Stag’s Take – Gameweek 33
Wasn’t gameweek 32 just incredible? It was one of those gameweeks where everyone’s big players popped up with goals and assists. Even the clean sheets went almost as predicted! I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway, racking up 85 points and my fifth green arrow in a row as I continue a late surge up the table.
One team that aren’t surging up a table are Arsenal Football Club. The Gunners misfired at a catastrophic level on Monday night, with a number of players delivering some of the worst performances of their careers. The game produced a number of debates. For one, Palace’s clean sheet potential for their DGW34 fixtures has been augmented somewhat. For me, the unavailability of Sakho for the Liverpool game undermines this argument hugely, especially because Palace have nearly played their way out of trouble anyway and don’t necessarily need to win those encounters to avoid relegation with other more straightforward fixtures to come. At time of writing, nearly 60,000 bosses have decided to remove Alexis Sanchez from their teams, probably in favour of funding a move for returning Spurs striker Harry Kane or to do a straight swap for the in-form Eden Hazard. With regards to the Chilean, I think selling his is rash and premature – he will still finish and create chances whether or not rumours continue to circulate about his future. The ineptitude of his teammates has likewise rarely been a problem given that that has been a hallmark of portions of every season he has spent in north London. I won’t lie, Sanchez has been less effective since being pushed out to the left wing. His production has certainly dipped. However, he has received the most passes (134) and had more touches (185) inside the final third in the last four gameweeks than anyone else (stat from @FPLBet on Twitter). I believe Monday night against ‘Boro will herald the return of Arsenal now that their top four aspirations have been eroded… it’s just what they do.
Lastly, and deserving his own paragraph, is Wilfried Zaha. Eight successful take-ons, four chances created, two assists, and 11 glorious points for those of us who had him. His performance was one of many eye-catching man of the match displays in a turbulent campaign for the Eagles. Sam Allardyce seems to have created a tactic which embraces the talents of his wingers, Zaha and Townsend, who have contributed two goals and five assists in their last three matches. Phenomenal. The latter of the pair has never been a dependable FPL option, but Zaha has yet again proven that he is a must-own for the remainder of the season.
I can’t finish my FPL talking points discussion without mentioning the game of “Strikers Bingo” that’s about to go underway from the weekend. Wildcard players in the community (and those who have planned like myself) have en masse invested in the pricey trio of Kane, Lukaku, and Ibrahimovic to lead their teams for the next few weeks. As noted, I am one of that crowd but the risks must be acknowledged. For Kane, questions will be posed until he scores again after returning from his injury. Mauricio Pochettino was bullish about Kane’s condition in a press conference this week: “...He is fit again now, available to play, he is in a good condition, he is very fresh in his body and his mind and he is very hungry to score again." That quote indicates to me that Vincent Janssen’s forgettable tenure in the starting XI will end and the team’s top scorer will return to face Bournemouth. It will be fascinating to see how man of the moment Son Heung-Min is accommodated in the team though, as Victor Wanyama is back available for selection. It was the Kenyan’s absence which prompted Poch to move to a 4-2-3-1 formation within which Son thrived on the left wing and centre-forward. With Wanyama back, will Son be the fall guy as they return to the 3-5-2 which served them so well or will he be facilitated as long as he maintains his purple patch? I look forward to keeping an eye on how Spurs’ Argentine coach deals with his abundance of fit high quality talent.
Oh yes, the double gameweeks have been confirmed too:
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@BenCrellin has provided us with the useful schedule to help you navigate your way through the season’s climatic and vital conclusion. There’s nothing I didn’t note in last week’s comprehensive look ahead towards the end of season, but it should be noted that Gabbiadini is fit to play this weekend and should be watched diligently for any signs that he can recreate his free-scoring form which he exhibited in his first few weeks in England before his injury. If he is playing well, the likely move will be to replace Zlatan with him for his consecutive DGWs. Usefully this will free up funds to invest in a midfielder for DGW37 too!
Harry Kane (Bournemouth H)
I mentioned Kane above and I can’t ignore him here either. Even having missed three gameweeks through injury, Kane still sits second in the race for the golden boot with 19 goals scored. Last season, Kane scored a hat-trick and a brace in his two appearances against the Cherries. His form this season highlights he has it within his ability to do it again. Bournemouth are struggling on the road in recent times, failing to win in their last six with an equal share of draws and losses. Meanwhile, Spurs have the best home record in the league. Furthermore, given that Bournemouth have conceded 3+ goals in 11 PL matches this season, it’s hard to imagine anything but a big score being put up at White Hart Lane as Tottenham continue their efforts to close down the gap to Chelsea.
Romelu Lukaku (Burnley H)
The league’s top scorer is the obvious choice for the armband this gameweek. I will most likely be among the majority who put their faith in Rom. A whopping 15 of his 23 goals have come at Goodison this season, while Burnley have been torrid away from Turf Moor. The Clarets have actually conceded more than twice as many goals on the road (30) compared their home games (14). It’s a no-brainer to me as the Toffees are in good form and Lukaku has been lethal.
Wilfried Zaha (Leicester H)
Last and certainly least given the fixtures of the aforementioned duo is Zaha. The Ivory Coast international has the joy of playing against Leicester in between Champions League legs, when they are sure to be resting key players as they did last weekend. I outlined his attacking prowess exhaustively last week and in the early part of this column, but that doesn’t hide the fact that it would be extremely risky to captain anyone other than Lukaku or Kane from a strictly logical standpoint. If you were to make an emotional choice for a captain, one could say that Eden Hazard will want to yet again inflict pain on Jose Mourinho when he takes on Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday. United will be between legs of a European tie as with the Foxes, and may be especially vulnerable to the Belgian’s genius.
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