Jerome is back with another monster review, this time covering both midweek and the weekend’s games!!! It’s more like a short novel so sit back and enjoy.
Burnley vs Watford; 1-0
Our friends at Burnley have delivered yet again, another beloved clean sheet for our FPL defences. It’s astounding how reliable Burnley are, they deliver exactly what’s expected. West Brom and West Ham (both at home) and Bournemouth (A) are the only teams (outside of the top 8) to score against Burnley, out of the 11 teams they have faced in that category. That is consistency.
Four Burnley defenders picked up clean sheet points this gameweek, but I hope it’s Nick Pope that you all had as he served up a delicious 11-point haul in goal, on the back of seven saves and maximum BP, he is still great value at 4.7m. The other defensive player to pick up bonus points was 3.9m-priced Kevin Long, an absolute bargain at first sight, but unfortunately, he is only filling in until Ben Mee returns – most likely this Saturday – from a minor knee niggle.
Stoke didn’t go down without a fight however, Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting and Crouch gave Burnley’s defensive unit a lot to think about and forced Pope into the previously mentioned seven saves.
I mentioned before GW11 that I wanted to see a goal or at least an assist from our little oompa Loompa, Xherdan Shaqiri, but he failed to deliver. I think I was being a bit ambitious when I expected attacking returns from Shaqiri against either of the third (Burnley) and fourth (Spurs) stingiest defences in the league, and in saying that, despite his lack of returns, he hath convinced me.
The ‘old’ Shaqiri would have disappeared entirely in the previous two fixtures, but this brand-new and reformed Shaqiri was up and about and causing problems, and I might look to bring him in considering their fixtures. Stoke face all other members of the bottom six teams in the form table (since gameweek 12) – including Huddersfield twice – plus Watford (10th) and Bournemouth (11th) between GW18-27, with games against Chelsea and Man United (both away) intertwined there as well, juicy fixtures.
Something to note from the Burnley game is that Stephen Ward picked up a knock and was substituted on 40 minutes. Nothing has been released yet regarding his recovery time – if any – but as it is listed as just a knock at this stage meaning he’ll most likely either play on Saturday or miss just the one gameweek.
Crystal Palace vs Watford; 2-1
WHEN I WAS A YOUNG BOY
MY FATHER SAID TO ME
LISTEN HERE MY SON, YOU’RE CPFC
HERE. WE ARE.
YOU’LL KNOW US BY OUR NOISE
THE PRIDE OF SOUTH LODON
THE FAMOUS PALACE BOYS.
Those are the lyrics that were ringing around Selhurst Park after the second goal for a good five minutes. I almost heard them over here in Australia!
I was tempted to just have that as the review for this game, but I’ve also got to gloat and to include my weekly section voicing my extreme man-crush on one Wilfried Zaha! Seriously though, how good is this guy! He was the architect behind both of the goals in the final minutes, with the first goal resulting from a saved shot of his (after he found his way around two defenders, mind you) was parried into the path of a waiting Bakary Sako (who almost stuffed it all up!).
James McArthur netted the winner. A case of ‘right place, right time’ for the Scotsman, he has a knack of always being that person, being in the right place at the right time, he has that natural instinct. Unfortunately for McArthur he is the spare midfielder – so to speak –, so if any of Palace’s regular starting midfielders were to be injured/rested, then he is the man that Roy would call upon. As long as all Palace’s regular midfielders are fit, I can’t see McArthur winning himself a regular place in the starting XI, despite how much I would love to see him there – he runs for the whole day, doesn’t shy away from a tackle and will always prop up for a goal (or two) when needed.
As for the other goal scorer, Bakary Sako, he could find himself in the starting XI sooner or later, With Andros Townsend’s current goal drought stretching back to gameweek 32 last season. With Sako’s goal, it does put his starting position in jeopardy.
After his own mini drought, Richarlison picked up an assist on his way to a respectable six-point total. Richarlison faced three of the league’s top four stingiest teams in consecutive games before this gameweek, but he won’t have to worry about many more stingy defences for the majority of the next 12 gameweeks. Pop him in your team and watch the points flow through.
With Watford’s fixtures in mind, it would also be a good idea to pick up one of Watford’s defenders. Kabasele and Zeegelar (when he returns from suspension) are the most nailed on out of all the Watford defenders, with Marco Silva’s knack for chopping and changing between formations based on their opposition, leaving the rest of the defenders with inconsistent minutes.
Adrien Mariappa (4.1m) has started the last six games and has taken his opportunity with both hands. Mariappa has been in fine form since he worked his way back to the starting XI against West Ham in gameweek 12, and managed to contain – as best as anyone can – Wilfried Zaha for the majority of this match (I say he committed a few more fouls than the referee suggested, but play on). For the short term, I do see Mariappa keeping his spot, but I’m not sure how long that lasts. He is currently preferred ahead of Sebastian Prodl, even in a 4-at-the-back formation with two centre-halves, in the continued absence of Kaboul and Catchart. As long as they’re out for the foreseeable future, I see no reason why he can’t keep his spot.
Also, I’ve got to point out something absolutely bizarre from this game. Kiko Femenia was substituted on very late in the game (84th minute) and seemed to have picked up some sort of knock in his six minutes on the pitch, he then decided to walk off the pitch without any indication to the manager or bench and walked straight down the tunnels – very odd. Don’t think he’ll be in the team next gameweek.
Huddersfield vs Chelsea; 1-3
More than 25% of managers were dealt a blow before the gameweek even started as Morata was ruled out with a back “injury”, at least Conte had the decency to let us all know before the gameweek! Along with Morata’s absence, Conte’s ‘funeral’ suit was also missing, the Chelsea manager opting instead to sport a full royal blue track suit with a tidy little beanie to go with it… Anyway.
Eden Hazard was widely tipped (in FPL circles) to be a beneficiary of Morata’s absence, and the Chelsea number 10 took full advantage. The Belgian international was given man of the match honours despite being pulled off on 68 minutes as part of the Chelsea rotation in this busy festive period. Unfortunately, man of the match honours does not deliver FPL points and Hazard blanked for the second consecutive gameweek. Fear not however, Morata should be back this weekend, meaning Hazard should be resuming his previous role of feeding off Morata.
All (or most of) three of Chelsea’s goals and assists came courtesy of rotation players, with Bakayoko (one goal), Willian (one goal & two assists) and Pedro (one goal) all making the most of their rare opportunities in the starting XI, with the Brazillian – Willian – particularly flourishing in his Hazard-esque role. Fabregas and Morata should once again resume their roles in the first XI this weekend while Hazard should return to his more natural position.
The goal scoring didn’t stop there as Laurent DePoitre netted his third goal this season – his first as a substitute – shattering the hopes and dreams of FPL managers of a Chelsea clean sheet. As has been the norm this season – especially in the last month of fixtures – Chelsea conceded to a ‘smaller team’, robbing us of some juicy clean sheet points with a late, late goal, as has been the pattern in each of the games reviewed so far.
However, Alonso and Christensen still managed to collect returns with the former assisting Willian’s goal, while the latter was pulled off on 79 minutes – before DePoitre’s dream-shattering header. This substitution shows the utter importance of Christensen and how highly regarded he is; Hazard and Kante were the other two players substituted for Chelsea, arguably the two most important players in their whole squad. Jump on the young Danishman while he is cheap (and unique – he is currently owned by just 3.5% of players).
Newcastle v Everton; 0-1
Newcastle could consider themselves unlucky that they lost this game, probably because they played a game of ‘How close can you get without scoring’ with themselves, and they won. Matt Rtichie and Mikel Merino both struck either upright in the first half, while Mohammed Diame came within inches of a tap-in. Those weren’t all of Newcastle’s misfortunes as their keeper, Karl Darlow, mishandled Lennon’s header, allowing Rooney to pounce on the ball – a costly error. The goal just goes to show the old boy has still got it. Rooney’s goal tally of 9 is now equal to that of his predecessor and current Manchester United number 1, Romelu Lukaku, Rooney is going at 128 minutes per goal, compared to Lukaku’s 170 minutes per goal, for £75 million less. If only United could afford Rooney…
That last paragraph basically summed the whole game up – Newcastle were by far the better team, but Everton made the most of what little chances at goal they had.
Ashley Williams really should have doubled Everton’s lead in the second half when Sigurdsson served up a glorious free-kick onto Williams’ plate, but Ashley missed the plate? I tried to make that food-related, I really did, anyway, he sent his header wide.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin didn’t get involved too much this game. He sent in the cross that led to Rooney’s goal and also came within inches of a cross that most certainly would have tested the keeper. Other than that, he failed to muster a shot and made only one key pass for the match. Swansea at home next week presents a good opportunity for the youngster to get back on the scoresheet.
Calvert-Lewin’s opposite man, Dwight Gayle, had a slightly better game. Although, two shots, one on target, but no key passes don’t read for an amazing stat line. Gayle and Calvert-Lewin are both FPL rotation players and with tough fixtures in the upcoming weeks you need to plan in advance, making sure you have other player(s) to rotate them with.
Southampton vs Leicester; 1-4
This was an absolute domination by Leicester and it could have been ever worse for Southampton had it not been for several Fraser Forster saves. The Saints salvaged a goal before Leicester scored their last giving Leicester a minor scare, but Claude Puel’s men held on against the managers former employers. Speaking of Puel, he has done a magnificent job in transforming this Leicester side into the scoring beasts they once were – seven goals in their last two games and a 1-0 win against the kings of the ‘1-0 win’, Burnley, before those games. Leicester have now entrenched themselves in the top 10, with a four-point buffer on 10th place, two places below them – an emphatic turnaround by a team that was place 18th not so long ago in GW9.
Shinji Okazaki made the most of his opportunity in the starting XI, making two assists while scoring a goal himself. Okazaki replaced Demarai Gray in the line-up as part of Leicester’s management of the tidal wave of festive fixtures. Gray should return to the starting team this weekend when Leicester play host to 18th placed Crystal Palace, Gray remains a viable option at just 5.3m, playing in-behind Vardy in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Mahrez and Andy King were Leicester’s other goal scorers and in the process the former confirmed his eighth attacking return in his last 10 starts for Leicester and remains quite the POD at 6.6% ownership. The Algerian international has gone under the radar a fair bit this season with the Man City midfielders not sharing the headlines. He is starting to make me consider trading Hazard out for him after the Belgian’s consecutive blanks. If you’re in the market for someone around his price and can’t afford the likes of Salah and Coutinho, Mahrez is a very good option, however, beware of his dodgy fixtures.
One man who didn’t get himself a goal was Jamie Vardy, he is becoming quite the ‘frustrator’ (I know that’s not a word, but it should be) in recent weeks. Leicester have scored seven goals over their last two games and he has only chimed in with the singular assist, despite starting both games. He came quite close this week – only a point-blank Fraser Forster save kept him from scoring and another stop by Southampton’s goalkeeper denied him of another assist. Rooney is a tempting replacement at 7.4m and the temptation to downgrade him completely to a cheap forward to upgrade elsewhere would be undeniable and un-quash-able (that sounds like it should be a word too) almost. I wasn’t able to resist temptation and fell into it and so far, I have yielded no profits. With Leicester’s indifferent fixtures in the upcoming gameweeks, it could be a wise choice to part ways with the 8.5m forward, but don’t take a hit to trade him out unless you’re bringing in one of the ‘big hitter’ midfielders, I have a feeling Vardy’s fortunes may change soon, just a feeling, my ‘feelings’ usually end up to be quashed anyway.
Swansea vs Man City; 0-4
Manchester City are back to their goal scoring best to the delight of virtually every FPL coach (if you don’t have a City midfielder, then you probably haven’t checked your team too much recently!).
Sane and Jesus were dropped to the disappointment of many as the returns rained in for all the other Man City regulars. Sterling (two assists), David Silva (two goals), Kevin De Bruyne and Aguero scored a goal each.
Swansea were rendered helpless to another Man City masterclass, who are now on a breathtaking 15 game win streak – there simply is no stopping them at this point.
Man City are currently on track to obliterate the record-breaking season of the ‘The Invincibles’ in the 2003-04 Premier League campaign, a season in which City had the longest winless run (14) for the season – how time (money) can change things. At this point in the season, The Invincibles were on 39 points, and just for fun, Chelsea were on 40 points in their record breaking season in 2004-05. Incredible when you think about it, United are on 38 points and Chelsea are not so far behind on 35. In another season these two teams would be ‘almost’ record-breakers (or on the path to being potential record breakers), yet in spite of their points tally, they’ve already lost the season and we’re not even half-way done yet.
Onto the FPL side of things, David Silva continues to laugh in the face of those (including me) who doubted his consistency at the start of the season, based on previous seasons. Silva has now quintupled his total goal tally over the last three gameweeks and provided returns in 10 of 16 gameweeks, seeing him in the bronze medal position in the midfield – and overall – points tally. Sterling sits one spot behind him in fourth after collecting two assists (one of them being an ‘FPL’ assist as he won the free-kick for De Bruyne’s subsequent goal) and has been producing very regularly since the start of the season for his grateful Fantasy managers (it’s fun owning him), but has only risen 0.3m since then. Sterling’s T-rex arms scare people away, but he’s actually a rather gentle being who just wants to score some points for us Fantasy coaches, jump on!
Sergio Aguero started after being managed last weekend against United and it remains to be seen who – Aguero or Jesus – will start this weekend against Spurs. The Brazillian seems to be preferred by City fans and indeed the underlying stats support his cause, with City winning more and scoring more goals when he starts the game. A minor patter that has evolved this season sees Aguero preferred for the home games and Jesus for the away fixtures. Outside of the first five Premier League games where both strikers started both home and away fixtures together – except for their travels to Bournemouth – (where Aguero coincidentally – or not – was benched), Aguero has started 5/6 home games and just 1/5 away games, and on the other hand, Jesus has started 4/5 away games and just 2/6 home games. I feel this Swansea fixture – an away game – is a bit of an outlier as there was no way Jesus was in the conversation to start this game just two days after starting against United, especially when you have a completely fit and very able striker in Sergio Aguero waiting in the wings, so I’ve removed it from the equation.
A little bit of a pattern has arisen since gameweek five and it seems Pep trusts Jesus more, starting him for the notoriously tougher away fixtures. This doesn’t really change anything as it’s even harder to be pick either one of these scoring machines when considering these stats because we know how it’s going to work now (somewhat), but it’s good to know anyway.
Liverpool vs West Brom; 0-0
This game was huge in my home country of Egypt as two of our country’s ‘star’ players were lining up against each other – Salah and Hegazi, and considering all things, I think the latter won this round, or his team did anyway. Salah came close to winning the battle – and the war – on two occasions, but uncharacteristically squandered his chances. One, a glorious early cross from Trent Alexander Arnold (TAA) that left Hegazi helpless, only for the ball to – for once – outpace Salah, beating him by a matter of centimetres, the other via a cross sent in by his replacement a header from a good nine yards out via a cross sent in by substitute Joe Gomez.
Those weren’t the only good chances to be wasted by Liverpool; Mane, Coutinho, Solanke and Firmino all missed their own opportunities with only Coutinho making Foster earn his keep in goal. Solanke was a bit unfortunate himself, having one shot saved on the line alongside a disallowed goal, close but no cigar for the Chelsea (Vitesse) academy product.
Despite dropping points to relegation-stranded West Brom, ther were still some positives for Liverpool. The Reds held out West Brom to earn their sixth home clean sheet of the season, from nine games, their highest tally since the 2012/13 season, in fact, since that season Liverpool have kept six home clean sheets in the Premier League in every season since – maybe it’s time to dump our ‘Pool defenders?
Joe Gomez remains a bargain at 4.7m and is 100% Jurgen Klopp’s preferred option at right-back and most-likely Liverpool’s best and most complete defender, but TAA is no push-over, and in fact, I enjoyed his lovely seven points this gameweek as a quick fix to my Morata problem. Pick Gomez with confidence of returns, but be warned of his potential rotation in this hectic festive period, Klopp is not one to shy away from rotations – Liverpool’s XI is the one that has been the most meddled with this season.
On the opposite side of defence, we find ourselves in another dilemma. Alberto Moreno started the season at left-back, and him even being in the first-team was a bit of a surprise to many as most thought his Liverpool career was over after his embarrassing performance in the Europa League final – and for basically the entirety of the two seasons prior. Moreno impressed from the start of the season and kept his spot, he then fell victim to an ankle injury three gameweeks ago and Robertson has started since. Moreno is due back this weekend, but may not feature in the squad until the following gameweek, meaning Robertson could start again this weekend. Robertson has impressed since being called to start by Klopp. Basically, no one knows what’s going to happen and they could be in rotation until the end of the season.
Then there’s the central defenders, but having Lovren or Klavan doesn’t sound too appealing does it?
In essence, if you’re after a Liverpool defender go for Gomez, but expect rotation when there are mid-week gameweeks or competition games in the future.
Man Untied vs Bournemouth; 1-0
This could have been very embarrassing for United had it not been for one man… Yep, you guessed it, David De Gea. Although many of De Gea’s saves seemed like fairly simple ones directed straight at him, the surface was wet and ‘skiddy’ and United’s defensive box was always chock-full of defenders and it would have been very hard for United’s number one to see the shots early.
As well as the deceiving difficulty of De Gea’s saves, it was the alarming ease at which Bournemouth were able to just walk through United’s defence at times. Despite the return of Phil Jones and the very impressive performance of second-time-starter Scott McTominay, Bournemouth absolutely dominated the opening half-hour or so and Lukaku’s goal on 25 minutes was well against the run of play.
Mourinho’s teams are notoriously difficult to penetrate and in recent weeks that ‘philosophy’ has been diminished with Arsenal, Man City, Watford and now Bournemouth being able to permeate through United’s defensive lines in recent weeks. Nevertheless, a visit to West Brom on the weekend and then games against Burnley and Southampton at Old Trafford – after they travel to Leicester – provide United opportunities to regain their early season defensive form, and once again Phil Jones makes for a valuable and cheap route into this United defence at just 5.4m.
Lukaku scored for the first time in forever (yes, that video has 73 million views) and maybe it could kick start something for our big Belgian friend. To be fair to Lukaku he does lack consistent service of decent quality and that may be attributing to his downfall.
In contrast to Lukaku’s lack of service, someone that costs £75 million (yes, I will bring this up every week 😊) needs to be taking advantage of rare instances that he does get quality service and he hasn’t been doing that this season. Bad service + relatively out of form striker priced at 11.3m = bad investment… For now. Until he can resemble his performances from last year it goes without saying, steer clear. Another set of good fixtures ahead provides him with the opportunity to re-kick start his season.
For Bournemouth, they almost toppled the league’s second most expensive club. If the match was decided based on passion and effort, Bournemouth most certainly would have won, but unfortunately, it’s not. Their next two fixtures will most likely pan at as this one did, as losses, but fear not as after those next two fixtures their schedule clears up, so keep an eye out for their assets!
Spurs vs Brighton; 2-0
Onto the third (but not final) disappointing team of the coveted ‘big six’, for some anyway. Kane blanked at home against a promoted side and Ben Davies, yet again, missed out on clean sheet points. Pochettino’s full-back rotation is really starting to get to me, I can’t trade him out as I know as soon as I do he’ll post up another double figure haul.
Son got on the scoresheet for the third consecutive week – the bloke is in some form, which is more than I can say for Dele Alli who started as a substitute for the first time since GW12 last season, he is someone who is a shadow of his past self.
I covered Son in some relative depth in the review last week after his stellar performance at home to Stoke, and he doesn’t look like slowing down. Son is constantly moving around and for the past handful of gameweeks he has been Spurs’ biggest threat in attack. He has now jumped up to 8.0m in FPL, but will most likely have the burden of being the most transferred in player of the gameweek which has definitely affected all those before him (all professional football players play FPL… don’t they?) bar Salah – mentioned in last gamweek’s review; the notorious ‘most transferred-in player blanking curse’, will Son fall victim to or can him pry himself free of the curse’s cold, dead hands? Find out on the next episode of ‘Jerome’s Review’ (we seriously need a better name than that, so if anyone’s got suggestions for a new title – PLEASE let us know!).
After their annual travels to Man City and Burnley, Spurs have a break in fixture before a juicy double-gameweek in GW22. With that in mind, I want to preach caution when trading in any Spurs players this gameweek.
Collectively, City and Burnley have conceded two (or more – which has never happened) goals on just four occasions this season, and only one of those was at either of the team’s home grounds, which was City’s 7-2 demolition of Stoke (the fact that City scored 7 in that match means that they weren’t really too intent on doing too much defending). Another one of those fixtures in which either team conceded two (or more) goals was Burnley away to City where they conceded three, but who doesn’t concede away to Man City.
After that essay on Spurs’ chances, I don’t think you want to hear too much about Brighton, so I won’t tell you too much. Basically, they had virtually zero good chances this game and they have been horrendous of late, but their fixtures are kinder to them in the immediate future. Take of that what you will, I’ve got Glenn Murray and I think I might hold him despite the fact that he failed to start against Tottenham, most likely due to rotation.
West Ham vs Arsenal; 0-0
Arsenal yet again had the chances to put away their opposition and rid them, momentarily, of the ridicule and embarrassment they must endure from fans and ‘pundits’ alike. Giroud had the chance to bury a typical Giroud header, but sent it wide, Ozil should have made the most of almost being clear through, 1v1 with Adrian the West Ham defence after a fortunate rebound of the ball off of Sanchez’s head, or was it intentional? Jack Wilshere also had an opportunity to break the deadlock when the ball again found it’s way into his possession just outside the six-yard box, but he slashed at the ball and scoffed his chance. Maybe Sanchez should have done better with his six attempts on goal.
A lot of ‘maybe’s’ and ‘what if’s’ for Arsenal this game; 22 to shots to 6 in favour of Arsenal and 70% possession to just 30% tells the story, Arsenal dominated the game, but West Ham were immense in defence. The fact that they blocked more shots (11) than Arsenal had shots on target (3) or off target (8) shows how compact and organised they were in defence, it really is encouraging for us Fantasy coaches, especially when you notice the prices of the West Ham defenders.
David Moyes averaged a very respectable 12.33 cleansheets per season during his tenures here in the Premier League with Everton and United, and even managed 10 clean sheets with Real Sociedad during his 38 gameweeks there (over two seasons – first game in GW12 in the 2014/15 season, last game in GW11 in the 2015/16 season). His Sunderland team only managed six clean sheets in the 2016/17 season, but when you’ve got a 35-year-old John O’Shea, a 34-year-old Joleon Lescott and Lamine Kone as your first-choice centre-backs, then you’re always going to struggle.
David Moyes can organise a defence and make it a functional one, as his West Ham team have proven in the last two gameweeks. Adrian sits at 4.3m in goal, but the man that I am most intrigued by is Arthur Masauaku.
Although Masauaku’s shots per 90 minutes (0.5) and key passes per 90 minutes (0.6) are considerably down when compared to the top echelon of defenders in the PL who have started more than six games, with Alonso (1.8) and Davies (2.6) the leaders for defenders in those categories respectively.
The numbers of the top few players in each category are quite distinctly better than the rest; Otamendi, Scott Dann and David Luiz are equal 4th for shots p90mins, while Jose Holebas and Scott Malone are equal 4th for key passes per90mins with 1.4, meaning Masauaku’s numbers aren’t that bad, especially when you consider the price of the others mentioned.
The stat that really gets me going is his dribbles per90mins, Masauku is head, shoulders, knees and toes above any other defender in this category (only considering defenders who have started more than six games). Masauaku completes 4.9 dribbles per90mins, the next best defender is Ashley Young with 1.8, in fact, Eden Hazard is the only player completing more than him at 6.1 per90mins. This may not seem so significant in the context of things considering his shots and key passes stats are down, but when you take into account that he has started 4 of 7 of his games against members of the ‘big six’ – with three in the last three gameweeks where West Ham have done a low volume of attacking -, meaning he wouldn’t have done much attacking in the majority of his games, the only way is up. 4.4m is quite cheap for someone that likes to go forward as much as he does.
The man who has been leading the attack for West Ham in recent weeks, Marko Arnautovic has been doing a little bit of attacking himself, in face, he had a goal disallowed on the against Arsenal and came quite close with another. What’s even better in regard to Arnautovic is the fact that he is playing either as a striker or in-behind the striker and is listed as a midfielder, priced at 6.8m. If Rooney is out of your budget, then consider the fiery Austrian.
David Moyes loves Arnautovic and has paid specific attention to the Austrian international since he first came through the doors of London Stadium. In fact, it was Arnautovic and the aforementioned Arthur Masauaku, that Moyseh had really focussed on (this article doesn’t go into too much depth, it took me a few articles to be really convinced!).
Let’s not forget West Ham’s DGW in GW22 as well, although one of those DGW fixtures is away at Spurs, West Brom at home with a attack-focussed Alan Pardew in charge could just do the trick.
With the DGW coming up in a few gameweeks, if you haven’t started planning now, then you’d better! Spurs and West Ham are the only two involved, but even if it’s something small as planning to have two free transfers available it could still pay off – better safe than sorry with DGW’s.
Back to the current timeline! Gameweek 18 was a fairly high-scoring gameweek, with many ‘big guns’ prevailing while several others faltered. Many lower-priced options also fired, giving us much to consider.
Without further ado, let’s get straight into it!
2015/16 PL Champs vs 2017/18 PL Champs
That’s right, you heard it here first: We’re going to win the league. I made the premature mistake of crowning Man City champions last week, but after this performance I think it’s undoubtable that you’ve just witnessed this season’s Premier League champions dismantle former PL champs, Leicester, mercilessly.
But seriously, Palace dominated from the first whistle and Leicester couldn’t keep up, in fact, I’m still wondering if they started the game at the same time Palace did – they were slow to react and they seemed to only have one plan, which was to send it long to Vardy and when that didn’t work their attack festered.
Leicester went in with a fairly attack-minded team, with none of their four forward players really renowned for their defensive work rate, while Ben Chilwell isn’t the league’s most flattering left-back to say the least, and is one who works – almost – harder going forward than he does going back. Chilwell’s direct opponent, for a fair portion of the match, Wilf Zaha, took full advantage of this, earning himself man of the match honours for his stellar performance – three shots, three key passes and seven successful dribbles topped off with a goal reads for a good day out for a winger.
My love for Zaha is well known, but unfortunately, he doesn’t fit into my FPL team with structure causing an issue there, however, if you are in the market for a mid-priced option. Palace’s talisman Zaha, is one of the in-form options in that bracket for the moment. Hodgson names him as a striker on the team sheets, but Wilf does as he pleases on the pitch, the Coite D’Ivoire international (sorry England fans) is permitted to roam freely in attack, roaming out wide or going more centrally and this has contributed heavily to a much-improved Palace attack.
Crystal Palace’s fixtures are rather ominous for the time being and don’t offer much encouragement for investment. Within the next 14 gameweeks the Eagles face all members of the ‘big six’ – including both ‘legs’ against Arsenal – plus current member of the Premier League’s top 6, Burnley. There’s only five fixtures within the next 14 gameweeks where Palace would be worthy favourites, as much as it hurts to say it, avoid Zaha – and his Palace team mates – for the time being.
After a light endorsement last week, Riyad Mahrez did what most have done following any level of endorsement from myself – do the exact opposite of what they’ve been doing all season/recently.
Mahrez was inconspicuous, while Vardy seemed to be post-party hungover from the win against Southampton as he too failed to mesmerise us. This would be a rather inconvenient time for Leicester’s star players to fall into the abyss as the Foxes play Man United at home and travel to Liverpool and Chelsea within the next five gameweeks. In my defence, I did say Leicester’s fixtures were dodgy (this is me promptly hopping off the Leicester party bus 😉).
You thought that was the end of this game’s review, didn’t you? You thought wrong. I couldn’t finish off this perfect performance without mentioning Christian “He scores when he wants” Benteke! A goal and an assist – his first returns since May last season. This performance does go a little in the way of resolving the infamous penalty debacle from last week, but as mentioned, Palace’s fixtures aren’t amazing, as tempting as it was for me to hit the ‘confirm transfer’ just seconds after he headed his first goal of the season, reason hit me like a steam train – Palace’s fixtures aren’t all that enticing.
Now we’ve finished this game’s review.
Arsenal vs Newcastle; 1-0
As expected, Arsenal had the bulk of the opportunities, and as has been the norm in recent gameweeks for the Gunners, they failed to put their opponents away and it could’ve cost them more points. Newcastle mounted a minor surge late in the game that eventuated to nothing, but they did ask questions of the Arsenal defence and Petr Cech, but Mesut Özil’s superb volley remained the difference between the two clubs.
Arsenal’s one-nil victory meant there were limited returns to be shared around and both Sanchez and Lacazette are two big names that faltered yet again. Four goals from an 11.8m Alexis Sanchez, while Lacazette’s 5.3 pp90mins at 10.4m is unsatisfactory. The pair have had fairly underwhelming seasons compared to their reputation and their price-tags mean they are simply too expensive to be carrying around ‘hoping’ for a change in form.
Sooner or later, Arsenal’s dominance and vast number of shots will have to translate into goals, and as their draw opens up it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on them.
Another Arsenal man that has failed to produce returns – for reasons other than form – in recent gameweeks is Sead Kolasinac, the Bosnian full-back has been questionably omitted for the last two fixtures. Wednesday’s trip to West Ham could be put down to rotation, but it should have meant that Kolasinac was fit and able to line up at the Emirates on Saturday, but he was left stranded on the bench.
Kolasinac’s temporary replacement, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, has performed admirably in his absence and came within inches of scoring a brilliant solo goal on the weekend. The midfielder-listed defender, Maitland-Niles, should make way for Kolasinac against Liverpool next gameweek, but his pace and recovery could be just what Arsenal need to combat the league’s top goal scorer, Mohammed Salah, as much as they can. Maitland-Niles has played out of his skin the last two gameweeks, and in my opinion (not that it matters), he does deserve to go around the Emirates-roundabout once more. Keep us guessing, Wenger old pal!
As for the old Toon, they had their work cut out for them here, away against the second-best home side in the league (can’t believe I’m saying that) wouldn’t end up well for anybody, unless you’re the one and only, Jesse Lingard (seriously Arsenal, out of all people, this is the guy that rips you to shreds?). Newcastle’s form is admittedly atrocious, but no one expected much from them this week, so we’ll move on to the next game.
Brighton vs Burnley; 0-0
Burnley have done it again, not even a Brighton penalty could stop them from collecting their ninth clean sheet of the season, it was obvious Murray missed the penalty due to the heavy intimidation imposed on him by the Burnley defenders.
None of the Burnley back-line collected any BP as the Brighton defenders took those honours, maybe the first of many as a result of Brighton’s upturn in fixtures. If you need to relieve yourself of any Burnley assets as a consequence of their more upcoming schedule, Brighton present a good option amongst a few that have risen over recent gameweeks.
Nothing else to note really, I’ve mentioned Murray missed his penalty, but he looked as threatening as he has been all season and should continue to start up front for Brighton. Matt Ryan saved the day for the Seagulls with a fabulous double-save on top of some more impressive glove-work throughout the game.
Lewis Dunk at 4.4m or Matt Ryan in goal are probably your best two routes into the Brighton defence, Dunk – and Shane Duffy – pose incredible threats at set pieces and regularly have shots on target as a result, eventually one of them has to go in… right? And Ryan is only five points off of third-placed Cech despite keeping three less clean sheets, he is worth your money at 4.5m
Chelsea vs Southampton; 1-0
Marcos Alonso’s free-kick was the sole difference between the two sides in an otherwise interesting contest. Southampton didn’t do much in the way of attacking until the last half-hour, but it was just interesting to see how many passes both Willian and Pedro could butcher to keep Hazard from getting on the scoresheet, and they did very well in that retrospect – in the being ‘bad’ part.
Pedro’s lucky he’s only started against the ‘smaller’ clubs (Southampton aren’t that ‘small’ of a club, but they are below Huddersfield) and Conte doesn’t risk blowing his cover as a footballer by starting him against the ‘bigger’ clubs, his cover would surely be blown otherwise.
Seriously though, Hazard was making run after run, yet Pedro – and Willian at times – was butchering ball after ball, it was frustrating to watch as someone who captained the Belgian Hazard. As soon as Fabregas came on (and Pedro went off), Hazard had some decent opportunities and even had a goal disallowed because Fabregas’ foot was offside, I really wish it wasn’t.
Service should return to normal next gameweek when Morata, who played 17 minutes in this game, is deemed fit to start, which should be this coming gameweek against Everton at Goodison Park. It’s not going to be a stroll in the park for Chelsea, an Allardyce-coached team won’t let their home clean sheet slip so easily, although I’m really hoping it does, Hazard and Morata are testing me and I’m really considering trading the latter.
In Morata’s place, Marcos Alonso has been spending plenty of time forward and he had the most shots on goal of any person on the pitch, with six. At times I even saw Alonso just sitting and acting as a striker, most likely because Hazard had virtually no help from Willian, or more specifically, Pedro, for the majority of the game.
With Marcos Alonso’s double-figure haul – his third of the season –, there has been yet another rush of coaches scrambling to get their hands on the, now 7.0m defender. After Alonso’s first double-figure haul this season – his two-goal effort against Spurs in GW2 – I had the same reaction and sacrificed all I saw necessary to get my hands on the Spaniard, but was not rewarded for the sacrifices I made. The FPL-God’s obviously deemed my – and many others – sacrifices not worthy of returns and sought to teach us a lesson by giving us a defender who would average 3.3ppg for the next nine gameweeks (GW3-11), until his next double-figure haul.
Then came Alonso’s next double-figure haul, a 14-point, goal, clean sheet and maximum BP effort against Bournemouth in GW12, which barely registered a spike in transfer activity as his ownership only increased by just under 100, 000 by the time GW18 had rolled around.
With GW18 came Alonso’s third double-figure haul of the season, a superimposable mirror image of his GW12 performance – a goal, clean sheet and maximum BP return. A timely return this was, as his five-gameweek average before his GW18 return was a mere 3.2ppg – a feat matched by Dejan Lovren despite playing one game less than Alonso over that time (Lovren scored 15 points in his 4 games between GW13-17). Dejan Lovren the much-maligned Liverpool central defender.
In short, what I’m trying to say is that Alonso’s form and consistency has been notably down this season compared to his stellar debut season with Chelsea in their 2016/17 title-winning campaign. Yes, he has still managed to score a very impressive 90-points in just 18 gameweeks as a 6.9m option, but his barren patches this season would have been a huge dent in any owner’s overall rankings and a heavy load to carry in any league match-ups.
Are Alonso’s troubles behind him? Can he return to last season’s ultra-consistent FPL beast, or will he continue the way he has this season: delivering the returns similar to that of a 4.5m defender, for weeks on end, before reminding us of what ‘can be’ if we give in to his temptations?* The choice is yours. I’ve settled for the – currently – 5.6m Andreas Christensen, who is still great value.
Charlie Austin was presumably managed for Southampton this week after starting the last three consecutive gameweeks. Gabbiadini didn’t do much in his absence, before Austin came on, and the Englishman should return to his starting position at home to Huddersfield this week. Austin made an instant impact when he came on, having more shots – 1 – in his first 2 minutes on the pitch than Gabbiadini had managed in his 60. However, Southampton’s fixtures are very patchy and if you can’t resist Austin, then either brace yourself for some blanks amongst the returns, or have a rotatable option to relieve Austin of his starting duties in your FPL side.
*Alonso is still a good option and if he gets on a run of attacking returns, he would be invaluable, but this season he has been overwhelmingly inconsistent.
Watford vs Huddersfield; 1-4
Watford’s defensive reputation has definitely taken a hit here. After having victory robbed from them in cruel fashion by a buoyant Crystal Palace side mid-week, Watford picked themselves up and responded by losing 1-4 to the promoted Huddersfield, great response.
Seriously, what happened here? The first two goals came from a combination of a bit of luck and some bad refereeing. Elias Kachunga scored his first of the season after the ball fell to him as he was standing virtually on the goal-line, after it pin-balled around the penalty area for a bit, this is where the bad refereeing came in. Rob Quaner was clearly offside when the ball initially fell to him, he then shot the ball before it fell to eventual goal scorer, Kachunga, who was arguably off-side as well, but to me it seems Kabasele (I think it was) had backed up enough that he played Kachunga on-side after it hit him and then Depoitre before landing in Kachunga’s path.
Aaron Mooy was the scorer of the second goal, who was a bit fortunate after Mariappa slipped and consequently missed the ball which then hit Mooy in the hip area or something, who knows? The only thing Huddersfield fans cared about was that it landed in the back of the net – goal to the Town.
The third was DePoitre’s great strike, and the fourth Huddersfield goal was a penalty which Mooy converted with a perfectly placed shot – out of Gomes’ reach, even though the Brazilian keeper went the right way.
Before the Town put the cherry on top with their fourth goal, Doucoure chimed in with his monthly screamer for Watford, an unstoppable, sweetly struck half-volley which no keeper in the world could save, he’s making a habit of doing that.
The real story here is Huddersfield’s reversal of form. After a rather sticky patch in the Premier League; after they had managed to collect only three points from their previous six, the Terriers now have two wins from their last three games.
Huddersfield’s fixtures have sparked real interest in the Huddersfield forwards, especially after their reversal of their goal scoring habits as well – seven in their last three games, after just two in the six before that. All three of Huddersfield’s forwards are cheap, the most expensive of the lot, Steve Mounie, is 5.7m, while the cheapest is the 4.5m Rob Quaner. David Wagner loves to rotate these three around, meaning that none of them will get consistent starts over their good run of fixtures, or any run of fixtures. Essentially, if you want a dirt-cheap striker who’s going to play/substitute often enough, then Rob Quaner is your man, but if you’re after a consistent starter, I don’t think you’re going to find one here.
As usual, hold Richarlison. An away trip to Brighton, before hosting Leicester and Swansea at Vicarage Road should be enough for him to register returns and mend any breaking bonds of trust held with the young Brazillian.
Stoke vs West Ham; 0-3
How good is Moyes? How bad are Stoke? Whichever way you look at it, you can’t help but conclude, Stoke are bad, and Moyes is good. He has finally worked out Arnautovic and now the boy is in some fine form.
Arnautovic really should have had more than one goal this game, he squandered chance after chance before putting one away and Moyes promptly subbed him off, so he wouldn’t do anything stupid in retaliation to the ‘spirited’ Stoke fans bellowing “Wanker” at the top of their lungs. A midfielder-listed striker, what more do you want!?
One man – alongside Lanzini – who set up Arnautovic for a couple of his many chances was Arthur Masauaku. Five successful dribbles and two key passes – which really should have been Arnautovic goals – for Masauaku this game, to go with a clean sheet. He is virtually a cheap version of last season’s version of Alonso – basically a winger whenever West Ham opt for a three-at-the-back formation, I’m getting my hands on him as soon as I can.
After weeks of teasing us, Lanzini finally showed us the Lanzini that I hoped we would see. Two assists from four key passes and an extra FPL assist for winning Mark Noble’s penalty made a hat-trick of assists for the Argentine on his way to maximum BP and a 15-point haul. With West Ham’s fixtures, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to have either of West Ham’s 6.8m mids, however, if it’s Lanzini you’re after, then you will have to wait another two gameweeks as he has been suspended for simulation.
For Stoke, Xherdan Shaqiri tried his little heart out, four key passes – the equal most on the field – and six shots leave someone hopeful of returns if they only read the stat line, but it was not to be. Diouf and Crouch up top couldn’t finish any of the Swiss-meatball’s work. West Brom at home means Shaqiri has a good chance instant rectification for the 9.8% of managers who were brave enough to take the plunge.
Other than Shaqiri, there isn’t much more left to talk about for Stoke, Crouch could make a good bench fodder and Mark Hughes could make a good unemployed person – probably better than he is at coaching at the moment, who’s calling his cab for him? Maybe this is Pulis’ way back in to the PL – saving a near-relegated team by tightening their defence and making the most of the one good player you have, sounds like the perfect-Pulis scenario.
Man City vs Spurs; 4-1
The Invincibles? ‘New phone, who dis?’ How good are City!? If they can keep this up, they will no doubt go down as the greatest team in Premier League history, they make football look easy.
To be fair to Tottenham, they kept it to 1-0 up until the 70-minute mark, a fair effort against this City team. De Bruyne rocketed his shot home on the 70th minute making it 2-0, releasing any pent-up anger after a terrible challenge from a most likely, frustrated, Dele Alli.
Two more Raheem Sterling goals followed within the next 20 minutes to make it 4-0 after Ilkay Gündogan opened the scoring inside 14 minutes. Gündogan was allowed to stroll into the middle of the box and steer his header into Hugo Lloris’ net, the unmarked and on the ground, the Spurs defenders were caught napping and paid the full price – the game looks a lot different at 0-0.
Not much I need to say for this City team, you simply have to have at least one, and it’s more the merrier in this case.
David Silva was our most recent victim of the ‘most transferred in player blanking’ curse when he didn’t even show up on the team sheets for City. Unfortunately, it was reported to be for family concerns/issues. Firstly, hope everything’s alright with him and his family, secondly, the return dates for cases like this vary, so keep your ears peeled!
As for Spurs, we can’t really hold this against them, no one has really come close to City in the Premier League this season, not after August anyway, do City have the ‘August blues’ as well? The Sky Blues dropped two points out of nine that month, a real shocker that was.
Eriksen was the sole Spurs players to pick up returns this game, in the 93rd minute when the game was done and dusted, Eriksen scored a nicely-struck, and placed, ‘skidder’ into the bottom corner, ruining the City clean sheet in the process. No Spurs player was really expected to pick up any returns this game, and there won’t be too many next game as I’m sure Burnley will park one mammoth bus at home to Spurs. Southampton at home, the gameweek after should reap rewards for those that stay loyal to their Spurs’ assets.
West Brom vs United; 1-2
Of course, it had to be the most irrelevant FPL player on the pitch to score the goal for West Brom, taking away United’s clean sheet. West Brom had come close a few times throughout the game and probably deserved that goal and maybe even one more.
Romelu Lukaku scored in the second consecutive gameweek since GW7 and is finally getting some improved service – United are actually crossing the ball and when you’ve got someone of Lukaku’s size in the box, it’s hard to see why you don’t just send it in there willy-nilly.
United’s fixtures would be rather encouraging if United were in the form they were to start the season, but that is currently not the case. However, Pogba’s appearances usually coincide with ‘those’ sorts of United performances, and guess who returns from suspension next week?
Pogba’s return from a three-week suspension means only good things for United, his impact on a team can truly be appreciated when you consider the stats. United are unbeaten with Pogba in the team this season – in all competitions –, and have scored three or more goals five times from eight games wit Pogba in the team, compared to just twice from ten games without him in the Premier League. Expect more goals for United, starting next gameweek.
Pogba’s return means we also have another mid-priced option to consider. Three goals and seven assists in just eight starts is an incredible return for a 7.9m-priced midfielder, monitor his return first, but it could only take one or two games for him to settle back in and – possibly – convince you. When he returned from injury earlier this season he got amongst the goals in his first game back, so I won’t hold it against you if you go straight after ahead of the upcoming gameweek.
Pogba returning from suspension not only gives us another mid-priced option, but also gives us some other players to consider, as he makes those around him better. United average more big chances (3.5 vs 1.6) and more shots (16.5 to 11.3) with Pogba in the team, but his appearances also coincide with a weaker United defence. United have kept three clean sheets in the eight games with Pogba and seven in the ten games without him, despite the tougher opposition, interesting. I say hold any United defenders you have, but possibly wait and see if this ‘weaker defence’ pattern is coincidental or not.
Bournemouth vs Liverpool; 0-4
For the ninth time this season Liverpool scored three or more goals in a game, and yet again the spoils were shared fairly evenly with each of the big three getting on the score sheet.
Coutinho bagged an assist – as well as his goal – on his way to his fifth double-figure haul of the season, from ten starts, he is still a bargain at 9.0m and is going at 7.9ppg in the ten games he has started, another great midfield option.
Firmino himself also had the goal and assist combo, for his second return in four gameweeks. I want to see more consistency from Firmino before I bring him in, as along with Vardy and Rooney, they are our only decent options below 10.0m that we can start each week with confidence, although Vardy’s form is questionable.
Salah was the last member of Liverpool’s big three to grab his goal, his 14th of the season. Salah could have had a hat-trick of goals again this game, in fact one of his other shots went through Begovic’s legs only for the keeper’s posterior to crush Salah’s hopes for a second goal, agonising.
Liverpool’s attack was not the only line to fire, as their defenders did their job yet again, cashing in their eighth clean sheet of the season, placing them equal fourth in that category, level with Chelsea and Man City. The rotation of the full-backs is a real nuisance, so if you’re going to have Gomes (the preferred FPL choice), then it would be best advised to have back-up for when rotation strikes. Dejan Lovren was the fourth goal scorer for Liverpool, scoffing at my claims that the Reds’ centre-backs were not to be touched, but I still stand by it – they simply don’t have the potential attacking returns that the full-backs do, the full-backs are also cheaper.
After they travel to the Emirates mid-week, this week, Liverpool then have two very enticing home fixtures against Swansea and Leicester, they then travel to Burnley before they get an opportunity to try and not lose by too much to the rampaging Man City side. Their fixtures scale from very easy à very hard within the next five gameweeks, there’s no in-between, but they do have more of the ‘very hard’ fixtures than the very easy ones. Keeping in mind they did dispatch a lacklustre Arsenal side for four goals earlier on in the season, it should be different this time around though.
Bournemouth weren’t entirely redundant this game, and Jermain Defoe did have two chances himself to ruin Mignolet’s sixth clean sheet, but one hit the post and the other one ended up being a routine save for Mignoelt. After such a strong performance last week against second-placed Man United, it was disappointing to see them be so easily swept aside this gameweek (not really because everyone has at least one Liverpool player in their squads, so it was nice to see them lie down and accept defeat for us FPL coaches).
Bournemouth’s fixtures are a fair bit kinder than Liverpool’s, but quite hard to predict. After they face the music at the Etihad this upcoming gameweek, the Cherries face two of the more in-form sides outside of the ‘big six’ in Everton and West Ham – both at home -, followed by bri, ARS, whu & che, so a fairly dodgy set of fixtures. The Cherries are becoming quite hard to predict as of recently, and it’s difficult to say which Bournemouth side will turn up to each one of these fixtures, as all of them – bar the ARS & che games – are winnable for them. If you have any Bournemouth defenders still, keep them, if not maybe stay away.
Everton vs Swansea; 3-1
Two contentious penalty decisions got Everton over the line against a determined Swansea side, who needed to make more of their first-half dominance.
Leroy Fer opened the scoring after he was left unmarked in the box via some loose man-marking from Ashley Williams. Fer was a cheap midfield option for seasons gone past, but he isn’t one this season.
The first of the two penalties was a rather forced one, Lennon skipped inside the edge of the box and intentionally made contact with the defender, bumping Roque Mesa, before falling over and winning the penalty. Rooney stepped up to the spot kick, and missed for the second time in five gameweeks, but he should still remain on penalties unless something dramatic happens. Calvert-Lewin was on-hand to fire home the rebound to save Rooney the embarrassment of another missed penalty.
Gylfi Sigurdsson put Everton into the lead with a superb goal, as he goes from strength to strength in an Everton shirt. I feel there are a plethora of safer options within 1.0m more of Sigurdsson’s 8.0m price-tag, and those options have proven to be more consistent as the season has gone on.
Finally, Rooney doubled Everton’s lead after Jonjoe Kenny was fouled, winning the Toffee’s yet another penalty – their fourth in five gameweeks. When looking at the replays, it was clear the initial contact with Kenny was made outside of the box before the momentum carried him through, which was Kenny insinuating he was actually fouled inside the box, the referee fell for his ruse and awarded the penalty. Rooney had no issue scoring this one, his sixth goal in five gameweeks.
Rooney’s form has been very impressive of late, delivering attacking returns in each of Everton’s last games. The cause of his return to form could presumably be a result of him finally playing in his preferred CAM role – in-behind – the main striker, after multiple seasons of various managers – LVG, Moyes and Mourinho – playing him far out of position in a deep centre-midfield role. This has translated to his highest shots per game average (2.7) since the 2013/14 season and his highest key-passes per game average since the 2014/15 season.
The only issue that has plagued Rooney throughout his career is his durability, having only started more than 30 games just twice in his last ten seasons. Another issue that has arisen in more recent times is his age, I don’t believe this should affect him – or it hasn’t so far this season –, but it could play a role later on in the season as his body begins to fatigue etc. The only other worrying factor regarding Rooney’s goal scoring form is his incredible conversion rate – can he keep it up? I believe it’s the highest in Europe’s top five leagues at 37% currently. This is an incredible conversion rate, and Rooney is incredibly talented and as he continues to age he will have to hold a more than respectable conversion rate in order to stay relevant and compromise for other attributes that may decrease with age.
All the above issues are of minor concern, but could still play a role in how his season progresses, he is an incredible striker and he has his cons like all other strikers currently in the PL, but he is currently the best value-for-money forward in the top ten ranked forwards so far.
Another gameweek gone, but another one not far away. We have another gameweek coming up this weekend, and I hope this has helped you prepare for it in some way or another.
My rank has finally decreased from seven digits to six – I’ve climbed 1.7 million spots in the past seven gameweeks, so I must be doing something right. Onto rank one! 😉
Let us know how your gameweek has gone or any questions you have for the next one (or few)!