Fantasy Football Tips Gameweek 23
Welcome to Fantasy Football Tips Gameweek 23. Certain people did their best over the weekend to get me into a bad mood (Init) so I’d best live up to my GABO nickname and have a bit of a moan. The obvious thing for me to have a moan about would be the departure of Coutinho but that was going to happen sooner or later. Instead I’ll have a moan about the FA Cup. I’m all about the good ol’ days when it comes to football so it saddens me to see how they’ve trivialised the Cup. The FA Cup 3rd round is all about 3pm kick offs on a Saturday afternoon not 8pm kick offs on a Friday night! Who’ll ever forget non-league Sutton United defeating a Coventry side who only 19 months earlier had won the competition? Or a 37-year-old Mickey Thomas equalising for Wrexham against Arsenal before the Welsh team went on the secure a famous victory? I could go on, but I’ll stop boring you there.
Back to FPL. A lot has happened since our last Tips article. We’ve had 4 hectic game-weeks which included our first blank and double of the season. While a lot has happened I’m not sure if anything has actually changed. City’s attacking talents are still a ‘must have’, Harry Kane continues to elate us and frustrate us in equal measure, while prior to his injury Mo Salah continued to pick up FPL points at will.
With the 2nd WC of the season now available I’ve decided to take a look at a potential WC squad this week. The general consensus surrounding the 2nd WC is that it’s best held until the double game-weeks towards the back end of the season. However, if you’re team is in dire straits you might be best served playing the WC now as there may be greater gains to be made.
Before I go on I should point that I didn’t give myself a budget before starting but the current value of the below squad is £105.3m. While this might seem a little high it’s worth noting that many of you may already have a number of these players in your squad meaning the price to you is a little lower.
The good old keeper conundrum. Do we pick one premium keeper and stick or do we pick two cheaper keepers and rotate? Both options have their merits, merits I’m not going to get bogged down in now, but for the purposes of this article I’m going down the premium keeper route. The three premium keepers worth consideration are David de Gea, Ederson and Thibaut Courtois. The obvious choice is probably de Gea but I’m going with Ederson. With City currently 15pts clear and boasting a goal difference of +51 it’s the likes of Sterling & KDB who have been grabbing the headlines but Ederson has undoubtedly been an unsung hero. Having been bought to the club because of his ability to play the ball out from the back many maybe didn’t expect him to be as good a keeper as he has proven to be. He’s made the big saves when called upon and has proven him to be quite brave, something which many PL players couldn’t be accused of. The Brazilian has kept 10 clean sheets to date and lies just 18pts behind de Gea. The stats also point to the inclusion of Ederson. City have conceded fewer attempts on target than any other team in the league while Ederson has only had to make a total of 34 saves. It’s difficult for the opposition to score when they’re not creating chances. Available for just £5.5m Ederson will prove money well spent over the remaining months of the season.
Now while many will pick a non-playing £4.0m keeper to accompany your premium keeper that’s not a strategy I’m a fan of. Therefore, I need a keeper who will play every week and I’m going with West Brom’s Ben Foster. It might appear to be a rather strange choice given the fact that he’s only kept six clean sheets to date. I realise that should you choose Ederson you’ll play him more often than not but on the rare occasion when he’s got a difficult fixture the option of another keeper on your bench is welcome and Foster actually rotates quite well with the Brazilian. With GW28 fast approaching and with it the possibility that City will blank it’s worth noting that Foster will have a home tie against goal shy Huddersfield. At £4.4m there are cheaper options but aside from Adrian none of them would appear to be nailed on at this stage.
Alternatives – Obviously de Gea and Courtois at the premium end. At the cheaper end you could look at Brighton’s Matt Ryan or Burnley’s Nick Pope. My issue with Pope is that Tom Heaton will surely be back in contention in the coming weeks.
The first name on the vast majority of WC squads is Chelsea’s goal scoring machine, Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard enjoyed a sensational debut season which saw him finish with six goal and five assists, and it was no surprise when he started this season as the game’s most expensive defender at £7.0m. Unfortunately, those who invested in him in the early part of the season went unrewarded as aside from a two goal salvo in GW2 he failed to live up to expectations. However, over the past six game-weeks the Alonso of last season has reappeared and during this time he’s picked up three goals, an assist, four clean sheets and six bonus points giving him a total of 53pts in this period. There isn’t a midfielder or forward in the game who can boast of such results! It’s difficult to say what has led to his increased output, in fact I can’t come up with any logical reasons. All I’ll say is that his stats over his last six games are far superior to his stats over the course of the season. Comparing his attacking stats to other defenders highlights that he’s out on his own. Over the past six game-weeks he’s had 23 touches in the opposition area, a number only matched by Hector Bellerin. He’s had 15 goal attempts with Bellerin the closest with nine. Finally, he’s hit the target on eight occasions with Bellerin again the closest with just three. His stats and touch heatmap really do back up the theory that you’re essentially buying a midfielder. His recent form has seen his price climb to £7.3m but it’s this form coupled with Chelsea’s impending fixtures which make him close to being essential.
The three best defences in the league are City, United and Chelsea, and as we’ve already covered City and Chelsea it’s to United we turn for our next defender. The one and only
Chesney Hawkes Phil Jones. It’s taken some time but Phil Jones may be evolving into the defender that Fergie thought he could be when he bought him from Blackburn 6 ½ years ago. Granted he’s never going to be a stylish defender but he gets the job done. It’s worth noting that despite missing five games earlier in the season that he has been present for 11 of United’s 12 clean sheets. There are cheaper routes into the United defence but none of them are guaranteed to start whereas, in the absence of Eric Bailly, Jones is clearly the defender whom Jose has most trust in. In terms of bonus points Jones has four more than the next United defender, Antonio Valencia. Essentially, if you haven’t got de Gea in your squad getting Jonesy into it appears to be a good idea.
Having anchored the defence around Ederson, Alonso and Jones it is now time to pad it out with some cheaper options. First up I’m going with Brighton’s Shane Duffy. Only three teams have scored fewer goals than Brighton yet despite this they sit 12th in the table. This is largely due to having a solid defence which has conceded just 27 goals, the 7th best in the league. Their recent defensive form is quite impressive as they’ve kept three clean sheets in their last five games and aside from the visit of Chelsea in GW24 they’ve got a great run of fixtures through to the end of February. Why Duffy over any of his colleagues? His attacking threat. None of the Brighton defenders have scored this season but Duffy has had more touches in the opposition area than any defender in the league and is priced at less than £5.0m.
I can’t not include a Burnley defender considering they have the 4th best defence in the league having conceded just 19 goals to date. They have however managed just one clean sheet in their last four games but it should be noted that they’ve played Spurs, United and Liverpool in this period. It should also be noted that they host both Manchester clubs in game-weeks 24 & 26, but on the whole their fixtures are turning for the better. With Stephen Ward still out injured I’m going to go for Ben Mee but would have no qualms in picking James Tarkowski either. Mee’s stats just slightly shade it as does his ability to pick up the odd bonus point.
It’s at this point that many will now pick the cheapest defender they can find and stick him on the bench to rot but that’s never been something I’ve ever been in favour of. At the very least I want my 5th defender to play more often than not, every week if possible. Looking at the form and fixtures of the really cheap defenders none of them appeal to me. Instead I’m going with Palace’s James Tomkins who himself is reasonably priced at £4.3m. While he’s undoubtedly the 5th defender Palace have tightened up at the back of late so he can do the job if called upon. Aside from GW24, Brighton, Burnley and Palace rotate quite well through to the end of the season with there being a number of weeks in which you may consider playing four defenders.
Alternatives – Ideally I’d have included Otamendi with de Gea in goal but Jones and Ederson as a pair are £1.2m cheaper. While Andreas Christensen won’t match Alonso’s attacking returns he is the cheapest route into a Chelsea defence which is likely to pick up a number of clean sheets over the coming weeks. Everton’s Jonjoe Kenny shouldn’t be ignored but with Big Sam confirming that Seamus Coleman is back in training Kenny might be out of the side within the next 4-5 weeks. Liverpool’s Joe Gomez offers good value at £4.7m given their Anfield form.
At the beginning of the season if we’d been asked which player would be the leading goal scorer after the opening 22 game-weeks I think the majority of us would have said Harry Kane. However, I don’t think many of us would have predicted Mo Salah to be 2nd with 17 goals. The Egyptian has been nothing short a revelation this season. To date he’s claimed 17 goals, seven assists and 17 bonus points. However, not only has he scored big, he’s scored consistently. He’s featured in 22 of 23 games and has registered returns in a staggering 17 games. Perfect captaincy material. When you take a look at his stats over the course of the season it’s not surprising that he’s scored 17 goals. He’s had 82 goal attempts which is 13 more than any other midfielder. With 41 of his attempts hitting the target, 16 more than any other midfielder. In fact, the only forward who can better these stats is the aforementioned Harry Kane. Much has been made about the recent departure of Phil Coutinho and while his departure will undoubtedly have an effect on Liverpool, how will it impact Salah? Some basic analysis shows us that Salah has averaged 7.85ppg with Coutinho in the side and 8.25ppg when he’s been absent. As you can see there’s little in it and there’s no way of knowing if the trend will continue but there’s certainly nothing in the numbers to cause alarm. Liverpool have some decent fixtures over the coming weeks but given both their and Salah’s form of late he’s likely to be one of the first players you include.
From a current Liverpool player to an ex-Liverpool player. When City shelled out a fee in the region of £49m for Raheem Sterling 2 ½ years ago most football fans felt as though Liverpool had done well out of the deal. Fast forward to the present day and he’s beginning to look a bargain. He’s improved season on season since joining City and this season he’s taking his game to another level where he’s not consistently overshadowed by the likes of Silva, KDB & Aguero. Much is made of Peptation and while it’s true that Sterling was in and out of the side in the early part of the season, since GW13 he’s played the full 90 minutes nine out of 10 times. Never before has he managed double figures in a season. This season he’s already scored 14 with 16 games remaining. It’s hardly surprising he’s been so prolific given the fact he’s had 159 touches in the opposition area which is more than any other midfielder, it’s even more than any forward. City are scoring for fun and show no signs of slowing down, and at £8.9m Sterling remains superb value.
I’m not a fan of Jesse Lingard. Although that’s not going to come as a surprise to anyone who has read this week’s Capos article! However, I can’t and won’t deny his FPL appeal. United’s form of late has been patchy to say the least but Lingard has been the one bright spark. He’s picked up four goals and an assist in his last five games. Looking at his stats over the past six game-weeks they don’t quite match up to the big hitters in midfield but when compared to those at a similar price point he does very well. He’s had 24 touches in the opposition area, only bettered by Richarlison. He’s had 17 goal attempts, only bettered by Ibe. Eight of his attempts have hit the target, a figure which isn’t bettered by anyone at £6.5m and under. United have a mixed bag of fixtures over the coming weeks and Jose may bring out the bus which could see Lingard’s attacking instincts blunted but at £6.3m he should prove good value for money.
Let’s put all the speculation surrounding Riyad Mahrez to one side and instead concentrate on his form. While there is every chance he will never match his returns from Leicester’s title winning season he is beginning to prove that he was no one season wonder. With five goals and four assists in his last nine games he is one of the leagues form players. Leicester only lost once during Claude Puel’s first eight games in charge but their form took a significant dip over the festive period although this clearly hasn’t effected Mahrez. His stats aren’t fantastic but if I remember correctly this was also the case throughout the 2015/16 season. Leicester’s fixtures right through until the end of the season are quite appealing only having four games against the current top six teams. Should Mahrez stay with the Foxes until the end of the season he’s likely to finish the season as one of the top performing midfielders. A price tag of £8.6m is pretty tempting as is a current ownership of just 11.4%.
I’ll be honest, I’ve left the 5th mid and 3rd forward as the last slots to fill. They’ve caused many a fantasy manager a headache over the season to date and I can’t see that changing over the remaining months. While I haven’t given myself a budget I realise I’ve only got a few shillings to spend on these two players. For my 5th mid I’m going with Palace’s Luka Milivojevic. He’s not exactly an exciting pick but he plays every week and is on both penalties and direct free kicks. He’s also in decent form having picked up 20pts over the festive period.
Alternatives – Kevin de Bruyne is the obvious omission here. The Belgian is an integral part of what Pep is doing at City and already has 6 goals and 11 assists to his name. With four goals and an assist in his last four games Marko Arnautovic represents decent value at £7.0m particularly when you consider West Ham’s forthcoming fixtures. With a goal and three assists in his last four games Leicester’s Marc Albrighton could prove to be a good enabler at £5.5m. Given Chelsea’s fixtures I probably shouldn’t ignore Eden Hazard but his returns of late have been disappointing to say the least.
Harry Kane is unquestionably the first forward on my team sheet. I realise that there are many disgruntled managers out there following his blank in DGW22 but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he picked up back to back hat-tricks in game-weeks 19 & 20. There are very few players out there capable of doing that. The biggest issue with Kane this season has been his lack of consistency, he’s now blanked in 12 of his 21 appearances. He has however managed 18 goals in the other nine games. What’s also worth noting is that when he scores he invariably picks up bonus points. He’s picked up maximum bonus points on six occasions and currently has more bonus points than any other player in the league. His stats are off the charts so while he may continue to frustrate his stats alone mean he will continue to score goals and there’s every chance he’ll finish with the golden for the 3rd consecutive season. Spurs have some tough fixtures on the horizon but I wouldn’t let that put you off.
As I’ve just mentioned, there are very few players capable of scoring back to back hat-tricks. One player who is capable of it is Sergio Aguero. In previous seasons a fit Aguero would have been one of the first names in every fantasy squad but the presence of Jesus has seen the Argentine’s minutes somewhat diluted this season. Despite these reduced minutes he has still registered 13 goals and four assists. However, with Jesus picking up a knee injury on NYE he is likely to spend some time on the side-lines. Initial reports suggested 4-6 weeks but recent rumours indicate it could be longer. While this is not good news for City it’s good news for Aguero as it’s likely to see him spending more time on the pitch. Those of you who put your faith in stats will be heartened by his numbers. In spite of his reduced minutes the only forward who can better his goal attempts and attempts on target is Harry Kane while only Kane and Lacazette have had more penalty area touches. Given City’s form I’m not sure there’s any need to concern ourselves with their fixtures. The only fly in the ointment is a certain Chilean who is said rumoured to be arriving this month.
Having invested in a solid defence and what I believe to be an impressive midfield and strike force I’ve got very little wiggle room when it comes to picking my 3rd forward. To be honest, if you want a decent 3rd forward you’ll have to spend an absolute minimum of £7.5m and that’s only going to get you Wayne Rooney! I’m going to play the short term fixtures and get Brighton’s Glenn Murray. Last time out he scored his first goal since GW15 and with Brighton having a great run of fixtures I’m backing him to rediscover the form which saw him score four in three earlier in the season. Palace and Brighton rotate reasonable well allowing this team to switch between 3-5-2 and 3-4-3. Having a strong defence also gives the options of playing 4-4-2.
Alternatives – Hmmm…the options are slim. Given his recent form Roberto Firmino needs to be considered but I fear the departure of Philippe Coutinho could have a negative impact on the Brazilian. Alvaro Morata has the fixtures but not the form. Romelu Lukaku is also an option but I’d much prefer Lingard at this stage given their current form. New Everton signing Cenk Tosun could prove to be decent value at £7.5m if he can hit the ground running. Tosun’s arrival could see Oumar Niasse leave the club which could in turn see him secure regular first team football elsewhere in the PL, his price is now down to £4.7m.
That ‘Wildcard’ squad in full…
Thanks for reading Fantasy Football Tips Gameweek 23
This article was written by Kop
The League Codes for FF247 for the 2017/18 season are as follows:
Gameweek Tracker GW23-28