Stag’s Take – Gameweek 25
Not for the first time this term, the gameweek just past was what I term a “binary gameweek”, where the orientation of your arrow was almost totally dependent on whether or not you A) had a certain player and B) captained them. In this case, the man of the moment was my top captaincy pick ahead of the weekend, Sergio Agüero, who scored the first perfect hat-trick since he himself did so in 2015 en route to scoring five against the same opposition, Newcastle United.
Will we ever learn? The last great move to sell Kane came just before Christmas when a net total of 130,000 managers sold the defending double golden boot winner, driving his price down by 0.1 in the process. In response to Aguero’s performance at the weekend, the FPL Community has been gripped by hysteria to try and fit the 13.0 Englishman in a team alongside the bargain basement 11.8 Argentine. Some are even considering swapping Kane to Aguero to free up funds for elsewhere in their sides.
For me, the answer has not been “have one or the other” for the past few weeks nor do I think it should be now with Kane facing Man Utd, Liverpool, and Arsenal in his next three outings.
There’s a few reasons for holding Kane
1. The striker is in great form in spite of some poor performances from the players around him, he is scoring goals.
2. Even if the upcoming fixtures will be tougher on paper and his chances in open play reduced, Kane still takes penalties and could still find his way onto the scoresheet in this way.
3. Harry Kane has a good record against two of the three sides. Kane’s record against United is poor with just one goal in six appearances. Kane has lined out against Liverpool and Arsenal on six occasions too with much more success, averaging a goal per game against both.
4. If you’ve been on the Kane Train for a while, you’ll lose team value that you can’t get back.
5. This is the most important reason for me – if you sell Kane, you’re going to have to get him back. That means you’re going to use two transfers; Out and back In! It’s incredibly difficult to justify doing that right now when injuries are mounting and all of the Top Six have important European fixtures ahead.
6. The reality is that if you sell Kane, getting him back in will be made extra difficult by any redistribution of funds you do in the short-term, perhaps compounding your probable need to take hits to put the jigsaw together.
7. Surely you have bigger problems to address in your team? Lanzini, Arnie, Lingard and Son to name but a few are causing people real headaches. Making sure you replace them properly will be much more fruitful in my opinion.
All that being said, you will need to find a way to get Aguero into your side for the next few weeks. City face a slew of mid-table and worse sides in their next three, with the visit of a depleted West Brom in the upcoming gameweek the pick of the lot. The 22.1% of sides that currently own him are bracing for another big haul against the Baggies, but I think it’s the 8.6% overall who own both that are going to do the best.
The fact that Alexis is following in the footsteps of Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia, Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay into the Number 7 shirt of Manchester United may indicate that the jersey once worn by Best, Robson, Cantona, Beckham, and Ronaldo has lost its lustre and contracted plague instead.
However the early signs against League Two strugglers Yeovil Town in the FA Cup were pretty good, as Alexis was as industrious and inventive as ever in his first appearance in the red of Manchester.
The Chilean provided one (arguably two) assists in the 4-0 victory, winning man of the match in the process though perhaps that award wasn’t truly merited. While Sanchez has been signed for the tougher tests to come in Europe and the Premier League, how Alexis was deployed hints at all the reasons why the transfer is a fantastic one for this Manchester United side.
Playing on the left of an attacking three, Sanchez drifted inside often to work intricate and spontaneous moves with Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford. The ball zipped around the uneven surface far too quickly for the defenders, who were a bit too forthright with their tackles in response. This contrasted deeply with the ponderous nature of United’s possession against weaker sides all too often this season, when they have ended up going wide to cross or have resorted to long shots. The introduction of a player like Sanchez, who works independently of a choreographed system and thus won’t need as much time to settle, will help United penetrate the blanket defences without compromising their fantastic pace on the counter at all. Thus, to those that sneer at Alexis being dispossessed 31 times… you don’t understand what Sanchez is there for. Alexis tries to beat his man and create space for a shot, Alexis will try the low percentage passes because Alexis doesn’t fear the repercussions of losing possession, Alexis is everything United have needed.
After Spurs, United have a few sweet fixtures against relegation battling sides – Huddersfield (H) and Newcastle (A). If the signs are good in Wembley, I’ll be strongly considering transferring in Alexis. He has obvious FPL pedigree having been a must-own last season when he scored 24 and assisted 11 for Arsenal. Even whilst clearly wanting to leave the Emirates this season, he still has 7 goals and 5 assists already! At 11.7 and just 3.3% ownership (most of which are dead teams), Alexis is the perfect player to help you climb the overall ranks quickly if you’ve struggled thus far.
Arnie replacing and Sanchez enabling
The legacy of the double gameweek was that many of us benefitted from Marko Arnautovic’s consistent points scoring in recent weeks but alas it won’t continue as the Austrian is out for about a month with a hamstring injury. If you’re not looking to replace Arnie, you’re probably eyeing swapping out Arnie’s teammate and treatment room buddy Lanzini or Spurs’ Son – all in all the mid-tier midfield market is getting a lot of attention at the moment.
For me the dilemma is picking up a cheap enabler to unlock funds to splurge elsewhere or else find a similarly priced replacement. I’ll go through the players who I think you should think about.
The cheap option
The standout player for me in this area is Burnley’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson. He has caught my eye over the last few weeks with his playmaking and chance creation. He’s had 14 key passes in his last four outings but unfortunately none of those yielded an assist for the Iceland international. For some, that zero is enough to put them off – The Clarets have scored just 19 times this season, but at 5.0, JBG is good value for money. Add to that the fact that he takes both free-kicks and corners and you’ve got yourself a great fifth midfielder.
Having watched back highlights and scrolling through stats, a good in-form differential Alexis-enabler is Johann Berg Gudmundsson
— #FPL Stag (@FPLStag) January 25, 2018
When I posted that tweet it generated quite a bit of interest and conversation and a few other cheap enablers were pointed out, most notably by Robin who goes by @rjsurfleet on Twitter. Luka Milivojevic was one of the players he mentioned. The Palace midfielder is available for just 4.7 having just had a price rise. As the resident penalty taker in a team with Zaha and Townsend, he gets his chances, hence 5 goals so far this season. James McArthur 4.3 has recently found his way back into Palace’s starting team too with RLC injured and is decent bench fodder option though I wouldn’t hold my breath for much more than that from him. In the last five gameweeks he played 397 minutes, registering just three shots and eight penalty area actions, failing to create any big chances. I’m not trying to name the whole Palace team right now, but Bakary Sako (4.9) is also worth thinking about. He’s basically playing out of position as a striker alongside Christian Benteke at the moment and his underlying stats show that he’s a goal threat – 11 shots in the last five games (played just 240 minutes) with 8 of those coming from inside the box! He started both of the last two games The Eagles played in the league.
Whilst Palace’s fixtures aren’t fantastic, Leicester’s are much more appealing and if you can’t afford Riyad Mahrez, Marc Albrighton isn’t a bad alternative. He has chipped in with two goals and six assists so far this season and his underlying stats tell us that these weren’t a fluke – as anyone who has watched the Foxes over 90 minutes can attest to. In the last five games, he created four big chances for his teammates and found himself busy in the box with 49 actions in there. That said, he doesn’t shoot all that much, not even a shot per game in the last five and even then just one shot came from inside the box. For me he’s a little expensive at 5.6 but maybe others would be tempted.
Like for like replacements
I’ve seen quite a few people mention Xherdan Shaqiri (6.0) as a great replacement for Arnie on Twitter during the week but I’m not convinced. Since he came to Stoke, there has been a one to three week purple patch where the Swiss looks like a Bayern player but then there’s all the other frustrating weeks. He had a good game in Paul Lambert’s first outing in charge of Stoke, creating one of his team’s goals and taking three shots on goal himself, but these aren’t incredible figures at all – over the last five gameweeks both Gudmundsson and Albrighton have recorded statistics which point towards much more potential for assists. However, I do concede that Stoke’s upcoming run of fixtures is compelling and so I can understand why people’s heads are being turned.
Aaron Ramsey (6.9) and Theo Walcott (7.1) have both shown us why they’re worth considering for FPL in the past, and Walcott picked up an assist on his Toffees debut last weekend. However, Everton’s attack is struggling at the moment so I think Theo should be given a wide berth yet. As for Ramsey, it’s hard to work out where or if he will slot straight back into the Arsenal’s starting XI. Before his injury, he was deployed in a defensive midfield role with license to help out attacks and he returned two goals and seven assists in eight games. To return to that berth he would have to displace the magnificent Jack Wilshere but now he also has to contend with Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s arrival if he is to play further forward. If I was choosing, I would gamble on the Armenian (7.6) instead, who will be keen to impress his new employers against lowly Swansea this weekend and in relatively straightforward fixtures after. Wenger said a few days ago that he hadn’t decided if he was going to set him loose on Swansea and we haven’t been updated on Arsene’s contemplation since but I’m bullish on his chances of starting. On Mkhi’s positioning, Wenger did say “I think he can play everywhere in the midfield - certainly not in a defensive role - but all the other positions are not out of reach for him." That sounds promising to me, I think it seems like Wenger will accommodate him one way or another.
Sergio Agüero (West Brom H)
It all seemed so simple earlier this week – a bug was ripping through the West Brom camp with six players at risk of missing their FA Cup game with Liverpool. Instead just two missed out and the Baggies earned their best result of the season to knock out the Reds 3-2. Thus it isn’t quite the perfect storm for captaining Aguero but it’s still pretty close.
The Argentine’s hat-trick last week was yet another exhibition of his incredible finishing ability which has brought him to 16 league goals for the season. He was rested for City’s routine win over Cardiff in the FA Cup too, playing just the latter half when the result was already sealed. Don’t be put off by Jesus coming back into the fold in a few weeks, just get him into your team and give him the armband if you’re not a believer in the curse of being the most transferred in player.
Mo Salah (Huddersfield A)
I was pretty worried for Liverpool when Philippe Coutinho departed for Barcelona, and to be honest, I still am. A defeat to Swansea in the league and then the West Brom cup debacle ft. VAR has left Liverpool looking shook and in need of a big result to spur them on again – what better opponents than Huddersfield for that? If you look at a form table for the last six games, only Burnley (2) have won more points than Huddersfield (3). It’s not much better for the Terriers if you focus on their home form, it’s actually worse! The Town have drawn two and lost two of their last four league games at the John Smith Stadium, although they only conceded five in those encounters. Since Salah last lined out against Huddersfield in Gameweek 10, the Egyptian has run riot, blanking on just two occasions and missing one game through injury. He has been a dependable option all season and I don’t see that changing before Tuesday.
Eden Hazard (Bournemouth H)
The Belgian FPL troll struck again in the last 10 days to yet again give false hope to many FPL managers and headaches to others. Indeed two goals against Brighton in Gameweek 24 and an impressive performance to boot were followed up in the FA Cup with heavy involvement in the creation of two goals. Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth are a great side to watch, and I love the project that’s in progress on the south coast. However, their style of play makes them vulnerable to conceding goals, and Eddie Howe even admitted that he sees that as just a consequence of his tactical plan – he just hopes that as the system takes root they will outscore their opponents.
Good opponents for Haz, but what about his own record against the Cherries? The winger has scored five times and assisted once against them in the past, something he is certainly aware of. Speaking after The Blues beat Bournemouth back in April, Hazard spoke of how he knew he would score in the game as he had done so against them in the past: “You have teams that you know before the game that you can score, or that it's your team. I remember in France I always scored against the same teams, but if you want to be a top player, you have to score against every team.”
A very solid differential option if you’re brave enough!
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.