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A Manager’s Preview – Gameweek 9

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As we approach Gameweek 9 (GW9) the realisation hits us that after this week nearly one quarter of the season will be behind us.  And the Stoosher FC side will need a 9-week run of epic proportions just to get back to respectability.

There is definitely a sense of true despair among the management team.  Last week’s last minute move – Jamie Vardy in for Alvaro Morata – did not go down well with our consultant, Ghost Ship Inc. (GSI).  Gameweek 9 promises to be an intriguing one, if for no other reason than we have, as of the time of writing, no idea what transfer to make or if to make one at all.  Our lineup and the schedule conspire against a transfer, but a squad with Ahmed Hegazi, Miguel Brito, Christopher Schindler in it  and Richarlison as third midfielder surely needs strengthening.  But we know what GSI is recommending for GW9 . . .

All Roads Lead to Manchester.

The transfer market speaks.  If we sort the player list by ‘transfers in (round)’ (TIR) as of the time of writing, David de Gea is the most transferred in GK; Phil Jones, with a price rise, is the most transferred in defender and Antonio Valencia is third.  In attacking terms, the top FOUR midfielders in TIR wear the sky blue – Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Leroy Sane, and Kevin de Bruyne (despite the fact one of the three is almost guaranteed to start on the bench v. Burnley on Saturday).  Two of the top three forwards in TIR are Jesus and Sergio Aguero.  So, a manager is strong suited with one or more United players in defence and two or more attacking City players.

Yet, if all players are sorted by % owned, de Gea is the highest owned GK, but the only United defender among the top ten defenders in % ownership is Eric Bailly, currently nursing an injury.  Among attacking players Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are more well-owned respectively than any City forward (Jesus and Aguero’s combined ownership does not equal Lukaku’s) or midfielder.  Of course, David Silva’s ownership is creeping up on Mhki’s ownership level given Mhki’s failure to get amongst the points in recent week’s and his failure to finish games (74, 65, 62 minutes in the last three; yet to finish a league game on the pitch).

One thing which seems to have gone under the radar: United have seven clean sheets (CS) in eight games.  If you regard DDG’s price as a budget forward and CS as the equivalent of a forward’s goals, DDG looks a positive bargain and perhaps Phil Jones more so.  With 30 games to go, can United keep CS in half of those 30 games ?   United run into some difficult fixtures ahead (hud, TOT, che, NEW, BHA, wat, ars, MCI).  But given Jose Mourinho’s penchant for settling for 0-0/low score draws against the big sides, is there any real danger United loses its clean sheet momentum ?  They will not finish with 37 clean sheets, but 22, which would include half the remaining games, does not look out of the question.

Meanwhile, few near-term schedules look better designed for goals than City’s: BUR, wba, ARS, lei, hud, SOU, WHU.  Even with a bit of musical chairs in terms of rotation among some of the midfielders and Jesus and Aguero, no City asset looks overpriced.

Unfortunately for my Stoosher FC side, I have no United defensive assets and only David Silva in terms of City attack.  Time for a correction.

Crystal Palace Shocker.

The shock of the week was Crystal Palace’s win v. Chelsea.  While some managers had already counted Marco Alonso’s presumed clean sheet and assist and bonus points haul (manager, whistling, looking skyward), Palace had other ideas.  Only a single player on Crystal Palace is owned by more than 3.2% of managers and that is Ruben Loftus-Cheeks which is presumably uber-budget price inspired.  Palace had a murderous opening schedule, with all of the Champions League participants included, as well as an away game to Burnley and that visit is not a day in the park for any team.  Palace then suffered some calamitous injuries: Christian Benteke, Mamadou Sakho, and perhaps most importantly, Wilfried Zaha.  Arguably Palace’s three most important players.

Zaha and Sakho are back and both were monumental in the win on Saturday.  The schedule brightens considerably, with only a trip to Tottenham in GW11 to mar a run of mid-table and relegation candidates until after Christmas.  If Zaha and Sakho repeat last Saturday’s performance, they go on the watchlist, Zaha in particular.  He had 149 points last year.  It would also appear, at least until Christian Benteke returns, Zaha may be installed as an OPP forward.  Tommy reports Zaha had 15 touches in Chelsea’s box last Saturday.  Impressive.

And while Roy Hodgson seems a figure of some controversy among casual football fans, he has the defensive nous to put together well-organized, defensively strong teams.  There are some good defenders in the Palace backline, including marauding fullback Patrick van Aanholt, down to 5.2 mil.

Saturday’s match at Newcastle looks well worth watching to see if Palace’s one-game renaissance can continue.

The Differential Pick.

This week’s selection is a bit a gamble in that he has just returned from injury, although there is not a lot of competition at this price point aside from Richarlison and Matt Ritchie.  We have selected Junior Stanislas, currently priced at 5.9 mil and in virtually no one’s team at 0.1% ownership.  Stanislas has a very good fantasy history which has been unfortunately marred by injury.  Last season’s seven goals and six assists in roughly half a season translated into 107 points in 1467 minutes played.  A similar story in 2015/16 as well.  In short, he has only been denied true “enabler” status by injury.  He has started the last three Bournemouth games and in that time fired in five shots.  Bournemouth go on a nice run of fixtures until GW17: stk, CHE, new, HUD, swa, BUR, SOU, cpl.  If ever Eddie Howe is to get Bournemouth out of the relegation mire, this is the stretch to do it.

In the Engine Room.

The season statistics, posted on our board in the engine room under the Morten Gamst Pedersen Stand of the BoulStadWest, home to Stoosher FC, make for grim reading.  Six red arrows out of seven gameweeks following GW1.  One week above 70 points; three weeks with a low 30s score.  20th position in our main 23 team mini-league, now including a few ghost ships.  Oof.

The transfer decision this week feels monumental.  We did ourselves no favors last week with our impulsive last-minute transfer of Jamie Vardy for Alvaro Morata.  GSI scoffed, and, indeed our 34 point week would have been a 33 point week had we not made the transfer.  But, alas, we would have had two free transfers this week to add a City attacking asset and a United defensive asset.  If we want both now, it will cost us a -4 hit.  One option we are tossing back and forth is to simply recall Alvaro Morata to the squad and give Vardy his walking papers.  The concern of course, is whether Morata will start again on the weekend after starting midweek in the Champions League against Roma – with a recovering hamstring.  The other option is a straightforward all Manchester transfer: Raheem Sterling, in an absolute purple patch of form, for Henrikh Mhkitaryan.  And give Jamie Vardy a reprieve and increase our bank to 1.7 mil.  The defence needs tending, mind, down the road.

The 800 pound gorilla in the room however is one Sergio Aguero.  Poised to become City’s all-time goal scorer, he was on the bench last weekend and in midweek.  Burnley at home seems a perfect time to reintroduce the most dangerous man in fantasy football to pursue his record.  A move for Aguero would provide us with the rather fearsome front 3 of Aguero/Kane/Lukaku.  Mkhi would have to make way for a more budget friendly option; Cesc Fabregas or to keep some bank, our differential Junior Stanislaus or perhaps Matt Ritchie – all at the cost of a -4.

We could, of course, hold’n’roll, in GSI’s second favourite phrase (the first as applied to transfers: why bother?).  You always have more information next week.  Unfortunately, at this stage of the season we feel compelled to do, well, something.  With an early Friday deadline, this looks like a rather long and contemplative evening ahead.  Are we brave enough to force the issue with the Aguero transfer or are we perhaps even braver and willing to hold the transfer ?

I can only hope the wife is not in a particularly talkative mood tonight.  And understands why her husband is staring at his phone and mumbling in monosyllables about FPL transfers.  Let’s just say, it won’t be the first time.

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