Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 21: transfer tips and who to captain amid Spurs and Liverpool star headaches

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Transfer advice, price changes and captain picks from our Top 1,000 FPL manager as Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min dilemmas arise

Welcome back to our regular Fantasy Premier League advice column – brought to you by our very own Top 1,000 coach. This week, we take stock of what promises to be an extremely tricky Gameweek 21, which runs across the next two weekends and will ask FPL players to navigate AFCON, the Asian Cup and a string of high-profile injuries.

All of that will leave a lot of players staring at a string of red triangles ahead of this weekend’s matches, but we’re here to help you figure it all out. But before we hand over to our high-flying manager to help you make sense of it all, a quick note that deadline for this rather strange gameweek – which is elongated thanks to the Premier League’s staggered winter break – is this Friday at 18:15 BST, ahead of Burnley’s six-pointer against Luton Town.

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Internationals, injuries and incredibly tough choices

Where to begin this week? Between the Africa Cup of Nations, the Asian Cup and injuries to important FPL players like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jarrod Bowen, many of us are looking at our ‘pick team’ screens in bewilderment. This is a very tough gameweek to work through – so let’s start at the top, with Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-Min and the other players who will be away representing their countries over the coming weeks.

Salah and Son are the headline absentees, but Mohammed Kudus, Hwang Hee-Chan, Nicolas Jackson, Simon Adingra and Issa Kaboré are among the other relevant assets who could be absent for up to a month, depending on how well their respective teams do. Both the AFCON and Asian Cup finals take place on the weekend of the 10 & 11 February, so key players could be out of FPL action until Gameweek 25.

Given how successful Egypt and South Korea have been in these tournament historically, it’s reasonable to assume neither of the blue chip players who are out will be back at the earliest possible juncture, which would be Gameweek 23. So should we keep or sell?

I’d say that carrying one of Salah or Son through their respective international absences isn’t unreasonable, especially if the finances suggest that it should be a good idea. The last time this happened, Salah dropped in price by £0.3m over the course of the tournament before rocketing back up as soon as he became available. If you bought in at the start of the season, when Salah was much cheaper than he is now, then you will lose money on selling him and buying him back, and potentially quite a lot of it. He will be back in a few weeks, and throwing a ton of transfer cash away isn’t a great idea if you can avoid it.

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Nevertheless, you can’t hang around and have more than one or two players out – you still need a functioning squad. So I’d suggest getting rid of Kudus or Hwang, for example, and likely Son as well until they’re back, and be prepared to carry a maximum of one of those players – the one who would represent the biggest financial issue to buy back into later. That will be Salah or Son for most players, but it’s also worth noting that, if the bookies are right, then South Korea have a better chance of a deep run in the Asian Cup than Egypt do in the Ivory Coast. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Salah was back a week earlier than Son, say.

For a lot of players, of course, the problem doesn’t stop with deciding what to do with one or two players. With Alexander-Arnold out for around three weeks and Bowen potentially out for a stretch too (we don’t have a definitive timeline from West Ham United yet, so keep an ear on those press conferences), the red triangles aren’t limited to international breaks. For many of you, this will be the perfect example of a week in which taking a -4 to buy an extra transfer is not only justified but an actively great idea. That said, try not to touch your wildcard or free hit chips – you will extract far more value from them when the double gameweeks come around.

So who should we bring in as cover for our missing stars? Well, in midfield I like Phil Foden a lot on current form, but also don’t hate Jérémy Doku or Kevin de Bruyne, both of whom are back in action and likely to see their prices absolutely skyrocket once they start scoring again. They could be not only good replacements in terms of points, but also in terms of earning some extra spending money down the road.

I’m also pretty interested in Richarlison, who is now likely to become the focal point of the Spurs attack. There’s a valid question to be asked about how effective that attack will be with Son away, but if they score any goals at all there’s a pretty solid chance that the Brazilian will be involved, and he seems to be getting back to form too. Alternatively, I quite like Moussa Diaby at Aston Villa, as they have a pretty good run of fixtures coming up, as do Brighton & Hove Albion, so if you need a defender to replace Alexander-Arnold, then you can do a lot worse than Pervis Estupiñán. Otherwise, this is a good chance for anyone who doesn’t have players like Cole Palmer or Pedro Porro to correct their error and buy in.

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But there’s still one big question remaining – the one concerning Erling Haaland. He may well be back for Manchester City’s match against Newcastle United on Saturday, but then again he may not. Pep Guardiola isn’t great at being up front about such things in his pressers, but keep an eye out just in case he decides to be honest for once. If Haaland is back and likely to start, then this is the perfect time to bring him back in. If in doubt, however, we’d wait a gameweek, but do be aware that when he does return his price will shoot up quickly, so don’t be caught on the wrong side of a big price rise. He’s only dropped by £0.1m in his absence but rises tend to come faster and harder than falls.

Captain picks, price changes and injury updates

I’ve covered the most important injuries already, but there are quite a few yellow triangles sloshing about too, so look out for updates on the conditions of Gabriel Jesus, Vladimír Coufal, Manuel Akanji, Christopher Nkunku, Charlie Taylor, Pau Torres, Oliksandr Zinchenko and Anthony Elanga, among others. Michael Olise is almost certainly out for a couple of weeks at least too, and Callum Wilson won’t play again until February. Somewhere out there, a player’s entire team, has been nuked – if that’s you, I forgive you for playing your wildcard.

As for price changes, it’s worth noting that despite being the two most-sold players this gameweek, Salah and Son have only dropped in price once. This is similar to the price change pattern we saw with Haaland when he got injured, which was much smaller than expected. It may be that FPL are intentionally slowing the rate prices drop for highly-owned assets in order to prevent negative play experiences. It’s worth noting that this makes selling either even worse for players who bought them when they were much cheaper, and would make us lean towards holding on when possible – but also makes it less painful for players who bought them at peak prices.

If they are going to drop more before Friday, we haven’t seen the evidence – but Hwang is about to drop, as are Harry Maguire, Joachim Andersen, Marc Guéhi and Kostas Tsimikas. Porro is close to gaining another £0.1m so if you’re bringing him in, do it soon. Estupiñán and De Bruyne could go up before the weekend too, although I’m less confident there.

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This is also an interesting week for our captain chips, with the usual suspects either out of potentially out in the case of Haaland. We like Cole Palmer quite a lot given his recent form, while Bukayo Saka and Ollie Watkins are reliable enough back-ups, although it’s worth noting that Palmer scores big more frequently – it also doesn’t help that Arsenal are on pretty awful form and Villa play an Everton defence who were doing exceptionally well not that long ago. Palmer is our first choice.

3 Added Minutes FC

Finally, a quick update on our example team, 3 Added Minutes FC, which had a huge 103-point week in Gameweek 20 that catapulted us back into the Top 1,000 after a tough Christmas period saw us drop down to 4,000-odd.

Fantasy Premier League

That said, I’ve got three red triangles and an orange to worry about, but I also have two free transfers so the plan is to follow my own advice and transfer Son and Bowen out, likely for Doku and either Richarlison or Foden, but I’ll be waiting for press conference updates before making a final decision. I’ll also take a -4 hit to bring Haaland back in for Alexander Isak if we know the Norwegian will play – otherwise I’ll hold my powder until next week, with the expectation that I’ll make the transfer quickly to avoid getting caught out by a price hike.

That’s all for this week – best of luck to all of you, and may all of your international players be back in England soon. Never before have so many FPL players caught themselves rooting so hard for Malayia and Mozambique to drop some upsets in the group stages. See you in a fortnight for Gameweek 22.

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