Another huge weekend with plenty of our midfielders firing, but one forward topped the scoring yet again this weekend and many who scored over 100 have that man to thank.
There were a few close and also high-scoring games this Boxing Day, but still nothing like that infamous ‘day after Christmas’ in 1963. Let’s get to it!
Tottenham vs Southampton; 5-2
“Ahh McKane you’ve done it again!” (One for our Aussie fans). Two gameweeks, 34 (or 68) points – can you ask for much more? With a Tottenham double gameweek coming up, you would be testing your luck if you went into it without him and you could be facing a few red arrows if you don’t!
The score line says this was an absolute romping, but Southampton stayed in the game and were it not for a few top-quality saves from birthday boy, Hugo Lloris, then the score would have been better reading from Southampton’s point of view, even the crossbar denied the Saints this game.
16 shots a piece and 8 shots on target to 7 – in favour of Tottenham meant the difference between the two sides was Tottenham created the better scoring opportunities and took their chances.
The Saints’ upcoming fixture schedule isn’t too bad up until GW32, but without Charlie Austin there isn’t really a stand-out option, that is worth our money, amongst this Southampton side. With a faltering defence that has seen just one clean sheet in their last 15 outings and an attack that must do without their leading goal scorer who’s hamstring injury is “worse than expected”, there isn’t much light in their gloomy world.
Although it was a better display from Southampton, there’s still a lot of work to be done and the centre-back pairing of Yoshida and Hoedt needs some work – they were opened up and broken down far too easily by a rampant Spurs attack.
A rampant Spurs attack which included three hat-tricks (sort of). Kane, Son and Alli were all directly involved in three goals for the game. Alli’s return to form has been well-timed, with a DGW coming up for Tottenham, having an in-form Spurs asset – or two – could propel you mightily up the rankings.
Remember a few gameweeks ago how I was talking about Kane’s bountiful exploits in the second half of his seasons, compared to the first? Well, Alli has his own half-season trend. During Alli’s two full seasons at Spurs, he has scored 18 goals and assisted a further 13 more (12 & 6 in 2016/17 and 6 & 7 in 2015/16) in the – combined – second halves of each season. This is compared to just 10 goals and four assists in the combined first halves of each of his last two seasons. Do they put something in the water at Spurs’ training grounds?
Alli’s already started his second half of this season with a bang, and with multiple key passes and shots in each of his last two games (the first time he has done this in consecutive games since gameweek six and seven), his return to form is no fluke. Bamidele could be a good – but still, relatively risky – POD and alternative to the other, in-form, Spurs midfielders.
Bournemouth vs West Ham; 3-3
How bad is Bobby Madley?
Francis was extremely lucky to get away with a ‘high boot’ incident that struck Kouyate in the face, and then Bournemouth were gifted another present, the day after Christmas, when Ake’s/Wilson’s goal was deemed onside, despite the latter clearly being offside. I don’t think Madley gets a game in the PL next gameweek.
This high-scoring affair is exactly the type of game we love to watch on Boxing Day, no matter how badly it was officiated.
Arnautovic scored two more goals, bringing his tally up to five since he was moved up to a striker just five gameweeks ago. After contemplating trading the Austrian in all week, I thought better of it with an inevitable blank coming just one gameweek later; boy, how I regret it. He is coming straight into my team at the commencement of GW21 – he will rise in price either this week or next week. West Brom look completely vulnerable at the back and who knows what happens at Wembley against Spurs.
As well as the West Ham attack, I still believe their defence is worth investment. The Hammers’ fixtures are by far the best in the league – they face three of the bottom five teams, at home, in their next five league fixtures. If they don’t collect any clean sheets from those fixtures, then they won’t get them anywhere (unless it’s at home to two of the most successful clubs in English football history…).
With a bit of the aforementioned luck, Bournemouth scored their first goals – and points – since their GW16 draw against Crystal Palace. Calum Wilson scored his first goal since his hat-trick against Huddersfield eight gameweeks ago, where over 200, 000 managers transferred him in. Since then, Wislon has failed to start three games and has also been substituted off in three more, this suggests that the rotation of the Bournemouth strikers is ripe, with all four of Defoe, King, Afobe and Wilson fighting for two spots. As it stands, none of the four strikers have appeared in all five of the last fixtures, suggesting investment in any Bournemouth strikers would be quite risky.
As for their defence – it has promised so much, but delivered so little. I can’t see many clean sheets coming in their next five fixtures – which are deceivingly difficult – so it would be best to avoid them for now.
Chelsea vs Brighton; 2-0
A very resilient first-half performance from Brighton had me worried that they might hold Chelsea to a 0-0 draw for the second week in a row, but it was not to be. Almost immediately after half-time, Azpilicueta found Morata in the box who headed home, the sixth time this season that the, Spanish defender has assisted his Spanish striker, this season. Just 10 minutes later it seemed the flood gates had opened when Alonso helped the ball find the back of the net from a Fabregas corner.
Seconds prior to his goal, Alonso had a top-corner-bound free-kick spectacularly saved by Matt Ryan at his far post, from just outside the box. And then at the ensuing corner, the Australian keeper, again, came to Brighton’s rescue when he saved yet another Alonso shot on target, this time a header at Ryan’s near post, another good save. Finally, Alonso found the back of the net through a superimposable mirror image of the last corner. Fabregas crossed the ball in – a low near-post cross which Alonso ran onto, again, where he managed to sneak it past Matt Ryan in goal.
This goal comes just two gameweeks after his last goal, a gameweek in which I advised against an Alonso purchase, and it’s something I do not regret, even if it did hurt me this week. The fact of the matter is, Alosno takes as many shots per game (2) as Hazard (2) and more than Son (1.9) and Alli (1.9), and creates more chances per game (1.1) – on average – fellow defenders, Azpilicueta (0.9) and Kolasinac (0.9), who both have several more assists than him. Those are his stats (quite impressive ones at that), and I now leave you with the choice: ‘To Alonso, or not to Alonso’.
One man who collected no returns was the 10.8m Eden Hazard. This was Hazard’s fourth blank in five games and I have just about had enough. While Coutinho and Mahrez keep scoring – players who I have been harping on about for weeks –, Hazard has just completely stopped. He is gone for me after Chelsea’s game against Stoke, and it’s a move that will probably come back to bite me, but I’m so enraged I don’t really care.
I do care about Brighton’s fixtures, though. This was a good 2-0 loss for Brighton – it showed their resilience and strength at the back and it showed a defence I am willing to invest in.
After keeping a league-leading 21 clean sheets in the Premier League last season, Brighton are now eighth in the Premier League, having kept 7 clean sheets, so far. To put that into perspective, it’s just one less than Tottenham and two less than Arsenal, Liverpool and the ‘ever-reliant’ Burnley. At around 4.5m, you won’t find that many better alternatives than Brighton, especially with their fixtures.
Huddersfield vs Stoke; 1-1
Watching the highlights, knowing this game finished 1-1, I’m amazed at how it didn’t finish 2-2 at the very least, there were so many clear-cut chances and two very, very reasonable penalty shouts that should have been granted, but it still ended 1-1.
Tom Ince’s first-half strike was his first goal from 45 shots this season, the longest goalless run this season, in terms of shots, avoid.
Sobhi’s second-half strike was his second goal in two games, from his last two shots, I think Ince has something to lean from the Egyptian youngster. Sobhi is priced at a lowly 4.5m, he’ll earn more starts after his recent form has seen him net two goals, if you are looking for a 4.5m midfielder, you could do worse, however, don’t start him.
Another 4.5m cheapie is Peter Crouch. Crouchy seems to be loving football at the moment and again, at 4.5m, you could do worse. He has started six – and finished – six of the last seven games. If a 4.5m forward is what you’re after, then he is your man.
Manchester United vs Burnley; 2-2
Another result for Burnley away to one of the ‘big boys’, and another draw for a ‘struggling’ United (as much as they can struggle for a team in their position).
Ashley Barnes’ third minute volley temporarily stunned the Man United crowd, and later in the first-half, it was Steven Defour’s stunning free-kick sent shock-waves around Old Trafford. I don’t think even the Burnley fans could have dreamt of going into half-time 2-0 up at the Theatre of Dreams.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing in the first-half for Burnley, United had their fair share of opportunities and surmounted a heap of ‘pressure’ on Burnley’s goal, but the Clarets held out for the first 45 minutes.
In the second-half it was all United, much like the first, but in the second period Burnley forgot to account for one thing – United’s £90 million midfielder: Jesse Ling- my mistake, United didn’t actually sell this one.
Jesse Lingard saved United once more and is quickly becoming an integral part of this United unit.
Lingard is currently on one barnstorming run of form, and it’s run a truly can’t believe – he has been involved in the same amount of goals in his last seven league appearances, as United’s £75 million striker, Romelu Lukaku, has in his last 14. No one can really say how long he can keep this up for, because I don’t think anyone really saw this coming, and he hasn’t looked like slowing down since he started.
Lingard has, arguably, been the best member of United’s front four in all but one of his last seven appearances (last week’s two goal effort meant Mata probably pipped him). Maybe with Mourinho’s belief and a spot at Russia at stake, he can maintain some level of form for the remainder of the season, who knows? What I do know is that this evaluation is about five gameweeks late – I just didn’t think he could keep this up.
United’s fixtures may help Lingard on his road to Russia, a ‘wishy-washy’ sort of schedule where United rotate between opponents struggling defensively, and those that aren’t.
Arnautovic is still my preferred option above 6.0m, but both are in excellent, and while Arnautovic doesn’t play this week, Lingard faces a vulnerable Southampton at Old Trafford and he saves you 0.8m. Of course, Lingard will make a fool of me and will no doubt halt his run of form to embarrass me, as usual. Moving on.
Watford vs Leicester; 2-1
I’m not sure how Watford didn’t manage to score more than two goals this game. Richarlison and Cleverely both had golden opportunities to make life easier for Watford during the game, with the former, Richarlison, having multiple. Leicester also had their own opportunities that would have made life more difficult than it was for Leciester, but they were mostly limited to the first-half, and not great in number.
Richarlison – again the culprit – squandered two exceptional opportunities during the game. The first missed opportunity was one of the more difficult ‘open goal’ chances that you’ll see; Richarlison skipped past Schmeichel, only to find himself nearing the baseline, he then slashed at his shot and sent it straight for the side-netting. His next ‘golden’ opportunity came later on when he was picked out at the back post, unmarked and alone for the best part of five yards, but his shot ricocheted off the near post, with another inch or two the ball would have rebounded in off the upright.
These opportunities are exactly why I think Richarlison is still a great option at 6.6m. Sure, he is on a lean patch and there are more in-form alternatives around his price, but on another day these two missed opportunities would have been goals and many would have been counting their blessings that they didn’t trade the young Brazilian.
One man who is not on a lean patch is Riyad Mahrez, who has been incredible for Leicester this season. Mahrez has been involved in just under 50% of Leicester’s goals (47%). Yet another goal against for Leicester this past gameweek gives him four in his last seven, to go with two assists. A great option, still.
West Brom vs Everton; 0-0
This game was atrocious – there were two shots on target in the first-half (both West Brom’s) and half of the combined shots on target from both teams came in the last 12 minutes; Niasse picked up two shots on target in the last minute of play.
The closest this game got to giving us a goal was fairly close, but Solomon Rondon missed from about three yards out. Rondon tried to touch the ball, with the outside of his boot, into the back of the net, but failed… abysmally – he barely got a nip on it, and the little touch he did get missed the whole eight yards of goal. He had another opportunity before he came off in the 52nd minute (presumably because of his wonderfully atrocious finishing), but you guessed it: he sent it to row Z (admittedly, he did slip on the wet pitch). With cheap forward options drying up, he isn’t the worst option in a bad bunch.
In conclusion, this was a nice clean sheet for both teams. Jump on Everton’s nice fixtures.
Liverpool vs Swansea; 5-0
A Liverpool rout of soon-to-be relegated (most likely, anyway) Swansea led to the points were shared evenly across the Liverpool front line. The forward trio of Coutinho, Firmino and Salah were all involved in two goals each, while Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up a – meaningless – second goal of the season, at least he showed will and grit to score it?
Roberto Firmino is the big talking point from this game – a brace of goals has raised his tally to six goals in his last six games, this, to go with two assists. Firmino presents a frustrating dilemma – at 8.9m he is at awkwardly priced in this season’s FPL game, with him being just one of – arguably – five regular starters between 6.5m and 10.3m. With this in mind, it’s always going to take two transfers to deal with the Brazilian, an unwanted scenario, but recently his form has suggested it’s worth it.
The other factors preventing me from investing in the winger-turned centre-forward are when he scores his goals and where he scores them from. Of Firmino’s nine goals this season, only two of them have come in a fixture where Liverpool haven’t won by three or more goals, the other two have both come three-goal draws. Where he scores these goals from is also interesting, five of his last six goals have been from between the goal and the penalty spot, with four of those being virtual tap-ins.
As long as Liverpool’s good fixtures – and the subsequent, flurry of goals – continue, then Firmino should be good. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to make an impact in low-scoring, tight contests which might be the case in at least three of his next six fixtures. It’s only speculative stuff, however, it is still a pattern.
Coutinho and Salah still remain absolute God-sends, the two are FPL beasts.
Alexander-Arnold also scored himself a goal – his first for Liverpool – but unfortunately, rotation is ripe with the Liverpool full-backs.
Newcastle vs Manchester City; 0-1
Absolute domination from Manchester City, Sterling was the match-winner yet again for the Sky Blues, and is invaluable at just 8.8m – he is averaging a whopping 8.5 points per start this season. De Bruyne collected an assist amongst many of his shots, one of which hit the post which was the 11th time in the last two seasons that the Belgian maestro has struck the woodwork – the most in the Premier League over this period.
With this clean sheet, Man City now climb to equal first in the clean sheet table, but like their clean sheet table-topping partners, Chelsea, their defenders do not come cheap. Otamdendi is the cheapest defender that is locked on and not, currently, a walking hospital (Kompany and John Stones).
This was a very impressive result for Newcastle, and they even got as close to scoring as the Man City goal line – Rolando Aarons’ was cleared off the line by the previously mentioned, Nicolas Otamendi. As for any team that faces City, any usual team tactics or game plans went straight out the window. Newcastle should return to their normal style of play next gameweek.
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal; 2-3
Although it took a while, Arsenal finally woke up and took charge of this game, a game they needed to win and never really looked like losing, despite a minor scare in the final minutes.
While Palace didn’t register a shot on target in those first 20 minutes, they were the better side, in my opinion. After that – and until the end of the first-half –, it was all Arsenal, they dominated all areas of the field and the stats sheet and their good work was rewarded – Shkodran Mustafi broke the deadlock with a well-placed tap-in from a very acute angle.
Arsenal had multiple chances to build on their lead, but struggled to land a blow and in an honest evaluation, Palace should have been 3-0 down at half-time. The Gunners missed two opportunities that almost could’ve put this game beyond Palace’s clenches, but Arsenal’s struggles in front of goal meant that their opponents stayed in the game.
Ozil was sent through by Sanchez half-way through in the first-half, but the German saw his shot saved from point-blank range by Julian Speroni, using his experience to keep Palace in it.
Ozil was involved once more when he found himself through on goal yet again, but this time he refused to take the shot and put his awareness on display. Ozil squared it to Bellerin who was running in from defence, down the right-hand side of the box, however, the ball was just out of his reach and Palace could breathe again.
At the beginning of the second-half, it was Palace’s turn to dominate and they took charge. The Eagles’ good work was also rewarded, a first Premier League goal of the season for Andros Townsend as a result of more dazzling work from Wilf Zaha. 1-1.
The tides turned once more and Arsenal took a strangle-hold of the game, with Sanchez scoring two goals in four minutes. Martin Kelly was to blame – for the most part – for the goals. The makeshift right-back’s poor positioning and awareness meant that Sanchez was allowed more space than he should be, on both occasions. As much as it is easy to blame Martin Kelly for the second goal (and the first), it was Wilshere’s long, over-the-top, through ball that pierced the Palace defence.
Jack Wilshere has now started four games in a row since early 2014, and it is showing how much he is enjoying it – he is growing each and every game. Not an option, but it’s good to see Jack back.
Arsenal controlled the game from then on until the final 15 or so minutes. Bakary Sako, the saviour for Palace at Watford, came on just before the 70-minute mark and changed the structure of home side’s attack and worked tirelessly in attack to change the fortunes of the home side. Sako, himself, sent in a glorious ball from the right-hand side which met a flying Zaha who found himself free just eight yards from goal. Had Zaha hit the ball with his head – as he intended to – it would have surely been a goal, but alas, it was not to be.
Palace mounted attack after attack throughout those last ten minutes of play (14, including stoppage time), with the ball spending the majority of that period in their final third. Sako, Zaha and Townsend all saw their shots fly over the bar or go wide, so it was left down to James Tomkins to score the goal that breathed real hope into the Palace team. Tomkins leapt higher than all others and met Townsend’s corner from just outside the six-yard box, 2-3 Arsenal.
Despite Palace’s bravest efforts in those final minutes, their unbeaten run – the longest in the club’s history – came to an end and with Man City next gameweek, they’ll have to wait at least another week before they can start another one.
That’s all she (me, a male) wrote for GW20, another very high-scoring gameweek which saw my score of 71 only just pip the average. Had I captained Kane it would have been better for me, but not much better, Salah delivered enough. The thing that ruined my gameweek was my lack of trust in my gut, nonetheless, onwards and upwards.
Good luck for the next gameweek! Let us know how you did for GW20!
Sorry about the delay, it just took a while getting this all down with all the festive activities (i.e. all the sport – cricket, soccer and the NBA) going on. Hopefully you’ll read it in time!