My 2017/2018 Official FPL journey has been a roller-coaster so far this season. This is in fact my first season playing the Official FPL; all my previous fantasies happened at Yahoo in its old format. How many of you reading us still remember it? Oh those great old days!
OK, enough nostalgia, let me just face it: Game week 9 was yet another personal managerial disaster. For a 2nd consecutive week, I failed to appoint a reasonable captain as Harry Kane (GW8) and Alvaro Morata (GW9) contributed an abysmal 6 points combined. An N’Golo Kante injury ruined all my plans of Chelsea’s double-up defense, and Ben Davies was left on the bench on both occasions. I was so close to listening to my wife’s advice to start Tammy Abraham instead of Joselu... only to witness Abraham’s brace and Joselu’s inablity to enter the opposition’s penalty box.
To illustrate my struggles numerically, I was dumped from 1st to 4th in my private league and lost around 400k in overall rankings. Bad luck? Hell yes. Reckless decisions? I won’t deny it either. If years of playing Fantasy taught me one thing, then it is this: There will always be a bright game week. And I feel mine is just around the corner, around the corner of the game week 9. Let’s get it done ladies and gentlemen!
Before we look at the upcoming Premier League fixtures and try getting into the managers’ heads for the guaranteed starters, I thought of throwing couple lines about the midweek Carabao Cup actions:
Eleven Premier League sides entered this week’s Carabao Cup round hoping to advance. Tuesday’s fixtures saw current relegation favorites Crystal Palace outplayed by Bristol City (1-4), and Swansea beaten up by Manchester United (0-2)
On Wednesday we were presented with two more games, which saw Chelsea and West Ham progressing to the next round with sorry Tottenham and Everton being the casualties. What happened to Spurs after comfortably leading 2:0 before the break is yet to be discovered, but West Ham’s 2nd half performance says it all - they are fighting for their manager.
Remaining big names made it to the next round, though under completely different circumstances. Arsenal blushes were saved by the eighteen-year-old Eddie Nketiah, who scored a brace in the 85th and 96th minutes to lead a heavily rotated Gunners squad to a 2-1 victory. Manchester City only managed to progress after the penalty shoot-out heroics of Claudio Bravo, who saved two Wolverhampton penalties following an entertaining but scoreless 0-0 draw.
This is what we can expect from this weekend Premier League’s calendar.
Saturday, 28 October
Manchester United v. Tottenham
Arsenal v. Swansea
Crystal Palace v. West Ham
Liverpool v. Huddersfield
Watford v. Stoke
West Brom v. Manchester City
Bournemouth v. Chelsea
Sunday, 29 October
Brighton v. Southampton
Leicester v. Everton
Monday, 30 October
Nick Pope (4.5m)
What do you imagine when you hear the word “Stoke”? If you have been playing English Fantasy Football for the last 5-7 years, you would probably say defensive-minded, strong in the air, tackling, pressing, working as one team. In 2017/2018 season you have just described Burnley. If I may, I’d suggest that Burnley is the new Stoke.
Pope got an unexpected chance with Tom Heaton’s injury and is looking phenomenal so far. With low-scoring Newcastle traveling to Turf Moor, Burnley’s goalkeeper should enjoy a good day and end up with a clean sheet.
Matt Ryan (4.5m)
Brighton and their fans are living a dream these days. They are spirited, well-organized, watch each other’s backs, and don’t look like they’re willing to collapse. Southampton is yet another low-scoring team visiting. I expect either a goalless draw or a narrow Brighton win with Ryan recording another clean sheet.
Petr Cech (5.5m)
A Premier League calendar will get crazy for the Gunners right after this game, so a comfortable win is a must, preferably with a clean sheet. Swansea can’t figure out how to score, but are a tough nut defensively. If Arsenal score early, this may be a long evening for the Welsh supporters.
Heurelho Gomes (4.5m)
I honestly thought he retired couple years ago. I really did. That’s how amusing it is to see him being a strong presence in Watford defensive line and still being able to catch almost any tricky shot. Watford’s next four games come against low-scoring teams (home against Stoke and West Ham, and then away against Everton and Newcastle). Gomes’s chances of getting couple of clean sheets in that stretch are pretty high if Watford keep playing the way they did against Chelsea.
Julian Speroni (4.0m)
I’m still wondering if recommending a rock bottom goalkeeper doesn’t indicate my mental health issues. But -- I liked the way Palace played against Chelsea, and they even really deserved all three points against Newcastle. I would disregard their midweek Cup exit: Hodgson indicated his priorities rather clearly this year. West Ham is in trouble, the clock ticking for Slaven Bilic. Palace should be in a good place to benefit from a struggling opponent. They then face Tottenham the next week, but thereafter their run of games is probably the best in the whole division.
Hector Bellerin (5.9m) / Nacho Monreal (5.6m)
Nacho is probably in a form of his life. Bellerin’s speed and eye for goal are no longer a wonder. Both are reasonably priced. They face a Swansea side who are unable to score. Calendar turns bad after this game, but why not to enjoy it while you can?
Stephen Ward (4.7m)
I praised Burnley’s organization, when I recommended their goalkeeper. In general Burnley’s defense sits very tight, but Ward is an exception to that rule. He is good on the ball, knows his strikers are enjoying his crosses, and serves them well. Ward should enjoy the game on Monday and reward you with solid points.
Shane Duffy (4.5m)
I will repeat myself -- Brighton plays with heart, and the heart of this team is Shane Duffy. He has completed 90 minutes in eight out of nine games they played, and he is the commanding voice in defense. I won’t say they can win the League, but their next three fixtures are winnable, so I can see them climbing the table short-term.
Nicolas Otamendi (5.9m) / Kyle Walker (6.6m)
Obvious picks, both in great form, both feeling the ultimate support from their manager, and each joining the attack at every opportunity. Otamendi is a great threat on corners, and Walker is famous with his runs and tap-in assist down the flank. They face the most defensive team ever (yes, it’s you West Brom), but will these two really care? I hope not, but they should at least return clean sheet points in any case.
Kiko Femenia (4.5m)
Kiko should have had an assist against Chelsea and see many Fantasy managers transfer him in. Instead, he received a yellow, Watford conceded four, and he ended up with a net -1.
I like Watford’s calendar, team organization and spirit. They will come good, and I see Kiko assisting and maybe grabbing clean sheet points on couple occasions during the upcoming weeks.
Virgil van Dijk (5.4m)
He is just my hunch pick. With so many of us having either Bertrand or Yoshida, I fancy this Dutchman instead. He always looks like he ate something bad in the morning — frustrated or shaking his head. I would probably act same if my awaited promotion to Liverpool didn’t happen. But Southampton is a stronger team with him playing. Their next two games (Brighton away and Burnley home) will be tight and physical, and VVD will be a constant threat on the corners. If I had more subs, he would be transferred in.
Let’s wind time back a bit. It is October 4, and Chris Manfredi writes an article to spotlight Watford. It was a great read with constructive thoughts, but did I take it all seriously? The answer is no.
I completely changed my mind about the team and Richarlison after watching the game against Chelsea. He should have scored a brace and ended that game early. He is razor-sharp, “Brazilian” on the ball, wanting it on every occasion and simply willing to present himself on the European stage. He is playing as a striker, but is listed as a midfielder in official FPL, and he’s affordable. Grab and start him before it’s too late. Great job spotting the team and this guy Chris!
Mo Salah (9.1m) / Philippe Coutinho (9.0m)
Liverpool is a weird team this year. First they prove they can defend and play 0-0 with Manchester United. This was a home fixture. A week later, they travel to Wembley and showcase one of the worst defending displays I have ever seen from a team having top 4 ambitions. What is the difference?
First and foremost: it was the opposition. Spurs are quicker than United, are in better form these days, and are overall more attack-minded than Jose’s boys are. Secondly, and this is worrying: Liverpool’s away record is one of the worst in the whole League. I’m not into numbers, but simply looking at the score lines is striking. Home record is 2 wins and 2 draws with a goal difference of 6-1. Road record is 1 win, 2 draws and 2 rather disappointing defeats with a goal difference of 8-15. Is Pool a home team now?
Nevertheless, this week they play at home, and their opponent will be an inconsistent Huddersfield coming to visit. Salah is playing in almost a striker role right now, and he is extremely sharp. His pace is out of control, his vision is great. The only component he should be looking to improve is his finishing. If he can sort that out this weekend, it could be a trying evening for Huddersfield’s boys.
Coutinho is one of the league’s best players, anxiously desired by Barcelona. Playing at home, he should be motivated enough after the humiliating loss to Spurs, and he is flourishing when having space to create and attack. This was obviously not the case when United and Spurs closed him down. He is on both corners and set pieces and has one of the deadliest long- range strikes. What are you waiting for?
Eden Hazard (10.6m)
I just wonder, what can I add about Hazard? He is a proven Fantasy performer, he plays for the reigning League champions and he should prove his leadership skills to get them back on winning rails. Oh yes, he travels to Bournemouth where he enjoyed a great evening last year.
Pascal Groß (5.8m)
He is one of the most under-rated midfielders in the game. Being modestly priced and playing for a defensive Brighton side, his 48 points are in line with Mkhitaryan, Sterling and Alli returns. How about this? He has great vision, is on set pieces, and has proved able to score goals himself. He will be joining my team, if not this week then next. I urge you to get him as well. Pascal is a great enabler and guaranteed starter. He will save you money for your Aguero / Kane / Lukaku dilemma!
David Silva (8.6m)
I separated David Silva from the rest of Man City’s stellar midfield for three reasons: his guaranteed starting spot, captaincy and price. His returns are second only to Sane’s, he has started every league game, and he (with KDB) is one of the two true unsung heroes of this Man City group. When Aguero, Sterling, Sane and Jesus may be getting most of the spotlight, this guy is a tireless worker who builds their game. He exchanges set pieces with De Bruyne, and he’s a constant threat on rebounds. Get him into your roster, save it, and have one decision less to make.
Leroy Sane (8.6m) / Kevin De Bruyne (10.0m) / Sterling (8.2m)
All of them are phenomenal, they have momentum, and unless Man City unexpectedly collapse, they should be winning this year’s league title. I won’t be an oracle and try to predict who will start more often, Sterling or Sane. As for KDB, in my view he is just too expensive. Toss a coin and make your own happiness.
Guessing City’s starting line-up this season can be your key to success. Note: Sterling played the full 120 minutes and Sane only 26 as a late sub against Wolves on Tuesday, so the German should be fresher. Though either could reliably tap-in a KDB or Walker pass, right? :)
Riyad Mahrez (8.4m)
Mahrez seems to be slowly coming back to his phenomenal self. Why is it magically coinciding with his manager being sacked? There may be some politics about it, but for the purpose of Fantasy, he is pure gold when in a good mood.
Foxes will be welcoming abysmal Everton, who aren’t creating much trouble for their opposition until a new manager figures out a workable attack plan. Anyone nostalgic about an old Mahrez/Vardy partnership? I may be jumping on board.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (4.5m) / Wilfried Zaha (6.7m)
RLC seems to be fit, and this is not happening often this season. He is by far their most creative midfielder and should give them another perspective (recorded an assist against Bristol). Costs a penny and should reward you.
You can say that Zaha is instead their most creative mid. And you would be right, if only Palace were not desperately lacking any forwards in their squad. Wilfried plays as an attacker and seems to enjoy the role. I’m looking forward to seeing their partnership in action and expect them to score a bunch.
Kun Aguero (11.7m) / Gabriel Jesus (10.6m)
Nothing to add in here if you read my thoughts about the City midfield bit earlier. Both are world class, hungry for both goals and playing time. Only thing to help your selection is that Kun played the full 120 minutes against Wolves, while Jesus was subbed around the 80th minute. Can’t believe Aguero will start, but who I am to know what’s on Guardiola’s mind?
Harry Kane (12.7m)
He is Harry, he is Kane, he is a Hurricane!! If my spelling is right, this is what Spurs fans are singing about him, and we are presented with more and more evidence to believe that. Nevertheless, Mourinho and United will probably cover him personally and closely, really closely — so you have a point to pass him this week. Just keep in mind that he can score any time... and Spurs welcome Palace next.
Alvaro Morata (10.3m)
I have a soft spot for Morata, and as a Madrid supporter still can’t forgive Perez selling him. He will strike back after a disappointing game against Watford. Why not do it right away at Bournemouth? He will be fresh after staying on the bench yesterday and should reward you for your trust and bravery. Vamos Alvaro!
Jamie Vardy (8.6m)
Please scroll up and read about Mahrez. Jamie should have scored against sorry Swansea and made it into so many squads. In the next nine weeks, the Foxes will only face top sides when hosting City and Spurs (both home by the way). Their other games are favorable. Leicester is slowly getting back into form, and Vardy is the guy to lead them.
My current Team after the expected eight point hit:
Otamendi / Luiz / Ward / Davies
D. Silva / Richarlison / Eriksen / Coutinho (C)
Kane / Morata
I don’t like it yet, especially taking into consideration my willingness to turn things around and activate all those expensive changes.
How is your team performance looking so far? Are you satisfied with your ranking? Do you think Liverpool will seek revenge against Huddersfield? Is Manchester City really that unstoppable? Can Kane score against United? Oh so many questions, but that’s why we love Premier League, don’t we? Let’s chat in the comments, and thanks for reading us!