This week had it all.
Danny Welbeck lobbing a goalkeeper. Nicolas Pepe headbutting an opponent. Bruno Fernandes scoring a penalty. Manchester City looking out of sorts.
Twenty goals across 10 games resulted in eight wins and two draws. More woe for Sheffield United but Chelsea’s good form continued ahead of a very tricky test against old boss Jose Mourinho and his equally in-form Tottenham.
Danny Welbeck produced one of the goals of the weekend with a chip against Aston Villa
The villain of Gameweek Nine was Arsenal’s club record £72m buy Nicolas Pepe (right)
It’s always nice to see a captaincy pay off and rounding out my week with 71 points did wonders to see me climb my respective leagues.
It was touch and go for a while watching Fernandes against West Brom but a penalty dispatched – nothing new here – plus the clean sheet and the full bonus meant an 11-point return doubled to 22 for those who, like me, gave him the armband.
Plenty more to unpack going into Gameweek 10 with some brilliant fixtures to come.
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 GW9
Thank the heavens that Fernandes plays in the era of VAR. No sooner did he appear to give away a penalty on Conor Gallagher was he converting one of his own to give United their first home league win of the season.
It wasn’t pretty. It was actually quite painful truth be told. But a double-digit return before points were doubled can be considered a job well done.
The big takeaway from GW9 was that Tottenham are realistic title contenders. Many may scoff, it’s nine games in and this hyperbole helps no-one, but it’s the truth.
Bruno Fernandes was last week’s tip for captaincy and he delivered from the penalty spot
They dismantled a Manchester City side that no matter how bad their form goes, they remain in the title discussion.
City simply don’t look right in midfield currently. Defensively they have largely looked competent since Ruben Dias arrived from Benfica but Tottenham out-hustled them and simply out-ran them in north London.
Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin de Bruyne and Co just are yet to find a rhythm. Phil Foden has impressed in cameos but has been reduced to a bench role of late.
City are down in 13th, eight points behind leaders Tottenham having played a game less.
They host a Burnley side at home this weekend who travel on the back of a smart clean sheet in a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace.
City will be heavy favourites but Pep Guardiola’s side seem to be tripping themselves up as much as their opponents right now.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City look out of sorts and it could be wise to ditch City assets
Elsewhere the early season optimism at both Newcastle and Leeds appears to have been tempered in recent weeks.
Newcastle flew out the blocks beating West Ham on the opening Gameweek but have found life far tougher of late and they go to Selhurst Park on Friday without star man Allan Saint-Maximin.
Then there is Leeds, free-scoring Leeds.
Taking on Everton next up means finding a way to shackle Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Spoiler alert: it’s not easy at all.
A clean sheet against Arsenal will give them hope and as an owner of Luke Ayling it was a welcome six points. But with Everton getting a tune out of their stars again, it could prove a difficult afternoon for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Best use of the free transfer this week
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – £10.2m
Now, this in isolation does not seem a gamble.
But such is his fee, it may take shifting Harry Kane for a couple of weeks to get him. And it is a gamble I, myself, feel like taking with Fulham, Sheffield United and Brighton next up for Leicester.
I was warned by football jackpot game Fantasy5 that Kane and team-mate Son Heung-min are on course to smash Mohamed Salah’s all-time FPL points record but I am sticking to my guns. Moving on from Kane is more a ‘see you soon’ rather than ‘goodbye forever’.
Kane has seven goals and nine assists so far this season and has contributed to a goal in eight of Spurs’ first nine games. But Chelsea up next for me feels like a cagey affair, far from what I anticipate Leicester’s meeting with Fulham will be like.
Jamie Vardy has created more big chances (13) than any other player in Fantasy this season
Vardy’s as reliable as they come in the Premier League. He’s been there, done it, got the t-shirt and the title to go with it.
FPL is as much about understanding fixture difficulty as it is being wedded to the division’s greatest.
I won’t be alone in making this sort of power-play, not by any stretch of the imagination. Vardy has earned more than 165,000 new owners ahead of Friday’s deadline.
He has produced double-figure returns in three of his seven starts this season and that is expected to follow in the next three.
Vardy is an FPL leader for big chances created – 13 have been made by the striker so far this season.
Also factor in that Fulham have looked dismal in defence for large parts of this season. Scott Parker’s side have shipped 18 goals, allowed 53 shots on target and given up 21 big chances.
Vardy’s goal against Braga will do him the world of good, now he’ll want to take the Cottagers to town on Monday night.
Fulham are very vulnerable at the back and many are backing Vardy to feast in front of goal
Friday November 27
Crystal Palace v Newcastle
Saturday November 28
Brighton v Liverpool
Man City v Burnley
Everton v Leeds
West Brom v Sheffield United
Sunday November 29
Southampton v Man United
Chelsea v Tottenham
Arsenal v Wolves
Monday November 30
Leicester v Fulham
West Ham v Aston Villa
Three differentials that caught my eye
Alex Telles (Manchester United) – £5.5m [Selected by 1.5%]
It proved a mightily frustrating start to life at Old Trafford for Alex Telles but it now seems he is finding his stride.
There remain plenty of doubters, that shows in the fact he boasts just a 1.5 per cent ownership on FPL.
But Luke Shaw’s injury means Telles has a free run at the left back spot for coming weeks.
Telles is an interesting option more so for what he can do in attack than what he can in defence.
Yes, he got a clean sheet last time out against West Brom but it is his wicked delivery both in-play and from set pieces that should get antennas signalling.
Telles has the DNA of a modern full-back and a consistent run in the team would almost certainly draw plenty of assists.
Defensively this season in FPL clean sheets have appeared few and far between and so attacking full-backs and dominant goal-scoring centre backs are the only options of value.
United’s games are a tad kinder than rivals and with Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the other side far less attractive as an attacking option, Telles appears the best possible way into Solskjaer’s back four.
Alex Telles’ delivery in-play and from set-pieces means he could become a smart investment
Harvey Barnes (Leicester City) – £6.9m [Selected by 3.9%]
Much like the reason for going for Vardy, Fulham are not great to put it mildly.
It came as something of a surprise to see less than 4 per cent of bosses elect to use up a midfield spot on Barnes but it really could prove smart business.
Rodgers’ comments earlier in the week spoke volumes about where Barnes’ head is at in the weirdest Premier League season of all amid a pandemic.
‘He’s constantly looking to get better, whether that’s sitting down with me or with some of the other coaches,’ Rodgers said.
‘He just wants to improve. You’ve seen in some of his finishes this season that he’s improving in that aspect and that will continue.’
Just one double-digit return – in Gameweek Two against Burnley – is a legitimate counter-argument but his goal against Braga on Thursday night felt significant for him.
With Allan Saint-Maximin struggling with injury and form for Newcastle, it seems a no brainer to try and flip him for Barnes. Fulham, Sheffield United and Brighton to come for Leicester, it could prove a feast for the Foxes.
Harvey Barnes’ confidence will have been boosted by his Europa League goal against Braga
Mason Mount (Chelsea) – £6.8m [Selected by 4.6%]
Few players in the entire league can speak of form as good as Mason Mount’s right now.
He has come in for heavy criticism, been accused of being a ‘favourite’ of boss Frank Lampard and yet he continues to dictate games in Chelsea’s midfield.
Again, just one double-digit return – Gameweek Three against West Brom – is far from a major selling point but the eye test on Mount suggests his value on FPL will continue to rise.
Tottenham next up should prove cagey but having been studying the game of former Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas, Mount has developed into a brilliant playmaker from deep.
He got the assist for the first goal against Newcastle and brilliantly teed up Callum Hudsonn-Odoi against Rennes.
I have been wrestling with Mount for a couple of weeks and have run out of reasons not to give him a shot at selection.
Mason Mount (right) is improving as a playmaker and is fast becoming an attractive option
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – £12.2m
There is not much more daunting than the knowledge of facing a rested Mo Salah.
Already boasting a 20-point haul in a single Gameweek, Salah is back in contention having been sidelined after three positive Covid-19 tests.
He got an hour against Atalanta to build up his fitness and the rest has been done in the gym at the club’s brand new AXA training facility.
But down at Brighton on Saturday lunchtime, Salah will be more buoyant than his manager.
Salah has won all six of his meetings against Brighton, scoring five times and assisting three times and so his high probability of returns at the AMEX make him an attractive captaincy option.
Last time I picked out Salah for captaincy in Gameweek Six he returned just two points but, fear not.
The Egyptian is the second highest scoring midfielder on FPL this season, behind Son Heung-min, and while I don’t have the means to bring him in, he would be my unrivalled selection for captaincy.
Mohamed Salah has been working in the gym and has a promising record against Brighton
Team of the week (3-5-2)
A return to two up top.
Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Leeds was overshadowed by Nicolas Pepe’s red card for a clash with Ezgjan Alioski – who ironically made Team of the Week – but the Gunners’ defensive solidity is reflected here.
Goalkeeper Bernd Leno was the best performing goalkeeper while Hector Bellerin – a differential selection of mine in GW8 – was one of the three defenders along with Alioski and Liverpool’s Andy Robertson.
Robertson’s team-mate James Milner thrived in the rout of Leicester with two assists and he joins Son, Solly March, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Bruno Fernandes – last week’s captaincy tip – in a five-man midfield.
Not for the first time, Dominic Calvert Lewin leads the line after his exploits down at Fulham while Danny Welbeck’s sumptuous chipped finish at Villa for Brighton earned him his first TOTW appearance of the season.