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Week 3 Fantrax Fantasy EPL Player Picks: Early Crossroads

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Following a second price rise (or fall), it’s time to start making the tough choices in hopes of heading on the right path.

Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane - Liverpool FC - Premier League
These three guys love facing Arsenal at Anfield.
Photo by Michael Regan - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

We faced no shortage of tricky choices a week ago as plenty of players enjoyed big opening games, leading to tidy price rises. Fantasy managers who grabbed Raheem Sterling, John McGinn and Teemu Pukki — who built on their breakout GW1 performances with brilliant encores in GW2 — will now enjoy further valuation increases of those players. Those instead who picked up Harry Kane, Mo Salah, and Seamus Coleman will rue their poor returns in the second week, for which their modest price declines are meager consolation. Remember that you must manually swap - save - swap (and save again) to realize price declines.

However you fared over the weekend, now the number of tough choices expands greatly as we come to a vital crossroads early in the season. The price rises (and falls) really start to become extreme, causing headaches as you face important decisions over which players to lock in with the hope of being a long term value, and whom to jettison or ignore among those who instead beckon like fool’s gold.

Think back to the defender position last year. If you nabbed Everton’s Lucas Digne or Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the first couple/few weeks before their prices exploded, you set yourself up nicely for a smooth ride the rest of the way. But if you held onto Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier and Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy instead, you found yourself traversing over rougher road. So choose wisely. No pressure, though!

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[Note: Player prices below are from the NMA Fantrax-11 league. The early game where line-ups will be available before the Fantrax deadline is Aston Villa v. Everton on Friday.]

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GOALKEEPERS

If you want to pay a pretty penny for a keeper, Everton’s Jordan Pickford, Manchester United’s David de Gea, and Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris are strong options. As you may know, I generally don’t like shelling out serious samoleons for this position, and this week is no exception, so I’m sticking to the budget route.

Mat Ryan ($6.70, Brighton v. Southampton)

Following his 16 point effort in the opener, Ryan disappointed with only 2 points in Week 2. Don’t despair, you can use his price drop to your advantage and grab him at home against a sorry Southampton side which has only managed one (gifted) goal so far.

Łukasz Fabiański ($5.72, West Ham at Watford)

If you didn’t grab and hold Nick Pope at $4.00 or Dean Henderson at $4.56 before their prices shot up, but if you can’t afford Ryan, The Fab Man could be worth a roll of the dice at an affordable cost. Lucasz Fabianski averaged 5.9 ppg last season and is available for a cut rate due to the Hammers’ troubles early on this time around. Watford has yet to score, so you shouldn’t be too worried about a Hornets’ explosion.

Adrián ($5.38, Liverpool v. Arsenal)

Despite the howler that gifted Southampton’s only goal, “Yo Adrián” returned 7 points in the victory at Southampton. Arsenal’s new-look offense will be difficult to contain, but the Gunners are going to have their own hands full with the Liverpool attack at Anfield.

Kepa Arrizabalaga ($4.07, Chelsea at Norwich)

Sure, Kepa has averaged -5 ppg so far this season in trying times for the Blues, and you may be having nightmares about Teemu Pukki. Going with Kepa will be for those who judge him more on a large sample size from the past than from a brief look at recent times. The year-ago newcomer averaged 5.9 ppg last season, and now Antonio Rudiger hopes to return and help shore up the central defense. While the fixture is away from Stamford Bridge and the Canaries have looked bright, it is still a “Big Six” side at newly promoted Norwich City. If you really want to save a lot of money on a keeper with a speculative pick, you’ve got to endure some gut-ache; of course, I think it’s even more of a sour stomach situation when you spend a load of cash on a goalie!

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DEFENDERS

There’s a bevy of strong defenders available at affordable prices. I couldn’t fit them all in, so if you prefer players that didn’t make the cut such as Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings, Southampton’s Maya Yoshida, Tottenham’s Kyle Walker-Peters, Everton’s Yerry Mina, Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen or anyone else, go ahead, I’m not stopping you. For me, though, each of those players has something giving me a bit of pause, leaving this group as the cream of the crop.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka ($14.08 , Manchester United v. Crystal Palace)

In the opening week, Everton’s Seamus Coleman had 17 points raiding down the right side against Crystal Palace. In Week 2, Sheffield United’s pair of right backs also enjoyed plenty of joy as midfielder/wing back John Lundstram notched 13 points and center/right back Chris Basham returned 10 against the Eagles. As coincidence would have it, let’s try Red Devils’ right back... Aaron Wan-Bissaka, formerly of Palace, this week. The Eagles’ grounded attack is clearly not keeping opposing right wing defenders pinned back, and Patrick van Aanholt is leaving things open on the Londoners’ end. AWB is expensive, but he should do even better than usual to justify the price tag.

Emerson Palmieri ($8.09, Chelsea at Norwich)

Midway through last season, Mauricio Sarri showed a lack of faith in Marcos Alonso, and Frank Lampard has continued that trend. Clearly taking over the left back spot, Emerson has industriously delivered 16 and 11 points so far. By comparison, the more expensive Cesar Azpilicueta at right back has returned only 5 and 4 points. In the here and now, Emerson will be free to raid up the flank at Carrow Road in what will should be a very open game, but he looks to be an excellent long-term value as well.

Emerson Palmieri - Chelsea - Premier League
The Alonso era may be over; now welcome the Emerson epoch!
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Joel Ward ($5.86, Crystal Palace at Manchester United)

Ward has scored 9 and 11 points so far, and while it’s not the best match-up, he still is very affordable and shouldn’t have a problem keeping busy and piling up phantom points.

Joël Matip ($5.32, Liverpool v. Arsenal)

It looks like Matip may have taken the starting spot next to Virgil van Dijk back from Joe Gomez. If so, Matip could pay off nicely, as he averaged 8.2 ppg at home last season.

Çağlar Söyüncü ($3.60, Leicester at Southampton)

Harry Maguire’s replacement (ahead of Wes Morgan) scored 7 points in the scoreless opener against Wolves, and 4 in the 1-1 draw at Chelsea. There’s a good chance at a clean sheet for Söyüncü visiting Southampton.

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MIDFIELDERS

Like defense, there’s an awful lot at the midfield position to like. I gave thought to West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini and Robert Snodgrass, Norwich’s Todd Cantwell, Leicester’s Youri Tielemans, and Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi, but they didn’t quite make the cut. And while I love Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Aston Villa’s John McGinn, after two successive price rises to $12+ each for that pair, it’s too late to the party now at retail. Similarly, if you didn’t get Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos on the barn door at $3.80 (he’s now nearly doubled to $7.55), you may want to hold off until the Gunners are done with Liverpool and/or Tottenham.

Sadio Mane ($18.68, Liverpool v. Arsenal) [dual M/F eligibility]

Mané’s 16 minute, 1 point cameo in the opener brought his price down to $13.57. Even if you have to pay up for the price rise following his 22 point effort at Southampton, it should be worth it for a player who has scored in each of the past three seasons against Arsenal at Anfield.

Mason Mount ($11.64, Chelsea at Norwich)

No, Mount probably isn’t going to have a goal gifted to him as Wilfred Ndidi did in Week 2. But even if you take out that goal (and the shot on target as well), he’d still have 9 and 14 points in his two games. The youngster has been extremely active, filling up the stat sheet with 5 SOT, 3 tackles won, 4 accurate crosses, 2 tackles won, and 2 corners forced. You’ve got to like his chances for a productive return at Norwich.

Mason Mount - Chelsea FC - Premier League
Mason Mount has gotten off to a bright start with Chelsea.
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Tanguy Ndombele ($9.34, Tottenham v. Newcastle)

I wasn’t really expecting summer tranasfer Ndombele to be a valuable fantasy player either in the FPL or Fantrax formats, but so far he’s proven me wrong with a goal in GW1, an assist in GW2, and double figure points in Fantrax each week. I don’t know if he can keep it up the rest of the season, but at home against Newcastle, it shouldn’t be a problem in GW3.

Jack Grealish ($8.57, Aston Villa v. Everton)

He may not be lighting things up quite as much as fellow Villa midfielder John McGinn, but Jack Grealish is doing just fine, with 12 and 9 points so far, and he’s available at a lower price. While McGinn gets his points from shooting, Grealish does the dirty work with 7 fouls suffered and 6 tackles won in the first two games, and this tough test against the Toffees should keep the phantoms flowing.

Leandro Trossard ($6.53, Brighton v. Southampton)

Trossard scored a goal and notched 13 points against West Ham, and he could have had a brace for 20+ if another score hadn’t been overturned by VAR. At home against a Saints side which has allowed five goals in the first two games, the newcomer has a very nice chance of keeping things going.

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FORWARDS

If you’re expecting me to pick Teemu Pukki in this section, I would if you have him at $7.00 or even $10.47. But at retail following the hattrick-inspired skyrocketing of his price up to $18.59, sorry, that’s way too rich for my blood. As for the other costly options, I’m avoiding Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the road; and while Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial ply their trade at Old Trafford, the Red Devils face a tough task in the form of a solid Crystal Palace defense.

Mo Salah ($20.68, Liverpool v. Arsenal)

Salah scored a goal and added an assist at home against Arsenal in both 2017-18 and 2018-19. And thanks to a couple of subpar efforts so far this season, his price has dropped a fair bit from almost 25 clams on opening day.

Harry Kane ($16.29, Tottenham v. Newcastle)

After notching a brace against Aston Villa, Kane was invisible at Manchester City. I reckon that the Tottenham talisman will come back out into the limelight with the league punching bag Magpies visiting London.

Roberto Firmino ($12.90, Liverpool v. Arsenal)

So you’ve seen that Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah enjoy playing Arsenal at home. But do you know who really, really loves it when the Gunners come to Anfield? None other than Roberto Firmino, who boasts 7 goals and 2 assists in four such games! And he’s the cheapest of the Reds’ attacking three, to boot. In Liverpool’s last six EPL games at home against Arsenal, the Reds have scored 22 goals (3.7 gpg)! [Source: 11v11]

Son Heung-Min ($8.10, Tottenham v. Newcastle)

“It’s Always Sonny in London” comes off suspension, and with Dele Alli still out injured, there is little doubt that the dangerous attacking winger will be inserted straight into the XI by Mauricio Pochettino. In the past two seasons, Son has scored 17 of his 24 goals at home, and Newcastle just shipped three scores at Norwich City.

Nicolas Pépé ($5.81, Arsenal at Liverpool)

1 point in 19 minutes in game 1. 4 points in 45 minutes in game 2. Things are tracking upward, so Pépé should deliver an excellent ROI as he becomes a regular starter. And unlike Ceballos after his 17-point effort, there wasn’t much of a change in Pepe’s price. Unfortunately, though, this game is at Anfield, and Pepe is listed as a forward in Fantrax rather than a midfielder as he is in Official FPL.

If you’re already carrying a budget forward — such as Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki who many have at $7.00 — it’s difficult to justify putting a second low-cost forward among your three slots at the position. But if you do have room for a cheap 3rd forward, and if you can’t quite afford Trossard as a 5th midfielder, Pépé could prove an intriguing punt this week. And for those who are happily holding Pukki at $7.00, I wonder if there might be a tough choice on the horizon a few weeks from now between keeping Pukki or replacing him with Pepe.

If you don’t buy Pepe now, then keep him on your barn-door watch list this weekend.

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My Team (at the moment):

N. Pope ($4.00)

Emerson ($7.76) — Zinchenko ($5.55) — Ward ($4.45)

McGinn ($9.48) — Mount ($7.02) — Grealish ($7.00) — KDB ($5.90) — Ceballos ($3.80)

Mané ($13.57) — Pukki ($7.00)

BANK: $24.47

After a subpar 91-point performance in Week 1 when I missed out on Raheem Sterling’s bounty, I rebounded in Week 2 with 130 points thanks largely to the 41-point return from Teemu Pukki. It helps having the hattrick hero du jour!

I’ve loaded my team with barn door players prior to the post-Week 2 recalculation, leaving me with a ridiculous $24.47 in the bank, so I will look to cull some of those cheap prospects in favor of heavy hitters such as Salah, Kane, Son, and/or Wan-Bissaka whose prices fell. (Some of you may have noticed community member K.M. a.k.a. Ken helpfully mention this strategy in the comments section of the pre-deadline/live chat.)

Firmino, of course, is also a very attractive add, but I didn’t expect his price to change much, so I held off on grabbing him. I will likely shift Mane to midfield in order to be able to bring in two more forwards (among Salah, Kane, Son and Firmino) to join Pukki. But after making the tough calls at striker, that leaves plenty more tough choices regarding which midfielders to drop as the deadline approaches, along with whether or not to upgrade from one of the defenders to AWB. Crossroads, indeed.

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[Note: Unless otherwise noted, stats/prices came via the official Premier League website or Fantrax.]

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Which players do you see as the spine of your team going forward? To whom are you turning for short-term glory? What strong starters from the first two games are you avoiding, harboring the feeling that they will fall off rather than keep up their fine form? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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