Gameweek 30 saw solid returns for most active fantasy managers and likely a green arrow for those who kept it simple and captained the unstoppable Harry Kane (writer slams fist on table, curses Harry Kane). Or are simply just really good at this game such as frequent members lounge contributor Ceci (no. 9 in the world) who had the perspicacity to captain Diego Costa on his way to a 96(-4) point Gameweek 30. Meanwhile those of us fighting our own sense of a relegation battle have only eight gameweeks left to salvage the season. Lessons this week ? A few . . .
A Tap-in, a Deflection, and a Penalty.
Sergio Aguero huffed and puffed but failed to blow the 10-man West Brom down, in a performance which probably deserved something. And, to be fair, those of us who selected Aguero(c) had lots of company. Perhaps the Argentine is pressing. He certainly seemed desperate for a goal on Saturday in the early kick off (is it just me, or do other fantasy managers feel a strange sense of doom when your captain play the early game on Saturday ?). But some of his owners may be looking elsewhere. Perhaps even at Manchester City as Wilfried Bony got off the mark in the sky blue kit and looked assured for his 70-odd minutes. Meanwhile, the stoosher fc management team retreated to behind the couch to simultaneously watch Newcastle v. Arsenal and Tottenham v. Leicester as armband options no. 3 Olivier Giroud and no. 4 Harry Kane played (Eden Hazard was option no. 2 as you may begin to sense a haplessness to my pattern of armband selection). Oh dear.
I can’t rationally explain my prejudice against Harry Kane, but my recollection is that he has been selected for the stoosher armband only once this season (and he has been in the stoosher side since November), and a double gameweek at that. But Kane managed the sort of goals that have been a staple for him this year, a tap-in, a deflection (rewind Kane’s first league goal, a free kick which took a massive deflection), and a penalty. Our Captain Foresight article laid out a clear and convincing case for Kane(c). His season’s history made a clear and convincing case for Kane(c) – in his 19 league starts since getting into the starting XI in Gameweek 11, he had, prior to Saturday, 15 goals, including double strikes against both Chelsea and Arsenal. Since mid-December he has made a case for simply handing him the armband week in and week out; save yourself the weekly trials, hand-wringing and tribulations. You would have, week in and week out, beaucoup de returns without all the stress. Sort of a cut rate Robin van Persie circa, 2012.
Maybe it’s the price; Aguero costs double, go with the price. No more, I believe, Harry, I believe. Come back from the international break uninjured. The simple lesson which your intrepid reporter has so far refused to learn. Keep it simple. If the numbers – and history – say he’s your man – he’s your man.
The Manchester United Fantasy Conundrum.
Manchester United have flipped a switch in the last two games, and, suddenly, look like a Champions League place team, not 4th place pretenders. To be fair, they have been 4th or thereabouts in terms of goals scored and goals allowed all season; the numbers have justified their place in the table, if not performances. Now they have two performances in a row. A few weeks ago we looked at Ashley Young as a potential entre into the side, and while Young has maintained his starting place, he has not featured in the all-important fantasy box score. Many fantasy managers have, perhaps, given up on attacking returns, put David de Gea between the fantasy sticks and been done with it (de Gea is on 23% ownership).
While Steven Gerrard’s unconscionable red card paved the way for Manchester United’s 2-1 win at Anfield on Sunday, the first half was a superb United performance and deserved 1-0 HT lead. Juan Mata’s best performance in red may have a few knee-jerkers ready to pull the trigger, but Louis van Gaal’s measured post-game comments about finding ‘balance’ in the team should give pause. Arguably the best player in the Premier League just two seasons ago, and even with a season stunted by Jose Mourinho’s unwillingness to use him in the first half of last year, Mata has averaged 166 fantasy points per year in his first three full seasons. Unless you quickly checked, you are probably shocked to know he has 103 fantasy points to date this season as well as three double figure gameweeks. In only 19 starts. It will be a brave manager who decides to use 8.3 mil of budget on a player who is, seemingly, not yet nailed on, but if Mata does get eight more starts, well, you could see the Spaniard getting to 150 fantasy points and play a part as a massive differential given that most of his 6% ownership are probably ‘ghost ships’.
Wayne Rooney disappointed the 7200 or so managers who brought him in this week with a missed penalty. Given Robin van Persie’s uncertain injury status and the Radamel Falcao freeze-out, Rooney looks a very viable option for our front 3s despite a difficult United run-in (the Manchester derby, Chelsea and Arsenal all await). Angel di Maria earned an assist on Mata’s magnificent 59th minute goal and may challenge either Young or Mata for a spot after the international break. The other attacking option is Marouane Fellani (6.3 mil) who looks nailed on now as a van Gaal favourite in behind a central striker.
Louis van Gaal’s side look to have turned a corner and the attacking options may favour the manager willing to gamble on a differential to move up in his or her mini-league.
In defence, United have 10 clean sheets and have conceded fewer goals than anyone but Chelsea and Southampton. The back four seem unsettled though with injuries and perhaps the goalkeeper looking the best route in; those looking for a segue from Fraser Forster or Ben Foster may consider de Gea at 5.9 mil.
False Villa Dawn ?
Swansea are no mugs, especially as a defensive unit with 11 league clean sheets. But Aston Villa came into Saturday flying after moving on in the FA Cup against rivals West Brom Albion and having beaten Sunderland away 4-0 in league. So we fantasy managers were looking for a sign Villa were set to push on especially ahead of a double Gameweek 31(mun/QPR). Alas. With a midfield which has scored 2 goals all season, a defence with but 8 clean sheets, and a team whose leading goal scorer is striker Gabriel Agbonlahor on six league goals, Villa hardly look a team to load up on. And Villa offered fantasy managers nothing to suggest a double gameweek punt might be worth it against Swansea on Saturday in a game of very chances. Brad Guzan’s 12% owners will start him as will Alan Hutton’s nearly 10% owners, but it is hard to see who one might profitably spend an extra transfer on, especially as you will want the lad out for the blank Gameweek 33.
Southampton Tick Over for a European Spot.
Southampton have missed Graziano Pelle during his long absence, otherwise they would be well and truly in the fight for a top four place. During his time with the team he was banging in goals for fun. In his absence, Southampton have struggled for goals and the side have slipped from 4th to 6th.
Hmm, I’ve been misinformed. Pelle has been with the team ! Starting even. Hmm, who knew ? Pelle had a shocker on Saturday but (one of ) his fortuitous miss(es) meant a goal for Shane Long. Sadio Mane is the other attacking player with good numbers but you may wish to stay with the defence in this side. If you don’t already have Nathaniel Clyne or Ryan Bertrand (35% and 20% ownership respectively), Toby Alderweireld is back from injury at 4.8 mil.
Fraser Forster sustained a knee injury in the 13th minute and his 16% ownership will be holding its collective breath, hoping against hope reports of a serious injury are overblown. He was replaced by 106 year old Kelvin Davis who kept the clean sheet. Davis, who has been loaned to such illustrious clubs as Torquay United and Hartlepool United in his lengthy career, may prove the cheapest entre possible (4.4 mil) into a side which has kept more clean sheets than any other this year. Davis has been named to the PFA team of the year four times in his travels in League One and the Championship, so he is a capable back-up. If Forster’s injury is serious, Davis is an easy (and cheap) segue.
Crystal Palace, The Pardew Effect.
With a hard-fought 2-1 win over Stoke City on Saturday, Crystal Palace have now moved ahead of Newcastle in the league table. That is what is known in the writer’s trade as “understated irony”. Alan Pardew is 5-1-3 in league since joining Crystal Palace Jan 2 and has added some attacking verve to the side (but only one clean sheet, mind). Any of a midfield three are worth considering for your side, Jason Puncheon (5.6 mil), Yannick Bolasie, whose speed earned him a penalty against Stoke, or perennial “will he come good ?” candidate Wilfried Zaha (5.1 mil), who certainly did here with a goal and a bonus point.
An intriguing option might be Glenn Murray, who was instrumental in Palace’s ascension to the Premier League two years ago, but has sustained serious injury and been left out of the side since then. Murray has started three of the last four and has three goals, four goals in the last five games. He seems to have a good chemistry with Zaha in particular. Murray will not be mistaken for Thierry Henry any time soon, but he puts in a shift and has a habit of popping up in good places. At the business end of the season, where fantasy managers may be reluctant to take any chances with a precious forward spot, Murray represents a gamble. But Palace finish with five of their last eight at home and for those looking for a differential or someone to rotate with a 4th or 5th midfielder, Murray looks to be coming ‘into form’, as they say.
Well done, Martin Atkinson.
In a week when one of the biggest stories was a referee sending off the wrong man (no, wait – was it no. 23 or no. 25 ? Hmm, they are both tall and have a 3-day beard . . . ), it’s worth emphasizing that most games are well officiated in difficult circumstances in the Prem and with managers willing to hang you out to dry at the slightest error, the job is no picnic (yes, the loss had nothing to do with my strikers missing sitters or me making a bonehead tactical decision, it was that questionable hand ball in the 42nd minute that decided the game !). Nor is it as easy as many comment boards suggest. England appears to be, frankly, swamped with competent refs. All of whom pay to watch each week.
In what no doubt was an absolute cauldron, Martin Atkinson did not put a foot wrong. So, hat’s off Martin Atkinson. And just remember, if you ref a Chelsea loss in the next eight games, it will be all your fault.