A break in Premier League fixtures generally means bad news for FPL managers, with international games causing injury troubles and momentum swings. However, the FA Cup 3rd Round has just rolled through in this domestic league break and it has provided FPL managers with some points of interest and lessons to be learnt heading into the next gameweek.
Manchester City Back to Blistering Best, as a Change in Penalty Pecking Order Reduces the Value of One while Increasing that of Another The FA Cup 3rd round provided fans with a glimpse of the Manchester City of old, where they would dominate the opposing team and go onto record a big win. A 5-0 trouncing of fellow Premier League team West Ham should light up the eyes of FPL managers, as Man City players performed well against decent opposition and thus built some form. However, on such a great night for City fans, something was not right. That something was the fact that Sergio Aguero was taken off penalty duty. FPL wise, this is bad news for Aguero owners, as 3 of his 11 Premier league goals in the 2016/17 season so far have come from the spot, with an impressive 17 of 21 (81%) conversion rate since his arrival at the Etihad. The 3 times Aguero has found the back of the net from the spot this season aided him in racking up FPL points, with 9 in GW1 against Sunderland, 13 in GW2 against Stoke and 13 again in GW6 against Swansea, also collecting 3 bonus on each occasion. However for FPL managers looking to bring in Manchester City players, Yaya Toure is a solid option. Upon Guardiola’s arrival at City, everyone thought it was the end of Yaya at Manchester City. However, after being reinstated into the first team as a regular starter in GW12 due to Gundogan’s injury and a poor run of discipline from Fernandinho, Yaya Toure has started to recapture form (3 goals in 7 starts with just under 2 shots per game on average) in the Premier League. An impressive showing in City’s first FA cup game saw Yaya being trusted to take Aguero’s place on penalty duty. Over the course of Yaya Toure’s career he has taken 14 penalties and is yet to miss (100% conversion - 14/14). If this change of roles continues in Premier league fixtures, it could very well be Yaya Toure that becomes an FPL must have from Manchester City, and at a value of £7.3 compared to Aguero’s £12.8, it is even more enticing.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Yaya Toure’s FPL potential is on the rise after a virtually invisible start to the 2016/17 Premier league season. Price Tag Isn’t Everything for Midfielders Midfield dilemmas have become all too common in FPL. Should managers bring in the highest valued players and sacrifice elsewhere in their team? Or, should they field a balanced squad with depth to allow for rotation and to minimise transfer costs in the case of injuries/suspension? In the 2016/17 Premier League season, midfield balance has become very common with many low budget players being handy additions to FPL squads. Players such as Robert Snodgrass (Hull - £5.8), Matt Phillips (West Brom - £5.8) and Dusan Tadic (Southampton - £7.0) have all provided beneficial returns and don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon with the FA Cup yet again showcasing there impact and the reliance that their respective teams put on them. Snodgrass has been the one shining light in a very poor Hull side this season, being directly involved (goal/assist) in 9 (53%) of Hull’s 17 total goals in the Premier League. This form carried over into Hull’s opening FA Cup tie against Swansea where Snodgrass managed 2 shots (both inside the box) and orchestrated Hull’s attacks from the number 10 position recording 1 assist. Hull’s cup win should increase team belief, aiding their fight to avoid relegation in the league. Like Snodgrass, Matt Phillips performed very well in his cup game, managing 1 goal from his 4 shots against Derby to continue his fantastic run of form that has already seen him find the back of the net 4 times and assist a further 9 goals for his team in the league this season. With West Brom losing their cup tie, Phillips can concentrate on league performances, improving on his impressive 3.6 goal scoring opportunities per game from midfield. Another dangerous attacking threat is Serbian Dusan Tadic. After being restored to Southampton’s starting team in GW19, Tadic has regained some FPL potential managing 11 crosses into the box against West Brom in GW19, as well as an assist. This attacking potency continued in the FA Cup against Norwich, with Tadic registering 4 shots (2 on target), two more shots than any other player on the field, and also another assist. This is a good reason for FPL managers to contemplate a move for Tadic, who appears to thrive against lesser teams, and with away fixtures against Burnley, Swansea and Sunderland along with home games against Leicester and West Ham in the next 5 games, Tadic could be one of the highest point scorers in the coming weeks.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Form is very meaningful when looking for FPL points and these players are in top gear even if their respective teams aren’t and their prices are low. The Two Sides of Leicester Visible Once Again Leicester have had a strange season to date after the unbelievable highs of winning the title last season. Sitting 15th on the Premier League table and only a mere 4 points above the relegation positions, the Foxes have flourished in other domestic and international competitions. They have stamped their authority on the UEFA Champions League and have now got off to a very good start in the FA Cup by coming from 1-0 behind against a very good Everton side to win 2-1 and advance to the next round. What was so significant about this was that Leicester fought back without their two best attacking players, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, on the field along with the club’s all time record signing, striker Islam Slimani. Mahrez along with Slimani are on international duty with Algeria at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) who are tipped to go far in the tournament meaning both could be unavailable for around a month. However, it was another African player not featuring in AFCON that shone in the FA Cup fixture. Ahmed Musa came off the bench early (35th minute) after a thigh injury to Leo Ulloa and grabbed 2 goals from 4 shots (3 on target) in a 5 minute period in the second half. With Mahrez and Slimani out, Ulloa doubtful and Vardy currently not 100% fit, Musa is likely to be given more opportunities in the coming Premier League fixtures, with his versatility meaning that he could start anywhere across the forward line. Apart from the opening day of the season, Musa hasn’t completed 90 minutes since, with only 5 of his 14 appearances being starts. Musa has the potential to be a frequent goal and assist threat if given the opportunity, with an average of 2.4 shots and 1.5 big chances created per 90mins so far this Premier League season. This means he ranks ahead of Vardy (1.8) for shots and equal with Mahrez (1.5) for big chances created per 90mins.
KEY TAKEAWAY: If Musa can maintain the form shown in the FA Cup while other players are unavailable he could become a nailed on starter and pose as a very appealing option for £6.9.
Giroud’s Form Continues The FA Cup 3rd round gave football fans a good inclination that Arsenal, yet again, play down to the opposition’s level. Although Preston North End are not a side to be underestimated, Arsenal should have put the tie away pretty comfortably. However, this wasn’t the case, with Arsenal just getting past the Championship side with a 2-1 come from behind win on the back of yet another Olivier Giroud goal that came very late in the game. For FPL managers, another Giroud goal makes the £8.8 priced forward enticing, especially considering his miserly current ownership of only 4.7%. As a result, he could be a very good differential pick, particularly with fixtures against Swansea, Burnley, Watford and Hull in the coming weeks. Giroud is Arsenal’s go to man at the moment, with 6 of Arsenal’s 18 total shots in the FA Cup tie, one of those being the decisive game clinching goal by the Frenchman, as well as 2 aerial duels won and a respectable 81% pass accuracy. Giroud has now scored in 4 consecutive games in all competitions and has established himself as a reliable source of FPL points with 6 goals, 3 assists and 12 bonus points from his 13 Premier League appearances (3 starts) this season. KEY TAKEAWAY: Olivier Giroud has found his goal scoring touch again and there doesn’t appear to be anything lucky about it. In-form quality strikers find ways to score goals. Liverpool Falter While Chelsea Excel To win the Premier League title, squad depth is essential. However, if the FA Cup 3rd round is anything to gauge by, the two front runners in the league at the current time (Chelsea and Liverpool) are poles apart. Liverpool featured a weakened side against Plymouth Argyle (0 first team starters in the starting XI) and despite dominating the game, with77% possession and 28 shots (4 on target), only managed a 0-0 draw. Similarly, Chelsea also fielded a weaker team, with only 3 of the 11 starters in this match being regulars in the first team. However, in contrast to Liverpool who struggled, Chelsea completely destroyed Petersborough United 4-1, possessing the ball for 64% of the game and also registering a whopping 35 shots (13 on target). Although these match statistics are similar, Chelsea’s squad depth was evident whilst Liverpool’s was not, with squad rotation players performing well, particularly Michy Batshuayi who registered 8 shots (3 on target) with 1 goal and 1 assist, Nathaniel Chalobah (5 shots – 2 on target – and 1 assist), Kurt Zouma (3 tackles and winning 2 aerial duels) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek who recorded 5 shots (2 on target), 90% pass accuracy and 1 assist. Subsequently, these second string players coming into the starting XI doesn’t decrease Chelsea’s overall team strength too much. This allows nailed on starters such as Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, N’Golo Kante and Cesar Azpilicueta to be given much needed rest and recovery. Comparatively Liverpool’s regular starters Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge all had to be called upon as the rotation players given a start by Klopp did not perform. Kevin Stewart, who performed well with 6 shots, 96 passes at an 84% efficiency, 4 tackles and 2 aerial duels won, was the only Reds player that held his own and proved he is worthy of a spot in the first team in the future. Recent League starter Divock Origi was looking to regain his starting spot in this game, with Sadio Mane on international duty at AFCON. However, he performed well below the standard Klopp is after, even though he was up against a weaker side, and he only registered 3 shots, none of which were on target, and 15 passes in 90mins while fellow striker Daniel Sturridge gained the same amount of shots and 10 passes in 27mins off the bench.
KEY TAKEAWAY: If injury or long suspension to star players like Hazard, Costa, Coutinho and Firmino was to strike either team, Chelsea are far better equipped in player stocks to fill the void and continue surging to the title than Liverpool, who might fall off the pace without adequate replacements. Luke Scali