Stag’s Take – Gameweek 9
Just one international break left until Christmas!
I’ve been watching a lot of Matt Doherty and the Republic of Ireland over the past few days and I’ll be honest with you all, it hasn’t been pretty. Without his illustrious Iberian teammates creating space around him and overlapping him on the right flank, he looked like an ordinary player. Matching him or perhaps even worse than him was a former member of the FPL Darling Full-back Club, Ben Davies. His touch looked rusty, his positioning poor, and generally he didn’t look solid. He did of course give his usual hard-working performance though. In all, the game was a tale of two Harrys. Cardiff’s Harry Arter, The Returned, put a spat with Assistant Manager Roy Keane behind him to put himself about in a generally physical manner. In the end, a needless foul on the edge of the box gifted a free to the Welsh, who nominated young Harry Wilson to take it. Of course it flew in, and the young Liverpool loanee has marked his card as a candidate for FPL managers the world over once he become a regular starter in the division.
Elsewhere, England overcame Spain in one of the best advertisements for the UEFA Nations League thus far on a 3-2 scoreline. That won’t be news to many of you, but it is quite a thought to think that both of Spain’s full-backs are Premier League players now. Marcos Alonso, for so long shunned by national coaches, and “Jonny” (or Castro Otto as he is on some displays) both did quite well, though the player on loan at Wolves caught my eye more. He lives in the shadow of Doherty in FPL for now, but perhaps that will not stay true as the season winds on. Raheem Sterling’s brace underlines his immense talent yet again, though that is something he has struggled to do in an England shirt. His formed which saw him pick up three goals and two assists in his last five league outings hasn’t left him. I’m quite excited to have him embedded in my FPL side. Marcus Rashford also had a great game, scoring on the night and generally making a nuisance of himself. His decision making on the ball has improved a bit. That’s the sort of trait that needs to come on to earn minutes under José Mourinho.
Harry Kane, it has to be said, also played extremely well playing in a role we don’t really see as clearly at Spurs. In the last 18 months, his game has developed a lot, to the point that he is now far more than “just a finisher.” The World Cup Golden Boot winner is genuinely one of England’s most creative players. He has the vision and the accuracy to carve sides open with long and short balls. He doesn’t quite drop back like Roberto Firmino does to compliment the pacey wingers surrounding him in Liverpool’s trident. Instead he acts as a kind of cultured target man. It’s fantastic to watch. If you want it illustrated for you, just have a look at the freely available Nations League highlights on Youtube. Kane’s pass to Rashford who teed up Sterling for England’s first; his hold-up play against two defenders, alone in the Spanish half for six seconds before carving the open with one ball to Rashford who dispatched with ease; his assists for Son vs Huddersfield and Dele Alli vs Swansea last season. Brilliant. When Christian Eriksen is absent, it would be interesting to see how Kane could work with Lamela and Son a version of this setup – alas, Poch relies on Kane as a Number 9 primarily, and the other side of Kane’s game only become apparent when moves go off-script slightly. His best assist tally in a season so far is seven – that is criminally unrepresentative of his talents. Hopefully Spurs build some more fluidity into their game and set Kane free a bit more as this campaign wears on. I’m questioning whether continuing to place my trust in Harry Kane in the short term is a symptom of gambler’s fallacy. Kane’s form has been patchy in FPL terms, and he currently occupies budget in my team which could be put towards Liverpool assets. Follow my Twitter account as Friday night gives way to dawn on Saturday to find out what I end up doing. I suspect I will give the double Golden Boot winner at least this weekend, given that he will be greatly aided by the returns ok Eriksen and Dembele to the starting line-up away at West Ham.
The only other notable stories emerging from the international break concern Liverpool’s heroes injured representing their countries in Africa. Mo Salah returned to training on Thursday at Melwood in spite of sitting out Egypt’s encounter with Swaziland (for your information it was recently renamed eSwatini (caps intentional)), however Naby Keita and Sadio Mané are doubtful. The former of those may be out for a fortnight, teeing up an opportunity for Xherdan Shaqiri to potentially start. He would be a great pick up in a draft format or single gameweek focused format, though in the Official FPL game the Swiss would be a huge risk given you’ll probably be selling him in a week or two. That said, with Liverpool travelling to face David Wagner’s winless wonders Huddersfield this weekend, it would be negligent to go without some cover.
Form, Fixtures, and Flimsy Hornets
The Top Six is already starting to take root at the summit of the table, however there is one usurper in the mix – Bournemouth. Eddie’s Howe’s men sit in sixth on sixteen points, a tally they took sixteen games to reach last season. Their FPL highscorers – Wilson, King, Fraser, and even David Brooks – are an advertisement for FPL managers who place fixture difficulty at the heart of their transfer decisions and in some cases, for patience. It was quite clear that the Cherries’ start to the season was packed with favourable games and the south coast club must be complimented on how well they’d done to shore up the shaky defence which cost them points often last season and put away sides whom they would expect to beat. Particularly impressive to me has been who they bounced back after being thrashed, no annihilated, by Burnley in Gameweek 6. It looked like the promising start to the season was going to go the way of Watford, but Howe made a few changes to his starting XI and reset his side’s course back into winning ways. Their next opponents are Southampton, Fulham, Man Utd, and Newcastle – there’s a few points remaining to be eked out of Bournemouth in FPL.
If you wanted to try and replicate the success of those who jumped on Bournemouth assets based on fixtures, few teams have better runs than Newcastle and Brighton. The Magpies’ standout FPL asset is “Bropotus” Robert (yes, that’s his first name) Kenedy.
Pascal Gross is back in full training for Brighton, as is José Izquierdo who has played 26 minutes in the last two gameweeks. Neither player is guaranteed to play over 60 minutes in GW9 though, meaning that the evergreen Glenn Murray and Shane Duffy are your best bets amongst the Seagulls. The two sides I’ve named face-off this weekend, providing a perfect audition for managers who would rather an extra week before investing in players from either side.
You should be aware that Wolves host an extremely depleted and demoralised Watford this weekend. The Hornets’ impressive start to the season has given way to mediocrity. Javi Gracia faces the thankless task of a defensive reshuffle this weekend with Christian Kabasele and José Holebas suspended – an unfamiliar four could prove rich pickings for Raúl “Jimmy” Jiménez, Ruben Neves et al. on Saturday.
Sergio Agüero (Burnley H)
In recent weeks, Sergio Agüero has left managers frustrated. No player has had more shots inside the box in the last four gameweeks, but few (if any) can say that over two thirds of their attempts went wide of the target. Pep Guardiola confirmed that the Argentine has been carrying a knock for a few weeks after the Brighton win in GW7, which is the reason why he has been hooked around the hour mark often of late. Was there a causal link between his impotency and his injury? Probably? He was not on duty during the international break, which will have hopefully helped him recover from his ailment. At the very least, it should nail him down to start. He will undoubtedly be the most popular captain this week, given that he faces the team who have conceded the most shots in the box in the last four weeks. Many articles you will read will allude to those shot stats without highlighting that the Clarets only left in three goals (one clean sheet) in spite of conceding a half-century of shots in the box.
No team has been less attacking in the last four weeks that Burnley in terms of shots in the box. That makes Ben Mendy and even Raheem Sterling more attractive alternative options for the armband. The latter, fresh from international dominance, had more penalty area touches than any player in the PL in the last four weeks.
Mo Salah (Huddersfield A)
Perusing The Terriers’ defensive stats is not the most comforting move for those looking to boost their confidence in a Mo Salah captaincy this weekend. They rank midtable for shots conceded in the box, but they have actually limited the number of big chances conceded to just six in the last four games. That includes tough encounters with Leicester at the King Power and Spurs, underlining the success of David Wagner’s tactics. In spite of that, Huddersfield haven’t been able to buy a win nor a clean sheet.
Mo Salah, scorer of many expected goals, evader of actual goals, should be a bit more crucial to The Reds’ attacking line this weekend if Mané is absent after his thumb surgery. Liverpool’s attack was out of sorts before the international break, but perhaps the reset offered by a fortnight apart will benefit them. If I had Salah, I would certainly consider him for the armband, but I won’t be rushing to get him in ahead of this particular fixture.
Callum Wilson (Southampton H)
After seven good performances backed up by three goals and seven assists in eight league games, Callum Wilson could be forgiven for being frustrated at not earning a place in the England squad during the last international break. Only Sergio Agüero has more FPL points so far this season than Wilson. This weekend, the Cherries host Mark Hughes’ Southampton, a side who are struggling to keep out their opponents this term. The Saints (43) are one of just five teams to concede an average of greater than 10 shots in the box per game to their opponents in the last four gameweeks. Worryingly for fans, only Fulham and Watford (both 13) have conceded more high quality chances than them (11) in the period. It looks like another potential goldmine for Wilson owners; his proven goal and assist potential is a rarity amongst strikers in the game so far.
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.