Stag’s Take – Gameweek 38
We have arrived at the season’s close and final gameweek of the season. Usually one of the most unpredictable of all gameweeks, usually quite high-scoring, and usually good fun in FPL.
However, in a season which, from an FPL perspective at least, has asked real questions of managers, we are now in the curious situation where there is almost nothing to play for up and down the table. Absolutely, the title race has been a thrilling battle of near-perfection and remains in the balance but save for a 93:20 moment (or “Aguerooooo” as many know it), it should be wrapped up as a matter of formality when City face Brighton. Brighton by the way, are now safe. Three teams on the way down are paying for pride, contract renewals and moves away, a huge block in the middle have nothing to play for, and the European places are almost completely sown up. It’s odd. Usually, my perspective of FPL tends to turn on a lot of these more psychological questions of motivation and necessity – more than any final day I can remember, that tool is not there to act as a crutch in transfer decisions.
So, what is there to consider? It is the lack of structure and motivation that will define my considerations this week. Who is an objectively superior player (or set of individuals) playing against a set of players who are no longer playing in fear of making a mistake and cognisant of maintaining team shape and structure at all times?
The seasons come and go, but it seems a late surge from Burnley striker Chris Wood is a constant. If you had asked be to sum up his season, I would have said he was much quieter than last term, and certainly less prolific, but it turns out, I would only have been half-right. Thanks to three goals in his last five games, Wood has actually equalled his ten goal tally from last season though having played about 1,000 more minutes. It should be noted though that his form has experienced its biggest up-tick in the whole season recently, and Burnley face on of the league’s most porous teams in recent weeks, Arsenal. The Gunners have actually conceded the third most goals of all teams in the past five gameweeks (6 games, 11), behind just Southampton (14) and Huddersfield (16). No team has conceded more big chances than the Europa league finalists in that period (20).
A few weeks ago, I expressed my belief in this column and elsewhere that Bournemouth were likely to go through an end of season lull after securing safety but seemingly having little to play for. Losses to Burnley and Fulham gave credence to that belief, but a rout of Brighton in GW34 and beating Spurs (albeit just about when they had nine men) have bucked the trend. At the heart of the surge has been Callum Wilson, who has six returns (three goals, three assists) in the Cherries’ last four games. He has had the joint-fourth most shots in the box of all players in the past five gameweeks and the second best xG of all, behind just Jamie Vardy. This weekend, Wilson faces Crystal Palace in what will be Julian Speroni’s final game for the Eagles. Speroni’s single appearance in the season was memorable, not just because he was the only player born in the 1970s to feature in the PL this season (and perhaps the last), but because it was in Liverpool’s narrow 4-3 win over Palace where goalkeeping errors… contributed to the entertainment of neutrals. Roy Hodgson has seemed to suggest that Speroni will not play, explaining that the player has insisted that the club approach the game like they have every other game this season, but this writer thinks there’s a chance at least that should be factored into a transfer decision.
Rotation from the big teams(?)
The amazing action in European competitions during the week has created quite a few questions about team selections amongst the league’s top five, whilst Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks set to play more academy players and Antonio Valencia.
Arsenal, Spurs, and Chelsea can all be expected to rotate heavily. What was left of Spurs’ first team were run into the ground on Wednesday as they limped to an extraordinary win over Ajax, and now they must go without the suspended Son and Foyth this weekend, as well as the injured Jan Vertonghen. Serge Aurier will slot into defence to make up for one of the absentees, but Son’s absence will be harder felt. Pochettino rather curiously stated that his team are “living in a dream” and struggling “to be in reality” at the moment. It seems like the stage is set for Gylfi Sigurdsson to remind his old club what they’re missing, especially given that Richarlison and DCL will be missing. A good week for all the Digne owners to start the Frenchman too, or maybe even speculatively captain him given his recent form.
Unai Emery has already described the gap between Arsenal and Spurs as “too big” ahead of this Sunday’s clash with Burnley, and that was before the Gunners ploughed through Valencia at the Mestalla to tee up a qualification route through the Europa League. As I have already noted above, Arsenal’s defence has already been shaky recently and the acknowledgement that Sunday’s game means little to them can’t help that. Rotation seems likely from Emery – this may be a good time to offload a player from the club.
Even Chelsea’s notoriously rotation-averse manager may indulge some lesser-spotted Blues with game time this weekend, but I think the better points to be made about their visit to the King Power Stadium is the attraction of Brendan Rodgers’ players for the tie. The aforementioned Jamie Vardy, the Premier League’s player of the month for April, is in sublime form of late and definitely needs to be in managers’ consideration for the coming weekend. His record against Top Six teams is renowned, and this weekend seems like a fantastic opportunity to extend that record. His midfield suppliers James Maddison and perhaps even more so Youri Tielemans have to be considered, as must Ricardo Pereira at the back. The Portuguese full-back won the club’s Player of the Season award after a fantastic debut campaign at the club, scoring twice and assisting a further eight.
Sergio Agüero (Brighton A)
Aguero currently sits two goals adrift for Mo Salah in the race for the Golden Boot, and aside from securing three points, his personal acclaim is all that City have to play for. If (and when) they take control of this game, especially if it happens early, it’s not inconceivable that Guardiola will instruct the players to feed the Argentine in particular more than usual. Even such an order doesn’t come from the touchline, Aguero is one of the world’s best strikers and has merited discussion as a captaincy candidate pretty much every gameweek this season. This one is no different.
Jamie Vardy (Chelsea H)
Chelsea’s form has been erratic this term – at times it seemed that they had assimilated Maurizio Sarri’s tactics properly, only to suffer incredible lapses which highlighted weaknesses throughout the team. One question which has oft been directed at the players has been that of their motivation, and this weekend’s clash with Leicester will be the ultimate test of that. I suspect that Chelsea’s rotated additions and tired legs (after playing 120 minutes plus penalties on Thursday) will be susceptible to Vardy’s talent for finding a sliver of space between defenders on the counter.
Mo Salah (Wolves H)
It would be wrong to exclude the Egyptian marksman from this list after another fine season on Merseyside. It appears that he is training and fit to face Wolves this weekend and defend his Golden Boot crown.
Thanks to everybody for your support over the past season. I’m looking forward to recharging my FPL batteries and returning back for pre-season in July. All the best until then and enjoy the final day of the season!
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.