The last week before an international break always provides a unique strategic crossroads for FPL managers. In particular, the questions surround the handling of the single free transfer. If there is ever a time when carrying forward a transfer seems most valuable, it is the week before a break. Nothing exudes optimism quite like coming back for a long stretch of games with the ability to make two free, well calculated, transfers.
Conversely, it is hard to think of many scenarios in the fantasy game more excruciating than standing pat, and not spending that transfer. This is the dilemma I face this week, as I stare at Paul Pogba in my midfield, with his impending match against Manchester City. It’s a decision that will wrack me until the lineup lock.
Should I find myself unable to resist the temptation, Week 12 presents inroads for players all across the pitch. Manchester United look to be the only top-six team to avoid this week, but some might argue that is the case most weeks, regardless of opponent. The lesser sides of the table see plenty of pockets to find a handful of fantasy points.
Here are my player picks for game-week twelve:
Alisson (Liverpool, £5.7m)
The Premier League’s second best team for clean sheets, home at Anfield, takes on a Fulham FC side who failed to score against Huddersfield. I would imagine Liverpool will be looking for a complete performance following their midweek shock defeat in the Champion’s League.
Bernd Leno (Arsenal, £4.8m)
It appears that Leno will be holding on to the starting gig for Arsenal. The defense getting healthier around him plus a struggling Wolves side visiting the Emirates could be the recipe for Leno to earn his first Premier League clean sheet. In their last three games, Arsenal have surrendered only one goal from the run-of-play (against Liverpool). Prior to that, they conceded two penalties versus Crystal Palace and an own goal to Leicester. The two penalties Wolves scored last week against Tottenham were their first goals scored since week eight.
Matt Ryan (Brighton, £4.5m)
The Brighton stopper currently fills the number two goalkeeper on my squad. Since their week-seven clash with Manchester City, the Australian has managed to produce three clean sheets in four games. In those three games, he amassed seven bonus points and five save points. Playing at Everton was always going to be an uphill battle for the Seagulls, but few opponents provide clean sheet upside quite like Cardiff.
Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham, £4.5m)
I really, really, want to trust the Hammers’ defense. The run of fixtures from now until the new year is too good, and added quality shores up this part of the roster. However, this is a team that has surrendered goals to Wolves, Brighton and Burnley (twice). The recent history of the West Ham defense will always keep me skeptical, but the Terriers offer so little in attack that it’s hard to pass on last year’s third-ranked keeper in this situation. Getting the job done at Huddersfield will help ease some of my concerns about their defense.
Andrew Robertson (Liverpool, £6.4m)
See reasons for liking Alisson above; Robertson has the same appeal. Oh, and he will be allowed to go participate in the attack. As for other defenders from Liverpool, I do not know if there is another reliable option aside from Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool, £5.9m). There is a lot of rotation going on elsewhere on the back line, deterring me from investing in a second defensive asset.
Kieran Trippier (Tottenham, £6.3m)
At the moment, it is hard to finger one defender more culpable in his team’s goal concession than Kieran Trippier (you could say Granit Xhaka, but it worth remembering he is playing out of position). His consecutive defensive errors led to the only goal versus Manchester City. Against Wolves, last week, his inexplicable decision to try to nutmeg his opponent led directly to the first penalty. However, his fantasy earnings were saved by an assist earlier in that game. If Spurs can avoid conceding a penalty, the optimism surrounding a clean sheet in the match with Crystal Palace should be high.
Benjamin Chilwell (Leicester, £5.0m)
The King Power Stadium is sure to return to an atmosphere reminiscent of their title run in 2015-16. This week the Foxes are at home, pitted against a Burnley side that just cannot get right this season. With James Maddison failing to play provider in the center of midfield, the Foxes have looked for a fullback to be more influential in the attack — and Chilwell has managed an assist in two of his last three games. Burnley provides a great opportunity for those attacking returns to continue, and the clean sheet prospects are not too bad either, should Harry Maguire (Leicester City, £5.5m) return to full fitness.
Shane Duffy (Brighton, £4.6m)
Shane Duffy provides, arguably, the best goal-scoring threat of anyone on my list this week. His fixture with Cardiff provides a strong opportunity to earn a clean sheet. Duffy has two goals this year already, plus one shot that glanced off the woodwork.
Rob Holding (Arsenal, £4.4m)
Holding has logged five straight 90-minute performances in a row, so he looks to be a mainstay in the Arsenal defense (but watch for any return from injury that could prove that wrong). If this trend continues, a massive buying opportunity has presented itself. Against Wolves, he provides a great opportunity to secure clean sheet points, as well as the ability to free up some spending cash.
In an effort to dig deeper into the midfield pool this week, I am going to skip over the top premium plays at this position. Mo Salah (Liverpool, £13.0m), Eden Hazard (Chelsea, £11.3m), and Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, £11.1m). All warrant consideration to be bought this week. And, each is a strong play in his given match-up. If you are looking for a ranking, I would rank them in the order listed above.
David Silva (Manchester City, £8.5m)
I would not call Manchester City’s game against United favorable. They are expected to win, of course. But, the appeal for David Silva this week comes from the tactics that Manchester United are likely to deploy. With the compact alignment I expect from Mourinho’s men, the Spaniard’s ability to pick out passes and create chances will be a huge asset in this game. Fantasy Football Fix shows David Silva as having sixteen attempted assists over his past five games, five more than any other player on the City squad. With the cavalcade of attackers at Manchester City’s disposal, I think it would be hard to pin down who will put the ball in the net, but I do think I can predict where those balls may come from.
Mesut Özil (Arsenal, £8.4m)
I know everyone has a story about the time they were burned by the enigmatic German, but this week looks to be a game where Özil shows up. In game where I intend to deploy the Arsenal captain, there are two things I look for: playing at home, and playing against a team not considered top-six. Wolves check both of those boxes. With Wolves counter-attacking style, space will be created for Arsenal counters, where Özil can profit. His strike partners are both in form, and he has shown an eye for goal this season, as well. I do not think it is out of bounds to suggest a performance similar to his showing versus Leicester this week.
Felipe Anderson (West Ham, £6.8m)
Anderson has been a player whom FPL managers have been expecting to break through from day one. Having only three goals and one assist to his name at this point in the season is less than most of us would have expected. However, things look to have clicked up front for the Hammers. Forced to shoulder more of the attacking load with Arndriy Yarmolenko out long term with an achilles injury, Anderson’s incisive attacking play could finally produce results. With the upcoming fixtures, some more consistent returns could be coming for West Ham play-maker, especially if Marko Arnautovic can remain healthy.
Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth, £6.1m)
This could be the last ride of the Bournemouth attack for a while. The upcoming fixtures are littered with top-six teams, and this could be a nice jumping off point. Since this is a game somewhat molded in the image of the stock market, I point to a quote from Jim Cramer: “Bulls make money. Bears make money. Hogs get Slaughtered.” If you have owned Fraser from the beginning, be ready to bank some money and turn it into the next up-and-coming star. For his prospects this week, Newcastle’s captain could miss this weekend’s match opening up plenty of opportunities Bournemouth to score. The style of this game does not fit the style Bournemouth have succeeded with early this season. At this point, it is hard to deny the Bournemouth goal scoring record as a fluke.
Josh Murphy (Cardiff, £4.8m)
The Brighton away form has not been as stout as their home performances. If there is a breakthrough from Cardiff, I think Murphy is the most likely candidate.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester, £9,0m)
With James Madison ruled out, the onus of the Leicester attack now falls on Vardy. He has not registered a goal since Week 7. The Burnley defense should provide little to stop Vardy. The larger question may come to who can deliver the Englishman the ball.
Alvaro Morata (Chelsea, £8.7m)
Having scored four goals in his last four games, Alvaro Morata may finally be living up to the expectations many had when he first arrived in the Premier League. A goal this week versus Everton could see Morata move into the ‘must have’ striker category, especially for those looking to minimize expenditures on the forward line.
Callum Wilson (Bournemouth, £6.7m)
For those jumping off the Mitrovic bandwagon, this is the landing spot. Wilson has moved into second for total points at the forward position. Unlike Fraser above, I would not be looking to move on from Wilson, with the upcoming fixtures. With the minimal striker pool, Wilson is putting up a claim for being ‘must own.’ And, at his price, FPL managers should not have to think twice before adding him to their squads.
Marko Arnautovic (West Ham, £7.1m)
Arnautovic leads the line on my team. As long as he avoids health-scares, I would expect many more goals to come in the run-up to the new year. You may get tired of reading about him over the next couple months, but I doubt managers will get sick of the goal scoring returns.
Ayoze Perez (Newcastle, £6.1m)
Ayoze Perez is my favorite kind of striker. He plays more of a central attacking midfield role, but is listed as a forward. This is akin to the role that Roberto Firmino plays for Liverpool. Perez looks to be the key play-maker in the Newcastle attack. With the cheap striker pool drying up, Ayoze’s goal last week could be the start of something for him and Newcastle. I see him more as supplier than finisher, but at forward that is only a one point difference.
Like I said above, if you choose to delve into the transfer market this week, there are plenty of places to turn atevery position. And, holding off, as hard as it may be, is not bad either. It gives us another week to assess players, extra time to analyze best moves, and a chance to see who gets hurt in international play before we commit.
What surprises do you have prepared for the final week before the November international break? What players are testing your nerves, tempting you to transfer them out? Or, are you saving your transfer to double-up in Week 13? Let us know in the comments below!