After some surprises in the opening two gameweeks of the FPL season, fantasy managers have been left wondering what to do with the game’s premium players.
Nine of the top 10 FPL points scorers of the season are priced at under £8million, with Erling Haaland the only high-cost player within the top places. So which of the premium players are justifying their price tags — and what should we be doing with them in terms of our transfers?
Mo’ Salah or no Salah?
There are only two players priced at £10million or over available in the game right now: must-have Haaland of Manchester City and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (£12.5m).
Salah has made a solid start with a goal and an assist from the opening games, having scored the rebound after seeing his penalty saved against Bournemouth. His viability as a fantasy pick does hinge on whether he remains on penalty duty, having also missed two at the tail end of last season. Not being on spot kicks would dent his appeal.
Plenty of FPL managers are dropping Salah for Gameweek 3, with just under 100,000 transfers out before Sunday’s trip to Newcastle United at the time of writing, but he has proven himself to be fixture-proof: Liverpool beat Newcastle home and away last season, and Salah contributed three assists across the two matches.
Selling Salah is tempting when other midfielders are delivering similar returns at almost half his price, especially if he is moved off penalties. But this visit to St James’ Park is arguably the only truly challenging fixture in the next 10 for Liverpool, with games against Aston Villa (H), Wolves (A) and West Ham (H) in the near future.
Salah is ranked equal-first for ‘big chances’ (three), second for expected goals (1.51) and joint-fourth for shots taken (eight), and was also the Premier League’s top-performing player in pre-season in terms of goals and assists. There might be other midfielders in better form right now but only Salah can maintain this standard in the long term. He is more than capable of averaging close to an attacking return per game, having achieved 28 returns or more in each of the six previous seasons.
Given the generous pricing of other options, it doesn’t hinder the balance of your squad having Haaland and Salah in there. He also opens up an alternative reliable captaincy pick should Haaland have a more challenging fixture than him — as demonstrated in Gameweek 2.
Delving deeper into the midfielders bracket, we see more players being heavily transferred out ahead of Gameweek 3 in favour of cheaper options.
Marcus Rashford (£9.0m) was the fourth-most sold player with over 200,000 transfers out, and his Manchester United colleague Bruno Fernandes (£8.5m) is not far behind him, getting the chop from 150,000 teams.
We bought United midfielders in pre-season with their opening three gameweeks in mind, including the home game against Nottingham Forest this weekend, and I encourage fantasy managers to keep the faith with these two for at least one more week.
Rashford has had seven shots from inside the penalty box and two big chances. Although he has looked isolated in the No 9 role when his best position cutting in from the wing, we can’t ignore his excellent form at Old Trafford last season (13 goals, three assists). Fernandes is on United’s penalties and consistently completes the full 90 minutes. He’s ranked eighth for key passes (seven) and joint-second for big chances created (two).
Tottenham’s Son Heung-min (£9.0m) is also seeing plenty of transfer traffic having failed to notch an attacking return in the opening two gameweeks.
He did look livelier in the game against Manchester United on Saturday and has now played four key passes this season. Son now goes into an excellent run of fixtures — Bournemouth (A), Burnley (A), Sheffield United (H) — so it’s wise to hold onto him for a little longer.
On Monday night, we saw that Bukayo Saka (£8.6m) was off penalties for Arsenal, with Martin Odegaard (£8.5m) successfully dispatching the match-winning spot kick against Crystal Palace.
That’s a huge swing in Odegaard’s favour, with plenty of fantasy managers already looking to make the switch from Saka. The England international was so popular in the template because of his set-piece responsibility.
Saka has made five key passes this season and taken five shots from inside the box, converting one into a goal. He remains on corners on one side of the pitch, but Odegaard now looks to be the top pick among Arsenal’s attacking players.
Watkins — stick or twist?
Despite delivering attacking returns in each of the opening two gameweeks, Ollie Watkins (£8.0m) has seen 50,000 managers transfer him out.
One of the key discussion points in the community this week is whether it’s worth hanging onto the Aston Villa forward, largely fuelled by his losing penalty duty to Douglas Luiz. This change in spot-kick taker should come as no surprise after Watkins missed a penalty in pre-season. He does have other routes to points, with five key passes played so far.
The concern with him is the fixtures, with a Europa Conference League play-off today (Wednesday) before the second leg next Thursday. Villa travel to Burnley in between that tie’s two legs, then meet Liverpool in their final match before the September international break. Such a heavy schedule could lead to some early substitutions for Watkins — he was taken off on 73 minutes against Everton on Sunday, for example.
Selling now, as Villa adjust to European football, could be the best move. There are cheaper options in his position, which would allow managers to spend the money saved elsewhere in their squads.
The premium defenders were well-backed for the start of the season, with Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.0m) and Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier (£6.5m) demanding significant ownership.
Alexander-Arnold picked up a knock against Bournemouth last weekend, which saw him substituted on 75 minutes. This is something to keep an eye on — and he’d been sold by nearly 200,000 managers this week at the time of writing.
Aside from the injury, he was not living up to his high price tag — especially compared with Pervis Estupinan (£5.2m) and Ben Chilwell (£5.7m), who are both excelling in their attacking output.
Among defenders, Alexander-Arnold is ranked joint-fifth for shots and equal-seventh for key passes (both three) but not thriving in that new inverted wing-back role as he did at the tail end of last season. He is being played deeper, and has seen his set-piece responsibility diminished with the summer arrival of midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai.
This reduced attacking threat cannot justify holding onto him, particularly with no clean sheet from Liverpool’s first two games. They rank third-worst for big chances against, with eight. It’s a similar story for owners of his defensive team-mates Andy Robertson (£6.5m) and Virgil van Dijk (£6.0m), who both sit on four points after the first two games.
Considering Newcastle’s tough start to the season, Trippier was a surprise template player for Gameweek 1. This was likely due to him being the highest-scoring defender in the game last season. He has been subject to 50,000 transfers out ahead of Gameweek 3, with fixtures against Liverpool (H), Brighton (A) and Brentford (H) up next.
He is still dominant on set pieces despite the summer signing of Sandro Tonali, though, and his five key passes in the opening two gameweeks place him third among defenders.
As their fixtures improve and Newcastle start to keep clean sheets, Trippier will surely once again be among the attacking returns and bonus points. With two of their next three games at home, he is a hold for now.
(Top photos: Getty Images)