Stag’s Take – Gameweek 3
Patience post-Gameweek 1 has given way to anarchy this week as the transfer market (and the causally related player prices) has bubbled over and over half a million people have hit the Wildcard button in response to Gameweek 2’s results.
The global average score dropped from 65 to 41 as clean sheets proved a rare commodity and only one side, Norwich(!), scored more than twice in Gameweek 2. Naturally, John Lundtram, a 4.0-turned-4.1 OOP defender hero, is being heavily purchased as managers downgrade their defenders to find budget to accommodate the high-scoring midfielders and forwards of the early weeks of the season. Dani Ceballos’ eye-catching display at home to Burnley, where he recorded a brace of assists, sees him lead the midfielders for transfers in just ahead of Kevin De Bruyne, who recorded the same returns against Spurs. Anthony Martial and Sadio Mané are also popular picks this week. For those who have made their transfers thus far and for the many who are still trying to make a decision, the presence of the four men just noted – Ceballos, KdB, Martial, Mané - in FPL sides is indicative of a belief in these players at the expense of clear alternatives:
- Ceballos, as a cheap midfielder (now 5.6), opens up fiscal space to bring in a premium attacker or to keep an expensive defender.
- KdB is usually the second City midfielder in a team after Sterling, showing a high level of confidence that City will continue to score so many that the spoils are shared.
- A team with Martial will usually be a team without Rashford, who is the second most transferred in forward (about 250k IN) behind Teemu Pukki (800K+ IN on Thursday, may be 1M by the deadline).
- Mané versus Salah, the FPL debate that keeps on giving.
Please notes that there are millions of possible permutations in FPL and so whilst these sweeping statements may not represent every aspect of your decision-making this week, they will by and large apply to everyone.
These questions will be at the heart of this week’s column, seeking to help FPL managers rush to armament as the pre-season plus two weeks of “big at the back” come to a close.
Dani Ceballos: Are Arsenal actually good?
Dani Ceballos is a player I have watched quite a bit in La Liga over the last two seasons, though mostly last term when he was given a much bigger platform than in previous seasons. At Real Madrid, he was a bit-part player who struggled to get consistent game time and as a result, never set the Bernabeu alight. However, he was clearly a good passer, sublime dribbler, and capable of doing a good shift defensively too. These talents have all shone through in his first fortnight as a Premier League player.
Having played just 109 minutes of a possible 180, amongst his teammates he is already ranked third for touches in the opposition half, second for touches in the final third (52, just one behind Aubameyang), second for attempts on goal (all three from outside the box, one on target), and joint-second for tackles, and first for successful passes in the final third. This tells us two things; first of all, his man of the match performance against Burnley was a triumph. Secondly, he looks good from an FPL perspective.
However, a narrow 1-0 win over Newcastle (who went subsequently annihilated by a promoted side) and a 10th consecutive PL win over Burnley for the Gunners (again, by a narrow margin) are not much for us to get excited about. Nor is a run of fixtures which sees Unai Emery’s side face three of the Top Six in their next five outings. This run of games makes me believe that Arsenal players are by-and-large not worthy of investment, however Ceballos’ 5.5 price tag sets him apart.
He is operating in the double-pivot position alongside Matteo Guendouzi, looking a lot more like Santi Cazorla than Mesut Ozil in his positioning. As noted by his above stats, he is strong in possession but good at picking a pass, which places him well to deliver killer balls for Arsenal’s fluid forwards; Pepe, Aubameyang, and Lacazette. An examination of his xA statistic suggests that he was lucky to record two assists so far off the back of an xA of 0.14. However, expected stats tend to be outperformed by exceptional players, and with Ceballos teeing up good finishers ahead of him, I would not be as concerned about the statistical quality of the chances the Spaniard creates as I would be if I was considering a mid-table side’s creator – for arguments sake, Pascal Gross. For a player as cheap as Ceballos is now, and Gross was in 2017/18, ten to fifteen attacking returns over the course of the season would be an amazing level of returns. I certainly think that the Real Madrid loanee can do that, however unlike Gross, he will have to rely largely on assists to do it as he will seldom have a chance to shoot nor does he have a reputation for a finishing touch.
Manchester City are, hilariously, not top of the league at the moment but they have already proven themselves to be by far the best side in the PL again. In terms of raw attacking data, they lead the goalscoring (7), place first for shots in the box (32; Burnley are second(!) with 21), and naturally they also have the best tally for expected goals. Anyone who has watched City play, even in the Spurs game where they were (somehow) held to a draw, can see how dangerous they are. Now, with the most favourable upcoming fixtures of all PL sides, it seems impossible not to double up on City’s attackers.
Raheem Sterling may indeed score every week between now and May; that is why he is an FPL essential. Sergio Agüero may be hot on his tail, but his minutes are currently a tad uncertain and his price tag is a noose around his potential. That leaves us looking at the rest of the City Starting XI. “City Starting XI” is part of the issue though – who is a Manchester City starting player. I, sadly, thought Bernardo Silva was one ahead of Gameweek 1, but that proved untrue. Already, just Rodri, Sterling, and Kevin De Bruyne are the only players classed as midfielders who have started both of City’s PL outings thus far in 2019/20. De Bruyne is the obvious choice to be your second City asset.
KdB is not a “consistent” FPL performer per se – instead he is, to quote Brandon from the Always Cheating FPL podcast, “metronomic”. Nine point games counteract the two and three-pointers, four and five point games are standard, and the odd big return when he scores carries the Belgian’s average points tally comfortably above five points per game. He is a secure source of FPL points playing a key role who generate points like no other.
Given that I am suggesting that you need both KdB and Raheem Sterling as well as an obligatory Liverpool attacker, you are unlikely to have the necessary budgetary wiggle room to include both of Manchester United’s attacking pair of Martial and Rashford. In spite of being more expensive, Rashford wins out this debate for me.
First of all, Rashford is generally more involved in United’s game as he makes more passes, does some defensive work and helps the team. This will give him an edge in the tallying of bonus points and should help him grab an extra few assists. The Englishman will also reportedly be in charge of penalties for United from now on after Paul Pogba saw an effort saved from 12 yards at Wolves on Monday. In terms of raw shooting statistics, both players are close to equal though Martial is definitely receiving the ball in the box more compared to Rashford, which may be decisive as time goes on.
With all that said, the main reason why I am opting for Rashford is that he is a forward. Using a striker slot on a United attacker gives me the room for Salah, Sterling, KdB, and Ceballos in my midfield. The alternative would be trading Ceballos up to Martial and downgrading Rashford to Ashley Barnes; that would have been the better tactic for the first two gameweeks, but The Clarets’ tough upcoming fixtures at Wolves and then hosting Liverpool are off-putting. In an ideal world, I would have both, but I don’t see how it could be made work!
Salah v Mané
The stats are almost even, folks, except when you examine the quality of the chances presented to each these players. Then, Mo Salah is quite a distance ahead of his teammate. Salah’s xG is 0.79, Mané’s is a mere 0.15. Yes, Mané has played less time, but proportionally he is still some distance behind his Egyptian teammate. For now, I am content to stick with Salah at his 12.5 price tag. There is no move which I feel I really need to do which would be enabled by unlocking funds by downgrading to Salah to Mané.
There were points last season where the downgrade was the better course – that will always happen. But overall, Salah delivered well based on his (higher) price last term, and I trust him to do that again. This debate will continue and perhaps my view will change with time though right now, I think I am more likely to be convinced that I may need Salah, Mané, and Sterling over my current trio, with Mané replacing KdB, rather than owning Mané alongside the City pair.
Short and sweet this week as this has been a longer than usual column:
1. Raheem Sterling v Bournemouth (A): The league top scorer facing a less-than-convincing Bournemouth side which always seems to fall victim to one of City’s standard drubbings. The safe pick.
2. Mohamed Salah v Arsenal (H): I don’t think Arsenal’s defence is anywhere near good enough yet; they will be found out when faced with a real attacking unit. The Anfield factor will also be a major asset to The Reds in this tie.
3. Marcus Rashford v Crystal Palace (H): Going outside the PL’s top two with your captaincy pick is generally considered a risk nowadays but when you have an in-form United side facing a listless side like Palace, I feel an exception to that rule may be accepted by many. Only four sides have a higher xGC than Palace so far this term – West Ham, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, and Spurs. Two of those sides faced City, Villa are a promoted side trying to find their feet in the PL, and Bournemouth are a defensive basket case in many ways given that two promoted sides have breached them in successive games (Sterling… anyone?). Whilst fifth in that table, Palace have looked extremely poor even in two encounters with sides who could be classed as “disappointing” so far this season in attack. Let’s see what Ole’s team with an average age of 24 can do this weekend at Old Trafford.
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.