Stag’s Take – Gameweeks 16 & 17
Due to exams in my own real life and the extremely tight fixture congestion in the Premier League over the next 10 days or so, this column will attempt to cover the next two gameweeks’ FPL debates and problems.
Gameweek 16 sees quite a few “boring” fixtures where managers will be for the most part looking for clean sheets, one seemingly lopsided affair in Chelsea’s visit to West Ham, and a Sunday packed with two derbies as well as Southampton vs Arsenal.
My own Gameweek 15 was positive largely because of the great work down by Eden Hazard (my captain) and Alvaro Morata in the first match of the weekend. However I’m not quite as optimistic about the pair against Moyes’ men and this is an opinion based on what I’ve seen as opposed to the stats I’m reading. West Ham played with purpose against City last time out and looked like they had a bit of purpose against Leicester also 2 gameweeks earlier. However I do accept that that opinion does exclude the 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Everton. However if one looks at the stats, West Ham have conceded the sixth most shots on target of any team in the league since Moyes took over (and that stat was not skewed by Man City) and they have conceded two or more goals in six of their last seven Premier League appearances. If reports are to be believed, West Ham will be aided by the axing of Joe Hart who missed out against City as they are his parent club – Adrian will more ably deputise.
Looking at the derby day, it would be hard to create greater ideological gulfs between the two managers in each fixture but how will that translate into FPL? I’m quite bullish about Liverpool’s chances in the Merseyside derby even though Sam Allardyce has spent the whole week preparing to “do a job” on the Red Men, so much so that he didn’t travel to Cyprus for Everton’s final Europa League game (I don’t buy this medical appointment stuff – it’s too convenient sorry but best of luck to Sam if there is one). Liverpool are rampant in attack with the midweek thrashing of Spartak Moscow highlighting that. When the attacking quartet of Firmino, Mané, Coutinho, and Salah play together, one scores every 23 minutes – astounding levels of conversion that Big Sam will do well to completely stunt. The four actually have 14 more goals between them this season than the whole of Everton Football Club. After his hat-trick in midweek, where it seems he also assumed penalty duties for the first time an considering now player has a higher points per game in FPL as it stands, I think Coutinho is a must buy for FPL managers. All that being said, looking ahead Everton should be full of differential prospects as the weeks roll on. I’m not convinced about the hype surrounding Dominic Calvert-Lewin although he is particularly good in the air. I expect he will share minutes with Niasse. One player I am excited to see under Allardyce is Gyfli Sigurdsson whose set pieces will be heavily relied upon for goals and assists thus forth if the manager’s past is anything to go by.
Down the road in Manchester, I’m forecasting less goals and maybe even a win for Mourinho’s men. Man City have struggled against packed defences in recent weeks and played quite a few of their “Get Out of Jail Free” cards in the process. Guardiola suggested after squeaking past West Ham that a solution to this may be to play two strikers and two wingers when needs must – something he has avoided previously. I believe Pep will be too wary of United’s counter attacks to do this against United although I could see him starting with just one of the wingers, perhaps Sterling who didn’t play in midweek put through the centre, as well as both big name forwards. As you would have read in this column last week, Sané is now held to his touchline much more so than Sterling in the absence of Mendy and any highlights will show you that he no longer gets counter-attack chances as frequently as he did earlier in the season. I wouldn’t take too much notice of the fact that he had more shots than any other City player against the Hammers (5) as these were not the guilt-edged opportunities presented to him earlier this term.
The big news with regards to player availability for this tie is of course Paul Pogba’s suspension. United will struggled in attack without the Frenchman but I think their pace will create a lot of trouble for City’s sluggish defence and they should also be more proficient than others at exposing City’s weakness from corners. David Silva will start – make my words. Pep Guardiola couldn’t even say what part of the Spaniard’s body was hurt when quizzed during the week – a man as intelligent and controlling as Pep would certainly know the details of a star man’s injury if it was pressing or even real.
There’s sure to be excessive rotation for Gameweek 17 which is played on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week so beware that you should have a viable backups on your bench. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of listening to any comments managers make about players’ fitness in the aftermath of their weekend game or ahead of the midweek games. Often we have a good indication of who will be rested or have limited minutes. Spurs’ second home game in days against Brighton is the pick of the bunch in that week with United hosting Bournemouth at Old Trafford a close second.
Spurs’ slump must come to an end this weekend. It is inconceivable to think that Pochettino’s brilliant squad could be at risk of being completely cut adrift from the Champions League qualification berths but more dropped points would do just that. The manager was in the enviable position of being able to rest key men in the Champions League and thus his players should be raring to go for both upcoming matches. Unfortunately, I do not think that any FPL manager should be considering Tottenham defenders in the short term – they really struggled to keep out opposition when Toby Alderweireld is absent from defence and more importantly in my opinion, when Wanyama isn’t available to screen in front of the defence. The Kenyan is a vital cog in the Spurs machine and the hole in the team without him is pretty clear.
Harry Kane (Stoke H)
Consecutive golden boot winner and incumbent against the second worst defence in the league who have conceded 30 goals in total – as Pards would say: “I’ll have that”. I’ve already stated my belief that Spurs should be able to end their desperate run against Stoke now that they’ve had rest and a chance to properly prepare for this fixture and if any Spurs player is likely to score, it’s Harry. Kane actually scored a hat-trick in this very fixture at White Hart Lane last season and has scored six goals against the Potters in his last three PL outings against him. The drought can’t continue – pick the safe option.
Eden Hazard (West Ham A)
Whilst I’ve expressed my doubt in Chelsea’s chances of completely melting the Irons on Saturday, I do still believe that the Blues will get the three points. Speaking after the win against Newcastle, Hazard spoke of his contentment with Conte’s 3-5-2 formation which sees him now partner Morata as a striker with no defensive duties – his average position is actually ahead of the Spaniards. That fact was borne out by Hazard outshooting and consequentially outscoring his teammate with two of his nine attempts finding the net, one of which came from the penalty spot. The Belgian wizard is sure to be dangerous against Moyes’ men. As he has contributed more than a goal every 90 minutes since returning from injury this season, it feels like more of a matter of “when” rather than “if” he will score.
Wilfried Zaha (Bournemouth H)
Christian Benteke is slowly coming back to full fitness for Roy Hodgson’s resurgent Eagles and is due a goal at some stage soon but his teammate Zaha continues to look the most dangerous player for that team. He improved on his average of 2.6 shots per game last weekend against West Brom with three efforts and it would indeed be a shot if he wasn’t in and around the oppositions box against the Cherries. As a differential pick for the brave, Zaha would be a great choice though perhaps he is more suitable for selection in a perfect XI format!
Looking ahead at Gameweek 17 captains
I don’t like making judgements about captaincy when I haven’t seen how a team and a specific player fared in their most recent games so I’ll opt to drop names here as opposed to go into detail. The obvious captains will come from Man United, Spurs and Arsenal as they all have relatively straightforward fixtures. If Harry Kane is successful this weekend he will almost certainly be the most popular choice though it would be fascinating to watch managers tearing hairs out of their skulls if Lukaku scored against City on Sunday – he ended his goal drought for United in the Champions League against CSKA already. I’ve been quietly appreciating Mesut Ozil’s contributions to Arsenal’s attack and expect him to have another big haul soon though perhaps the cheaper and consistently returning Ramsey may be a more realistic option for most. Alexis Sanchez would be a bold captaincy call and I do recall him scoring a devastating hat-trick in an evening fixture against West Ham last season – déjà vu? A golden punt for selection would be Gylfi Sigurdsson or even Wayne Rooney who is ever-prolific against Newcastle for some reason dating back to that wonder goal in 2005.
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.