FPL: What Have We Learnt So Far?

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Mason Greenwood has outscored Bruno Fernandes. Lukaku and Ronaldo have returned to the Premier League. Eight Brazilian players have been ‘banned’ from being in the gameweek 4 teams. And yet this is just the tip of the iceberg for FPL managers.

After a hectic opening to the 2021/22 season and with the international break coming to an end, FPL players have had some time to reflect on what this all means for their squads. As this is my first season of FPL, I have learnt plenty of lessons already that I will take with me through the rest of the season to keep chasing those green arrows. Without further ado, let’s look at the main take-aways before we lock in our squads for gameweek 4.

Goalkeepers are long-term picks…

This is a more personal one to start off, but it’s a good reminder to have. By far, the most-owned keepers were Sanchez (£4.5) and Martinez (£5.5) going into the new season. Sanchez is ranked just 9th for overall points among keepers after the first 3 games, and, even more surprisingly, has been the third worst £4.5 option. The other popular pick Bachmann (£4.5) performed even worse than this, accumulating only 6 points. Martinez, on the other hand, is at 9 points.

To add to the surprise, it’s Lloris who sits well above the rest of the pack with a whopping 27 points (that’s 10 points more than second place), bagging 6 out of 9 bonus points. So far, the best budget option has been Brentford’s Raya, despite coming up against Arsenal in the opening matchday.

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I, like many Sanchez owners, will be disappointed that he hasn’t scored a little higher, but FPL is a marathon, not a sprint (sigh). Martinez owners, on the other hand, are in a bit of a pickle. Not only have Villa looked a little off the pace to start the season, but he will be missing GW4 due to quarantine regulations. It is situations like this that have pushed many managers to hit the wildcard button early.

The thing I would remind myself is that keepers are a long-term pick. I am a little frustrated that Sanchez hasn’t reached double figures, but his stats don’t lie. Despite Raya having a lovely start to the season, I still stick by Sanchez being the best £4.5m option. After all, there are more than 30 gameweeks still to go. More expensive players are good options if you’re wildcarding, but you should be picking keepers, ideally, with the view that you’ll have them for the majority of the season. Premium goalkeepers (over £5.5m) are rarely worth their price tag – it’s much more beneficial to put that extra million into your outfield players.

Don’t over-plan…

I have learnt this lesson from Danny Ings (£8m). From the moment I brought him in, I knew I would need to transfer him out after GW3 due to fixtures. Tsimikas was also a game-by-game case, depending on Robertson’s recovery. Then I had a Mahrez-shaped headache I decided to keep because of a Norwich game, and a £7m Harvey Barnes who had blanked in all three games.

Reality is, so much will happen between gameweeks that will mean you need to make transfers you hadn’t anticipated. Therefore, having a pre-planned transfer is a dangerous move. Ultimately, I had so many tiny issues that I felt my team really wasn’t viable after that crazy transfer window. It sounds obvious, but you need to build a squad that lasts.

I would have been much better off starting with DCL (£8.2m) over Ings – with a really shaky start from Villa, Ings owners are incredibly lucky to have earned 19 points from him. Whereas, from the start, we knew that Everton’s fixtures were favourable until GW7.

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It’s not always too good to be true…

This applies for a lot of the mid-priced gems. Jota and Greenwood both came in at £7.5m, but with uncertainties surrounding their playing time. It quickly emerged that Greenwood would be the man to play that number 9 role for United’s opening fixtures. Thinking back on it, a United number 9 for Leeds, Southampton, and Wolves is a no-brainer. I think I ended up overthinking that one, and I paid the price. Despite Bruno’s opening hat-trick, Greenwood finished GW3 with three more points than him. Jota was a little less cut-and-dry, but, in hindsight, was worth the rotation risk.

The same applies for Tsimikas (£4.1m), who was an FPL gift. We don’t get those often, so naturally a lot of people held off putting him in their team. It was clear after the Norwich game that this was a big mistake. Again, hindsight is a funny thing. Tsimikas emerged as a £4m starting player in a Liverpool side who faced Norwich and Burnley in their opening games. We didn’t know if he was capable of attacking returns, but a high chance of getting maximum clean sheet points was enough for his owners. Obviously Robertson returned a lot sooner than first anticipated, but 18 points from a budget defender is a hard hit for those who opted against him.

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There was some speculation during pre-season that Torres or Jesus could step up to that striker role if City failed to sign Harry Kane. That bandwagon didn’t really pick up, with Grealish, Gundogan, and Mahrez being the popular picks there. Speaking of Man City, this brings me to my next point.

Pep’s roulette is as unpredictable as ever…

Injuries to KDB and Foden lulled me into a false sense of security. Surely Mahrez is nailed? I, like many other FPL managers, learned things the hard way.

Looking back, I was extremely lucky that Mahrez came away with a goal and an assist (yet blanked when he did start in GW1) – but this was damage control considering he took up £9m of my budget. Gundogan (£7.3m), the other popular asset, seemed to pick up an injury in GW1. In proper Man City fashion, he had recovered by GW2 and had a starting spot over Mahrez. New signing Jack Grealish (£8m) has avoided the roulette as of yet, despite reservations, and ended on a nice 15 points.

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If that wasn’t surprising enough, City’s highest scoring asset so far is Gabriel Jesus (£8.6m), who has started 2 out of 3 games playing as a right winger. In the absence of a number 9, it has been Ferran Torres (£7.1m) who has started all games in that striker position. He has certainly made a case for a consistent spot, scoring 2 goals and bagging 1 assist.

However, these opening games have well and truly taught me to avoid Man City assets. There’s a lot of hype around Torres at the moment, deservedly, but with Champions League football and Foden and KDB returns on the horizon, the roulette is going to be tougher than ever. There’s a phrase I’ve seen thrown around FPL Twitter quite a lot that’s very relevant here: Don’t chase last week’s points.

If he’s fit…

If anyone deserves their own little spot on this list, it’s Mikhail Antonio (£7.9m). FPL managers were well aware of what Antonio was capable of producing – it was his fitness history that caused concerns.

To prove everyone a point, he’s had a blistering start to the season. With a whopping 40 points, he is the highest scoring FPL asset so far – 4 goals and 4 assists! It certainly seems like there’s no stopping him, and he has a wonderful team around him to keep providing those chances.

I certainly think Antonio is a must-have (and many people agree; his ownership is at 50%) going into the next few games. We aren’t quite sure how the Europa League will affect this team, so going with two or three West Ham assets is a little more risky.

There’s a template for a reason…

Sticking with the template seems to be a very divisive decision among the FPL community. Differentials are great, if you get them right, and it’s a good move to find one or two that have the stats to back them up.

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Players like Salah , Fernandes, TAA, Benrahma, Ings, DCL, and Antonio were very popular going into GW1 – and their results prove why. You can go out of your way to ‘break the template’ by omitting Salah, Bruno, or Trent, but it’s really not worth it. Not only have these players already shown their value, but they are set-and-forget players that will consistently come away with double digit hauls throughout the season (obviously Bruno is now massively affected by Ronaldo – more on that in a bit). These players are premiums for a reason. On the other hand, there are some other popular picks like Raphinha, Barnes, and Shaw who have been out-performed by many assets we hadn’t even considered.

So, the template has definitely worked so far – it has its weak points that can be targeted with your free transfers (or a wildcard, if you wish), but bear in mind that we have just three game weeks worth of data.

Anything Can (and Will) Happen!

This is a given in FPL, but it applies this year more than ever.

Kane’s transfer to City fell through; Lukaku and Ronaldo returned to their former clubs; and Brazil have banned eight of their players from being a part of their GW4 squads. In other words, it is utter carnage out there.

Ronaldo being in that United squad is going to seriously affect the prospects of Greenwood, Bruno, and Shaw – we just don’t know how yet! The inclusion of Lukaku has conversely boosted the popularity of Chelsea assets – I think most people are going for a Chelsea triple-up from GW7.

Along with recent news from the Brazilian national team, Martinez, Buendia, and Lo Celso will be unavailable for GW4, and Son may be out injured. All of this has happened, of course, while injuries to Firmino, DCL, Wilson, and Lukaku are still unclear.

Like many others, I hit the wildcard button earlier than anticipated, and still don’t have a team locked in. Safe to say this week’s press conferences are going to be busy!

Thanks for giving this a read! Hopefully I’ve summed up what a lot of people have been thinking over the international break. Good luck for this weekend, everyone!

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