1,304,361. One million, three hundred and four thousand and something. That’s how many FPL managers have transferred in Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7) since his transfer to Manchester United was confirmed on August 31st. That’s over 17% of all managers currently playing the official Premier League fantasy game. We don’t have the historical numbers, but we doubt there have been many, or indeed any, transfers with such an immediate and huge impact on the FPL community.
The Portuguese superstar’s return to the Premier League has seen managers all over the world scrambling to somehow accommodate their squads to bring him in. With the upcoming gameweek 4 already expected to see considerable Wild Card activity prior to the confirmation of Ronaldo’s transfer, you can expect the template to look pretty different come the GW4 deadline. This also explains, for example, the more than 300,000 managers transferring out Romelu Lukaku after a few more than promising showings and over 750,000 managers removing United talisman Bruno Fernandes from their squads. Ronaldo’s arrival to the FPL has made this year’s budgets seem even tighter.
In other news, gameweek 4 is also following this season’s first international break. This means added uncertainty in terms of fitness and starting spots for more than a few players, only worsened by differing quarantine rules depending on where a player was active with his national team. Popular picks like Belgium striker Lukaku and South Korea star man Heung-Min Son are currently injury doubts, while many South American internationals, like Emi Buendia, Raul Jimenez and Raphinha, may all miss out on gameweek 4 due to various quarantine-related issues. Our advice: keep a close eye on team and individual player news, especially if you’re planning on using your Wild Card in GW4.
Don’t forget, the deadline for gameweek 4 is set at 11h00 (UK time) on Saturday, September 11th.
Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per September 9th, 2021)
|TRANSFERS OUT||TRANSFERS IN||POSSIBLE REASONS|
|GK||Martinez (AST), Foster (WAT), Schmeichel (LEI), Sánchez (BRI)||Lloris (TOT), Raya (BRE), Sánchez (BRI)|
|DEF||Tsimikas (LIV), Shaw (MUN), James (CHE)||Duffy (BRI), Reguilón (TOT), Alonso (CHE)||James red card suspension, Shaw lack of clean sheets, Duffy ongoing starts|
|MID||Fernandes (MUN), Son (TOT), Raphinha (LEE), Grealish (MCI)||Torres (MCI), Gray (EVE), Benrahma (WHU)||Torres goals in GW3, Fernandes and Son exchanged for Ronaldo, Gray form|
|FOR||Ings (AST), Lukaku (CHE), Toney (BRE)||Ronaldo (MUN), Antonio (WHU), Lukaku (CHE)||Ronaldo’s arrival, Antonio form, Ings difficult upcoming fixtures|
It’s kind of hard to not speak about Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) as part of our premium fantasy pick recommendations for gameweek 4, especially not when you consider that Manchester United are hosting Newcastle on Saturday. The Magpies currently boast the worst Expected Goals Conceded ratio in the league bar Arsenal and it’s difficult to see them keeping out the Red Devils this weekend. There has been some discussion in the FPL community about Ronaldo’s chances of starting and him “fitting into the side”, but those points are not very relevant in this extraordinary case. The Portugal captain, who actually brought his national team victory over the Republic of Ireland with a spectacular added-time brace at the start of the international break, is one of the two best players in the history of football and will slide into United’s team right away. He came to Manchester to play, to score and to win, it’s that simple. If not, he would not have returned to Old Trafford. Whether he is worth a major fantasy side overhaul or even an early Wild Card straight away remains to be seen, but count on Ronaldo becoming a major factor at both United and in the Premier League as a whole in record time. Assuming anything else, means doing his international prize-winning and goalscoring record injustice.
Speaking of goalscoring, opening a season with 4 goals (and 4 assists) in the first three games is the kind of form we would associate with Ronaldo. In this case though, we’re not talking about Man United’s star forward, but about West Ham’s main man up front, Michail Antonio (£7.9m). The Jamaica international, who switched allegiance to the Caribbean nation and made his debut for the Reggae Boyz last week, is currently the highest-scoring player in the official fantasy game with 40 FPL points. His international exploits are obviously a bit of a worry in terms of fitness and energy levels, but it’s hard to see the Hammers not calling upon him for the upcoming away game against Southampton. The Saints have been unable to keep a clean sheet so far, conceding 6 goals in their first three games, and we’re not expecting the first one to come against the league’s current most prolific side. Antonio in his current form will be more than a handful for them and we can see the Hammers forward making it attacking returns in four consecutive games on Saturday.
The budget enabler
One of the low-key surprises of this young 2021-22 Premier League campaign is Demarai Gray (£5.6m), who currently defends the colours of Everton FC on loan from Leicester. The lowly-priced winger, who is listed as a midfielder in the official fantasy game, has played at least 80 minutes in each of Everton’s first three league games of the season and with good reason. The 25-year old was on target in both gameweek 2 against Leeds and gameweek 3 against Brighton for a more than decent total of 17 FPL points. The Toffees have a visit of Burnley coming up next, who have taken just a single point from three games and conceded 5 goals in the process. At just £5.6m, Gray looks like a very shrewd bet, not just for the upcoming game against the Clarets, but also for the medium-term as Everton will be facing Aston Villa away and Norwich at home after this weekend.
With the Harry Kane situation settled for now, some calm and clarity seems to have returned to Spurs. Under former Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo, the London side has had an effective if not somewhat unspectacular start to the season with three consecutive 1-0 victories, including one against reigning champions Manchester City in gameweek 1. One of the players who seems to have impressed Nuno from the get go is Dutch international Steven Bergwijn (£6.0m), who has played at least 75 minutes in every league game this season. He has paid back his manager’s confidence with 2 assists, meaning that he has been directly involved in 2/3 of his team’s goals so far. This also led to return to the Dutch national team for the past international break, in which he left a good impression in the victories over Montenegro and Turkey. Despite being seen icing his ankle on Tuesday after being taken off by Louis van Gaal in the 61th minute against Turkey, Stevie seems to be fit and ready to start for Spurs against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday. With a current ownership of just 1.3%, he represents considerable differential value in GW4.
As far as the captaincy goes, we’re expecting plenty of managers to give the armband to Cristiano Ronaldo this weekend. Despite his obvious Premier League and overall goalscoring pedigree, and the real chances of him hitting the ground running against Newcastle, we are opting for another Red Devil as our captain this weekend. There has been much talk about Bruno Fernandes‘ diminished appeal as a premium FPL asset with the arrival of his compatriot and penalty specialist Ronaldo, but don’t forget that Bruno has been one of the most consistent fantasy performers over the past two seasons. He could very well have a big haul coming his way on Saturday after two disappointing outings and we’re placing the captain’s band in his arm.
Outside of United hosting Newcastle, gameweek 4 offers a few other interesting captaincy options as well. There is, of course, the case of Mo Salah visiting Leeds on Sunday, while Harry Kane starting against Palace a day earlier looks enticing as well. The form of Michail Antonio as West Ham visit Saint Mary’s should not be ignored either. For the more differential captaincy picks, Dominic Calvert-Lewin at home against Burnley, Kai Havertz at home to Villa and Raul Jimenez (if available) for his encounter with promoted Watford could reap big rewards.