After what felt like a lifetime, the international break is finally over and attention can now turn to gameweek 9. The big fixture of the weekend is the Man United v Liverpool clash, spiced up further by the recent injuries to both Pogba and De Gea. Tough tests for both Arsenal and Man City could also spell a big swing in captaincy picks this gameweek, while managers will likely be sweating until the final moments regarding the fitness of De Bruyne.
Gameweek 8 saw a number of premium players blank, so we hope for the sake of FPL managers sanity that the same doesn’t happen this weekend!
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In this GW9 FPL Guest Q&A article, we are joined by regular LetsTalkSoccer who will be sharing their thoughts on the most popular questions ahead of gameweek 9. This week we will discuss the best forwards, Salah & Sterling, Leicester and captaincy options.
“Best three forwards to own until Christmas?”
The “big at the back” strategy seems like ages ago, doesn’t it? Yet, it was a scant few weeks ago. The strategy then began to progress forward…Literally! Many managers went from a 5-3-2 formation to a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 because clean sheets were rare and mids were delivering good returns. Then, a couple weeks ago, several forwards either began generating returns or had started consistently generating returns, including several more affordable options. So now, the most popular shape that’s emerging – at least within the social media bubble – is 3-4-3.
For managers considering this formation, our 3 favorite assets are…
- Abraham: He’s delivered attacking returns in 4 of his last 6 matches, where he is tied for third (with Pukki) on most points among forwards. Of the next 10 games until we hit Christmas (which is GW18 on 21 Dec.), Chelsea face 7 fixtures with an FDR of 3 or less – and 6 of them are 2s. There’s no reason to think that Abraham’s attacking pace will drop any time soon.
- Wilson: Despite no attacking return in GW8, he’d had returns in each of his first 7 games. Impressive. But yet somehow still a bit off the radar. He has just under 13% ownership, while Abraham, for example, has over 42% ownership. 6 of Bournemouth’s next 10 matches are FDRs of 2 (the remaining 4 games are 4 on the FDR scale). With his consistency, combined with some very favorable fixtures between now and Christmas, Wilson could not only prove to be a solid investment, but also a bit of a differential.
- (Depending on remaining budget) We like Aguero, from the premium forward category, Lacazette (yes, Laca!) from the more mid-priced tier, and Jimenez from the lower-cost group. Here’s why…
- Aguero: The leader in points per match (7.6), FPL points for forwards (61) and BPS (255) for all players. With two games dropped and a porous defense, City need to score goals. Look for Pep to ask Kun to lead the way.
- Lacazette: Although injured for several weeks, he’s on the cusp of finding his way back into the Starting XI. In fact, FPL has him listed as potentially returning as early as this weekend. In the limited matches he played at the start of the season before being injured, he scored 2 goals in 3 games. A cheaper way into the Arsenal attack than Auba, Laca & Co. has maybe the tastiest of fixtures leading up to Christmas (aside from Leicester City). Of their next 10 fixtures, 8 of them are 2 or 3 on the FDR scale.
- Jimenez: He’s a differential at just 8.8% ownership. And with 2 assists vs. Man City in Week 8, his form looks strong. He’s taken 1.9 shots per game and has missed two big chances and created 4 of them and hit the woodwork twice (which is tied for first) this season. Jimenez looks on pace to return to the player he was last season. If he does, those that get on the Raul Roadster will reap the returns.
It seems that the general consensus within the FPL community has seen managers move from investment in defenders to forwards. This season there has been a significant increase in mid-priced/budget options, including the likes of Abraham, Wilson, Pukki and Haller.
Due to this emergence this season, we think an investment in these forwards should be a focus for FPL managers. The best option in this bracket is Tammy Abraham, who has already seen a £0.7m price rise, now priced at £7.7m. Currently the joint leading goal scorer alongside Aguero with 8, he has impressed so far this season and posted great underlying stats – 2nd best forward xG (4.68).
Now owned by 42% of managers, he has become a ‘template’ player in FPL squads, to the extent where he can seriously harm non-owners overall rank. Along with his form, Chelsea’s long-term fixtures are brilliant, including home fixtures against some of the worst defensive sides including Newcastle, Southampton and Bournemouth.
His form is a reflection of the Chelsea’s current league performances, winning 3 of their last 4 matches in convincing fashion. As Chelsea continue to display quality performances, Abraham is not only a great FPL asset, but also a great captaincy option, starting this weekend at home to Newcastle.
Our 2nd choice would be Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, currently priced at £9.0m and owned by 10.6% of managers. In comparison to Abraham, a bit of a differential for those looking for that type of player, scoring 5 goals this season already.
With ambitions for top 4, Leicester have a great run of fixtures up until the middle of December when they face Man City and Liverpool back-to-back. However, if history is anything to go by, top 6 sides aren’t necessarily a problem for Vardy.
Our final forward pick would be Arsenal’s hitman Aubameyang. A premium pick that could be argued unnecessary by some managers due to the value in these cheaper forward alternatives. Now a proven FPL asset after an incredible run of consistency since joining in January 2018, Auba gets goals….fact.
The big argument is whether he can outscore these cheaper alternatives, and justify the £3/4m additional that managers have to pay. However, looking at Arsenal’s long term fixtures, we think he could rack up some serious points up until Christmas.
A big investment for managers, but he would be our top pick if looking for a premium striker to lead the squad, a great captaincy option in plenty of these fixtures.
“Time to sell Salah or Sterling to fund transfer moves?”
We own both, and we say “no”. At least not for us.
It really depends on the situation facing each manager. If a manager needs to free up some funds to make a transfer, that could be a valid reason for replacing Mo or Raz with cheaper options (say, Mane or KDB for example). If the reason for dropping either of them is to enable another transfer, we always advise managers to make sure the two new players coming are likely to earn more FPL points that Salah/Sterling + whatever other player being replaced. If there’s a doubt that the incoming pair can outscore the outgoing pair, then maybe the transfers aren’t such good ideas.
If the rationale behind a possible replacement is based on frustration with Salah or Sterling (or both), and a manager wants to bring in a more in-form player, we recommend they be cautious. It’s a bit of a rage transfer combined with chasing points.
Whatever the reason, if it makes good sense to you, then go with what you think is best. People can make arguments for and against keeping a player or bringing in a new player all day long, but the manager is the one ultimately responsible for his or her team. He or She must feel good about the decision.
Last season’s top performers have had a mixed start to the campaign by their high standards. 7 attacking returns in 8 games is usual brilliant FPL returns, however for Salah some managers have deemed this ‘poor form’. While his form hasn’t necessarily been poor, it is the form of his cheaper team mate, Sadio Mane, that has turned owner’s heads. In fact, over 315,000 managers have sold Salah ahead of GW9, while Mane has been bought by over 320,000 managers.
Meanwhile, Sterling has blanked in 3 matches that he has featured, while being rested in another. Scoring a hat-trick in GW1 accumulating in 20 points, he has only scored 1 goal in his last 5 matches. Again, similar to Salah, Sterling’s form has been enhanced by the exceptional performance of De Bruyne. The Belgian has 15 more FPL points while being significantly cheaper than Sterling.
We think that both Salah and Sterling will remain some of the highest scoring players in the game, as they have historically done over the past seasons. However, both have been overshadowed by their teammates and we think that there is an argument to invest in the alternatives.
Firstly, of the two players, we think that ‘downgrading’ Salah to Mane is a better move than Sterling to De Bruyne. Mane has been posting similar stats to Salah over the past 8 gameweeks, and would be our pick if we were to wildcard ahead of GW9.
De Bruyne has clearly been one of the best FPL assets so far this season, however we think there is a higher potential of Sterling outscoring his team mate over the course of the season. While he has been inconsistent, history shows that Sterling offers both goal and assist potential, as opposed to De Bruyne’s assists.
Sterling has registered 35 goals and 32 assists over the past 2 seasons, which for us is enough data to predict his current zero assists will soon improve. Sterling has an xA of 1.91, highlighting his luck of not already recording an assist. While Sterling might look like a easy sale, we think he is still excellent FPL value and will return to form in the near future.
“Are Leicester fixtures as good as they seem? Still worth investing for managers?”
Well, let’s look at their upcoming fixtures. 8 of their next 9 fixtures are FDRs of 2. At first glance, it looks pretty juicy, yeah? Let’s go a bit deeper…
- GW9: BUR (H) (FDR 2)
- GW10: SOU (A) (FDR 2)
- GW11: CRY (A) (FDR 2)
- GW12: ARS (H) (FDR 4)
- GW13: BHA (A) (FDR 2)
- GW14: EVE (H) (FDR 2)
- GW15: WAT (H) (FDR 2)
- GW16: AVL (A) (FDR 2)
- GW17 NOR (H) (FDR 2)
Of these opponents, Norwich, Watford and Southampton have conceded to more goals in the league (21, 20, 15, respectively). Arsenal, Villa and Everton are also at the top half of most goals conceded this season. Leicester City are tied for 4th in terms of team goals scored.
In terms of goals scored for these 9 opponents, 7 of them are in the bottom half of goals scored this season. In terms of goals allowed, the Foxes are the 2nd stingiest, conceding just 7 goals so far.
Seems like a plus for Leicester City at both ends of the pitch. So much so that a Leicester triple-up might be a solid approach. Players like Vardy, Soyuncu, Maddison, Chilwell, Pereira and Schmeichel come to mind.
Leicester have been a popular side for FPL managers over the past few weeks, with the likes of Soyuncu, Maddison and Vardy popular picks. Along with their form, according to FPL their long term fixtures have an abundance of FDR rated 2.
Like many managers, we take the FPL FDR ratings with a pinch of salt, as they are created at the start of the season. For example, Leicester face Crystal Palace away in gameweek 11, deemed an FDR 2 fixture. However, Palace have only conceded 1 goal in their opening 4 home league matches, and some would argue this would be much tougher than a FDR 2 rated fixture.
However, looking at their long term fixtures we do think that they are still excellent matches to own Leicester players throughout. Our recommendation would be to seriously consider investing in at least 1 Leicester asset. While Jamie Vardy’s price can be a difficult one to justify in a world of great mid-priced alternatives, we think he is a excellent choice.
The defence has been a big factor to Leicester’s start to the season, currently the 2nd best defence behind Liverpool. Soyuncu has been a player in the headlines for a number of weeks due to his excellent FPL value of £4.7m. Although already having a price rise of £0.2m, we think he is still a great option to consider for managers.
Choosing the right captain seems to be the primary way managers are earning more points than the average. And, because it feels like – at least on social media – that there are more “template” teams than in the past, many time the only differential can be the captain.
Let’s take a look at several of the most popular captain options for GW9:
Based on the data above, both Son and Kane look like good options. They both have good histories against Watford. And, Watford are just one goal allowed away from being tied with Norwich on most goals conceded this season.
And, KDB has a 1.43 per game goal involvement against Crystal Palace. If he returns to the Starting XI this weekend, he could be a great option for the armband.
Always a tricky pick when it comes to the captaincy. Data, the Twittersphere, Instagram comments, etc. Often times, a manager’s instinct can be the most valuable deciding factor when selecting his/her captain.
Best of luck and green arrows to all of us in GW9!
Looking at the fixtures, we think that this gameweek could be a great opportunity to captain a player outside of the usually highly picked players. The likes of Sterling, Salah and Aubameyang all face tricky fixtures in our eyes, and therefore managers should be looking at other options.
This week, we had the opportunity to provide a top tip for the Fantasy Football Hangover podcast, which discussed our top GW9 captaincy pick.
Check it out here:
Outside of our pick, we also think that Callum Wilson should be a consideration for those that own him. Bournemouth face Norwich at home this weekend, who have already conceded 10 goals in 4 away matches. Losing each of these games, we think that it will be a great opportunity for Wilson to capitalise on the leaky defence.
Wilson has started the season in great form, scoring 5 and assisting 3 goals, recording the 4th best xG of any forward (4.44). Owned by 13% of managers, Wilson could prove to be a great differential captain, especially for those that are looking for a rank boost.
Big thanks to LetsTalkSoccer for contributing to this weeks Q&A article, be sure to give their accounts a follow for top tips throughout the season.
Dont miss this week’s GW9 top tip, where I discuss the importance of FPL prices and how to track them:
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