Jerome’s Review – Gameweek 21/22

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Sorry for the delay in between the end of the gameweek and the publishing of the review. I’ve been super busy since the start of the last gameweek and didn’t have time to produce anything worthy of publishing until now.

Hopefully you get to this before the start of GW23, if not, I’ll try my best to get the next one out earlier!

To mark the end of the ‘Festive fixtures’, the Premier League decided to throw up a minor curve ball for PL teams and FPL managers alike. They decided it would be a good idea to commence (D)GW22 just 48 hours after the completion of GW22. As confusing as it was for FPL managers (especially with a DGW to take care of), it led to very entertaining viewing and it meant that football fans could start the new year right – by watching some football!

Enough jibber jabber, let’s get to it!

GAMEWEEK 22

 

Bournemouth vs Everton; 1-2

This result marks the first loss of Sam Allardyce’s second campaign at Everton, a loss inflicted upon them by the shortest player in the league, Ryan Fraser. The 163cm ‘man’ (just kidding, at FPLAddicts, we love all people, of all heights) added two goals to his Bournemouth Premier League tally, his fifth and sixth of his Bournemouth career, also his fourth and fifth goals in December, out of six in total for Bournemouth. Not FPL relevant because of his history but you can always come back next year and buy him before December starts.

Hopefully this is just a blip on Everton’s clean sheet radar and we can look forward to more clean sheets in the coming weeks.

As for Bournemouth, at either end it is difficult to recommend any players that are worthy of investment because of their high volume forward rotation and their knack of conceding those one or two goals a game means it’s too risky to invest back there.

 

Chelsea vs Stoke; 5-0

Another Chelsea haul where Morata nor Hazard were involved, in fact Hazard didn’t even make it onto the pitch.

For those that captained Morata (me), or even just owned him, a 5-0 haul would have surely brought hope to your world, until you checked for the goal scorers and realised the Spaniard blanked. Seriously, how can you play as a striker and not even register one goal involvement from five goals? That’s 10 potential goal involvements that Morata was not a part of (albeit there were only two assists to go with the five goals).

With Lukaku consistently being a spud, Lacazette struggling for a big score amongst his consistent returns and the non-stop rotation of Aguero and Jesus, there aren’t many expensive, long-term, forward options available if you already own Harry Kane (and you should). The mid-pricers are highly inconsistent and the cheap options aren’t much better consistently – it’s a matter of luck with who you pick in the cheap forward bracket.

With a lack of many options in the forward line, one might even consider dumping Morata for someone like Quaner or Peter Crouch and invest elsewhere, or just hold and hope he can return to his early season form, hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.

Both Hazard and Morata (if you’re holding them) should start next gameweek against Arsenal, a team they faced four times in 2017, and a fixture Arsenal have had the upper-hand in over the past five meetings with three wins and a draw. Hazard’s gone for me this week – one of the Spurs midfielders is almost a must this week – but I’m forced into keeping Morata because of a lack of options.

After two impressive performances in the last two games against fellow relegation-battlers West Brom and Huddersfield, Stoke capitulated against a free-flowing Chelsea outfit, even without the Blues’ star-man, Eden Hazard. Solid upcoming fixtures mean that Stoke do have a chance to rebuild mid-season, but their options remain non-options at the moment unless you’re looking for bench warmers such as Crouch or Sobhi.

 

Huddersfield vs Burnley; 0-0

Your average day at the office for Burnley – another clean sheet. Nothing arose from this game that created much interest or changed any thoughts regarding either team.

I still believe Nick Pope is your best option in the Burnley defence, while there are other, better alternatives to the Huddersfield defence.

 

Liverpool vs Leicester; 2-1

With Liverpool’s brand new £75 million signing, Virgil van Dijk, sitting and watching from the stands, the defence – namely Joel Matip – decided to show him why their owners valued him so highly, or in other words, why Liverpool over-paid for him by as much as they did.

Nevertheless, Salah was on-hand to nullify Matip’s mistake, and some. Salah scored the equaliser and the winner and could have had one or two more before either of those two. The fact is, Salah has been on absolute fire this season and despite the injury that he picked up this game, he should probably stay in your side, as his value has risen by too much for him to be traded so easily. A large majority of us will be set to lose around 0.5m if we trade out the Egyptian, and after GW22, he could miss just one more gameweek after that, and to me, that is worth holding him to save 0.5m.

Jamie Vardy scored the opener for Leicester, his second in three gameweeks, which was assisted by Riyad Mahrez, who’s consistency this season has been stellar. Mahrez is still a great option and Vardy could prove to be a similarly-priced alternative to Firmino.

 

Newcastle vs Brighton; 0-0

Matt Ryan was, by far and away, the man of the match for this clash – on multiple occasions his out-stretched palms saved Brighton, and he is a big reason why the Seagulls’ defence are as good as they are. While Karl Darlow wasn’t called into action too muc, in the absence of Rob Elliot, when he was called upon, the Newcastle Keeper did his job well, but should make way for Elliot whenever he does return.

The double-D centre-back pairing of Dunk and Duffy had several chances between them to break the dead lock, but neither could muster a header on target that was penetrating enough to open the scoring. The two central defenders, along with their vast aerial threat, remain alternatives to Matt Ryan, if you are interested in the Brighton defence.

While Newcastle had an array of opportunities from many different sources and positions, they were unable to get past Ryan in goal. This array of sources is one reason why the Newcastle’s attacking (both midfield and forward) options remain, mostly, non-options. The Toon have many decent attackers, but no real stand out option in terms of FPL. Dwight Gayle is a constant threat and is the pick of an average bunch from the options at St. James Park, and with the current lack of cheap forward options he isn’t the worst. His opponent, and form Crystal Palace team-mate, Glenn Murray, is a constant threat and at 5.8m he is my pick of that cheap forward bunch at the moment.

 

Watford vs Swansea; 1-2

For the second time this season, Watford managed to turn a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 loss within the last 5 minutes of play. In Carlos Carvahal’s first game in charge, the Swans rallied behind their new manager and showed a willingness to attack – when behind – in those last 10 or so minutes that we haven’t really seen from Swansea this season.

Carvahal is fresh off of being sacked by Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship after he could only lead them to 15th placed this season, but this was after two consecutive top 6 finishes from Carvahal’s Wednesday side.

Carvahal loves the ‘beautiful’ side of football and throughout all the club he has managed, he has been consistent with his passing style and attacking philosophy, often playing a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3.

Renato Sanchez made his return to the starting team for the first time since GW13, in a much-improved performance – a potential bench fodder at 4.5m.

Unfortunately, for Swansea, their fixtures are absolutely terrible – fixtures from hell. They won’t be expected to earn many points from their next patch of fixtures, but it will give Carvahal a chance to work on their structure. We will reassess after this run of fixtures.

Richarlison collected his second ‘FPL assist’ in a row this gameweek, collecting points for Carillo scoring off his saved shot. Unless it’s a choice between DGW-men Arnautovic or Lanzini or even Lingard, I would hold.

 

Manchester United vs Southampton; 0-0

In a game largely dominated by the home side – as expected – it was a difficult result for United fans to accept. Not only did they drop points to a team outside the top six for the third game in a row, but their star forward, Romelu Lukaku, was stretchered off just 30 minutes in – the first minutes the Belgian has missed all season. Despite his substitution, Lukaku could be a chance to play in GW23, not that many active teams would have United’s 9 due to his returns in recent times, but it is news nonetheless.

A clean sheet for both teams, but United’s was the only one we truly cared about. Southampton’s loss of Virgil van Dijk and their lack of form and enticing assets makes it, also, difficult to recommend their players.

Although I did say United dominated this game, they didn’t have many shots, or any meaningful ones anyway. Nemanja Matic took the most shots this game, with four, and when that happens, it’s not hard to see why the game ended 0-0.

 

Crystal Palace vs Manchester City; 0-0

I mean it’s very hard to be disappointed with a win against this Manchester City side, but Palace should have inflicted defeat, for the first time this season, on Pep Guardiola’s side. A late penalty, an absolutely shocking miss from an unmarked Townsend and two bread-and-butter headers, missed, by Christian Benteke; those were the best opportunities that Crystal Palace had to bury City, but they choked.

Looking back at this game though, it was a fair result, the draw, and while City may not content with yet another two dropped points, Palace will be chuffed to secure a point to a team that cleaned them up for five in the reverse fixture this season.

Sergio Aguero had his fair share of opportunities this game, but couldn’t convert any of them as there was always a Palace defender on-hand to block the shot, or Wayne Hennessey in goal ready to tame the shot. De Bruyne had no such luck himself, and while on the stats sheet it says he had four shots, he couldn’t really get involved and get into the game. The midfield trio of Milivojevic, Cabaye and Riedewald were able to nullify the City midfield and stifle any potentially dangerous City attacks, a midfield trio worth almost four times less (£32.5) than their midfield counterparts – De Bruyne, Fernandinho and Gundogan (£125.4).

Wilfried Zaha was once again a great problem for the Sky Blues defence – his personal battle with Kyle Walker was one of the highlights of a match that was full of them.

Along with the highlights, there were also a couple of lowlights. Jesus, Scott Dann, De Bruyne and Puncheon all left the field with injury and couldn’t return, with the latter three being stretchered off. The last two, De Bruyne and Puncheon, were involved in a terrible incident where the Englishman’s late challenge brought down his Belgian opponent forcing both of the players to be stretchered off. While Puncheon’s challenge was probably deserving of a red because of the damage it could have caused De Bruyne, he, Puncheon, was actually worse off in the challenge.

Scott Dann and Puncheon are out for the rest of the season, while De Bruyne has already returned to action against Watford and Jesus will be out for around 4-6 weeks. Jesus’ injury means that Aguero’s spot in the side is safe for at least that period, my rule with Aguero is: if he is fit and guaranteed a start he is in my team. Aguero’s FPL record is nothing short of unbelievable, he has consistently put up returns of the highest standard for the majority of his tenure at City.

It still amuses – and disgruntles me – how much media attention the injuries of Citty’s two star players received, and in-turn, how little Puncheon and Dann were cared for. Maybe the amount of well-wishing a player receives depends on how big the club they play for is? As if, they are worth more money, then the more they are cared for, right?

The big club mentality was on show yet again when Zaha was ridiculed and deigned for his penalty-winning antics. Of course, Raheem Sterling won a penalty in similar fashion – with even less contact – earlier in the season against Arsenal, but I mean who cares right, he plays for a ‘big’ club.

Anyway, this game review took a largely non-FPL turn. Basically, Zaha is still blitzing opponent defences and had Milivojevic not fluffed his lines and missed that penalty, he would have had another ‘FPL-assist’. On that penalty… I still can’t believe it, the guy is the most confident penalty taker I’ve seen in a Palace shirt, but that was a terrible penalty compared to all his others. Because of his penalty duties, Milivojevic is a decent option at 4.6m.

 

West Brom vs Arsenal; 1-1

A rather dubious penalty decision in the 88th minute meant that the points were shared this game. Calum Chambers’ handball was, arguably, unfairly deemed a foul and as it was committed in the box, West Brom were rewarded a penalty. James Rodriguez stepped up to convert the spot-kick, cancelling James McClean’s own goal off an Alexis Sanchez free-kick. McClean only has himself to blame for the goal, for some reason players like to turn their bodies when the free-kick is being taken, McClean turned his body which allowed the ball to breach the wall, and it then deflected off McClean into his own net.

In a game where Arsenal dominated possession, but could only fall even in shots on goal, it was Mike Dean who proved the difference in the end. For once, Arsenal don’t really have themselves to blame this time – in contrast to many other matches – and the result is almost a fair representation of the ‘evenness’ of this fixture. Arsenal, in their all red kit (which looked really weird by the way), couldn’t muster many menacing attacks on the West Brom defence, which could be due to their heavy schedule and the fact that the majority of the XI stayed the exact same throughout that period.

With all that in mind, I think it’s best that we take this game with a grain of salt and realise that on any other day it could have been an Arsenal clean sheet (thanks Mike Dean) and a larger scale victory.

The same goes for West Brom.

 

GAMEWEEK 23

 

Brighton vs Bournemouth; 2-2

A very entertaining opener to the gameweek – 41 shots between the two teams resulting in four goals made for decent viewing for football fans looking to escape a dire Saturday family night.

On a wet and dreary Brighton night, it was the battle of the pacey wingers – Jordon Ibe (seven shots and five key passes) and Izquierdo (five and two) were huge in attack for their respective sides. Both of the wingers had help doing their jobs though, Izquierdo had Gross (one shot and five key passes) while Ibe had Wilson (five and two), and in a game that was raining shots on goal, neither pair could topple the other and the game ended in a stalemate.

Wilson’s goal was quite fortunate. After a FIFA-esque couple of seconds, where the ball was ping-ponging around in the box, the ball ricocheted off of Wilson’s side, on the edge of the six-yard box, wrong-footing Matt Ryan in goal. I did say a few weeks ago that it was best to avoid the Bournemouth forwards due to the high volume of rotation between the four forwards. Since then, Defoe has gone with a mid-term ankle injury that should last for another 8-10 weeks based off reports. Josh King has also befallen to injury, this one is of the hamstring variety, and he will be “a few weeks away”. Defoe’s injury is the most significant, as when fit, the 35-year old is most likely to feature in the game, one way or another.

With all this in mind, Wilson should be locked in the team for the best part of the next two months, his goal scoring record isn’t too bad, with a goal every 182 minutes, but it’s hard to kick-start any meaningful goal-scoring runs with two cruciate ligament tears in his last two seasons. With many of us looking for an outlet for Calvert-Lewin, Wilson’s price of 5.7m makes for an easy alternative.

Another alternative is Glenn Murray who also found his way onto the score sheet this game, scoring in a goal that was guarded by three defenders and zero goal keepers, after Begovic had come out to meet Izquierdo who had squared the ball for Murray. I really like Murray as an FPL option (even after he backstabbed Palace mid-week in the FA Cup), and if he can consolidate his spot in the starting XI, then I’m all on board. I spoke about Murray in relative depth in the GW15 Review. Brighton’s fixtures are good as well, I’m looking to jump on board!

 

 

 

Burnley vs Liverpool; 1-2

As soon as Salah, Coutinho and Firmino were unnamed in the starting XI (at least Firmino made it onto the bence), it was going to be tough for Liverpool to muster any points away from home, against a Sean Dyche-coached team.

Mané scored his first goal in what seems like forever while the two centre-backs – the unlikeliest of sources – combined for the winner, how timely their participations were with Virgil van Dijk looming large.

With Coutinho’s departure to Spain confirmed in this past week, this means that Mané’s stocks most certainly rise. Other players who could benefit are the Ox and Adam Lallana. Coutinho’s departure means there is an opening in midfield for either of those two players. Both Ox and Lallana started the previous game as the regular starters, Firmino and Salah, were absent. Liverpool’s game against City in GW23 will give us a better indication of who will be entrusted with the starting position. But at the same time Klopp could continue to mess with us and just rotate between the two for the remainder of the season, but it remains to be seen. Ox at 5.6m, with two goals and two assists from seven starts, could be an interesting proposition, but it’s a ‘wait and see’ prospect at the moment.

Firmino should return for Liverpool’s upcoming game against City, but Salah’s return is in doubt. The rampaging winger will be cutting it close with a return this week and a decision won’t be made until the last minute and Klopp isn’t exactly gifting us any news regarding the situation. I’m holding either way, disregarding his role in the upcoming fixture – whether it be starting at the first whistle, from the bench or not at all – because he is simply too valuable to be traded out so easily.

For Burnley, with the majority of their team now in tact once again, and with the absence of Liverpool’s star trio, one could have expected a clean sheet at home this game, but it was not to be. The Clarets horror run of fixtures is almost over, they still have to face the two Manchester sides over the coming weeks, but at least these fixtures can be avoided through rotation. Hold.

 

Leicester vs Huddersfield; 3-0

After a tough tussle in the first-half, Leicester broke the deadlock in the second and then stormed away with the victory without looking back. Mahrez was the orchestrator and the catalyst for the Foxes’ second-half display and has a goal and an assist to show for it, this to go with maximum BP. Albrighton chimed in with a stoppage time sweetener.

After the Liverpool rotation debacle, Claude Puel decided he would make our lives even harder when he rested Jamie Vardy who has a minor groin niggle (he should be fine to return for GW23). In his absence – and Demarai Gray’s – Slimani and Okazaki were awarded starts, with the former taking it in his stride. Slimani was immense in attack for Leicester and played a brilliant ‘hold-up’ game while also being a major threat in attack. This won’t really change much for the time being however, but it’s good to know that he is there when Leicester call on him.

Leicester’s fixtures are still fairly dodgy, three tough away fixtures against some stingy defences and rampant attacks (maybe not so much Everton in the attack department) means the outlook is tough for both the offensive and defensive lines of Leicester. In saying this, their two home fixtures in this period – Watford and Swansea – have enough upside to counter the downside, of the aforementioned away fixtures, that Mahrez and Vardy remain viable options. Demarai Gray at 5.3m also remains a valid rotation/cheap midfielder because of his role in-behind Vardy.

 

Stoke vs Newcastle; 0-1

With chants of “Hughes Out” being sung all around the stadium, it wasn’t hard to gather that Stoke had lost this one, however, Hughes did his part but his players couldn’t finish their chances.

If you pick out any Stoke result, win or draw, since Butland claimed the number one position between the sticks from the start of the 2015/16 season, many of those results could be attributed to Stoke’s young, super-star goal keeper. The Potters had a taste of their own medicine in this game. Karl Darlow was exceptional in goal, making several point-blank saves and some more from longer range, on his way to his second consecutive clean sheet. Not to be outdone, Butland still accumulated his usual extra point from three saves, with five in total, but it wasn’t enough.

An entertaining game with not many FPL relevant players. It’s difficult to pick any of Newcastle’s attackers due to Benitez’s love of rotation while Stoke’s misfiring attack continues to tease us with plenty of enticingly-priced options combined with an unwavering level of inconsistency (yes, you read that right). The good news is that Stoke’s fixtures are quite appealing, so we may see an upturn in goal scoring form. On the other side, Newcastle’s fixtures are very unappealing for the rest of the season, I would be ridding yourself of all of your Newcastle assets, unless you plan on using them in a rotation which is still unadvised considering their rather dubious defensive form throughout the season.

 

Everton vs Manchester United; 0-2

United may have gotten there in the end, but it was tough work. The first half was all back and forth – United would take a long-range pot shot and then Everton would go down the other end and have a shot blocked, it was rinse and repeat. The second-half was all United as Everton barely had a sight at goal.

For the first time this season, United lined up at the first whistle without their star Belgian striker, Lukaku, and in his place Martial started up front in a 4-3-3 formation that made its first appearance this season. Lukaku has been cleared fit to play, so United will – presumably – revert back to their natural 4-2-3-1 formation with Lukaku up top.

Lingard sealed the deal for United in the 81st minute, after Martial had opened the scoring through smartly taken and well-placed right-footed curler into the top corner. Lingard’s incredible strike meant he continued his barnstorming run of form. Buyer beware, the ‘most transferred in player, blanking’ curse is circling – he is the most transferred in player by a long way, will that affect his pre-game preparation? Probably not, but seriously, you can’t go wrong with Jesse at 6.3m. Trips to Burnley and Tottenham, following United’s home fixture against Stoke in GW23, could prove difficult, on paper. Lingard scored two against Burnley just a few gameweeks ago and that was after scoring two against Arsenal, just a few gameweeks prior to that match at Burnley. When someone is in this kind of goal scoring form, the fixture doesn’t matter, but how long will it last?

This was the first of three fixtures against members of the ‘big six’ in a five gameweek period for Everton and we can’t expect too many returns from any of their assets for the remainder of this period. With Allardyce at the helm, we can’t write Everton off defensively. Offensively Everton will be hard pressed to find many goals as they have struggled against stronger opponents in recent times – just one goal against Liverpool, Chelsea and United, combined. What I’m saying is, it’s best advised to avoid any of Everton offensive assets, as you’ll most likely be going on blind faith, this includes the Toffees’ new signing, Cenk Tosun.

I have my reservations regarding Tosun, he has a impressive record for your average striker in the Super Lig – 0.43 goals a game – but it goes without saying that the Super Lig’s standard is much lower than the Premier League’s. His record in the Champions League is much better, four goals and two assists from six games is an impressive record against some of Europe’s best, but then again, Stoke have five Champions League winners in their squad. I’ll still be monitoring Tosun’s progress as he is priced in a bracket that is rather barren of consistent options. Only time will tell if Tosun can do something that many before him, have failed to do, successfully adapt to the PL from the Super Lig.

 

Southampton vs Crystal Palace; 1-2

Crystal Palace ended their festive period with a good, solid win away from home just two days after almost toppling the 2017/18 Champions just two days prior.

A visibly tired and lagging Crystal Palace didn’t pose much of a threat throughout the first-half, and it was just a matter of staying on their feet after a very hectic Christmas period. Their opponents, Southampton, took advantage of this by going ahead in the 16th minute through Shane Long’s first goal in 38 games, across all competitions… And I thought Benteke needed some shooting lessons!

Southampton had 70% of their shots in the first half and 2/3 of their shots on target in the same period, against a fatigued Palace side, this simply wasn’t enough.

The teams came out after the break and it seemed Southampton had been infected by Palace’s fatigued-state, and both teams started out the second-half with no vigour whatsoever, step-up Bakary Sako. Sako’s introduction in the 63rd minute turned the game on its head and ignited a Crystal Palace resurgence. Palace switched to a 4-4-2 to account for Sako, whose reincarnation under Roy Hodgson has seen him turn into a striker, as opposed to a winger.

Throughout Sako’s last 94 minutes on the pitch, spread across 6 appearances, Palace have outscored their opponents 7-1, talk about an impact sub. With Townsend’s injury in the FA Cup this week, Sako is basically guaranteed a spot in the starting XI, after Townsend’s return (“a few weeks away” according to Hodgson) his position is uncertain – will he stay in the XI or return to the bench? Either way, if you’re looking for a cheap midfielder who is playing as a striker over the next few weeks, then Sako is a good option at 4.9m!

 

 

Swansea vs Tottenham; 0-2

The first of the DGW teams, Tottenham, were matched up against cellar dwellers Swansea who came into the game on the back of their second win in their previous 13 games.

On the other hand, Tottenham came into the game on the back of two wins and eight goals from their previous two fixtures, and many were expecting an absolute goal-fest for the Lilywhites and for us FPL managers (most importantly). Before the game started, both groups, FPL managers and – less importantly – Tottenham, were dealt a blow with the golden boot leader, Harry Kane, forced to start the game on the bench due to ‘illness’.

After many had entrusted the Englishman with the armband and some went the full distance, putting their full faith in his ability, by playing their triple captain chip on the striker, the ‘many’ would have been more than disappointed with the outcome. Harry Kane blanked, and he wasn’t the only one, Son followed suite and returned empty-handed from the Liberty Stadium.

Harry Kane’s replacement, Fernando Llorente, made his first start for the London club since crossing the English border, following a transfer from Tottenham’s Welsh opponents, Swansea. Llorente made his mark on the game fairly early, with the opening goal in the 11th minute of the game. I’m still not sure how the goal counted, Llorente was a full stride offside when Eriksen sent in his free-kick, had the goal been disallowed it could have changed the story of the game.

There wasn’t much else that went on in the first-half, Tottenham held back, almost preserving their energy, while Swansea struggled for possession and a way through a sturdy Spurs defence.

The second-half was much different, both teams came out ready to rumble. It was fairly even for the opening 15 minutes of the second-half, but the scales could have been tilted in Swansea’s favour. Bobby Madley had the opportunity to Sanchez off through a second yellow card, after the defender’s reckless challenge in an attempt to win the ball that had just been stolen off him.

Swansea pushed on and created a string of chances to end the match.

Ayew was played through, by Renato Sanches (who has looked much better since his return to the team), and left a trail of Tottenham players in his wake. Hugo Lloris and Eric Dier both found themselves lying on the floor, watching Ayew run past, but the Ghanian interntational then found himself ambushed by Tottenham players just outside the six-yard box, in front of a gaping goal only defended by defenders, with the ball going out for a corner. The ensuing corner-kick resulted in the post saving Tottenham after the ball had rebounded off a Spurs’ defender’s back.

As usual in football – and most sports – if you don’t take your chances, then you are bound to be punished, and punished Swansea were. Tottenham went down the other end just minutes later and scored the sealer. With a bit more Swansea luck, Tottenham could have been clean sheet-less and goalless by the time Alli’s goal came around.

 

 

West Ham vs West Brom; 2-1

The second of our DGW teams took part in this fixture, against a team ranked one position higher than the other DGW team’s opponent, that makes the paltry returns from our DGW players look even worse.

West Brom went ahead mid-way through the first-half after a persistent James McClean had his shot nastily deflected, into the top corner. This was McClean’s first goal for 16 months, that goal was against West Ham. The ‘record’ speaks for itself, McClean is not an option.

Minutes before McClean’s goal, Solomon Rondon had the chance to put West Brom ahead himself. With Adrian miles off his line Rondon decided to try and chip the keeper from a few yards outside the box, but he couldn’t keep his shot down and it landed on the top of the net.

West Ham had the bulk of the better opportunities from then on. Lanzini and Carroll had four each while popular DGW option, Arnautovic, had just two – his lowest game tally when starting under David Moyes. This was most likely because he was relegated to playing as part of a two-member supporting cast behind Andy Carroll, in a 3-4-2-1 formation. If this is to continue, it does decrease his appeal, but I’m holding for the time being.

West Ham’s good run of fixtures isn’t stopping, the defensively weak Watford are the highest ranked team in the Hammer’s next five fixtures, making them tempting enough for me to hold both Masauaku and Arnautovic. Someone else I’m having a look at is Andy Carroll.

Carroll has had his issues – persistent injuries, reported drug use and even on-field stupidity (he was fined two weeks salary for his red card earlier this season), but the man-bun flaunting striker has undeniable talent and is a constant goal scoring threat. Carroll has been an FPL tease his whole career – just when we think his woes are behind him, he’ll go and get injured once more and return to the FPL abyss.

In his three seasons prior to this one, Carroll went at a very respectable 5.12 pp90min (it was hard to gauge his ppg because he made such a vast number of substitute appearances). Over this same period of time, he averaged a goal every 179.8 minutes, Michael Owen, Ian Wright and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all went at over 150 minutes per goal. Of course, Carroll’s numbers are skewed because of the fact he made so many substitute appearances. You can take that from two angles; one: he simply took advantage of a fatigued opponent when he was substituted on, or two: he was good enough to make use of such limited time on the pitch.

Carrol has been fairly deprived of goals – and service – this season, when he has played; ‘when’ being the big issue. Carroll’s aforementioned inconsistencies in his playing time limit his FPL output. If he can stay fit, I see him to be worthy of a shout at a low-risk 5.8m and in a miniscule 0.9% of teams he is a definite POD.

 

Manchester City vs Watford; 2-1

Basically, Watford hadn’t even got a touch of the ball before Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for City and that’s pretty much how it went for the rest of the 90 minutes.

John Stones made his return from injury, making his first appearance for 10 gameweeks. At 5.4m he is a cheap alternative to Otamendi, and he is cheaper for a reason. You won’t be getting many BP’s from Stones and I don’t think you can expect too many goals either (he’s scored one in his four seasons prior to this one). What you can expect is six-point hauls basically every second week, which is a solid return at 5.4m.

Kevin De Bruyne also made his ‘return’ from injury this game. After being stretchered off against Palace as a result of the ‘one of the most reckless tackles you’ll see’, many expected the Belgian to be out for a rather long amount of time, but he returned just two days later for two assists (one was an FPL assist). Still a great option at 10.2m, as are Sterling and Aguero – who is guaranteed starts following the injury to Gabriel Jesus against Palace, who was ironically not stretchered off.

A blip on the radar for Watford, you can’t really take much for a team travelling to the Etihad at the moment.

 

Arsenal vs Chelsea; 2-2

What a game. It was back and forth all game and each side needed their own little piece of luck to get through it. Arsenal seemed to earn their luck while Chelsea were gifted it through the referee.

An enthralling first-half somehow ended 0-0, and as good as it was it didn’t have any goals, but the second period had four of them. Wilshere rattled home the first after an Alvaro Morata deflection landed the ball in the Englishman’s path, but that’s football.

The second came courtesy of a very contentious penalty decision, in fact, I haven’t seen anyone (bar Chelsea fans or Hazard owners) that has said it was a penalty. With both players going for the ball that had bobbled up in the air, it was Hazard who went down in the box, exaggerating the contact by 100-fold and, consequently, winning over the referee. If we think back to just two days prior to this incident, where one Wilfried Zaha won a penalty that actually had merit, I remember ‘pundits’ – and fans alike – were calling for his head, how much are we paying for Hazards? The Belgian went to the spot and coolly slotted home, levelling the scores.

The penalty decision only made for a more interesting game, players from both teams used the atmosphere and the match day events to propel themselves through the game, and Chelsea took the most advantage of this. Marcos Alonso scored for the third time in five gameweeks as he continues to make me a fool for heeding caution after his goal against Southampton in GW18. It’s becoming ridiculous, his position on the field, he is listed as a wing-back but is employed as a striker when Chelsea are in possession, I just know as soon as I bring him in his bandwagon will stall, but his price is rising quickly, very quickly.

Bellerin wasn’t about to let Alonso have all the full-back fun, and in the 91st minute he came through to smash home the equaliser – a first time half-volley off an Alonso clearance, sending the crowd into raptures. Bellerin has a surprisingly high ownership for a defender, sitting at 12.1% currently, and with Arsenal’s run he is still worth your money.

One name I haven’t mentioned yet is Alvaro Morata, mainly because I don’t really want to see the sight of him. I’ve already traded him out of my squad for this gameweek, but he honestly could have had a hat-trick this game. Morata had three big chances and yep, you guessed it, he squandered all three of them. I mean, with Chelsea’s upcoming fixtures, it’s hard to say that he won’t score, but right now he is definitely not worth his money, he made way for Aguero for me.

 

Tottenham vs West Ham; 1-1

Let’s play a game of ‘Who did it better?’. The contenders, Pedro Obiang and Heung Min Son. Contender number one: Pedro Obiang. Contender number two: Heung Min Son. You decide.

But seriously, those two goals turned this from one of the worst games of the season, to one of the best (maybe I wasn’t being so serious, it definitely was not one of the best, but you get my point). I think Obiang’s strike is unmatchable, and unless I’m forgetting something, it’s probably leading the goal of the season award for the PL (cue a Giroud miracle goal against Palace).

Apart from those two unbelievable strikes, this game didn’t produce much else – the FPL returns were minimal and we didn’t get to laugh at Tottenham for losing to West Ham because Son scored a wonder goal.

Kane blanked, Alli blanked, so did Eriksen, and players from both defences ended up with two points each, unless you were fortunate enough to own a defender that scored one, or even better, zero.

After – and pretty much for the whole game before it as well – Obiang’s goal, West Ham sat back and defended, putting nine men behind the ball and hoping for the best. With no Arnautovic or Carroll and only the pacey and evasive Hernandez to lead the lines, it meant that Moyes only went into this fixture with one game plan anyway, and it almost worked.

For Tottenham – and mostly us FPL managers – this was a very disappointing outing. Thankfully, it gets much easier for West Ham, as it does for Tottenham, but just for two games before they encounter a hat-trick of mouth-watering fixtures against United (H), Liverpool (A) and Arsenal (H). What you do with your Spurs players when it comes to those three matches is up to you, but I would advise against owning too many and I only plan to keep Harry Kane. Kane has six in six against Arsenal and four goals and two assists from his six matches against Liverpool, but just one in seven against United (only considering games played in the PL). That’s a decent enough record to say that I should hold our beloved 12.9m forward.

 

After a couple of high-scoring gameweeks, GW22 & 23 brought us right back down to Earth – the averages were more than 20 points lower than the two previous gameweeks and the DGW22 that promised so much, delivered so little.

Here’s to a better gameweek in GW23!

May the FPL Gods show you mercy in your post-festive FPL season.

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