FPL things were looking good this week with popular players like Raphinha and Antonio Rüdiger becoming available for their respective teams again. But then Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel decided that it was a good idea to start his only true number nine, the physically overloaded Romelu Lukaku, against Swedish Champions League giants Malmö. A mere 23 minutes later, just after winning the penalty for Chelsea’s decisive 2-0, the Belgian hobbled off the pitch with an ankle injury and will now be “out for some games”, according to Tuchel right after the game. Panic for just under 40% of FPL managers and probably a lot of Wildcard activations as well. Timo Werner then was next to leave the pitch injured although less of a worry for FPL managers but does press the claims of Havertz over the next 2 or 3 games.
Anyone with Big Rom in their fantasy squad had been eyeing the upcoming home fixture against Norwich as THE stand-out fixture, but that’s all down the drain now. Whilst the encounter at Stamford Bridge should still be on top of your FPL agenda, the rest of this weekend’s fixtures will draw more attention now as well. Fortunately, with favourable match-ups like Everton versus Watford at Goodison Park, Southampton at home against Burnley, and a potentially high-scoring game between West Ham and Spurs, gameweek 9 offers some alternatives. Then again, with Manchester City visiting high-flying Brighton on Saturday evening and Liverpool visiting Old Trafford on Sunday, the upcoming round feels like one of the most unpredictable ones of the 2021/22 season to date, at least from a fantasy point of view.
Don’t forget, the deadline for gameweek 9 is set at 18h30 (UK time) on Friday, October 22nd.
Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per October 21st, 2021)
|TRANSFERS OUT||TRANSFERS IN||POSSIBLE REASONS|
|GK||Lloris (TOT), De Gea (MUN), Schmeichel (LEI)||Mendy (CHE), Raya (BRE), Foster (WAT)|
|DEF||Alonso (CHE), Rüdiger (CHE), Shaw (MUN)||Chilwell (CHE), Azpilicueta (CHE), Cancelo (MCI)||Chelsea upcoming fixtures, Chilwell/Alonso rotation, Man City defensive strength|
|MID||Jota (LIV), Pogba (MUN), Grealish (MCI)||Townsend (EVE), Salah (LIV), Son (TOT)||Salah and Son form, Jota rotation|
|FOR||Ronaldo (MUN), Lukaku (CHE), Antonio (WHU)||Vardy (LEI), Toney (BRE), Lukaku (CHE)||Wednesday evening’s Lukaku injury, Vardy ongoing returns, Toney upcoming fixtures|
In our intro, we mentioned GW9 as looking very unpredictable in terms of fantasy football. Combine that with the stand-out premium and captaincy pick for the gameweek now missing out through injury and there really remains just one thing to do. Stop, think, and retreat to the familiar, to what you know, to the reliable. In other words, Mo Salah (£12.8m). The Egyptian has been on another level this season and currently tops the Premier League scoring chart with 7 goals. To give you an idea of his consistency: Salah only failed to score back in gameweek 2. Add to that his current 5 assists and it’s no surprise at all that he is also the highest-scoring asset in FPL with 83 points. That’s an average of just over 10 FPL points per league game, in case you hadn’t noticed. His fixture this weekend is not ideal with an away game against Manchester United, but the Red Devils are far from solid at the moment. Our feeling? Don’t overthink it in these uncertain fantasy times and go with Liverpool’s talisman.
Lukaku being unavailable for the Norwich game at Stamford Bridge does not mean that we should just discard the Blues right away, though. Far from it. While the attacking set-up is more of a guessing game for Saturday’s game, their defence offers lots of potential. Before his short bout in the sidelines that caused him to miss the GW encounter with Brentford, Antonio Rüdiger (£5.8m) had not missed a single minute of Premier League football yet this season. The German international returned to fitness in style with a clean sheet and 90 minutes in the Champions League game against Malmö this week, and we’re expecting a similar result for him against Norwich this weekend. The Canaries have been defensively resilient of late, but toothless up front, scoring just a single goal in their last five league games. The likes of Marcos Alonso, Ben Chilwell and Reece James might offer more excitement, but we’re going with Rüdiger’s certainty of starts this time.
The budget enabler
Our budget enabler of the week is a bit of a punt and you could probably leave the “a bit” part out. Why? Because he plays right-back for a currently rudderless Newcastle side. The Magpies have taken three points from eight games so far, they boast the leakiest defence in the league with 19 conceded goals, and manager Steve Bruce has just been sacked. Have we convinced you yet of considering Javier Manquillo (£4.0m) for your squad? Probably not, but we have our reasons for recommending the Spaniard as a stand-out budget enabler. He seems to have nailed down the right-back spot and actually has provided an assist in consecutive games now, against Wolves and Spurs. His price tag makes him an ideal fifth defender for most FPL squads and the upcoming fixtures give some reason for optimism. Over the next seven games, Newcastle are facing Brentford, Norwich and Burnley (at home) and Crystal Palace and Brighton away. We’re not expecting Manquillo to join the Golden Boot race all of a sudden, but he could represent decent budget-enabling value on the medium to long term.
Romelu Lukaku wasn’t Chelsea’s only injury victim on Wednesday night. Timo Werner also saw his game cut short and was substituted in the 44th minute, which suddenly leaves the Blues with a selection issue up front. In the official fantasy game, there are currently no fit Chelsea forwards available, which means that a midfielder will be featuring up front against Norwich on Saturday and we’re thinking it will be Kai Havertz (£8.1m). The German international replaced Lukaku as a false number nine against Malmö and made the most of the opportunity by scoring their third goal just after the break. Havertz has been a fringe player for the most part of the league so far, with just 317 playing minutes and a single goal to his name, but with Lukaku and Werner out of action, he could end up being an enormous differential this weekend. His ownership sits at just 4% at the moment and he looks like a sure starter against the Canaries, a game that Chelsea will dominate and should win comfortably.
We’ve said before and we’ll say it again: Mo Salah aka Mr. Reliable aka Mr. consistency will be our FPL captain for gameweek 9. It’s true that the away game against Manchester United counts as a tough fixture on paper, but the Red Devils are not in fine form. Their mid-week Champions League clash at home against Atalanta Bergamo saw them concede two goals before turning it around and winning it 3-2, thanks to a Ronaldo header in the 81st minute, while an up-and-down Leicester side put four past the United defence in gameweek 8 for their 4-2 victory over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
Still, if you feel that Old Trafford is too much of a challenge for Salah, there are a few other interesting options available as well. The likes of Kai Havertz and Mason Mount could haul at home against Norwich, while Kevin de Bruyne could and should be influential for Manchester City at Brighton. Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son have picked up some form and will be travelling to West Ham, who have kept just a single clean sheet in the league so far. For the real punters, Demarai Gray at home against Watford, a fully rested Raphinha at home versus Wolves, or indeed the inevitable Michail Antonio at home versus Spurs could bring serious differential captaincy joy.