Stag’s Take – Gameweek 32
I’m sure I’m not the only FPL manager who woke up on Thursday morning wondering if the last few minutes of GW31 were anything but a dream. My own side had done well on the first evening thanks to my captain Vardy and Ibrahimovic’s late penalty, but it appeared deeply wounded on Wednesday for a long time. Then suddenly out of the breach came goals from Yoshida, Alli and then an Alli assist to ice the cake. Ward-Prowse on my bench joined the fun too as did my former midfielder Josh King. It was a crazy end to a low-scoring gameweek, but it was one which saw my team take green arrows again and continue its ascent up the overall rankings.
The important decision I made in the short interval between GW30 and 31 was to use my wildcard chip, allowing me to plan ahead for the hectic season climax and double gameweeks (DGW). In this column, I’m going to share my team and explain my broad plan for the final weeks. Even if you’re not using your wildcard yet, this should give you plenty of food for thought in terms of the signings you’ll make.
Here is my side which was line out in gameweek 32. I don’t intend on making transfers but I may find a way to start JWP and I’m getting cold feet on starting Yoshida. That’s not why we’re here though.
Goalkeepers – Valdes and Jakupovic
Due to my policy of holding off on making transfers until later in the week, I’ve got a relatively low team value compared to many. On one hand, that is a reason for this pairing, but there’s more to it.
Firstly, their fixtures rotate quite well, allowing me to avoid top six teams until the final day of the season:
bou & SUN
I’m not sure if I’ll hold onto Valdes beyond his golden DGW34 though, I may use a free transfer to acquire someone else for the weekend I use my bench boost in DGW37… I’ll see! Of course, that double gameweek is the main reason for having the Spaniard though – Boro don’t exactly fill me with confidence in their current plight. I’m not a huge fan of the fact that most of the Hull games are away from home, given that their revival under Silva has principally been due to the Tigers’ masterful performances in their own den at the KCOM stadium. However, they’re both cheap and the best I can hope for is the odd clean sheet and maybe a penalty save from them. Another similarly priced option is Pickford, who picks up save points often but rarely clean sheets. His side has solid fixtures from GW33-37. Lee Grant’s fixtures are also appetising from GW33-36.
Ben Davies 4.8
With Danny Rose absent, the Welshman has deputised ably in his absence, providing us with a relatively cheap entry into the formidable clean sheet machine that is Spurs’ defence. They have only two fixtures against fellow European spot contenders in their run-in, versus United and Arsenal which means a bunch of clean sheets are likely as the title race continues. Davies himself is an attack-minded full-back. This is borne out in his stats from the last six gameweeks: He is fifth of all PL defenders in the period with 7 key passes, 6 of which led to shots on target. He also attempted 18 crosses, four of which met their mark. This compares positively with his much lauded compatriot Kyle Walker, who failed to complete any of his 12 crosses in the 6 matches. His goal threat is pretty miniscule, attempting a shot every second game, with only one shot on target in the last 6 games. Regardless, Davies is great value for money and has DGW37 to come.
Maya Yoshida 4.3
Yoshida bailed me out in gameweek 31 with his goal against Palace, but it was rich reward for the man who had had 4 shots in the box in the period, 3 of which hit the target. Furthermore, he is cheap entry into the Southampton defence which has kept 10 clean sheets this term. Southampton have some decent fixtures and two DGWs to come, it’s pretty essential to have them covered.
Eric Bailly 5.3
Manchester United are going through a turbulent season under Mourinho, but their defence has been their strongest asset with 11 shutouts. Bailly is nailed on for the foreseeable future thanks to long-term injuries to Jones and Smalling, and has done well since breaking back into the team in GW24, picking up six bonus points (3 pairs) and 3 cleanies in that period. It’s unfortunate that the Red Devils have an awkward set of fixtures to contend with, but it’s important to have a Man United defender as a blocking tactic for any clean sheets the popular Valencia earns and in order to cash in on their DGWs.
Alfie Mawson 4.6
I’m pretty shocked that Mawson’s ownership is still as low as it is given all the 4 goals he has scored since becoming a permanent fixture in Swansea’s starting xi since GW14. He continues to be as attacking as before, going close a few times in the last six matches with his 9 goal attempts – the second most of any defender in the league in that period. The Swans have some winnable games where clean sheets will be possible before the season draws to a close. Given that they will be playing for their PL status right until the end, you should try and get Mawson or one of his cheaper teammates like Kyle Naughton into your side.
Mason Holgate 4.0
I wanted a cheap Everton defender as a blocking tactic for any clean sheets that Baines or Williams could get, Holgate gives me that option as he stands in for the injured Seamus Coleman. The Toffees have decent fixtures and should add to their 11 clean sheets this season – I won’t miss those easy points when it happens.
Notes on defenders
In researching this article, I noticed that Joel Matip and Robert Huth have been particularly dangerous in the opposition’s final third of late. The latter has had the most shots and shots on target of all defenders in the last 6 weeks, while also benefitting from the incredible upsurge in results since Ranieri was unceremoniously dumped by the Foxes. Leicester do have decent fixtures before the season ends and perhaps one of their backline should be considered. However, it is Matip’s Liverpool who have an unprecedentedly straight-forward final stretch. The German born Cameroonian has had 7 shots in the box in 6 gameweeks, though his accuracy has failed him completely thus far. He should definitely go on your watchlist. Sunderland’s Billy Jones stuck out too, with 5 shots in the box, 10 touches in the box and 8 key passes in the last 6 weeks. If Defoe and is men burst into a late purple patch, Jones should benefit and could perhaps be an option for DGW37.
These players explain themselves. I detailed the abilities of Zaha in last week’s column, coming to the conclusion that the Eagles man is fixture proof and will punish you if you neglect to transfer him in. Sigurdsson has entered his worst patch production-wise since the Christmas pile-up, going 3 gameweeks without any attacking return. Of all my choices, he was the one who I wasn’t sure of, and if I had the budget I would have instead opted for Coutinho of Liverpool. Alli and Sanchez are two of the league’s best players, still providing value for their steep costs. It should be noted that Eriksen is 0.3 cheaper than Alli and has some superior stats in the last 6 gameweeks.
Here’s a table comparing them:
Final Third Passes
Shots in the box
Shots on Target
As you can see, Alli’s shots come inside the box while most of Eriksen’s don’t. While he does manage to score a few of them, I’ll let his owners salivate over the odd goal while I enjoy Alli’s more dependable returns.
Ward-Prowse is an interesting differential pick for my 5th slot. He takes corners and set pieces, has pops at goal more than once per game, and makes a few key passes. In an ideal world, I would have instead bought Nathan Redmond, who is returning to form since Puel has started to play him on the left-wing. He has 3 goals in 4 weeks and should do well as the season draws to a close and the Saints has DGW action.
As a matter of a rule, I’m going to be hesitant to remove Lukaku from my team for the rest of the season. He’s playing for a move away and is still leading the golden boot as it stands. Ibrahimovic will stay in my team until United play DGW34, though I may trade him to free up funds to invest in my midfield at that point – perhaps to get Coutinho. I’m also ready to jettison Vardy if I need to. He has been on-song in recent weeks, but if he is failing to justify his price tag I’ll remove him without too much hesitation. I’m keeping tabs on the recoveries of Kane, Gabbiadini, and Gabriel Jesus with interest. All three men may find their way into my side with DGWs for each of them.
Dele Alli (Watford H)
Spurs midfielder Dele Alli led his side’s late late show on Wednesday night with a goal and an assist in a matter of minutes. The England international is “FPL Gold” at this point, and should be strongly considered for captaincy, especially with Kane still ruled out. I alluded to his stats over the last six gameweeks in the comparison with Eriksen above. What I didn’t add to that was the fact that his underlying information is matched by his output with 4 goals and 3 assists in that period. He’s certainly worth consideration.
Sergio Aguero (Hull H)
Hull manager Marco Silva hasn’t lost a domestic home game in three years having managed three teams in the period. At Hull that has amounted to 7 wins and a draw, with 18 scored and 7 conceded. Therefore, it’s a pity for me and other Aguero non-owners that this game is happening 95 miles down the M62 motorway at the Etihad…
In spite of City’s struggles and being dropped for the first time in his City career this season, Aguero still has 15 league goals. His most recent couple came against Top six rivals Chelsea and Arsenal. He hasn’t “lost it” like many suggest, he’s just expensive in FPL. I’ll be watching this game from behind my couch.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sunderland A)
Zlatan made a heroic return from injury to rescue a point for Man United at home to Everton in GW31. The composure he displayed again reminded us why he considers himself to be a lion and all other strikers in the division to be just “players”. The penalty was his 16th of the season, with his goal tally making up over 37% of his mighty club’s total goals scored. Against the hapless Sunderland, Ibrahimovic is United’s most likely man and a stellar captaincy choice.