Straight to the questions.
1> Dare we not commit as much as possible to Manchester City attacking options?
It’s no secret that City have been on fire this season. Burnley’s visit raised the blue half of Manchester’s goal hoard to 32 after 9 league matches. Goals are coming from many places right now, but the attacking squad members are all doing their part so far:
- Gabriel Jesus: 6 goals and 1 assist in 495 minutes.
- Kun Aguero: 7 goals and 3 assists in 543 minutes.
- Raheem Sterling: 6 goals and 2 assists in 478 minutes.
- Kevin De Bruyne: 1 goal and 6 assists in 752 minutes
- David Silva: 1 goal and 6 assists in 784 minutes
- Leroy Sane: 5 goals and 4 assists in 498 minutes
It’s a startling set of numbers over 9 game weeks. Next up is a WBA side who may be without Johnny Evans and Craig Dawson. Tony Pulis will park a bus for sure, but the stats say it won’t be enough, he’s gonna need a bigger
boat sorry bus!
We saw in week 9 just how difficult Pep Guardiola can make things for a fantasy manager, resting Jesus and Sterling. Sterling was the bigger surprise as he had been subbed early in the midweek Champions League game.
Following WBA, City travel to Napoli before hosting Arsenal in game week 11. Somewhere in that trio of games, we can expect a bench role for one of his many stars, but guessing who and when is almost impossible.
We could start by avoiding those playing the midweek League Cup game, but consider any who don’t as great value against WBA. While there is little worse than a benched player, City’s assets combined with the Baggies injuries make it a bold plan to go without anyone from Pep’s attack.
2> Are Liverpool due a goal explosion at Anfield, or have the weaker-on-paper sides figured out how to frustrate Klopp’s playing style?
The Reds have one of the most fluid and entertaining styles of play driven by one of the game’s most positive managers. In their four home league games so far this season, they have averaged 23.8 shots per game. Of those, an average 9.3 have been on target.
In those four games, they scored six goals, however four were in one game against a shambolic Arsenal performance. In the other three matches, they faced Palace, Burnley and Manchester United who all set up with a defensive plan to stifle Liverpool’s system. The stats at Anfield:
- Mohamed Salah: 4 goals and 1 assist in 593 minutes
- Sadio Mane: 3 goals in 365 minutes
- Phillipe Coutinho: 2 goals and 1 assist in 326 minutes
- Roberto Firmino: 2 goals and 2 assists in 564 minutes.
Huddersfield’s surprise win over Manchester United will bring them to Anfield full of confidence. ‘Pool meanwhile had their title fantasies dented by the pasting that Spurs meted out at Wembley on Sunday.
Liverpool are at their best when there is space to run behind the opposition, and Huddersfield’s normal defensive system allows that. It remains to be seen if the Terriers play so boldly when feeling good about themselves.
It’s also one of those games with a side story, as Klopp faces David Wagner who was his best man at his wedding. Beating your best friend at anything is a sweet as it comes. Klopp’s men should find their Anfield shooting boots soon and produce a scoreline that matches their attacking efforts.
Maybe there is also value at the other end of the ‘Pool: While no side has conceded more goals away from home in the whole of the Premier League, consider that the Reds’ defense have three clean sheets in four matches at home. Two of those came against United and Arsenal who, despite their form and tactics, have some of the league’s most capable attackers.
A closer look sees some value in Liverpool’s expected back four. Since returning from injury, Joseph Gomez may now have secured the right back position. He has played the last four league games and started six of nine overall. At Anfield, Gomez leads the stats in highest average interceptions per game (2.3) and sits second in both successful tackles per game (3.3) and blocks per game (0.7). Gomez costs 4.5 in FPL and under 6 in Fantrax, so he looks a worthwhile value pick.
Finally, after Dejan Lovern had “one of those games”, it’s not beyond the possibility that Ragnar Klavan could get a start. Klavan is just 4.3m in FPL
3> Is week 10 a good time to play our Free Hit chip?
We could hold onto the chip until the double weeks roll around, but we cannot be sure which teams and players will be involved when that happens.
The alternative is to look at week 10 as a possible time where the Free Chip choice is a good one. What with the City rotation, injuries, and tough fixtures for Phil Jones and Romelu Lukaku, many fantasy managers will have a nervous wait for the starting 11’s in game week 10.
To that you can add my nagging doubt and small suspicion with the “Harry Kane was tired” excuse for his substitution against Liverpool on Sunday. Kane clearly held his hamstring, suggesting an injury similar to what has taken Paul Pogba, Sadio Mane, Josh King, N’golo Kante, Alvaro Morata and others out of our fantasy football choices. Mauricio Pochettino was quick to put our minds at ease. When asked about Kane’s substitution he replied, “No. He was tired from the end. It was a massive effort at Bournemouth and today. It’s normal he’s a little tired. It will be no problem.”
That seems a pretty firm stance, but it doesn’t mean it’s the full truth. Perhaps Kane felt a tightening of the muscle, so his manager took no chances. A week’s rest may be enough, but even if just a tightening, it’s a warning that even Kane needs his minutes managed at times during a season. Spurs went 4-1 up on the 56th minute, and while Kane was hunting his first Premier League hat-trick of the season, the sensible move would/could have been to rest him with 20 minutes or so left.
Hamstring strain or not, a trip to Old Trafford isn’t going to be easy, or at least it doesn’t look so on paper. Huddersfield were in the right place at the right time to prosper from a flat effort, and Jose Mourinho certainly hammered home his dissatisfaction to his players. Jose loves a tactical challenge, and stopping Kane could be the biggest Premier League challenge apart from facing Pep’s men right now. Still, while Kane has proven he can score almost anywhere, it’s harder to see a brace from him this week.
So there are enough concerns to consider the chip, and there have already been plenty of stories with fantasy managers scoring with theirs. I took a very quick look and came up with this:
Otamendi, Gomez, Monreal
Silva, Richarlison, Sanchez, Coutinho
Vardy, Firmino, Jesus
Bench: Mariappa, Mbemba, McTominay
I have to say, I really like it. The obvious strong sides are covered, but I would be taking a risk that Jesus starts.
Should Jesus play 90 minutes in midweek, I can swap Jesus, Vardy, Sanchez and Otamendi to Kun, Laccazette, Ozil and Stones amongst many other combinations.
The Free Hit chip may be best played during double weeks, but week 10 is a great choice if that is not to your taste.
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