Stag's Take – Gameweek 25
Double Gameweek 24 has come and gone, and it turns out that the Liverpool triple-up we all should have had was Trent Alexander-Arnold (12), Mohamed Salah (16), and... Jordan Henderson (16). Certainly not following the script.
A script written in the depths of hell played out for the many who give the armband to, or even entrusted the triple captain chip in, 32 minute-man Sadio Mané. An understandable wave of nausea and Sané-last-season flashbacks struck chords – it was an apocalyptic FPL moment that will live long in the memory. Unlucky to all those affected and congrats to the Salah TC-ers. 48 points is going to be a huge score for those of us still holding the chip to match or better!
We are reaching the point in the season where the FPL calendar distorts to present a flow of do-or-die blank (BGW) and double gameweeks (DGW). The incoming BGW28 is the first of those, caused by the participation of Man City and Jack Grealish FC in the League Cup final. Fixtures involving those two sides and their respective opponents, Arsenal and Sheffield United, will be part of DGWs later in the season.
The next hurdle after that is an FA Cup quarter-final induced BGW31, where it seems likely that there will be at best a half schedule by my assessment of the FA Cup fixtures – this looks like it will be the traditional Free Hit gameweek..By my count, City, Chelsea, Man United, Sheffield, Leicester, Brighton, Arsenal, Southampton, West Ham, and Spurs are unlikely to feature, with the travails of Liverpool's Under-14s in The Taming of the Shrews and Newcastle's keenness to continue fighting on two fronts the question marks hanging over another two potential blanks..The belief of DGW guru Ben Crellin is that the doubles will come in DGW34 and DGW37.
Manchester City and Arsenal's continued involvement in Europe create the possibility that we will have a TRIPLE gameweek at some stage this season. As a TC-holder, it seems I'm going to hold out to see what happens with this; it could be gold.
A lot of wildcards seem to have been pulled after the Liverdouble in 24 and TCs already used, but for those who haven't done so, know that the “prescribed” chip strategy will be FH31, WC36, and BB37. This writer has departed from this by wildcarding a few weeks back, but I will do my best to cater to the everyone's quandaries as the weeks tick by.
After a stunning season, suddenly the DGW injury disaster and the risk of missing two games through injury has seen a huge Sadio Mané fire-sale. By kick off of Gameweek 25, it seems he may have been dropped by 10% of all teams. Somehow, that has only caused his price to fall by 0.1 million so far.
But what should we do? Sell too? According to Jurgen Klopp, the Senegal international has a small muscle tear that will keep him out of the Southampton game (GW25) but it appears he has a chance of facing Norwich in GW26, a game which actually takes place in two weeks as part of the staggered format of the Christmas Break. Even if Mané is fit by then though, will Klopp risk him with a Champions League clash with Atlético just three days later? Joining the mass-sale feels like both a no-brainer, given he will miss a game and consumes so much value, and also somehow keeping him seems like a calculated risk with a large upside with the Norwich game beckoning. Having Mané as a differential against the Canaries is a dream scenario.
The striking aspect of selling Mané is the dichotomy between all the pre DGW24 efforts to invest in midfield and the sudden lack of further options in the middle third. Beyond Mané's teammate Mo Salah, assist king Kevin De Bruyne, and Jack Grealish, there is no form midfielder to pick up. That fact alone makes a maverick hold tempting, but I think I will end up selling.
Usually, the arrival of a baby is the football equivalent someone's star-sign guaranteeing them riches, but as with so many aspects of the Jamie Vardy story, the late December birth of Olivia Grace Vardy has not delivered the expected results. Vardy has not found the net in the PL since, whilst Leicester's form as a team has nosedived. All of a sudden, games against practically every side in the league are a challenge for the Foxes, who just over a month ago were able to brush aside everyone.
The tragedy of Vardy recently is not just minutes missed, but also a distinct lack of chances in the time he has had. Three attempts on goal in the last five gameweeks (in which he only played 223/450 minutes) is dwarfed by David Silva (5), who played an hour less, and equalled by Flo Lejeune, who has played just 40 minutes more. The lack of chances is another illustration of the recent struggles of Leicester's midfield and in particular James Maddison.
Sell sell sell? Not for me, anyway, but I understand the wildcarders moving Vardy on. It appears he will feature against The Blues in GW25 in spite of the injury which stopped him starting in the League Cup in midweek, but didn't prevent him coming off the bench. Furthermore, the tough run of games Leicester face means that getting his top scorer in for the clash with the Champions League rivals must be a priority for Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers. Vardy will have 13 days to recover from the game, even if it comes too soon under normal circumstances.
Mo Salah (Southamton A)
The DGW preparations and results mean that Salah will be a owned by almost every active side in FPL this weekend. He will be a popular captain pick, placing an insurance captaincy firmly in the “safe bet” box from a ranking perspective. And why not? Only Firmino has had more shots in the box than the Egyptian over the last five gameweeks (though of course Liverpool players had 90 extra minutes for this). Salah is also ranked well in terms of other vital shooting statistics. As we saw in DGW24, Salah's penalty duties in James Milner's absence can also be decisive.
Jack Grealish (Bournemouth A)
In spite of progressing to a domestic cup final, Aston Villa cannot rest on their laurels in the Premier League. The Villains are just two points above the relegation zone and face a challenging run of games between now and GW30, making a victory against the Cherries in this relegation six-pointer at Dean Court vital. He has been involved in 45% of Villa's PL goals this season, and that reliance only seems to be growing as he blooms into the sort of player Ireland would cherish.
Gabriel Martinelli (Burnley A)
The Clarets looked like unexpected relegation candidates about one month ago, but wins against Man Utd, Leicester, and Villa have earned them some breathing space again. Over the last two games, one of the standout performers in the league has been bargain basement teenage Arsenal striker Gab Martinelli, whose two goals in two PL games and cup exploits have pushed him onto our radars. Even with Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang back from suspension, Mikel Arteta would be brave to ditch the Brazilian for the Gabon internation, so perhaps Alexandre Lacazette will move to the bench instead. Between the last two games, no Arsenal player posed a bigger threat to the opposition than Martinelli, who had four shots in the box.
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.