Stag’s Take – Gameweek 29
Arsenal, oh Arsenal. It feels like a lot longer than two gameweeks since Everton departed the Emirates with their tails between their legs after a 5-1 hiding at the hands of the Gunners. Ramsey netted a hat-trick, Mkhitaryan assisted every one of his goals, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted his one and only goal for Arsenal in his first three appearances.
That truly is a distant memory. Since then Arsenal have lost to Spurs, Man City (twice), and Östersund on the night of their second-leg in the Europa League. In recent years, it has been characteristically “Arsenal” to summon up a rallying performance after a hammer-blow like the Carabao Cup defeat – it seems even that last vestige of their powers has dimmed this term. So much so that even Arsenal fans are believing it, judging by the way they gave the visit of City the full Thursday treatment, with enough seats empty in the lower stand to make out the canon. Their judgement proved correct though, as their side never fired up. The game was over by the interval, 3-0 at half-time. The chance to haul them back into the tie fell to Auba, though his effort from 12 yards was far too close to Ederson.
On Twitter, even one of Arsenal’s sponsors began to openly troll Auba as well as fellow new-signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, questioning their decision to move to the Gunners with no ammunition or ambition. However how should FPL managers view Arsenal’s latest misfire?
In seasons gone by, I always saw Arsenal’s transition to a lifeless meandering entity as the perfect time to transfer Olivier Giroud into my side – he always revelled in the stat-padding games against mid-table sides and over-stretched relegation candidates. However, as Arsenal face seven consecutive “green” fixtures (BGW31 excepting) I won’t have my old-reliable to aid my cause. Given that Arsenal’s last clean sheet came on December 13th against Newcastle United, I’m in no rush to acquire any defenders – but what about their attackers?
At 9.3, even with consistent key pass statistics giving rise to the permanent chance of an assist, I’m steering clear of Mesut Ozil. Since his arrival, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (7.8) has been providing what seem to me to be much more dangerous balls to his teammates, as is demonstrated by the fact that the Armenian has actually created more “big chances” (3) in the last three games than the German (2). Honestly though, I still favour Aaron Ramsey (7.0) as he shoots more often than the pair and also chips in with the odd key pass too.
A more exciting game to play could be to treat Arsenal like you should be treating West Brom, where you actively consider players just because they’re lining up against the Gunners. By that logic, it’s to Chris Hughton’s Brighton that we turn. Three of the Seagulls’ attack have caught the eye since January, namely veteran striker Glenn Murray (5.8) as well as new boys and club record signings José Izquierdo and Jurgen Locadia. Murray, 34, is enjoying his best Premier League season yet having reached double-figures thanks to his brace in GW27 against Swansea. His teammate Dale Stephens said nobody in the dressing room at Brighton is surprised by his scoring but I think his addition that “He’s a proven goalscorer at every level and obviously this season he has taken it to another level” highlights just how good Murray’s form is. When you compare his current physical performances combined with deft movement, it’s hard to imagine he’s the same player who had lost his place to Tomer Hemed before Christmas. Murray, with seven goals in his last nine appearances, is definitely worth your consideration ahead of GW29 even with a BGW in 31.
Manager Chris Hughton is probably as surprised as we are, given that he twice broke his transfer record this season to sign players who could have and almost certainly would have replaced Murray in the starting xi had this Indian summer not begun. José Izquierdo (5.9), classed as a midfielder as he is currently holding a starting spot on the left flank of the Seagulls’ attack. With two goals and an assist in his last three, he shouldn’t be thoughtlessly “left” aside in your decision making. So good has been Albion’s recent form that Jurgen Locadia can’t actually break into the starting side. For a while it looked like he was primed to take Murray’s place at the peak of the 4-4-1-1 formation or force a chance to 4-4-2 at the expense of Pascal Gross but the season defining upturn in results means that he hasn’t broken through yet even after a goalscoring debut off the bench against Swansea.
Brighton have conceded just three Big Chances in the last four Gameweeks - that's fewer than Spurs (4) and Man United (5). #FPL
— Ken Rooney (@KenRooney) March 1, 2018
This (not actually) fake news about Brighton’s defence shouldn’t excite anyone though. Brighton’s fixtures open up good chances to score, but always against sides who are capable of making the most of one big chance. I’ve had Lewis Dunk in my FPL team for too long to get my hopes up.
My last tip for the weekend is to start your defenders from Everton and Burnley if you are sily enough (like me) to have kept patience with them thus far. The Clarets have taken the smallest percentage of their points from home matches this season and guess what, the same can be said about Everton’s away days in 2017/18. As the guys on The Football Ramble podcast said, there’s 0-0 goose-eggs written all over that game!
Mo Salah (Newcastle H)
Even though Rafa Benitez has a habit of nullifying his former employers when he plays them, I still wouldn’t bet against this season’s best player.
Rather than going through the stats and just adding to the tallies quoted last week, I’ll share a different perspective instead which comes from the good folks from the Who Got The Assist? Podcast.
📊Data table - Salah 🆚Kane
Updated the data from my comparative piece from a few weeks ago, which established that Kane had the higher ceiling and Salah the higher floor, as we struggle with who gets the armband this Gameweek (Harold = HUD; Mo = NEW) 🤔
Hope it's useful 😀#FPL pic.twitter.com/5brlnn7gWd
— Who Got The Assist? (@WGTA_FPL) February 26, 2018
Harry Kane (Huddersfield H)
What the above comparison between Kane and Salah shows is two remarkable players going about their season in different ways. Salah chips away every week, blanking in just 22% of his PL appearances, but as a consequence doesn’t always rack up the big bonuses that Kane does because when Sir Harold shows up, he tends to hit the back of the net multiple times.
Newcastle have the better form of the two relegation threatened sides having picked up seven points in their last six compared to the Terriers’ six, though the latter have also conceded 13 in that time, 5 more than The Toon. Furthermore in terms of away form, Rafa’s men have also been doing better, picking up six points in their last four and leaving just two get past them in that period. Meanwhile Huddersfield have four points and conceded eight by the same measure.
How many times has Kane punished me for putting faith in him? I don’t want to know. It’s your call whether you want to double down on him or back the same option from Egypt.
Romelu Lukaku (Palace A)
This week’s none Kane-Salah option hails from Belgium and plays for the little known second team in Manchester. After a strong start to the season came a long and arduous path of frustration though it seems that great journey is over and the goals are returning. Indeed last weekend, the contrasting fortunes of Morata and Lukaku at the tip of both sides’ attacks at Old Trafford made for a stark contrast. Morata, who delivered another abject performance, couldn’t get into the game aside from one big miss whilst at the other end Lukaku struck once and delivered a great cross to Lingard to play a part in both goals. That strong performance against Chelsea came after promising performances against Huddersfield where he netted three times in two games. Like Huddersfield, Palace are the sort of team which Lukaku revels against, and he could provide a great differential especially in a daily fantasy game.
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.