Neal Thurman

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FPL Draft Recap - Week 7

Thursday, October 5, 2017


There’s a lot to say about Manchester City’s win over Chelsea in Saturday’s feature match-up but I’m sure that others have already done the once, twice and three times over on that one.  What struck me from the weekend is that, as much as everyone seems to have wanted to push Liverpool into the “elite” conversation, they appear to have regressed from their frustrating form of last season.  For all of the exceptional reputation, Jurgen Klopp doesn’t seem capable of organizing a defense or figuring out a Plan B on offense when his very potent, but erratic, Plan A isn’t working.

 

Let’s recap what we expected of Klopp upon his arrival into the Premier League:

  1. Tactical Acumen – his high pressing “heavy metal” football was supposed to put him in the category of Mauricio Pochettino as someone who elevated his club above the resources available after he went toe-to-toe with Bayern Munich and their immense spending power for multiple seasons.
  2. Player Development – the reputation that he brought from Dortmund was one of a manager, again like Pochettino, who could mold talent into his own image and have B players put in A efforts either individually or collectively.
  3. Finding Diamonds in the Rough – along with developing the kids, Klopp was lauded for his ability to identify bargains in the transfer market, attract them, and then get the most out of them.  By the time a big club like Bayern came with crazy money for the diamonds he uncovered and polished, he already had the next one ready to go.  Lewandowski became Aubameyang became Dembele, etc.

 

Now, as we look at Klopp, I’ll be the first one to admit that it is WAY too early to render an opinion on his ability to find transfer bargains and have them ready to compete at the top level.  That takes some time.  Maybe Dominic Solanke will be the next player on the assembly line.  Maybe Andrew Robertson, after a year to get his feet under him, will be an exceptional outside back.  Maybe he’ll develop Divock Origi into the player that Liverpool thought they were getting when they purchased him. 

 

The real concern for those on Merseyside should be that we have much more evidence on the other two fronts and what we’ve seen hasn’t been impressive.

 

From tactical standpoint, Klopp doesn’t seem to have a Plan B.  If the criticism of Pep Guardiola last season was that he was stubborn with his approach despite not appearing to have the players to play his preferred system, then the same and more appears to apply to Klopp.  Klopp’s system seems to be Klopp’s system and, unlike City, Liverpool aren’t just going to spend their way to matching the squad to their manager’s preferred style of play with A-list players.  When opponents concede possession and force Liverpool to break them down they seem to do nothing more than reverting to shooting from distance.  Coutinho hit a screamer from long for their lone goal against Newcastle but for good teams that’s not a game plan, that’s a bonus.

 

Of perhaps even more concern is that Klopp doesn’t seem to be great at “coaching ‘em up” as American football pundits would call it.  He’s now had enough time with this squad to make it clear that, with the possible exception of Adam Lallana (who, in fairness, was pretty good for Southampton), he hasn’t turned any of Liverpool’s high potential players into world-beaters. 

 

You’d hope, based on Klopp’s reputation, that guys with talent who hadn’t quite put it all together like Emre Can, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Alberto Moreno would spend time under his wing and come out the other side being closer to the stars they were projected to be.  Instead, there’s been a fair amount of stagnation.  None of the defenders has emerged as anything other than what we thought they were when Klopp arrived.  Guys like Can and Wijnaldum haven’t really improved after over a year under the German’s tutelage.  Really, it’s hard to pin down any single player who is significantly better than he was before Klopp arrived.

 

Before I get a bunch of angry emails from Liverpool supporters, I want to be clear, this is normal.  Managers, outside of a few truly outstanding ones, rarely make THAT big a difference.  A manager can certainly make things worse.  Usually, a manager gets out of a club what management puts in in the form of transfer fees and wages.  Liverpool have invested modest sums for a team with “elite” aspirations and they’re getting what is to be expected.

 

The point of all of the above is to point out that while Klopp is a great personality, he’s probably on par with guys like Wenger in terms of his ability to coax results from a squad.  When he has the tools, and it seems reasonable to suspect that others at Dortmund were behind the pipeline of excellent acquisitions, he’s done very well.  When he doesn’t have exceptional tools, he’s done OK.  He’s not a savior.  He’s not necessarily even that much above average as a manager. 

 

As we look at Liverpool players as both fantasy prospects and the club overall as a contender for honors domestically and in Europe, we should keep this in mind…and maybe put some pressure on the powers-that-be at Anfield to spend some of their money on a back office team that can mirror what Klopp benefitted from at Dortmund.

 

On to the team-by-team analysis.

 

Arsenal

Nothing too exciting to see here.  Arsenal dispatched with a lesser opponent at the Emirates in fairly mundane fashion.  Honestly, the only really interesting news at the Emirates right now is that Mesut Ozil seems to be on the outs.  Arsene Wenger has mentioned Ozil’s health as being good multiple times over his past few press conferences and yet pundits on TV, at least here in the US, continue to equate the World Cup winner’s absence with a phantom knee injury.  One way or another there’s something fishy going on and given the performances, I’d err on the side of assuming that this is ego (and January transfer price)-saving move from Wenger rather than another questionable set of results from the physio team. 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Danny Welbeck.  He may have been injured and played no part but if he returns, as expected, after the international break you have to think he’s going to start.  If he’s not healthy then Alex Iwobi seems like the next man up in this category and the line-up.  Oh, and Monreal is the 3rd top scoring defender in the PL.com format, not bad for a guy who theoretically lost his spot over the summer.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Ozil

 

Bournemouth

As the weeks pass, things just don’t seem to be improving for the Cherries.  Leicester City were an eminently beatable team and Eddie Howe’s men could barely register a shot on target let alone an actual goal.  That’s the discouraging thing from a fantasy point of view.  As the season ended last term, there was cause for hope in the form of attractive football, chances, and, ultimately, some goals.  This season the struggle is to even create chances.  This isn’t a team of Nathan Redmond’s shooting frequently to no avail, they aren’t even getting that far.

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: At least they kept a clean sheet which gives hope to those who invested in a defense that performed well last season.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Everyone going forward who hasn’t been able to score with an emphasis on Ryan Fraser who seems to have fallen out of the running for first team time.

 

Brighton

Not a particularly impressive showing against a top opponent on the road.  At some level that’s to be expected but given the frailties that Arsenal have shown season after season you’d at least liked to have seen some peripheral stats – chances created, shots on target, etc. – that indicated that there was some hope. 

Fantasy Stock Rising: No stock rising from this one.  

Fantasy Stock Falling: Anthony Knockaert another match where Brighton needed someone with physical talent to give them hope of a counterattacking goal and yet Knockaert wasn’t in the line-up.  The only reason I wouldn’t have included him here is that I’m not sure there’s much further down for his stock to go.

 

Burnley

A great win on the road at Goodison Park.  Was it only last season that we were saying that the Clarets couldn’t win on the road? Now four matches into their road schedule and they’re undefeated with eight points from a possible twelve.  Somehow, they’ve also become more prolific on the road.  With all due respect to small sample sizes, the Clarets have scored six in four matches on the road while only having scored one in three matches at home this season.  Maybe time to reevaluate our assumption that Burnley players are only valuable at home.  By the way, that away point total puts Burnley behind only City, Spurs, Chelsea, and Watford for road points with the caveat that half of the teams in the league have only played three matches on the road.  Even so, only one other team (Manchester United) can pass them once they play their fourth road match.

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Nick Pope’s stock continues to rise with four saves on top of his clean sheet while Stephen Ward picked up an assist and a clean sheet in the victory.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Robbie Brady still hasn’t really lived up to the expectations we had for him.  Despite the win, he failed to produce so much as a chance created or a shot on target.

 

Chelsea

Personally, I put this one down as more of a Manchester City win than a Chelsea loss.  It wasn’t as if this was domination.  City were certainly the stronger of the two teams and once Alvaro Morata went out of the match they were a bit lost.  One wonders why Michy Batshuayi wasn’t called upon given his strong work as a substitute and the fact that he is much more of a like-for-like replacement for Morata than Willian could hope to be.  To be sure, Chelsea are just slightly off the pace they set last season.  There’s no shame in losing 1-0 on a great goal to this City team even at the Bridge but combining that with the nil-nil draw against Arsenal and you start to have some evidence of cracks.  Still top four? Certainly.  Legitimate title contender? Maybe not quite.

Fantasy Stock Rising: You have to expect that with more time, and a weaker opponent, Michy Batshuayi will get his chance while Morata sits for upwards of six weeks.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Outside of the obvious Morata, the Chelsea defense outside of Cesar Azpilicueta has been uninspiring.  After likely being drafted pretty high, there just hasn’t been enough consistency among the other defenders to merit those positions.  Managers will have interesting decisions given the proliferation of mid-table defenders who have been far more reliable and productive.

 

Crystal Palace

You’d think it would get better eventually but it just hasn’t.  Oh, and Chelsea greet the Eagles when everyone returns from the international break.  It’s hard to see a scenario where that goes well for anyone but the Blues.  Oh, and Zaha is apparently not as close to a return as rumored and Christian Benteke is out for six weeks.  When it rains…

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Bakary Sako lined up as a forward in Benteke’s absence which at least represents some potential value with a midfielder playing forward.  Ordinarily that would be pretty exciting but for a team that isn’t creating many chances and isn’t converting any of the little they do create it’s hard to get too excited.  Mostly, I just felt bad about saying that no one’s stock is rising for yet another week.

 

Fantasy Stock Falling: I stand corrected, Benteke’s stock did go down from when he just wasn’t scoring goals.

 

Everton

If ever there was a case study in how valuable a potent forward is, this season’s edition of the Toffees is it.  With Romelu Lukaku gone Ronald Koeman’s side have to be more creative in creating scoring opportunities and despite improvements elsewhere in the squad they’re showing just how difficult that is in the top flight.  Granted, they went from having a premium forward to maybe not even having a single average forward but still distressing how badly they underestimated the impact the loss of Lukaku would have. I guess it also doesn’t help that they spent all of their money on three relatively unathletic #10s who can’t play together.  Other than Rooney which always looked like a bad idea, neither Klaassen nor Sigurdsson was a bad purchase but they certainly seem to be duplicative. Maybe things look better when Bolasie returns but that’s still a ways off.

Fantasy Stock Rising: Maybe the breakthrough is coming for Gylfi Sigurdsson.  Despite being shut out by Burnley the Iceland international delivered six key passes and had a shot on target.  Keep doing that and the assists and goals will come.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Everton goalscorers.  Even down the table at Swansea Sigurdsson has had competent goal-scorers on the other end of the chances he creates.  Not so much since his arrival at Everton.  The quality of the finishing will be the one big question for Sigurdsson’s fantasy season.

 

Huddersfield Town

Have faith fantasy managers.  Yes, it has been since Week 2 that bald sensation Aaron Mooy registered points for something other than participation and the occasional clean sheet in the PL.com scoring format.  And yes, the Terriers were completely overwhelmed by Spurs in Week 7.  Still, Mooy has been creating chances as a strong pace and eventually those chances will be converted.  As long as you’re only counting on him to be a complimentary piece in a draft squad and not a star then you should keep the faith.

Fantasy Stock Rising:  Steve Mounie should return after the international break and, after three weeks out injured, he should be a consideration for a spot start in Week 8 against a modestly talented Swansea side.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Jonas Lossl has been very good but the Spurs result was something of a reality check.  I’d still be starting him in Week 8 against Swansea but with Manchester United and Liverpool up after that I might be considering my alternatives.

 

Leicester City

The Foxes were a disappointment in Week 7.  With the “tough opposition” crutch removed they still looked poor and Craig Shakespeare started looking a lot like 2016-17 Claudio Ranieri benching Riyad Mahrez despite needing goals.  I promise you that whatever the issues are at Leicester City, dropping Mahrez is not the answer.

 

Fantasy Stock Rising – We’ve been waiting for Demarai Gray to get a chance for a long time and he seems to be getting more of a run.  The problem is that he’s not really producing much of anything.  Still only 21-years-old, there’s time for things to come together if he continues to get minutes.

Fantasy Stock Falling – Mahrez’s benching was surprising and if it was something more than a one weekend blip then it will be of concern to everyone who rejoiced when he stayed in the Premier League after the Transfer Window closed in August.  

 

Liverpool

I think I’ve covered Liverpool’s fortunes overall.  There is still plenty of talent there but just enough to be infuriating when it doesn’t click quite as often as you’d expect against mediocre teams.

Fantasy Stock Rising: You’d want to say Sturridge here after he got the start but given the results I wouldn’t want to put too much stock in that being anything other than a wake-up call to Firmino.

Fantasy Stock Falling: I remember trading emails with Mark Sutherns of Fantasy Football Scout and PremierLeague.com fame over the summer with each of us taking strong positions on which of James Milner (Mark) and Andrew Robertson (me) was the Liverpool left back to own.  Turns out we were both wrong and both of those players have been virtually worthless for fantasy purposes this season.

 

Manchester City

The goal was what got the headlines because it was a good goal but if I’m taking anything away from City’s win at Stamford Bridge then it is that City are much better than expected defensively.  Beating Brighton and Palace without conceding is nice and all but given what we’ve seen it’s hard not to be very impressed by similar defensive efforts against Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford.  I picked up John Stones on waivers between Week 6 and Week 7 in our “Clash Across the Pond” draft league and, frankly, I was stunned he was available.  He has started six of seven matches and has five clean sheets in those six starts.  With Stoke City, Burnley, and West Brom next up you have to expect there will be at least two more clean sheets out of those three matches.  

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: With all due respect to Stones, Ederson, and the rest of the City defense, Fabian Delph who had virtually zero fantasy value as the season began now has some fantasy value.  Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane are also temporarily on the rise as Sergio Aguero’s injury makes both logical starters.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Benjamin Mendy is expected to be out for most to all of the rest of the season and Sergio Aguero  is out for the next five or six weeks which puts their value at almost nil and diminished respectively.

 

Manchester United

Not too much to be said here as United crushed hapless Crystal Palace. 

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Despite an early-season challenge from Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford looks like he’s going to start regularly.  He continues to show that he can adapt and play in a wider role and be productive.  That’s good news for those who took the risk on him in drafts when his prospective playing time was a huge unknown.

 

Fantasy Stock Falling: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has only had one match this season where he’s contributed the minimum 2 participation points (Stoke City in Week 4) but the trend is still not great.  After a scorching pace in Weeks 1-3 with five assists not only has he not assisted on another goal (despite United scoring 11 of them) but his chance creation stats are going in the wrong direction and he just isn’t passing the “eye test” when you watch United right now.  You’re not dropping him but you’re certainly not as excited about him as you were un late August.

 

Newcastle United

Another strong effort from the Magpies against a squad that, on paper, is certainly more talented.  From a fantasy standpoint, there wasn’t much to get excited about other than the return of Jonjo Shelvey and his incisive pass to put Joselu through from their only goal.  More importantly, the performance against a talented side lends credence to the notion that the Newcastle defense is going to be tough all season. 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Jonjo Shelvey is always a ticking time bomb that could explode fantasy goodness like his assist against Liverpool or misery like his red card in Week 1.  Regardless, he hadn’t figured since Week 1 which puts his stock on the rise with a strong performance.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Matt Ritchie still just isn’t creating chances or shots on target at the rate that indicates that a breakthrough on the counting stats (i.e., goals and assists) is coming.  This is looking a lot like his debut Premier League season at Bournemouth.

 

Southampton

I feel like a bit of a broken record with the Saints. Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond are doing their part as supporting players but neither seems capable of doing it on their own and, like Everton, there is no focal point to help all of the pieces click.  The defense has seemed solid for most of the season but not Burnley-solid which means things are looking pretty grim.

Fantasy Stock Rising: Virgil Van Dijk started his first match of the season which puts his stock on the rise if not in great shape.  Upcoming fixtures against Newcastle, West Brom, and Brighton all feel like clean sheets are on the table.  Shane Long’s stock is also on the rise after capping his 3rd consecutive start with a goal in the loss.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Manolo Gabbiadini seems to have given way to Long after coming off the bench for three consecutive matches.  Combined with the overall attacking struggles at St. Mary’s and his value is falling off quickly.

 

Stoke City

The Potters bounced back nicely from the drubbing against Chelsea to pick up three solid points against Southampton.  It wasn’t so much the scorers – Diouf and Crouch – that intrigued but those who created with Choupo-Moting and Shaqiri providing assists.  Choupo-Moting has been playing well and Shaqiri has been healthy.  Neither are midfield stars but both are proving to be solid players to have in a draft league midfield after coming into the season with huge question marks.

Fantasy Stock Rising: Shaqiri’s surprising health is perhaps the biggest storyline out of the Bet365 Stadium.  It will be fascinating to see what a full season of Shaqiri looks like from a statistical standpoint if he can stay healthy for, say, 32 to 34 matches.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Saido Berahinno earned and then failed to convert a penalty against the Saints.  Not good for a guy who looks like he’s just not going to come good.  Seems likely that some Championship team is going to get a 20-goal scorer at that level either on loan or permanently before we see a resurgence in the Premier League.  If MLS and the Premier League were better at sharing player across complimentary seasons (August – May for the PL and March – October for MLS) then Berahino would be an obvious candidate for a temporary move to MLS to get his career back on track.

 

Swansea City

The Swans have been hanging tough with limited talent this season but a loss to West Ham isn’t a very good look.  Regardless of the scoring format that you’re looking at, it seems clear that there just isn’t much happening for the Swans, fantasy-wise, outside of an organized defense.  Fabianski, Naughton, and Fernandez are OK fantasy options overall but shouldn’t stick out as the top three fantasy point-getters on a Premier League side.

Fantasy Stock Rising: Wilfried Bony played 45 minutes and got a shot on target but the tepid-ness of that performance gives you a sense of how hard it was to find someone whose stock is rising at Swansea right now.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Renato Sanches was given another 90 minutes (yay) and did a little more (2 key passes) with it but the overall lack of quality in the Swansea attack doesn’t give you good feelings about his potential regardless of playing time.  Oh, he also picked up a yellow card (boo).

 

Tottenham

I recall getting into some arguments in pre-season about the viability of Harry Kane as the first overall pick in drafts based on the disproportionate impact of the goals he scored late last season.  Can we please put that to rest?  Kane may or may not end up as the top goalscorer in your fantasy format but combining talent (lots) and opportunity (Spurs aren’t going to start Llorente too often) he’s the presumptive top pick in your fantasy draft as long as he’s healthy and no one brings in a Neymar-level superstar to the Premier League.

 

Fantasy Stock Rising: Davinson Sanchez has started four matches and has three clean sheets.  Looks like Spurs are on the 3-man-central defense bandwagon and Sanchez is going to score well at the center of it.

Fantasy Stock Falling: As a big investor in Son across multiple draft leagues, it pains me to admit that it just doesn’t look like he’s going to get the playing time to be a useful fantasy option this season given limited squad sizes.

 

Watford

Another week and another excellent effort from the Hornets.  They didn’t win but they came back from two goals down to earn a difficult away draw at the Hawthorns.  Richarlison was again the hero late and Abdoulaye Doucoure scored his third goal of the season to start the comeback.  Hands up everyone who had those two as useful fantasy players coming into the season?  Hands up everyone who even knew that either of these two existed?  Future Arsenal Manager Marco Silva certainly seems to know how to unearth talent on the cheap.

Fantasy Stock Rising: After a strong first four weeks, Doucoure looked like he might not be able to sustain his performance with consecutive performances with yellow cards and very little else to show for 90 minutes on the pitch.  He responded with a goal and a strong performance in Week 7 and lent credence to the fact that someone in your league should be starting him. Troy Deeney also got his first start of the season – he didn’t do much with it but it’s progress.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Miguel Britos was back from his suspension but didn’t figure while Andre Gray was a substitute after starting five consecutive matches and scoring in Week 6.

 

West Brom

I was having a conversation about the concept of team dictating opportunity.  I wrote an article about Jese’s potential value being less tied to his inherent talent and more to the ability for his Stoke City teammates to produce opportunities for him.  I bring this up because West Brom, despite a solid start to the season, seem to be a similar story.  Ahmed Hegazi’s crazy two match start to the season aside, this group just doesn’t produce fantasy points at volume.  Given their results in the real world, there’s clearly no crime in that but for fantasy managers, the fantasy events (clean sheets, goals, and assists) just aren’t coming and the playing time is being spread out over so many players that what points do happen are hard to predict from week-to-week.  

Fantasy Stock Rising: Salomon Rondon is a perfect example of the above with a surprise start and a goal seeing an unexpected source picking up a significant chunk of the available fantasy points for Albion in Week 7.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Ahmed Hegazi is looking like a mirage rather than a breakout star.  The goal was always an anomaly but Albion just aren’t as defensively stout as you’d expect from a Pulis side with only three clean sheets in seven despite an extremely favorable early schedule.

 

West Ham

Back from the brink with two home wins from their past three home matches with the loss being a credible effort against Spurs.  Despite keeping three clean sheets in their past four I’m not sure I’m buying in as the level of competition improves however it is worth noting that it won’t be improving significantly from an attacking standpoint for the month of October.  The Hammers face off with Burnley, who are good but not potent in the attack, Brighton, and Crystal Palace before November brings Liverpool and a trip to Watford.  It might be worth picking up an Aaron Cresswell or Joe Hart if you’re looking for bargains.


Fantasy Stock Rising: The entire defense and Joe Hart fit the bill while Manuel Lanzini could push the attack forward after playing his first minutes in the league since August after coming on against the Swans.  If Lanzini is back after the international break things could pick up at the London Stadium.

Fantasy Stock Falling: Will it be Andre Ayew who makes way for Lanzini’s return? They certainly aren’t like-for-like so it could also be that Andy Carroll is pushed back to being an impact substitute where he’s less likely to be injured.

 

My hope is that, on the topic of Fantasy Point Opportunity, I’ll publish a breakdown of each club in the Premier League and how well (or poorly) they’ve produced fantasy points through seven matches.  It may end up being obvious but I’m sure there will be some interesting insights as far as which mid-table and lower sides produce fantasy points despite their real world results and which ones don’t.  If I find myself with time I’ll try to add notes about which position groups are most effective by team and how concentrated points are with a few individuals vs being spread out among a large cast or rotating characters. 



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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