It’s hard to believe that we are now nine weeks into the season! Almost a quarter of the way through the Premier League, there are still many questions to be answered, both on the league side as well as for fantasy owners.
Looking at the table, it’s still a bit shocking to see the trio of West Ham United, Leicester City, and Crystal Palace fighting for that final Champions League spot. Meanwhile, raise your hand if you had Chelsea sitting in twelfth place at this point, with only three wins. No you didn’t. Stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself.
This weekend’s slate of matches offers up some very interesting possibilities. We have the Manchester Derby on Sunday, with all the passion and hatred it invokes. We have a matchup between Palace and Leicester that nobody in the world thought would see two top-five sides facing off. And then we have the relegation royale that is Newcastle against Sunderland, with a crucial three points on the line for both sides.
With so many intriguing storylines, here are five questions to ponder as you set your fantasy lineups this weekend.
What can we expect in the Manchester Derby?
Anytime you have Manchester United and Manchester City facing off, there are so many ways the match could go. However, this weekend’s match is a bit unpredictable, not just about the result but the lineups themselves. It’s rare to have the clash come during a Champions League week, but that’s what we face on Sunday. United will be coming off of a trip to Moscow for a Wednesday match, which is one they need to win. Not only do you have to consider travel fatigue, but with the importance of a win, Louis Van Gaal might be uncomfortable rotating the lineup.
On the flip side, the Citizens host Sevilla, who actually need a win more than United in the continental tournament, because….well….they don’t have one yet. After a pair of 2-1 losses to both Juventus and Monchengladbach, Manchester City will likely be dead in the water with a loss tomorrow to the visiting Spanish side. With Aguero and Silva still out, their roster will likely be stretched just as thin. And if that weren’t enough to throw some wrenches into everything, the referee for the Derby is one Mark Clattenburg. It’s only his second Manchester Derby, with the first one being the infamous 6-1 City win in which he sent off Jonny Evans. What happens Sunday is anybody’s guess, as for who will be playing, well that might just end up being a guessing game as well.
Why are people still not convinced by Jamie Vardy?
When you ask someone who the top forwards in the Premier League are, you will get the same names. Aguero. Sanchez. Hazard. Kane. Isn’t it time to mention Jamie Vardy in that same category? There are still owners out there in fantasy Premier League that feel he has not proven himself, and to me (at least) it is a baffling notion. Not only to me, but a terrific article in the Guardian this morning has posed the same question. As the article points out, nobody in the Premier League has created more chances at striker than the Leicester City front man. He has also now scored in six consecutive Premier League matches, and a goal this weekend would see him join only five others in the Premier League era with seven matches in a row. That list includes names like Shearer, Henry, and van Nistelrooy, pretty elite company.
Granted, the six match streak has included some poor competition in Stoke City, Aston Villa, and Norwich City. However, he’s scored against Arsenal and West Ham in that same period, both of whom, if the season ended today, would be playing in Europe next season. And yet, Vardy was only selected by 37% of teams in the official BPL game this weekend at a cost of 6.9m—compared to Aguero (who costs 13.1m), Gomis (who costs 7.1), Lukaku (8.4m), and Diego Costa (11.0m), that is beyond a steal, it’s downright criminal! Those of us who got on board the Vardy Express early have reaped the benefits. To the rest of the owners out there who don’t have him, what more do you need to see before you buy in?
Why hasn’t Jurgen Klopp turned Liverpool around yet?
The Liverpool hero failed to win his first match, he might be on the hot seat already! (Just kidding)
Ok, ok. He’s going to obviously need some time. However, looking at the lineup of players that he has, I’m not sure that he has what he needs to run his style. Klopp wants a high pressure, in-your-face style of play that Liverpool, as evidenced by the performance against Spurs, simply cannot provide right now for a full ninety minutes. They were great for the first half an hour, but they wore down as the match went on and allowed Liverpool to control the match.
The manager also faces a decision when Daniel Sturridge is fit again, as he does not like to play a two-striker system. It is well documented that the English forward despises playing on the wing, but will Klopp have no choice to deploy him there? And if so, will it cause issues in the locker room? It is likely that the German manager will make numerous changes in the transfer window come January, but will Liverpool find any sort of footing before then?
Is it ok to trust Newcastle again?
You haven’t won a match in the Premier League all season, and you just got embarrassed the week before, allowing six goals against your defense. What is the appropriate response?
Well, Newcastle found it—you go out and score six of your own against the next poor team you play. That is exactly what the Magpies did, turning it on in the second half against Norwich City and rolling to a 6-2 win. Georginio Wijnaldum grabbed a four-pack of goals for himself and rewarded the 3.5% of owners in the official BPL game who started the midfielder. Even fewer owned fellow scorer Ayoze, with 1.1% of all players taking a chance on him. And with good reason—Newcastle came into the match having scored six goals in eight matches, while conceding seventeen. As a fantasy owner, you look at a Newcastle player and you move on.
But is it time to rethink that? Sure, it was Norwich they beat, a side currently sitting only three points ahead of Newcastle. But when you consider that their next three matches are against Sunderland, Stoke City, and Bournemouth, it might not be a bad time to buy low. Stoke has only allowed ten goals in nine matches, but Bournemouth and Sunderland have combined to give up 38 goals in that time frame. With that fixture list, are you willing to take a second look at Newcastle for your fantasy lineups?
What exactly is sixty minutes?
Ok, a quick math question. (Math? I wasn't told there would be any math!)
A match lasts ninety minutes. A player comes off at 59:42 of the match, and is replaced by another player. If player B plays 30:18 and player A plays 59:42, then by the common means of rounding, Player A would get credit for 60 minutes, and Player B would get 30 minutes. Right? Not according to the Official FPL game.
An interesting conversation once again reared its head this weekend. Owners of Cedric Soares were the victims of this exact situation--and they were only given credit for 59 minutes, which cost them a clean sheet bonus. Many of them were upset, none moreso than Rotoworld's "Bargain Hunter", Steve Rothgeb, who sent an 812 word letter to the league:
Wrote to FPL Re: Cedric situation. Im including the letter here, broken into 2 screenshots-hope its readable. RT plz pic.twitter.com/E4Xd17lgha— Steve Rothgeb (@FuzzyWarbles) October 18, 2015
This is a valid question. Why is it that a player who plays less time in an individual minute gets rounded up, but the player who played almost the full minute does not? I've been the victim of this myself numerous times, and it's maddening to say the least. Does he have a complaint here, or is this just something that he should accept and deal with?
Let us know your views on these questions as we head into Week 10 in the Premier League!