Stag’s Take – Gameweek 33
Football never ceases to amaze. Religiously we perch on our couches for league weekends and European Cup weekdays, and stare in fascination as form books are shredded, superhuman feats are achieved (a nod to CR7), and an ever-growing pantomime plays out. In the last seven days, we’ve certainly had our share of moments. None more so than one 3-0 obliteration… where a sleepwalking set of players in red managed to beat a relegation threatened side who have just one win in ten under their manager. Whilst Arsenal were deserving of the half-time boos, and were fortunate to get the penalty which opened the floodgates with fifteen minutes to play, their clinical finishing was impressive.
More on the Gunners later, as of course the highlight of the week was a certain Champions League quarter-final played between two Premier League sides. Runaway league leaders conceded three goals for just the second time this season, and to the same opposition, Liverpool. The Reds blitzed Man City with a spectacular opening half, which rattled the Citizens if fan attacks on their bus hadn’t done so already. So repressed were Pep’s pass-obsessed players, striker Gabriel Jesus managed to complete just six passes in the opening 45 minutes, with three of those coming from kick-offs off the back of his opponent’s goals!
What can we expect from Man City in the GW33 Derby?
There’s no point in me relating what happened on Wednesday night. You’ve all surely seen it and plenty of pundits have dissected City’s approach. However, what I can help us do is work out what we can expect in FPL terms in GW33.
Researching for my #GW33 article:
Man City's attack v Liverpool in the CL
No Sterling on the right so complete reliance on Sané, who was wedged in TAA's pocket on the left. Laporte defensive to try and combat Mo behind Sané whilst only Walker gave width on right@WhoScored pic.twitter.com/0ScGrFJ0fR
— #FPL Stag (@FPLStag) April 5, 2018
Pep’s most surprising change for the midweek fixture was to drop Raheem Sterling to the bench, instead choosing to conservatively place Ilkay Gundogan in midfield instead. KdB, so magisterial all season through the centre, was shunted the right wing. The plan backfired, and now Pep must create a formula which will yield at least three goals though realistically four next Tuesday in the second leg.
If City beat United on Saturday, they would win the title. Last weekend after Everton were swatted aside, Pep reportedly told players he would be rotating against United with the Liverpool game being his main priority – bearing in mind they will have six more chances to win the league if they don’t on Saturday, I think his post-Toffees comments should stick firmly in the mind.
“We’ll see…. I hope he will be back for Saturday.” That was Pep’s comments on Sergio Aguero’s chances of featuring in the derby. The game is a great chance for the Argentine to build sharpness for a crucial night on Tuesday, so I expect him to share minutes with Jesus. Even though Sterling played just over a half hour against The Reds, he may well find himself hooked early at the Etihad against United, but I would expect him to start as he did last weekend at Goodison. I would not be surprised at all to see other key players like de Bruyne, Sané, or a few defenders rested. Pep can liberate himself from blame for a loss to his cross-city rivals and his nemesis José Mourinho if plays a weak enough team – he has a free pass to throw the game with a clear conscience so that he can overcome Liverpool. I think the “Do you play David de Gea and/or your Manchester United defenders?” question has been answered by circumstance.
It was all rosy in Anfield until one certain Egyptian was forced from the pitch after 52 minutes. Ben Dinnery’s Twitter mentions exploded, coverage was rewound and rewound to catch a glimpse of any obvious injury, and then Mo Salah came forth from the tunnel and looked jolly as his teammates protected their advantage. Klopp said he hoped there was no injury, and Salah said he was fine… but is he? Salah posted a seemingly chilled-out picture of his tracksuit covered crossed legs in an oxygen recovery tent at Melwood on Thursday, perhaps were all overreacting to a niggle. Regardless, you can consider the tent a spaceship en route to Planet Salah (h/t to a redditor for this joke) this weekend, as surely Klopp will not risk his star man in a dud derby versus Everton. Unless more information emerges ahead of the gameweek deadline, I would advise people to pause before even considering SaLeave – the vast majority of you reading this will have a lot of value tied up in Salah which will make it tough to get it back, whilst for others you could scupper your carefully planned DGW/BGW strategy with a needless elite transfer.
Arsenal dismantled CSKA convincingly in the Europa League on Thursday evening’s first-leg tie at the Emirates with a braces from Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey (make sure you see his second). Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s benevolence in GW32 perhaps paid dividend for the Frenchman, whose confidence is surely starting to grow again after a slow start to life in England.
In a way, it’s such a pity that Arsenal’s Top Four challenge has gone six feet under, although medics and Arsene Wenger are yet to pronounce it dead. Arsenal players outside of the cup-tide Gabonese striker cannot be relied upon for consistent minutes in the upcoming fixture frenzy, but at least they will be able to field a strong side this coming Sunday against torrid Southampton with little to fear in Moscow four days thereafter. Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss GW33 after suffering an injury against CSKA, with a lengthier prognosis as yet possible, so you should look to replace the Armenian if you currently own him. Even after a hat-trick of assists, Ozil is too expensive to justify and unfortunately Ramsey has already proven prone to Europa rotation and thus should be avoided. I would instead look at Son, Willian, Arnautovic, or a cheap downgrade to fund a move for an ex-Arsenal schoolboy of renown…
That boy is Harry Kane, who returned to the field downright shockingly early at the tail-end of Spurs’ 3-1 win over Chelsea at The Bridge on Sunday. It’s hard to argue with people looking to bring him in for a visit to Stoke on Saturday, but many will have to consider parting with a premium striker like the aforementioned Auba or Lukaku to make it happen.
A small request to you
Before I delve into the captaincy corner this weekend, I have a small request to ask of you all. This weekly column, which is now approaching the finale of its second season, makes me eligible to be nominated for the Football Blog Awards in the “Best Young Football Blogger or Vlogger” category.
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Southampton H)
Arsenal’s home form has been consistently strong all season, it’s their travels which have tripped them up in 2017/18. Fortunately, they face Southampton at home, and the Saints don’t seem capable of mustering up a performance anywhere of late in spite of their clear talent. In their last four away games, they conceded nine times.
Last weekend’s 3-0 loss to West Ham was the latest warning sign for the struggling south coast side, who were under the command of Mark Hughes for the first time in that defeat. The return of an unfit Charlie Austin to the starting team didn’t really aid their efforts, as they failed to register a single shot on target. It’s fair to expect that Hughes will be forced to chase three points with a slightly more attack-minded approach at the Emirates, which should aid Arsenal’s hopes of scoring.
With Salah almost certainly ruled out, Auba is probably going to be the most popular captain pick amongst active managers off the back of a fruitful March where he bagged four goals and an assist. He is also seemingly now The Gunners’ main penalty taker after he did the honours while Lacazette was on the pitch against Stoke and then decided to gift the second to his compatriot.
Harry Kane (Stoke A)
Whilst I explained the conundrum many of us face with Kane, it doesn’t negate the fact that having the reigning golden boot winner - as he lines out against a side in the relegation zone - as a differential, is a rare luxury indeed.
He’s scored just a paltry 24 goals this term, so ehm, why aren’t we scrambling to get him in? Kane scored a brace against the Potters in the reverse fixture at Wembley earlier and whilst there are genuine fears about his minutes, Kane has the ability score obscenely in the standout fixture for FPL of the weekend.
If you don’t have Kane but have Son in your midfield, I think he’s strongly worth consideration too.
Glenn Murray (Huddersfield H)
Murray’s Indian summer at Brighton has been one of the stories of the season at the bottom of the table, as he bagged eleven goals in the league this term. The vast majority of those came after the New Year, when Murray was keeping up with Mo Salah’s strike-rate for a period in February. That rich vein of form has dipped a little, with last week’s penalty miss at home to Leicester accentuating that point, but this game with Huddersfield at the AMEX is the definition of a six-pointer where Chris Hughton will be depending on his talisman to fire. The Terriers are a tough nut to crack, even on their travels, where they’ve let in six in four games, but Murray is capable of putting a brace past the error-prone Lossl when Gross and co. provide him with the ammunition.
Another option is Solomon Rondon, if you’re brave enough! Pardiola has been sacked and the Baggies are almost certainly relegated and pressure-free. Perhaps we’ll see a new manager bounce coupled with the shackles of fear bursting apart in a final attempt at survival?
Rondon has two goals in recent weeks and always makes a nuisance of himself for opposition defenders. Alongside J-Rod he is West Brom’s likely man.
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— #FPL Stag (@FPLStag) April 4, 2018
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.