Stag’s Take – Gameweek 7
Burnley returned to winning ways in Gameweek 6, puncturing the Bournemouth love-in amongst FPL managers along the way. In London, Chelsea were held to a scoreless draw by West Ham on Sunday, but they both rediscovered their finishing touch during the week when they netted ten goals in cup action. The shocking thing is that it was West Ham who contributed eight of those goals! In this week’s column, I’m going to look at the midweek results in the EFL Cup, the sudden doubt in Bournemouth, yet more of the Mo/No Salah debate, and the captaincy dilemma for the forthcoming set of fixtures.
Cup calamities, United’s woes, rotation
Liverpool’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end at Anfield on Wednesday, felled by the magical Eden Hazard. The Belgian again underlined his form and ability to us when he came off the bench and beat a number of Liverpool players and firing home at the far post. It should be kept in mind that many of Liverpool’s big stars were rested, including members of their totemic defence. One man who did play the majority of the game was Sadio Mané though. The Senegal international played for 70 minutes before Firmino replaced him whilst Mo Salah made a short appearance. Even though Mané has a good record against the PL’s top six, three of whom The Reds will encounter in the near future, I feel that the added minutes are yet another plus in the defence of holding Mo Salah. The Egyptian winger’s underlying stats remain incredibly favourable. Much like Hazard’s GW5 hat-trick was written in the stars based on the metrics, an explosive game is coming. What better time to start than at the home of his former employers?
Chelsea’s victory is a huge statement and should not be understated. Even if both sides were rotated, the control Chelsea held over Liverpool was notable. Klopp’s side are rarely dominated. They hold possession and press to retrieve the ball quickly when they lose it. However, Maurizio Sarri had a plan to counter that which worked like a charm. In spite of the Italian’s insistence that The Blues are currently lagging behind Liverpool in their acclimatisation to his methods, I believe that Chelsea have the legs to make a real challenge at the title. The lack of Champions League football will play into their favour with time. For FPL managers, the FPL princes Hazard and Alonso are must-owns. Pedro remains the third-best option there, but he is a doubt for the weekend after sitting out training.
Manchester City had no trouble dispatching Oxford United on Tuesday. Phil Foden scored his first senior goal and curiously David Silva played 63 minutes. After watching the Cardiff game from the bench, there is genuine concern that the former Spain international may see his minutes limited again this weekend. Riyad Mahrez scored one to add to his brace in GW6, but questions remain hanging over his chances of earning a weekly starting berth. One player who should certainly be looked at is Raheem Sterling. The England winger has quietly come into form, notching up an attacking return three gameweeks in a row in the league, picking up 24 points in the process. Last season, he found his feet early on and grew from strength to strength as the leaves fell and fall turned to winter. Perhaps we’re seeing the beginnings of that again. Aside from Sergio Aguero (11), no City player has had as many shots in the box as Raz (8) over the past three games. No midfielder can boast a larger tally, and curiously just… eh… Michail Antonio can match him. For those who are acolytes of expected goals (xG), Sterling ranks fifth in the last three games and second when you just look at xG from open play. Romelu Lukaku beats him to that latter title.
It was another turbulent week for José Mourinho and Paul Pogba’s relationship. As much of rural Ireland will tell you, poor wi-fi and Instagram don’t go well together. Allegedly it was the weak connectivity which meant an Instagram video of Pogba’s uploaded to the platform after United had lost to Derby Country on penalties rather than during the game when it was captured. That video was the root cause of the awkward confrontation caught on camera between the pair at training. Between that and the far more material action of stripping Pogba of his role as vice-captain in the wake of his comments after the GW6 draw with Wolves, clouds continue to gather over Old Trafford. Aside from Lukaku, who has genuinely found his finishing touch again, I wouldn’t be considering any Manchester United players for your FPL team.
Oh yeah, for those of you heavily invested in the Always Cheating Podcast trademarked “Year of the Full-Back”, you should be aware that Serge Aurier is injured and may be absent for a while going by Poch’s words: “I don’t believe so (inhales sharply). In a cross he felt his quad. Tomorrow we’ll see, but it’s not a good thing.” The right-back slot is World Cup hero Kieran Trippier’s for a few weeks at least. Ben Davies had a bad game in the cup against Watford, which may help cement Danny Rose’s place as Spurs’ first-choice left-back.
Bournemouth: Don’t write them off
I didn’t read Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson’s FPL 2018/19 epitaph this week but some of the comments I saw while Burnley thrashed them in GW6 were a little concerning. Let’s not get too fickle, both players have been standout performers so far this season. They still rank in the top six of their respective midfield and forward categories in FPL. It should be noted though that Wilson’s underlying stats have tailed off considerably. He has averaged just one shot in the box per game in the last three gameweeks. The Burnley result was an anomaly, don’t panic yet. For what it’s worth, The Cherries even began to steady the ship during the week by digging deep to beat Blackburn 3-2. Callum Wilson converted a corner by Marc Pugh in injury time to secure progression to the next round.
Sergio Aguero (Brighton H)
On paper, Albion’s visit to the Etihad sets up the most imbalanced fixture of the coming weekend, with Sergio Aguero hoping to capitalise on it. The Argentine’s fortunes have been much more favourable at home than on the road so far this term; he hasn’t blanked at home.
No player has had more attempts than City’s all-time record goalscorer so far this season, with 31. Likewise he has the most shots in the box of all (21). Even in the past three games when the goals haven’t been as free flowing as they were in the three which preceded it, all the signs have been good as he continued to top the table for efforts on goal and shots in the box. That little bit of extra luck has just been absent. You would be extremely brave to bet against Aguero this weekend, the most selected player in the game and most likely the most popular pick for the armband globally in GW7.
Alexandre Lacazette (Watford H)
When I wildcarded a few weeks ago, I backed the wrong Arsenal striker in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It has been Lacazette who has been the dependable asset, returning in four consecutive gameweeks and completing all 90 minutes in the last three. Since arriving in England, Lacazette’s fortunes have been much better at home, with 11 of his 14 PL goals coming at the Emirates.
How he shoots is also helpful. Unlike Mo Salah, he does not conspire to spurn his BAPs with inaccuracy. Hence, the Frenchman has five bonus points in the two games where he scored this season. At 5.4% ownership, even having the man once derided as “Lacagoals” will be a differential. Giving him the armband on a fruitful day would be a huge help to your rank.
Eden Hazard (Liverpool H)
Based on form alone, the Belgian can’t be ignored. You could just as easily captain Salah or Mané opposing him, but if I was to choose one player in this fixture, it would be Eden.
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.