MyFPL, GW3: FPL Trend or Dead End?

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MyFPL is a series where we will go through our thought process before every FPL Gameweek in the 2018/2019 season.

2017/18 Overall Ranking: 9058

Current Overall Points: 150
Current Overall Ranking: 405,254
Last Gameweek Points: 88

While Gameweek 1 told us a lot about lineups, World Cup fatigue and gave us an indication of form and new playing styles, Gameweek 2 has given us some more answers when it comes to consistency. As I mentioned in last weeks article, the GW1 point hauls for players like Neves, Holebas and Pereyra were simply not sustainable, but with GW2 over and done with, we have a clearer picture of where we’ll get consistent contributions.

Some small trends have already started developing, but after only two gameweeks, can we really be sure if it’s a real trend or will it eventually turn out to be a dead end? Let’s borrow a popular segment from an NBA show called The Starters and play “Trend or Dead End?”

Will Sadio Mané continue to outscore Mohamed Salah?

No. Dead End.

Some brave souls who dared going into this season without Salah (£13.0) did so with the belief that Mané (£9.8) could match or even surpass Salah’s production for a fraction of the cost. Would they be proven right?

So far so much better than good. Mané has scored an FPL high 26 points compared to Salah’s “measly” score of 17. While having both has been the best option so far, going without Salah has worked out just fine, like half of the current top 10 have experienced. But is it sustainable?

If you watched Crystal Palace – Liverpool in particular and look behind the numbers, the answer is no. While Mané had the good fortune of putting the final nail in the 10 man Crystal Palace coffin, who desperately looked for an equaliser, Salah was the one who looked like a real threat throughout the game.

Sure, Mané had a better expected goals (xG) score than Salah, but what xG fails to take into account are chances that don’t end with a shot. Salah was through 1 on 1 with the goalkeeper at 3 separate occasions. First when he lobbed a potentially beautiful Naby Keita assist sky high. Second when he was passed through by Robertson, but touched it around the goalkeeper slightly too far to get an easy open net finish. Third when Wan-Bissaka brought Salah down as the last man and got sent off. Even without attempting a shot the last couple of 1 on 1’s, Salah had an xG score of 0.72.

Mané’s xG without the lucky break that ended up being the 0-2 goal? 0.12 expected goals, the same as Palace’s Max Meyer who was introduced with 7 minutes left of the match. Salah should have solidly outscored Mané in this match, but to the anguish of those who captained Salah over Aguero this gameweek, it just wasn’t his night. Meanwhile Mané owners could celebrate the 8 points he collected in the dying moments of a close fought match.

Mané also outscored Salah in the free for all against West Ham, even though Salah had a better xG score of 1.55 compared to Mané’s 0.96, which even included the 3-0 goal he scored that should have been disallowed for offside.

Sadio Mané outscoring Mohamed Salah simply isn’t sustainable, but with a difficult upcoming fixture list, especially from GWs 5-8, I’d probably prefer the extra cash Mané will earn you. Then again, I’m one of the crazy bastards who are seriously considering going with neither in those gameweeks, when they face Spurs and Chelsea away and Man City at home, even with a tasty home fixture against Southampton in between those.

Mané didn’t do much in those matches last season either way, with a single goal in the surprise 4-3 victory against Man City as his only contribution in the 3 matches he played in. (He didn’t play when Liverpool got thrashed 4-1 at Wembley against Spurs).

Will attacking full-backs like Mendy, Alonso and Robertson continue to be essential?

Yes. Trend.

If you don’t have at least two of these guys, you’re doing it wrong. Full-backs acting like forwards is a new trend in Premier League football. With Benjamin Mendy back from the injury that kept him out last season and Andrew Robertson now being the clear cut #1 choice at left back for Liverpool, Marcos Alonso isn’t the lone must have offensive full-back anymore.

Especially Mendy (£6.2) stands out as essential. The Frenchman has 4 assist in 2 matches so far, has one of the easiest schedules of all time going forward and seems to be one of the few nailed on options for Pep Guardiola’s record breaking Manchester City side. His injuries from last season made him cost only £6.0 to start this FPL season, but that price might be £7.0 or even £7.5 when FPL 2019/20 launches a year from now.

Alonso (£6.6) has quickly allayed fears of him not being able to produce as a traditional left back in a back 4, leading all defenders with 24 points so far. The underlying stats still look good for Alonso as well, who registered 2 shots in the box and 2 chances created against Arsenal, ending up with 1 goal, 1 assist and 13 points. If you watched the limited matches Napoli left-back Faouzi Ghoulam played in last season, you could see that Sarri isn’t afraid of using an attacking full-back, despite what the doubters said before the season.

Robertson (£6.0) was Liverpool’s standout player against Crystal Palace in my eyes. Not only did he bomb forward as usual, registering a good chance from inside the box, but he kept played through Salah on goal, ran up and down the wing and won the ball back on several occasions. The Scotsman has been a revelation since forcing his way into Liverpool’s starting XI and is a slightly more sure starter than Trent Alexander-Arnold on the opposing side. With TAA priced at £1m less and taking some set-pieces, he is one to watch however, especially as Liverpool face tougher opposition.

The options don’t stop there either. Shaw (£5.1) has been Man Utd 2nd highest FPL scorer and best player for only £5.1. We’ll get to Man Utd’s future clean sheet chances in a bit. van Aanholt (£5.5) is free to roam forward for Crystal Palace, who have a very light schedule now that they are done with Liverpool. Tripper (£6.0) has been surpassed by Mendy and Alonso as the highest owned defender, but once his fixtures ease up, he’ll be an exciting option along with fellow Spurs full-back Davies (£6.0), who has been very very unlucky not be a factor so far in FPL. If either prove to be less of a rotation risk than last season, they will be well worth a look from GW6 and onwards.

Will Richarlison continue to be Everton’s best attacking option?

Yes. Trend.

Richarlison (£6.8) has continued where he left off with Marco Silva from last season, scoring 3 goals in 2 matches, making him the #1 Everton option going forward. Sure, he has been unsustainably efficient with 3 goals on 4 shots so far, and fellow Everton winger Walcott (£6.5) outscored Richarlison in GW2, but I’d still go with Richarlison, even now that his price has risen to £6.8.

Richarlison is just a damn good player, Everton’s best. Many, including me, slightly soured on the Brazilian wonderkid after his disappointing end to last season, but his play for Everton will more than justify his £40 million price tag. The fact that he played half a season in the Brazilian league before going straight into Watford’s 17/18 campaign, played with poorer teammates than he has now in Everton and played for a side that really struggled after Marco Silva was courted by the Toffees, hurt Richarlison’s production. Playing for Everton, back under the guise of Silva, the 21 year old(!) Brazilian is about to set the league on fire.

As Everton and Silva’s most expensive signing, he is more nailed on than both Sigurdsson (£7.4) and Walcott, with premium free agent signing Bernard (£6.0) also set to feature in the rotation. Tosun (£7.0) is still a good option as Everton’s main striker, but Richarlison is cheaper, better, younger and more in-form. He might not win the Premier League Golden Boot award he is aiming for, but he’ll get closer than most would expect.

Will Man Utd continue to struggle with keeping clean sheets?

No. Dead End.

Man Utd came unglued against Brighton, suffering an embarrassing 3-2 loss at the Amex Stadium, meaning that they have conceded 4 goals against Leicester and Brighton to start the season. Apart from Shaw who has chipped in with a goal and an assist, every other Man Utd defensive player have produced nada in FPL so far, most notably De Gea (£6.0) and Bailly (£5.5).

While I have long been a proponent of the fact that Mourinho’s 3rd season syndrome is real and I have thought since he was hired in 2016 that he wouldn’t stay as manager past the 2018/19 season, I still believe that the performance against Brighton is as bad as it’s going to get defensively.

The biggest reason for that, is something Mourinho likes to complain about; injuries. Nemanja Matic and Antonio Valencia started in 36 and 31 matches respectively for the Red Devil’s last year and they should at the very least be back once Man Utd get past Tottenham this upcoming weekend. Especially Matic will do wonders for Man Utd’s defence, doing a better job in the N’Golo Kanté role than Andreas Pereira has done.

Mourinho doesn’t attack when he’s cornered either, he defends. The match against Brighton was a wake-up call and might prod “the Special one” to make changes in central defence as well, with last season’s starters Phil Jones and Chris Smalling ready to step back in. Man Utd have a decent schedule once they get past Tottenham and I wouldn’t be surprised if they strike back with a shutout against Harry Kane & company either.

Is Aguero the only premium forward worth considering and should you not play 3 forwards?

No. Dead End.

Aguero (£11.1) gave us our first hat-trick this season and added an assist against poor Huddersfield. Aguero owners like me who captained him could celebrate, those who didn’t captain him were left to rue a certain Guardian writer, while those who missed out on Aguero’s points entirely needed to find a way to get him in as quickly as possible.

Life under Pep Guardiola hasn’t always been easy for Aguero, but it seems like with a preference to play in a 3-5-2 system with Mendy back from injury, Pep has found a way to fit in both Aguero and Jesus (£10.5) in his preferred starting lineup. This makes Aguero an even hotter commodity, especially with the kindest of fixtures coming up and the Argentine being cheaper than ever in FPL at only £11.1.

But what about the rest of the premium strikers? No other £9.0 or above striker has scored more than 10 points over the first two gameweeks. In fact, only 4 forwards in total have scored 10 or more, with Premier League regulars Wilson (£6.1) and Deeney (£6.0) notching 14 points each and mid-price option Arnautovic (£7.0) just about scraping 10 points himself. Meanwhile, a grand total of 18 midfielders have scored 10+, with 9 of them scoring 15 points or more.

Does this mean you should adjust your 3-4-3 tactic to either 3-5-2 or even a 4-5-1 tactic? Not so fast I’d say! Only 3 of the 18 high scoring midfielders went far in the World Cup, and needed extra rest, while Lukaku (£11.0), Kane (£12.5) and Vardy (£9.0) all came home late from the World Cup and are still finding their form. Aubameyang (£11.0), who has no such excuse, just finished playing against Man City and Chelsea, and came very close to scoring in both matches. The most efficient striker in the Premier League last season won’t be as wasteful next time. Arsenal’s fixtures are getting remarkably easier and apart from possibly Mkhitaryan, no other offensive Arsenal options look enticing.

The other premium forwards will start producing soon enough and with good mid-price options in Zaha (£7.0), Tosun (£7.0) and Arnautovic (£7.0) and a cheap punt in Ings (£5.5) also available, I wouldn’t budge from the trusty old 3-4-3 formation anytime soon, even if those who did, have benefited from it early on.

Do you essentially need 4-6 players from Man City and Liverpool?

Yes. Trend.

Manchestery City and Liverpool were the two clear title favorites before the season began and they have not disappointed. 2 wins each, 15 goals between them, while only conceding 1 in total, means that having double or even triple coverage from these two teams is pretty much essential. I have already talked about Mendy, Robertson, Mané, Salah and Aguero who have all scored more than 15 points each, making a case for inclusion in your team.

The Brazilian goalkeepers representing each club, Ederson (£5.5) and Alisson (£5.5), are the standout premium GKs so far and are sure starters. Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold (£5.0) offers you a cheaper way into a Liverpool defence than Robertson and van Dijk (£6.0) would be a worthy alternative if not for his more offensively minded Scottish full-back.

If you want to double up on Man City’s defence, then Ederson and Mendy does the trick, but they have several midfielders who could end up being good options. Bernardo Silva (£7.5) was a popular option going into GW2. Even if playing most of the match as a RWB dampened the interest in him, Bernardo Silva was only a good Hamer save away from scoring at the end. Walker (£6.5) will be back at RWB soon enough, pushing “Bilva” further into the middle where there is more involvement.

Involved in the Huddersfield match was his namesake David Silva (£8.4), whose dominating performance only handed him a single goal in City’s dominating 6-1 win. “Dilva” was so good that he earned 2 bonus points anyway, a common occurrence for the bonus magnet. Sterling (£11.0) scored and was looking like a threat in the opener against Arsenal, but was rested against Huddersfield. Mahrez (£9.0) and Sané (£9.4) have too much talent to keep getting benched and will become options at some point.

For Liverpool, you are pretty much covered with Salah and Mané going forward, at least for now, but penalty and set-piece taker Milner (£5.5) is a tasty little differential for only £5.5. Firmino (£9.5) has yet to taste the scoresheet and it looks like he’s playing in a deeper role than he did last season. No need for him just yet.

Either way, there are plenty of good options on both teams and with their current form and squads, it looks like it’s pretty much essential to have at least 4 and possibly even 5 players from both teams.

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