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FPL Barometer: Shooting Blanks

Tate McIntyre

Tate is a soccer writer for RotoWire who focuses primarily on the Barclays Premier League and La Liga. He also contributes to NFL, MLB & NBA coverage. He is a former college soccer player as well as an avid supporter of Arsenal, FC Dallas and America's team: The Dallas Cowboys.

It is crucial to remain patient when assessing the fantasy value of certain players, especially in the beginning of a new season. More specifically, it is important not to cut bait too quickly after a period of light production, or to overreact to a good run of form that may be unsustainable. However, if enough indicators are present, this early portion of the season is the perfect time to move on from players who might not be living up to their preseason billing, as numerous options are proving their worth at the Premier League level and are still relatively undervalued. Injuries, changes in squad rotation and sustained patterns of production are always in play because of the week-to-week nature of the nine-month long season, and players on this week’s list are representative of each of these factors.

RISING

Odion Ighalo
Although he scored 20 goals in the English Championship for Watford last season despite starting just 22 league matches, there were questions of whether the club would permanently insert Ighalo into the starting lineup this season, or continue to use him off the bench. The Nigerian has started every match since scoring the tying goal off the bench in Matchweek 1 against Everton, and he already has four goals after Saturday’s brace in a 2-1 win over Newcastle. Ighalo has clearly become a focal point of the Watford attack, alongside Troy Deeney, and he can still be had at an extremely affordable price in most FPL formats after ascending from England’s second tier. The Hornets also have a relatively favorable schedule over the next two months, adding to Ighalo’s long-term appeal.

Danny Ings
Ings’ FPL value took a massive hit over the summer when he moved to Liverpool from Burnley, where he had 11 goals and four assists as the Clarets’ leading man last season. The 23-year-old made his first league start for the Reds last weekend against Manchester United, and he drew praise from manager Brendan Rodgers after he came on for an injured Christian Benteke to score his first goal for the club in Sunday’s draw with Norwich. Roberto Firmino was left entirely out of Sunday’s squad and Daniel Sturridge is just returning from injury, so Ings stands a real chance to run with the opportunity he’s been given if Benteke misses additional time. His value has plummeted in many formats after his slow start to the season, so Ings could make for an excellent short-term play beginning with this weekend’s home match against Aston Villa.

Anthony Martial
Manchester United came under a great deal of scrutiny when they signed Martial for nearly $56 million this summer, but he has done nothing but impress since joining the Red Devils. The 19-year-old scored a brace in Sunday’s 3-2 away win over Southampton, making it three goals in just two league appearances for his new club. The United attack has generated six goals in the two matches Martial has played after scoring just three times in their previous four, and he looks to have earned a consistent place in the team as a lone striker, with Wayne Rooney sliding back into a playmaking role. With the likes of Juan Mata, Memphis Depay, Ashley Young and Ander Herrera also providing service for the Frenchman, his torrid, yet unsustainable start could still turn into a solid run of FPL production.

FALLING

Santi Cazorla
Cazorla was one of the most popular FPL plays of the 2014/15 season among midfielders, as he scored seven goals to go along with 11 assists as a key component of the third-ranked Arsenal attack. This season, the diminutive Spaniard has just one assist to his name through the first six matches as the Gunners have scored a paltry six goals during that span. Cazorla has operated farther away from goal at times this season in a deep-lying role, but his typically sublime key passes simply aren’t translating into assists as the front players continue to struggle in front of goal. Furthermore, the 30-year-old was shown a red card this past weekend against Chelsea and will miss Saturday’s match at Leicester City. Cazorla still carries a hefty salary with him in nearly every format, and there are a plethora of alternatives capable of providing greater returns at a fraction of the price.

Joe Gomez
Gomez became a popular low-cost FPL option at the beginning of the season when he won Liverpool’s starting left back job and helped the club to three consecutive clean sheets. However, the 18-year-old was relegated to the bench last weekend against Norwich, as the Reds reverted to their 5-3-2 formation following a three-game swoon when they allowed seven goals and earned just one point. Mamadou Sakho, Emre Can and Martin Skrtel comprised the back three with the more offensively capable Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno serving as the wingbacks, seemingly squeezing Gomez out of the picture, alongside the much maligned Dejan Lovren. Can could feasibly slide into the midfield at some point, as Jordan Henderson is set to miss up to two months with a broken foot, but at the moment it appears that Gomez’s stint as a viable FPL option has run its course.

Alexis Sanchez
Sanchez was afforded time to rest at the start of the season after spending the summer with the Chilean national team at the Copa America, and he has struggled mightily to regain the form that made him a FPL stalwart last season. Through six league matches, the 26-year-old has yet to factor into a single goal and has looked more uncomfortable on the pitch than he ever did during his debut season in England. The Arsenal attack has been underwhelming as a whole, having been shut out three times already on the young season, and manager Arsene Wenger recently shook things up by replacing Olivier Giroud in the lineup because of his ineffectiveness. Sanchez is unlikely to lose his place anytime soon, as he contributes much more to the team than just goals and assists, but he simply isn’t providing the production FPL owners expect when paying top dollar for an attacker. Until the Chilean shows signs of breaking out of his slump, he is simply too expensive to roster in most formats.