This moment has been in the back of my mind since the calendar rolled into 2019... There was never a concrete date when my departure from this space would take hold, but I knew that my time was certain to run out before the start of March. Fear not, however, I am not leaving Never Manage Alone. The time of year has come when I must change the focus of my fantasy pursuits from foreign (for me) to domestic, as the Major League Soccer (MLS) season kicks off on March 2nd.
I will still be lurking, and prognosticating, in the dark shadowy corners of the comment sections as we prepare for each FPL deadline across the site. As MLS continues to garner respect from the world footballing community, having the opportunity and platform to fly the flag for a league I first began to follow as a youngster in 1998 carries with it a sense of patriotism that I cannot pass up.
All the gushing over the MLS fantasy season is for future articles. But, the waning days of February give us one more game-week deadline, primed with a full slate of midweek action. Four teams absent from week 27 return to the field. And, there are plenty of strategic talking points as the schedule begins to get extra wonky with blanks and double game-weeks starting to take form in the not so distant future. Alas, the focal point of this article adheres strictly to the here and now, week 28.
Alisson Becker, Liverpool (£6.0m)
Liverpool own by far the best defensive unit in the Premier League. Alisson is the anchor at the back. He already touts the moniker of highest scoring goalkeeper. Expectations is that the Brazilian maintains a firm stranglehold on the keeper scoring charts. It would be prudent to make sure that your team has two Liverpool defensive assets, split however you like, for the season run in.
David De Gea, Manchester United (£5.7m)
The United defensive performance against Liverpool was sound, and greatly reassuring. De Gea went largely untested throughout the match. The greatest concern for Solskjaer’s defensive unit will be the amount of attacking play they will be forced to take on as injuries continue to compromise key attacking assets. The Spaniard has shown recently that he is up for the task when called upon as the last line of defense.
Bernd Leno, Arsenal (£4.8m)
The Unai Emery’s defensive tactics may finally be taking hold for Arsenal. Leno led the defense to its third clean sheet since taking over the starting job. The number of shots that the Gunners concede will always be a little worrying, but the fantasy goodness that can come from a combination saves and clean sheets is a tantalizing risk versus reward proposal.
Rui Patricio, Wolverhampton (£4.5m)
Wolves’ defense will attract plenty of attention as the host a goal-starved Huddersfield team.
Andrew Robertson, Liverpool (£6.4m)
Another Liverpudlian, go figure. For the sake of actual analysis, be alert for a TAA return. Klopp hinted at it during the last pregame interview. There are no wrong choices in the Liverpool defense against “best of the rest” 7th-place Watford.
Matt Doherty, Wolverhampton (£5.4m)
Doherty has been an attacking menace all season. He earned the penalty, or FPL assist if you prefer, that netted Wolves their point over the weekend. When you combine his attacking prowess with the best opportunity for a clean sheet, it is risky to enter this game-week without him given the widespread ownership.
Lucas Digne, Everton (£5.3m)
Clean sheets are the staple of a defensive strategy, but Digne, and Everton, are not going to provide that. The Frenchman’s attacking pursuits provide the highest ceiling for any defender not named Robertson, Alonso, or Doherty.
Sead Kolasinac, Arsenal (£5.1m)
Like Doherty above, Kolasinac carries a heavy load in the Arsenal attack. Henrikh Mkhitaryan popped up this week, but the defender is still the most influential attack creator for the Gunners. The clean sheet momentum could very easily carry on for another week, especially if Laurent Koscielny makes a return to the starting lineup.
DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle (£4.5m)
Something is happening at Newcastle. It is amazing what a few transfers can do for a team. Do you hear that Tottenham? The focus that Almiron drew in his home debut opened up play for Yedlin on the outside. He also made the all important assist-to-the-assist on the second Magpie goal.
Leroy Sane, Manchester City (£9.5m)
With the Carabao Cup match going all the way to penalties, Sane should have a great opportunity to be reintroduced in the midweek match. The calls to sell are premature yet understandable given his recent downturn in minutes.
Paul Pogba, Manchester United (£8.8m)
With the rash of injuries piling up on United this past weekend, the attacking impetus now falls squarely on the shoulders of Paul Pogba. His integration with Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku will be key in breaking down a stern Crystal Palace defense.
Pascal Gross, Brighton (£6.7m)
Gross has looked reinvigorated over the month of February, recapturing the form that made him find favor in the eyes of many fantasy managers last season. The quantities of both shots and chances created provide plenty of optimism as Brighton enter a run of favorable games through game-week 36.
Miguel Almiron, Newcastle (£6.0)
He looked the real deal in his home debut. Had he shown the confidence to finish with his right foot, the talk would be centered around the goal he clearly should have finished. His pace played havoc with the Huddersfield defense. Almiron provided everything expected of a number-ten in a near complete performance. It will be interesting to see what answers Burnley have for his pace.
James Ward-Prowse, Southampton (£5.1m)
The new-manager shine has worn off of the Saints’ performances over the past couple of matches. However, the leaky Fulham side should provide some opportunity to recapture some enthusiasm before a tough stretch of games through week 33. With the underwhelming forward options, the buccaneering midfielder should have a role to play in this week’s relegation six-pointer.
Sergio Aguero, Manchester City (£11.6m)
The penalty taker on the league’s best offensive outfit is coming off back-to-back FPL hat tricks and playing at his home feasting grounds. Recommending any other forwards in the premium bracket seems dangerous, given his recent form and match-up against mid-table Hammers.
Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton (£6.8m)
With his penalty against Bournemouth, the Mexican striker has now reached the double-digit plateau. Jimenez continues to find himself on the ends of plenty of scoring chances. And, the matchup with Huddersfield only amplifies his prospect for fantasy goodness in week 28.
Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace (£6.7m)
Zaha was able to capitalize on two scoring opportunities this past weekend. It is amazing how much a competent forward can help drive the fantasy prospects of other players on the pitch. He will have quite the match-up this game-week, likely being paired against Ashley Young on the left-hand side of the pitch.
Chris Wood, Burnley (£6.2m)
Burnley is on the cusp of the form that saw them qualify for Europa League in 2017-18. The Clarets saw the reintroduction of two key midfielders as they were able to topple Tottenham. The center of the attack was target man Chris Wood. The Australian’s header was his fourth goal in as many games. After a slow start to the season, his chase for double-digit goals looks to be back on.
Salomon Rondon, Newcastle (£5.8m)
The attacking presence that Rondon has brought to Newcastle has to be the most significant of any club on the cusp of relegation. His ability to regularly play scorer and provider is fantasy double-threat. As the Magpies continue to emerge, and with the Newcastle run to the end of the season looking quite good, Rondon could become a pivotal fantasy option.
Midweek action always seems to lead to abnormally high scoring totals. If you are investing heavily in the transfer market this game-week, the attacking side of the pitch is where the focus should go.
Midweek action always brings with it a few surprises. Whom of the above do you favor for the upcoming game-week? Which players have caught your eye that missed my list? (e.g. Would you buy any Chelsea or Tottenham players as they square off this game-week?) Let us know in the comments below!