Stag’s Take – Gameweek 34
I write this column on the eve of the much anticipated double gameweek (DGW) 34 when the figurative Titanic upon which the FPL Community is voyaging has scraped a number of icebergs. The damage is measureable in zeroes and multiples of four but the stress, angst, sleep deprivation, and other issues are, as always, incalculable.
Yes indeed, players which we buoyantly added to our squads have suddenly become sunk costs: Valdes – injured, Fabio – Injured, Rojo – Injured, Ibrahimovic – Injured. It’s a nightmarish scenario, with many teams owning three of those listed.
I went into great detail about Boro’s defence on Fanfeud’s Weekly Fantasy Football Show on Monday, which you can find linked on my Twitter, FPL Stag. I concluded that Gibson (5.0) and Ayala (4.8) are Agnew’s nailed on centre-backs, who you can count on to play both of their DGW fixtures. Valdes has unfortunately been ruled out of at least the Bournemouth game on Saturday due to his rib injury, but he may return for the Sunderland game while Fabio faces a late fitness test for the weekend. In the case of the Brazilian, I suspect that he will not play both of the DGW matches, with Friend marshalling the left in one of the games. Regardless, Fabio may be your best full back option as uncertainty reigns supreme over whether Chambers will immediately start after returning or if Barragan will hold his spot on that flank. Valdes provided us with an easy remedy to the Middlesbrough defence headache, but he’s gone too. For those that have Valdes, I don’t recommend allowing your knee kick out. Instead, start him and see if he makes the Sunderland game; that’s when ‘Boro were most likely to keep a clean sheet anyway given that the Black Cats have scored just twice since gameweek 25 (both last weekend) and they have just ten goals on the road all season.
I’ve avoided assessing the worst damage to the ship for long enough – What striker should we try to have now that Ibrahimovic is almost certainly ruled out?
I quickly ran the numbers to compare Palace’s Benteke, ‘Boro’s Negredo, and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. I used a combo of season data and the last six GWs for the former duo and just took the last six GWs for the teenage sensation as he has recently begun to play like himself again in that period.
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For the season, it’s clear than Benteke has the better of Negredo. He has scored more and has a far better minutes per goal ratio and minutes per attempt ratio. However in the last six gameweeks, the comparison tightens up. Negredo’s minutes per attempt has plummeted along with his minutes per touch in the box. Furthermore his goal involvement at 50% is at peak-Siggy levels and can’t be discounted. That said, Benteke’s underlying statistics have improved quite a bit too and he has in-form teammates to supply him. I haven’t really discussed the boy-wonder yet. Rashford has played just over 200 high octane minutes between the Chelsea and Anderlecht games, scoring twice and also assisting Mkhitaryan’s early opener against the Belgian outfit. On form, for sure… but fatigued? I’ve seen arguments suggesting that he has had “a season of rest” so he should be expected to face Burnley on Sunday followed by the derby: in my opinion, no way. Martial and Rooney will be used against Burnley, with Rashford deployed later. He must be saved to take on City, and City have been pretty good defensively of late as you can see in the table below.
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However, when you take opposition and external factors like fatigue and competition for positions into account, Negredo is the obvious option. Benteke cannot be relied upon against Spurs who are the gold standard among DGW opposition in all my chosen defensive categories. Meanwhile his former club Liverpool seem to have been riding their luck in recent weeks when you look at the number of big chances they have conceded and provide fruitful prey. However they pale in comparison to the vulnerability of Bournemouth and Sunderland both statistically and empirically. Sense dictates that Rasford is a no-go with Turf Moor and the Etihad in his path and many miles in his legs, even though I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored in the latter fixture with his direct style of play and his ability to create space for himself.
So, to distil this down to the question most of you are looking to answer: Which DGW striker should you sign and captain for the DGW?
My verdict: Alvaro Negredo. (Just get Gabbiadini directly after the DGW!)
Disclaimer for potential captains in other Top Six teams:
There is a chance that the likes of Hazard, Alexis, Costa, Alli, and Kane may get limited minutes in GW34 due to their FA Cup commitments post deadline but prior their own GW34 fixtures. Worse still, they could even pick up a pesky injury. I can’t see them being rested in the cup as none of the managers can afford to rest key men when playing against their biggest rivals - it’s too risky from a PR point of view!
I’ll add just one additional choice here as I believe that Negredo and Benteke should be streets ahead of any other captain options. I implore you to captain a DGW player as you increase your probability of getting returns!
Roberto Firmino (Crystal Palace H)
Crystal Palace’s recent defensive solidity has been largely credited to Mamadou Sakho. The clash at Anfield on Sunday will reveal to us how true that assessment is and I suspect that the Eagles’ wings will be clipped by a free-scoring Liverpool. In the absence of Mané and Lallana, it has been the Brazilian duo of Coutinho and the recommended Firmino who have inspired The Reds’ continued campaign towards Champions League qualification. I have favoured Firmino for my own team because he has been scoring well in the FPL sense with returns for five GWs in a row which are backed up by good underlying stats:
Last four GWs:
5 Shots in the box
6 Shots on Target
18 Touches in the Box
12 Key Passes
However as I said, you really should captain a DGW player!!!
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Stag has been providing #FPL Tips since July 2015 and has been a contributor for Rotoworld.com since August 2016. He is a self-proclaimed wannabe fantasy football genius, student, and die-hard tea enthusiast.