Stag's Take – Gameweek 29
One of my favourite things about football has always been the colourful side stories which emerge. Not just the newspaper headlines, although those are good too, for example:
Mike Ashley: "I am not Obi Wan Kenobi in charge of the Death Star"
Darius Vassell: ‘I felt as if the goat looked at me just before it was sacrificed”
Hernanes on celebrating after scoring against his old club- "It was the saddest backflip of my career"
This also does not refer to some of my favourite footballing subjects like the unusual landlord-tenant relationships in football or the extent and reasons behind sex bans imposed by managers. What I'm instead getting are the stories which give us an insight into how a club is being managed, how the players feel. By this point of an FPL season, with form sheets starting to break down as side's go on the beach or switch their focus away from the PL, none more so than in a traumatic GW28, this understanding of the realsoccer (in the sense of realpolitik) can prove invaluable in transfer decisions and form analysis.
Even before Eric Dier slowly and methodically clambered 15 or 20 rows deep into the Tottenham Stadium stands to confront a fan who had already exchanged contrasting views with Dier's brother, Spurs' season already looked to be in a tailspin. However, for me at least, Dier's indiscretion is just another insight into the frustration being felt at the club.
That frustration has shown itself through nobody more so than José Mourinho, who having previously pledged in December than his new team would finish in the Top Four, now wishes it was pre-season already, describing the rest of the season as “three long months” to go in three competitions. At least that late February optimism has been answered by an FA Cup defeat on penalties after 120 minutes of play at home to Norwich City, who themselves have won just five PL games all season, with only one of those coming on the road. Mourinho has also described Spurs' injury crisis as the worst in Europe, helpfully reminding his players that Spurs have not won a game without Harry Kane or Son Heung-Min scoring since 2014. Mourinho's language about not having a striker of late because of the injuries, in spite of having the highly rated teenager Troy Parrott in his reserves, has also darkened the mood in North London; his quotes about the Dublin man's immaturity and other off-field issues and dismissing his chances of significant game time this term are particularly worrisome. Add to that the dust cloud thrown up by Christian Eriksen's departure, rumours Harry Kane wants to leave the club, Dele Alli's form dip/the return of his alter-ego “brother” that had been featuring for Spurs in Poch's final 12 months, and Victor Wanyama moving to the MLS, and that Spurs training ground sounds like a difficult workplace. Should we be surprised so that this side have now lost four consecutive games in all competitions (inc., the penalties defeat to the Canaries)? How can we reasonably expect them to turn this form around?
However you feel, from an FPL perspective one has to conclude that a Champions League defeat to Leipzig next Tuesday may help their FPL fortunes, especially when you take into account that José Mourinho has reportedly told the club's board to choose between his injury-hit squad recording good results in the PL or Champions League. Avoid their assets like this plague.
There is a stark contrast between the mood music at Spurs and at other clubs vying for the final two Champions League spots.
The arrivals of Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo at Old Trafford have proved extremely effective thus far. With three goals in two starts, Ighalo's shock/bizarre move from the Chinese top flight to Old Trafford looks like shrewd business whilst Bruno Fernandes has been a shining light. Solskjaer's men haven't lost in nine games, picking up six victories and conceding just twice en route to seven clean sheets in the period. Contrast the following quote from Ighalo after he stole the headlines from United's reunion with Derby County's Wayne Rooney with anything uttered by José Mourinho of late, and you'll know which side is the one to invest in: "I don't care what anyone says. We want to keep the momentum going and make sure we do great this season."
Liverpool's momentary collapse, which has now seen them lose three games in all competitions, a legendary invincible PL season and the chance to win a treble, may well be related to a curse imposed on them by a young Irish fan who asked them to start losing in a heart-warming letter to Jurgen Klopp. It will be quite a feat, though extremely unlikely, that the young lad's voodoo will paralyse Liverpool on 79 points, but it may herald the end of the "requirement" of a Liverpool triple up, particularly in the FPL sides of managers unhappy with their rank and looking to gain an advantage on the “template” team. However, the clear issue here is that nobody in their right mind would sell a Liverpool player before the Reds host lacklustre Bournemouth in GW29, a side for whom almost nothing is going right at present.
Double Gameweek 29
Usually, a DGW announcement with one week's notice, especially regarding a DGW involving Man City and Arsenal, would greeted by a mix of anger and nervous excitement. Instead, the pair of fixtures for City (mnu, ARS) and Arsenal (WHU, mci) are causing a lot of shrugs and a lot of “is Aubameyang essential?” questions on Twitter (Answer: Close to that, yes).
An injury to Kevin De Bruyne, with differing reports about his ability to play, have removed him as a captaincy option for the coming gameweek, but he is still a hold at time of writing. If he is ruled out, selling him is not necessarily the worst idea given City's Champions League priority and City's GW31 blank.
For me, outside of Auba, you quickly reach punt territory in DGW31. Will Saka continue to be a good budget enabler with Tierney back in training? I hope so considering I brought him into my own team. Will Eddie Nketiah keep getting the call from Arteta to start and will he keep answering it on the pitch? Pep Roulette places fears over any (good in FPL) City players getting more than 60 minutes twice. Otherwise, given his Top Six record, Sergio Agüero is actually a player I would like to own, followed by the explosive possibilities presented by owning Riyad Mahrez.
On the topic of the DGW, one last thing I think is noteworthy is the structure of Arsenal's contracts. It emerged this week that 25% of an Arsenal player's salary is contingent on securing qualification for the Champions League; with the Gunners now dumped out of the Europa League by Olympiacos, the league is their only route. Whilst last season, the race for the Top Four proved an FPL false friend. A lot of that could have been connected with the progress of English teams into the latter stages of European competitions – remember there were two all-English finals as well as City and United going quite deep; it does not look like we will have a similar scenario playing out again.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (WHU, mci) DGW, West Ham as opponents, player scores even when his team is playing well.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (che) – Chelsea can't actually defend; DCL has the best underlying stats in the PL.
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.