Anthony O'Shea

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Stag's Take - Gameweek 23

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Stag’s Take – Gameweek 23



After a hiatus of nine days interrupted by less consequential cup games (unless you happen to be Mark Hughes or an Arsenal fan), the Premier League is back again this coming weekend, with Gameweek 23 kicking off at 15:00 London time, 10:00 eastern (Official FPL deadline one hour before kick-off).


Undoubtedly the biggest news since the last instalment of this column is the departure of one Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona. A move in the summer always seemed inevitable though I never expected it to go through in January with Coutinho cup-tied for Champions League fixtures. However, the commercial necessity for Nike to have a Brazilian star player at the most marketable club in the world for Brazilian football fans ahead of the World Cup was not something I had taken account of. Bon chance, Phil, but what now for Liverpool and those who need to replace Coutinho?





Yes indeed for the third time in a decade, the Catalan giants have raided Anfield of a star player. If we broaden that notion to Spanish giants, then that’s now four key players that have been wooed away from Liverpool in the last ten years. The gaps left by Mascherano, Alonso, and of course, Luis Suarez, were pretty clear to anyone watching The Reds in those periods and the failure to replace them ultimately led to the decline of the managers who left them go. Who does Jurgen Klopp have on hand to avoid meeting the same fate?


The reality for Klopp is that if his side are to avoid regression, they have to replace Coutinho’s goal or assist every 86 minutes this term. The manager would immediately point out that his side only lost one of the 14 games the Brazilian missed earlier this term, but the lack of creative spark in the tight cup win over Everton serves as a timely reminder that Coutinho’s 2.81 chances created per 90 in the PL added value to the attacking prowess of the now disbanded Fab Four (who's the Yoko Ono in this? Nike?).


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looks set to be the immediate beneficiary of Coutinho’s move though I don’t see him becoming a sudden fantasy gem. Adam Lallana is much more likely to be worth inclusion your side but he is by no means guaranteed minutes in the short term as he is building up from a long period on the sidelines. For the Ox’s sake, I really hope he can bag a few goals to avoid the ignominy of a young fan failing to recognise him as he did just before Christmas.


"You're Coutinho, you're Firmino, [looking at Ox] I don't know who you are"

December 21, 2017



Keep faith in Salah, who has been passed fit for Gameweek 23, and look at Firmino in the short-term if you want a second Liverpool attacker. Sadio Mané’s season is yet to take flight but you should keep monitoring the explosive Senegal international’s performances.



Regardless of everything, Coutinho heads to pastures new having never actually won a cup while doused in red. He’ll be the first player since the aforementioned Mascherano to start a league season at Liverpool that ended with winning a league title. Let’s also not forget the previous success of Jan Kromkamp who left Merseyside for PSV after one PL appearance in 2006/07, celebrating an Eredivisie win in May of that season.




Also as an aside, Virgil Van Dijk is going to be great value in FPL because of his attacking threat and the extra defensive stability he will add to Liverpool once he settles in. Watch his integration and teamwork over the next few weeks before making a decision on his acquiring him for your own side. From a defensive point of view, I don’t think Van Dijk solves all of Liverpool’s problems but I do think he will improve their record against weaker sides. Warning: That’s a purely personal point of view from watching him at Southampton, it’s hard to back point like this up without thorough video analysis!






Replacing Coutinho




This will just be a brief round-up of the cheap midfield options. I’m going to presume you already know that Raheem Sterling has ascended to a different tier of greatness and that you noticed Mo Salah’s prolific goalscoring already in compiling this list.




Paul PogbaManchester United’s best player and reliable assister this term. Three goals and nine assist already this season and decent fixtures ahead.




Jesse Messi Lingard – My favourite stat ever: Since GW14, only Mo Salah (73) has outscored Jesse Lingard’s 70 points in FPL. Wow. It’s getting to the point where you have to ignore the fact that Lingard’s greatest weakness previous to this purple patch was his conversion rate and just embrace the fact that he has improved this a lot. He now leads Man Utd players in terms of returns frequency, with a goal or assist every 88 minutes in the PL.




Kevin De BruyneThe returns have been pretty consistent for the Belgian of late, and it seems that he is completely immune to rotation. While I may now have jinxed him, he’s still a great long-term pick.




David SilvaSilva’s personal emergency has been made public at this point, though this of course does not mean that he will no longer be back and forth to Spain. Avoid for now but be ready to get him back for DGW season when it rolls around.




Riyad Mahrez – I made the enlightened decision to recommend the Algerian winger to anyone I spoke to but failed to bring him into my team ahead of GW22, paying the price dearly. Another formidable performance capped off by a goal and an assist yielded all three BAPs and 14 points. That was the 7th time he earnt bonuses for his performances this season and the fifth time in seven matches. That’s a pretty good barometer of how consistent Mahrez has been of late, if he wasn’t playing Chelsea this weekend he would certainly have been my favourite of this list. In the end, I’ve opted for Lingard but will get Mahrez sooner rather than later I suspect.






Long-term planning




I know, I know, many of you won’t want to think about the prospect of more BGW and DGW shenanigans after the catastrophic damp squid that was DGW22. 24.2% of teams captained 3 point Kane, 121,000 even Triple Captained him. It probably wasn’t much better for anyone who used their Free Hit chip in the long term either.




More likely than not, we’re going to have two matches postponed in Gameweek 28. Manchester City v Arsenal and Manchester United v Chelsea – you’d struggle to compile a more disruptive set of blanks from an FPL point of view!




There’s going to be another BGW in GW31 with as many as NINE games at risk. If betting odds are taken as gospel, we’re likely to lose four or five games then.




Gameweeks 34 and 37 are going to be DGWs to make up for the lost matches, with a pesky BGW in Gameweek 35 sandwiched in-between! BGW35 is looking like the dream use-case of the Free Hit Chip, with everyone able to use their second wildcard ahead of GW 32 or 33 to plan ahead for the DGW season.




That’s a very rough explanation of what’s to come. I’ll constantly refer to planning in this column as we move towards the DGW but I recommend following @BenCrellin to keep yourself au-fait with fixture updates as they happen. I think he deserves an honorary doctorate in the area at this point.






Captaincy Corner



Harry Kane (Everton H)




The best striker in the Premier League has another record in his sights – to be Spurs’ top scorer in the Premier League. The Englishman is just one off Teddy Sherringham on 96 and could overtake him with yet another brace. His first goals of this Premier League season coincidentally came in a brace against Everton and I’m backing him to bounce back from the DGW disappointment against The Toffees. Allardyce enjoyed a honeymoon period when he arrived at Goodison but that has recently turned sour, with an FA Cup loss in the derby to Liverpool following two consecutive league defeats.






Raheem Sterling (Liverpool A)




Man City’s season has been defined by a few “statement” results, and none stick out in my mind as vividly as the 5-0 win over Liverpool in September. Now we have the return fixture at Anfield to look forward to and I fancy another big result from the Citizens in spite of Liverpool’s slowly building momentum. Of the Man City bunch, Sterling has been the most consistent goalscorer though you don’t need me to tell you that their whole squad could just as easily outshine him on the day.


On the other side, Mo Salah’s form has never dipped this season and he has been a reliable choice for the armband. He’s an equally good pick with Kompany out and John Stones looking a bit vulnerable since he returned from injury.






Jesse Lingard (Stoke H)




The unlikely star of Man Utd’s season thus far as Lukaku has flickered, Pogba has been injured, and the rest haven’t performed. Whilst it’s obviously a risk, Stoke have had by far the worst defence in the PL this season having conceded 47 goals in 22 games. 27 of those flew in on the road, more than any other team.  My third choice here is always a risky one but Lingard certainly has both form and fixtures on his side.






Follow the entire Rotoworld Premier League team on Twitter: Neal | Steve | Andrew | Sean | Stag (me) | Ben | Galin | Nik |




Stag has been providing #FPL Tips since July 2015 and has been a contributor for since August 2016. He is a self-proclaimed wannabe fantasy football genius, a student, and die-hard tea enthusiast.








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