By Ken Rooney
In a week when the five most popular picks for captain all failed to find the net, you knew the mood among the FPL community was about to darken.
So it was in GW10, as those rare success stories kept a low profile, as others compared precisely where on the scale of awful they resided.
It all began before the deadline with the bombshell that Harry Kane (TOT, 12.7) had picked up a knock and would be unavailable to face United.
Soon, his millions of FPL owners found themselves going through the various stages of grief.
Anger and depression were a given. “Denial” soon followed as desperate speculation of Pochettino “mind games” surfaced.
It was at the all-important “bargaining” stage where the real damage was done though, as thousands took a -4 hit to bring in some less-than-stellar replacements.
Then, as they watched Kane line out against Real Madrid on Wednesday, the cycle of misery was complete.
Another 115,000 managers who also couldn’t bear to bench the Spurs man for a week saw an opportunity to use their Free Hit chip – again, with mixed results.
So as we prepare ourselves for more punishment in the form of Gameweek 11, perhaps it’s worth looking at a few players who could yet provide us with a little bit of much-needed zen in this, the most maddening of FPL seasons.
Looking for the Steady Eddies
By now, most of us will have had to listen to a mini-league rival wax lyrical about how great they’ve felt since buying Pascal Groß (BRI, 5.8), as they cheerfully speculate as to why more managers haven’t done the same.
Non-owners shouldn’t feel too bad about their lack of faith – the German even benched himself for his GW4 brace against West Brom!
But now that he’s returned an assist for three games in a row, playing behind the striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation, the man who created most chances in Bundesliga last season is becoming hard to ignore.
There have been precious few predictable outcomes this season, but a Man United clean sheet has been one of them – and the unlikely star of the show has been Phil Jones (MUN, 5.4).
Jose Mourinho has rested Jones ahead of Premier League games and although he may not make every match in the busy Christmas schedule, his price alone is reason enough to invest.
Alternatively, those looking for the ultimate in bankable sources of FPL points need look no further than David de Gea (MUN, 5.7).
Often (dis)regarded as a position to save money (particularly this season with Julian Speroni (CRY, 4.0) and Rob Elliot (NEW, 4.2) emerging as cut-price enablers), the Man United stopper has surprised many by quietly becoming the fourth-highest scorer in FPL. When you’re keeping this many clean sheets, who needs save points?
For those short on cash, Nick Pope (BUR, 4.5) has earned an FPL point for every 15 minutes on the pitch – just one behind the Man United stopper’s 14.
Up front, Tammy Abraham (SWA, 5.9) has emerged as the value pick for those desperate to get off the expensive-striker merry-go-round. His price makes him just about droppable for the tougher fixtures, and although Swansea don’t score much, his 71% goal involvement means he’ll usually be there for you when they do.
If only we could say the same for players from a certain other team at the opposite end of the table…
The Man City sideshow rumbles on
It’s a new Gameweek, so you know what that means – time for a brand new obvious, standout, can’t-possibly-fail choice in the Man City attack. Step right up, Leroy Sané (MCI, 8.8).
His lack of minutes until GW6 saw him dismissed as a bit-part player. He soon graduated to “rotation risk”, but having started eight of his last nine matches in all competitions, his status is being reassessed once again.
Not only is he starting regularly, in the last five Gameweeks he has actually played more minutes (443) than “nailed-on” teammates like David Silva (435) and even Kevin De Bruyne (414).
But before we start getting over-excited about yet another City player, there is something to consider (it’s never easy, is it?).
Sane has tended not to play much in games where both Jesus and Aguero started earlier on in the season.
In any other team, he would be considered undroppable, but bitter experience has taught us that we can’t presume anything when it comes to Man City this season.
It was Gabriel Jesus who made way against Napoli in midweek, but with Aguero fit and firing again, Sane could yet lose out, or be shoehorned back into his previous wing-back role in place of doing-a-job utility man Fabian Delph.
Comparison courtesy of FantasyFootballScout.co.uk
You have been warned.
FPL managers should keenly monitor the first few team selections from a club’s new manager – and the arrival of Claude Puel at Leicester has produced a player who should now be top of every FPL watchlist.
A £4.3m defender, with 0.3% ownership, playing in midfield is the stuff FPL dreams are made of, and that’s what we could be looking at in the form of Ben Chilwell.
Security of starts is crucial in the current environment, but if he manages to shake off a knee injury and keep his place, he’s an automatic pick as Puel looks to tighten the Foxes’ defence.
With the form and gametime of so many big-name players in flux, it’s not an easy task to recommend a port in the storm these days.
Harry Kane would be the obvious choice if there wasn’t a slight doubt about his minutes in GW11, so this week it’s Mo Salah (LIV, 9.3) who gets the nod.
The Egyptian may have lost penalty duties, but he remains a potent threat for a Liverpool side who face an already-brittle West Ham defence decimated by injuries this week.
He’s also been given the international break off by already-qualified Egypt, so he should be fresh for Liverpool’s enviable run of upcoming fixtures.
We all like to look like an FPL genius by making at least one left-field move in a season, and with little more than 15,000 transfers-in this week, Wilfried Zaha (CRY, 6.8) certainly fits the bill.
A trip to Tottenham may not seem like the ideal time to draft him in – because it’s not – but Spurs have so far failed to raise their game against the lesser teams at Wembley, and injuries to Lloris and Alderweireld could see them more vulnerable than usual at the back.
If he does produce the goods on Sunday, you can sit back and take the plaudits as your rivals clamour to beat his price rise ahead of Palace’s plum ties against Everton and Stoke at Selhurst Park.
Having failed to complete 90 minutes since his GW1 debut, patience among Alexandre Lacazette’s (ARS, 10.4) FPL owners has now been stretched to breaking point.
With Man City and Spurs up next, it’s simply money best spent elsewhere.