Stag’s Take – Double Gameweek 34
As goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang departed proceedings at the Emirates with 20 minutes remaining last Sunday, FPL managers owners and non-owners groaned and grinned as one of the few big name players to score in Gameweek 33’s days ended early. It was a bizarre gameweek, with just two clean sheets kept across England as the Merseyside derby ended scoreless, leaving us with one of the lowest average gameweek scores (32) ever.
Interestingly, many of the bigger points hauls came from players who had been heavily tipped to fire in Blank Gamweek 33. Teams who had not been cleansed completely of these players by wildcards stood in line to benefit. Of course there was also the incredible Manchester derby and the Harry Kane goal that wasn’t but now is throwing spanners in the works too. United’s comeback set the theme for the week’s Champions League action, as Roma, Man City, and Juventus all tried their hands at turning their quarter-finals around. You don’t need me to tell you who fared best in their endeavours, but I will quickly touch upon what I think this means for the two English clubs involved.
In the short term, more questions surround Liverpool than City given that the latter stand just three points from securing the Premier League title.
Earlier in the season, Jurgen Klopp assured us that his period of rotating first team players was over, however the largely second string eleven deployed against Everton on Saturday reflects the new reality where Liverpool’s place in the Top Four is all but cemented and they have much larger fish to fry (maybe I should say more tender chicken to enjoy given the Champions League final is in Kiev). Thus we can expect rotation to afflict the Fab Three and world-beating full-back Andy Robertson (as well as other lesser known players). What does this mean for our hero Mo? Probably more substitutions down the line and perhaps a bench spot between semi-final legs, but I do not expect him to completely disappear from PL action. His reaction on Twitter to Harry Kane retrospectively being awarded Spurs’ goal said enough about how much value he places on winning the Golden Boot – he’ll want to play as much as he can. For Gameweek 34 and 35, I think he’s assured of a starting berth.
Wooooooow really ?
— Mohamed Salah (@22mosalah) April 11, 2018
Additional Red Devilment in GW34?
Manchester United’s win over City certainly sent FPL managers’ heads into a spin, as suddenly Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez announced themselves as serious double gameweek options. United have undoubtedly got the most straight-forward fixtures on paper, though the spreading of their goal-scoring across their team makes choosing attackers particularly problematic. If I was free-hitting in 34 or 35, Sanchez would be amongst the first names on my teamsheet. The Chilean’s Midas Touch was key to United’s comeback and their victory over Swansea one week prior but I think non-free hitters should take underlying stats into account before racking up hits to accommodate the 11.5 million option. Sanchez’s goal came from one of just two shots in the clash with Wales’ only PL representative. He was never afforded an opportunity to test Ederson in the derby. Instead, it seems like Sanchez’s creativity will be the most likely source of points. At City, the pair of assists came off the back of a trio of key passes. Against Swansea, he provided Lukaku with his goal with one of his two key passes. However, out those numbers in perspective – David Silva made five key passes against Everton alone, and two against City. Alexis is an explosive differential option for sure, but I’m not convinced enough to make space for him when I have a Harry Kane shaped hole to dig in my forward line already.
To be honest, given the unpredictability in Man United’s goalscorers, relying on David de Gea as a captaincy option may well be a more straightforward option. The Spaniard, along with Anthony Martial, was the highest scoring player in DGW34 last season with 17 points.
Kane, Mee, and Christensen – extra notes to consider
With Manchester City’s defensive confidence at its lowest ebb in 2017/18, and Brighton struggling to keep their opposition at bay, it seems the time is right to return Harry Kane to my FPL team. He is clearly (weirdly; perhaps overly) desperate to defend his Golden Boot once more and I don’t put any stock in the notion that Spurs will rest players a lot in preparation for the FA Cup semi-finals.
Burnley players have been all the rage in recent weeks as managers look to take advantage of their lone status as a DGW34 and BGW35 side. A notable absence from their backline in GW33 was Ben Mee who was sidelined by a “deep bone bruise” on his shin. The centre-back is now a doubt for the rest of the season, creating a vacuum for Kevin Long (4.0). With managers committing all sorts of sins to make funds to acquire the likes of Kane, Sanchez, and Romelu Lukaku. You could sneak ahead of the pile and trade down your Ward, Tarkowski, Lowton, or of course, Mee.
On the subject of value defensive options, Kiko Femenía (4.3) again started OOP (out of position) as a right winger last weekend for Watford. He’s not afraid to take a shot, as exhibited by his goal versus Bournemouth, and he can create opportunities with crosses. Don’t hold your breath for many clean sheets from the Hornets (although Huddersfield in GW34 provides a great opportunity) but OOP attacking returns are one of the sweetest things in FPL. For those looking ahead, Watford play in BGW35 too and as such, you could be offsetting issues next week by settling for a single gameweek option like Femenía in DGW34.
Andreas Christensen *rage builds*. Suddenly benched in GW33, meticulous DGW plans which relied on the Dane as Chelsea defensive coverage suddenly lost their gleam, at least until West Ham wiped out the clean sheet. The Hammers’ strike came thanks to a mistake by none other than Christensen’s replacement, Gary Cahill, who may find himself back on the bench after such an error. I had (and still am) considered disposing of Christensen to build funds for more exciting moves, but his propensity to pick up BAPs and Chelsea’s DGW clean sheet potential probably means he won’t depart my side.
Last but not least, consider the place of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in your teams. He’s probably stopping you getting a DGW striker, and will be surrounded by jaded jet-lagged teammates away at St. James’ Park on Sunday. That 2-2 draw in Moscow is sure to have taken its toll. Furthermore, away days have been Arsenal’s kryptonite this term, whereas defensive solidity has been the backbone of The Toon’s campaign. What is being termed “The Auboomerang” should be on your mind this week – sell the Gabonese sharpshooter for a DGW34 striker, and return him to your side immediately for GW35 when he one of the few marquee forwards in action.
A massive good luck to everyone this weekend. DGWs are season definining, with chips inflating the impact of every decision. If you enjoyed this column, I’d really appreciate your support in the Football Blogging awards, just follow the instructions in the tweet below. Scroll further for my thoughts on captaincy.
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— #FPL Stag (@FPLStag) April 8, 2018
Romelu Lukaku (West Brom H, Bournemouth A)
Captaining the Belgian is the safe option this weekend. Whilst he may have been kept quiet by Man City in GW33, his name for stomping on lowly opposition proceeds him with West Brom coming to Old Trafford. Bournemouth, one of the PL’s most porous sides, also provide a bountiful opportunity Rom.
The problem with Lukaku is United’s way of play. So defensive and frustrating, it means he gets few chances to show his finishing abilities. He’s forced to make something out of one or two opportunities rather than scoring by converting a portion of a high volume of attempts. It’s part of the reason why he hasn’t scored a brace since the opening day of the season. You’re unlikely to have a captaincy failure with Lukaku, even if the spectre of his blank DGW two seasons ago still hangs over many of us. Equally, you’re probably not going to get more than two goals and an assist over the fixtures. It’s a pity that penalty duties have been ceded to Sanchez, as they provided a stat-padding points opportunity Milivojevic owners have grown accustomed to.
Harry Kane (Man City H, Brighton A)
Kane’s form has been good all season, his ability to score against anyone is undoubted, and his drive to overtake Mo Salah as the PL’s top scorer provides an additional motivation for the England international.
Pep Guardiola’s City’s season has suddenly went into freefall. A successful league campaign has been tainted by derby humiliation, they’ve been defeated three times in a row and five times in the last ten, and a clear blueprint has been drawn up to expose the City defensive unit. Mauricio Pochettino won’t be one to let the opportunity to down City go by, and Kane will be crucial to Spurs’ push to do it.
Brighton are slowly crawling towards PL survival, but have done so mostly through score draws with their opponents in recent weeks. They’ve had just one clean sheet in 13 games.
Mo Salah (Bournemouth H)
Bournemouth have one of the worst defensive records in the league having conceded 53 goals in 33 games this term. Their last shutout came against Chelsea on January 31st and you have to look to November 25th for the one before that.
Salah meanwhile has scored for fun this season, barely ever blanking and seemingly becoming more clinical as his confidence soars. Even with just one game in the gameweek, he may well still be the top scorer. Just look back to GW31, when he scored 4 times and assisted once en route to 29 points and FPL legend status – anything can happen, don’t be blinded completely by players playing twice.
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.