Fantasy Premier League managers should wait until Friday evening before making the biggest decisions for Gameweek 9.
The latest international break has been more of a rollercoaster ride than usual with so many flags cropping up due to positive coronavirus (COVID-19) tests and injuries.
Reacting to these developments will play a big part in the upcoming round, as well as those beyond it, so we have to be as informed as possible.
In this article, I will be assessing what state my team is in following Gameweek 8, recapping a rare early transfer and talking through my thought-process for handling so many injury flags.
Gameweek 8 was a poor one for my team, which scored just 52 points. As a someone without Harry Kane (£11.0m), I was obviously rooting for him to blank, so it was very disappointing to see him score in the 88th minute at West Bromwich Albion and bag three bonus in the process. Considering his effective ownership of 140% among teams in my local rank tier, Kane’s late goal effectively meant a net loss of around 10 points.
When I decided to keep Timo Werner (£9.4m) in Gameweek 6, instead of getting Kane, I was fully aware of the risks. In the end, the Spurs man only scored four more points in the span of the last three matches, so my decision of transferring Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.8m) in for Michail Antonio (£6.2m) instead worked out pretty well.
Also, I think Werner is now a better option than Kane in the next few rounds, considering Tottenham’s bad run of fixtures. so, all in all, I may have lost four points by keeping Werner but I think that’s a fair price to pay for having two extra free transfers to address other pressing issues in my team.
Other than that, I decided to captain Son and decided to play Stuart Dallas (£4.5m) and his attacking threat over Kyle Walker-Peters’ (£4.6m) superior clean sheet potential. It was one of those weeks where every decision was wrong, so it was not a surprise that my overall rank fell from 60k to 126k.
For the first time ever, I decided to make an early transfer ahead of an international break, selling Aleksandar Mitrovic (£5.7m) to get Ollie Watkins (£6.1m). The only reason I decided to jump the gun on this one was because I was pretty sure I would have to take a hit to improve my squad in the near future, no matter what. And when I feel that way, I try to be more aggressive with my transfers, in order to field a stronger team as soon as possible.
Even though I still think Mitrovic is a good underpriced option (especially with spot-kick duties still his if he can shake that hamstring issue), I can’t see him getting many returns in the next four Gameweeks with such a tough schedule.
At the same time, Watkins looks great stats-wise, has an incredible run of fixtures ahead and the chances of him getting injured were slim since he won’t play any international games. And so, with two free transfers at my disposal, I deemed this move as inevitable and decided to gain some team value by moving early. I knew there was always the possibility of injuries during the international break but I was ready to take my first hit of the season if I had to.
However, I was immediately punished by the FPL Gods and after a chaotic weekend of international football, 36% of my starting eleven is now flagged. At the time I’m writing this, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m), Andrew Robertson (£7.1m), Ben Chilwell (£6.0m) and Mohamed Salah (£12.3m) are doubts for this weekend. And the scary thing is that there is still another UEFA Nations League round to be played midweek so, who knows how my team will look like by Saturday morning.
With so many uncertainties, I think it’s crucial to remain calm and wait for every small bit of information we can get, either from press conferences or other reliable sources. In the meantime, I’m already looking at some possible scenarios and how I will proceed in each of those situations.
IF ONLY ALEXANDER-ARNOLD IS RULED OUT
Before his injury at Manchester City, Alexander-Arnold was a set-and-forget pick for me and I was really looking forward to owning the Liverpool right-back as a differential for his decent run of fixtures.
Without Virgil van Dijk (£6.3m) and Joe Gomez (£5.4m), Liverpool’s chances of keeping clean sheets are considerably lower but I think they still will be one of the best defences in the league, even if not as good as last season. Alexander-Arnold’s attacking underlying numbers are also great and he was fairly unlucky to only deliver one attacking return so far.
However, it seems very likely he will be out for a number of weeks and, if that’s the case, I think it’s time to say goodbye to Alexander-Arnold for the time-being. I doubt it will be long before he’s back in my team though…
I will probably downgrade him to someone like Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m), Lucas Digne (£6.1m) or someone from West Ham, and then, I will have to decide if I want to take a hit.
I already have £1.7m in the bank and, by selling Alexander-Arnold, I will have between £2.9m and £4.5m (depending on his replacement), which means it might be worth it to use such a large amount of money straight away, even if it costs me four points.
Given the lack of good defensive options at the time, I will probably switch formation from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3. It would mean upgrading Mario Lemina (£4.5m) to someone like Ross Barkley (£6.0m), Jarrod Bowen (£6.3m), Wilfried Zaha (£7.4m), Hakim Ziyech (£8.2m) or James Rodríguez (£7.9m).
Even if the hit doesn’t pay off immediately in Gameweek 9, I think it’s likely to be a good decision in the long run and falls well into my usual strategy of making more aggressive moves when I feel that a hit will be inevitable sooner or later.
IF BOTH ALEXANDER-ARNOLD AND SALAH ARE RULED OUT
I seriously doubt It’s worth to sell Salah for a hit if he is ruled out for just one Gameweek (which seems the most likely scenario). Like most managers, I’m looking at buying Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m) back but I’d rather wait one more week and then possibly using him to replace Son Heung-min (£9.6m), not Salah.
That means I am probably sticking to the same plan as the first scenario, even if Salah tests positive for COVID-19 again on Thursday: downgrade Alexander-Arnold, take a hit and upgrade Lemina.
IF EVERYONE IS RULED OUT
This scenario seems fairly unlikely since Robertson travelled with his national team to Israel but I like to be prepared for the worst. With a Wildcard still available, I definitely don’t want to take an eight-point hit, so I have two choices:
- Sell Alexander-Arnold and Lemina // Bench Salah, Robertson and Chilwell
The first option does not sound too appealing since I would have to play the likes of Yves Bissouma (£4.5m), Dallas and Walker-Peters so it is likely I would use my Wildcard even if it means wasting one free transfer (I saved it last Gameweek).
I was planning on using my Wildcard before the first Double Gameweek but if my team is full of red flags on Friday night, I will have no problem pressing the button. I am very happy with my forwards right now but my defence and midfield would really need a shake-up if everyone is ruled out.
MY GAMEWEEK 9 CAPTAIN
Regardless of what press conferences might reveal, it will definitely be a very interesting Gameweek for captaincy with several decent options boasting good fixtures. Bruno Fernandes (£10.6m), Salah, Jack Grealish (£7.5m), Calvert-Lewin and Werner seem to be the standout options and I think it’s a good sign that I already have four out of those five players to choose from.
At the moment, the armband is on Salah by default but even if he tests negative and returns to England, his minutes might be managed by Jurgen Klopp due to lack of training. For this reason, it is possible I will switch to someone more likely to play 90 minutes, such as Grealish or Calvert-Lewin.
Good luck everyone and thanks for reading.