We’re all familiar with the sight of a former favourite scoring a brace on his very first week out of your squad – but when it comes at the end of a string of two-point Gameweeks, we rightly shrug our shoulders and put it down to bad luck.
However, when we opt to sell perfectly good players in the gluttonous pursuit of even greater rewards elsewhere, it’s hard to be quite so philosophical.
When GW23 rolled around, former owners of Mohamed Salah (LIV, 10.2) who swapped him out for a Spurs or West Ham Double-Gameweeker were already smarting from his failure to drop in price.
An immediate move to bring the FPL top scorer back was a painful but necessary one. Many hesitated, however, and were left to count the cost of 11 points missed and yet another price rise.
The same could be said of managers who sold GW23 superstars like Heung-Min Son (TOT, 8.2) and top-scoring Marko Arnautovic (WHU, 7.0) to make way for the popular Jesse Lingard (MUN, 6.4).
Sure enough, the curse of the most-transferred-in-player struck again, and the United youngster could only muster two points against rudderless Stoke.
Those who held on to Son and ’Arnie’ now have players looking good for the long-term, while many of Lingard’s new owners are already looking for an exit strategy.
Simply avoiding the psychological blow of being punished twice in quick succession is probably reason enough to stick with him for now, but he’ll need to earn his place in what has become an intensely competitive area of our teams lately.
The new midfield template
The ’template midfield’ has seen quite a few changes recently – but who are the players to hold, and who could eventually ’break’ it?
Graphic courtesy of FantasyFootballFix.com
Consistent, fixture-proof and explosive, Mo Salah remains the starting point for any viable FPL midfield.
Yet much like Vardy and Mahrez in their standout season, it’s taken us far too long to fully appreciate his true worth – prompting many top FPL pundits this week to openly promise to captain the Liverpool star more often from now on, out of “guilt”!
Raheem Sterling (MCI, 8.9) owners need not be too concerned by the torrid time he endured in the Anfield pressure-cooker. Just as one outstanding performance doesn’t make a player great (I’m looking at you, Jesé), neither should a poor one have us eyeing the transfer button.
The same could be said for the aforementioned Lingard. If the logic of buying Man United’s number 10 for £6.4m was sound last week, then so it remains until we have more evidence to the contrary.
Another historically unfamiliar name on the list is Heung-Min Son (TOT, 8.2).
Initially brought in for DGW22, his headline-grabbing home record convinced most to hold him for GW23.
He has always done well for FPL managers who managed to successfully time their transfer to coincide with his run of starts in the Spurs team – but surely we can now dismiss this as a factor worth considering.
Many had earmarked GW25 as a time to switch him out before he faces Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal – but how often have we fallen prey to being on the wrong side of ’form V fixtures’? In any case, two of them are at Wembley!
Yet while owning some or all of these key players is vital to stay competitive, the most successful FPL managers know when it’s time to depart from it.
Breaking the template
The big rewards in FPL await those willing to take a calculated gamble on players right before they blaze a trail into everyone’s team.
When it comes to ’breaking the template’, one name stands out.
Still owned by just 11.3%, Marko Arnautovic (WHU, 7.0) now looks like a classic out-of-position prospect, revelling in his new role up front.
Now that injury has scuppered any surreal move to Chelsea for Andy Carroll, there’s one less candidate to elbow ’Arnie’ out of the way – but even when it does happen, the least his owners can expect is a central attacking role alongside Lanzini in a 3-4-2-1.
Peering slightly below the radar, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (LIV, 5.6) looks like a prime candidate for the braver FPL managers among us.
He may not match Phillipe Coutinho for guile and ability, but he’s certainly more of a ’Klopp player’ – and the Brazilian’s absence has seen The Ox take up that long-promised central attacking role (he even ended up operating further forward than Firmino against Man City).
Comparison courtesy of FantasyFootballScout.co.uk
We all know about the potential of new Everton recruit Theo Walcott (EVE, 7.1).
Listening to Big Sam’s tribute to Walcott’s ability to “help out the full-back when he needs to defend” puts him firmly in the wait-and-see camp, however.
Huddersfield’s new signing Alex Pritchard (HUD, 5.5) deserves a quick mention here, too. He was by far the most advanced during his cameo against West Ham and looks nailed for a number 10 role at worst.
With no end in sight for the injury to Ruben Loftus-Cheek (CRY, 4.6), it’s time to look for alternatives in the fifth midfield spot also.
Teammate Luka Milivojevic (CRY, 4.6) is an easy swap for those who can get past the cognitive dissonance involved in benching a penalty-taker.
Although somewhat awkwardly priced, Jordan Ibe (BOU, 4.8) has been raining down shots on opponent’s goals of late and is finally starting to fulfil the promise he showed at Liverpool.
Finally, Irish players have always been criminally underpriced by FPL (we notice!), and Stephen Ireland (STO, 4.5) could yet reward those willing to take a low-cost punt.
Get the headache tablets out – it’s time to start thinking about those end-of-season Blank and Double Gameweeks again, I’m afraid.
Although it’s too early for them to be dominating our transfer decisions just yet, (even the next potential BGW could see fixtures moved to midweek), they must be at least be allowed to gently begin to seep into our FPL consciousness.
That said, those without their Free Hit chip could consider favouring the relative stability offered by players from Burnley, Palace and Bournemouth, following their respective FA Cup exits.
The takeaway here is to keep a keen eye on the Twitter feed of Ben Crellin – the only person in the world who completely understands all of this stuff.
Such has been the difficulty with filling that second or third striker spot in recent weeks, when one finally emerges, he’s worth shouting about.
Three goals in four games have seen Callum Wilson (BOU, 5.8) secure that lone striker role for Bournemouth – and his 12 shots inside the box over that period rivals anyone you care to mention.
Incidentally, if you’re considering Firmino (LIV, 9.2) instead, tread carefully – it’s not making many headlines, but the FA investigation into his comments to Mason Holgate is ongoing.
With attacking returns in eight of his last 10 fixtures, Riyad Mahrez (LEI, 8.6) is worth another look.
He faces home ties against four of the worst defensive teams in the league in the form of Watford, Swansea, Stoke and Bournemouth and is openly playing for a move.
Should a rumoured switch to Arsenal or Liverpool happen, it would only increase his appeal.
Hopefully, an upcoming suspension will once again give Álvaro Morata’s (CHE, 10.4) long-suffering owners the push they need to look past the fixtures and finally get rid.