It was another dramatic weekend in Fantasy Premier League, with transfer bandwagons failing to deliver, while those managers who ejected ailing assets like Kevin De Bruyne and Harry Kane were left haunted by their decision.
Continuing our series of weekly articles, we at whogottheassist.com are reviewing and commenting on trends and behaviours in the FPL market place, looking at common themes and giving our view on the viability of the transfers taking place.
Sadio Mane’s minus-two-point return and subsequent suspension for his “uncontrolled challenge” on Manchester City’s Ederson has unquestionably had the biggest impact on the market.
Over 369,000 managers have already joined the exodus from Mane following Liverpool’s hammering at the Etihad.
Many managers will wring their hands with frustration as a result of Saturday’s early kick-off, in particular, those 50,000+ who had swapped De Bruyne out for Mane last week. That was the second most popular direct trade ahead of Gameweek 4, resulting in an 11-point swing and a red flagged Mane to contend with.
Almost inevitably, some are now turning to the Belgian, with over 40,000 managers transferring De Bruyne in for the Senegalese – no doubt some immediately after dismissing the City man prior to his nine points.
Spurs’ Christian Eriksen is another beneficiary of Mane’s red card. A goal at Everton elevated his claim as the prime candidate to replace the suspended Liverpool winger.
On the cusp of a kindly fixture run, it is no surprise that people are turning their eye towards the Dane, with over 78,000 direct transfers made so far between Mane and Eriksen.
Interestingly, Dele Alli – who is suspended from the next three Champions League matches – has seen less than half the same level of interest, with just over 30,000 managers turning from Mane to the England midfielder.
What is surprising is that Alli is also earning sales and has suffered a net transfer deficit so far. Significantly, over 10,000 have opted for an awkward sideways move from Alli to Eriksen.
Defences let many of us down this Gameweek, with sides like Manchester United, Chelsea, West Brom and Southampton – all very popular sources – conceding goals.
In contrast, a pair of assists and a shut-out for Ben Davies has proved the catalyst for his ownership to soar, making the Welshman the most popular transfer target in the Gameweek.
Incredibly, he now tops the overall points standings, sparking over 150,000 managers to draft him in and prompting an early price rise to 5.7.
His coverage of set-piece duties looks central to the appeal.
So far this season only Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil (both 15) have created more chances, with Burnley’s Robbie Brady the only player to supply more crosses (33). The potential for attacking returns alongside Spurs’ clean sheets will continue while Davies maintains those rates.
Kieran Trippier appeared to be the weapon of choice in Mauricio Pochettino’s side in pre-season, but with injury problems and new signing Serge Aurier now looming, managers are understandably drifting towards Davies at pace.
There remains a future risk of rotation, with Danny Rose still in rehabilitation from injury. But following Rose’s histrionics over the summer, the Welshman may even be established as first choice having grasped his opportunity to impress.
Doucore, Choup-Moting, Gross
The mid-range midfield asset roulette continues as yet more candidates stepped forward to press their claims, with prior flavours of the month Richarlison and Jese already faded glamour.
Stoke City’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting had turned the head of just 7,609 managers before this weekend, but a brace against Manchester United has alerted the masses to the 5.5 midfielder’s potential.
Over 95,000 managers have since reacted to the weekend’s events by drafting in the former Schalke man.
Watford’s Abdoualaye “Duke” Doucoure – now up to 5.2 – is also attracting major interest after netting his second goal of the season: over 109,000 have brought him in so far, making him the third most popular transfer-in play.
Pascal Gross, at a cut-price 5.4, delivered the biggest single return by a player this season in Brighton’s win over West Brom. A total of 18 points – made up of two goals and an assist – has persuaded over 68,000 to acquire his services.
All three are picking up new owners from Mane’s departure, with managers perhaps seeking to move funds to the attack to capitalise on the rise of heavy-hitters in that area.
Speaking of which, despite Romelu Lukaku scoring his fourth goal in four matches, the Manchester United forward currently has a transfer deficit of 23,000 ahead of Gameweek 5.
So why are people selling him?
It could be down to Manchester United’s stiffening fixtures, while many may already have “coverage” in midfield via Henrikh Mkhitaryan and/or Paul Pogba.
Another reason could be that Alvaro Morata – one of the main men who is attracting Lukaku’s former owners – is 1.6m cheaper.
Another goal for the Spanish forward brought his tally to four strikes and two assists from four outings and, in FPL terms, this has translated into 34 points at 8.5 points per game.
Due to a lack of pitch-time at Real Madrid, a great many were initially reluctant to swoop for Morata.
However, now seemingly fit and firing, the Spaniard is gaining in popularity, with over 88,000 managers swooping so far, making him the most transferred-in forward over this round.
However, other premium forwards – not least Harry Kane and Gabriel Jesus – have also come to the fore, meaning that Morata’s bandwagon is steady rather than soaring off at speed.
Few will now be shifting Kane after he ended his traditional August hiatus, meaning that Lukaku looks to be the fall guy for many attempting to try something different up front and free up some funds.
Wayne Rooney, Chicharito
Despite having an attractive price of 7.6, back-to-back blanks have prompted Rooney owners into an exit; he is the third most sold player ahead of Gameweek 5 with over 77,000 sales.
Everton have struggled so far. They have had the fewest shots of all teams with only seven on target. However, with the fixtures turning in Gameweek 6, we have to wonder if these sales are somewhat premature.
Options in the same price bracket certainly appear limited. West Ham’s Chicharito is also experiencing heavy losses with over 83,000 managers dumping him following a 63-minute blank, making the Mexican the second most sold player this Gameweek.
Against the odds, Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck – who scored his first brace in the Premier League in Gameweek 3 – is one of the major beneficiaries of the Rooney and Chicharito fallout; over 44,000 have so far moved to the Gunners man, who will surely soon come under threat from a recalled Alexis Sanchez.
Looking at the numbers overall, what is becoming clear is that this season appears a different beast to the last one, with transfer volumes lower, despite the addition of over a million extra managers.
After last season’s supermarket sweep of a transfer market, with prices incredibly volatile, the numbers at the start of this term seem to show a swing towards a more conservative approach.
For instance, only 275,254 players used their Wildcard over the first international break, while in 2016/17, 310,522 activated the chip.
Additionally, total transfers between Gameweeks 3-4 only showed a very slight increase. We saw 7,863,661 transfers prior to Gameweek 4, compared with 7,268,511 during the same spell last season.
Remembering that there are 20% more players, this represents quite a downturn in activity.
When comparing transfers made during Gameweeks 2 and 3 across the two seasons, we witnessed over two million more each time in 2017/18. But this dropped to just 559,000+ more during the break.
This may be borne out of uncertainty when committing to transfers: the tendency for swaps in and out to backfire (in some cases spectacularly) in the opening Gameweeks may have prompted a cautious, wait and see approach.
Equally, it may be that injury and suspension have restricted managers to enforced changes rather than use multiple transfers to carry out surgery and move for bandwagons.
There are further factors to consider, though, with the return of some proven big hitters perhaps poised to break up the early template.
With the likes of Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez yet to have an impact on our seasons, managers may be showing early caution and reserving Wildcards and transfer hits with this in mind.
With fixtures swinging for some clubs from Gameweek 6, the market may well recover dramatically, with high activity due around that period.