Neal Thurman

FPL Draft

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Transfer Deadline Thoughts

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A couple of random thoughts before we get to the player-by-player analysis of how you should be thinking about the late arrivals and departures in the January window.  
Are Things Better At Arsenal?
The answer to this question could actually be somewhere between novella and novel length in the right hands (and those who have been reading the column for a while know I can turn even a fairly straight forward topic into a couple of pages).  That said, I'll try to be fairly succinct about this and the answer is "it depends on what you mean by better". 
Are they likely to compete for a top four spot based on the new talent that has arrived? Probably not. Aubameyang is an improvement over Lacazette and Mkhitaryan is a credible replacement for Sanchez (see below) but they still have Granit Xhaka letting every attacking midfielder in the Prem fly past him, a thin and injury-prone central defense, and a goalkeeper in Petr Cech who seems to be falling off a cliff performance-wise. 
Are they better set up for a top four challenge next season? Well, since they went into the January window facing down the possibility of losing their two best attackers for nothing come the summer and left it with one of those two, Ozil, resigned along with a new, better center forward in Aubameyang and another creative attacker in Mkhitaryan all signed for at least three seasons then the answer is clearly "yes".  There is still the above work to do at GK, CB, and DM but that seems achieveable.  Especially given...
Are they better set up for the long run?  The worry for quite some time has been that Wenger controlled all aspects of the operation and that a) he wasn't doing very well with that massive list of responsibilities and b) regardless of how well he was performing, his departure would leave a massive gap when he eventually left.  If this transfer window is any evidence, the power has started to be taken from him.  The link to high profile players who Arsenal have failed to attract in recent years speak to Sven Mislintat (ex-of Dortmund) and Raul Sanllehi (big deal maker ex-of Barcelona) rising in power.  Wenger never spent big on older attackers like Mkhitaryan or Aubameyang and certainly never did it in January so presumably some new voices have been heard during this window.  More still needs to be done but there is at least some reason for hope as the Gunners start to visibly move on from the Wenger era. 
City's Spending Power
If City had purchased Riyad Mahrez as a two-month rental to cover for Leroy Sane and paid in excess of £50m for the pleasure then I think it would have been reasonable to call time on even the appearance of financial fair play in the Premier League.  Yes, revenues are growing but it isn't like City are the massive brand that Manchester United are from a commercial standpoint.  They aren't actually generating stadium naming rights or shirt sponsorship dollars from a company outside the control of club ownership.  The notion that they can keep buying £40m to £60m players at every position (and going two deep at some positions at those prices) is just a bit of a mockery.  At least when Chelsea were buying titles it was within the supposed rules and they've adjusted by creating a pool of players they can sell off to balance the books in times of large transfers.  I don't have anything against City, per se, the football is beautiful to watch and they are clearly the Premier League's best hope of returning to Champions League glory.  That said, I'm not particularly interested in the Premier League turning into the Bundesliga where an all-powerful club is presumed to win the title every year and only occasionally does a real challenger emergy.  
Mahrez vs Other Options
Now, despite the fact that City didn't buy Mahrez and the player shouldn't have wanted to go there for a 7-week audition as a starter at a big club before fading onto the bench behind some combination of Sterling, Sane, Aguero, De Bruyne, and Jesus, that doesn't mean that Mahrez shouldn't have moved in the transfer window.  I look at what Barcelona spent to pick up Coutinho and wonder at why someone, looking at you Liverpool and Arsenal didn't dive in.  For my money, I'd rather have Mahrez than Coutinho and, at the very least, I'd consider them to be of roughly equivalent value.  I don't know what Mahrez is going to go for in the summer, and he will be sold, but frankly, if I were Arsenal and going to spend £350,000/week on a player as they did in resigning Ozil, I'd rather have Mahrez for a fee and say £250,000/week than Ozil for no fee and £350,000.  Likewise, if I'm Liverpool and figuring out how to replace Coutinho (which, let's be clear, they already have done by spending on Oxlade-Chamberlain, VVD and Keita) then I'm more interested in spending a premium for Mahrez rather than Oxlade-Chamberlain.  

If we're looking at revisionist history, I'd also have preferred Mahrez to Alexis if I were Manchester United and Chelsea could certainly have used a jolt in attack either over the summer or this past month.  Really, Manchester City is the only team in the Premier League where Mahrez wouldn't have been an upgrade this January and apparently they were the only club who made an offer.  

Transfer Analysis
Okay, now for the main attraction.  Here are some quick takes on the major moves that went down over the final few days of the transfer window and how draft FPL managers should be thinking about the various players in question.  
Alexis Sanchez
He was owned in all leagues before his move and he'll be owned in all leagues after his move so, for practical purposes, there's no difference in terms of squad management or making transfers.  The hope for managers who do own him is that he'll start coming closer to approaching the guy we saw last season rather than the ball of Chilean frustration that we've been dealing with thus far in this campaign.  You were probably starting him most weeks anyway but until he starts clashing with Mourinho, he is a wide attacker after all, you'll be starting him every week now.
Rashford and Martial were already frustrating because they were essentially in a fairly unpredictable timeshare. Now, assuming that Matic, Pogba, and Mata play either all the time (Matic and Pogba) or most of the time (Mata) that means one spot to share between Rashford, Martial, and Lingard.  When they play, each should be fairly productive but figuring out when that might happen is going to be agonizing.  Mata might also see his time drop.  Use the next couple of weeks to evaluate whether any of the above are worth keeping as anything more than a substitute, if that.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
He's going to start and he's going to be good.  He should be the number one waiver wire claim by a mile.
Despite his high transfer price in the summer he appears to be at risk.  Very few clubs are currently playing with two central forwards and neither Aubameyang nor Lacazette seems well-suited to play in a wider role vacated by Alexis.  This isn't a call to drop Lacazette but he's definitely a risk to see far less playing time.  
The Armenian can't help but see his value go up moving from a place, Old Trafford, where he was barely playing to a place, Arsenal, that desperately needs him to make an impact.  There is no guarantee that he'll succeed but the first piece, increased playing time, is certainly forthcoming.
Alvaro Morata
No, he hasn't moved at the deadline but the arrival of a proven Premier League goal-scorer in Olivier Giroud combined with Morata's poor form could spell reduced opportunity.  This isn't to suggest that Giroud becomes the starter but something closer to a timeshare seems possible. 

His move to Stamford Bridge moves him from fantasy afterthought to plausible bench player in 8-team draft leagues.  In deeper leagues he could even be an occasional starter. 

Marcos Alonso/Emerson Palmieri
Alonso has been one of Chelsea's best players this season so it seems unlikely that Palmieri will displace him significantly.  That said, Chelsea will likely rotate Alonso at least occasionally meaning Alonso goes from being perhaps the most valuable defender in this game format this season to being somewhere in the top tier but a risk to be rotated at any given time now that there's an option.  Palmieri would be a great grab to handcuff Alonso but likely won't play enough to be worth picking up for managers who don't have Alonso as well. 

Since Manchester City have been applying band aids to the left back spot for most of the season Laporte's arrival will probably see him fill that spot for the balance of this campaign and provides fantasy managers with a potential top tier defender without actually taking any playing time from another top tier defender.

Andre Ayew
Swansea need goals.  Swansea are playing much better after their managerial switch.  Andre Ayew wasn't playing much at West Ham despite the East London club's rash of injuries.  The factors are coming together for Ayew to have a second half of the season that makes him a viable pick-up as a fringe starter/useful reserve in 8-team leagues.
Lucas Moura
Moura is a big name and is coming from a big club but it's really hard to know what to expect from an attacking midfielder who has had some good, but not transcendent, Ligue Un seasons.  Moura's stats are better at a similar age to Moussa Sissoko's in Ligue Un but it's hard to tell how much of that is Moura being a better player and how much is PSG being dominant while Sissoko's Toulouse clubs were just so-so.  Throw in how difficult it has been for anyone to immediately break into the Spurs first team and it's hard to imagine Moura, despite his big name and fee, being more than a valuable reserve for the balance of 2017-18. 
We know he can be a prolific forward.  We know he gets hurt a lot.  We know West Brom struggle to create chances for their forwards.  Put all of that into the mixer and what we get is a lottery ticket worth buying as a consolation prize if you don't land Aubameyang on waivers. 

Guido Carrillo
Carrillo has been a bit-part player at Monaco over the past two and a half seasons albeit one who scores at a solid rate in limited playing time.  The question is what he will do with a full time job.  The Saints certainly need an answer at forward and paid enough that they clearly expect him to be the answer.  Consider him a second tier option if you need a forward going into the waiver period. 

From next to no playing time to presumably being in the starting eleven for the Magpies means he goes from being fantasy-irrelevant to being a worthy pick-up.  Matt Ritchie could see his value improve as well with a more traditional target man to potentially head home his crosses. 

He's staying put at Leicester City but these unfulfilled deadline day dramas rarely happen without the player going into a bit of a sulk.  Mahrez was great in the wake of summer rumors so maybe it won't happen here but there is at least some reason to be concerned. 
Good luck on the wavier wire and if you have any questions, feel free to ask on Twitter @nealjthurman

Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
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