Stag’s Take – Gameweek 36
Just three more weeks left to decide your season – as Sir Alex Ferguson once said, “It’s squeaky bum time!”
The effects of the Free Hits
Last week’s gameweek 35 was a tumultuous affair for FPL managers across the board, whether or not your Free Hit chip was active. The “template” free hit team came through in the end, as the benefit of being shorn of long-term thinking meant that many benefited from Arsenal’s late goalrush against West Ham. Many non-Free Hit sides would have gone without Lacazette as precious free transfers couldn’t be wasted on the Frenchman who could be rested for the rest of the PL season owing to The Gunners’ Europa League commitments. Worse still for non-FHers, Arsene Wenger’s late warning that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be benched stung many who held the Gabon international or who had rushed to buy him early in the week. Man City’s clean sheet and goals from all five of the favoured City attackers was also sure to have contributed to the gap Free Hit sides opened up on standard sides who probably held one or two players, not three.
In the end, the average score in the Top 10k was 51.8 points, but the average Free Hit team in the higher echelon scored 67.8 points. That was on average 24 points more than “normal” chip-less sides in the Top 10k and more than double the 30 point overall average.
I was pondering during the week which of the two main Free Hit groups was more successful – the BGW31 S4lah-Fest revellers or the BGW35 double-triple City-Arsenal managers. Whilst of course, the correct course is unique for every FPL side, the averages tell us that last weekend’s managers gained an edge – at least against the elite in and around the top 10,000. In BGW31, chip-less teams averaged 82.6 points, whilst Free Hit sides averaged 18 points more with 100.6. By that crude metric which fails to take weeks of transfers in preparation for blanks (or not) into account, it’s congratulations to the recent FHers. (All these averages have been taken from data published on the FPLDiscovery site)
If you’ve been following this weekly column or my Twitter account, you’ll know that I was amongst the “normal” teams in BGW35. I was pretty delighted to get 58 (-4) points from my nine man squad, especially when you considered the back-flipping I was doing in front of the television after my captain Gabriel Jesus missed his penalty and appeared like he wouldn’t find the net. My frustrating midseason is behind me for now thanks to five green arrows in the last six gameweeks. I’ve risen from 214,785 to 42,385 in that time, with my Triple Captain chip still burning a hole in my pocket.
Chips in play
At this point, very few active FPL sides will have their Free Hit chip remaining. In fact just 1% of the Top 5k still hold the chip, presumably for DGW37. 31.7% of the top 5k are holding their Bench Boost still, again one would imagine with the double in mind. Fascinatingly, the vast majority of the foremost 5,000 still have their Triple Captain chip in stock, just 1,630 (32.6%) have used it in the 35 gameweek route to where they are now. Spare a moment for the 645 managers holding out in the Top 5k without a chip left to aid their cause.
I think it’s safe to presume that these numbers will play out relatively similarly across the Top 100k, plus or minus 10%, highlighting that the upcoming double gameweek has a huge amount hinging on it – if you didn’t know that already!
Anfield shook on Tuesday night as Roma rolled into Liverpool for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. In the early minutes, the visitors were on top but their sluggish three at the back couldn’t cope with Liverpool’s pace – especially when they were playing such a high line. A pair of goals and assists for both Salah and Firmino as well as a one for Mané should have put the tie to bed, but some late lapses in concentration gifted the Italians a couple of goals and a route back into the game.
From an FPL point of view, injuries and the three goal lead have scattered some of the clouds which shrouded Jurgen Klopp’s potential starting eleven on Saturday afternoon at home to Stoke. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was really beginning to show his talents to the world, will miss the rest of the season and the World Cup. More pertinent from an FPL point of view is Sadio Mané’s injury. Whilst we have not received official confirmation, it seems all but certain based on the reports of local journalists that the forward will be absent on Saturday. The Senegalese was also distinctly absent from 26 training pictures posted on Liverpool’s website on Thursday.
The general rule which we have come to believe is that two prongs of the attacking trident are likely to feature in a rest week, and with Mané absent, that leaves just two to choose from. Since Mo Salah departed proceedings early on Tuesday, I’m quite confident that he’ll be given an hour at least to extend his lead over Harry Kane for the Golden Boot. I’d be less confident about Firmino, whose energy and role as Liverpool’s first line of defence will be essential to suppressing the Romans in their colosseum on Wednesday night – no ‘Pool player made more tackles (3) than the Brazilian on Tuesday (Henderson equal).
Arsenal hosted Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid on Thursday evening at the Emirates, but only managed to draw 1-1 in spite of holding a numerical advantage for over three quarters of the game. It doesn’t bode well for the Gunners’ chances of progression and securing a Champions League birth whatsoever, given that they haven’t won a game away from home in 2018. Arsene Wenger now finds himself between a rock and a hard place, with Sunday’s visit to Old Trafford symbolically important on a dozen levels, but the pragmatic need to hold back players for Europe still tantamount. With Aubameyang cup-tied, he’ll surely feature (but weren’t we saying that every week and look what happened in GW25) with Lacazette held in reserve for the trip to the Wanda Metropolitana. Of all the Arsenal squad, I cannot see key man Aaron Ramsey figuring from the off on Sunday – he’s too important to the cause and too injury-prone to be risked.
As with last week, keep an eye on Twitter and press conferences to maximise your knowledge ahead of the gameweek. We’re going through a golden age with reliable team leaks from the good old Anfield Express of the Liverpool squad. The Salah-Firmino question could be more definitively answered before the gameweek deadline if fortune favours us again, and Wenger could be obliging in his pre-match press conference again too.
With DGW37 just one gameweek away, I advise every team to hold their free transfer if possible this week. Injuries, teams on the beach, and bizarre rotation are blights of the late DGW – if you can’t adjust or have to burn points to do so, you will be at a disadvantage.
Football Blogging Awards – Nominated
My captain picks will follow this short diversion:
Thanks to the support of you folks, I have made it into the ten name shortlist for the Young Football Blogger of the Year Award 2018. Now I’m in with a chance of taking home the full title, so I need your help again!
There are two ways to vote:
Via Twitter by tweeting: I am voting in @theFBAs for @FPLStag to win the #FBAYoungBlogger category #FBAs
Or via the website of the Football Blogging Awards. Click the dropdown menu in the Young Blogger category and select FPL Stag.
Thank you so much for your support. I’ve been genuinely blown away by the push the FPL Community has given me so far, let’s keep it going!
NOMINATED FOR THE FBAs!!
Thank you to all of you who voted so far, I need all your support again to win!
and at https://t.co/Jk51mX1AiL
Shares appreciated toopic.twitter.com/ka12EWoDei
— #FPL Stag (@FPLStag) April 25, 2018
Mohamed Salah (Stoke City H)
So long as all the pre-match signals are good, the newly crowned PFA Player of the Year should be the number one captaincy choice this week. The Egyptian has just 31 goals and 11 assists so far this season in FPL, having appeared in 31 games, and his goalscoring form has shown no signs of slowing as the season has drawn to a close, as was most recently demonstrated in the Champions League and the weekend before at The Hawthorns.
Salah’s scoring in the last few weeks has been interesting to watch, as I think he’s definitely showed signs that he personally wants to score more so than previously, possibly to the detriment of his team at times. My case in point was the Bournemouth match, where sure he scored a fabulous goal, but over-eagerness may have caused him to let a few go past him too. However, whilst some players may find such a shift would affect their conversion rates, it hasn’t been the case for Salah, as he has completely exceeded his expected goals stat (3) by scoring seven times in his last five league outings.
It also helps that Stoke City have had one of the worst defences in the league all season, in fact, no team has conceded more (65). The Potters have picked up a measly four points from their last eight away games, conceding an average of two per game in that time. Even with the threat of relegation looming for the visitors, Liverpool should score a few.
Harry Kane (Watford H)
Watford will make a rare visit to Wembley on Monday night to face Spurs, who no longer have anything to play for but league points and Harry Kane’s Golden Boot defence – hint: it’s not going well. Even after the appeal to the dubious goals panel, Kane still lies five adrift of Mo Salah on 26 goals, and he’ll need to turn his speckled form around rapidly if he’s to genuinely contend for the prize.
Kane’s reputation is great, and the fixture against the on-the-beach Hornets appears enticing. How couldn’t it? No team has been worse than Watford in the last six gameweeks (2 points), when Gracia’s men left many of their opponents thankful for gifting them 13 goals.
However, Kane hasn’t been great at all in that period either, scoring just twice and generating an xG rating of 0.9. Such a low expected goals has come off the back of a period where the Englishman has been shooting uncharacteristically less – six attempts in five outings is miniscule for Kane. He leads the league for shots in the box across the season with 112 efforts in the area in 33 appearance, more than three per game. It’s very odd to see his basic shots per game stats falling short of this tally.
Because of who he is, Kane is going to be a popular pick for the armband this week. As he has a DGW in GW37, I think you should be looking to have Sir Harold as coverage at the very least, even if you don’t trust him with the captaincy.
Gabriel Jesus (West Ham A)
I’d rather recommend Raheem Sterling, however I feel the winger is more at risk of rotation than his Brazilian counterpart so I’ve decided to opt for the safer option.
Playing at the prong of the mighty City attack, which is on the cusp of surpassing the 100 goals scored mark, Jesus is bound to find opportunities and score goals. The chances fell his way against Swansea last Sunday, and he eventually managed to put one shot beyond Fabianski, though his profligacy was uncharacteristic of the young striker.
Jesus is undoubtedly a riskier pick than the two aforementioned candidates, but he has as high of a points ceiling as the pair when his radar is properly in tune.
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.