The international break has come to a close and Fantasy Premier League managers can focus their full attention on Gameweek 9.
The usual dilemmas over big-budget assets haven’t gone away, so we have put together another panel of FPL bosses to share their thoughts on the likes of Raheem Sterling (£12.1m), Sergio Aguero (£12.2m) and the premium v mid-price forward debate.
Our guest pundits also ponder whether a cut-price route into the Spurs backline – aka Paulo Gazzaniga (£4.4m) – is too good to be true…
WHO’S ON THE PANEL THIS WEEK?
Hindu Monkey – Longtime Scout poster with a brutal blog to boot, HM has delivered excellent insight throughout his FPL career. His best finish in a fantastic 11-year history was an excellent 2,932nd and he rose to recent Twitter-fame for his founding of the Barnes Train™ movement.
Gregor – Part of the moderator team, Gregor has an enviable FPL history with three top 1k finishes and a further three inside the top 10,000, with a best overall rank of 29th in the world in 2016/17.
G-Whizz – Also part of the moderator team and currently in his fifth FPL season, G-Whizz managed a personal best finish of 4,404th in 2018/19.
Neale – Deputy editor of Fantasy Football Scout, who has three top 5k finishes to his name. Neale is currently second in the FFS Mods and Cons league.
RubberDucky: Is it still best to go with one premium striker up front, or should we spread the cash over three mid-priced forwards?
Hindu Monkey: Previously I’ve always preached the value of one premium forward for balance and flexibility, but this season I have to say I don’t think it matters as much.
There are only seven premium players in the game (Aguero, Aubameyang, Kane, Salah, Mane, Sterling and the never-dropping KDB) and you can only really own three of them. But I don’t think it matters which three and what positions they play.
There are more £6m-£8m strikers firing than midfielders right now, so I see nothing wrong with have Sterling, KDB & Salah/Mane in the middle and say Tammy, Haller & Wilson up front. The only caveat I would throw in is that the premium players are just that for a reason. The top four midfielders are currently all named above, as are the top two strikers (only Kane is letting the side down). I would still expect Aguero and Aubamayang to be the highest-scoring strikers come Gameweek 38 and at least owning one means you can get to the other without a hit.
Neale: My own current preference is for three mid-price forwards, although that has been born out of the value to be had among sub-£8.0m strikers rather than anything that two of my own premium midfielders, Mohamed Salah and Raheem Sterling, have done of late.
While big-budget midfielders have dominated the FPL points table in the last two campaigns, there isn’t much in it this season.
I can see the value in both approaches (having one premium striker at least allows you the option to switch between Messrs Kane, Aguero and Aubameyang at will, depending on fixtures and form) but I think the fact that the four highest-scoring players who are available for less than £10.0m are all strikers reinforces my approach.
The return of Alexandre Lacazette and its positional impact on Aubameyang, Kane’s middling returns and Aguero’s rotation risk are all caveats to the premium forwards in my mind, but I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t think that Sterling and Salah were without their own issues at present.
G-Whizz: The GOAT, Mark Sutherns, showed last season what success could be had with three budget or mid-priced strikers and the last time I looked he’s gone the same route again with Pukki, Abraham and Wilson.
I’ve kind of gone down the same road but for me, the Pukki party is over and I’ve finished my beer, crushed the can and slam dunked it into the bin. So I’ve waved goodbye to the host and got rid to bring back Wilson to line up with Abraham and Haller.
I do prefer the flexibility of the trio of mid-price strikers and they haven’t been doing too bad to disregard as an option. Only time will tell whether that’s the right trio over the next few Gameweeks but I quite like the run of fixtures they all have so I’m prepared to try and have some patience and see it out for the foreseeable.
That being said, plenty of managers in the top 50k have had great success with one premium up front – take Sam (FPL Family) as one example – so it all depends which way you want to go and how you prefer your team to be set up. Sam currently has as her premium striker Harry Kane, and at around that price bracket you’ll have the option of Aubameyang and at a stretch maybe even Aguero.
Personally, Harry has been a hard one for me to predict his hauls. Aubameyang looks certainly nailed with Lacazette out injured and Aguero will always have that explosive ability and doesn’t head the forwards’ points table for nothing. Hokey-cokeying could work out but could always see you jump ship at the wrong time. Get it right though and it could be a winner.
fusen: What to do with Raheem Sterling? Is he worth keeping in a Wildcard and hoping he eventually starts scoring points worthy of the cost or is it time to get rid and invest elsewhere?
Gregor: I think he’s a keeper for now. Fourteen points over the last five Gameweeks is bitterly disappointing but given the strength of Manchester City’s next three fixtures, their need for wins and their emphasis to go on the attack, I think the returns should be just around the corner.
I see there’s been some chat around Sterling being pushed out further wide in recent games and whilst there could be truth in that, I don’t think it’s a strategy that has worked out well and there could be a bit of a tactical rejig in store for those plum fixtures to come. Sterling’s underlying numbers are still strong, which can be seen on Joe’s ever-brilliant Goals Imminent table – so I would be keeping the faith in the short term at least.
Neale: Sterling has always been a bit feast or famine, prone to as many frustrating blanks as he is double-digit hauls. I think back to Gameweeks 15-22 last season when he didn’t score more than six FPL points in a single fixture and remember a similar twitchiness to what we’re experiencing now.
I’ve had him since Gameweek 1 of this season and kept him despite the opportunity to offload in an enforced Wildcard.
Here’s why: he has scored 463 points and banked 67 attacking returns in the last two seasons combined.
He has earned, in my mind, the right to overcome this mini-drought, just as he did in December 2018 when his hauls dried up and City went through a little blip.
Pep Guardiola’s side (usually) hit the back of the net for fun and they are top of the table for pretty much every conceivable underlying stat, be it xG, shots in the box, big chances, shots on target or plain and simple actual goals scored.
The 2-0 reverse against Wolves has to be put in context, too, as that was the first time they had failed to score in the league at the Etihad since May 2018, when they had already sealed their first Premier League crown under Guardiola.
Having Kevin De Bruyne back and swinging those far-post deliveries in from the right flank ought to aid his cause, while it’s worth remembering that Sterling’s one rest this season came in the 8-0 win over Watford. Had he played in that match and been rested in, say, the Norwich game instead (as De Bruyne was), he could feasibly be sitting top of the FPL points pile at present.
There are two things I’ll be watching out for: a) whether he continues to hug the touchline as has been noted in some quarters (it didn’t stop him from getting into excellent positions v Everton) and b) whether rotation is more commonplace for him this season than it was last, as might well be the case.
I’ll reassess if those two scenarios do pan out and if the points are still failing to arrive as we approach December but for now, it’s a hold for me.
shaungoater123: Who is the best option for those who need to replace Adrian this week? Is Paulo Gazzaniga an option even with Spurs’ poor form and patchy fixtures?
G-Whizz: My first thought after reading this was a straight flat ‘no chance’! Spurs defence? Nah mate, there’s better than that about surely!? Then when you look at doing a straight swap with no funds in the bank the prospects look a bit daunting, as you would need to find a £4.5m-and-below goalkeeper.
In that range, you have the choice of Heaton, Ramsdale, Henderson and then Gazzaniga as the best of the rest. If we look at just the next five fixtures using the Fantasy Football Scout fixture ticker, the order of difficulty ranks it as Bournemouth, Tottenham, Aston Villa and then last of all Sheffield United.
Ramsdale would be a gamble to keep a clean sheet against Norwich (home), Watford (away), Manchester United (home), Newcastle (away) and Wolves at home. Maybe a shut-out against Norwich or Newcastle could be a possibility but if anyone can predict when clean sheets are going to happen please let me know the secret!
Tottenham, meanwhile, face Watford (home), Liverpool (away), Everton (away), Sheffield United (home) and West Ham (away). I can actually see them at least keeping one, even two clean sheets in that run, so at £4.4m, Gazzaniga may be the best of a not-too-great bunch to choose from. I actually reckon it’s worth a gamble when all said and done!
Gregor: I don’t think those who invested in Adrian at the start of the season will be too happy with their returns, especially as they knew it was only a short-term move and now they have an enforced transfer to make. In the same way, I wouldn’t be looking at Paulo Gazzaniga either as I don’t think he’s a good goalkeeper and, as you say, Spurs’ form and fixtures are not great.
There are some really good and cemented options in the budget price bracket this year. Nick Pope at £4.7m scored a mighty 152 points in his one full season at Burnley and is exactly on course to hit that number again this year, whilst Mat Ryan (£4.6m) at Brighton finds himself second in the overall goalkeeper standings and comes with the added bonus of a £4m deputy you could back him up with, so I would be looking at those guys.
Hindu Monkey: All good things come to an end or, in Adrian’s place, all hopelessly mediocre things come to an inevitable and limp conclusion. The stopper has averaged less than three points per game and sits 16th in the list of goalkeepers.
Those who thought they could have a cheap entry into Liverpool’s defence have not been rewarded and I would urge caution to anyone trying to do the same with Gazzaniga.
Spurs look a shadow of the team that has shone at points over the past few years and have conceded more goals in their last two games than United and Arsenal have all season. They have also just resigned Michel Vorm, a player who threw away his peak years as a keeper to be Lloris’s understudy – the FPL equivalent of still owning Lucas Digne.
If you’re looking for a keeper in that bracket, Nick Pope still appears to be the light that shines brightest when all others go out. But my pick would probably be Mat Ryan. Brighton look a different team under Potter and have a nice mini-run over the next few matches.
OleGGMU: Given form and fixtures and rotation threats, what are your thoughts on Sergio Aguero?
Neale: It’s incredibly difficult not to let owner bias creep into judgements of players.
As I’ve discussed above, I have backed Sterling over Aguero this season and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The main argument against Aguero at present seems to be the threat of rotation (I even mentioned this in my premium forward answer) but that is true of pretty much every City asset and, as the points column shows, the risk is often worth the reward: the Argentinean striker and Kevin De Bruyne lead the way for FPL points this season, despite only starting six of City’s eight league games.
For the next three fixtures, he surely has to be held – even if he warms the bench in at least one of them.
Beyond that, the fixtures don’t look so great but then, Aguero is often Guardiola’s big-game player and his record against the ‘big six’ last season (eight goals and one assist in nine starts) was unsurpassed.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think this is a ‘hold for now and assess in the next international break’-type deal.
By then we will perhaps have a clearer picture of Aubameyang (i.e. has he been shunted out to the left), for those considering a sideways move.
For the owners thinking of downgrading and reinvesting the money into midfield, we will have more evidence on the likes of Sterling, Mane and Salah, with a Liverpool premium double-up a potential option given the Reds’ favourable run from Gameweeks 13-21.
Hindu Monkey: I am an Aguero owner and have been since the Brighton game. He has four goals and three assists for me in just five Gameweeks and I’m not going to complain about that. He has returned for me as a captain twice.
Yes, he is a slight rotation risk – more so than Aubamayang and Kane certainly – but he also has a higher ceiling than both and for me is worth sticking with, certainly after Jesus has been off with Brazil and he’s been stuck at home.
Kun is still the main man at City and his next four are cry, AVL, SOU, liv. He’ll certainly play Gameweeks 9 and 12 and can I remove him for Villa and Saints at home on the chance Pep might give him a breather? I don’t think so. Especially when the only non-Premier League games in this block are a home EFL Cup match and two highly winnable fixtures against Atalanta in the Champions League.
After the next international break, where Aguero is expected to be called up by Argentina again, it gets a lot more complicated.
I would certainly not want to own him for the busier festive schedule (where City’s fixtures also turn for the worse) and that is where I would expect Jesus to be born again. So to conclude – a superb option until Gameweek 13, but after that, I would approach with caution.
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