It’s coming. The apocalyptic blank gameweek 28 (BGW) and the lesser evil that is gameweek 26 are fast approaching. I’ll remind you all again here that you need to invest heavily in players from Bournemouth, West Ham, Swansea, Everton, West Brom, and Hull if you hope to traverse the choppy waters with eleven players in every gameweek.
Last week, I was rewarded handsomely for planning in advance. I held on to Romelu Lukaku and overlooked a number of poor performances in the lead up to Gameweek 24, instead counterintuitively giving the Everton striker my armband. His four goals rewarded my handsomely for my trouble, as did Andy Carroll as he debuted in my side. Unfortunately, the cost of overthinking my transfers with the future in mind meant that there was no place in my side for Gabriel Jesus. The youthful Brazilian delivered yet another eye-catching display to add to his fruitful first league start against the Hammers in GW23 when showed his ability to both finish and create chances. His brace against Swansea last weekend kept City’s title ambitions alive and marked him as a huge prospect for the rest of the season. It’s frustrating that we have as much uncertainty surrounding City’s fixtures and line-up as we do right now. The Citizens won’t be playing in Gameweek 28 if they overcome Huddersfield in the FA Cup on February 18, while Pep will also have to deploy his first choice eleven in the Champions League if they are to overcome Monaco. One thing that’s for certain is that City will need goals to overcome Monaco. City’s rag-tag defence will be facing the second team in Europe’s top five leagues to reach 100 team goals for the season. One could expect Guardiola to save Jesus for those games and limit his game time, given that Sergio Aguero has proven himself far more adept at punishing weak Premier League as opposed to high quality opposition. This hypothesis is supported by two stats in particular. Firstly, all 11 of Aguero’s PL goals this season have come against teams in the bottom half of the table. Secondly, City have bagged more points on average against the other Top Six teams when they have had to make do without Kun (1.85 points per game) compared to when he has led the line for them in high pressure clashes (1.47 points per game). Furthermore, the inclusion of Sergio against Non-Top Six teams is exemplified by City’s 2.34 ppg when he has played versus 2.13 without. While it’s impossible to know what Pep will and won’t do, but I personally advise caution to those considering acquiring the £9.2m striker in FPL with porous Bournemouth up next. A short term gain for the sake of a long-term loss doesn’t make sense, we need to use our transfers elsewhere these days.
Elsewhere, Gylfi’s resurrection continued as he scored against City. He appears to be back in a purple patch just in time to play Leicester, who are seriously struggling in spite of their morale boosting win over Derby in the cup. Relegation is a distinct possibility for the Foxes in what has been almost as crazy a season at the King Power as the last. Save for the GW26 clash with Chelsea, Swansea’s fixtures look set to give them a fighting chance of escaping the relegation battle, spearheaded by the Icelandic international. Siggy is currently valued at £7.4m and owned by a measly 9.4% of all teams. Neither if those figures tally with the fact that he is unparalleled by any other midfielder for shots on target at home in 2016/17 and also leads the goal contribution leaderboard for midfielders with 15 (7 goals, 8 assists). Between his crosses, his finishes and his set piece heroics, I struggle to imagine the possibilities for Siggy against the Foxes and beyond.
Beyond Siggy, there are a few other good options this gameweek. I can’t promise that they will score as well as Lukaku last week though!
Alexis Sanchez (Hull H)
Arsene Wenger claimed in a press conference on Thursday that the title race isn’t over, even though the Gunners are now a staggering dozen points behind Chelsea at the Premier League’s summit. A few slips over the last month have seen calls for Wenger’s head intensify and Arsenal fan TV mentions to go through the roof. However, in spite of all the fading hope, Alexis shines as bright as ever. The Chilean has three goals in his last five league games and failed to register an attacking return for the first time since December 26 on Saturday’s crushing by Chelsea. Hull are the next visitors to the Emirates and are currently in the best spell since August. Last week’s victory against Liverpool was an unlikely victory for the Tigers, but the result was mostly down to the ineptitude of Liverpool to translate possession into chances more than anything else. Hull’s draw at Old Trafford should be more representative of how I expect the Arsenal tie to be, except I don’t expect Arsenal to fail to score again. In that United game, the Red Devils created a string of chances but were denied by an inspired Eldin Jakupovic as well as their own profligacy finishing. I do not expect Hull to survive absorbing pressure again, nor do I expect Arsenal to wilt as they have in the face of recent challenge – they always do well when it’s too late to materially affect their own chances of success.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Watford H)
The Swede will most likely have my team’s armband this week as United go to Vicarage Road on the cusp of jumping out of sixth place. Watford have steadied their ship in the last couple of gameweeks with an unexpected win against Arsenal followed by a tight win over a mostly ten-man Burnley. However, neither of those results mask their poor defensive record in my view. In both games, Watford’s opposition spurned chances, especially from free kicks, conceding a combined fourteen chances from set pieces. Ibrahimovic is on a crusade to break as many PL records as he can while leading the line for United, and already has 15 league goals sourced from an average of 4.1 shots per game. For what it’s worth, I reckon I will be shipping Zlatan out of my team post-GW25, regardless of his goalscoring. I feel I need to have one of the premium strikers in Gameweek 26 and believe United’s fixtures are deteriorating relative to other Top Six teams from now on.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Leicester H)
For the reasons outlined above, I believe that Siggy is a must have for Gameweek 25 and into the future. However, if you’re feeling particularly brave captaining the Icelandic is an option too. It’s always risky to place your faith in player from an inconsistent team like the Swans, however Gylfi has shown us time and time again that he is an exception to most FPL rules.
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