Stag's Take – Gameweek 23
There's a set of lyrics which came to mind last weekend as a move finally paid off for me in a big way this season:
"And even in the darkest night
There will be a light
It's gonna shine down on you
It's gonna light your way, through the storm"
With my campaign in disarray and a respectable finish now relegated to a pipe dream rather than an objective, I decided to break away from the prescribed approach to FPL, the done thing, by using my wildcard early to ring in the changes. Coming into my side was an overlooked FPL legend, Sergio Agüero, whose ownership was below 3% in the Top 10K. With quotes from Pep circulating about Kun in the expectancy that he would break Thierry Henry's record for goals scored by a foreign player in the league against Villa, I felt unusually confident that the Argentine would start against the Heaton-less Villains – the first hurdle to be overcome when a City asset is in question. Sure enough, he did line-out from the kick-off and he went on to deliver a performance which left this author positively euphoric – three goals, one assist, three BAPS, and 20 points doubled for one happy Stag.
Don't ever believe your season is beyond repair; but don't expect your season to fix itself either. Carpe diem.
As we revealed on the Who Got the Assist podcast this week, this has not been a season where managers have embraced risk. Liverpool's dominance, consistent strong performances from elite picks, cheap enablers (particularly in defence) have made hit-taking less necessary this term. Just 43% of managers reported that they had taken between zero and four hits by about this time last season. About 30% more managers fall within this “low risk-taker” profile this term (59% of respondents to our poll reported taking between zero and four hits); there is an opportunity here to take a more aggressive approach to FPL to steal a march on the main body of FPL managers. Don't be afraid to use your Triple Captain chip in a single gameweek (even if the temptation to use it in DGW24 will be large), don't be afraid to wildcard if you're unhappy with your rank and many of your players, don't be afraid to bring in a Man City player two weeks before Liverpool's DGW on a Wildcard even though you “need” to get Salah and Mané into your side.
Fox hunters finding joy
Owning a Leicester defender, usually Çaglar Soyuncu, has been a standard feature of our teams since early on this term. However, maybe we should stop seeing these players as a must-play and embrace placing them on the bench where necessary.
Since Gameweek 17, where the Foxes have faced bottom-half opposition on four occasions as well as Liverpool and Man City, no side has conceded more (11), whilst only whipping boys Aston Villa have allowed more shots in their box (70; 59) in the six game spell. A comparison of Leicesters' results while filtering out the Man City and Liverpool defeats, where of course their defensive stats took a hammering, does not change the overall complexion of the situation. Comparing GW13-17 (bha, EVE, WAT, avl, NOR) with GW20-22 (whu, new, SOU), we see that the Foxes have been opened up far more often on a per game basis recently, for example they have gone from conceding about six shots in the box per game to eight shots in the box per game in the latter period under examination. A similar story emerges when duels lost in defence are considered; Rodgers' men have gone from losing an average of eight tackles per game to about twelve. These are both significant increases and highlight the overall slip in the quality of Leicesters' defensive performances as fatigue has bitten them.
Brendan Rodgers has tried to react this week by giving his players multiple days off in a bid to combat the fatigue clearly gripping his players. To what extent that will help performances remains to be seen, but for now, we should know that playing “Soy” for one pointers need not be an inevitability. With Wilfred Ndidi ruled out for at least this weekend and probably also the GW24 encounter with West Ham at the King Power, maybe even an away trip to Burnley is a game where benching your Leicester defender is an option.
Mid-priced midfielders make managers mumble
One of the few places where the is currently a debate about who to own in FPL is in the mid-priced midfielder category. Adama Traoré´s festive form proved fleeting, James Maddison has just one return in six games, Jack Grealish is a one man band playing on the deck of the sinking Titanic, Ismaila Sarr is this writer's pick although Abdoulaye “The Duke” Doucouré is outpacing him for a cheaper price in an in-form Watford team. Who to pick?
What is mid-priced? 5.5 to 7.7 ish (You know it when you see it)
When we look at shot stats, Ishaila Sarr continues to be the standout option over the last five gameweeks. Few mid-priced midfielder can boast a better non-penalty xG tally (1.54) than the Senegalese over the last five gameweeks. He is playing a big role in Watford's form under Nigel Pearson, running in off the wing to rack up 10 shots in the box and creating a lot of good chances for his teammates. It appears that only Sarr's teammate, Gerard “please spell his surname correctly” Deulofeu, better's Sarr's non-pen xG stats, although the La Masia graduate has one shot in the box less than Sarr in the period (this is statistically insignificant).
Surprisingly, Miguel Almirón is the next biggest midfield goal threat in this price bracket, behind only the Watford two. A non-pen xG of 1.22 off nine shots in the box (the same as Gerry D), where he (finally!) returned two goals like the aforementioned Hornets duo in the last fix gameweeks. The Paraguayan also scored in the FA Cup against Rochdale, meaning that after a drought which had attracted meme-status since arriving in England, he has now scored in three consecutive games. Jack Grealish is nowhere near the threat in the box he was when we last visited this topic a few weeks ago, but he has averaged a shot in the box per game over the last five gameweeks – and he is a player who only needs just one chance. That said, his attempts over the last five PL games have an average of 0.039. For reference: Ings (0.167), Mahrez (0.086), Calvert-Lewin (0.159), Sarr (0.14).
Turning to chance creation in this bracket, Emi Buendía is light years ahead of everyone for chance creation over the last five gameweeks (23). His closest rival is Willian (17), who we all regard as a rotation risk but who really isn't under Frank Lampard – since GW5, he has played over 60 minutes all but once. Deulofeu ranks highly in terms of chance creation like he does in shooting stats, as just five people have created more chances than him (11), but it is notable that none of these have been classified as “big chances created”, showing that may the shots he has created have come in the cul de sac he created by hogging the ball for too long. Juan Mata's eye-catching two assist performance against Norwich in GW22 is also worth monitoring. Aside from that GW22 game, he has barely played recently, yet already the Spaniard has two big chances created and sits prominently in the chance creation charts.
James Maddison does not have stats which merit a mention in either side of the attacking game. Jordan Ayew and Fred have created more chances than him (7) over the last five, Aaron Mooy and Andy Carroll have more shots than the Englishman (6) in the period.
Sergio Agüero (Crystal Palace H)
Crystal Palace's defensive stats are mid-table, with no clear indication of a vulnerability, but they haven't kept a clean sheet since GW16. A hat-trick last weekend; what can he follow up with?
Jamie Vardy (Burnley A)
Leicester form be damned, few sides are performing worse than Burnley of late, and Vardy will be a hugely popular pick this weekend. To reverse his well known quote, a Vardy bang will be __ for your rank unless your captain outscores him.
Todd Cantwell (Bournemouth H)
A relegation six-pointer for the Canaries in front of their own fans, it will be interesting to see what Norwich can muster. If they do win out, Catwell is likely to be key.
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.