Stag's Take – Gameweek 28
The Blank Gameweek (BGW) has come – a gameweek where League Cup Final participation sees two Premier League fixtures postponed for Manchester City, Arsenal, Sheffield United and Aston Villa.
At this point, if you have more than four players blanking, you are in an unusual position given that the FPL fortunes of each of these sides have been inconsistent (at best) in recent weeks.
Aside from Kevin De Bruyne, a consistent points machine that it seems will play every game and who is now Manchester City's penalty taker, there is no City player that I would rank as anywhere near “essential”. If you are trailing and looking to make big gains on the “template xi”, I would even see disposing of de Bruyne as a potential option.
It is not news to anybody reading this column that the likes of Aguero, Mahrez and the Silvas are rotation risks or that City's erratic defence isn't worth an investment, so it makes sense to sell any of these players for the blank and beyond; you're not going to be missing much. City's clear priority will be the Champions League for the remainder of the season and their imminent fixtures are poor anyway with three Top Six clashes in the first four games post-BGW.
It would be quite surprising for any side to have more than two Arsenal players in the squad. If one of those is Aubameyang, it may be easier to keep him if a sale (and his inevitable swift return) would cause hits to be taken or other important transfers to be ignored. The Gunners' immediate post-BGW fixtures are very good (WHU, bha, sou, NOR) and, no that they have been dumped out of Europe, the Premier League and securing a Top Four place will be the side's primary objective. There looks to be great value in Arsenal midfielder and 4.5 enabler Bukayo Saka, 4.3 striker Eddie Nketiah's game time is something to monitor closely also. Nketiah has been answering the call of his teammates and scoring all season, just at Championship level with Leeds on-loan up to this point. Nicolas Pepe looks like he will be a great differential too.
The BGW may be the excuse many managers needed to finally part ways with John Lundstram. A hero to many but now after dropping in 0.3 in price, he has become an impact bench player for Chris Wilder. He has not played over 60 minutes for four gameweeks. Regardless, the Sheffield United defence still offers up plenty of outstanding value going forward.
Oh yeah, Aston Villa. Jack Grealish FC are in an almighty survival struggle and a comprehensive 2-0 defeat to Southampton in GW27 did little to help their cause. The players downing tools and engaging in self-preservation ahead of the cup final has disappointed their manager immensely, but it also gives an insight into how the dressing room rates its chances of staying up and priorities. Aside from former Irishman Grealish, Villa's FPL options are a busted flush.
Aside from the BGW players, I'm sure many managers are wondering if Jamie Vardy, as well as other Leicester assets, are disposable. The thing is, the Foxes are approaching a fixture run so good, it's hard to dump even the most-under-performing players (nor, AVL, wat, BHA, eve). I, for one, am giving Vardy two last chances against relegation-threatened, if not already condemned, sides. He went extremely close against Man City and generally Leicester looked improved in a new formation against the reigning Champions.
Last week, this column highlighted the upswing in fixtures for both Wolves and Southampton at the weekend. Clean sheets for both and quite a few predictable returns have underlined both sides' assets for the coming weeks. Whilst no side has quite as favourable fixtures, Chelsea do have an okay run and they do also looked to be joining Arsenal and their nation out of Europe.
Up front, Olivier Giroud's game time and Lampard quotes about it should be monitored closely; Tammy Abraham's injuries and poor form have finally caught up with him but as yet, there isn't enough for me to buy the World Cup winning striker. Chelsea's midfield is devoid of a dependable option but Ross Barkley is the only one that showed an attacking slant against Spurs and Bayern, albeit with contrasting results. Mason Mount's composure has deserted him as he tries to get back into form.
That leaves one Blues option to rule them all – Reece James. The youngster has become a consistent fixture under Lamps and he has repaid his coach's faith. No Chelsea defender has created more chances in the last eight gameweeks and with a heading specialist like Giroud in the side, I think his chances of turning good balls into goals has grown.
Mo Salah/Sadio Mané (Watford A)
Last time these sides met, it was Mané who played well but Salah who got the points. There have been plenty of other days this term where the opposite has also held true. The impossible choice between the two continues to give managers an almighty headache. Watford's early surge under Nigel Pearson appears to be ended and they have slipped back into the drop zone with no clear escape route in sight. One would suspect that that should be another win for 'Pool, though it may be less comfortable like the recent West Ham win as minds drift to a huge clash with Atleti in ten days time.
Jamie Vardy (Norwich A)
To back Leicester, you have to throw out stats and the form book and have faith in quality. If you're happy to do that, Vardy now represents a bit of a differential and a great option.
Bruno Fernandes (Everton A)
Five man of the match awards for Bruno in his first five appearances for Manchester United - Impressive. Now United's confirmed penalty taker as well – Promising. Facing a defence that whilst improved, is still leaking a huge amount of chances and generally vulnerable – a good combination.With Anthony Martial injured and his prognosis unknown at time of writing, the Portugal international looks like the best United pick, though Mason G or Odion Ighalo could also be shrewd pick-ups.
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.