Stag’s Take – Gameweek 12
An international break which started with so much hope ended in utter despair for me and so the return of the Premier League is an especially welcome distraction from the pangs of sorrow I’m experiencing oh so frequently over the last few days. Yes, as a (Republic of) Ireland fan, the dream of going to the World Cup in Russia is over. The Irish bandwagon crashed into five consecutive potholes on Tuesday in our dire 5-1 loss to Denmark but at least I have some FPL thoughts drawn right from that game to relate today – you’re lucky I can even raise my head enough to type this!
I’ll start with the negative. Stephen Ward, owned in almost 20% of FPL teams and the fourth highest scoring defender in the game currently had one of his worst performances in years on Tuesday. Ward was left worse than scarlet when he was guilty of gifting the Danes the opportunity to score their second of the game. His lack of quality in attack was laid completely bare by how telegraphed his attempt to get beyond Yussuf Poulsen was. He tried and failed to flick a fairly innocuous ball over the Dane’s leg and ended up sending the opposition off in a 3v2 counter attack which result in Christian Eriken’s first of the game. After that mistake, he capitulated, never looking sure of himself and eventually scuffing a clearance in such a way that he teed up Eriksen for his hat-trick. I know a player can have an off game, but this was the sort of performance which could follow Ward across the Irish Sea to Burnley. Keep an eye on him this weekend to see if he has managed to dust himself down.
Before I touch His performance, a quick brief on the other Premier League players on display. Shane Long came off the bench and continued his near 300 day goal drought. Harry Arter was part of a two man tag-team assigned to marking Christian Eriksen and did an alright job aside from the goal in the first half before our manager decided that central midfielders are overrated and hooked the pair at the interval. That tactical blunder meant that Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark faced unbelievable unchecked Danish pressure though neither could be criticised for any particular moment. Duffy at least got on the scoresheet and underlined his goal threat from set-pieces. However, don’t count on Robbie Brady’s deliveries in those occasions. His underlying stats always look decent but any eye-test will tell you that his inconsistency with his dead-balls is very frustrating. Basically steer clear of all but Duffy.
On the Danish side, Kasper Schmeichel came to punch away the ball which resulted in Duffy’s goal but was unable to get to it though he only had to deal with one other shot on target from that point and can’t really be held responsible for what was a complete breakdown in communication amongst the Danish backline for the breakthrough. Andreas Christensen was amongst that unit and rarely (if ever) put a foot wrong as Ireland’s attack crumbled after the first 30 minutes. It was his wayward attempt to shoot which resulted in the first goal thanks to a fortunate bounce off the bounce though it would be folly to extrapolate a conclusion based on that one instance.
But yes, that man, Christian Eriksen, was the star of the show. He had more touches of the ball than any player on the pitch and showed ruthless efficiency when three chances were presented to him on a plate by a comedy of errors and superb interplay. Eriksen plays in a similar role with Spurs as he does for his national side in an attacking sense, where he is a withdrawn creator expected to arrive in time to finish a move or recover a second ball. He hovers laterally search for space to receive and orchestrate – his game isn’t about running diagonals behind players. In my opinion the difference with playing for Denmark is that he is expected to shoot more and is less inclined to look for a teammate when a half chance presents itself compared to when he has Kane or Alli to feed. His precise passing is well-lauded but perhaps we forget his ability as a shooter because he rarely gets “easy” shots for himself in the PL, instead taking low-probability long shots or free-kick attempts for the most part unless a “Denmark style” second ball presents itself after a poor clearance or a drag-back. When the day inevitably comes and Eriksen has to play without Kane, don’t panic as he’s more than capable of keeping his stats ticking along alone.
Injuries, alternatives and Phil Jones
Sergio Aguero’s more than slightly concerning medical week makes me doubtful that he will start in GW12 at Leicester. After scoring in the first half, the Argentine collapsed in the dressing room during the interval in his team’s 4-2 loss to Nigeria. He was taken to hospital but has been discharged and, according to his own tweet, been given the all clear to play on Saturday. “All the tests they run on me – just for caution – turn out well, so I’m set to go for Saturday’s match,” he tweeted. Hmmmph.
Man City’s title-rivals Spurs were dealt a hammer-blow this week when it was confirmed that key centre-back Toby Alderweireld will be sidelined for a further 6 weeks thanks to the hamstring injury he got playing Madrid on November 1. That means he could miss 13 games in all competitions between now and January 2. When Spurs play two at the back you’ll more than likely see the reverse out of position (in FPL terms: POO) Eric Dier play alongside Vertonghen whilst in the three centre-back system you can expect to see Sanchez join them. Those who hope Ben Davies will see a run on the left of the three, where he plays for Wales, will probably have to wait for the injury situation to decline further.
Phil Jones has been officially ruled out of the Newcastle game on Saturday evening but who’s even taking notice of Mourinho’s injury news at this point? His delivery of the news smacked of disdain for international friendlies and protective rival managers as opposed to true concern for his player. However given that Jones was forced off the pitch at Wembley, I reckon this time we may have heard the truth.
The last opportunity thrown up by injury that I will highlight is that Lee Grant will get at least 3 weeks but as many as six between the sticks for Stoke City after Jack Butland broke his finger. At 4.3 he presents a decent bargain option but the Renaissance of Julian Speroni for a cheaper price or just 0.2 more for Burnley’s Pope means that you’re more than likely better-off to choose an alternative.
Mo Salah (Southampton H)
This weekend may be the first time that Jurgen Klopp has the luxury of unleashing Salah, Firmino, Mané, and Coutinho together on the pitch and I believe it’s likely to result in a hefty win for The Reds. The return of Mané from injury will mean that the Saints will have to deal with a second pacey and direct attacker, meaning that our Egyptian hero should be able to find a few more exploitable gaps in front of the underperforming Fraser Forster.
Salah will be aided by the fact that he had a week off over the international break before returning to training on Monday. The chill-out was a nice way to celebrate scoring goals numbers 11 and 12 against West Ham in Gameweek 11. Southampton will also be without combative midfielder Mario Lemina in midfield. The Gabonese player has been an important part of the Saints’ defensive screen and his absence is sure to be visible when Liverpool attempt to move on the counter, where Salah is at his most dangerous.
Alvaro Morata (West Brom A)
This one is pretty simple for me. Northern Ireland and West Brom’s Brunt, McAuley, and Evans all suffered gut-wrenching elimination from the World Cup in a play-off to Switzerland after each playing 180 energy-sapping minutes over two legs. Their weariness justifiable extends from their toes to their heads given the emotional nature of such a controversial defeat where all that separated them was a wrongly-awarded penalty. Even if they were fit, the Baggies are struggling desperately this term and it seems like Tony Pulis’ reign may be put to an abrupt end sooner rather than later. How was Morata’s international break? He played 45 minutes and scored once, meaning he has averaged a goal every 39 minutes in his last 235 minutes for Spain – not bad and a good sign for his form! He also continues to build a fine partnership with Eden Hazard which is likely to bear more fruit as time passes and they come to understand each other, maybe we’ll see that step up a gear against dreadful opponents.
Richarlison (West Ham H)
If Richarlison converted all the open-goal chances he has had this term then he would be threatening Harry Kane for the golden boot at this point – it’s borderline ludicrous that a Watford player could have missed SIX clear cut chances (joint-top with Morata) and still be considered to be playing well thanks to four goals, four assists and eye-catching touches. It’s impossible to legislate for “new manager effect” though with West Ham one shouldn’t expect much. The Brazilian is a risky choice who may drive you nuts with misses or leave you screaming with euphoria after a hat-trick. To captain him would be a risky move when Lukaku also has a relatively easy game with The Toon, Kane is fit, and Man City players also present a threat to whoever they play but if you’re brave enough the 20 year old is not a bad option.
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.