Ah, the international break. An FPL player’s nightmare, but an FPL blogger’s dream. Plenty of spare time in which to reflect upon the game, sites that need to bulk out their content and a bored audience who would be willing to read essentially anything fantasy-related. All of this makes it the perfect time to return with another ‘no Kane, no Lukaku’ update.
For those who have not been following this mini-series, the premise is that I will go the whole season without bringing in either Kane or Lukaku, the two players considered by many to be must-haves at the start of the campaign. The league is now reaching the business end, and so far I have stayed true to my word – many a Kane goal-fest has burned me, and on occasion Lukaku has punished his non-owners, but on the whole things have gone surprisingly well. Better than most of my previous seasons, in fact. My overall rank has recently broken the 100k mark, which is by all accounts a handy position to be in as we enter the final seven gameweeks. A significant reason for this is Mo Salah. He would be a hero even without the fantasy points he has showered down upon me, as he has fired my beloved Liverpool to a new level, but this extra plus point has elevated him to god status. Of course, anyone with any sense has the Egyptian at this point – captaining him, however, was far from a foregone conclusion until quite recently. The temptation of Kane proved too strong for many of the managers who had the English marksman; this paid dividends for them on occasion, but the sheer consistency of Salah’s returns have ensured that my captain has done well for weeks on end.
This brings us on to the most significant recent development as far as the strategy is concerned. I refer to Harry Kane’s injury. On one hand, it represents great news: for the foreseeable future, there will be no more watching Spurs from behind the sofa, and the one player always responsible for pegging back my progress in mini-leagues is out of the picture. However, if anything, the drawbacks are more significant. Kane owners are scrambling to sell, and with no obvious like-for-like replacements their budget is being spread more evenly across the squad. This means a lot of my differentials are getting snapped up, leaving me with little room to make ground on rivals. The price rises are nice – Firmino is now a staggering 1.3 million more than when I bought him - but they don’t directly translate to points. Meanwhile, those who are looking to swap Kane for something resembling an equivalent are bound to turn to Lukaku. The Belgian is re-finding his form, and Manchester United have some very nice fixtures coming up: many more FPL opponents are ready to take advantage of this now he has taken the ‘Kane’ slot in so many squads. In other words, it will simply be the United scores that I dread to check rather than those of Tottenham. It will be far from straightforward retaining a place in the top hundred-thousand during this run-in.
This is particularly true given the double gameweeks that have to be navigated. In terms of chips, I am in relatively good shape – I opted to use the free hit to deal with blank gameweek 31, and was rewarded with a 105-point haul, but the other chips remain available to use. The squad has been honed for many weeks to ensure that all fifteen are getting regular minutes, and that most have a double gameweek: the bench boost or the triple captain are thus ripe to be played in gameweek 34, with the remaining chip being saved for the next double gameweek in 37. Salah’s lack of a double poses something of a dilemma: anyone would think twice about not giving him the armband, and given that he has been so integral in allowing me to remain competitive without Kane it would be tough to give the triple captaincy to anybody else. However, other big hitters who will have an extra game in the week are hard to ignore – chief amongst these is the newly-acquired Heung-Min Son, who is leading the line for Spurs during Kane's absence. I currently sit second in both of my main mini-leagues: getting the triple captaincy right (or wrong) could make or break the entire season. On the plus side, Kane no longer being an option for my opponents, unless they choose to gamble on his late-season fitness, is something of a relief.
A big perk of the strategy has been the ready availability of funds to invest in the midfield, where there have been multiple premium options producing high points returns. For the final few weeks, I have taken a punt on Mkhitaryan. As mentioned, I have ground to make up in my mini-leagues: his decent form of late, Arsenal’s seemingly endless capacity to start performing well when they no longer have anything to play for and their very kind fixture list made this a gamble I was eager to take. There is the risk of Europa League-induced rotation, which made the ineligible Aubameyang the more tempting option in many ways, but Vardy’s similarly nice run-in made me reluctant to sell him. Thus, my hopes are pinned on the Armenian. In my eagerness to execute this plan, I made my transfers before realising that the international break was imminent – there is now a nervous wait to see whether he or Son get injured while playing for their countries. This was foolish, but the strategy on the whole has proved surprisingly sensible: with any luck, I’ll be able to limp over the line with an overall rank with which I can be pleased.