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Gameweek 2 Q & A

Ahead of the Gameweek 2 deadline, you have submitted your most pressing FPL dilemmas. I have chosen six to answer in depth, with shorter form responses provided to as many of the remaining ones as possible on Twitter later today.

Question 1: Salty Vinagre Owners
@FPL_Connect asks: “Worth a hit to move out Vinagre for a playing £4.5m defender? Justin, Taylor, Lamptey etc. Have Mitchell, KWP, TAA and Egan.”

As a fellow Ruben Vinagre owner, I have given this question a fair bit of thought. Certainly for Gameweek 2, I would be firmly against offloading Vinagre as a result of his Gameweek 2 fixture against Manchester City. Even if he had proved to be first choice for Wolves at left wing-back, those who backed him from the off were able to plan not to use him this week, by having three options with more favourable opponents to play instead. You have that in place with Alexander-Arnold, Egan and Walker-Peters, as do I with Dier and Dallas sitting alongside the aforementioned Liverpool man. Ahead of Gameweek 3, I would view it differently. There would be no need for a points hit, but equally you are not having to wait too long to transfer him out and face several team value weakening price drops. Therefore, whether it is for a hit or just a free transfer, I would keep hold of Vinagre this week and reassess your options ahead of Gameweek 3. But as always, the decision is unique to every team. Perhaps you may have money in the bank and are able to afford the likes of Lucas Digne, who has obvious upside over most defenders ahead of a home encounter with West Bromwich Albion. Meanwhile, with assets priced higher than Vinagre and considered too expensive to bench, there is more of a case to be aggressive in the market and move them on after just one gameweek.

Question 2: Bringing In Blankers
@PapaDukeFPL asks: “Is it worth waiting until GW3 to bring in CITY/UTD assets (see how they line up and perform first etc)?”

Manchester City’s Gameweek 2 fixture away to Wolves provides a welcome opportunity to be patient with Pep Guardiola’s men. Up against 2019/20’s seventh best attack and second best defence for xG and xGC respectively (Understat), a glut of goals nor a clean sheet appears to be in the offing. Across town, the appeal of United assets precedes Gameweek 3, as a depleted Crystal Palace defence visit Old Trafford. While United’s defence and attack were not as statistically sound as City’s last term, the difference in quality of their opponents is even more stark. Defensively, Palace ranked in line with their league position, finishing 14th in the table and 13th for xGC, while their blunt attack was the worst performing side on the offensive metric. If bringing in just one this week, it has to be a United rather than a City asset, more specifically an attacker based on their higher points ceiling and Palace’s defensive injuries. I am inclined to agree with an excellent piece on Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m) from Planet FPL’s United correspondent, which suggests his rate of returns may be unsustainable, leaving Anthony Martial (£9.0m) and Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) as the standout options. Your choice comes down to whether you are willing to part ways with the likes of Heung-Min Son or Timo Werner after just one gameweek and forfeit the option of using a free transfer elsewhere in your team.

Question 3: Toffees’ Targets
@FPL_ElStatto asks: “How long do you give the Everton assets before making the call to jump on board?”

Given Everton’s upcoming fixtures and the immediate impact of the new signings against Spurs, the time to jump on is now. I would liken it to when Jose Mourinho was appointed as manager of the Toffee’s Gameweek 1 opponents back in November 2019. Many patiently waited to recruit their assets while they scored six goals in favourable opening matches against West Ham and Bournemouth. By the time many were prepared to buy them, Spurs were entering a tougher run of matches (Man Utd, Wolves and Chelsea in the next four) and the benefit was reduced. We have some new information that has provided an opportunity with Everton’s transformation from last season, just like Spurs had that sudden jolt after a change in management last season. Don’t be too late to jump on, otherwise you will be facing a run of four fixtures from Gameweek 5-8 featuring two of the league’s best defences and attacks in Liverpool and Manchester United. Regarding individual assets, two stand out above the rest. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.1m) led the line superbly in Gameweek 1, with a goal a worthy reward for his display. An xG per 90 of 0.55 last season suggests that getting into goalscoring positions is no problem for him, but converting them consistently has been. In each of his four seasons, he has underperformed his xG, but even so, a return of 15 goals is a distinct possibility with those numbers. Creating five chances on his Premier League debut, James Rodriguez seamlessly fit into his new surroundings. An evidently classy player, this looks like the perfect move to get his career back on track. A price tag of £7.5m could be a bargain and provides a simple switch for unhappy Dele Alli (£7.9m) and Kai Havertz (£8.5m) owners. You may have noticed that I have not mentioned Lucas Digne (£6.0m) or Richarlison (£8.0m) here. Both are still worthy of consideration, but Everton still carry frailties defensively as big chances in the first-half on Sunday for Alli and Matt Doherty indicate. Meanwhile, the pair’s threat was more prominent as a result of the aforementioned Irish full-back’s advanced role in Mourinho’s system leaving space in the left channel for Andre Gomes, James Rodriguez and indeed inadvertently, Ben Davies to play through balls. Against more symmetrical defences, I suspect that Digne and Richarlison will not get quite as much joy as they did against Spurs, spreading out the points and chances more and perhaps slightly weakening the appeal of Everton’s most expensive defender and attacker.

Question 4: Spurred On
@jumpinjeffflash asks: “Are Spurs the team we should target, given their (potentially) gruelling Europa League schedule? If so, do we hold onto Ings rather then upgrade him to Martial (for example)?”

For those unaware of Spurs’ upcoming schedule, they face the following run of matches in the Premier League, Europa League and League Cup before the next international break:

Thursday 17th September: Lokomotiv Plovdiv (A)
Sunday 20th September: Southampton (A)
Tuesday 22nd September: Leyton Orient (A)
Thursday 24th September: Potential Europa League Third Qualifying Round Tie
Sunday 27th September: Newcastle (H)
Tuesday 29th September: Potential League Cup 4th Round Tie
Thursday 1st October: Potential Europa League Play-Off Tie
Sunday 4th October: Manchester United (A)

It is certainly a demanding schedule and one that will require Mourinho to make full use of his first-team squad. Specifically targeting an opposition, especially a non-traditional ‘whipping boy’ club is an interesting strategy and certainly one that could be worthy of consideration when deciding whether or not to hold onto certain players. In the case of the Danny Ings and Anthony Martial example, I would not change my opinion based on Spurs’ potential frailties. Crystal Palace are vulnerable themselves with a makeshift defence against Southampton benefiting from goalkeeper Vicente Guaita making five saves, the joint most in Gameweek 1 with Jordan Pickford. Both Palace and Martial’s Gameweek 3 opponents Brighton finished in the bottom eight for xGC last season, demonstrating that neither are water-tight defensively. United then play Spurs, which still allows the benefit of targeting their defence during this busy schedule. Furthermore, Ralph Hassenhuttl suggested in his press conference last night that his Southampton squad were not fit enough, which perhaps suggests they will be the side to struggle at St Mary’s against one that has had more match practice. But while, I would still be in favour of the Ings to Martial transfer, existing holds like the popular Allan Saint-Maximin may be worthy of retaining, especially given the space afforded down Spurs’ right side in the opening weekend. The thought of him running at a centre-back covering that channel on the counter-attack while Matt Doherty is caught upfield is enough to get any fantasy manager excited the prospect of an attacking return from their budget midfielder.

Question 5: Premium Structure
@UnitedHeaven_ asks: “Who do you think is more of a must own Salah or TAA? TAA has the higher ownership % but due to the fact he wouldn’t be as popular captain choice I assumed it would be Salah instead. Do you agree?”

I find this question very interesting as my opinion on it has not stayed constant. During the majority of pre-season, my answer would have been Alexander-Arnold, not just because of ownership, but at £7.5m, his price was simply too good to ignore. At one point, my draft team did not even feature Salah for a while, but ultimately I realised the Egyptian had to be in my team. As eluded to in the question, the reason for that is captaincy. Fantasy Football Hub‘s excellent OPTA Stats feature had Salah top of the expected points per match standings in 2019/20, based on his statistical contributions using xG and xA data. This was despite Bruno Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne outscoring him on a points per match basis, suggesting that Salah was unfortunate not to score more points last season. As a result, I decided Salah was the best captain choice and given that 20-25% of your total score is made up of captain points, he had to be in my team. Meanwhile, Alexander-Arnold can be swapped to another Liverpool defender for similar points returns or a cheaper defender to be used in rotation for favourable fixtures, gaining value for money in a different way. But despite seeing Salah as the only close to must-own asset, waiting until Gameweek 4 is certainly a viable strategy for those that do not currently own him. In Gameweek 2, Arsenal and Manchester United’s home encounters against West Ham and Crystal Palace avert the captaincy attention away from Salah and towards Aubameyang and co. Similarly in Gameweek 3, Manchester United attackers are joined by those from Manchester City and Chelsea as providing strong competition to Salah for the armband. The appeal of alternatives to Salah is to a lesser extent against Arsenal though, given that the Gunners have maintained poor defensive numbers against top sides under Mikel Arteta, despite a number of positive results in those matches.

Question 6: Anonymous Arrivals
@WGTA_FPL asks: “I started the season with a player new to the PL (silly me) who didn’t look as good in his first game as I’d hoped. Torn between selling (“correct the mistake”) vs holding on (“keeping the faith”). What’s your view on this, and overall on GW1-2 FTs?”

This is a situation we have all been with exciting new signings in FPL, expecting so much but being rewarded with so little as they required time to adapt. In this case, the player in question is Chelsea’s Kai Havertz. There were relatively few positive signs from his Chelsea debut, aside from a fantasy irrelevant chase back to win possession inside his own area. Havertz failed to have a shot in a disappointing 84 minute debut, while his one key pass was fairly insignificant given the five managed by James Rodriguez, another new arrival to the league. As mentioned in the Everton section, the Colombian creator provides a solution to those stuck with an underperforming mid-priced midfielder like Havertz or Alli. But more generally and in answer to the question, keeping hold of players with blind faith is a dangerous strategy, as examples like Memphis Depay and Nicolas Pepe from previous seasons indicate. Debut attacking returns are not essential to keep hold of a new signing, but there has to be some evidence to suggest future goals and assists are imminent as, for example, Alexis Sanchez showed soon after a promising Arsenal debut in 2014/15. Regarding making transfers after just one gameweek, I believe that there has to be unique circumstances to decide to go against your initial thinking so quickly. In previous seasons, we have seen injuries such as Wilfried Zaha’s against Huddersfield in Gameweek 1 or 2017/18 that ruled him out for the next six league matches. Clearly in such circumstances, making a transfer is an obvious move. In 2020/21, we have another set of unique conditions, with blank gameweeks for four teams and the influx of an abundance of potentially fantasy relevant new signings creating a confusing FPL landscape. It was more of a challenge to build a coherent Gameweek 1 squad this time around and therefore there are likely to be more decisions than usual that turn out to be mistakes rather than successes. Making an immediate transfer or two is more worthy of consideration compared to previous seasons as a result.

Thanks to those who submitted questions for this piece. Apologies for not getting round to all of them as there were too many to answer, but I will get round to as many remaining ones as possible on Twitter later today.

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