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Stag's Take - Gameweek 22

Friday, January 11, 2019


Stag’s Take – Gameweek 22


“We kept going right to the end, they were shouting: ‘We want 10’. And we stopped them, that’s a positive for us.”

 

Those were the words of Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough in the aftermath of Manchester City’s 9-0 victory over his side at the Etihad in the first-leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final during the week. They are the words of a manager searching for a needle in a haystack, a positive in a negative mire, but they offer a great insight into how managers must feel when faced by Manchester City right now. After scoring 16 goals in two outings and (more pertinently) beating Liverpool to breathe life into the title race, Manchester City must approach the remainder of the season as 17 consecutive cup finals – first up, Wolves.

 

Wolves’ 1-1 draw with the defending champions at Molineux in Gameweek 3 when City appeared to be unstoppable was a deserved result and a credit to manager Nuno Espírito Santo which has aged like fine wine as it proved to be more than just a blip. Since then the promoted side have beaten Chelsea, Spurs, and Liverpool (albeit in the cup). If anything, Wolves actually seem to do better against the top sides who face them with no fear and suffer the consequences whereas Santo’s side have struggled to overcome bottom-half clubs like Palace, Fulham, and Cardiff in the last two months. They are encountering a problem Chelsea currently have, Southampton have suffered chronically for years, and Liverpool have now managed to remedy – failing to overcome packed resolute defences when the opposition has set out to frustrate first and counter-attack second.

 

Both Wolves and City can thus justifiably be confident in their abilities ahead of GW23. FPL Managers should not be put off fielding assets from either side in the fixture. Wolves’ defence, especially man in demand Matt Doherty, continue to return good value for their price whilst up-front Raúl Jiménez has actually embodied Wolves’ improbable form vs. the Top Six by scoring the most points of any player in the division against the Top Six so far this term (29 pts, 7 apps). As highlighted in a thread by @StatOnScout on Twitter (click to open link in new tab), the Mexican has actually return vastly better returns (average of 6.14 pts) against the Top Six whilst he has an average of just 3.71 points per game against the mere mortals in the PL. City’s assets require no introduction, but it seems like “Pep Roulette” should be in full swing again as Guardiola’s full complement of attackers are returning to full fitness. After City’s poor festive period, their players are now effective “differential” options against active FPL teams. As of the start of the last gameweek, in the Top 10k City’s most owned attackers are Sané (9.7%), Sterling (8.4%), Aguero (3.0%), and B. Silva (1.5%). Some of these players have enjoyed slight increases in their ownership since then but they should remain less than 10% owned ahead of Wolves’ visit to the Etihad. Huddersfield (A), Newcastle (A), and Arsenal (H) follow – all sides whose defences have been vulnerable this season. City attackers need to be part of any manager plotting a second-half of season revival in FPL.

 

 

Fixture Watch

 

 Three sides have standout upcoming fixtures – Southampton, Liverpool, and Everton.

 

Mo Salah has continued his good form and remains impossible to ignore as the title race continues to develop. The Reds have an injury crisis at centre-back but should be okay with VVD fit to help whoever features alongside him through a few games whilst further forward Firmino has blossomed in recent weeks.

 

The other two sides provide more intrigue and uncertainty. Southampton are undergoing a lot of changes under Ralph Hasenhuttl as he recalibrates the squad to deal with his preferred pressing style off the ball. He is also forcing personnel changes at the club – already Steven Davis and Manolo Gabbiadini have departed whilst Wesley Hoedt and (albeit irrelevant from an FPL point of view) Fraser Forster near the exit doors. Alarm bells continue to sound at St. Mary’s though – defeats against Manchester City was perhaps inevitable and a draw against Chelsea creditable, but the loss to West Ham and FA Cup draw with Frank Lampard’s Derby County (which will foist an unwanted replay on the Saints) were disappointing. Nathan Redmond has been one of the bright sparks at the club under the new regime, picking up four returns in his last five PL outings and generally looking quite dangerous although characteristically frustrating in equal measure. Shane Long seems to be the Saints’ only available striker for GW22 which may see Redmond asked to play a more important role going forward against Leicester City at the King Power.

 

Everton have now won just once in eight games and they sit outside the top half in 11th. Just this week, the club’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri voiced his concern at The Toffees’ form telling Marco Silva that the club’s league position “is just not good enough.” In the minds of many, Everton have made a lot of progress versus last season, but they actually have the same number of points as they did at this stage last term. Their fixtures offer a chance to turn the tide. FPL darling Lucas Digne and his teammates face Bournemouth (H), Southampton (A), Huddersfield (A), Wolves (H), and Watford (A) in their next five PL games – all distinctly “winnable” encounters – but they must start making their superior quality tell. Richarlison and Sigurdsson both sit outside the Top 10 for shots in the last five GWs and they are even further off the pace when you look at the quality of their chances via “xG from Open Play.” For Richarlison that figure is just 1.08 and for Siggy it’s 0.34 (worse than the likes of Paterson, Iwobi, Bissouma, and Calvert-Lewin. The Bournemouth game is a litmus test of their FPL prospects going-forward and should be closely monitored.

 

 

West Hammered

 

Just when you think that Manuel Pellegrini had brought stability to West Ham and that a good core group have been built, Marko Arnautovic demands a move away from the club and shatters that perception. The Irons’ much vaunted good run of fixtures is now over – they did well from it taking in 17 points from a possible 30 in their last 10 – but now it may be time to sell as few sides face a tougher run of games. Fabian Balbuena looks set to miss more than another month with injury which will damage their defensive capabilities – he has been key to their aerial defence especially, whilst further forward only Felipe Anderson is the only attacker offering a consistent spark. With Arnautovic surely going to be sidelined after demanding to leave this week (the club are refusing to let him go), Felipe Anderson will be the only Hammer who has found the net more than four times this term.

 

 

Pogba teed-up to prove himself

 

The honeymoon is over for Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer at Manchester United. He has done extremely well to win his first five games in charge in such emphatic fashion, but now United must travel to Wembley to face Spurs in their first big test in the new era.

 

United have spent a week in Dubai training, learning to express themselves, and adopting principles under their new manager – what difference an intensive week establishing the meaning of these vague terms will make shall be the most interesting story in Gameweek 22.

 

Since OGS took charge, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba have been United’s best FPL assets. Rashford has been shooting prolifically and getting on the ball in the box regularly (he is in the top four for both stats in the last five) though Pogba has outshone Rashford by scoring a goal more (4) despite having one less shot on target (11, 10). Interestingly, in xG terms Rashford is ahead (2.64 v 2.15); those figures are barely changed when looking at xG from open play. As both players are extremely well priced compared to players with stats matching these, they should both be strongly considered even with Spurs up next.

 

Pogba is particularly well-placed to capitalise in GW22. With Injuries afflicting Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, the World Cup winning Frenchman will be faced by Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko in central midfield. The pair have performed well together over the last month but Pogba should be able to thrive against them in the “Number 10” role he has been occupying, especially when you consider that fatigue must really be catching up with Spurs who again looked leggy in their midweek cup win over Chelsea.

 

 

Captaincy Corner

 

Mo Salah (Brighton A)

 

The extremely highly-owned top scoring player in FPL visits Brighton, who are without their first-choice goalkeeper. By the day it becomes more and more difficult to justify not owning Mo Salah, who sits in the league’s top five for shots inside the box, shots on target, xG, and open play xG over the last five gameweeks where he has brought home a goal and assist combo three times. A no-brainer.

 

 

Eden Hazard (Newcastle H)

 

Chelsea, who struggle to breakdown defences, face Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle who assemble in a turtle formation and hope they can snatch a goal on the counter attack against the Top Six and “The Rest” alike. That said, the disparity in class should show and give Haz a chance to continue his stellar season of returns.

 

 

Ashley Barnes (Fulham H)

 

In doing my research for this piece, one player who appears near the summit of many attacking statistic leaderboards for recent gameweeks is Burnley’s Ashley Barnes. In spite of scoring just twice in the last five GWs, he has the same number of shots in the box as Bobby Firmino (14, joint 3rd highest) and sits behind just Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in terms of xG from open play (2.92). Fulham have improved a lot defensively under Claudio Ranieri but the Clarets must push for victory on their own patch in this relegation six-pointer. In such conditions, Barnes may prove to be a fantastic differential.

 

 

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

 

 

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, a student, and die-hard tea enthusiast.






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