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GW24 Official & Fantrax Player Picks: Reversing Course

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We’re well over halfway through the season, but not yet at two-thirds. It’s not too late to admit a mistake, change strategy and reverse course, is it?

Tottenham v Everton - Premier League
Eventually you must go all in on Mr. Kane

Those of us who play multiple portals are often of split personalities. Who is the centerpiece of that dilemma that has contorted my kisser from Harvey Dent into Two-Face this season? No, it’s not Batman, but rather Tottenham talisman Harry Kane.

I’ve never thought twice about paying $15.12 for Kane in Fantrax. He’s averaging 15.2 points per game and ranks #1 in total points (334). With prices changing rapidly in Fantrax, if you want a top scorer, you have to pay up and hold on. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to get him again unless you’re willing to gut the rest of your roster and shell out so much more later. (Kane’s price is now a princely $25.43 in the NMA league.)

With much less price volatility in Official, it’s not as vital to grab a player early. (Kane has risen from 12.5 in preseason to 13.0 now.) My early strategy revolved around paying premiums for quality defenders and midfielders while enabling from keeper and forward. Why? Efficiency: statistically, I can buy more bang for each buck that way.

I still believe that much of the strategy is valid. Looking at players such as Salah, KDB, Sterling, Eriksen, Alonso, Azpilicueta and Otamendi, the midfielders and defenders are again high scorers at cut rate cost compared to the wide world of overpriced, underperforming forwards including Lukaku, Aguero, Morata and Lacazette.

However, it’s time to change my tune and reverse course. Why?

  • Kane is simply on fire, netting eight goals in his last five games. He has two hat tricks and two braces in his past eight games. There is nothing better than getting in on a hot streak, and nothing worse than missing out.
  • As K.M. often notes in the comments section, in Official it’s all about the double captaincy haul. With Kane racking up so many points, giving him the armband is like putting armbands on two players (or even three).
  • I really don’t need to pay for five or even four high priced midfielders. There is no shortage of more affordable players at the position (Marko Arnautovic, Pascal Groß, Jesse Lingard, Richarlison, Abdoulaye Doucore, Aaron Ramsey, et al.) offering nearly as much production and allowing for money to be spent elsewhere.
  • Unlike midfield, the medium-priced and budget landscape at forward is pretty barren when it comes to production. A good case can be made for Firmino, but it just doesn’t seem like you get enough from Vardy, Rooney or Rashford as a #1 forward. And if you don’t have a strong #1, you’re not getting cover from a cheap #2 and/or #3 forward, at least not this season.
  • Quoting myself: “To get what you’re paying for, you’ll probably need Kane to score 30-plus goals... How many times has Kane scored 30 goals? Zilch... And even then, it still might not be enough. Maybe you’ll need 32 or 33 goals from Kane... Fun fact: There have been only two 30-goal scorers in the Premier League in the past 10 seasons: Luis Suarez with 31 in 2013/14 and Robin Van Persie with 30 in 2011/12.” Well, right now Kane is on pace for 33 goals. We’re sufficiently into the season, and Kane has shown enough prowess in the past few years, that it would be no surprise if he were able to sustain the torrid pace he has been setting.

So, with new strategy in hand, who looks good this week?

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KEEPERS

Adrián (West Hamv. Bournemouth) [£4.4 Official, $4.04 Fantrax]

Bournemouth’s offense has perked up lately with at least two goals in each of the past five games, but we’re still talking about a team that’s been shut out five times on the road so far this season. West Ham’s defense has allowed one goal or fewer in six of their past eight tries, and they’re at home. While far from a lock to shut the Cherries down, Adrian is a good budget option this week.

Petr Cech (Arsenal v. Crystal Palace) [ £5.4, $8.45]

Straying far from his line and failing to get the ball, Cech was at fault for allowing an easy knock-in by Callum Wilson for Bournemouth’s winning goal. The Gunners are struggling defensively, having allowed 10 goals over the past five games. However, after missing out recently due to injury, Laurent Koscielny is expected to return, which should help shore up the back. Palace averages less than a goal per game on the season, and the Gunners are a strong home team, so this is a great spot for Cech to get back on track.

David De Gea (Manchester United at Burnley) [ £5.9, $14.58]

Three straight clean sheets (6.3 ppg in Official and 14.0 ppg in Fantrax in that span), why not a fourth for the rangy Spaniard?

Ederson (Manchester City v. Newcastle) [ £5.5, $12.02]

Ederson was embarrassed at Liverpool with a shambolic performance, though of course Ox and Salah owners didn’t mind. City’s star keeper will be desperate to reassert himself, so going back to the Etihad against the Magpies’ subpar attack should work just fine.

Jordan Pickford (Everton v. West Brom) [ £4.9, $7.77]

After averaging 8.0 ppg in Official and 12.4 ppg in Fantrax from GW14-20, Pickford has slumped to 2.0 and 0.3, respectively, in the past three games. However, two of those were away, and two came against Big Six competition. This one’s at home against the 19th place squad, and Big Sam Allardyce will be sure to get the defense back in shape.

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DEFENDERS

Hector Bellerin (Arsenal v. Crystal Palace) [ £6.1, $8.91]

Much has been made of Arsenal’s defensive crisis recently, but it hasn’t hurt Bellerin’s fantasy value at all thanks to his splendid offensive returns: two goals and an assist in his past five games. He’s averaging 6.0 ppg in Official and 11.8 points in Fantrax over his past seven games and should keep on rolling against Palace.

Lewis Dunk (Brighton v. Chelsea) [$10.47 in Fantrax]

I don’t think Brighton can keep a clean sheet, so he’s not the best play in Official. But in Fantrax, Dunk is averaging 11.2 ppg over his past half dozen games. That includes 11 and 12 point outputs in the past two affairs despite the Seagulls conceding twice each time. Dunk doesn’t need a shutout to deliver, as he should be plenty busy racking up phantom points against the active Blues’ attack.

Phil Jones (Manchester United at Burnley) [ £5.7, $10.89]

Jones is averaging 7.0 ppg in Official and 9.7 ppg in Fantrax during the past three games. The game is on the road, but why would things change at Turf Moor? After all, the anemic Clarets have scored only three times in their past six games.

Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City v. Newcastle) [ £6.5, $10.94]

Otamendi was a dud against Liverpool with -1 in Official and +3 in Fantrax. But in the eight games before that, he’d averaged a robust 8.0 and 10.1 ppg, respectively, so don’t overreact to one bad performance.

Antonio Valencia (Manchester United at Burnley) [ £6.7, $10.43]

The Ecuadorian wing back announced his presence upon return from injury with a beautiful goal against Stoke and a clean sheet to boot. That left him with gaudy averages of 7.2 ppg in Official and 10.8 ppg in Fantrax covering his past five games. On top of that, this is a good match-up to ride the hot foot.

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MIDFIELDERS

Marko Arnautovic (West Ham v. Bournemouth) [ £7.0, $9.29]

After doing absolutely nothing in his first 11 games, the Austrian star has exploded for six goals and three assists in his past seven affairs. Meanwhile, Bournemouth has allowed nine goals in its past four away games. Sound like a tasty combination? [Note: Arnautovic is listed as a midfielder in Official but as a forward in Fantrax.]

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City v. Newcastle) [ £10.2, $20.85]

Despite City scoring three goals against Liverpool, Leroy Sane was the only component of the four-headed Manchester midfield monster to produce a good return. David Silva did not play, while Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling were busts. Any of them should be good choices, and I’m going with KDB merely because he’s the engine that keeps everything going, so he should be involved in the joy.

Christian Eriksen (Tottenham at Southampton) [ £9.3, $17.28]

The Spurs midfield trio has chipped in lately to help out Kane. Son Heung-min is absolutely on fire, and Dele Alli is also in fine form. However, this weekend I prefer Christian Eriksen simply because his away returns (three goals and four assists) are the best of the three. Comparatively, Alli has only two scores and two helpers outside of Wembley, while Son is a veritable graveyard with just one goal and no assists.

Jordon Ibe (Bournemouth at West Ham) [ £4.8, $10.28]

The former Liverpool man seems to have found a home at Bournemouth. He has asserted himself recently, with a goal against Arsenal and an assist in the Brighton game before that. Ibe is averaging 4.5 ppg in Official and 14.0 ppg in Fantrax in his last four games. If he can keep that going he’ll be an excellent value in both formats.

Manuel Lanzini (West Ham v. Bournemouth) [ £6.8, $10.05]

Lanzini got things started earlier than Arnautovic, but it’s a similar story with the Argentine play-maker doing nothing in his first five games followed by three goals and five assists in his past dozen tries. He hasn’t been nearly as explosive as his aforementioned teammate, but Lanzini isn’t as reliant on goals and assists to get points in Fantrax.

Riyad Mahrez (Leicester v. Watford) [ £8.6, $13.44]

The Hornets have allowed at least two goals in five of their past seven games, so I’m not too worried about the home side finding offensive joy in this one. Mahrez has brought back memories of the magical 2015/16 season with seven goals and five assists in his past 16 games, so the Algerian should be at the center of things.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool at Swansea) [ £5.6, $10.58]

I expected Adam Lallana to benefit from the departure of Philippe Coutinho, but instead it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who staked a strong claim to a regular starting spot with the crucial opening goal plus an assist in the Reds’ rousing 4-3 victory over previously unbeaten Manchester City. If you compare the Ox’s Official production (64 points in 1,150 minutes) to that of Sadio Mane (77 in 1,076, respectively), you may wonder why he’s so much less expensive than his more heralded teammate (£9.3), and you might just want to take advantage of that disparity.

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FORWARDS

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City v. Newcastle) [ £11.7, $17.28]

Kun is one of the best players in the league... He is playing at home... He faces the team he’s scored the most goals against in his career. Um, yeah, so let’s go with Kun.

Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield at Stoke) [ £5.5, $5.10]

Huddersfield’s offense is as weak as tea from a used bag. On top of that, the Terriers are playing away from Kirklees Stadium. Why recommend anybody on the team? Because they’re facing Stoke, which, as Stall recently pointed out, has allowed more goals in domestic play than any other team in any major European league this season. The only worry is that Depoitre won’t start due to rotation, so be sure to check on team news closer to the weekend.

Harry Kane (Tottenham at Southampton) [ £13.0, $25.43]

My conscience is clear. I hereby make Harry Kane a player pick this season for the first time as a fantasy manager who owns him in both Official and Fantrax. And yes, after Kane netted a hat trick in the reverse fixture, he’s my captain.

Mo Salah (Liverpool at Swansea) [ £10.2, $24.59]

Like Kane, Salah is pretty much an automatic in Player Picks when expected to start, no matter the competition or locale. Even if you did want to consider those factors, Liverpool won the reverse fixture 5-0 and the Egyptian superstar chipped in with a pair of assists. The only thing that could possibly keep you away if you don’t already have him is price. [Note: Salah is listed as a midfielder in Official but as a forward in Fantrax.]

Jamie Vardy (Leicester v. Watford) [ £8.5, $9.31]

Only Stoke has allowed more goals than Watford, and Vardy has five goals in 10 home games, so there’s a good chance you’ll see the English whiz punish the Hornets with his quick runs and lethal finishing.

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MY TEAMS (at the moment):

OFFICIAL:

  • Pope
  • Alonso / Azpillicueta / Bellerín / Jones
  • Alli / Doucouré / Lingard / Salah (V) / Son
  • Kane (C)
  • Bench: Fabianski / Kenny / Depoitre / Calvert-Lewin

FANTRAX:

  • Adrián
  • Bellerin / Dunk / Schindler
  • Eriksen / Ibe / Lanzini / N’Koudou
  • Arnautovic / Kane / Salah

What players are you adding and dropping this week? Are you sticking to your strategy or doing an about face as I am? Let us know in the comments!