The week in Fantasy Premier League: Pogba V Mkhitaryan, Kane’s curse and rethinking budget midfielders

It was an FPL week to forget for pretty much anyone who didn’t own the likes of Bailly, Pogba... and the irrepressible Marcus Alonso.

Those who stumped up for the game’s most expensive defender were richly rewarded, while the rest of us were left to quietly seethe and mumble something about Alex Sandro arriving from Juventus.

It’s still early days of course, and seasoned FPL veterans will know that ranks count for absolutely nothing at this stage of the season.

That said, some of the underperforming big-money players are facing the chop - with Harry Kane (TOT, 12.5) and Kevin De Bruyne (MCI, 10.0) now firmly in their owners’ crosshairs.

Is it time to dump Kane and KDB?

It’s hard to fathom how a reliable 20+ goals-a-season striker and current golden boot holder could have such a problem scoring early in the season, but it’s an affliction Harry Kane just can't seem to shake off.

We can dismiss notions of curses and whatnot, but footballers can be a notoriously superstitious bunch, and the added pressure brought about by these statistical quirks start to become self-fulfilling in nature.

Bearing in mind that he has also stalled on 99 goals for Spurs, it could simply be a case of trying too hard. And the fact stubbornly remains that only three of these have come in August - none of which were scored in the Premier League.

Although his FPL owners have every right to worry, he has been unlucky and deserves at least another week to put things right. The visit of Burnley should afford him every opportunity.

The case of KDB is a little more clear-cut, however.

Faced with a Sophie’s Choice between Aguero and Jesus in pre-season, and with Sane and Sterling out of the picture, about a quarter of FPL managers ended up defaulting to the £10m midfielder in a doomed effort to secure Man City “coverage”.

What has resulted, so far at least, has been a salutary lesson in what a flawed concept that can be at times.

His FPL owners had to endure the sight of him drifting deeper as Monday's game wore on, becoming an increasingly peripheral figure in the City attack.

Having said that, whatever KDB’s long-term future in your team, selling him ahead of a trip to face Bournemouth, with some of the worst underlying defensive stats so far, already smells of regret.

GW3 may be a good time to sell regardless of his performance, but if the Belgian fails us again on Saturday, get ready to sell quick, as his price will surely plummet.

On the other side of Manchester however, the only problem seems to be which star midfielder is better than the other one...

The great Pogba V Mkhitaryan debate

Those who picked Baines over Coleman last season won’t need reminding of how the wrong choice between two ostensibly similar players can make a big difference to your season.

Already the top scoring midfielders in the game, Paul Pogba (MUN, 8.2) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (MUN, 8.2) are top of many FPL shopping lists right now.

Put simply, it’s a choice between the potentially more greedy and explosive Pogba, or the more organic chance-creating approach of the Armenian.

The case for Pogba rests on his guaranteed 90 minutes per game and greater willingness to shoot - as evidenced by his four shots in the box so far, compared to Mkhitaryan’s one.

Mkhitaryan however has created a chance every 19.2 minutes - second only to Ozil among those who have played both matches.

Allied to that, his ownership is lower, his baseline BPS is higher, and he has enjoyed slightly more touches in the final third than his teammate, and in more central areas.

He remains a slight rotation risk - a situation not helped by the return of a comically overpriced Zlatan Ibrahimovic (MUN, 10.0).

Mkhitaryan gets the nod for me, but there’s really little to choose between them, in truth. For now, you just have to go with your gut and get who feels right to you.

The lure of cheap midfielders

Of course, if you’re going to make room for these guys, not to mention the likes of Alexis Sánchez (ARS, 11.9) and Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.5), you’ll need to make cuts elsewhere.

With the likes of KDB, Alli, Zaha, Willian, Arnautovic and Fàbregas frustrating us for one reason or another, some of the more modestly priced midfielders are making a solid case for inclusion.

You know the type - the nailed-on starters for those low to mid-table teams, offering us a welcome antidote to the plague of player rotation. As long as you can adjust your expectation of points accordingly, they can turn out to be some of the best-value buys around.

One team brimming with potentially underpriced players is Watford.

Criminally overlooked in pre-season, the Hornets look rejuvenated under Marco Silva and could richly reward early FPL adopters.

An 11-point haul in GW2 put Richarlison (WAT, 6.0) firmly in our thoughts. Playing on the left of a front three, he fired six shots inside the box against Bournemouth and will be relishing Saturday’s visit of Brighton.

Nathaniel Chalobah (WAT, 4.5) is the hipster option for those looking for a cut-price enabler that you’ve probably never heard of.

Elsewhere, the performance of Jesé (STO, 6.0) against Arsenal turned plenty of heads. The player who once had a €200m release clause in his Real Madrid contract could be bonafide FPL gold if he plays to his potential - or become the latest addition to the Stoke City career graveyard.

Aaron Mooy (HUD, 5.6) passed the ‘eye test’ for his many new suitors, but they’ll be hoping he can manage more shots than the two he mustered against what were poor Palace and Newcastle sides.

Robbie Brady (BUR, 5.5) deserves a mention too - his impressive cross completion rate has seen him create as many chances (5) as Christian Eriksen.

Don't disregard the long-touted pair of Ruben Loftus-Cheek (PAL, 4.5) and Tom Carroll (SWA, 4.5) either, who have been playing well despite their lack of points so far.

 

QUICK TIP

Leave that Wildcard button alone - at least until the summer transfer window closes at 11pm on Thursday, August 31 (that’s towards the end of GW3).

The low-scoring GW spooked a few FPL bosses, leading to some unfortunate transfer moves.

The case for holding on to your wildcard is compelling, particularly if you want to capitalise on some interesting early-season price falls.

Players like Alexis Sánchez (ARS, 11.9), Anthony Knockaert (BRI, 5.9), Mason Holgate (EVE, 4.4), Andrew Robertson (LIV, 4.9), Florian Lejeune (NEW, 4.4) and Kevin Wimmer (TOT, 4.4) could yet reward FPL managers who manage to get their timing right.

BUY

 

Chicharito (WHU, 7.1)has picked up where he left off in the Premier League, having previously scored a goal every 131 minutes.

The easing of The Hammers’ fixtures and the return of Manuel Lanzini only adds to his appeal.

TRY

 

The case for corner-taking, cross-happy Daley Blind (MUN, 5.5)is looking more compelling by the week. Although more expensive than the popular Phil Jones, he faces much less competition in his position in what has so far been a characteristically mean Mourinho backline.

GOODBYE

With Eden Hazard back in full training, now might be as good a time as any to move Willian (CHE, 7.0) out in favour of a lower-priced alternative. That international break won’t help his cause either.


 

By Ken Rooney

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