Stag’s Take – Gameweek 16
I spent much of Wednesday evening trying to think back to a more bizarre Gameweek than the one which we just went through, but nothing came to mind. After a bountiful weekend, only a few outliers didn’t blank amongst the Premier League’s defenders and goalkeepers; most notably Lukasz Fabianski, Matt Doherty, and Kieran Trippier. In midfield Pep gave Raheem Sterling a whole evening off but at least Leroy Sané returned. Mo Salah was surprisingly named on the bench as Jurgen Klopp named an arrogant XI from the off at Burnley, and in the end the Egyptian was sent on with 20 minutes to play as part of a three-point rescue squad. He couldn’t replicate the brace he scored in a similar amount of time as a sub against Stoke last year, but he did get an assist to reward those who entrusted him with the armband. Indeed the Premier League’s surprise package Bournemouth yet again delivered for FPL managers, with both Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser scoring and assisting the other to secure double-figure returns in a week where points were scarce.
However, it was the main transfer decision of the week which largely decided the direction your overall rank took – Kane or Aubameyang? Harry Kane matched the Bournemouth duo and left his many owners jubilant whilst PE-A was involved in an error-strewn battle of frustration at Old Trafford where he failed to find the net.
Given the exceptional nature of the gameweek (even by the standards of December), there are lessons to be learnt in terms of FPL management based on teams I saw on Twitter:
A. The importance of squad depth. Having at least two spare outfield players at minimum is important with rotation and knocks taking their toll.
B. Picking a vice-captain you are certain will start is vital. Whilst it worked out okay for me in the end, I set Aubameyang as my vice in case Salah didn’t play. I knew that Unai Emery would not rotate him when he was playing a member of the Top Six.
Injuries give birth to opportunities
Marko Arnautovic became the latest template team player to succumb to injury on Tuesday evening, though in truth we have been worrying about his status for months now and a concrete confirmation that he will be absent for a month is a blessing in disguise.
Leading the charge to be his replacement in your side is Callum Wilson, who is now the fourth highest scorer in FPL. He has two more points than Mo Salah, one less than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. His reliability has been astounding, with eight goals and eight assists to his name this term. Many managers will have sold Wilson (like I did) as the Cherries’ fixtures looked like they were hitting a roadblock in from GW13 onwards, but goal against Manchester City and double-figure haul against Huddersfield have given cause for fresh enthusiasm. In his current form, the England international is seemingly undroppable, which will exacerbate the fears of most non-owners sufficiently to bite the bullet and draft Wilson into their side as a defensive move if anything.
The straight swap away from Arnautovic to one of his teammates is also logical given that West Ham’s upcoming schedule remains kind. Lucaz Perez’s brace in GW15 will surely place him at the front of the queue to start for Manuel Pellegrini but Chicharito and Andy Carroll are waiting for their opportunities too. Chicharito had been starting in a front two with Arnie as a combination of a poacher alongside a hardworking support forward in the Austrian. Both Chicharito and Perez fit the bill as poachers, so it’s not immediately clear to me what Pellegrini will do going forward unless he throws Carroll in at the deep-end starting with one of the others again. It is this cloud of uncertainty which makes me hesitant about recommending a straight swap to another West Ham forward – the easiest solution seems to be making space for Felipe Anderson in your midfield instead.
Dare I suggest Aboubakar Kamara? The bargain striker started and scored for Claudio Ranieri on Wednesday night against his ex-employers having caused Chelsea quite a bit of bother off the bench at the weekend. As cheap striker options go, he currently leads the charge though Raúl Jiménez of Wolves continues to find points for a million cheaper than Callum Wilson. Wolves had both their worst and best results in months in the last seven days, generating general confusion about how to assess their assets. Doherty obviously remains essential, but further forward “Jimmy” has been dependable, now with 10 goal contributions in 15 gameweeks. In the last six gameweeks, he has had more attempts per game than Callum Wilson, though the quality of his chances and his finishing have left a lot more to be desired. He contributes much more in defensive and the build-up than Wilson too as Wolves generally comes under the cosh more than high-flying Bournemouth.
The logical answer says to me than managers should get in Callum Wilson if they don’t own him already. If you do, there is scope to acquire a differential like the West Ham players. However, that may not be the most prudent given that the sands have shifted away from relying on multiple mid-priced forwards of late.
The change of the guard
It seems to me that FPL team-structure orthodoxy has re-emerged as the most logical way of approaching the Christmas fixtures. A 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 formation with two elite strikers and a strong midfield or a more indulgent midfield and just one elite striker seems like the way forward. Kane, Aubameyang and (once he’s fit again) Aguero vie for the forward slots whilst Salah, Mané, Eriksen, Sterling, Sané, and Eden Hazard lead the charge in midfield. I remain entrenched in the Salah camp for the coming Gameweek at least, which almost by default makes Kane unaffordable. Winter may have come, but Salah is on thin ice.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Huddersfield H)
Is this me being irrationally optimistic or statistically sound? You decide! The Gabon international’s sublime run of seeing all his PL shots on target finding the net was ended by the gloves of David De Gea on Wednesday. Up until de Gea’s intervention, 10 consecutive shots on target found the net stretching back 102 days, which has led many to suggest that Auba’s conversion rate was a fluke.
As outlined in this column just days ago ahead of GW14, Auba is a precision finisher who relies on quality; not quantity. He finishes his big chances.
Huddersfield are not a poor team at the back, don’t get me wrong, but Arsenal should get the better of them by a margin of two or three at the Emirates.
Mo Salah (Bournemouth A)
Bournemouth are no-longer the side who does well against other mid-table and relegation fodder teams but yields to the Top Six by conceding multiple goals. However, they have conceded at least twice against City, Arsenal, and Chelsea so far this term.
After a mid-week rest, Salah should be in good stead to plague Bournemouth’s side who haven’t been able to rotate all that much through the recent congested run. Every time I have watched Liverpool he is just inches from being released by through balls and constantly looking dangerous – it really seems to be just a matter of time until he explodes.
Harry Kane (Leicester A)
Leicester are the only team against whom Harry Kane has scored more than 10 goals. In fact, Kane has netted 13 times in eight meetings against the club where he once spent time on loan.
No player has had more shots (23) or shots on target than Kane in the last six gameweeks (14), and generally the English international looks to be returning to form. Will he pile misery upon the Foxes again?
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.