We’ve now had a fun seven game-weeks of action. Some players have been consistently poor or excellent, while many have seen a recent stretch of performance where they’ve exploded in a good or bad way. Should you add someone who is on fire, or is that fiery form unlikely to continue? Is it worth dropping a player who has turned into a wet blanket, or can things warm up again? Let’s take a look at whom you should be watching, with predictions going forward for those players.
SCORCHING HOT PLAYERS
Wolverhampton Wanderers Goalkeeper Rui Patricio
Things started slowly for Wolves and their defense, as Patricio conceded five goals with only nine saves and no clean sheets in his first three games. Two of those games were at home, and only one came against elite competition (Manchester City), so hopes were not strong. But Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have really locked down since then, conceding only once in the past four games. Over that brilliant four game stretch, the Portuguese international has has saved 15 of the 16 shots on target and kept three clean sheets, returning 26 points in Official FPL and 60 in Fantrax.
Part of the reason for the recent success has been a kind schedule, featuring home affairs against Burnley & Southampton plus away fixtures at West Ham & Manchester United. So will things change? Can this recent run of Wolves’ defensive excellence be maintained? For the near future, yes. In the next three games, Wolves travel to Crystal Palace, are at home against Watford, and head to Brighton. It’s not until GW11 that things get tricky again, with three “Big Six” teams in the span of five games (v. Tottenham, at Arsenal, v. Huddersfield, at Cardiff, v. Chelsea). It may be tough sledding, but Wolves played Manchester City and Manchester United both tough (1-1 draws), and I don’t think they will wipe out against the other top teams.
The Temperature Gauge: Patricio will cool off, but he should stay warm.
Wolves Defender Matt Doherty
You already read about the streak of clean sheets for Wolves with Patricio (three in four games). Doherty has also starred on the offensive end with two assists in that time. Added up, that’s 32 points in FPL over that stretch. That compares extremely favorably to the likes of Chelsea’s more heralded (and much more expensive) Marcos Alonso (19 points), Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson (18) and Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier (17). Like those players, Doherty is often more of a midfielder than a defender, streaking up the right flank almost at will, buttressed by a three-man central back line.
The Gauge: Don’t get your expectations sky high in terms of maintaining elite production, but as far as cheap defenders go, Doherty should remain a very good investment along the lines of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and likely even better (at least in Official FPL due to better offensive potential).
Manchester City Defender Kyle Walker
Left wing-back Benjamin Mendy started out like gangbusters but has been out injured the past three games (and has found himself in Pep Guardiola’s doghouse, to boot). But his counterpart on the right, Kyle Walker, has picked up where Mendy left off, boasting a goal and three clean sheets in the past four games. That has translated to 29 points in FPL and 41 in Fantrax over that period. However, the schedule gets rough over the next five games, with away games at Liverpool (GW8) and at Tottenham (GW10) along with a home affair against Manchester United (GW12). The other two games — home against Burnley and Southampton — are much more welcoming.
The Gauge: The upcoming schedule makes things a bit unattractive, and he should cool down, but Walker still can mix in a decent amount of clean sheets with the odd assist thrown in. Don’t expect another goal for a while, though, that is not his game.
Chelsea Midfielder Eden Hazard
Headlined by the Week 5 hat trick against Cardiff, Chelsea’s superstar boasts six goals in the past five games. He is the #1 fantasy scorer in both FPL and Fantrax this season despite not starting the opening pair of games due to World Cup fatigue. However, Hazard has never scored more than 16 goals in any of his previous six seasons with the Blues, so we are entering uncharted territory here. Can Hazard keep things up and be this season’s Mo Salah, or at least somewhere in the ball park?
The Gauge: For fantasy managers without Salah, Hazard should continue to be the essential, much more affordable centerpiece to your team. Hazard has played most of his EPL career under defensive-minded tacticians Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. Now he is flying high for Maurizio Sarri who has opened up the offense.
Leicester Midfielder James Maddison
It was a daunting task to replace the departed Riyad Mahrez. After all, the Algerian international won Premier League Player of the Year in the Foxes’ 2015-16 title season, and Mahrez finished his outstanding Leicester career with 39 goals and 27 assists in 139 games.
Impressively, young James Maddison has more than ably stepped up to the plate. The Madd Man has a goal or assist in each of the past four games, tallying 40 points in FPL and 93 in Fantrax so far this season. Meanwhile, the much more expensive Mahrez has been a bust for Manchester City, posting only 19 and 35 points, respectively (but showing recent signs of life).
The Gauge: Maddison has to cool off from his current pace, especially since he won’t expect to get many PK goals like he did late in the Bournemouth game after Jamie Vardy had been removed. Still, he has proven to be a worthy fantasy investment in both formats, and that should continue.
Everton Midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson
After having only one assist and failing to score in the first four games, Siggy has exploded for three in three since, including a beautiful brace in the 3-0 win over Fulham (following a missed PK, to boot). This past trio of games has provided 23 of his 32 FPL points on the season, and 43 of his 70 in Fantrax. How impressive is it to score two goals from a fair distance — one from just outside and the other taken barely inside the box — and have the helpless keeper (Fulham’s Marco Bettinelli) not move an inch on either?
The Gauge: In my pre-season article on midfielders, I thought Siggy could return 160 points, which would be solid value at his price. That should still be the expectation, not anything higher merely based on his recent three game purple patch.
Manchester City Midfielder Raheem Sterling
Following a barren World Cup performance with England, many (myself included) worried about a falloff this season with Manchester City, particularly with more rotation in mind given the addition of Riyad Mahrez. Sterling scored in the first game, but when he was rested in GW2 and did little in GW3, those fears seemed warranted.
However, Sterling has erased such worries with three goals and two assists across the past four games, vaulting him ahead of Sadio Mane as the 2nd most prolific midfielder in FPL behind only the aforementioned Hazard.
The Gauge: Sterling was a fantasy stud last season, scoring 229 points in 2,584 minutes. He is on pace for the same production this season, with 47 points in 513 minutes. There has been absolutely no falloff at all, and no reason to think there will be.
Arsenal Forward Alexandre Lacazette
Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were Arsene Wenger’s shiny new toys last season up front, and PEA was the undisputed stand-out, scoring 10 times and adding 4 assists in only 13 games following his winter transfer. Comparatively, summer newcomer Lacazette managed only 14 goals and 4 helpers in 32 games.
Things weren’t looking particularly better for the Frenchman at the start of this season, as Unai Emery had Lacazette on the bench for the first three games. However, in his subsequent four starts paired up front with PEA, Lacazette has two goals and three fantasy assists, notching 30 of his 36 total FPL points in that stretch. Meanwhile, PEA has tallied only two goals plus one assist in his seven games, all starts.
The Gauge: Arsenal has played well with both Lacazette and Aubameyang together up front, but central target Lacazette has established himself as the Gunner forward to own in fantasy over wing-oriented Aubameyang, especially since Lacazette is cheaper.
PLAYERS WHO ARE COLD AS ICE
Cardiff City Keeper Neil Etheridge
Etheridge started the season on scorching fire, with two clean sheets and two penalty saves in the first three games, leading to glorious tallies of 28 points in FPL and 40 in Fantrax over that time. Since then, Cardiff and Etheridge have crashed back to earth, conceding a catasrophic 14 goals in the past four games. That has sent his fantasy returns into a power dive, with only 6 points in FPL and a disastrous -15 (yes, that’s negative 15) in Fantrax over that time.
The Gauge: Etheridge was a classic example of fool’s gold. If you bought him after the second or third week, you should have already dropped him by now.
Chelsea Defender Marcos Alonso
Alonso was a monster the first four weeks of the season, with one goal, five fantasy assists and two clean sheets which translated to 44 points in FPL and 58 in Fantrax. No goals or assists and only one CS in the past three games have meant only 10 and 14 points in that time, respectively. He’s the most expensive defender and still has the most points at the position on the season, but you wouldn’t know it by that recent form. Given that he’s the most-owned at the position (by over 45% of managers) in FPL, how he fares from here on out is quite important.
The Gauge: The upcoming schedule is very friendly: at Southampton, v. Manchester United, at Burnley, v. Crystal Palace, v. Everton. Expect Alonso to get back to being the best fantasy defender in the game.
Watford Defender Jose Holebas
Jose Holebas (a.k.a. Cholevas) started out on fire, with one clean sheet, one goal and four assists across the first four games, which gave him 34 FPL points in that stretch. Since then? Two points total in the past three games (ouch). It’s not quite as bad in Fantrax, where he went from averaging about 10 ppg down to 5 ppg. But if you got in on him too late, you’re definitely feeling the pain. However, two of those games were away, and they were against tough competition (v. Manchester United, at Fulham, at Arsenal). The schedule gets much more favorable in the next five games: v. Bournemouth, at Wolves, v. Huddersfield, at Newcastle, at Southampton.
The Gauge: Worryingly, Holebas has never scored more than 87 points in an FPL season, and it remains to be seen how good Watford actually is, so you should definitely temper your expectations. However, rather than selling now, you may want to wait and see how he does over the next run of friendly fixtures.
Tottenham Midfielder Lucas Moura
Lucas Moura finally got his chance to shine this season with the absence of Son Heung-Min at the Asian Games, and the dashing dynamo made last winter’s transfer from Paris Saint-Germain look like an absolutely brilliant piece of business (as is so often the case with Spurs) by scoring three times and adding an assist in the first four games, including a memorable brace at Old Trafford. However, even with Dele Alli suffering from injury and keeping Moura’s spot in the XI safe, the Brazilian blur has not contributed to any of the team’s six goals in the past three weeks. Only 8 of his 37 Official FPL points have come in the past trio of affairs, and just 5 of 52 in Fantrax.
The Gauge: For a midfielder who does not provide assists, Moura does not shoot enough to be a truly reliable fantasy performer, failing to exceed two shots in any game so far. He converted three of his first five shots into goals, but has not scored on any of his past five attempts. Given the lack of shot volume, I am wary of relying on future goal scoring returns.
Liverpool Midfielder Sadio Mane
Four goals in as many games to start the season saw Mane’s price rise from £9.5 up to £10.0 in FPL as his ownership skyrocketed. However, he has not rewarded his new investors, failing to score or assist in the past three games. 39 of his 45 FPL points came in the first four games, as did 54 of his 80 in Fantrax.
The Gauge: If you’re interested in the Liverpool offense, Salah and Roberto Firmino are more reliable than Mane, who has never scored more than 160 points in an FPL season. With Kevin De Bruyne rumored to return somewhat ahead of schedule, KDB could be an attractive transfer in the same price range if you are willing to wait, or perhaps a different target as part of a double switch now.
Wolves Midfielder Ruben Neves
Neves burst onto the scene with a beautiful free kick goal plus an assist in Wolves’ season-opening draw with Everton. He scored 12 points in FPL in that game. Since then? He has scored 13 points in the subsequent six fixtures, with no goals or assists (yikes!). It’s a similar story in Fantrax, where he has followed up a 21 point opener with 28 points total since. His price in FPL has risen from £5.0 up to £5.2, but will likely drop back down as managers dump him.
The Gauge: Neves has taken 17 shots, but only 3 have been on target (and only one hit the net), so I don’t trust him to score much going forward. Wolves are in the bottom half in terms of team goals scored, so I also don’t see Neves contributing many assists. In FPL it’s a good idea to either pay a bit more for someone more productive (such as Ryan Fraser), or go down to the bare minimum for someone to banish to the final spot on your bench.
Everton Midfielder Richarlison
We all know the topsy-turvy Richarlison story this season. The monumentally expensive transfer from Watford netted three times in the opening two games, and fantasy managers made a run to add him. Then after his rash red card in the third game, there was a panic to sell. After he returned from suspension, some managers got back in on him, while others avoided him after being burned. So far the latter approach has proven wise as Richarlison has failed to score or assist in two matches.
The Gauge: The activity has been there for Richarlison lately, even if the results have not come. He has nine shots, three SOT, six fouls suffered and no fouls conceded in the past two games. He just didn’t score or assist. Be patient, he will.
Liverpool Midfielder Mo Salah
Salah started out well, scoring and assisting twice each in the first four games. Of course, he had to do so for his fantasy managers, since he was (and still is) by far the most expensive player in the FPL game. The problem since then is that the Egyptian superstar has only one goal with no helpers in the past four games. On top of that, many of you have likely captained him regularly, which is what you do when you allot such a big chunk of your budget on one player. Salah was above 50% ownership early in the season, but that level has dropped to about 40% at the moment as a chunk of fantasy managers have turned to Hazard.
The Gauge: If you still have your wildcard left and want to sell Salah, I don’t blame you. However, Salah ranks 3rd in the league with 29 shots, ties for 1st with 12 shots on target, and ties for 2nd with 6 big chances missed. He’s still getting the opportunities, and I expect him to convert more of them going forward.
Bournemouth Forward Callum Wilson
Wilson started out with two goals and three fantasy assists in the first three games, producing 22 points in FPL and 49 in Fantrax. Things have dried up a bit, with no goals and two assists in the four fixtures since then as Joshua King, Ryan Fraser and David Brooks have stepped up to supply much of the Cherries’ offense. Notably, King and Junior Stanislas have taken over PK duties after Wilson’s spot kick effort was saved in Week 1.
The Gauge: Wilson running hot and cold is probably exactly what we should expect going forward. He can be a useful fantasy asset given the right fixture (or run of fixtures), but there are probably better season-long options.
How many of the players who are currently in a purple patch of form, or instead stuck in the muck, do you have in your fantasy teams? Which of the above-mentioned players are you considering adding or dropping? Are there any others who deserve attention? Let us know in the comments!