Stag’s Take – Gameweek 10
After a number of shaky starts by the top teams, Gameweek 9 followed the script most of us would have expected save for Liverpool’s complete defensive collapse at Wembley and Manchester United’s shock loss to Huddersfield Town.
Let’s dwell on both those results for a second and pick apart their connotations for FPL. As The Guardian put it, Liverpool introduced us to “The Art of Un-Defending” in a comical half-hour spell at the Home of Football on Sunday. Jurgen Klopp was merciful in hooking Dejan Lovren off the pitch after 31 minutes - so mystifyingly poor was his performance though the his teammates at the vanguard failed to cover themselves in glory either. The Croatian is unlikely to figure in the Premier League in the near-future, with Klopp suggesting he himself may have performed better than the former-Southampton man in his trainers. We can expect Klopp to ring a number of changes across the backline to allow for the removal of Lovren. I confess this is mere idle speculation, but this is the back four I expect:
RB: Alexander-Arnold | CB: Gomez | CB: Matip | LB: Robertson
Joe Gomez’s stint at the centre of The Reds’ defence after the Lovren substitution was more promising than the catastrophe that preceded the move, though unfortunately Klopp’s decision to move Emre Can to right-back to facilitate it was less than functional. Fan favourite and youngster TAA is Liverpool’s best option to marshal that flank as Clyne’s period in the treatment room continues. Joel Matip will probably hold onto his place for lack of a better option whilst I have a sneaky feeling that Klopp will finally give Scotland defender Andy Robertson a go in the side. The German manager needs to show fans that he is at least trying to change his side’s defensive fortunes and I believe a radical approach will be his preference. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if Karius started between the sticks also.
With TAA coming in at 4.3 in the official FPL game, he would be an especially attractive option for managers trying to make funds available for elsewhere in their sides. Upcoming clashes with wasteful opposition Huddersfield (H), West Ham (A), and Southampton (H) should provide opportunities for a clean sheet or two. However if you have the spare 0.2, Gomez would be a safer option.
As for United, the Huddersfield result came as less of a shock to those who have watched them consistently than to those who have just read about the big late wins or seen highlights. Slowly, the energy and sense has drained from United’s play recently, culminating in what could only be described as a “flat” performance on Saturday. In other weeks, one of their star forwards dug them out of a hole, usually with the clock ticking towards 90. In GW9 though, Huddersfield managed to hang on where other teams haven’t quite had the same rub of the green. With United entering a rough patch of fixtures and with Spurs en route to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon, it seems like it would be a good time to unravel a complete dependence on United players to keep you afloat. Holding a defender like the somehow fit-again Phil Jones and forward Romelu Lukaku is definitely justifiable. As for the rest, steer clear until they perk up again.
We all thought we had clarity about Spurs’ Ben Davies when he appeared in training photos late in the week, fit and well according to many sources. His subsequent benching caught many off-guard and has prompted a justified fire-sale. Where should you look instead? City’s Otamendi isn’t a bad shot though if you’re looking for a cheap thrill, a Brighton or Watford defender would be a steal for you with their upcoming fixtures – Kiko Femenía (bonus point magnet and attack-minded) and Shane Duffy (good with his head at set-pieces and bonus point hoover) would be my recommendations.
A nod must also go in the direction of Arsenal assets after the gilded trio of Ozil, Alexis, and Lacazette finally gelled against 10-man Everton in GW9, sealing the fate of besieged (now) ex-boss Ronald Koeman. Given the success of the trio together, it’s unfathomable to imagine a scenario where Wenger fails to start all three against Swansea on Saturday. Why am I mentioning this tie? Because Swansea will have no natural left-back available, with the reliable Ben Dinnery reporting that Sam Clucas, Kyle Naughton or Angel Rangel will deputise at left-back in the absence of Martin Olsson. With no pressure or expectations on Arsenal, I expect them to do will against Swansea who have offered little thus far at the back and could have lost by a cricket score to Leicester City in GW9 were it not for Fabianski’s acrobatics.
As a final word for this section of the column… how will Man. City line-up in attack this weekend? With a visit to Naples on the menu for the Citizens on Wednesday, we can certainly expect a surprise or two from Pep in whatever XI faces West Brom. Sterling and Jesus were benched last weekend though the former played a full 2 hours of Carabao Cup action in midweek, as did Sergio Aguero. Both men have to be considered doubts for GW9 minutes. His partner Jesus was substituted with City still in search of a goal with just under 10 minutes left of normal time – was Pep thinking ahead? If I was to plump for one City player, it’s Leroy Sané, who has been vital to City’s attacking penetration against packed defences in the league and also played only a short period against Wolves. He might even be a good captain shout if you’re so inclined.
Alexis Sanchez (Swansea H)
I’m doubling down on my support for The Gunners’ attacking assets by making the Chilean forward my top captain pick for this week. Arsenal’s power three have had one game together so far with a back 3 and wing-backs supporting them, scoring 5 goals in the process. The width of the wingbacks allowed Alexis to move more central, where he was able to contribute much more than the isolated left-wing where he often cuts a frustrated figure.
As we only have that one game at Goodison to go off, I think we have a lot to be excited for. Alexis had 7 shots on the day, 4 of which came in the box as well as 4 key passes. With the struggling Swans up next, there’s nothing to suggest that Sanchez can’t repeat or better his goal and assist at the weekend.
Mo Salah (Huddersfield H)
The Terriers can’t perform consecutive upsets, can they? It would be a real trick and treat for David Wagner if he could follow up a victory over José Mourinho with a result against his old mentor, Jurgen Klopp, but I don’t see it happening. Instead, I think the Reds will bounce back emphatically from the drubbing by Spurs a week ago.
As I’ve discussed before here, there’s no Liverpool player more likely to get among the goals than Salah in spite of his zany radar – the Egyptian has 5 goals and 2 assists already this term in the PL. It hasn’t been a fluke either – he has consistently been amongst the league’s most ambitious attackers, currently sitting fourth overall in the PL in shots (31), and second for efforts on goal (18).
Richarlison (Stoke H)
Weeks upon weeks ago, I praised the young Brazilian to high heaven, brought him into my side and lost patience 3 weeks later when wildcarding. Since that moment, Richarlison has delivered an attacking return every single week (4 in a row now), even after trying as hard as possible to miss spectacularly against Chelsea in GW9. As risky captains go, a Watford midfielder is a pretty high bar, regardless of form, but if you’re feeling adventurous… why not? His continual returns are pretty reminiscent of Siggy in years gone by.
Why isn’t it all a fluke? The lad has 50 points in FPL, the same tally as Raheem Sterling, off the back of 3 goals and 4 assists. He is a bit like Salah in terms of his abandon with his attempts on goal, ranking third for shots behind top strikers Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku – it’s a bit crazy, isn’t it?!
I’ve recommend quite a few left-field options in the third slot on this column before, though rarely are the stats as compelling as they are with this young man, facing the worst defence in the league. It’s a brave call, though GW10 seems to be a week where many people are going to take risks with questions hanging over the amount of time a number of the top strikers will be fit to play.
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.