Stag’s Take – Gameweek 15
With barely even a moment’s breathing room between the end of Sunday evening’s Premier League games and the Tuesday kick-off of Gameweek 15, this edition of Stag’s Take will be a truncated affair.
Gameweek 14 was, for me and many, a complete disaster, and perhaps a lesson – it is here that we will begin.
Fixtures aren’t everything
Last week, I appeared as a guest on the 3 Amigos podcast previewing GW14. Looking at the fixtures, it looked perfectly poised from an FPL perspective. Chelsea and Leicester facing out of sorts sides, City surely going to comfortably beat Newcastle, Liverpool facing a straightforward home win against Brighton. Marz joked that we would see a 40 point average scoreline, and whilst that forecast was about ten points off, I think he still captured the general mood of the weekend. Some highly owned players scored to inflate in the average, but few of the differential punts came through, Dele Alli, Pierre Emerick Aubeyang, and Wilf Zaha aside.
Another game gives us another bit of data to chew on as we continue to ponder Mourinho’s Spurs (which still feels weird to say).
Injuries and disappointing Champions League action were sure to spark changes from José Mourinho, and so it proved. Jan Vertonghen took the crocked Ben Davies’ left-back berth after Danny Rose’s Olympiakos audition went awry. Vert brings the necessary footballing ability to play the conservative left-back role in Mourinho’s current asymmetric system, counter-balancing Aurier’s surges forward, facing down attackers, and distributing well, albeit with simple passes – more complex distribution will remain the sole competence of Toby Alderweireld.
Moussa Sissoko played a big part in the Bournemouth win too. The Frenchman repaid his manager’s faith in starting him ahead of Lucas Moura, which expands the question mark which I had already hung over Lucas' head in the last two editions of this column.
What I didn’t see coming last week was a Dele Alli brace versus the Cherries. Alli had been central to Spurs’ West Ham victory and the Olympiakos comeback, but not in a way which excited from an FPL perspective. Of all the places for a Number 10 like Alli to thrive, in the midst of Jefferson Lerma and Lewis Cook did not seem like fertile terrain, but so it proved as the Englishman notched twice and dominated the goal threat metrics with five attempts on goal. In previous weeks, Dele’s attempts were more speculative in nature, but in GW14, all of his attempts came from inside the penalty area. In fact, Dele has had just one other shot in the box in the whole Mourinho era: his fortuitous goal that kickstarted the Olympiakos comeback.
Son was chiefly a provider this weekend, providing four key passes but shooting just twice. Fantasy managers were rewarded with two assists but he was still clearly the bridesmaid to Dele. If you made a choice between these two midfielders previously, I would advise that you hold your course and wait to see how they play versus United. If you're making your first Spurs selection of José's tenure, Alli looks like the superior option. That said, Dele had an unexpected free rein in Gameweek 14 and he will be a marked man from now on… let’s see how it goes at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Tammy Abraham’s fitness continues to intrigue and frustrate in equal measure. Without the young striker, Chelsea struggled to reach the standards that we have come to expect from them this season, losing to West Ham.
Christian Pulisic, who has been outperforming Abraham’s attacking stats recently, failed to find the net with any of his five shots in the box, two of which were big chances. Olivier Giroud, who replaced Abraham, made so little an impact that it appears he will be dropped on Wednesday evening. If Abraham doesn’t make it, Pulisic is expected to play centrally with Callum Hudson-Odoi on the left. Frank Lampard’s press conference early on Tuesday will be watched closely by the FPL community, but even if Abraham does return, I think trust in Chelsea has been dented by such a below par defeat to the Hammers.
Welcome back, Wilf
Each season, one of the league’s top performers fails to fire for a while after being unsettled by rumours and expressions of interest. This summer was no exception, with Wilfried Zaha the player at the centre of a saga around a prospective move to Arsenal, a team one point above Crystal Palace as we near the half way point of the season.
In spite of everything, Zaha’s game time was never restricted by Roy Hodgson bar the opening day of the season, which was just days after the transfer fell through. In spite of being present in body, Zaha faced accusations of being absent in mind, and his FPL returns alone reflected that as the Ivory Coast international reached Gameweek 12 with no goals and just two assists to his name. Zaha’s dribbling stats are also emblematic of his dissociated period: in the first five gameweeks, Zaha attempted just 3.4 successful dribbles per game. In the nine gameweeks since then, he has averaged 5.22 successful dribbles per game and he scored twice in the last two games, marking his return to form.
With a great run of fixtures ahead, Zaha is suddenly back on the radar of FPL managers who hope he can rediscover the form which saw him reach double figures for both goals and assists in 2018/19. This writer thinks that you should hold off for another Gameweek, but Palace’s great run of fixtures where they avoid all of the Top Six for eight games already began with the Burnley victory in GW14. The clock is ticking.
Jamie Vardy (Watford H)
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If it is broken, don’t sack two managers in three months.
Christian Pulisic (Aston Villa H)
All the chances came the American’s way but he spurned them in an off day for The Blues. I expect a big bounce back at the Bridge.
John Lundstram (Newcastle H)
Sheffield’s defence is so consistent and Lundstram is so ludicrously out of position that this is genuinely an option.
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.