Stag’s Take – Gameweek 8
In Ireland, October 4th was national poetry day,
So what better way to wade into the fray,
Than by introducing this piece in a new way?
Premier League teams struggled in Europe’s premier competition,
As Messi, Insigne, and Valencia took points from their opposition,
Typically though, as the others fell,
It was with a fall City rang Hoffenheim’s knell,
As “El Mago” struck late to save face for England’s representation.
I won’t hold my breath on a call from the folks who give out Nobel awards for literature. I’ll cast aside the poetry and turn to the Fantasy Premier League.
The upcoming Gameweek 8 is our last weekend of action before a break for international football. That fortnight will be a good time to sit back and reassess the beginning of the season, performances, and perhaps think of a few things we could have done better. With a lot of meta talk potentially in the pipeline, it is for the best that this column will have a narrow focus on Gameweek 8.
Before I launch off into the main body of this piece, I have two recommendations relating to transfers.
If you can, try to enter the break with two free transfers. The reintroduction of European fixtures has already started to torment tired legs and there’s sure to be a few high profile injuries over the break. Don’t throw away points on silly hits just because you made a punt ahead of Gameweek 8.
Connected to that is this point: If you have your first Wildcard remaining, previous seasons suggest that now is the time to use it. The vast majority of the Top 10k in the last few years have used their Wildcard before or just after the second international break and built the template team as it formed. You should consider doing it now too.
Speaking of injuries, Manchester City, Watford, and Spurs currently top the Premier League table for the most players with injuries. Another trophy for the cabinet in Tottenham’s new stadium… whenever it’s built. Not to be overly facetious, any team in the world would feel the effects of the absences of Moussa Dembele, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli in midfield as well as Jan Vertonghen. A Messi masterclass overturned them in Europe, but the La Liga champions’ performance won’t be matched by Cardiff City in Gameweek 8.
That bodes well for those rushing to fit Harry Kane into their FPL teams. Has he finally overcome the fatigue which seemed to cripple him? I’m not convinced. The sort of sluggishness which had been plaguing him doesn’t go away just because he was rested for one midweek cup game. However, he is now scoring goals again and showing the precision we’ve come to expect of Kane. Three goals in two Premier League games as well as a good goalscoring performance in the loss to Barca give hope that Neil Warnock’s side will wilt and let him pad his goal-to-game ratio.
One FPL asset currently going under the radar is Erik Lamela. Unfortunately for him, he was only the second best Argentine on the pitch on Wednesday night but he still caught many eyes by scoring a goal and making a general nuisance of himself. The injury crisis gave him the platform to prove himself to Poch, and he took it, just as he has off the bench against Liverpool and Brighton when he also found the back of the net. For the bravest of you, he is an intriguing prospect at 6.4 million and just 0.6% ownership.
Mo Salah (again)
My seemingly weekly monologue about Salah is fast becoming a staple of this column. What should owners do? The chances continue to fall to Salah yet the finishing touch continues to elude him. The fact of the matter is that he had scored just one more goal in the Premier League at this point last season (four) than he has actually mustered up so far. The difference is confidence. With a shoulder strap still reminding him of his injury and a number of big chances missed haunting him, he isn’t quite the same. That said, just a bit of fortune, perhaps in while trying to bounce back from a disappointing defeat, and we could see normal service resume. Interestingly, Callum Wilson and Gabriel Jesus (both seven) jointly hold the lead for most big chances missed, one ahead of Salah and Raul Jimenez of Wolves. Salah, Kane, and Wilson top the table for most big chances to come their way (eight).
Because redistributing 12.9 will take two transfers, I will give Salah at least Gameweek 8 to impress me because I do not want him to catch fire against Manchester City and force me into panic returning him to my side for GW9 and 10 match ups with Huddersfield and Cardiff!
Not to be that guy… but I did scream from the rafters about Raheem Sterling in this column last week. What a differential he proved to be for owners, though unfortunately my transfer prudence again meant I didn’t make a move with my gut.
In Gameweek 7, we got all what has become a typical Sergio Aguero performance. A goal and early substitution. Incredibly frustrating and not meriting his price tag. Consistent goals are great, but hauls are important too. Pep Guardiola also revealed that Aguero has been managing an injury in recent weeks, which backs up what many of us would have thought. Walking the tightrope between the elite FPL assets is truly a conundrum. Consistent but underwhelming Aguero, the statistically sound but largely impotent Salah, or the worn out Kane? In addition to those you have Lacazette making waves, Hazard reaching for the next rung on the ladder to world class status… and Raheem. Sterling has at least a goal or assist in all but one of his PL appearances so far this campaign. He is continually getting in great positions, and he’s actually playing full games.
Just a few weeks ago, Ben Mendy, Robbo, and Alonso looked like three names who would never leave our FPL teams until May. Then Mendy picked up an injury, has been disciplined, and is suddenly linked with a move away from Manchester as a clear fissure has emerged between him and Pep. Many are downgrading Robbo to TAA to free up funds as attackers become the flavour of the month, and now Marcos Alonso is facing the chop for many as his returns have dried up and he hasn’t passed the eye test to the same extent.
It’s true though, the Spain international hasn’t posed the same threat in the opposition’s final third in the last three games as he did in the first four outings of the season. His xG per game has snapped in half from 0.2 to 0.1, his expected assists per match figures have remained static but the returns to match the numbers have been absent. His penalty area touches and efforts on goal have experienced a similar collapse, approximately halving from four touches in the box and three attempts per game.
Time to sell?
Harry Kane (Cardiff City H)
There’s no point in trying to be contrary – the two-time Golden Boot winner has to be the firm favourite for the armband this weekend after a string of returns. I think he’s still too tired, but even a tired Kane is able when Cardiff are his foe.
The Bluebirds have left in a dozen goals in their meetings with Top Six opposition thus far.
Eden Hazard (Southampton H)
Hazard’s moments have defined Chelsea’s season so far. Even with limited game time early on in the season, the Belgian has amassed six goals and two assists in seven PL games, and that has not at all been a fluke. With Chelsea’s real strikers continually underperforming, Maurizio Sarri is relying on Eden to lead his team to the January transfer window at minimum.
Southampton’s season is falling down around them at present and their defence is partly culpable for that. The Saints have conceded nine goals in their last four league games, and they have failed to keep a clean sheet since the opening day of the season. It looks like the scene is set for another headline grabbing performance by Hazard on Sunday.
Troy Deeney (Bournemouth H)
Watford’s bright start to the season has dulled a bit in the last few weeks, but all hope is not lost for the Hornets yet. This weekend’s clash with Bournemouth marks a chance to turn their fortunes around again ahead of the international break.
If they are to score, the most likely source of their goals is talismanic forward Troy Deeney, who has been performing well in spite of scoring just twice this term. Aside from Cardiff (14), no side has conceded more goals than Bournemouth and Fulham in the past four games. This is a punt pick which is very much heart over head – try Troy if you dare!
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.