By most accounts, the Premier League season so far has been a crazy ride. And with craziness on the pitch, comes craziness off it too as Fantasy Premier League managers around the world have either been stumped by the most logical picks or rewarded for making a brave call here or there. It’s been a tough season to predict, and consequentially, a wild season to be a FPL manager.

And after the international break ahead of Gameweek 9, the craziness is only set to increase. Owned by a vast majority of teams and a FPL superstar, Mohamed Salah has tested positive for Covid-19 and is unlikely to feature in the next few games for defending champions Liverpool. Their defensive crisis also worsened with a serious injury to Joe Gomez but it’s Trent Alexander-Arnold’s position that will concern managers in the virtual world.

Indeed, those two players are the most transferred out stars ahead of the weekend where Premier League action returns from a brief hiatus.

Fixture difficulty

Before we take a look at the players to select/drop, the first consideration for many managers is the fixture difficulty of the teams in the league. While, on paper, many a fixture this season has not played out as per these predicted difficulty ratings, it is still an essential tool to plan not just the current gameweek selections but also to make sure you are selecting a player who is going to have a torrid set of games in the upcoming weeks.

The three teams with the best set of fixtures in the next three gameweeks are Everton, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa: the three teams bunched together in the top half of the table, having good seasons so far. There are assets from all three of these teams that could come in handy.

Spurs, who possess the two highest point-scorers this season so far, have a tough set of fixtures coming up: they host Manchester City and Arsenal, sandwiched by an away trip to Chelsea in the next three weeks. That should certainly throw a spanner in the midst of many a manager’s plans.

Team *Combined Difficulty rating for GW 9-11 GW 9 opponent
(Nov 21)
GW10 opponent GW11 opponent
Arsenal 9 (3, 3, 3) LEE(A) WOL(H) TOT(A)
Aston Villa 7 (2, 3, 2) BHA(H) WHU(A) NEW(H)
Brighton 10 (3, 4, 3) AVL(A) LIV(H) SOU(H)
Burnley 11 (3, 5, 3) CRY(H) MCI(A) EVE(H)
Chelsea 9 (3, 4, 2) NEW(A) TOT(H) LEE(H)
Crystal Palace 6 (2, 2, 2) BUR(A) NEW(H) WBA(A)
Everton 6 (2, 2, 2) FUL(A) LEE(H) BUR(A)
Fulham 12 (3, 4, 5) EVE(H) LEI(A) MCI(A)
Leeds 10 (3, 3, 4) ARS(H) EVE(A) CHE(A)
Leicester 9 (5, 2, 2) LIV(A) FUL(H) SHU(A)
Liverpool 9 (4, 2, 3) LEI(H) BHA(A) WOL(H)
Man City 8 (4, 2, 2) TOT(A) BUR(H) FUL(H)
Man Utd 8 (2, 3, 3) WBA(H) SOU(A) WHU(A)
Newcastle 10 (4, 3, 3) CHE(H) CRY(A) AVL(A)
Sheffield Utd 9 (3, 2, 4) WHU(H) WBA(A) LEI(H)
Southampton 9 (3, 4, 2) WOL(A) MUN(H) BHA(A)
Spurs 11 (4, 4, 3) MCI(H) CHE(A) ARS(H)
West Brom 9 (4, 2, 3) MUN(A) SHU(H) CRY(H)
West Ham 9 (2, 3, 4) SHU(A) AVL(H) MUN(H)
Wolves 11 (3, 3, 5) SOU(H) ARS(A) LIV(A)
*As per official FPL website

The ins and outs

The players who are being sold or brought in ahead of a particular gameweek is often an indicator of where the managers are putting their allegiances on. With Manchester United finding form again ahead of a winnable set of fixtures, thousands have turned to Bruno Fernandes. It is also not a surprise to see two of the top five buys this week are Villa players, given their form and fixtures. Jack Grealish is a safe bet going forward and Ollie Watkins is certainly turning heads in his first season at the top flight after a stunning performance against boyhood club Arsenal (as well as Liverpool earlier).

Most transferred (in) players before GW9

Player Team Position Current cost
Fernandes MUN MID 10.6
Ziyech CHE MID 8.2
Grealish AVL MID 7.5
Chilwell CHE DEF 6.0
Watkins AVL FWD 6.1

And, in keeping with the bizarre nature of 2020, Salah is the most transferred out player this week despite yet another strong start to the season. With him testing positive for Covid-19, many managers have decided to sell him instead of keeping him on the bench. TAA, who is now confirmed to be out of action, is the second most sold player. Surprisingly, perhaps, Son is third on the list despite his haul of 74 points this season. But after two weeks without any attacking returns and Spurs’ tough fixture list, managers seem to be turning elsewhere. Ings is injured while Wilson is also a doubt, making as the two forwards round up the top five as things stand.

Most transferred (out) players before GW9

Player Team Position Current cost
Salah LIV MID 12.3
Alexander-Arnold LIV DEF 7.3
Son TOT MID 9.5
Ings SOU FWD 8.3
Wilson NEW FWD 6.6
As of Nov 20 afternoon

Top five picks for Gameweek 9

Whether you bring them in through transfers or (luckily enough) have them in your squad already, these are the five hottest selections for GW 9:

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton): After the flying start he had, a dip was bound to happen for DCL. And by dip, we mean a return of *just* one goal and assist in his last three gameweeks. He is still the second most-owned player in FPL, he is still in the top five as per the Threat metric and he is up against Fulham.

Bruno Fernandes (Man United): West Brom have the joint-worst defence in the league so far and Manchester United are riding a high. Sitting at the top of the creativity chart this season is United’s Portuguese lynchpin and against WBA, he should be at the forefront of United’s attacks.

Sadio Mane (Liverpool): No Salah, so Mane. It’s quite simple as that really. The Senegal forward is owned by just more than 11% of managers and, in the Egyptian’s absence, will be the focal point of Liverpool’s attack. According to FPL’s Threat metric, no other Liverpool player is more likely to score than Mane apart from Salah.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Leeds): Alongside WBA, Leeds United have shipped in 17 goals for the worst defensive record in the league. While Arsenal have been remarkably goal-shy themselves, there is no better chance for their talisman to find his scoring form again in what could be a high-scoring game.

Jack Grealish (Aston Villa): Owned, at the time of writing, by as many as managers as Salah is, Grealish is a hot property in FPL at the moment. His confidence must be even higher after earning rave reviews on England duty as well. Priced at 7.5, he is now a must-have in the side purely because of the FOMO factor: the fear of missing out on what Grealish could do against Brighton, West Ham and Newcastle.

Three differential picks for Gameweek 9

Diogo Jota (Liverpool): Jota has been in fine goal-scoring form for Liverpool and might get an extended run in the Premier League starting XI in the absence of Salah. Priced at 6.5 and owned by just more than 10%, Jota could be the man to turn to if you are selling Salah and trying to save up some cash for other transfers.

Tammy Abraham (Chelsea): Newcastle have conceded the most shots per game this season so far (16.3) and Chelsea take more shots per game than any other team bar Aston Villa. And in Tammy Abraham, they have a player in form who is owned by just 2.3% of managers. The Englishman had attacking returns in both his previous games for Chelsea and should be a good bet to continue that streak.

Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United): The English left-back for Hammers has the second-best Influence-Creativity-Threat Index in FPL this year among defenders behind Ben Chilwell and is facing a Sheffield United hit by a serious case of second season syndrome. Owned by less than 10% in FPL currently, Cresswell is a value-for-money pick at a price of 5.1.

Captaincy conundrum

Going by the early feelers, the popular choice for GW9 captain is going to be Bruno Fernandes, the heartbeat of Manchester United. That is a choice that would make plenty of sense but given Everton are coming off a defeat and need a win, and they are facing a leaky Fulham defence, the recommendation (perhaps unpopular) would be to hand the armband over to Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The forward was not heavily involved in England’s matches (a total of fewer than 90 minutes combined from three games) and should be raring to find his feet again after no goals in two of the last three gameweeks.

FPL Deadline for GW9: 04.30 pm IST, Saturday, November 21, 2020.

(Stats Courtesy: Fantasy Premier League website)