Stag’s Take – Gameweek 13
We are just over a third of the way through the 2017/18 season now and Pep’s wonderful Man City remain undefeated in all competitions after successfully dispatching Leicester at the weekend as well as Feyenoord in the midweek, albeit narrowly. Their cross-city rivals will meanwhile be licking their wounds after an unexpected defeat to Basel. I’m going to look over those Champions League games and try to discern what the results and performances mean for Gameweek 13 as well as look at captaincy for the weekend. Remember: The Fantasy Premier League Weekend starts on Friday with the “Fabulous Friday” (not to be confused with Super Sunday) visit of Leicester to West Ham. “I’d be lying if I said I thought our boys are capable of staying up,” David Moyes didn’t but could say. Here’s a golden quote which actually left the Scot’s mouth in a recent interview with The Guardian:
— #FPL Stag (@FPLStag) November 23, 2017
Somehow, there is a great discrepancy in the media in the reported difference between London and Baku, Azerbaijan, where The Blues beat Qarabag comfortably on Wednesday evening. It is somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 miles and a 5.5 hour flight though. A brace from Willian as well as two penalties, both won by the Brazilian and converted by Fabregas and Hazard, created a wide margin of victory.
Due to some unequitable scheduling, Conte’s side only have 72 hours between that clash and their visit to Anfield on Saturday evening. In an effort to fight jetlag and fatigue, the Chelsea management opted to make their players keep their sleep cycle attuned to London-time rather than adapt for the road and the manager also benched Alvaro Morata in a bid to keep him fresh for Saturday, sending him on for just 25 minutes to replace Hazard.
Even after another brilliant FPL performance to put Tony Pulis’s time at West Brom to an end at the weekend, I am slow to rush the Belgian into my side when I already have Alvaro – I feel keeping a balance of top players from a few teams is necessary to offset risk of a “meh” performance from one of the Top Six as they are all want to do from time to time. That said, Eden can deliver 18 point returns back to back when he enters a purple patch and it’s not like Liverpool’s calamitous backline covered themselves in glory this week, now is it?
Sevilla have conceded just 12 goals in 12 La Liga games so far this term and currently hold a 12 month unbeaten record at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. It’s a tribute to Liverpool’s devastating attack that they were able to score three with ease in a blistering first-half in Spain thanks to a brace from Fimino and one from Mané. However as has been well documented in the media, Sevilla rallied after the break to support their manager who revealed he is suffering from cancer in the days leading up to the game (not in his half-time teamtalk as was initially reported), exposing Liverpool’s calamitous defence for the third time in 18 months. Alberto Moreno was again guilty of costing his side goals with errors for the first two before The Reds were levelled by Pizarro prodding in from a corner in injury time.
It’s unfortunate that we can’t take any real confidence from any of Liverpool’s five home clean sheets so far this season and from a football fan’s point of view it’s heart-breaking that such an exciting attack is built on such shoddy foundations. Salah, in spite of his at times questionable finishing, is a must-own player and will be the first player to pass the 100 FPL points threshold this week if he gets a dozen points.
Short and sweet here. Pogba’s return and instant impact on United’s general play as well as his goal and assist meant that one could have been forgiven for thinking that United’s ponderous slow-down was over – you’d have been wrong. That said, Mourinho’s Zen-like post-Basel quotes suggest that he wasn’t too bothered by the defeat as United’s progression through to the knock-out rounds is almost certainly secured anyway. Brighton may have a tough day ahead of them on Saturday at Old Trafford. Oh yeah, also a warm welcome back to Zlatan and Rojo from their respective injuries. Nice to see both men have been able to get back on the pitch.
After losing the NLD, I had low expectations of Tottenham for their clash with Dortmund in Germany. They’ve shown mental fragility in their PL and Champions League campaigns in each of the last two seasons and I thought a loss to Dortmund would be the second sign of a dip in former in a week. Instead they dug deep and came from behind to win. "The group we had, a lot of people doubted us and we wanted to prove them wrong," said goalscorer Harry Kane. Indeed to top a group with Real Madrid and Dortmund with a game to spare is really a massive achievement. After a slow start, Dele Alli rose to the occasion and was at his creative best to set up Kane and Son for their goals. Kane’s strike was yet another brilliant finish whilst Son’s curler matched Alli’s awesome work to weave through Dortmund’s defence before delivering the final ball.
Is Manchester City’s starting XI the most in-form team in the world right now? Possibly. However, City’s squad depth is now going to be tested in what his historically been their Achilles Heel – defence. John Stones is out for 6 weeks with a hamstring injury sustained in the win over Leicester in GW12. Thus, the much maligned Eliaquim Mangala will have to be relied upon consistently as Vincent Kompany is just back from a setback of his own and has unfortunately been unable to stay injury-free for years now. As Pep put it himself: “We have to play 12 games in a short space of time with only three central defenders. One of them is a risk, in Vincent only just back. It is not easy but I want to see how we react.” It’s a real turn of events for Mangala, who was ousted to Valencia last season and was set to be replaced by Jonny Evans in the summer transfer window until that fell through. Time will tell if Pep’s men can overcome this hurdle.
Up front, it seems from Pep’s quotes that the injury to full-back Benjamin Mendy is what has been causing FPL managers a lot of heartache with the rotation of Jesus and Aguero: "Sane has to go wide [now], which is why they [Aguero and Jesus] don't play together." My reading of this is that perhaps operating with neither striker and investing in City midfielders is the safest strategy to ensure your City attacker plays. Offsetting this though is the fact that the City strikers have a vicious propensity to make fools of the masses who sell them in given weeks. Add to that the fact that Pep is nearly impossible to read. Usually we could say that because Aguero played the full 90 on Tuesday that he is unlikely to start on Sunday at Huddersfield but with Pep…??? If I was to guess I would go with the logical conclusion but we can never sit comfortably with Guardiola.
Eden Hazard (Liverpool A)
Would it even be my column if I didn’t play devil’s advocate to myself in the same piece? Since Eden Hazard came back from injury and struck up a partnership with Alvaro Morata, he has been in scintillating form. The have played seven proper games together if you exclude the Man City game where Morata was forced off pretty early. In those games the Belgian has 5 goals and assisted a further 3. Credit to Reddit user Arshia42 for spotting this. Hazard has accrued 6 FPL BAPs in those games too. It’s also worth noting that the tricky winger had no goal contributions in his three starts without the Spanish target man linking play, holding up possession, and drawing defenders. In the past Liverpool have also proved easy prey for Haz – they rank among his tied 2nd best opponents in terms of goals scored (5) in 13 appearances.
Looking at Liverpool’s defence, whilst they’ve had a decent clean sheet record at Anfield (the aforementioned 5), Klopp’s men have always looked shaky. This is backed up by the fact that Liverpool’s opponents have been statistically more likely to score from efforts on goal than any other side. 18.7% of the shots taken on Migs or Karius have resulted in a goal. This stacks up with the eye-test of any fan – create a chance against Liverpool and immediately there’s consternation.
An alternative option to Hazard is of course his feeder and receiver, Alvaro Morata, who was rested in Azerbaijan and only came off the bench.
Harry Kane (West Brom H)
Kane’s goalscoring has been comically cruel this term, seemingly never occurring when the majority are behind him and spiting those who doubt him. He has scored in just four Premier League games but got a brace each time meaning he is still in the mix for the golden boot on 8. He hasn’t scored in 3 PL games, scored during the week in Dortmund and always looks sharp. It’s a matter of time.
West Brom could be a bit of an unknown quantity under caretaker Gary Megson this weekend but that doesn’t mean I doubt Spurs, who will be under pressure from Poch to bounce back after last weekend’s NLD failure. Kane will probably be the most popular pick this weekend.
Jamie Vardy (West Ham A)
I opened this piece giggling about David Moyes’ comments after his side’s disappointing defeat to Watford on Sunday and it is there I will end too. The Scot seemed to round on his players immediately after the game, losing a complete façade of positivity which he had erected previously: “Some big players with big reputations disappointed me a lot.” If any Leicester player is to score, I think it will Vardy – a decent punt!
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.