Stag’s Take - Gameweek 19
The holiday period is a unique time of the year where families have the time to come together, to take stock, to recharge, and to eat a bit too much. Whilst we do all that, Premier League footballers must train, refrain from over-enthusiastic celebration, and keep their brains focused on the Gameweek 19 games. That’s what made Heung-Min Son’s red card and three game ban for violent so human - he’ll be watching the upcoming festive fixtures with as much impact on the games as you and I. He wanted to be like us.
Son’s red card whilst held by 57.59% of the Top 10k and captained by almost one in five of them was one for the ages, His minus one points anti-haul will go down in the annals of FPL tragedies with the likes of The Shane Duffy DGW TC FPL-manager-psychodrama or the Olivier Giroud Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day massacre of 2014. However, where disaster strikes, opportunity beckons, and replacing Son is the hottest ticket in town ahead of the GW19 fixtures.
Cheers Son’s crying. Nice one
This week’s top “Transfers In (Round)” leaderboard gives us a good insight into the thoughts of the Son (and to a lesser extent John McGinn) selling syndicate. Between north of 800k sales between the two, there has been quite uniform interest in Kevin De Bruyne, Mo Salah, Jack Grealish, and Dele Alli. Each has been brought into between 150k and 220k teams at time of writing, and there's a strong degree of sense to each move.
KdB is in over 86% of the Top 10K’s teams owing to his hyper consistency over the course of the season. He stands above anybody in terms of chance creation and has returned 12 assists already this term as on the eve of the season’s halfway point. City may not be as electric as they have been in other years, but the Belgian midfielder is en route to breaking his personal record of 21 assists in a season. Coupled with that, de Bruyne is only a shade away from surpassing his best ever tally of eight goals scored in a PL season, with six goals so far. Even though many of his shots have a low xG and come from range, his ability means that he finds the net more than often enough to earn him a pass. It makes that managers without de Bruyne are plugging the gap when such a straightforward opportunity has arisen for them.
Moves for Dele Alli are more avant-garde. The England international’s fantastic form under José Mourinho has been called into question a little more recently as reality has taken the momentum out of Jose’s new manager bounce. Alli had a disappointing showing, like all his teammates, in the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea where he failed to record an attempt on Kepa’s goal, just days after he posed a minimal goal threat as Spurs eked to victory over Wolves. Do we ignore those games and back him regardless, knowing that he is a focal point for the New Spurs’ attacks? Between GW14 and 16, he was a constant goal threat scoring three times from attempts and picking up two assists from five chances created. Personally, I think he is the best pick-up in this Spurs side as they enter a three game run against Brighton (H), Norwich (A), and Southampton (A) - all eminently winnable games. That said, Harry Kane may well be the differential we all wish we had by the time we take stock again in a few days time. He has been posing as much of a threat as Alli in the box over the past five gameweeks and is vastly outshooting him when efforts from outside the box are included. He may have failed to even keep up with Alli’s goalscoring in that period, however I have a feeling Mourinho will feel a need to re-orientate the Spurs side to make the most of Kane’s shooting abilities to get them over their latest hump.
Salah’s popularity is intriguing. He flashed back into our consciences after months of FPL disappointments with consecutive double figure hauls against Bournemouth and Watford just before the GW18 Liverblank. One must wonder though, is now the time? Liverpool face Leicester in GW19 - the best defence in the league. Add the fact that Salah has just travelled to the other side of the world for the Club World Cup, where he effectively partook in all of the 210 minutes that the Reds played in Qatar. He is unlikely to be rested in GW19 against Liverpool’s closest title rivals, but it is hard to see him featuring in each of the two games against Wolves and Sheffield United which follow in quick succession. As noted in this column before Gameweek 17, when Salah scored a fortuitous brace, the Egyptian is amongst the league’s top performers for shots and shots in the box in recent times, however the quality (but not the quantity) of the chances he has had has been eclipsed by his teammate Sadio Mané.
Jack Grealish is by far and away Aston Villa’s biggest FPL asset, having a hand in 57% of the Villains’ goals in the last six gameweeks. He has better stats than Dele Alli in almost every department over the period, out-shooting him, notching up a higher xG and more touches in the opposition box. Super Jack indeed. Having beaten them 5-1 already earlier this season, a relegation six-pointer against Norwich awaits the Villains in GW19. All logical arguments suggest that it is actually Grealish that managers should be running to pick up ahead of this fixture, but I can’t help worrying that Villa’s declining form and the loss of McGinn will hurt them badly over the festive period. Definitely one to consider, and probably one to sign. The classic FPL talisman.
Rotation rotation rotation
Last season, the rotation fears of the masses reached hysterical levels and we all ended up feeling short-changed as they never came to pass. This season, the top managers have quotes on record which suggest that they plan to swap around their starting line-ups, but it remains to be seen how it plays out in reality.
Applicable to everyone is the news that Jamie Vardy will be rested at some point over the “nonsense” festive fixtures, according to Brendan Rodgers.
This season, Manchester United have won just 8% of all their games where they have had more possession than their opponents. Similarly, Solskjaer’s United would have an 8% win percentage without the help of penalties this season. From an FPL perspective, it feels hard to place trust in United, however I still think Marcus Rashford should be part of your squad this weekend. His underlying stats are strong, especially xG, and he has maintained a good goalscoring record all season.
Tammy Abraham (Southampton H)
Teemu Pukki (Aston Villa A)