Stag’s Take – Gameweek 14
A few nights ago, I found myself watching Great Events of WW2 in Colour. The episode I watched focused on the Battle of Midway, fought in the Pacific in the summer of 1942; a battle which saw Pacific Theatre turned on its head in a matter of hours.
The documentary puts a heavy emphasis on a five minute period where the momentum of the entire battle shifted entirely. The US had launched multiple squadrons of dive bombers from their carriers in a lacklustre manner, causing a whole unit to get lost initially fail to locate their Japanese targets. That squadron eventually gave up and set their course for home when, by chance, they stumbled upon their targets, just as another unit also arrived on the scene. The units struck Japan's key aircraft carriers simultaneously and with devastating effect, sending them to the bottom of the ocean and earning the Allies a lead they would never surrender over the next three years of the campaign.
Gameweeks 14, 15, and 16 are the Midway Atoll of this story, a scatter of islands packed together in a great ocean of Premier League and other competitive fixtures; the area everyone is fighting over. The arrival of José Mourinho at Spurs and potential management overhauls at Arsenal, Everton and West Ham are one squadron, probably the one that got lost, without much to speak of right now yet packing a devastating payload if deployed correctly. Injuries to key players (see Aguero, Abraham, Ben Davies), discontent with the poor form of others (see Mount, Sterling, Digne, Salah, Richarlison, Aubameyang), and interesting prospects (especially Son, Pulisic, Kane, Ings, Rashford) are the other squadron, emerging from the clouds armed and dangerous.
If we position our FPL teams correctly, we can avoid the fate of the many ships which were sunk during that battle and sail on to fight in other gameweeks. Manoeuvre incorrectly and our season could be dealt irreparable damage over the 10 day period between Gameweeks 14 and 16. There will be many shots fired, bombshells dropped, and defences breached in the 30 fixtures taking place over 10 days - tread carefully, listen up and get tinkering - it's going to be a huge challenge!
To my American readership, I hope you enjoyed a happy thanksgiving. It was a great chance for you to draw your breath ahead of the hectic festive schedule in FPL!
A week with José
Last time, this column near-exclusively focused on how the Mourinho would set out his Spurs side, and how that would effect their FPL assets. Aside from the trust placed in Serge Aurier on the right (remember though, José’s trust is easily lost) and Harry Winks' start, the column did a pretty decent job of forecasting what would come at the London Stadium last Saturday.
Mou did indeed drop Poch’s diamond for his favoured 4-2-3-1, giving Dele Alli (not to be confused with Dele's brother) the coveted Number 10 position. He thrived overall, picking up an assist and generally being heavily involved in everything Spurs did in the final third. However, crucially from an FPL perspective, Alli was not a persistent menace for the hapless Roberto in goal nor was he creating chances on an industrial scale. Two shots and two key passes all game are better figures than he has recorded all season, but they pale in comparison to his teammate Son Heung-Min, especially when you take into account that both of Alli’s attempts on goal came from outside the box. It was a similar story days later as Spurs beat Olympiacos at home in the Champions League, though some have noted that Alli’s performance was so poor before his goal, that perhaps it was indeed his brother who took to the field that evening.
Son was one of Spurs’ biggest threats on goal against the Hammers, even though he was pinned to the left touchline for long periods when Tottenham had possession. Both he and Lucas Moura had three shots on goal (one in the box for Son; all three for Lucas), though Son also created three chances – more than any other Spurs player. The South Korean was the more dangerous of the pair again on Tuesday, though both wingers were outshone by Christian Eriksen, who emerged from the bench and took up a role akin to a running quarter-back, ostensibly taking over from Eric Dier beside Harry Winks, but really pushing forward just behind Dele Alli (who himself was doing his best to take the shadow out of “shadow striker). Eriksen had previously replaced Alli and played as a Number 10 in a cameo appearance on Saturday. Too many appearances from Dele’s brother and the Dane may displace him there, but for now Eriksen’s role in Mou's Spurs remains uncertain.
I suspect that over the next ten days, both players will have their chances at 10. We may also see Eriksen permanently take Eric Dier’s place in the Spurs eleven, though he can’t play every game by throwing caution to the wind like he did on Tuesday. When he was introduced on Tuesday after 30 minutes, his job was to overturn a two goal deficit, not protect the defence. As for Dier… Mou said that he “hurt the player but hurt [himself]…” and that Dier is “a very intelligent boy who has a good understanding of what the team is. [The substitution] was not about his performance.” Certainly not Luke Shaw-level treatment, but puzzling – let’s see who starts beside Winks on when Bournemouth come to London on Saturday. I think Eriksen could do brilliantly beside Winks, playing a role akin to Cesc Fabregas during Chelsea’s title winning season in 2014/15, picking up assists from a far and dictating the game.
One wonders about Lucas’s long-term security in the starting side and the current asymmetric formation which sees Son and Aurier effectively flank a central trio of Alli, Kane and Lucas. Ben Davies, who played as a left-back who tucked in as a centre-back whilst his side were in possession is now injured, out for an “extended period”. Spurs’ next-best left-back options are all quite attacking, setting us up for Mourinho to mirror the formation we’ve seen so far, playing Danny Rose or Ryan Sessegnon as a roving left-back (as Aurier has been on the right), Son as an inside-left, and then forcing Aurier or another player to tuck in as a centre-back, all of which would force Lucas into more defensive duties as a wide right like Son had last weekend. Son made 10 recoveries against West Ham, more than double his average so far this season or last term, highlighting the level of defensive responsibility lumped on the winger already.
However, Son appears to be the pick of the bunch right now as a safe, proven attacking option in FPL. Spurs’ defence is clearly a work in progress and the fixtures aren’t so kind that a punt in that department would be advisable. A bright “wait and see tag” hangs off Christian Eriksen, but if he is positioned well, he could become an instant “must buy” just after the Black Friday sales are over.
Not since the “RAM” in the halcyon early gameweeks of 2018/19 has there been a consensus template title for a combination of players like “VAJ”. The juvenile gLee with which Vardy, Abraham and Raúl Jiménez’s continued success has been greeted has been one of the funnier side-stories of the season so-far, but now it is under threat.
Tammy Abraham looked in serious pain as a hip injury forced his withdrawal in (yet another) helter-skelter Champions League encounter for the Blues, this time at the Mestalla (which is well-worth a visit, I might add). Tammy’s injury, as stated in his post-match interview and later reports, is minor. However, even if his injury keeps him out of action for a week, he could miss three (3!!) gameweeks. Unless you have an enormous amount of team value stored in Tammy, that’s a lot of time to carry 8.0 (or so) of your budget, especially for a player who has scored just twice in five PL games, though he did contribute to 40% of The Blues’ goals in that period. Frank Lampard’s Friday press conference will be decisive in many transfers.
If the VAJ is indeed torn apart, aside from adding its other components to your side if you’re missing them, what are the other options?
Gabriel Jesus (9.5) looks set to get a run of starts for Manchester City with Sergio Agüero out for at least three gameweeks. His minutes have been scattered over the past five gameweeks but he has nevertheless found himself in great positions, recording an xG of 3.04 although he found the net just once. In previous seasons, the Brazilian proved a fantastic FPL addition when Aguero was been sidelined, but those stats are historic – Aguero barely missed a game last term. Pep has confirmed that Jesus will get minutes in Aguero’s absence: “He’ll play well in the next weeks when Sergio is not available”, which is promising given that Jesus has seven goals in his last eight PL starts; in Europe, he has been similarly consistent this term. The aforementioned xG stat gives you a flavour of how City’s current cross-dependent style plays into Jesus’ game, but it is even more striking that no player has a superior minutes per shots in the box record than Jesus over the last five (21.4) (257/450 mins). It’s no wonder that in spite of his limited game time, no striker has had more headed efforts on goal this season with the City production line feeding him. Jesus is oft maligned for his shot accuracy, but in recent weeks, he has been just a bit below par compared to some of the league’s leading lights. Compare Jesus’ accuracy of 50% with Vardy (72%), Abraham (29%), Salah (57%) and Rashford (47%). Raheem Sterling has hit the target once over his last thirteen (13!!!) shots – dismal. Hilariously, John Lundstram has had just one less shot in the box than Sterling over the last five gameweeks (11).
It’s easy to forget that City are by far and away the best attacking team in the league as their struggle to keep up with Liverpool gets constant intention – they have scored the most, have the highest xG and the best shot stats. It all makes Jesus an interesting punt as City face Newcastle (a), Burnley (a) and Man United at the Etihad in their next three.
Other strikers who should be considered are:
Danny Ings – great fixtures (WAT/NOW/new/WHU/avl) and the only reliable scorer in his team. The downsides are his injury profile and the fact that he plays for Southampton.
Harry Kane – If Tammy is out, you are close to affording a jump up to the man Mou hopes to enable at Spurs. If Kane catches fire, he will be the ultimate differential.
Marcus Rashford – The England international is a perfect switch for Tammy and has statistically out-performed the Blues forward in the last five gameweeks, outscoring him too. Only VAJ-members Raúl Jiménez (4;17) and Jamie Vardy (7;16) have combined underlying stats and goals better than Rashford, who has four goals from 14 shots in the box in the period.
Even if Abraham will be fit by Gameweek 14 or 15, it’s worth considering his position anyway. Rashford is cheaper and even Abraham’s teammate, Christian Pulisic, is outperforming him in terms of stats and goals. In the five gameweeks in which Abraham had twelve shots in the box, “Captain America” had 13. However, Pulisic has had a 73% shot accuracy, whereas Tammy’s was an alarming 29%. After a slow start to life at Stamford Bridge, the Hershey man is coming good.
Christian Pulisic (West Ham H)
No club has conceded more shots on target than West Ham in the last five gameweeks (40) and even with home support in three of those fixtures, the Hammers failed to keep a single clean sheet. The Hammers’ ‘keeper Roberto has also been subject to serious criticism for his recent performances, something Chelsea’s already trigger happy attackers (of which Pulisic is certainly one) are acutely aware of. As noted previously, the USMNT player has been Chelsea’s dominant attacking force in recent weeks and he is poised for another good week, fresh off the back of a midweek Champions League goal in Spain.
Sadio Mané (Brighton H)
Liverpool have been showing the ability of Champions to always find a way to win, regardless of how poorly they perform. Weekly, Mané is the architect of the successes. Brighton, in spite of their defensive strengths, have struggled when facing the PL’s top attacking sides, suffering convincing losses against Man City, Chelsea and most recently, Leicester City. Furthermore, only Southampton (19) have conceded more “big chances” than Brighton (18) over the last five gameweeks.
Marcus Rashford (Aston Villa H)
As previously noted, outside the beginning and end parts of the VAJ, Rashford is causing serious trouble for the Premier League’s defences. No side has conceded more chances in the box in the last five gameweeks than the Villains (68), nor has any side conceded more shots in total. They have kept the quality of the chances they give up know, with only the 6th worst xGC in the period (9.62), though this still is not a statistic to celebrate for the newly-promoted side.
United’s topsy-turvy season is unpredictable, yet Rashford’s goals, if not his penalties, have been consistent.
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.