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Stag's Take - Gameweek 26

by Anthony O'Shea

Stag’s Take – Gameweek 26

 

It’s not the first time that I’ve reflected on an FPL gameweek and concluded that the difference between success and failure was owning, or greater still, captaining (or triple captaining!) Sergio Agüero. Kun has been one of the Premier League’s best performers for the last decade, playing a part in some of the best moments in the division’s history. Indeed, his ten hat-tricks have all been season-defining FPL moments too.

Oddly though, Aguero was not the top scorer this Gameweek. Instead Aymeric Laporte continued the fine tradition of defensive players leading the way in Double Gamweeeks, following David De Gea and Erik Pieters’ examples (there are more I don’t recall). It’s worth keeping this in mind as you plan for Double Gameweeks ahead in GW32 and 35.

 

Liverpool’s slips

 

The seven point lead The Reds held just three weeks ago has evaporated. Andy Robertson has tried to pass off a few below par performances as a “wee blip” but admitted that he and his teammates performed below par in the draw with West Ham. The Scot put the dip down to fatigue – do you believe him?

Whatever about their attack, which has misfired since the turn of the year (four goals against a porous Palace is an exception), it is the woes of Liverpool’s defence which have been incredible. Eight goals conceded in 20 PL games in 2018; seven in five in 2019 so plus the FA Cup elimination at the hands of Wolves – this is a malfunction. Liverpool’s injuries are well catalogued with Trent, Gomez, and Lovren out leaving James Milner and Joel Matip to try and emulate their teammates. The results haven’t been pretty. The last set of games in which TAA appeared – GW19-22, a period which included Man City and Arsenal, Liverpool cough up an xG to their opponent every 140.7 minutes. That figure has fallen to every 114.4, indicating that their opponents are creating higher quality opportunities. Meanwhile in attack, their minutes per xG has doubled from 36.5 (or a rough estimate of 2/3 goals per game) up to a goal every 66.8 minutes. The difference between scoring two or three goals per game or one or two goals per game is cavernous – it’s the difference between usually sealing a win and drawing. Sure enough, The Reds’ shot stats follow the same trend. Liverpool were creating a big chance every 25.3 minutes whilst Trent was last in their side, whilst they have recently managed a big chance every 71.5 minutes. That is a colossal shift.

What does this tell us from an FPL perspective? If you were to fully get behind the notion that correlation and causation are one and the same in this case, you would believe that the imminent return of Trent Alexander-Arnold (perhaps in GW26 or 27) will make a huge difference and the service we have become accustomed to will resume. The eye-test tells a different story. Liverpool are playing with fear and struggling with the pressure of the title race. It also can’t help their mentality that Man City seem to have completely turned the corner after their own encounters with their mortality in recent weeks.

Those (me included) who saw Liverpool assets as a safe harbour for the upcoming blanks must now hesitate. Mo Salah should definitely get at least two more games before you dump him; if you have Virgil or Robertson (especially with a lot of team value tied up in them) you also shouldn’t rush to move them just yet – it’s the third Liverpool player in your team or your plans that I really have my doubts about – whether that’s Mané, Alisson, or a defender. Tread carefully; GW26 will be a good indicator.

 

 

Double Gameweek Sales

 

Of course, a much more compelling reason to not sell Liverpool players is the fact that they actually play in Gameweek 27 whilst the League Cup Final is being player. Man City, Chelsea, Brighton, and Everton will not be contesting any of the ties that weekend.

 

The most prudent thing you can possibly do is hold your free transfer through the coming weekend, but if that is impossible due to a Sané captaincy induced rage or a craving for change, I have a few suggestions.

 

Between the sticks, Artur Boruc has now started three consecutive games for Bournemouth. It appears that Asmir Begovic has lost his first team place for the moment and all sorts of contrasting reports are circulating about his future. Regardless, as a starting shotstopper priced at 3.9, he can release a lot of value for your side outfield.

 

In the short-term, Newcastle have the most enticing defensive fixtures but I have to posit a special mention for Leicester’s Harry Maguire here. The England World Cup hero has a good set of upcoming fixtures including back to back home games against Crystal Palace and Brighton in GW27 and 28. In previous columns, I have waxed lyrical about his teammate Ricardo Pereira, who is indeed the top defender for goal attempts in the last six gameweeks(10) matched only by (of all people!) Callum Chambers. However, it should be noted that 70% of those efforts came from outside the box and thus they are inherently less likely to find their way into the net. Contrast that with Maguire, who actually has more attempts in the box than Ricardo (5:3). Maguire also ranks second for touches in the opposition area since GW20 with 20 – an average of roughly 3 per game; only by Sead Kolasinac, who moonlights as a defender, has more.

 

If you’re looking at midfield options, and presuming you are close to the template midfield which already includes Salah and Pogba, then you should definitely by looking to make a space for Son Heung-Min in your side. Yet again he came up trumps for Spurs are the weekend and yet again he looked like their most dangerous player. He has now recorded five double figure hauls in the last 10 GWs (which includes one absence whilst at Asian Cup), scoring seven and assisting four more.

 

In terms of forwards, three stand out (assuming you own Marcus Rashford): Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Raúl Jiménez, and Ashley Barnes. An honourable mention should also go to Glenn Murray, though he is excluded from this discussion due to Brighton’s GW27 blank.

Auba sits at the top table in every important attacking stat in recent Gameweeks, including the number one spot for xG in the last five sets of games. With 15 goals already this season, he is strongly in the hunt for the Golden Boot even after a few luckless performances in December. Raúl “Jimmy” Jiménez is the gift who keeps on giving for his owners and Wolves’ fixtures are still fantastic for another four Gameweeks. Even though I have managed it all season, the Mexican is very hard to ignore at this point with his ownership bordering on 30% of all managers. Ashley Barnes, “the stats sleuth” featured previous in this column in recent weeks and he will continue to do so if he keeps up his current underlying stats. He has had the most shots in the box in the PL since GW20 and sits top in both xG (which takes his penalties into account) as well as xG from open play in that period too. He has returned 3 goals in his last 5 PL games thanks to those digits, but in truth it could be higher. Burnley are growing in confidence at the right time of the season with their top-scoring striker in his best form of the campaign.

 

 

Captaincy Corner

A slightly shorter captaincy corner this week:

 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Huddersfield A)

 

Huddersfield are poor wherever they play at the moment; this game seems set up for Auba to go on a rampage, especially if the 5-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea in GW25 is anything to go by. Arsenal need to bounce back after the GW25 humiliation at the hands of Manchester City too.

Only Fulham and Watford have conceded more big chances than The Terriers in the last five Gameweeks. Another good omen for Auba is that only Watford have conceded more chances from the left side if the pitch in the last five games. Note: Auba has been suffering from an illness but is his manager Unai Emery said he expects the player to be fine.

 

Mo Salah (Bournemouth A)

 

All the talk of slips, blips, and a lack of clip from Liverpool is of course concerning but when Mo Salah gets to face Bournemouth at Anfield, the formbook should be put to one side slightly. Most of “the rest” adopt a defensive game when they come up against the Top Six – not Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, who aren’t afraid to play their game, take risks, and push for a win of their own. Sometimes it pays off, but there are just as many examples of cricket scores being racked up against the Cherries on the break. There are few better examples of this than Salah’s hat-trick against Bournemouth at their own ground earlier this term, a game which spurred Salah’s season into life and announced him as a contender to recover the Golden Boot. The Egyptian currently leads that race with 16 goals this season. He will be the most captained player this weekend almost certainly.

 

Sergio Agüero (Chelsea H)

 

One of the nice things about Aguero facing a fellow Top Six side this season is that you can be a lot more confident than usual that Sergio Agüero will start. Worries with their source in Aguero’s few weeks of injury and a slow return from that were truly put to bed by the Argentine’s hat-trick against Arsenal in DGW25.

The Blues are a decent team defensively, but they have come unstuck against the Top Six on numerous occasions this term. No Manchester City player is more likely to punish them than Aguero. Since arriving in England, Aguero has scored 40 goals against Top Six across 63 appearances, meaning that he has 0.63 goals per game against the top sides. He is a strong pick for the captaincy this weekend.

 

 

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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.

Anthony O'Shea