Stag’s Take – Gameweek 6
The return of the Champions League has football fans around the world salivating at the thought of the titanic clashes to come in Europe’s premier competition. The results across the continent during the week in the CL plus the Europa League will give FPL managers plenty of food for thought ahead of GW6.
Man City’s loss at the Emptihad
Gone are the days when Lyon were a Champions League regular and serial Ligue 1 champions featuring a raft of French internationals and cult heroes. However, the result against City turned back the clock to the mid-2000s even if the circumstances have been turned on their head in the last decade. There were defensive mishaps by Delph and Walker and uncharacteristic misplaced passes in midfield, culminating in a shortage of incision and clear-cut chances.
Sergio Aguero, benched to give Gabriel Jesus a run and to rest a sore ankle, heard his name chanted by the few frustrated home fans present just after the break. However the Argentine couldn’t break the deadlock in his half-hour on the pitch. Jesus was curiously detached from the teams play in midfield, so much so that he actually finished with an average position behind three of his teammates. Raheem Sterling was City’s furthest forward man on average.
As an Aguero owner, I would hope that this defeat will spur the Citizens into a big response away to Cardiff City on Saturday. Pep may have seemed a bit unfair when he slated his side’s sloppiness after the 3-0 win over Fulham last weekend but perhaps he had spotted the beginning of a slump before a defeat like this made it more obvious. It’s unusual to see a manager announce their issues with a drop in performance (in this case conversion was the key problem) before it actually arrives. Maybe this proactive approach from Guardiola will nip it in the bud.
I’m getting a lot of tweets about Benjamin Mendy so I’ll briefly mention his current injury here. It seems likely that he will be back by GW7 if he fails to line out in Wales on Saturday. Mikel Arteta suggested that he could return if he reacted well to training ahead of the game. Obviously the visit of Lyon came too early but that’s not to say that he will not feature this weekend. Hopefully we will get greater clarification on his status in Pep’s pre-match press conference on Friday. If Mendy is slated to be absent in both GWs 6 and 7, I would consider selling him to avoid haemorrhaging team value.
Europa League thoughts
It’s not news to anyone that Tottenham look jaded and lost to Inter after blowing their lead late on. The rest of the PL’s representatives fared a lot better with United (3-0 v Young Boys) and Liverpool (3-2 win over PSG) both looking impressive in their own ways. Thus it’s the Europa League that provides us with more talking points.
First off let’s look at Chelsea, who overcame PAOK in Greece on a 1-0 scoreline courtesy of Willian. Eden Hazard, scorer of a hat-trick last weekend in response to my scepticism last Thursday, was completely rested. The other FPL darling, Marcos Alonso, came on as a substitute after 66 minutes and came through unscathed. Pedro, who played all 90 minutes, was actually forced off in injury time with a shoulder or neck injury. There are currently suggestions floating around that the Spaniard has dislocated his collarbone. I don’t think that is likely given that Maurizio Sarri has already said he doesn’t believe that the injury is “serious” whilst Pedro himself tweeted positively to cool the fears of fans. In fairness if we’re to extrapolate from Ryan Fraser’s success last weekend whilst flagged, then this could be a great weekend for Pedrowners.
Sarri has admitted after the game that he envisages fatigue affecting The Blues as they’re forced to line out twice a week between the PL and EL. Right now though, he thinks they should be okay. One player who will wish the game hadn’t happened though is Alvaro Morata, who missed a number of chances. He still has just one goal this season whilst Olivier Giroud is starting to build a good relationship with Eden Hazard and picking up attacking returns. I would expect the French striker to cement his place on the starting berth if this trend continues.
I was certain that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan would be leaving my FPL teams this week after consistent frustration and because I now need to sign Hazard. The two of them nabbing returns, a brace of goals and assists respectively, has given me cause to doubt myself but overall I reckon I will still move them on. Mkhitaryan is particularly interesting. Since he arrived in England, he has outshone his league form in Europe. I’ve seen it suggested that this is related to the space and time afforded to creative players in Europe, something which is never going to occur in the pressing-obsessed Premier League. Even with his sumptuous price tag, maybe the Armenian playmaker is fool’s gold in FPL after all.
Mo Salah (Southampton H)
Seriously, Salah’s misses are really starting to get on my nerves. Amongst the FPL community, the Egyptian ace, reigning player of the year and golden boot winner, and Ballon D’Or nominee is beginning to feel like a differential.
The grating thing about Salah’s “underperformances” is the fact that his stats are actually looking so promising. His shots per 90 and key passes per 90 this season so far are actually superior to his overall averages last term. He is just 8 points short of his tally at this point last term when you remove bonuses from the equation. As u/cagey_tiger pointed out in his wonderful post about Salah and eye-tests this week on the r/FantasyPL subreddit, just a goal or two more and we wouldn’t have close to the same fears about Salah being “off”. In that same post, CT put together tables highlighting that Salah’s overall underlying stats are steady or improving save for his shot conversion. Right now, he has finished just 8.7% of his efforts on goal. In five-gameweek periods last season, his conversion was usually somewhere between 13 and 15% aside from three spells where it was more than twice as good. Don’t sell!
Whilst I’m quoting good posts about Salah, I should also refer to @DistanceCovered on Twitter’s identification of weakpoints in Southampton’s defence which are perfectly set out for Salah to exploit. Their lack of a defensive midfielder should allow Firmino to play in both his wingers on the counter. They should have space to hit the wings which Bertrand and Cedric have vacated as they moved upfield.
Sergio Aguero (Cardiff City A)
After a partial rest in the midweek and a disappointing result for their side, City need to bounce back this weekend. Hopefully the home fixture will force Cardiff to open themselves up a bit more or perhaps they’ll self-destruct like they did late on at Chelsea last weekend. If you don’t have Salah, I find it hard to see beyond the Argentine striker. His form has been good this term and again he looked dangerous in the small period he had to impress on Wednesday.
Ryan Fraser (Burnley A)
Ryan Fraser and Bournemouth head north to Burnley on Saturday hoping to build on their impressive win over Leicester at the Vitality last weekend. The Cherries’ wee man bagged a brace from the left-wing, perhaps through the defensive laxity of Ricardo Pereira but also as a product of his own guile and skill. With the Clarets struggling, handing the captaincy to Fraser or one of his teammates up front, Josh King and Callum Wilson, doesn’t seem ludicrous. As is often the case, this third option for the armband is fraught with risk but the underlying stats and form of both sides are promising for this punt.
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.