The many escape routes from Eden Hazard

For many, Eden Hazard was a shoo-in for their initial Fantasy Premier League (FPL) squads. With a juicy double Gameweek, he was even a shoo-in captain for some. Now we’re hurtling towards Gameweek 3 and Hazard’s lack of points coupled with a blank fixture are seeing a mass exodus on the talented young Belgian. Here, I’ve looked at possible replacements in the premium, mid-price and budget brackets, should you be about to join the exodus.

Premium bracket

David Silva is the standout choice in the premium bracket. A like-for-like replacement at 9.3, Silva’s impressive start to the season, which includes a goal and assist in his first two games, will convince many that he is primed for handsome returns at the Etihad against Hull this Saturday lunchtime.

It’s hard to argue against him, particularly since Manuel Pellegrini’s tactics appear to be bringing out a far greater goal threat in the diminutive Spaniard, and his security of starts out wide is about as good as it gets in Man City’s star-studded line-up.

There are a couple of concerns, though. With so many options available to Pellegrini, Silva is always liable to be replaced around the 60-to-70-minute mark in games, something that we saw in City’s opener against Newcastle. This isn’t a showstopper, but it certainly puts doubts into our minds when looking at Silva as a possible captain option.

In addition, with a trip to Stoke and the Manchester derby to follow, things aren’t all plain-sailing for City. Silva can be expected to come in for some treatment at the Potters, while the clash with United could be a cagey affair.

Have I dissuaded you from signing Silva? Probably not, and why would I? He looks a great bet for points in the upcoming Gameweek, and in a week that could be low-scoring, Silva’s potential is all the more important.

Mid-price bracket

Kevin Nolan (7.2) is a hammer in more than one sense of the word. Much like an actual hammer, you know what you’re getting when you use it. Nolan is a solid and dependable FPL option who, unlike Downing and Jarvis, isn’t susceptible to the odd bit of rotation on the wings, with the likes of Joe Cole, Ravel Morrison and Vaz Te offering alternatives out wide.

A home clash against Stoke looks good on paper, with Nolan already notching in West Ham’s opening game against Cardiff. The Potters have yet to keep a clean sheet and are conceding lots of shots inside their box, which is meat and drink for fox-in-the-box Nolan, whose attempts usually come from close range. Trips to Southampton and Hull and the visit of Everton follow, so Nolan has every chance of producing the points.

Hatem Ben Arfa (7.0) is one for Fantasy managers that give everything to fixtures and little to form. With home ties against Fulham and Hull and a trip to Aston Villa, Newcastle’s next three games look dreamy, but the Magpies are woefully out of form and there’s ill feeling around the club, with friction between Director of football, Joe Kinnear, and manager, Alan Pardew, and ongoing uncertainty surrounding Arsenal’s reported interest in French midfielder, Yohan Cabaye.

So why would you invest in Ben Arfa, playing in a team who hasn’t scored in their last four at home, and a team that didn’t have a shot on target against West Ham last weekend?

He’s the one player who’s looked the most threatening for the Toon Army, the one player capable of pulling them out of their slumber. Ben Arfa’s threat has been from distance so far, but if Pardew can get him firing off efforts closer to goal, he may well return some decent points with the fixtures in front of him.

Paulinho’s appeal took off last weekend when Andre Villas-Boas fielded him as the most advanced midfielder in a new 4-3-3 system. Bursting into the box, the Brazilian had countless opportunities to open his goal-scoring account, and while he didn’t find the net, it’s surely just a matter of time.

Coming in at a reasonable 7.0 in FPL, Paulinho is a cheaper alternative to Roberto Soldado, especially if Paulinho keeps his advanced role (far from guaranteed with new signings imminent). Arsenal next up won’t be easy, but a home clash against Norwich in Gameweek 4 looks rich pickings for Paulinho and Spurs.

Budget bracket

Peter Whittingham (5.0) was dismissed by many Fantasy managers in pre-season as a rotation risk, following a spell on Cardiff’s bench towards the end of last season. I was one of them. Now two games into the new season, Whittingham has played two lots of 90 minutes, and looks integral on the left of Cardiff’s front three, with set piece duties in his armoury too. The delivery for Campbell’s opener against City was one of the best corners you’ll ever see.

Delving deeper into Whittingham’s bench role at the back-end of last season, I spoke to a Cardiff fan in the know, and it appears his lack of form and subsequent bench role was down to an ongoing injury niggle. With the Championship sewn up so early, Malky Mackay chose to introduce Whittingham from the bench, to not aggravate the niggle further. Now back to full fitness, the former Aston Villa youngster looks a good bet this weekend, with his attacking forays and set piece delivery set to cause Everton plenty headaches.

Robbie Brady is your alternative after a cracking 11-pointer for Hull against Norwich last weekend, which saw Brady confirmed on penalty duties in a new role on the left of Hull’s front three. Unfortunately, though, the former Man United man doesn’t have great timing, with a trip to Man City this weekend looking far from profitable, despite City’s collapse at Cardiff. In football, though, you just never know.

If you’re looking for ways to bring Van Persie into your squad, bringing Brady (5.0) in for Hazard (9.4) could be a shrewd tactic. Once City are out of the way, three of Brady’s next four fixtures are at home against Cardiff, West Ham and Aston Villa, so you’ll not only be saving millions, but also be able to confidently field your budget man in all those match-ups.