Stag’s Take - Gameweek 29
With the blank gameweeks behind us and only ten to go, we can officially consider ourselves to be on the home straight of the fantasy football season at this point. A few minutes in to last week’s BGW, I thought calamity was going to strike for the umpteenth time as Phillips was ruled out late, Baines was hauled of injured at half-time, and Josh King missed his penalty. However, King, who I heavily tipped here last week, recovered well to fire a hat-trick and seal a crucial win for Bournemouth. Unfortunately, my captain for the week was Sadio Mané, so I failed to fully capitalise on the misfortune of others as I would have done had I given Lukaku the armband but it’s a lesson for me: You can’t trust Liverpool players when they face non-top six opposition. This weekend on the other hand they face Man City who are fatigued after a stupendous error-filled performance in Monaco.
I want to focus on that match for a minute. It’s rare that a team scores six goals in a two leg tie but gets eliminated, but such is Man City’s lack of defensive cohesion and error-proneness, it is precisely what happened at the hands of one of Europe’s most exciting young teams who are awe-inspiring in attack. Three of City’s five mainstay defenders are actually out-of-contract in the summer, and it seems to me that they have an early dose of “on the beach” syndrome even though the Citizens have an awful lot left to play for. I take that assumption from their lack of backbone, energy or resilience in the Champions League in midweek and a common nonchalance we see enveloping their displays in the league. The Reds who face them on Saturday have revelled in the big occasions this term, and they top the hypothetical top six mini-league with an unbeaten record by a comfortable margin even though they consistently fail to deliver top quality performances against the likes of Burnley, who sit back and absorb their pressure. Their most effective player in those big games? It’s Sadio Mané, with four goals and an assist. However Klopp does it, his teams deliver much more dynamic performances in these games, and the directness of the powerful Senegalese international has been rewarded the most so far. I don’t see that changing against City. Don’t captain him, but certainly don’t join the approximately 50,000 teams who have sold him!
The biggest news in the FPL community this week was the injury to Harry Kane in the FA Cup against Millwall. After a hat-trick in Gameweek 27, many had rushed to acquire the Englishman who was basking in praise and favourable stats in the aftermath. In fairness, it was justifiable as no-one in Europe's top five leagues has scored more goals in 2017 and no-one has scored more Premier League goals since the start of the 2014-15 season. However, fantasy football is a game which focuses on the present context only - nothing else. Kane will be out for six weeks and Pochettino will have to adapt his side accordingly. He did so earlier in the season when Kane was struck down by a similar affliction which ruled him out for ten matches. Some are looking to Vincent Janssen, the Dutch striker signed after scoring 20+ goals in the Eredivisie last season but I don’t think that his manager will pick him ahead of Son Heung-Minh, who took his season tally to 14 with his hat-trick in the FA Cup. In contrast, Janssen scored his first goal from open play in Spurs colours. Son presses and pressurises defences utilising pace that Kane can’t match, and so he finds ways to score that wouldn’t fall to Kane who is unquestionably better on the ball and especially with his finishing. I personally have opted for the South Korean, in spite of his huge commitments travelling to Asia in the international break. However, I may feel foolish at the hands of Dele Alli again too. The Englishman has recovered well from the vitriol rightly directed his way after his meltdown in the Champions League against Gent, scoring in three consecutive games. He has flourished playing as a second striker in Tottenham’s 3-4-3 type formation with 16 goals overall. It was Son who revelled in Kane’s absence back at the start of the season, but Alli did miss a lot of chances which came his way during that period. He has since added a lot of composure in front of goal to his repertoire, so perhaps it is he who we should all plump for.
Alexis Sanchez (West Brom A)
I mentioned teams lapsing into “on the beach” syndrome earlier in this article. If you were to look at the PL table right now and identify one team who has already been infected, you’d pick the Baggies. They still sit in the top half of the table having reached the mythical 40 point line fast than any squad the club have had before, but that looks like it will change soon, given that they produced two paltry performances against Palace (0-2 loss) and Everton (3-0 loss) in the last two gameweeks. The stage looks to be set for an Alexis special. Even if rumours that surround the Chilean are true (they probably are), he does not appear to be a Payet-type player who will give up and wait for a bit to come and whisk him away to faraway greener fields. Instead, I expect to see the Sanchez that Wenger was forced to turn to in the humiliating Gameweek 27 defeat to Liverpool. Having been dropped to the bench by his manager for rumoured in-fighting, he came on at half-time to give the best performance of any Arsenal player on the day, notching up an assist for Welbeck’s consolation goal. Sanchez will most likely add to his 17 goals and 9 assists already this season on Saturday, and I fear not having him in my team!
Jermain Defoe (Burnley H)
There was a fantastic tweet doing the rounds during the week which showed a team you could have selected at the start of the season which would have you number one in the world now in FPL. Up front the team included Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe, whose continued heroics this term have given the Black Cats a chance to use yet another of their nine lives and ensure their Premier League survival. Even though he was called up to the England squad for the first time in three years this week, Defoe has actually been in a barren patch, failing to score in his last three appearances. However, those were against Southampton, Everton, and City, three teams who David Moyes would not have believed he could beat. Sunderland now enter a trifecta of games from which they will need a minimum of 5 points against the Clarets, Watford and Leicester City. If they aare to take anything from those games, Defoe will be integral with his 14 league goals this term making up more than half of his whole team’s 24 goal tally.
Eden Hazard (Stoke A)
Hazard was at his imperious best as Chelsea downed Man United in the FA Cup on Monday night. He played in the number 10 role, creating chances for others and himself, winning a lot of fouls and all in all providing us with a scintillating display. I’m not going to pretend that I think Hazard didn’t have ulterior motives behind his performance, he was of course one of the players worst affected by United manager Mourinho’s final portion of a season at Stamford Bridge but the performance wasn’t a bolt out of the blue either. Hazard has not been rewarded with consistent goals and assists this year like we would expect – 11 goals and 4 assists is no small success but looks meagre for the high-calibre Belgian. In spite of that, he is the 3rd highest scoring player in FPL right now and appears to be in decent form going into the clash with the Potters on Saturday. If you want the safe Chelsea pick, go for Costa, but Hazard may well steal the headlines again.
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