Stag’s Take – Gameweek 12
It’s just as well that the Premier League returns this Friday (Yes; Friday deadline!!) given that we had such an unforgettable set of infuriating VAR decisions in Gameweek 11 and a quiet week of European football subsequently.
Indeed, Chelsea were only at one point down 1-4 to Ajax, only to eventually equalise largely thanks to their opponents conceding a penalty and losing not one, but two players to red cards in the same move. Just make things even more boring, they even had the temerity to think they had won but saw Azpilicueta's goal ruled out for offside.
Manchester City looked like they would record yet another comfortable win with a second half flurry against Atalanta, only to lose Ederson to injury, his replacement Bravo to a well-deserved dismissal (deserved even with little contact for the sheer absurdity of his decision to come out), and then to finish the game with Kyle Walker between the posts.
Spurs showed us that their training is paying dividends too as an unorthodox play came together to perfection for their opener against Red Star. Mauricio Pochettino has long advocated the shot-off-the-post-forcing-an-opponent-into-a-backheel-clearance teeing up Dele Alli to feint a bicycle kick to open space for a ball across goal to tee-up a volleyed cross which could be chested onto the crossbar by Son so that an attacker would finally get the space in the box to get a clean shot at goal. More perfect still that such a play from the training ground would provide Geovanni Lo Celso with his first goal for the club. Son also had a red card from GW11 rescinded which had been dealt out by the referee only after the extent of the injury caused to André Gomes became known, then supported by VAR, and then supported by a later official statement.
Furthermore, Unai Emery stripped Granit Xhaka of the Arsenal captaincy Arsenal and gave Rob Holding the armband for the Gunners’ draw with Vitoria, whom they barely beat a few weeks ago. Holding is not one of the five players who were named as club captains in an official club statement on September 27th.
Most shocking of all though was the fact that Manchester United scored more than one goal against a team that wasn’t Norwich City.
A quiet week all round then.
Ahead of Gameweek 10, defenders were in sharp focus in this column with Sheffield and Leicester’s assets particularly under the microscope. Hopefully you acted on the positive reviews in time for Gameweek 11 as Çaglar Soyuncu and John Lundstram topped the FPL scoring charts for the Gameweek. Leicester’s schedule remains quite positive from a defensive perspective, with Brighton the most in-form side they face in five, whilst Sheffield’s defenders have already proved their FPL pedigree against all standards of opposition and remain a firm hold. Do note that Dean Henderson will be ineligible to face his parent club, Man Utd, in Gameweek 13 – now is not the time to add a Blade, but certainly not a time to spurn team value and sell one either.
A number of budget defensive options have emerged at clubs with favourable fixtures, offering up fine side salads to go compliment (or even replace in the case of the former) your “Soy” and your (Highness) “Lunny”. None of these players are likely to match the feats of, say, an elite defender like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson or Enda Stevens, but even a single clean sheet off the bench from one of them in the next five weeks would be a success:
Romain Saiss (4.4) (Wolves) –Since Gameweek 5, Saiss has started every PL game he has been fit for at centre-back, featuring even when both Willy Boly and Ryan Bennett were fit to play. However, since Boly picked up a long-term injury ahead of Gameweek 10, the Morocco international’s place in the starting line-up seems much more secure.
In Boly’s absence, Nuno has experimented with his back three, featuring Matt Doherty at one point at centre-back but deploying Dendoncker, Coady, and Saiss in the GW11 1-1 draw with Arsenal with promising results. What’s to come with Ryan Bennett back from injury is not fully certain, but the consensus seems to be that Saiss’ berth is his to lose. The same can be said for his defensive comrades from the Gunners draw.
For the imminent run of games (AVL, bou, SHU, WHU, bha) things are looking good for Saiss to get as close to FPL supernova as he ever has. Caveat emptor though, he is a yellow card magnet. Not quite a Holebas or a Jefferson Lerma, but creditably close. Perhaps this self-enforced BAPs ceiling is a turn-off which would make you look elsewhere – there are other options within his own side (though expensive) and further afield!
Daryl Janmaat (4.3) (Watford): Watford can barely score, their midfield is overrun constantly, and Ben Foster just played one of the best games of his career to limit Chelsea to just two goals in Gameweek 11, but there has there has been one area of promise since Quique Sanchez Flores (re)took the reins at Vicarage Road. Three consecutive clean sheets between Gameweeks 8 and 10 gave credence to the comment tossed out when the Spaniard return to the club which was that he would stabilise their defence.
Janmaat has been the best FPL performer in that defence in the period, picking up max BAPs in two of the three clean sheet games and also assisting the Doucouré goal against Spurs. Since GW8, only Deulofeu (18) has attempted more crosses than the Dutchman (13), though the La Masia graduate’s success rate (11.1%) was less than half of Deadly Daryl’s (23.1%). Indeed, Janmaat has created more chances than any of his teammates in the whole period. His assist potential can only be boosted by Troy Deeney’s return to the side this weekend. In their next five games, the Hornets face nor, BUR, sou, lei, CRY. They have a good shout of picking up at least two clean sheets in that run, I think.
Jetro Willems (4.5) (Newcastle)
I must confess that I have no recollection of having heard of Jetro Willems before he cut inside Trent Alexander-Arnold and unleashed a sub 0.05 xG shot which wiped out Liverpool’s clean sheet early on in Newcastle’s Gameweek 5 visit to Anfield. Since then though, he has become an established starter at Newcastle, picking up two assists in his five starts since the Anfield game. A warning though, Matt Ritchie’s return to the Magpies’ side, expected after the international break, may scupper Willems’ minutes. I would be surprised given that Willems has been Newcastle’s most creative player in the last five gameweeks, creating eight chances (two big chances also the highest of the Toon), and given that Ritchie could add spice to the midfield which is frequently lacking.
If the Willems life is a tad too risky for you, Jamaal Lascelles is 0.1 cheaper and will only lose his position if he suffers an injury.
Regardless of who you chose, know that Brucey’s Boys have good chances to return defensively with BOU, avl, MCI, shu, SOU in their next five.
The FPL transfers in/out (round) tables are always a great way to extract yourself from your Twitter/Pundit/Reddit silo and see how the world (now made up of over 7,000,000 managers!) is thinking.
“Fixing” seems to be the order of the week amongst defenders as Lunny, Soy, and Ben Chilwell are the most transferred in. Most of the managers bringing in one of these players probably felt that they need to “just make” the move as a shield transfer to prevent them losing out any further versus their rivals.
In midfield, Pulisic, Mané, and Maddison have attracted the majority of the uptake from the sales of David Silva (expected to miss GW12), Mason Mount (faces a fitness test but it seems he is more than likely to play)(I have a tinfoil hat theory that Chelsea’s plan is to have him fail his late fitness test so that he can pull out of international duty without looking too much like a strategic pull-out and disappointing Southgate) and Son (who is now free to play after his red card was rescinded). The way these injuries and suspensions have evaporated has been an interesting case in point for why transfers should, in general, be held off until later in the week.
I’m quite surprised that a number of players are not further up the transfers in list – to name two, Spurs’ Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son look to be hitting form, especially in the latter’s case. Casting aside who the opposition were, their midweek 4-0 win in the Champions League is not to be scoffed at, with Son picking up a brace. In the PL, Son has returned in all but three of the eight games in which he has featured in the PL this season, scoring just twice but assisting on five occasions. It is the former category where he must improve to justify his price going forward. Sheffield United will prove a tough test for Spurs but if they perform well and show more energy and creativity, which has been absent all too often in this campaign, then Son will be a major headache in my International Break ruminations.
Another midfielder I have (transfer news klaxon) brought into my own team is Leandro Trossard. He was a huge pre-season favourite of mine after his fine form in Belgium and he earned a place in my Gameweek 1 team. He scored on his debut back in those early weeks but then picked up a pesky groin injury in the first international break, which ended up sidelining him until the end of last month. Since his return, he forced the Everton own goal which won that GW10 game and then came off the benched to notch a goal and an assist to give Albion victory over Norwich in GW11. I don’t think Potter can ignore his magic and restrain him to a mere second half appearance again, especially away at Old Trafford where chances will be at a premium.
The top two strikers in terms of "Transfers In" reflect a similar theme to the Lunny/Soy popularity at the back. Jamie Vardy and Tammy Abraham’s impressive form has hit the rank of a combined 400k managers hard too many times. However, it is in third most fashionable forward that has piqued my interest. It’s Raúl Jiménez.
Before Gameweek 10, I wrote that “Wolves [had] struggled with Europa League hangovers, struggled to create chances, hold possession, or show quality consistently.” That assessment still rings true a fortnight later. By then, “Jimmy” had three PL goals to his name – two penalties and a header from a flicked-on throw-in versus Everton. He would go on to blank in (yet another) listless Wolves performance against Newcastle before scoring the equaliser Wolves deserved against Arsenal in GW11, showing all his striker’s instincts to get up and head the ball past Leno.
Truth be told, aside from the Arsenal showing, Jiménez has not had a good all-round performance this season, even though his crucial goals (especially in Europe) have made this a “fine” season rather than a calamitous one. Part of that is because the service he receives is so poor, making it hard to even get off shots, not to mind high quality ones – over the last five gameweeks, his side rank in the bottom half of the league in terms of shots, and these stats were padded by the Arsenal game where they recorded 24 shots, eight of which hit the target. That means the Arsenal game accounted for 44% of their shots in the last five games. The Gunners have been porous all season too, so Wolves actually failing to score more than once actually reflects poorly on them. Jiménez had eight efforts in all against Emery's side, averaging an xG per shot of approximately 0.05. That means on average, his attempts were about as likely to go in as that Jetro Willems goal against Liverpool mentioned earlier (xG: 0.04)! Such figures indicate a panic or frustration leaked into his game at the Emirates, understandably given the precious little reward Wolves were getting. To give further context, Jamie Vardy has held an xG per shot of roughly 0.24 since the start of LAST season. In the same period, Raheem Sterling had an xG per shot of roughly 0.21. Jimmy held an xG per shot of 0.137 last term and this season overall, he is just shy of that figure, yet the goals are not flowing at anywhere near last season’s rate. He has dropped off a bit in terms of his finishing, but I think we also see a trend where the quality of the chances presented to him have dropped.
The best news Jiménez owners (and potential buyers) probably got all week from an FPL perspective was Rúben Neves’ penalty miss in Thursday’s Europa League victory over Slovan Bratislava (courtesy, of course, of a Jiménez header). Jimmy and Neves tend to swap the duty between them, but Thursday’s Neves miss should place Jiménez in pole position to step up if a spot kick comes Wolves’ way in Gameweek 12.
Short but sweet this week.
Jamie Vardy (Arsenal H): Great record versus the Top Six; Arsenal sloppy in defence (to say the least); leading scorer in the PL this season (10).
Tammy Abraham (Crystal Palace H): Palace strong defensively but this Chelsea team seem to have a precocious ability to find a way to win. Tammy’s goal involvement hasn’t been great lately, but the chances have continued to fall his way although his own profligacy and good goalkeeping have cost him.
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.