Stag’s Take – Gameweek 6
The Gameweek 5 dream team was packed with players who had asterisks over their heads when we looked at the state of the game ahead of Gameweek. However, the names included in the list come as a timely reminder that in order to succeed, we need to break away from the standard pick-ups and be proactive.
This week, I will consider those who put smiles on their owners’ faces over the past weekend, taking stock of where we are overall this term.
Lukasz Fabianski is well respected in FPL circles, and now ultimately, he has outscored the new generation of 4.5 goalkeepers who took his place in managers’ hearts, albeit only after his ascent to vertigo-inducing 5.0 price tag. His West Ham side have been involved in consecutive snore-fests, first against an oddly inept Norwich and then Aston Villa. But sleepy encounters do clean sheets make. Those who saw two consecutive encounters with promoted sides ultimately fared better than those who focused on the Hammers strikers. However, even if the Haller, Fando, or Lanzini experiments didn’t work out perfectly, there is a chance at redemption in London against Manchester United at the weekend. The Europa League hangover is a known condition, one which has infected Wolves into their bones this season already. Given how this United struggle to cope with… many things, it would not be a surprise to see them struggle against Pellegrini’s side.
Spurs’ defence delivering a clean sheet (“Finally!”, scream many) wasn’t an event anyone would have earmarked as “due” based on any eye-test or stats, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. The hands fell off said clock on Wednesday evening in Greece though, as Poch’s side grasped a 2-2 draw from the jaws of a 2-0 victory as they did in the North London derby earlier in this still nascent campaign. A tricky away day to the King Power awaits Spurs next; they have just five wins in 17 away games this calendar year… and that includes a win over Mike Dean’s heroes, Tranmere Rovers, in the FA Cup! Whatever about the Spurs defence, FPL managers can certainly be looking for routes to fitting Tottenham’s most potent attacker into their sides ahead of plum ties from GW7-9 (SOU, bha, WAT).
Son Heung-Min (currently 9.6) properly marked his return to PL action two games later than his fans would have wished with a brace against Crystal Palace in GW5, following an assist in the GW4 NLD. In about 200 less PL minutes (of a possible 450) than resident penalty specialist teammate Harry Kane, Son has recorded just one shot less. When you consider his game time, having just two less shots in the box (7) than his World Cup Golden Boot holder teammate is laudable. Expected goals and other metrics bear out that he hasn’t had the same quality of chances as Kane, but he also doesn’t have spot kick duties padding his underlying stats. For me, the Leicester game is another audition for Son, but that is partially motivated by me refusing to move off Keven de Bruyne with Watford his next opponents!
Thomas Aquinas once opined that “if the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” Unfortunately, FPL does not give us such a luxury and casts us free of our wharfs every week. After falling overboard and having pay a premium for a rescue in both of the last two seasons, I can’t bring myself to abandon the Salah sailboat again even though the Mané motorboat continues to keep pace at a cheaper cost. His consistency is (many of you may scream “finally”) making me doubt that he is “overperforming”; even without spot-kick duties, his underlying raw shot stats are comparable (and better on a per minute basis) and him outstripping his xG has become so normal that it is crystallising as a fact of FPL life. His finishing is sublime and much more consistent than Salah’s.
However, maybe I am wrong to continually see Mané and Salah as mutually exclusive. Both vessels are on a crash course with Chelsea this weekend at Stamford Bridge. Even at 4-2 down, Wolves fans roared on their side believing that there was a way back into the game last Saturday, such is the frailty of Lampard’s Blues at the back. Maybe approaching this weekend with both of Liverpool’s trident is the best way forward. Unfortunately, I go into the weekend with just Salah, consoling myself with the classic trope that an ex-player loves to punish their former employers with a big performance.
Oh yes, the great haul of Trent continues to draw closer. Newcastle were extremely fortunate to score their goal in the first fixture of the weekend, robbing the Reds or an otherwise well deserved clean sheet. Alexander-Arnold was at fault for Jetro Willems’ goal as the one-footed left-back cut inside onto his weaker foot before unleashing a powerful drive past Adrián to score his 12th goal in over 200 senior appearances as a pro. In truth, it’s hard to legislate for 0.04 xG shots finding the net like that. Aside from Sadio Mané, Alexander Arnold had the second highest xG of all those on the field (0.60) after two attempts in the box and he continued to mass-produce chances for teammates with another seven rolling off the production line from him against the Magpies.
Norwich City vs Manchester City
Emi Buendía is the sole participant from the most enthralling game of the PL season thus far who made the dream team after Gameweek 5. He doubled his assist tally for the season (4) and had a number of montage-worthy turns and touches against the reigning champions. However, the Argentine was not the story of the day.
Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki stole the headlines, yet again returning for their owners, though many (including this writer in the case of Cantwell) had them on their bench. It’s beginning to seem like we can’t risk that. The jeopardy associated with benching either of them reminds me of the frustration managers endured in Harry Kane and Dele Alli’s respective breakthrough seasons. Priced as fodder, like Cantwell, it was too easy to bench them when fixtures turned sour. Save yourself the disappointment and plan your team around playing both of them every week; invest your money in the premiums players to go around them.
Buendía’s presence also highlights the follies of Manchester City. Their defence completely crumbled as Pep did what I never anticipated in last week’s column, partnering Stones with Otamendi. Maybe he had seen something in training to suggest that the results would not be as calamitous as they had been in previous seasons, as discussed in last week’s piece… they weren’t. Stones has subsequently picked up an injury and so Fernandinho partnered Otamendi against Shakhtar in the Champions League during the week. The injury probably spared Pep having to tell Stones that he would be warming the replacements bench this weekend anyway. I maintain that Otamendi will be good value for managers as a 5.4 entry fee into the City defence. Having Fernandinho alongside him will only grow his chances of getting bonus points for defensive contributions as Fernandinho, as a midfielder, will receive less BPS credit for clean sheets. Furthermore, I would expect Ota to be sent up for corners by default now with Fernandinho hanging back.
The Pukki party continued at the weekend but the Tammy jamboree really took on a life of its own with a first-half hat-trick at Wolves.
There are many flaws with this Chelsea side, but as an FPL option, Abraham certainly isn’t something to be concerned about. After the Gameweek 6 Liverpool game, The Blues have a run of fixtures as green on the FPL site’s fixture difficulty ratings as they would make most (actual PL) managers green with envy. The Guardian’s Jonathon Wilson expects this Chelsea side to soon experience a “reckoning” as the clear tactical faults in Lampard’s outfit are exposed thoroughly. If part of that was the loss to Valencia, who are experiencing shambolic off-field issues at the moment, then the sequel is potentially at The Bridge on Sunday. After that though, I believe you would be brave to go without Tammy.
Callum Wilson scored his first brace of the season as Bournemouth recorded their first good performance of the season at home to Everton. Even with his team struggling, Wilson has (somehow) managed an attacking return in every gameweek – something only Aubameyang and Sergio Agüero have also managed. A Friday night (note the early deadline) trip to Southampton will be another test for the Cherries that they should be able to navigate, but still we don’t know how either of the hyper-inconsistent south coast sides will do.
Finally Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a player I had in my Gameweek 1 side at the expense of opening weekend hat-trick hero, Raheem Sterling. He’s clearly one of the most talented strikers in the league and, granted, he was facing one of the worst teams thus far, but he managed that whilst having little help from the teammates behind him. Arsenal recorded just seven shots, four on target. Watford… WATFORD had 31 attempts on Leno’s goal. There are serious issues in that Gunners side which put me off Auba for the foreseeable future. He may continue to return goals relatively consistently, but at his price braces and hat-tricks need to be a possibility to make him truly viable. The brace on Saturday seems like too much of a lucky coincidence than a product of a good team for now, making me believe there are better ways for us to spend our budget.
Short but sweet again this week.
Mohammed Salah or Sadio Mané (Chelsea A)
I really think this Chelsea side’s defensive issues will be their Achilles heel and give a full-strength Liverpool the chance to lay down a marker.
Sergio Agüero (Watford H)
The current league top scorer versus the current bottom-feeders who have a diabolical record against Top Six teams over the past four seasons, taking points on just two occasions. Their first game in the second Quique Sanchez Flores era against Arsenal was more promising than what went before defensively, but it’s hard to see this City side not putting up a big score at the Etihad to begin making amends for the Norwich defeat. It may be early doors, but it will be in their mind that the five point gap between them and Liverpool is still just within their control. Wins in all the rest of their games, including the two against Liverpool, will see them clinch the league by a point again with a cool 109 points.
Ashley Barnes (Norwich H)
Norwich are good but defensively frail. They were impervious to City’s crossing frenzy with eight men in the box, but they won’t have the luxury of effectively kicking-off with a two goal cushion again to make that viable this weekend. At Turf Moor, they will also expect to be in possession more than their opponents, leaving them open to threats City could never (and would never under Pep) create like long balls over the top and quick transitions after being caught in possession in their own half with too many players committed.
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.