Neal Thurman

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FPL Draft Recap Week 4

Monday, September 11, 2017


Now it really feels like fantasy season.  The transfer window is closed.  The temperatures here on the east coast of the US dropped to an autumnal level with crisp evenings and sunny, but not sweltering days.  For those of us well past the age where we might otherwise dread the start of another year of school and the end of another idyllic summer, this is the best time of the year.

 

It is a little jarring to realize that we’re now more than 10% of the way through the Premier League schedule which means that we should have a fairly solid idea of what to expect from the rest of the season.  We’re not entirely out of the “small sample size” woods but we’re getting a lot closer for those players who have featured (or not) regularly over each of their side’s first four matches. 

 

There is still certainly time for things to shake out as new signings bed in and managerial situations work themselves out (Frank, we barely knew ye).  Still, if you were among those thinking that James Milner was going to be a starter, four matches is probably enough to tell you he’s now in the position everyone thought he should be last season – excellent reserve with exceptional versatility.  Similarly, those who drafted a wide player from City expecting that there would be a settled pecking order among Sane, Sterling, et al it seems you’re similarly out of luck.

 

There are still questions to be answered for sure like whether Chris Wood has just been fortunate or whether he will be the sharp end of the stick that Burnley has too often lacked to go along with their tight defensive work.  He certainly has the look of a player who will capitalize on the chances created after two goals in two matches but the question is whether Burnley will get him enough chances.

 

With some questions answered and some still to be answered, the most important part of the weekend was the feast of fantasy goodness provided by a full Premier League schedule, a full NFL schedule and a beautiful weekend of fall weather.  It just doesn’t get much better than that.

 

On to the team-by-team analysis.

 

Arsenal

A great bounce back from the Liverpool debacle but it isn’t abundantly clear as to whether this was Arsenal asserting themselves as a very good team or Bournemouth being pretty horrible.  There were a few things that felt better about Arsenal’s situation.  Sead Kolasinac was back where he should be at left wing back and lo and behold he produced a clean sheet and an assist.  Arsene, please take note and don’t move him again for the rest of the season.  Danny Welbeck continues to produce (2 goals and an assist on Saturday) and, assuming that Alexis is ready to go by next weekend, will make Welbeck vs. Ozil an interesting question for the starting line-up.

Fantasy Stock Rising: Nacho Monreal looks like he’s now the first choice at the left-most CB spot in Arsenal’s 3-man center back group.  Hard to say what to do with Welbeck’s stock.  He’s certainly been way above expectations so far but with Ozil, Sanchez, and Lacazette all theoretically available next weekend it would be surprising to see him get another start.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Olivier Giroud seems to be that much further down the pecking order at Arsenal with Welbeck emerging as a clear favorite of Arsene Wenger.  If you’re playing in a Europa League fantasy game then Giroud is probably going to be a great pick along with Iwobi, Jack Wilshere and Rob Holding but hard to see him starting much in the Premier League.

 

Bournemouth

Two shots on target isn’t going to do it when traveling to a club as talented as Arsenal. What’s more worrying is that the Cherries didn’t seem particularly capable of playing the incisive counterattacking game that a club of modest means is going to have to play against bigger opposition.  There’s no shame in absorbing an advantage in possession but that can only be a sustainable strategy when you can reliably pick up a point with a nil-nil draw (the Burnley strategy) or when you can play a version of Leicester City’s game plan from two seasons ago.  Neither seems within reach for the Cherries right now.  We’ve seen them go through miserable patches before and come out the other side with enough to stay up but it certainly looks bleak after four matches.

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Hard to say anyone’s stock is rising at this point.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Jermain Defoe has a grand total of one shot on target after four matches.  He’s looking his age.

 

Brighton

Let there be great rejoicing among both Brighton supporters and those who kept the faith with Pascal Gross for fantasy purposes.  I have to admit that I had thoughts of dropping him this past week in the Togga Premier League expert competition but I kept him and am glad I did.  This is the guy that fantasy managers across the world were hoping might be this season’s answer to the “fantasy stud from newly promoted team” sweepstakes.  Aaron Mooy seemed to have stolen that thunder early but Gross looks like he wants back in the race as Anthony Knockaert, Tom Ince, and Matt Ritchie continue to lag.   

Fantasy Stock Rising: Um, Pascal Gross anyone? (Please forget that I had him in the “stock falling” category after Week 3.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Anthony Knockaert showed signs of life and solid peripheral stats but has yet to do anything substantial from a fantasy point-of-view.

 

Burnley

The names change but the results keep coming.  Out goes Michael Keane and Andre Gray and in come James Tarkowski and Chris Wood.  The interesting question, as it continues to become clear that it is more likely the system than the players who are producing the great defensive results is whether other clubs will be less likely to pay a premium for Burnley defenders on the transfer market.  Maybe Sean Dyche just knows where to find undervalued center backs but, more likely, he is just very good at putting players in positions where they can be successful.  It will be interesting to see if Keane is thought of as highly after a season at Everton.  We saw the same thing with Southampton center backs earlier in the decade (Lovern and Fonte, specifically) and I suspect we’ll see the same with Spurs outside backs in the future.  There seems to be a fine line between players who are very good and those who can be very good under the right circumstances and fairly mediocre in other circumstances. 

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Chris Wood is putting the goals in and Nick Pope came in and kept the clean sheet after Tom Heaton went out injured.   

Fantasy Stock Falling: Jon Walters hasn’t been playing much which is to be expected to some extent but moving from Stoke City to Burnley and playing less is a little bit of a surprise.  We’ll wait to hear more on Tom Heaton’s injury but there’s a chance he’ll miss some time after landing awkwardly on his shoulder.

 

Chelsea

I have to admit that despite the fact that Chelsea now look like they have a much more complete squad than they did starting off Week 1, there’s still an element of fear that is lacking in my mind as the prospect of Arsenal facing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge looms this coming Sunday.  Alvaro Morata has been clinical and the Blues have yet to see Eden Hazard at anything close to his best even after he returned to the line-up as a substitute against Leicester City.  For all of the silky skills both players possess they just don’t cause fear in me the same way that Chelsea did when Diego Costa was leading the charge.  I’m in no way suggesting that Chelsea aren’t good but that they’ve certainly lost some of the personality that made them a distinctively difficult proposition.  The combination of Costa’s fire and the work rate that Conte seemed to inspire last season was fearsome indeed.  This season? We’ll have to see.    

Fantasy Stock Rising: The above was, in no way, a slam on Morata’s fantasy value.  I had Alexandre Lacazette the better of the two high profile arrivals to the league but Morata is more than holding his own so far after taking a little while to get up to speed in pre-season.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Even with Eden Hazard not ready to start Willian dropped to the bench.  With Hazard presumably back in the mix for a starting spot as soon as next week both Willian and Fabregas will be worried about taking up residence on the bench going forward.

 

Crystal Palace

How many chances can you miss out on?  Palace should have had a point against Liverpool but for a Christian Benteke missed sitter.  The story was the same at Turf Moor with Benteke failing to convert an above average chance and Scott Dann failing to convert two or three chances that he absolutely should have scored on.  Now there’s a new manager in Roy Hodgson and we’re left to figure out what comes next for playing time, playing style, and everything else.  The names on the team sheet continue to give me optimism that this should be a solidly mid-table side but either I’ve overestimated the talent or they are such a mess organizationally that they’re getting far less than the sum of the parts.

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Either no one or everyone if you think that Hodgson will right the ship and get a bunch of massive underperformers like Benteke back to expectations.

 

Fantasy Stock Falling: There’s really no one whose stock can fall after the first three weeks so surprisingly there’s no one on this list for Week 4.

 

Everton

First, it makes sense to remember that Spurs are just better than Everton.  Still, it should be worrying that Ronald Koeman hasn’t reacted to what everyone else seems to think is fairly obvious and that’s that Everton have no pace among the current group of presumed starters.  That’s not good under any circumstances but it is a crime when going up against an opponent like Spurs who are going to challenge you to pass it out of your own end.  Without the threat of going over the top Spurs have no reason to hold back on the pressure even a little bit.  It will be interesting to see if Koeman makes an adjustment before facing another suffocating defensive side in Manchester United this coming weekend.  If you see Calvert-Lewin in the starting line-up then maybe the light has gone off for Koeman and he’s worried less about the politics of transfer window acquisitions and more about winning (or at least having a chance to win).

Fantasy Stock Rising: The stock won’t start rising until the string of high profile fixtures has concluded.  

Fantasy Stock Falling: Two weeks of renaissance followed by two weeks of looking his age or older.  If you’re in a draft league that allows trades then you probably want to think about trading Wayne Rooney before everyone forgets those first two weeks ever happened.

 

Huddersfield Town

The Terriers don’t play until later today.

Fantasy Stock Rising:  N/A

Fantasy Stock Falling: N/A

 

Leicester City

This is about what we should expect from Leicester City.  They’re going to lose more often than they win against the big teams like Arsenal and Chelsea and they should be solid against everyone else.  Jamie Vardy continues his return to high quality production after a miserable campaign last season.  Yes, it was a penalty but in fantasy they’re all good.  Perhaps the biggest concern at the King Power Stadium is how few of their recent purchases – last summer and this summer – are making an impact.  After being the toast of the Premier League for finding bargains like Mahrez, Vardy, Fuchs, Schmeichel, and Albrighton for very little they’ve gotten precious little contribution from everyone they splashed their Champions League cash on.  You could blame the loss of Steve Walsh for the well having dried up this past summer but even he whiffed the summer before.

 

Fantasy Stock Rising – So Riyad Mahrez stayed through the transfer window since last we talked so his stock is up but that’s about it.

Fantasy Stock Falling – There was a lot of excitement about Kelechi Iheahacho’s arrival but he has barely made a dent in the squad at this point. 

 

Liverpool

Yikes, from the highs of tearing Arsenal apart to being torn apart by Manchester City in the span of a single match week.  Obviously, Liverpool supporters, players and the manager will be upset about the obvious things like losing badly and losing Sadio Mane due to his red card suspension.  Perhaps the more concerning things over the long term should be Mohamed Salah’s already-disturbing trend of missing makeable chances (Liverpool should already have been up 1-0 but for Salah’s failed attempt on goal, it was not his first of the season).  The other concern is the extent to which the Reds, down a player, capitulated.  If this had been Arsenal we’d have been reading in the press for days or weeks about mental weakness.  I know we have all decided that we love Jurgen Klopp but given Liverpool’s propensity for blowing leads against mediocre teams and now capitulating after some adversity against a very strong opponent isn’t it reasonable that we start voicing the same concerns about Klopp’s management that has become cliché about Wenger’s?   

Fantasy Stock Rising: Does Divock Origi get another chance with Mane out or does Philippe Coutinho slot in for the absent Mane leaving Georginio Wijnaldum in the line-up until Mane returns?  Also worth mentioning that Alberto Moreno got another start while James Milner and Andrew Robertson watched on.

Fantasy Stock Falling: No one is dropping Sadio Mane but it is worth remembering that he is prone to the occasional fit of boneheaded-ness like this.  It and the more-frequent-than-you’d-like health concerns are really the things keeping us from talking about him as an elite wing attacker.

 

Manchester City

Well, after three weekends of making due in an unimpressive manner City finally turned on the style.  They certainly got a little lucky that Mane left his boot up for the goalkeeper to clatter into but they looked like a legitimately good team for the first time this season.  Maybe we can also put to rest the notion that Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus can’t play together successfully.  Yes, it was only Liverpool’s defense and they were up a man but that will be the sort of outing that gives them the confidence to kick on.  Also nice to see Kevin De Bruyne back to his best.

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero stock was only down in comparison to the lofty expectations that they’ve set for themselves but it is right back where it should be.  John Stones stock is also on the rise after another Vincent Kompany injury left him as a likely starter most weeks until the big Belgian returns (which could be a long time given what we’ve seen in the past).

Fantasy Stock Falling: Even with Sterling out suspended Leroy Sane didn’t get the start.  Not a good trend for a guy who ended last season on the uptick. 

 

Manchester United

The first dent in the Manchester United armor showed up during Saturday’s late fixture.  That isn’t say that United were terrible by any stretch of the imagination but Jose Mourinho indicated that Week 4 forward would be different than the first three weeks because Week 3 marked the last time for a while that United wouldn’t face a mid-week test.  Mourinho rotated what had been a steady starting group and it showed.  There weren’t glaring errors from any of those who came in but what had been as rock solid a group as we’d seen over the first three weeks looked only OK against a solid but hardly world-beating Stoke City side.  

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Despite the arrival of Romelu Lukaku and the strong early-season play of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford has been the choice as a wide attacker and has continued to make an impact.  The concerns over the summer weren’t about his talent so much as his opportunity for playing time.  If he keeps his current pace up those fears will be unfounded.

 

Fantasy Stock Falling: As soon as it looked like Juan Mata was in the starting line-up, he was rotated.  As a regular starter I love Mata’s fantasy value.  Given the uncertainty that now exists I’m a lot less in love for draft games with a limited number of bench spots. 

 

Newcastle United

It isn’t so much that they won a second consecutive match but that they did so with a second consecutive clean sheet.  Granted Swansea are decidedly in transition with Renato Sanches and Wilfried Bony barely having arrived but such are the thin margins that Newcastle will have to take advantage of toward the bottom of the table if they are to stay up.  Getting goals from defenders and Joselu doesn’t seem like a sustainable strategy hopefully it will work for Newcastle until they can figure out a more reliable method of attack.  On the bright side, unlike Bournemouth facing off against Arsenal, Newcastle did show that they understood the task against a side that was always going to dominate possession.  Despite having a mere 38% the Magpies were productive with what they had doubling up the Swans eight shots on target to four.   

Fantasy Stock Rising: Anyone who had Jesus Gamez and Javier Manquillo down in the clean sheet sweepstakes good on you.  I certainly didn’t despite the fact that they were playing Swansea.  Overall, Newcastle has looked more competent than expected at the back against bottom-half opposition so maybe there will be more value in the Magpies’ defense as a streaming option when the fixture list smiles on Tyneside.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Dwight Gayle and Christian Atsu both came off the bench and Jonjo Shelvey didn’t figure despite being back from suspension.  None are bad decisions but all are at odds with what we were expecting over the summer.

 

Southampton

I said it in the Week 3 version of this column and I’ll say it again, something just isn’t right on the south coast.  Unlike seasons past there weren’t any really high profile departures over the summer.  You’d think that a relatively young group actually left alone to grow together over a summer would improve both individually and collectively.  Not so much.  The Saints were once again miserable at the offensive end managing only a single shot on target at home against a mid-table side.  Granted there was fortune for the Hornets in scoring on two long range efforts but that doesn’t excuse Southampton’s inability to trouble the opposing goalkeeper.  At least Frank De Boer can say he was fired due to some really bad luck in front of goal from multiple players over multiple matches.  Mauricio Pellegrino can claim no such thing.

Fantasy Stock Rising: Because he got a start we’ll give the nod here to Sofiane Boufal who had been more-or-less a bystander thus far this season.  That said, he didn’t really do much to help so we’ll have to see how long the bump lasts.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Cedric Soares was brought to the south coast as an attack-minded outside back.  With very little attack being produced from anywhere one wonders at his value if he’s neither contributing to the attack nor helping much with the actual defending.

 

Stoke City

So, after a summer of worry that things might be coming apart under Mark Hughes the Potters have a win against Arsenal and tough points against West Brom away and Manchester United at home.  New arrivals Jese and Choupo-Moting both look better than those they replaced.  Darren Fletcher brings some solidity to the center of the park and should allow Joe Allen some freedom.  Xherdan Shaqiri has been more healthy than not.  None of this screams “we’re going to the Europa League” but for a ship that looked like it might be in trouble it’s certainly evidence that a top half finish might be achievable behind the top six, Everton and then Watford.  If you had offered that to Stoke City supporters in the beginning of August I suspect they would have taken it without hesitating.  

Fantasy Stock Rising: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting has a lot of words in his name and how can boast a couple of goals to his resume.  He had looked like a solid addition over the first three weeks of the season but he was a man apart on Saturday.  It wasn’t just the goals but he was dribbling through United defenders like they weren’t there for stretches of the match.   

Fantasy Stock Falling: Ryan Shawcross was out injured and Kevin Wimmer deputized pretty well in his absence.  Shawcross’ status as the captain probably means his spot is safe but the writing is on the wall as injuries mount for Shawcross and new recruits continue to arrive at the center of defense.

 

Swansea City

It was a disappointing debut for Renato Sanches.  It wasn’t just the outcome but the lack of evidence that he was even present for the match.  In just under 70 minutes of action he managed on interception and one successful cross while being dispossessed a shocking six times.  Yes, he needs to get acclimated to a new league but for someone who commanded as big a loan price as he did coming from the defending Bundesliga and European champions you’d expect a bit more from the word “go”.  I fear that this is one of those cases where a big performance against mediocre competition in a big tournament vastly over-inflated a player’s reputation. 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Not really much to love here given that the Swans were at home playing opposition that no one thinks a great deal of. 

Fantasy Stock Falling: Mike van der Hoorn had been quietly effective when it comes to peripheral statistics over the first three weeks of the season.  He was left out entirely.  Not good.

 

Tottenham

The calendar changes from August to September and Harry Kane becomes a new man.  And on this rock Mauricio Pochettino’s church is built.  Kane returning to his golden booted ways freed up the rest of his teammates to dominate a top half side in Everton.  Granted, Ronald Koeman filled out his line-up card as if someone had asked him to list the players least well-suited to play against a pressing side but you can’t blame Spurs for doing what they do against the players put out in front of them.  It continues to be a surprise that Hueng-Min Son isn’t getting many minutes but otherwise this was a strong win for Spurs heading into the Champions League.

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Davinson Sanchez started as Mauricio Pochettino joined the three-man central defense craze.  It will be interesting to see if this is just a change of pace or if Sanchez becomes a mainstay.

Fantasy Stock Falling: I’ve never figured out exactly how Pochettino rates Mousa Dembele.  At his best he’s one of the most complete box-to-box midfielders in the Premier League but he doesn’t start nearly as often as you’d expect given how good he is at his best.  Even with Wanyama unavailable Dembele lost out to Sanchez in the new alignment.

 

Watford

Marco Silva Mania continues in this little corner of Premier League fandom.  I went in on Watford being the surprise of the season based primarily on Silva and I haven’t been at all disappointed.  A second win, on the road no-less, brings them to eight points and it looks like they’ll be no worse than fifth depending on how Huddersfield Town do against West Ham later today.  The only downside for fantasy managers is that the Hornets are spreading the wealth when it comes to goals.  On top of having seven goals from six different players they haven’t gotten any from the man, Troy Deeney, expected to do the scoring.  Not exactly an easy side to figure out from a fantasy point-of-view. 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Daryl Janmaat returned and scored a goal as a substitute.  I don’t expect that he’ll score that many but the way Silva has the Hornets playing his occasional attacking contribution combined with what looks like it might be a solid clean sheet total makes him a solid pick-up.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Still only 6 minutes plus stoppage time for Troy Deeney as he looks increasingly out of favor.  If this trend continues my recommendation is to drop him and then start looking to pick him back up in early December as he’ll certainly be sold in January before he loses all value.

 

West Brom

It was all going so well, wasn’t it?  Two wins and a draw over the first three weeks and a date with a team that had barely recorded a shot on target let alone scored a goal.  A perfect script for another 1-0 PulisBall win.  About that.  Just when you think you have things figured out you get a result like West Brom losing 3-1 to Brighton.  I wouldn’t read too much into this but if you were thinking that West Brom had taken a massive, rather than an incremental, step forward over the summer this should serve as a reminder that they didn’t. 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Hard for anyone’s stock to rise too much on the wrong end of a 3-1 loss but Jonny Evans returned to the line-up so at least he’s playing now.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Chris Brunt went to the bench with the return of Jonny Evans.  With Kieran Gibbs also on hand it seems like Brunt’s position as a regular starter is at least at risk.

 

West Ham

West Ham play surprise package Huddersfield Town later today.


Fantasy Stock Rising: N/A

Fantasy Stock Falling: N/A

 

For those who also play NFL fantasy, I’ll wrap up with a few thoughts from Week 1:

  • Kareem Hunt is for real and I’ll be seeing him in person in Kansas City against the Eagles next weekend. 
  • The Eagles defense is also for real.  They won’t lead the league in fewest points allowed but they’ll rack up the sacks and turnovers this season.
  • The first two points will make for an interesting match-up next weekend.
  • I’m fascinated by the possibility of Jacksonville being better than abject.
  • The Giants looked really poor without Odell Beckham last night and no one is predicting the Cowboys to have even an average defense, let alone a good one.
  • When does the Chris Carson era start in Seattle? (if you don’t know, make your way to Google).
  • Don’t panic over the Patriots, they’ll be back where they always are come December.
  • Until Andrew Luck returns, the best defense each week will likely be the one playing against the Colts.
  • Good advice overall after Week 1, don’t panic, weird stuff always happens in Week 1, the key is figuring out what was just one week randomness and what was sustainable.

Enjoy both kinds of Monday Night Football this evening wherever you are. 



Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
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