From a personal point of view, gameweek seven was nothing short of a disaster.
Son Heung-min flopped as a captaincy pick, my three-man defence combined for three points and not a single player picked up double digits. It was not a pretty sight.
But this happens. Every FPL manager has had weeks to forget and this was the first one of the season where I was looking at the damage through my fingers. Thirty-two points proved costly. The average was 53.
James Ward-Prowse produced a Midlands masterclass in a 4-3 victory away to Aston Villa
Fulham finally got their first league win since promotion thanks to Ola Aina’s (middle) strike
It was a week in which most of the big-hitters fell flat on their face.
Manchester City scraped past Sheffield United, Manchester United’s woeful home form continued, Everton lost (again) and it was a rough ride for Sadio Mane, Kai Havertz and Son owners.
But, the beauty of this competition is that it all resets and we go again. New fixtures, new match-ups, new suggestions.
As always, in this column I’ll be breaking down what we learned from the latest round of games, how best to utilise the free transfer for our squads and the differentials that can make the biggest difference week-to-week.
Biggest takeaways from GW7
In short: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is teetering on the edge, Diogo Jota is a legitimate threat to Roberto Firmino and Sheffield United need to find a way to overcome second-season syndrome.
Last week’s suggestion of plumping for Marcus Rashford backfired like most things and United remain winless from their opening four league games at Old Trafford.
Slumped in 15th, this feels like a monumental weekend as they travel to face Everton in Saturday’s early kick-off.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s drought finally ended as he downed Manchester United
Defend as they did against Arsenal – who had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to thank for the winning goal at Old Trafford – then Solskjaer could soon find himself out of a job.
Unsurprisingly, United defenders are of interest to only a small minority of FPL bosses with Aaron Wan-Bissaka (8.8%), Harry Maguire (3.1%), Victor Lindelof (1.3%) and Luke Shaw (1%) failing to instil any belief at either end of the park.
Alternatively, Chelsea defenders – who’d have thought it? – are generating lots of interest and with good reason.
Frank Lampard has always been accused of being too exposed defensively but that narrative has died off following five successive clean sheets against Sevilla, Manchester United, Krasnodar, Burnley and Rennes.
A settled back-line of Reece James – a differential selection last week – Kurt Zouma, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell has proven a major upgrade for the Blues.
Chilwell (24%), Zouma (13.1%) and James (11.8%) are proving increasingly popular and with a struggling Sheffield United next at Stamford Bridge, all seem sound investments on current form.
Diogo Jota has produced vital contributions against Sheffield United and West Ham recently
Much will be made of Manchester City v Liverpool this week and within that, which stars step up and deliver in the biggest game of the season.
The two title challengers have both looked more vulnerable than ever but do not be fooled, these are still two elite teams littered with exceptional talents.
I almost picked out Diogo Jota (£6.4m) as my free transfer suggestion this week following his virtuoso against Atalanta but I have pumped the brakes with City in their way.
Jota has managed 26 points so far, a combined 17 points from the last two matches where he had the telling contributions off the bench.
It is too risky to think Firmino will be dropped given all the credit he has in the bank but Jota is a player I am monitoring closely throughout gameweek eight.
Best use of the free transfer this week
Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – £10m
For my team, the positive Covid-19 test for Kai Havertz forced my hand in the midfield but this week I have picked out Jamie Vardy if you have funds at your disposal.
The injury to Danny Ings has rocked millions of managers who put their faith in the Southampton forward.
Jamie Vardy is the fifth-most owned striking option on FPL but represents value for money
The sight of him clutching his knee at Villa Park called for a collective intake of breath. And while he is not out for the remainder of the season, four to six weeks is substantial and calls for a change.
Vardy is the fifth most popular striker on FPL with a 19.5% ownership. I can’t help but think this would be north of 45-50% were he valued around £8.5m.
But, Vardy is value for money given the key role he plays under Brendan Rodgers.
He already has three double-digit returns and his performance at Leeds – a goal and two assists – was yet another reminder that overlooking the former Fleetwood Town striker could prove a major error in judgement.
There are a number of premium striker options, with Harry Kane and Timo Werner among them but with Vardy £1.5m more than Ings, it seems a logical upgrade until the Saints striker is back on his feet.
FPL use a metric called Influence-Creativity-Threat ranking to determine the value of a player in Fantasy and of 597 available players, Vardy ranks 15th.
His goal at Leeds helped secure a 4-1 win and he has produced 55 points from seven games
He is ranked third for influence among strikers – only behind Kane and Calvert-Lewin – and while games against Wolves, Liverpool, Fulham, Sheffield United and Brighton represent something of a mixed bag, Leicester are a bonafide European outfit and can take the game to anybody.
The dismantling of Leeds perhaps appeared more surprising than it ought to have done.
Leicester started a little slowly but have rhythm now and Vardy is a big part of the reason why.
With the Saints marching on without Ings, time for a lockdown Vardy Party at the King Power…
Friday November 6
Brighton v Burnley
Southampton v Newcastle
Saturday November 7
Everton v Manchester United
Crystal Palace v Leeds
Chelsea v Sheffield United
West Ham v Fulham
Sunday November 8
West Brom v Tottenham
Leicester v Wolves
Manchester City v Liverpool
Arsenal v Aston Villa
Three differentials that caught my eye
Hector Bellerin (Arsenal) – £5.1m [Selected by 7.6%]
There are a number of players who appear born again under Mikel Arteta and Bellerin falls in that category.
The full-back earned a spot in this week’s dream team and more than earned his spot with a dominant display at Old Trafford.
He won the penalty that was converted by Aubameyang after his quick thinking saw him nip in front of Paul Pogba, who clumsily bundled him to the ground.
Two double digit returns from seven weeks is nothing special but a home gam against an Aston Villa side that have lost their way defensively bodes well.
Less than 10 per cent ownership makes Bellerin an interesting differential, for sur.
Leandro Trossard (Brighton) – £6m [Selected by 1.9%]
Th difficulty for Brighton is that while they compete and play well for spells in games, they haven’t actually won for a while.
In fact, not since Gameweek Two away at Newcastle have Graham Potter’s side taken all three points.
But hosting fellow strugglers Burnley at the AMEX Stadium this weekend feels like an opportunity for Potter and his players to get back on the board.
With mounting concerns over Neal Maupay’s ego – as exclusively revealed by Sportsmail – I’ve gone for Trossard ahead of Friday night’s game.
He ranks 18th of 237 midfielders for his creativity and is 23rd when it coms to threat.
Trossard, who led the line in Maupay’s absence at Spurs, looks a real and offers an affordable alternative for Allan Saint-Maximin owners.
His 11 chances created this season are a team-leading total while his 16 shots and six shots on target place him second in the Seagulls’ squad.
Burnley and Villa as the next two represent games where Trossard will be heavily involved. Could be worth a roll of the dice.
Leandro Trossard (middle) is the way into this Brighton team with concerns over Neal Maupay
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – £7.4m [Selected by 28.6%]
OK, this one feels a bit of a cheat.
But Zaha, even with Palace’s unpredictability week to week, could be a real sound investment for the coming weeks.
It wasn’t pretty for Palace in the away defeat at Wolves but with Leeds, Burnley, Newcastle and West Brom as the next four, things get easier (on paper at least) for Roy Hodgson’s side.
Double figure returns in gameweeks two and six showed flashes but the task now for Zaha is to add consistency to his game.
From an FPL perspective he is a valuable asset in terms of winning penalties, coupled with the fact that much of what Palace do well runs through the Ivorian.
He is the regarded as the seventh most influential midfielder in the Premier League from an FPL point of view and it is hard to argue.
While Zaha is by no means a hidden gem, no side has a more favourable road in front of them than Palace in the next four. The Eagles could soar.
Wilfried Zaha (middle) is the way to go with Crystal Palace’s favourable fixtures coming up
Harry Kane (Tottenham) – £11m
What superlatives are left for Kane?
Striking the opening goal in Thursday night’s Europa League tie against Ludogorets, Kane reached 200 goals in 300 games. A phenomenal achievement and more will follow.
Heading into a game against West Brom on Sunday, Kane will unquestionably be a popular captaincy pick. So popular, in fact, that expect to see more triple captain cards activated this week.
Harry Kane struck his 200th goal in 300 games for Tottenham in the Europa League this week
He was taken off at half-time against Ludogorets so no injury concerns or issues with fatigue to speak of ahead of the trip to the Hawthorns.
Kane has been Jose Mourinho’s most consistent forward so far this season, producing respectable points returns in six consecutive gameweeks.
The 27-year-old has produced 31 shots, more than double the 15 that Son has had.
Kane, who is on penalty duty, making him another attractive option, also leads his South Korean team-mate for shots in the penalty area, by 21 to 11.
Part of the reason for continuing to back Tottenham players as captain is that the opposition has, on paper of late, been tempting.
West Brom’s defensive record provides real encouragement to FPL bosses having shipped 16 goals and given up 17 big chances – both league-leading totals – already in 2020-21.
Kane on penalties, coupled with his form last weekend and in midweek, has seen me undertake a switcheroo between Son and him. Here’s hoping King Kane strikes again…
The fact Kane takes penalties for Tottenham, an more being awarded, gives him the edge
Team of the Week (5-4-1)
The week of the defender.
A 5-4-1 formation was in order for a team that combined for 153 points.
Unsurprisingly, the stand-out game of the weekend – Aston Villa 3-4 Southampton – saw James Ward-Prowse and Jack Grealish both earn spots.
Ward-Prowse was the star player of the week with 17 points, courtesy of two goals, an assist, and a three bonus.
Goals for four of the five defenders made a change from the normal service of reliance on midfielders and strikers.
Hakim Ziyech scored on his first Premier League start against Burnley and Vardy leads the line.