The Gameweek 9 deadline is almost upon us, and with it comes the end of a long national nightmare; one characterised by boredom, confusion, and poor decision-making from the men and women in charge.
Of course, we could debate for days whether there was any sense in holding an international break during a global pandemic. (There wasn’t). But instead, let’s debate the merits of going all-in on Chelsea’s midfield.
Last week, we received the news no one wanted. Mohamed Salah (MID, £12.3M), the nailed-on, penalty-taking, explosive talisman of almost every FPL team, has tested positive for COVID-19.
The news of Salah’s positive test came alongside a flurry of injury news that stretched from the irrelevant, Matt Doherty (DEF, £5.8M), to the panic-inducing, Ben Chilwell (DEF, £6M). Indeed, it wasn’t uncommon to see FPL teams with five, six, or even seven players yellow or red-flagged.
The Free Hit even reared its misunderstood head to become a hot topic of discussion as managers scrambled to field eleven players. As I explained more than once on TikTok (@jamesadamshaw), this was never the right week to play the Free Hit — not with so many blank and double gameweeks predicted for the second half of the season. Plus, it always seemed probable that players like Chilwell and Marcus Rashford (MID, £9.6M) would find their fitness when it came time to return to club football.
Salah’s illness does, though, leave close to 40% of FPL players in a predicament: Stick with the archetypal “season-keeper”, or remove the game’s best player in the hope of finding greener pastures elsewhere?
There are good arguments on both sides of the debate. But as with anything in FPL, there’s no hard-and-fast “correct” answer. The right choice will depend on the state of your team, and your appetite for risk.
The case for retaining Salah is simple. The Egyptian is an elite athlete who’s likely to bounce back relatively quickly from the wide-spread illness. He’s also been in quarantine for over a week, meaning it won’t be long until he’s satisfied the UK Government’s protocol on isolation following a positive test. Put all this together, and there’s a decent chance he’ll be fit to face Brighton in Gameweek 10 — a prime spot to captain the little dancer.
Assuming, then, that Salah is out only for the Leicester game (be honest, you wouldn’t have captained him anyway), you’d be forced to either navigate GW10 without him or find a way to bring him back, burning two transfers in the process. Is it really worth it? And isn’t this exactly what the bench is for?
It’s a compelling argument.
The case, though, for removing Salah is even more straightforward. The very prospect of consigning a £12M player to your bench for two consecutive Gameweeks is unacceptable — not least when we have so many excellent options in midfield, including Bruno Fernandes (MID, £10.6M), Hakim Ziyech (MID, £8.2M), and Kevin De Bruyne (MID, £11.5M).
Sure, Salah could well be back for Gameweek 10, but there’s no guarantee. He’s now tested positive three times, has experienced COVID symptoms, and with Diogo Jota (MID, £6.5M) available and in-form, Jurgen Klopp is under no pressure to rush Salah’s return.
So, what am I doing?
I went into the international break with a number of fires to put out. Leandro Trossard (MID, £6M) has been an almighty flop, and I’m far from comfortable rolling with both Harry Kane (FWD, £11M) and Heung-Min Son (MID, £9.5M) for their clash with Manchester City.
But given the events of the past 10 days, I’ll be dealing with Trossard and Salah this week, before handling Son ahead of GW10. Trossard will be removed for Jack Grealish (MID, £7.5M), and Salah will be replaced with Ziyech who faces Newcastle. De Bruyne will come in for Son next week.
Ziyech was always part of the plan, likely coming in for Son in GW10. All I’m doing is bringing that forward by a week, when the Chelsea maestro has a favourable fixture in Newcastle. With £4.5M in the bank, there’s still plenty of room for De Bruyne to join the fold next week.
Good luck out there.