After posting a couple of blanks in recent gameweeks, the recap column is back and firing – this column is the Alexis Sanchez of the YIRMA family. The Chilean actually saw negative net transfers for the first time since 18 October with a total -9424 transfers ahead of his 19 point outing against Stoke City.
In response, he scored twice, set up the opener and embarked on a series of powerful runs that tore the Potters’ defense to shred. Alexis’ return was the best of the weekend and a reminder of why the former Barcelona man was courted by a number of teams before he decided to make the move to London. It was the second time this season he posted the top score of a gameweek (16 points in GW9) and the 19 point haul was good for the third-top score of the season (Tadic GW8 – 23pts; Vardy GW5 – 21pts).
The Gunners’ victory was one of eight, in a week which saw only two draws. Given the number of victories, it is a bit surprising that the total goals scored was as low as it was. Only the Arsenal 3-0 victory and a pair of 2-1 wins (Burnely and Crystal Palace) saw more than a brace scored and the 10 matches accounted for a total of 19 goals.
A number of other familiar names did find themselves on the score sheet with Diego Costa and Oscar netting in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Newcastle. Jose Mourinho’s men took a two-point lead at the top of the table behind the safe hands of No. 2 goalkeeper Petr Cech. The deputy was called upon following an injury to new No. 1 Thibaut Courtois. Courtois’ injury is not thought to be long-term and he is expected to be ready for their next match.
The Cech start was part of a wider trend of goalkeeper rotation that has taken root this term. 35 netminders have played at least 90′ and 36 ‘keepers have played in the League (Wayne Hennessey played 36’ GW9). Simon Mignolet is back between the sticks for Liverpool, Ben Hamer earned his sixth start on the spin and Joel Robles continues to fill-in for the injured Tim Howard. And at The Emirates, Wojciech Szczęsny was dropped for David Ospina. Following disciplinary concerns over smoking, the Polish international was named amoung the substitutes – costing his FPL managers a soft match and the clean sheet earned by his deputy.
“I don’t know, I haven’t made a decision yet,” said Wenger. “I made a decision for today’s game. Szczesny is our number one, he is competing with Ospina and Martinez and that’s our job, we have to accept.” This is an issue and an opportunity for fantasy premier league managers. Ospina is priced £4.8m and has a pair of enticing home fixtures in the coming four matches (Aston Villa in GW23 and Leicester in GW25) and would be a decent option to use in rotation with equally low cost Julian Speroni (£4.8m) or Tom Heaton (£4.6m). The Crystal Palace goalkeeper would be arguably the better long-term option with Burnley (a), Everton (H), Leicester (a) and Newcastle (H) in the next four while Heaton is better for straight rotation with the Gunner’s goalkeeper as the Clarets host Palace (GW22) and WBA (GW24).
Africa Cup of Nations and Asia Cup of Nations have taken some players out of contention, and created additional opportunities for others. Two players in particular have taken advantage early – Swansea City’s Bafétimbi Gomis recorded an assist on Mark Noble’s own goal and Manchester City’s Fernandinho hit his second goal in three matches. The two players are further linked by Wilfried Bony’s reported transfers to The Etihad. With a mooted £30m move on the cards, Bony’s fantasy managers have already begun to jump ship with negative net transfer in four straight weeks, illuminating in -207327 ahead of GW21. His price has dropped £0.3m in two weeks and he is owned in just 5.5% of EPL fantasy sides. The departure of the Ivorian striker would leave Gomis free to start every week and raise his fantasy value from that of a third striker to a potential Top 10 at the position. Bony’s arrival in Manchester would further increase competition and Fernandinho – who has played 80’+ in four of the last five – will likely be relegated to a supporting role.
Bit of an odd link here so – Steven Gerrard, eh? England’s most famous squad player has announced he is moving to MLS at the conclusion of the Premier League season. Liverpool’s 34-year-old captain only played 45′ and is set for a scan on his hamstring as he picked up a first half injury. It would be an ignominious conclusion to a glorious career at Anfield if Gerrard were to miss the run-in with a recurrence of his hamstring injury. Without Daniel Sturridge, Gerrard and a vacationing Raheem Sterling all missing for the final 45′, the Reds completed 48/61 final third passes and created five chances. Jordan Henderson, in particular, was a driving force as the 24-year-old completed 77/86 passes in the match, 39/43 in the second half and 18/20 in the final third creating three chances. The £6.0m-rated Henderson is owned in a modest number of sides already (11.4%) and may not be the best midfield option at Anfield.
With an injury keeping Adam Lallana on the trainers table, both Lazar Markovic (£7.2m) and Coutinho (£7.6m) are quality additions to a fantasy midfield as both line up in Brendan Rodgers’ attacking three. The Reds continue a softer run of fixtures with Aston Villa (a), West Ham (H) and Everton (a) in the next three. Both Markovic and Coutinho are solid additions for managers looking to play a wildcard in the coming days and who free up funds with low cost options at forward.
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