It was a crazy Premier League Saturday in Washington, DC this past weekend. For those outside the US who are wondering what I’m talking about, the Premier League and NBC Sports (the league’s US broadcast partner and parent company of this fine web site), took their studio show on the road and created a FanFest/watch party-style event complete with former players and local DC-area soccer celebrities. As an added bonus, we were surrounded by TVs for the 10 AM Eastern matches so I got to watch even more of the matches as they happened.
First, a huge “thank you” to the Premier League and NBC Sports for putting on a great event and giving me access to attend for the entire day.
Second, there will be two more of these events over the balance of the 2018-19 season. They haven’t announced locations for the other two but if you either live in the areas that will host them or are able to get there, I highly recommend you doing so.
Finally, my biggest hope for future iterations of this event is that there is some forum for the Fantasy Premier League community to join together as part of the festivities. To that end, I encourage you to send your Tweets to @nbcsportssoccer and let them know that you’d like to see #MyPLMorning in your town and that you’d like to see a fantasy component as part of it.
You shouldn’t need any more incentive to send them a message but, if you do, here’s some highlights to make you want your piece of the experience:
Me with a World Cup Winner
— Neal Thurman (@nealjthurman) September 29, 2018
Me with a record Premier League goal-scorer
— Neal Thurman (@nealjthurman) September 29, 2018
Me with the #MyPLMorning hosts
Because yesterday was such a whirlwind I forgot to post my pics with our fantastic hosts for #MyPLMorning yesterday. Thanks to Rebecca Lowe @The2RobbiesNBC and @kylemartino for bringing the show and a great event to DC. As good as a @PLinUSA fan experience could be from afar pic.twitter.com/wbyyb8DxKP
— Neal Thurman (@nealjthurman) September 30, 2018
If that doesn’t have you fired up, I don’t know what will.
OK, enough about my weekend, let’s get on to our usual program of discussing the weekend’s big surprise scorers and what their value might be on the waiver wire or moving into your starting line-up. We’ll add some bonus coverage of potential trade topics after that.
Harry McGuire (and the Foxes D/GK)
Ordinarily, I look at a player like McGuire whose point total after seven weeks is almost entirely driven by two big weeks where he’s picked up 28 of his 36 overall points and I tend to dismiss them as poor starters that tend to undermine draft fantasy teams. The reason to have more interest in McGuire as a potential waiver wire pick up coming off of his big weekend – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, and a CS – is that the Foxes’ schedule gets pretty kind for the next two months. From now through December 4th, Leicester City have EVE, @ARS, WHU, @CAR, BUR, @BHA, WAT, and @FUL. Outside of the trip to the Emirates, that’s a pretty soft schedule. The away matches should all be winnable and the home matches could include multiple clean sheets. If McGuire is available, he’s worth picking up as are other members of the Leicester City defense as well as Kasper Schmeichel.
It is with cautious optimism that I am excited about Gylfi Sigurdsson’s seeming return to fantasy relevance. He is hardly back to being the premium option of his Swansea days but he’s at least hinting that he might get back there. We know Everton are going to score (and be scored on) a lot. Gylfi seems to be back to getting his share of the output and more. He’s unlikely to be available on waivers but if someone got frustrated and dumped him, I’d definitely prioritize him in a season lacking many excellent fantasy midfielders.
It took an entire month, but West Ham appear to have figured out how to best align all their newly acquired pieces. Week 7 was Filipe Anderson’s first significant fantasy contribution so there’s always a chance that we’ll look back on this weekend as something of a one-hit wonder from our favorite 80s pop band but I wouldn’t count on it. Anderson arrived from Lazio over the summer with a big reputation after scoring four and assisting on seven in nine starts and 12 sub appearances in a season that didn’t get going until December for the Brazilian. That isn’t a ton of minutes but, from a fantasy point-of-view, they’re incredibly productive minutes for someone you probably picked up in the 7th or 8th round of your draft. If you give him a pass on the first month as he adjusted to a new league and his team adjusted around him then there should be optimism again with Mark Noble looking like a new player freed of the responsibility of a holding role and that has meant good things for Anderson, Yarmalenko, and Arnautovic.
John Stones/Nic Otamendi
Pep works in mysterious ways. John Stones had a strong World Cup and started off the Premier League season well with a series of starts partnering Aymeric Laporte. The only match he missed out on early in the season was the draw with Wolves. Out of nowhere, Stones seems to have been relegated to the bench in the Premier League while starting in City’s Cup competitions. The beneficiary of the change has been Nicolas Otamendi. It looked early, in the season, like Otamendi was in the doghouse at the Etihad (which I’m sure is a beautifully appointed doghouse given the club’s resources). He now seems to be part of the preferred center back pairing for Premier League matches. If he’s still available, you should be bringing Otamendi into your side and trying not to rage at the fact that you may have dropped him after spending a relatively high draft pick on him given his fantasy output last season.
Wolves Outside Backs
Wolves look excellent as both a defensive unit as well as an attacking one from the outside flanks. The summer buzz was all about young talents like Diogo Jota, Helder Costa, Raul Jiminez, and Ruben Neves but, Jiminez aside, the production has come, Spurs-like, from the outside backs. Jonny and Matt Doherty are probably both long gone but if either are still left on the waiver wire, they look like much more than flashes in the pan and you might even start to consider Patricio and the Wolves group of three center backs given the club’s defensive record so far.
OK, we’re seven weeks into the season and there are some big-name players who are surely causing fantasy managers some sleepless nights as they decide what to do with their underperforming assets. Here are some thoughts on some of the biggest names:
Kevin De Bruyne – He should be back soon which means that there will be offers made and received on trades for the Belgian midfielder. I’m going to start by saying that there’s nothing not to love about his talent. My concerns are two-fold. Pep has the luxury of easing him back into the line-up to ensure he’s all the way healthy when the matches start counting in the Champions League knockout stages. Pep also started playing De Bruyne in a deeper-lying role later in the 2017-18 campaign. De Bruyne will still get his goals and assists but perhaps not at the same rate as when he was playing further up the formation. By themselves, neither of these concerns would lead you to think about trading De Bruyne. Together, I have to say I’m a little worried.
The thing that got me thinking about my De Bruyne concerns was an email from a reader asking if I thought he should offer up the thus-far-disappointing Eriksen for De Bruyne. I get it, Eriksen has really lagged expectations so far this season and now he’s out injured. Here’s the thing, I can’t see this persisting. Unlike City who have the luxury of babying De Bruyne, Spurs NEED Eriksen to be back and firing if they’re going to stay in the top four. If I had a choice between the two for the rest of the season, my bet would be on Eriksen being more productive than De Bruyne not because he’s more talented but because he’s going to get more playing time and a higher percentage of opportunities on set pieces. I’d be looking to trade FOR Eriksen at this point rather than looking to unload him.
It was never going to go well for Alexis and Jose. The Chilean spent too many years with Arsene Wenger’s laissez-faire approach to management to thrive in his late 20s for a manager who prizes discipline and conformity to the system above all else. What you do with Alexis is directly tied to what you think the timeframe for Mourinho is at Old Trafford. We’ve seen a lot of wide attackers revived after a divorce from Mourinho so if you think the Portuguese won’t be around for long then I’d be looking to buy Alexis on the cheap – perhaps a mid-tier but productive midfielder like former teammate Theo Walcott? If you think Mourinho will linger then Alexis’ value is pretty low and you should stay away if you don’t have him and look to divest if you do.
The logic is similar to the Sanchez logic from above. The difference is that Lukaku might return to relevance even if Mourinho does stick around a while. The Belgian is just too good to stay quiet and you might be able to take advantage of a fellow manager’s frustration and get a great deal for a solid forward who doesn’t have nearly the upside. I’m thinking of someone like a Raul Jiminez or an Aleksander Mitrovic who has been effective early but doesn’t have 20 goal upside. This would be a risk for sure but freed of the Mourinho yoke there’s little reason to think that Lukaku won’t be back to the form that saw him fetch a massive fee two summers ago.
The former German international has come around over the past two weeks with goals for Unai Emery’s side. Having watched both matches though, he’s still not in the middle of things in a way that justifies where you likely drafted him. This might be the time to offload him. Perhaps a North London swap of Ozil for Eriksen? [To be clear, I’d never give up Eriksen for Ozil but I have received messages asking advice from managers who seem like they might be that frustrated so I’m at least throwing it out there].
Hopefully, you see a pattern emerging in my trade advice, Big names are big for a reason. Sometimes they have bad starts to the season. If you can take a player who has had an unexpectedly strong start to the season and trade them for someone who has proven quality then you’re likely to come out on top of that particular deal and improve your chances of winning your league.
If I didn’t cover a player or trend you’re interested in knowing about, you can always find me on Twitter @nealjthurman and ask or put the question to the entire Rotoworld Premier League team @Rotoworld_PL.