If you had the right players, then this was the week for you, however, if you did not then this was most definitely not your week. Hopefully you held your DGW players!
A much improved FPL gameweek that also saw the derailment of the Man City unbeaten train, and it wasn’t the only record to be altered… Let’s get stuck in!
Chelsea vs Leicester; 0-0
The one that got away… For Leicester. Chelsea were convincingly outplayed in their backyard for the first time in recent memory. In fact, Leicester’s 12 shots at goal in the opening 45 minutes was the highest tally by a visiting team at Stamford Bridge for 15 years. Not only that, but Leicester enjoyed 67% possession in the first-half as well. Yet the headlines in England still read “Kasper Schemichel and 10-man Leicester stand firm to deny Chelsea win” ~The Guardian, but who really reads The Guardian anyway. It should have read “Chelsea escape with a point against 10-man Leicester”.
Vardy and Mahrez ran rings around a hapless Chelsea side that had a fully fit squad to choose from (Ross Barkley was the only slight doubt going into this game, but was he really getting a spot anyway?). The Premiership pair – plus Okazaki – couldn’t benefit from their good work and had zero shots on target from their nine combined. This can only mean good things for Leicester as it says they are doing well offensively. Leicester ill travel to a defensively miserable Watford in the upcoming gameweek, Mahrez captain anyone?
If you had simply looked at the stats post-game, no one would blame you for thinking that it was Chelsea who were the unfortunate ones as Schmeichel was forced to make, a season-best, seven saves. However – as ironic as it is (considering I was quoting stats in just the third sentence) – the stats meant nothing. Four of Chelsea’s seven shots on target came within the last 15 minutes, and 8 of their 17 total shots came in that same period. Chelsea were lucky to leave the game with a point.
Chelsea’s next opponents seem like an easier task, on paper, but I fear it may not be so. Although Brighton did manage to concede five at home to Tottenham, their defensive form at home this season has been impressive. Brighton have kept the same number of home clean sheets as Man City, a tally that is only bettered by the other members of the top six (who are a level above the rest, when it comes down to things), Huddersfield and a (almost) defensively impeccable, Burnley. Despite this, it’s not smart to underestimate a Chelsea side that have just nine less points than they did at this stage last season. They aren’t doing as badly as the media is making it seem.
Morata and Hazard combined for the same amount of shots as Alexsandar Dragovic in Leicester’s defence – one – their lowest combined tally this season. The pair have also scored just three goals between them from their last seven matches. You just feel the that the tides will turn for the misfiring combo; their spg averages over their last seven games are above their season averages (3.7 compared to 3 for Morata and 2.7 compared to 2 for Hazard). When the tides do turn and the shots that had once gone on the wrong side of the post, go on the right side of the post, then it would be smart to own at least one of them, as they can both be season-changing FPL assets at the top of their games.
Crystal Palace vs Burnley; 1-0
This season just keeps on getting better and better as a Palace fan, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it, not even the start of it. Roy Hodgson has made this Crystal Palace side completely unrecognisable compared to what it was under Frank De Boer. Every single player has improved under Hodgson
The game started out bleakly and only two shots were taken in the opening 20 minutes. Yet again, it was Bakary Sako to the rescue. For just the second time this season Sako started the game and he was most definitely the most dangerous player on the pitch. Sako’s speed, strength and skills on the ball made him more than a handful for the Burnley defence. And a couple of minutes before his goal he should have been awarded a penalty when James Tarkowski brought him down in the box, collecting the man before the ball, but for some reason play was waved on.
As mentioned in last gameweek’s article, Sako’s position in the team is locked in for at least the next couple of weeks, and depending on the success of his position as a striker in a 4-4-2 formation, it could extend beyond Townsend’s return. 4.9m is a great price for a short-term investment. The Malian international had six shots against Burnley and has averaged one shot every 14.3 minutes of game time over his last six appearances (including this one). Had Son not returned any fruits this week, he would have made way for Sako in my team, who almost matched him for points this week.
As good as this game was for Crystal Palace, it was just as bad for Burnley. Just one clean sheet in their last five games and just three goals in their last six makes for bad reading, but we have to remember how difficult their last five fixtures have been, in terms of opponents. Their horror run is almost over and they should soon return to the clean sheet-happy Burnley side we all know and love, just not this gameweek, or in GW26, but after that.
Huddersfield vs West Ham; 1-4
David Moyes is the man. He’s taken West Ham from second to last place to within one point of the top 10. He is turning West Ham into a very tricky side to front-up against, as many of their opponents have found out in recent times, including Huddersfield. After West Ham scored the second goal, the hosts were in search of the final whistle, the visitors dominated from the first whistle as well.
The pairing of Arnautovic and Lanzini is proving very effective and they both took advantage of a dejected Huddersfield. With Carroll out injured (there’s that inconsistency I was talking about in last gameweeks review), Arnautovic returned to the lone striker position. The winger-turned striker showed a level of generosity we haven’t seen from the Austrian in a while, by making more key passes than shots for the first time this season.
Carroll’s return is imminent as the setback was only minor, and he may even return to the fold next week for West Ham’s home game against Bournemouth. As I said last week, Arnautovic’s form is too good to trade him, even if he does drop back a little bit to make way for Carroll. Marko is still playing very far forward and will either drop back level with Lanzini to create the two-man supporting cast in a 3-4-2-1, or Moyes could go all out and field him up front with Carroll. Either way, hold Arnautovic, and Lanzini for that matter.
Since GW11, Lanzini has averaged 5.25ppg and hasn’t gone more than two starts without a return since then. With the Hammers’ fixtures and the form of both Carroll and Arnautovic, Lanzini’s returns should continue. The trio of Carroll, Arnautovic and Lanzini is really quite intimidating and should bear many fruits in future gameweeks.
Huddersfield’s fixtures on the other hand, don’t get any easier. They are set to travel to Stoke on a cold and wet winters night in GW24, and then they’ll jump on a bus/plane (I don’t know how it works in England) to Anfield before returning home to welcome Manchester United to their hometown for a game in GW26.
After they had just two shots on target against West Ham this gameweek, I wouldn’t be too inspired if I was in the Town camp at the moment. However, post the United game their fixtures do clear up and they’ll face just one member of the top six from GW27-34. Lossl might be a good goalkeeper option then, but we’ll reassess when we get there.
Newcastle vs Swansea; 1-1
Quite an evenly contested game this was, but a rather boring one at that. Neither sign could claim the ascendency this game and both teams were without a striker that could deliver the killing blow for them. 1-1 was probably a fair result and a very important one it was for Swansea.
Carlos Carvahal has made the big jump from the Championship to the Premier League and many had written him off before he even took charge of a game. His Swansea side has collected four points from their last three games which has given them a chance to maintain their Premier League status.
The Swans will have to count their blessings however, as eighth Leicester are the lowest ranked side that the Welsh side will face over the next four gameweeks. At least it’s an opportunity for the side to warm up to the new manager before forming an assault on the relegation battle later on in the season with easier fixtures.
Newcastle will not be enjoying too many joyful days in the next four gameweeks either. A rampant Crystal Palace side that is currently sixth in the form table (based on the last six games) plus three members of the top seven are their opponents for their next four PL fixtures. Speaks for itself really. Avoid.
I think I’ve already spent too much of our precious time on these two teams, avoid them both for the time being.
Watford vs Southampton; 2-2
After last gameweeks episode of ‘Who did it better?’ saw a pair of screamers match-up against each other, I now present to you: episode two: Diego Maradona versus Abdoulaye Doucoure (skip to 6:00 in the video) – ‘Who did it better?: The Hand of God’.
This really was a game of two halves – Southampton dominated the first, scoring their two goals via a James Ward-Prowse brace, while the second half saw the home team make their case for the three points as they also scored two. In the end, both teams settled for a well-deserved point.
For the second consecutive game, Southampton took the lead in the first-half before a static second-half saw them lose their winning position, at least this time they came away from the ground with points in hand. Another difference between this weeks and last week’s performance was how much they dominated ‘their half’. They had just two more shots in the first-half this week compared to last week’s game against Crystal Palace, but last week their performance was sub-par and they were lucky to have even scored. This week, they were in full control of the game throughout the first 45 minutes and thoroughly deserved to be 2-0 up. Unfortunately, a second-half abdication meant they disappointingly threw away a 2-0 lead.
I’ll be taking this performance with a grain of salt. It was a needle in the haystack of bad performances, and the positive part of the performance only lasted for a half. Their fixtures aren’t too inspiring in the meantime either way.
The other ‘half’ of the story was Watford’s post-half-time comeback. Down and out in the first-half, the Hornets came out from the tunnels ‘all guns blazing’. The hosts’ good work paid off when Andre Gray headed home, from four yards out, after Darryl Janmaat saw his long-range shot saved.
The equaliser came courtesy of an Abdoulaye Doucoure hand in the last minute of play, before stoppage time. This month’s adaptation of an Abdoulaye Doucoure screamer was a moment of utter desperation that has left the Frenchman in all the right headlines, for all the wrong reasons. It also involved the guiltiest celebration you will ever see – if you’re going to break the ‘law’, at least cover your tracks.
An 11-shot differential in the second half meant that Watford truly deserved their point, but it also highlighted theirs – and Southampton’s – inconspicuous and inconsistent form of late, buyer beware.
West Brom vs Brighton; 2-0
It took goals from two defenders for West Brom to collect their first home win since August. Maybe this could be the much-needed boost for Alan Pardew’s men that could help propel them up the table and out of the relegation zone.
It was a solid all-round performance from West Brom – from defence to midfield to Rondon up front – all lines contributed their share to the win and made life tough for a struggling Brighton team.
Although the Premier League points may have dried up for Brighton, it is still the ‘wet’ season in the clean sheets department. Chelsea at home will be tough work in GW25, but after that Brighton have a run of four games in which they’ll be a chance for a clean sheet in all four. Hold your defensive assets.
As for their offensive assets – they have been in struggle town in recent times, but one man that has managed to hold his offensive form is Glenn Murray. Murray has scored in five of the last six games that he has started and Brighton have scored. Essentially, if Murray starts and Brighton score, there is a large possibility that the goal will be Murrays. He could have had an assist this game but Knockaert lost his composure and failed to score in a keeper-less goal.
Another interesting statistic – this time for West Brom – is that the Baggies have kept a clean sheet in 5 of the 13 games (or 38.4%) that Craig Dawson has started in the Premier League. Do you know how many clean sheets West Brom have kept in the 10 games that Dawson hasn’t started? Two (or 20%). That’s almost double the volume of clean sheets. That is some coincidence, or it just highlights how vital Dawson is to the structure of the West Brom defence.
With a difficult month of fixtures coming up, I wouldn’t advise investment, but after that it is worth considering a former FPL favourite defence.
Tottenham vs Everton; 4-0
For the fifth time in the last six games, Tottenham lined up with their own fab four of Son, Alli, Eriksen and Kane, and for the fourth time in those six games, it paid off ever so well for another three points.
This wasn’t the first time that Mauricio Pochettino’s crew had put the Toffees to the sword either –10 goals in their last 3 fixtures against Everton, for three wins against three different managers. It was also the third time in the same three fixtures against Everton that Harry Kane has been one goal away from taking home the match ball. Everton are becoming a bit of a ‘bunny’ team for Kane and Tottenham.
Allardyce went into this game with a fairly ambitious line-up, and it was clear it was going to be a field day for Tottenham as soon as the teams were released. Mason Holgate at centre-back… Seriously? I would have never taken Big Sam for a fool. It was also clear that Big Sam wanted his Everton side to take the next step forward, with his brand new £27 million signing leading the lines in front of England’s greatest ever striker and a pair that combined for more than £70 million – Bolasie and Siggurdsson. Admittedly, I don’t think this was the game to do it, as they got smashed for four by a relentless Tottenham.
After producing a grand total of 33 points last DGW, Tottenham’s fab four made amends for their wrong doings. 31 points between them this game alone makes for a deadly FPL line-up, unfortunately you can’t have all four, but two would be a reasonable amount, and only AFTER their hat-trick of fixtures against members of the top six.
I currently own both Son and Kane (and it feels damn good), but I’m strongly considering trading out at least Son prior to Spurs’ game against United. Son’s form this season has been far and beyond what anyone expected and he has certainly earnt his chance to be trusted by us FPL coaches in the most difficult of fixtures. Holding does have merit. But a direct swap for the in-form Pogba is tempting, prior (or post) their game against United is tempting, but that’s next week’s problem.
However, if it is Eriksen or Alli that you own, it could be wise to move them on prior to the United game. Alli has just three goals and one assist in 16 games against United, Arsenal and Liverpool, while Eriksen has fared much worse with just one goal and four assists in his 28 games against the trio. It is worth noting however, that the pair do enjoy a game against Southampton – home or away. Four goals and four assists from nine games is a solid return against one opponent. But, Alli’s record is far and above his Danish counterpart with an incredible five goals and four assists from just four fixtures against the Saints, that’s captain material. Harry Kane’s five goals and one assist is also a decent return from six games against Southampton in the Premier League (he has faced them four times outside the PL). Anyway, that’s just something to dwell over for your captaincy decision this gameweek.
Bournemouth vs Arsenal; 2-1
Another embarrassing away result for Arsenal has left them five points adrift of the top five and their Champions League dreams almost in tatters. The Gunners have won just once in their last five away matches; their opponents list for those five matches reads: Southampton (D), West Ham (D), Crystal Palace (W), West Brom (D) and now Bournemouth (L). This could be courtesy of what some are saying is “the worst XI that Arsenal have fielded in Arsene Wenger’s 21-year reign”, and I agree. Take nothing away from Bournemouth though, they went behind on their own home turf and fought back from a 0-1 deficit to a 2-1 victory, impressive stuff.
After Sanchez was left out of the matchday squad and under no apparent injury cloud, it seems he has played his last game for Arsenal, with just the destination of his club to be decided. This meant that Danny Welbeck started in his place, alongside Alex Iwobi (filling in for the injured Ozil), who were – both – behind Alexandre Lacazette. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, I just don’t know what to write about Arsenal – they’re in a deep, dark hole right now and it’s going to take a lot more than Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi to get them out of it. Lucky for them they have just 7 games against teams in the top 10 in their last 15 Premier League games, but I can’t see any of their offensive assets being of value for the time being.
Their defence (mainly Bellerin) is still worth consideration, but it’s always difficult to suggest investment when teams are in as much of a rut as Arsenal are at the moment.
Bournemouth are now unbeaten in their last four games and their next five fixtures give them a chance to continue their good form, offensively anyway. Callum Wilson is still your best route into the Bournemouth attack. Defensively they have been sub-par this season, and I can’t see it changing too much.
Liverpool vs Manchester City; 4-3
It’s over, it’s finally over.
Going into the game having just sold Coutinho for £144 million and without the most expensive defender in history – Virgil van Dijk – many (including myself) wrote Liverpool off, how wrong we were. The cards were stacked against them and they swatted away at that stack and made it Man City’s problem. The Reds played a relentless team pressing game, not allowing their opponents the time to play their game – that’s what has probably been the problem this season, teams have tried to adapt to Man City’s game rather than implementing their own plan.
Of course, it’s much harder if you’re Huddersfield who make transfers in Vietnamese ‘dong’ to Manchester City’s gold bricks (filled with oil, of course). But still, Liverpool played their natural game – pressed their opponents till death – and it worked, much unlike their performance last time out *cough* 5-0 *cough* (before you start getting too cocky!).
*Season four Suits spoiler*
As always though, when Liverpool try and do something good it almost always ends in tears and tatters, no matter what. For ‘Suits’ fans, think of Liverpool as Louis in season four when the S.E.C came knocking. For the whole season Louis was screwing things up – as usual (0-5 vs City). Then, Louis makes that deal with Forstman to earn a huge win (Liverpool go 4-1 up GW4), but as usual, not everything is over until it’s over with Louis and he makes a dirty deal to seal it all and he puts the firm in danger (4-3, still Liverpool). Lastly, at the final minute, Louis comes in with a plan and saves the day, saving the firm from being torn down (the final whistle, Liverpool win).
This was an amazing game and it truly wasn’t over until the last minute – Man City were pushing till the very end, but they couldn’t save their unbeaten run. Now, their form line in the Premier League reads ‘DWL’, starting with that draw at Palace. In the scheme of things, that’s a crisis at Man City. However, do not fear, two home games with Newcastle and West Brom gives them perfect match to reignite their season. Hold, two players is not too many either.
Same goes for Liverpool, two is not too many. They’ve scored three or more goals in four of their last six Premier League fixtures, I’m even considering Firmino (as much as I despise him), because trips to Swansea and Huddersfield shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for Liverpool.
Another man I am seriously considering is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I mentioned last week that it was most likely a battle between he and Lallana for that midfield spot, so generously vacated by Coutinho. I also mentioned that if it is in fact the Ox who claims the spot, then he would become an option at just 5.6m, and it seems he has been entrusted with it.
Klopp loves players like the Ox – players that won’t stop running and will give their all, no matter the score or opposition, so I believe it is now his to lose. Ox’s history hasn’t been great, but at a new club where he won’t be playing right-wing one week and then wing-back the next, and instead he’s been given a spot to lose, I believe he will thrive. Three goals and three assists from eight starts is a testament to that already, his – equal – second best return throughout his career in the PL.
Manchester United vs Stoke; 3-0
A regulation 3-0 victory for United who have now collected 28 of a possible 30 points in their last 10 home fixtures with Stoke, that’s as one-sided as it gets in Premier League football. It was a domination by United, that had very few Stoke-coloured blips on the radar, which was nothing short of what we expected from this fixture.
Something we didn’t expect was a Jesse Lingard blank. Most players usually struggle away from home, you know – home sickness and you miss your dog sorta thing, but not Jesse, he hates playing at home, maybe he doesn’t have a dog. Five out of the six games that Lingard has returned have been on his travels, while just one gameweek – his two goals against Burnley – has seen our 6.4m midfielder produce attacking returns on home soil. Lucky for us, three of United’s next four games are away from home. It’s definitely a ‘predicament’ that I haven’t seen too many times before (if any), maybe someone should buy Jesse a dog.
One man who didn’t was blank was Paul Pogba, who – for the second consecutive game – collected a brace of assists. It took a while for the Frenchman to get back into the swing of things, but he is now well and truly ‘back’. There’s no varying stat that can explain his return to form. He is simply, back.
At 8.0m, he is in a price range that is not barren of many options, and it is in fact the opposite, we have too many options. In the end, it comes down to fixtures and personal choice. Unfortunately, we don’t have vast section of history to go off with Pogba – especially against the top six teams, whom he has played just one game against – but one thing we do know is that he kills the ‘smaller’ teams. Another unfortunate factor is that he faces three top six sides in his next seven fixtures, add to that an away trip to Burnley and we have to start assessing the fact of whether or not it’s worth it.
I think it is. Pogba’s stats for key passes and shots are so uncoincidentally consistent with there being just three games (of 13) where he has not registered four or more combined shots and key passes. One was against Arsenal – where he still made two assists –, another in the 0-0 draw with Southampton, and the one that preceded both of those fixtures, was in United’s 4-2 win away at Watford. He could be a way out of a very tricky, aforementioned and inevitable Heung Min Son debacle, I’m still undecided.
As for Stoke, their nightmarish run of fixtures are finally over and their fixtures list finally opens up. Stoke have been playing horrible of late and are in transition mode because of the arrival of a new manager, Paul Lambert, who – it’s safe to say – doesn’t have an amazing track record having led both Norwich and Aston Villa to relegation. However, this season has proven that you can’t write people off too early… *cough* Moyes *cough*
Thanks again for tuning in, and I hope you had a good gameweek. 83 for me courtesy of four double-figure hauls from the midfield saw me rise to just over 500k (still needs A LOT of work).
How did you manage this week? Did it end in a green arrow? Let us know!
Also, let us know of any queries or predicaments of your own or maybe what breed of dog we can get Jesse Lingard so he can love home again and deliver some much wanted FPL points from home.