The week in Fantasy Premier League: The City riddle solved, midfield gems and Expected Goals explained

A dilemma that has plagued Fantasy Premier League managers all season was finally put to rest this week.

In an unusually candid press conference, Man City boss Pep Guardiola confirmed what many of us had suspected, but couldn’t know for sure.

We now had an answer to that burning question of which Man City forward to choose - that answer being, of course, neither of them!

Now that Pep seems to favour playing Aguero at home and Jesus away, having one or both seems pure folly - especially when the nightmare prospect of one being subbed on late for a potential one-pointer, like what happened in Feyenoord, remains.

It wasn’t the only valuable nugget of FPL information Gameweek 12 gave us, though.

We can now say with some confidence that Eric Choupo-Moting (STO, 5.7) is Stoke’s first-choice striker, providing us with a genuinely out-of-position player at a bargain price.

We also saw the returning Paul Pogba (MUN, 8.0) inject Man United with the attacking impetus they have been sorely lacking in his absence.

Now back to his original price of £8m, he has already attracted massive investment. That “Pogba or Mkhitaryan” argument seems like a long time ago now.

His comeback, along with that of the bizarrely overpriced Zlatan Ibrahimovic (MUN, 10.0) raised some interesting questions about the prospects of Romelu Lukaku (MUN, 11.5).

Although Pogba had departed the pitch by the time Lukaku ended his seven-match goal drought, the Belgian’s output should increase now that his mate is back - unless Zlatan’s return ends up stifling his minutes and positioning.

Gameweek 12 also saw Swansea, West Brom and Huddersfield enhance their growing reputations as cannon fodder. A strategy of favouring attackers playing sides like them when picking a captain would have prevented a depressingly familiar lament for many.

So what’s happened to Harry Kane?

Harry Kane (TOT, 12.8) continued his feast-or-famine FPL returns with another blank against Arsenal this week, causing those transfer-clicking fingers of his FPL owners to become ever itchier.

He has yet to complete 90 minutes since his recent knee injury, during which time his trademark mobility and sharpness has been largely absent.

Pressed into action for crucial matches, he managed to dig out a goal out against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, but clearly all is not right with the most expensive player in FPL.

Those who have done without him so far can stay put, knowing that now is not the optimal time to own him. For his owners, the question of whether to keep him depends on when you believe that time will be - will it be next week, or next year?

Bear in mind - he’s still enjoyed a chance every 17.1 minutes in his last four Gameweeks, and Tottenham’s upcoming fixtures provide the perfect platform for a comeback.

But for those inclined to sell, your new-found riches can buy you the comforting consistency the Spurs marksman seems unable to produce.

Much like Heaton last season, Nick Pope (BUR, 4.6) has shown a prodigious ability to earn not only clean sheets but bonus points, too.

Now that N'Golo Kanté is back, we can look forward to a procession of Chelsea clean sheets once their Liverpool fixture is out of the way. César Azpilicueta (CHE, 6.8) is the safe bet here.

Pascal Groß (BRI, 5.9) has become a dependable source of returns for his grateful owners, particularly when it comes to bonus points, which now make up 16% of his total.

With the addition of the aforementioned Choupo-Moting (STO, 5.7), as well as Richarlison (WAT, 6.5) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (CRY, 4.5), there has rarely been such obvious value in midfield investment.

Time to go 3-5-2?

This growing buffet of attractive midfield options has inevitably led to thoughts of accommodating them in a 3-5-2. Once considered positively kinky, managers who adopted it last season reaped the benefits.

Unfortunately, a perfect enabler in the form of Oumar Niasse (EVE, 5.0) was cruelly snatched from us after being handed a suspension for diving by a three-man panel at Match of the Day. Unless you fancy Jordan Ayew (SWA, 5.1) and his solitary goal back in GW3?

Hat-trick hero Callum Wilson (BOU, 6.0) isn’t a terrible option by any means - playing as he does at the tip of a Bournemouth attack whose form and fixtures are improving - but how many minutes can he be expected to play over what promises to be a gruelling winter schedule?

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That higher price point means you’ll be creating a more fluid squad, switching between 3-4-3 and 3-5-2, depending on form and fixtures - so any new owners must have the mental resilience to cope with leaving points and/or player value on the bench.

QUICK TIP

Statistical concepts like of “Expected Goals” and even “Expected Assists” have become trendy this season, now featuring heavily on Match of the Day and Fantasy Football Scout.

Jeff Stelling didn't seem too impressed.

Many share his scepticism, but Expected Goals can be useful in separating the players who are getting into genuine scoring positions from those taking speculative pot-shots from 30 yards out.

A good FPL manager is always looking for an edge, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with it at least.

BUY

Any lingering doubts about Leroy Sané’s (MCI, 9.0) place in the Man City team evaporated this week, as did any remaining logic for his absence from our FPL teams.

Missing out on his 80 points and £0.5m price rise may rankle the more stubborn FPL managers among us, but it’s better late than never to make the right move. Just ask anyone who didn’t get Vardy or Mahrez until late in the 2015–16 season.

TRY

Don’t make Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.6) angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Gareth Barry’s plan to let Hazard “know he was there” backfired spectacularly last Saturday, inspiring the Belgian's one-man mission to dismantle West Brom.

That price point means he’s not easy to recruit, but he is one of the few differentials (alongside Alexis Sánchez) with the proven potential to transform your season.

GOODBYE

Well, it’s not exactly a case of farewell sweet prince, but it appears that the Phil Jones (MUN, 5.5) fairytale could well be over - for now at least.

For 10 glorious Gameweeks he overcame constant injury rumours to deliver a steady stream of clean sheets for as little as £5m, until that pointless and ill-advised England call-up broke him.

Even with Mourinho’s reputation for fake news, the prospects don’t look good for Jones, and with matches coming thick and fast from now until January, his FPL owners can’t afford to be as patient with him as they’d otherwise like to be.


 

By Ken Rooney

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