Stag’s Take – Gameweek 9
This week I am starting the column on a different note. On Thursday I woke up to the devastating news that Phil Goldring, @FPL_Loon, had passed away. Phil was an active member of the FPL Twitter community, and both a witty and kind one at that. While I never had the fortune of meeting Phil nor getting to know him well, I felt it only right to recognise him here. My thoughts are with his family at this difficult time, may he rest in peace.
Gameweek 8 screamed from the rooftops one message loud and clear: “Manchester City attacking assets are essential!” In a bid to overthink my own transfers, I personally decided to wait until I had two free transfers ahead of GW9 to acquire coverage myself – how wrong I was. Guardiola’s City delivered what many believed to have been one of the most complete performances in the Premier League in years against Stoke, carrying out the 7-2 demolition job with incredible grace. Kevin Bruyne was again the conductor behind City’s attacking grace, just 9 points was a farcically small tally for such a performance. He is almost certainly the best player in the Premier League currently just… eh… 32 assists in the league since September 2015. That is, of course, more than anyone else in that period. Thus it was left to Raheem Sterling (15) and Gabriel Jesus (13) to steal the richest rewards for themselves. Since Guardiola arrived at the Etihad, there have been a few mesmerising performances from the Sky Blues, but you know things are going well when the manager has this to say: "We didn't lose easy balls, we play fast and simple. That's why I am very pleased. It is the best performance since I came here."
City took on Napoli in the Champions League this week, again giving a thorough attacking display though perhaps showing defensive indiscipline at times – giving away two penalties. Sterling and Jesus were again both on the scoresheet, though Sterling will perhaps be disappointed with his overall contribution on the night. His early substitution, along with David Silva, is however a good omen for his chances of starting against Burnley on Saturday. The same can’t be said of Jesus, who was on the pitch for 87 minutes whilst Sergio Aguero lurked uneasily on the bench. Whilst City have not struggled in the absence of the Argentine, I expect him to be reinstated in GW9 with his Brazilian strike partner perhaps getting a chance to put up his legs. The Guardiola rotation wagon continues to roll over everyone’s toes.
Speaking of players returning to action, Alvaro Morata is fit and healthy again. Like Aguero, he has completed a faster than expected recovery and should take his place in Antonio Conte’s starting line-up against Watford at the Bridge. While City were torn asunder by Napoli’s direct play, Chelsea struggled with both the pace and power of their own Italian opponents, Roma. In securing an entertaining 3-3 draw, The Blues avoided a third consecutive defeat in what has been an unexpected slump for the side. They will be keen to banish the torrid memory of a loss to previously-luckless Palace last weekend to the back of their mind with a big performance this weekend.
Liverpool had a huge win against a side everyone expected them to beat, with no real storylines emerging save for the clear influence on spending power on results in football generally. However, Manchester United had a go at bucking that trend by scraping past Benfica 1-0 on Wednesday. Romelu Lukaku barely got a look in against the Potuguese, seeing himself limited to a single shot for the second game in a row. In midfield, his Armenian teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan lost the ball on 21 occasions in an abject performance. One would be forgiven for wondering if his name was Anthony Martial, would he ever appear for the club again. The goal on the night will go down as a Marcus Rashford effort though anyone that has seen it knows that Rashford didn’t really score that goal. Even though United play Huddersfield this week, I’ve gone about a fire-sale to make room for their more enticing cross-city rivals in my own side as well as Morata. It seems José’s men have lost their early momentum and are moving towards a stall very soon.
The last thing to note is that Ben Davies’ long run as Tottenham’s first choice left-back may be about to come to an end. Danny Rose was on the bench for Spurs as they stole a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu whilst Davies was again absent through illness. Rose was Poch’s first choice in the berth last season and should at minimum cause a rotation headache for “Bavies” owners once he breaks back into the side – that could happen at Wembley in GW9.
As a final note, do not forget that West Ham and Brighton square off in London on Friday as the curtain-raiser to Gameweek 9. Don’t forget to set your team ahead of the deadline folks!
Which Manchester City Player? (Burnley H)
The comical abundance of choice at the disposal of Pep Guardiola and fantasy football managers alike means that it’s almost impossible to decide on to whom you should give the armband amongst the City elite. In this column I have waxed lyrical in favour of both South Americans over one another whilst also extensively praising Leroy Sané. However, this weekend I’m backing Sergio Aguero and have drafted him into my own FPL team. Aguero was in sensational form before his taxi careened into a pole in Amsterdam and the short gap between that incident and now makes me confident that he will not struggle to get back into his stride against Sean Dyche’s Burnley.
Whilst Burnley have had a great record on the road so far this season, beating Chelsea and Everton and drawing with Spurs and Liverpool (a fact which is especially crazy when you consider the comical skew in favour of their home form last season), it’s hard to envisage a result where City don’t continue to add to their 29 goals in 8 games so far this season.
Alvaro Morata (Watford H)
1st and 2nd both Manchester clubs, 3rd Spurs, nothing interesting to see here, 4th WATFORD. Yes, that is the state of play as we enter GW8 and Chelsea hope to overtake Marco Silva’s Hornets with a win at Stamford Bridge.
Antonio Conte is facing a slew of criticism for the perceived lack of attacking intent of his side on the pitch and the relentless training schedule he sets his side off it, sparking a crisis on a scale we haven’t see at the Bridge in the Italian’s tenure. However, the visit of Watford provides the perfect opportunity to set things right, with Morata likely to be key to any positive moves along with Eden Hazard, who scored a Champions League brace against Roma. Based on early season form, where Morata dragged Chelsea to wins with 6 goals and 2 assists, I favour the Spaniard as a safer bet to bring home points in Gameweek 9.
Manolo Gabbiadini (West Brom H)
I haven’t been as adventurous as I usually like to be with the third captaincy call in recent weeks so here’s a big bolt out of the blue with Gabbi. Oh he left me down so badly earlier this year but his fine brace against Newcastle last weekend was a timely reminder of his class.
Gabbi is notoriously streaky and rarely scores in isolated weeks, instead enterring eye-brow raising purple patches which follow and are tailed by long frustrating barren patches which leave one frowning. I think a bit of ambition harnessed from the confidence of last week will also be encouraged by his current manager, who appears to have a philosophy which deeply contrasts with Claude Puel’s even if results are yet to show it. I see Gabbi getting more involved in play and having a few more shots, hopefully boosting his chances of finding the net. This week, Pellegrino has called for more aggression and pace in attack from his side against Tony Pulis’ idealess Baggies – nobody’s more likely to get their name on Southampton’s scoresheet than this Italian!
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.