Anthony O'Shea

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Stag's Take - Gameweek 24

Thursday, January 18, 2018


Stag’s Take – Gameweek 24

 

The highlight of Gameweek 23 was undoubtedly the bout of the attacking titans, Liverpool and Manchester City. It was a game full of pantomime moments, spectacular goals, and naturally, FPL talking points.

 

Many seem to view Liverpool’s performance as confirmation that they can survive and thrive in the post-Coutinho era, though I believe that analysis is overly simplistic when you’re extrapolating from the City game alone. I think we can all agree that Klopp’s Reds are, first and foremost, a counterattacking team. That’s why they revelled in enjoying a mere 35.7% of possession against City on Sunday. I think Liverpool will struggle to thread clinical passes through ten-man defences when they don’t have the brilliant Coutinho there to act as a catalyst. Other Top Six sides have not afforded Liverpool their heart’s desire like Guardiola did in pursuit of his brand of systemic perfection. Arsenal were the only other Top Six side who tried to control possession against Liverpool, paying for their mistake by shipping seven goals across two fixtures (albeit they did somehow get that 3-3 draw a few weeks back thanks to more poor Liverpool defending). Chelsea, Manchester United, and most effectively Spurs left Liverpool take the ball for the majority of their games with them and all successfully prevented a Liverpool victory. In the case of Spurs, they beat Liverpool 4-1 with just 36.2% of possession. Liverpool struggled to break down Spurs’ compact lines with passing and crosses so much so that they registered less shots than their opponents that day.

 

This is, admittedly, a basic analysis. However, if you’ve watched a few Liverpool games you’ll understand the point I’m making. Some of The Reds’ most frustrating games this season have come where the opposition stood off and challenged Liverpool to break them down – draws with Newcastle, Everton, and West Brom immediately come to mind as examples. Without Coutinho, Liverpool have lost their most exciting creative spark and almost as importantly, a good finisher. The Brazilian was one of those rare players who possessed the talent to create or score the opening goal in a game where the opposition had no intent on attacking. The first goal was crucial as it would force the opposition out of their shell and allowing Liverpool punish them on the break with pace from thereafter. Without him, they may struggle against weaker PL sides. Certainly, I think it’s too much of a leap to suggest that just because Liverpool now have Salah in addition to Firmino and Mané, that they will be fine.

 

 

Second striker mania

 

One question that I seem to get a lot on Twitter lately is “who should I get as a forward to partner Kane?” or something to that effect. Underperformance and now a suspension completely rule Alvaro Morata out of the reckoning for this conversation, meanwhile Dominic Calvert Lewin’s limited minutes and the arrival of Cenk Tosun rule him out of considerations as a cheap enabling starter.

 

For me there’s three strong options – Sergio Aguero, Roberto Firmino, or as a cheap option, Callum Wilson.

 

Aguero’s attraction is obvious. A proven goalscorer whose position at the vanguard of the league’s top team is unchallenged owing to Jesus’ injury plus an enticing set of upcoming fixtures. However, in the negative column are his patchy form and his mammoth price tag of 11.7.

 

Answering all our questions about Aguero has been his South American compatriot Firmino, who is seemingly scoring for fun and much cheaper at 9.1.

 

But how do they compare over the last five games in the PL? Overall Firmino has had much better results, securing 16 more points,  scoring two more goals (5), and getting one assist more (3). In terms of expected assists, Firmino is deserving of his lead though the Brazilian has over-performed on expected goals dramatically, scoring three more than his expected two. The stats say that Aguero should have four goals but alas, his tally is one less than that. All of that suggests that Firmino is as good an option if not better than Aguero, whose City side have been in their biggest slump since last season.

 

In the underlying stats, ignoring the results, Aguero stands out in terms of his goal threat. He has had eight more shots than Firmino (23) with the vast majority of those coming from inside the box (19) where the chances of scoring are much higher. Whilst he has only slightly underperformed on xG overall, he has done so having spurned three big chances – Firmino has been clinical and not done such in the last five games.

 

Firmino has found space to shoot in the box on eleven occasions in the period, certainly not a figure to be sniffed at. However where he stands out is in terms of chance creation. Aguero offers little in this department whilst Firmino is one of the main suppliers to his fellow Fab 4 remnants, Salah and Mané. The Brazilian has 10 attempted assists in the period, Aguero has had just six. That has resulted in Firmino creating three big chances whilst Aguero did so just once.

 

Furthermore, Firmino has proven himself to be a bonus magnet compared to Aguero. The Argentine struggles to accumulate the bonus rewards for his attacking returns, only being awarded 3 BAPs in the last five league games. Firmino has eight, largely thanks to his scoring but also aided by the fact that he is Liverpool’s first defender without the ball, applying pressure steadfastly to opposition defenders. Amongst PL forwards, he leads tackle figures by a country mile with 125 – nobody else has broken 90 yet (J. Ayew second with 88) whilst Firmino is second for interceptions on 55. These figures certainly help him secure BAPs where Aguero certainly wouldn’t!

 

The curveball option I mentioned was Callum Wilson, a player whose hat-trick early in the season spurred a lot of unrewarded transfers in for the player. In recent weeks his scoring has kept pace with Aguero even though he plays for the low-lying Cherries, with 31 points, 3 goals and an assist to boot in the last five gameweeks (where he played just four games). His underlying stats have been good too with the Englishman registering 13 shots in the box and four attempted assists. Solid numbers for a 5.7 price tag. Adding to his allure are the fact that he is unlikely to be rotated with Defoe and King injured and Bournemouth’s relatively straightforward fixtures in the upcoming blank gameweeks where they will face Newcastle (GW28 H) and West Brom (GW 31 H – as long as WBA lose to Liverpool in the cup).

 

My conclusion is that current Aguero-owners like myself should hold on for the next three gameweeks at minimum and Firmino owners should sit pretty as their player’s value continues to increase. However, if you happen to be trading down Morata or are for some other reason trying to choose between the duo, I recommend getting Firmino and distributing the surplus elsewhere in your team. As for Wilson? He’s a punt that could ably fit in as a Firmino owner’s third striker though for a team trying to balance out premium defenders and midfielders, he’s the best of the super cheap forward contingent to take up your second slot right now.

 

 

Captaincy Corner

 

Sergio Aguero (Newcastle H)

 

Nothing burns into an FPL manager’s memory more than a striker scoring five goals in one game – only five have done it: Andy Cole, Shearer, Defoe, Berbatov, and in 2015, Sergio Aguero… against Newcastle. No matter what, that moment sticks out in the mind and makes this fixture/player combo hard to ignore, especially when many other big teams’ strikers are out of form.

The above article pretty much focused on Aguero’s underlying stats and form of late, so you know that already. Newcastle have never been much more than mediocre this season except for a few flash results, however they have escaped the death spiral of eight losses in nine games which ran from the end of October until late November. Defensively they have tightened up too and don’t look as vulnerable as they previously did, however they rarely pick up clean sheets.

 

 

Mo Salah (Swansea A)

 

Carlos Carvalhal has now had five games in charge as Swansea and he thinks that he’s starting to see confidence improving at the Liberty Stadium. After beating Championship leaders Wolves in the FA Cup, he said: "We are building something. We are building momentum because victories are important. But more than this, we are building confidence and we are building a team." However by all accounts, Swansea were poor and Wolves were poorer, as both sides showed that their priorities lay with their respective league campaigns.

 

For Liverpool, this game won’t be a repeat of the 5-0 drubbing they gave the Swans in December, but it should still be a comfortable victory. For Salah, scoring is the norm and he has proven less-likely to blank than any player in the league all season. A safe choice for your armband.

 

 

Harry Kane (Southampton A)

 

Southampton’s luck hasn’t really changed since they were thrashed by Spurs over the festive period and Kane scored three. This weekend, Kane is chasing a record yet again as he was when he beat Shearer’s calendar goals record last time out against the Saints. Kane is just two off having scored 100 Premier League goals (He’s still 24!!) and you’d be brave to bet against him getting at least a brace on Sunday to get there.

 

 

Follow the entire Rotoworld Premier League team on Twitter: Neal | Steve | Andrew | Sean | Stag (me) | Ben | Galin | Nik |

 

Stag has been providing #FPL Tips since July 2015 and has been a contributor for Rotoworld.com since August 2016. He is a self-proclaimed wannabe fantasy football genius, a student, and die-hard tea enthusiast.

 






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