Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 31 is fast approaching and the reduced fixture list has raised a lot of burning questions for FPL managers. Fortunately, @FPLGeneral is on hand to share his expert insight on the main talking points leading up to the blank gameweek.
Who is the better captaincy option, Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane?
On current form, Mane should be a no-brainer this week when it comes to choosing your captain. The Senegalese attacker has netted eight goals in his last eight premier league appearances while Salah has managed just three goals over the same period. If you only own one of them it’s easy; you stick the armband on them and enjoy the rest of your week stress-free. If you own both, it’s a tough one and you spend the rest of your week flip-flopping between the two, waking up in cold sweats.
A key stat in comparing the two is the fact that Mane has scored just three of his sixteen league goals away from home this season. He has only scored once away from Anfield since Gameweek 4. Is that enough to tilt the balance back in Salah’s favour with Liverpool on the road in Gameweek 31?
Delving deeper into the stats over the last four Gameweeks, Mane has scored four goals from his four shots on target. This is not sustainable. In contrast, Salah registered more shots on target (five) over the same period but failed to convert any of them. Another eye-catching statistic from the last four games is Salah’s 41 penalty area touches to Mane’s 19.
We would expect to see some regression from Mane and an improvement in conversion rate from Salah, but the big question is will it happen in the Fulham fixture?
If you want to factor in nostalgia to your decision, Liverpool face Fulham on March 17th, 2019. On March 17th, 2018, the Egyptian scored four goals against Watford in a Blank Gameweek!
Double Liverpool defence or double attack?
This is a question fantasy managers have been asking themselves for most of the season. The defenders came up trumps big time in the 5-0 win over Watford in Gameweek 28 but then frustrated owners by conceding two at home to Burnley in Gameweek 30.
For those who are using their Free Hit chip in Gameweek 31, Salah and Mane plus a defender looks like the best route to go. Fulham are atrocious defensively, but they have managed to score in each of their last two matches against Chelsea and Leicester City so it is evident they have improved under Scott Parker. With Aleksandar Mitrovic and former Red Ryan Babel in attack, they always pose a threat to clean sheets.
Is Gonzalo Higuain worthy of a striker spot?
The Argentine hasn’t yet lived up to the hype following his loan move to Stamford Bridge. He’s scored just once in the last four Gameweeks, with Maurizio Sarri commenting that he lacks match sharpness. Chelsea travel to Goodison Park on Sunday in a game which may not be as straightforward for the Blues as many seem to think. Everton have improved recently. Yes, they capitulated against Newcastle but before that, they’d kept Liverpool and Cardiff goalless. This could frustrate Higuain and co. as Chelsea haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders either.
In contrast to Higuain, Jamie Vardy is on fire having scored four times in his last three starts. He’s a must-have for Free-Hitters this week.
Callum Wilson is another striker who will be popular after making a goalscoring return to action last weekend. He faces a Newcastle defence who will be without the suspended Fabian Schar and also possibly captain Jamaal Lascelles who is an injury doubt.
Salomon Rondon and Ashley Barnes are worthy candidates for Gameweek 31 too.
Higuain is likely to miss out on inclusion for many this week with so many other in-form strikers available for less cash. Will he punish the doubters?
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Will Marko Arnautovic start vs Huddersfield?
Arnie hasn’t started a premier league game since Gameweek 24 with Manuel Pellegrini favouring Javier Hernandez up front in recent games. Having failed to score against Newcastle and Cardiff, Hernandez could be replaced by Arnautovic in the starting line-up for the visit of Huddersfield.
The Hammers have arguably the best fixture of the round and if the Austrian starts, he could do serious damage. With a 14:00 deadline on Saturday, Free Hitters will be hoping for some early team news regarding West Ham. If news filters through before the deadline that Arnie is likely to start, he could even be an explosive differential captain for those feeling adventurous.
Is it ok to take hits to bring in players for the Blank Gameweek?
At this point, most managers will be looking at a team that has less than XI players available for the weekend’s action. Fielding XI players in a blank is not necessary. The most important thing is to own the key assets for the Gameweek who are likely to score well and have a strong captaincy option. Fielding 7/8 players is fine, you don’t have to rip up your squad just for one Gameweek. Play the long game.
Taking calculated points hits is also fine, especially if you are going to use the Free Hit chip in Gameweek 32. Don’t just look at the Gameweek 31 fixtures when making your transfers this week, factor in Gameweek 33 as well. Selling a player who blanks in 31 & 33 for a player who plays in both those Gameweeks for a -4 is pretty low risk, Raul Jimenez out for Callum Wilson for example. Before selling any player, always check how much value you have tied up in them and factor in if you are likely to want that player back in a few weeks’ time.