Gameweek 19 rolls up like the waves in an autumn storm on Lake Superior; cold and fast. We’ve not had time to digest a Zlatan inspired big Gameweek 18 (GW18) as we head into another weekend of football orgy. Surely accompanied by all of the delicious beverages we can enjoy with our football and our holiday. On to GW19 then . . .
No, not Santa, doofus, not at least until next year. It’s Sergio Aguero time, ban served. Whether you made plans to bring him back (Who are you kidding ? Of course you didn’t), or whether his return date was lost amongst all those gift receipts you had collected to return that plaid tie (Really, plaid ? Really ?), cuff links (so precious, shamrocks !), hat, pyjamas (no Uncle Ted, not funny having big red lips on the keester !), socks with little elves on them (oh, so cute Auntie !), a recording of the Carpenters doing Christmas songs (I think I threw up in my mouth!) . . . you get the picture; you misplaced the return date.
Aguero will be available for selection against Liverpool on Saturday. Those who follow these notes of mine will remember I claimed he was not getting back into the Stoosher FC side in a ‘break-up’ letter a couple of weeks ago. No, I am not here to say ‘just kidding’. I don’t plan to bring him back. I plan to ride Diego Costa, also returning from a ban, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in my front line. For one, it’s about price, both Costa and Ibra are significantly cheaper than Aguero, and the duo sit first and second for points among forwards in FPL.
However, even now after a 3-game ban, Aguero sits high on the list of metrics we managers hold dear for strikers, shots in the box (SiB), shots on target (SoT) and, of course, goals. If you, like me, do not plan to bring him back, I can assure you there will be pain. Possibly as early as next week, when Manchester City host Burnley, a veritable punching bag away from Turf Moor. Or even this week, given Liverpool’s frailties in back (yes, Bournemouth enjoyed their trip to Anfield !).
But there are some issues with Aguero and perhaps they are playing a part in your thinking as well. And I raise these issues in what follows . . .
The ‘Big Five’.
Although the website appears calm and peaceful from the outside, much like a Christmas card tableau of carollers in the snow outside a log home bejewelled with Christmas lights . . . there is chaos internally. Tables have been flipped for effect, beers spilt, families ignored, Tommy shouts in spasms about the merits of so-and-so, OBwan tries to reason with statistics, Llama shouts above the din for Costa, Costa, Costa ! I.A.P. tries humour, and Stoosher has been left sitting in the corner, drinking heavily, suggesting it is all just too complicated . . . Darsh, of course, remains almost provocatively quiet, until revealing a potential 4-player solution to resolve the outstanding issues . . . ah what a hot mess the scene has become. Yes, it’s wildcard time for the house team, and all bets and friendships are off in the mad rush to put together a side which can find a way back into the top 20k OR.
If you have also reached the end stages of the first half of the season with your wildcard intact, you know the feeling. A nearly fatal mix of madness and panic, stir in very little sleep, a healthy dollop of stats to support 3 or more players for every position, one’s typical aversion to certain sides to prejudice the matter, the odd rogue comment from yesterday’s Member’s Lounge posts, mix, churn, flip and voila ! Your wildcard team. Built in, of course, three or four massive regrets for your January night terrors.
One intriguing plot line in all of this is that we now have five fantasy superstars emerging from the morass of the first half of the season: Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the returning Sergio Aguero. All “bigly” priced, of course. Can they all be fitted into a wildcard side ? And if so, at what cost ? Don’t fancy a Liverpool-less midfield or one which sports Matt Phillips and Joe Allen as full-timers ? Don’t fancy a defence which includes a 4.8 mil guy as your big spend in back or 1 or 2 non-playing defenders to squeeze in the big boys ? The thought is not for the tender hearted, for you inevitably must have some substantial weaknesses in your side if this is the route you hope to take. And of course, there is regret, his name may be Harry Kane.
Luckily, not every team is a table rasa coming into the decision process as to which of the Big 5 you’ll want in. This includes those of us not on a wildcard but trying to make some big decisions in the midst of this football gluttony of 4 games in 8 or so days.
There is no point in covering the upside to the Big 5, we know the upside. And for you pros, a long look at Oberetta’s FuTR article is essential reading. But for those who like their thoughts quick and dirty, I’m here to supply it. So a brief rundown of the downside to the big boys in alphabetical order:
Aguero: a 3-prong note; first, price – at ~1.5 mil+ over the others, is there better value in Costa and Ibra, even Kane or Romelu Lukaku ? Second, fitness/temperament. He’s never managed much more than 2500 or so minutes a season, or roughly 28 starts. That has been twice in five years in the Prem; other years he has been a part-timer, an explosive one of course, but the continual shake up to the team can be disorienting and distracting. Third, penalties. He’s missed his share in 2016 and with Yaya Toure looking more like a game in game out starter, does Pep still trust him ? And if Pep does, do you ?
Costa: he has been remarkably consistent, providing returns in over 75% of his games – can he keep this up, given that defences are now starting to park the bus and limit Chelsea opportunities to counter ? His shots have dropped in recent weeks. And do we truly believe in the choir boy behaviour we have seen since September ?
Hazard: perhaps his ‘cannot be stopped’ performance against Bournemouth was a sign of things to come in the second half but with Costa in the side he has been second best to the points. And he often looks a different player away from home and not in a good way.
Ibrahimovic: no drop off in stats, but that 6-game blank lingers in the memory. Is there another one coming at some point ?
Sanchez: his price has skyrocketed to nosebleed territory, 11.9 mil, but then he is the leading scorer in the game. He is the ultimate boom and bust guy and the ultimate flat track bully, so you may be wary of placing the armband on him in certain fixtures. On the other hand, there have been some big booms and there are a lot of 97 lb. weaklings in the league.
Getting three in is do-able; four is a struggle, and five means truly gutting your midfield and defence. But who you decide to bring in or keep, depends largely on who you may already have and the price you paid (I wouldn’t be swapping Sanchez out if I got him for 11.0 mil). And your own temperament as a manager.
Right now, for what it’s worth, I am on Costa and Ibrahimovic only, but wavering on finally putting the big bucks down for Sanchez. But as I suggested above, I’m the one in the corner saying ‘man, this is complicated’.
The Days Ahead.
It was a good Christmas here in the BoulStadWest, home to Stoosher FC for the Stoosher FC management team, despite the reaming we took from the board last week. Plenty of eggnog spiked with bourbon, a delicious smoked ham, southern style with all the fixin’s. And Santa left some new gear for the Liverpool fan amongst us. We quietly settled in for a scotch whiskey in front of the lighted tree late on December 25 to relax and contemplate our blessings. And then on Boxing Day the side enjoyed our best gameweek since the leaves were still clinging to the trees in October.
Yet, we look ahead with trepidation to the next two gameweeks which come fast and thick here. Our new consultant Ghost Ship, Inc. (GSI), has sternly warned us against any transfer talk until Sunday ahead of GW20 and even then to use only one. But rumours are circulating that Theo Walcott won’t be fit for Crystal Palace in a game where Sam Allardyce might rest a few ahead of a winnable game against Swansea. It looks like there will be goals.
We look down the bench and it’s a pretty grim lot. Ben Gibson at Manchester United looks like a 1-pointer; Etienne Capoue has lost, um, let’s see, “form” (1 goal in his last 13 games) or whatever it was he had early doors and . . . the less said about Jordi Amat the better.
The options are plenty at this stage, as I’ve noted – you can make a case for probably 20 of the top 25 leading scorers in midfield and a few ‘enablers’ who aren’t (Jason Puncheon or Junior Stanislaus anyone ?). We’d have to lose Christian Eriksen or Roberto Firmino and take a hit, but Alexis Sanchez’s immediate schedule screams double figure returns and more than once. There is also the placeholder option: a returning to fitness Aaron Ramsey.
There are some like for like options: Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli (don’t laugh, I like to think I was just early on Alli on his misbegotten November selection), or Michail Antonio to name the most obvious potential selections. Then there are the more ambitious gambles: Paul Pogba or Henrikh Mkhitaryan from a Manchester United who finally seem jelling into a potent strike force.
We could also replace Amat with a rotatable defender and “cover” Walcott in a 4-3-3, but that seems entirely too sensible and not, well, sexy or fun.
GSI suggests we hold firm until Sunday, and then explore the market. As we look out at the pristine pitch here at the BoulStadWest, old habits die hard. A transfer seems in the cards. But only if we can justify it in our master plan. And so far, given this week’s fixtures and some of the unanswered questions about our list of candidates, the decision is hardly obvious.