The next two picks certainly carry risk in terms of starting both games of next round's double. For that reason, I prefer the cheaper Rashford. Both he and Lukaku could be huge or could be busts. It is really a tough call. You can avoid the headache by going with the top three picks in the ranks as your three forwards.
5) Romelu Lukaku - Too expensive to buy considering he hasn't fully re-established himself as a nailed-on starter, but my gut tells me that Lukaku is going to finish the season strong. Maybe starts only one of the double but if you have patience for the rest of the season, I think he can be among the leaders at his position.
6) Glenn Murray - Brighton play four league game over the next two rounds. If Murray starts all four, I will punish myself in some fashion, maybe watch a marathon of the Twilight movies? What I am saying is, Murray is another option worth considering, but not because he is a solid bet to start every match. He is definitely a nice play this weekend, because both fixtures are so strong, that even if he were to only play in one, chances are he's finding the net.
7) Troy Deeney - I will say it once more - not the best fixture this weekend but a very strong double next week so if you are wildcarding, Deeney as your #3 forward has my blessing.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
2) Shane Duffy
4) Jamie Vardy
5) Mo 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 on Friday night. 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.