It looks like the midfield line is what worries fantasy managers the most this week. The rise of Allen and Walcott and the decline of Capoue and Antonio has forced some managers to already make their transfers. However, before you make your final decision whether to jump a bandwagon or stick with underperformers, read the Van’s and Wallace’s verdicts.
Joe Allen (MID), Stoke City, £4.9m
The year of the bench fodder continues its relentless march challenging the very core of our shriveling fantasy nous. The incredible goal scoring form that has gripped Allen for the past few weeks has seen him climb to third on the NTIs this week, and with a price of only 4.9 why not really? In addition to scoring 4 in his last 3 league matches, the Welshman also scored 2 for his country during the recent World Cup qualifiers, one goal in particular being a thing of beauty. Having been educated in the “Swansea continental tiki-taka academy” first by Martinez then Rogers, Allen is not just another one dimensional ‘axe’ in the middle of the park but has guile and passing ability often not associated with that role. In fact, in the recent EUROs he was selected for the ‘team of the tournament’ acknowledging his performances during his national side’s successful run to the semi finals.
On the statistic front Allen is being pitted against his fellow usual suspects Capoue and Fer. All 3 have played 8 games and thus are not considered to be rotation risk. Although scoring 4 a piece each, Fer is leading with most shots 17-10-10 but Allen is the most accurate with 83%. Defensively their numbers are virtually identical (clearances, interceptions, etc.) but Allen leads in winning tackles while Fer has air superiority. The clearest margin between the 3 however is with regards to fouls and here is where Allen’s vision and guile comes to the fore committing only 7 fouls (7-14-15) and suffering an incredible 20 (20-14-13). And thus, Allen overall ranks higher in both attacking and defensive parameters. Seemingly still riding the waves of EURO success Allen is obviously enjoying playing regular football and has now eclipsed his competitors.
Joe Allen is now only 9 games away from breaking Jamie Vardy's goal scoring record…???? pic.twitter.com/1oUg453F1G
— BenchWarmers (@BeWarmers) October 15, 2016
Theo Walcott (MID), Arsenal, £7.9m
With a brace over the weekend (as well as a couple of glaring misses) plus a goal midweek Walcott has catapulted himself to the title of “hottest FPL stock of the moment”. “I want it more now… Change of attitude… Hard work… Should have happened a few years ago” are only a handful of quotes explaining his marked rise in form this season. That’s all very nice but the Van sees what he is NOT saying and that is the simple fact that Giroud has barely featured this season. Allowing myself only the slightest of analytical leeway I would say that Arsenal is benefitting from the very same advantage Liverpool is being raved about: not having a traditional centre forward clogging the middle of the box. Having 4 quick thinking, highly technical players whizzing in and out of play is proving very difficult to defend against, and both teams are reaping similar rewards from such a system.
Sitting first on the points tally amongst midfielders I now have no choice but to compare him to the big guns of FPL, Sanchez and De Bruyne. Surprisingly (to me at least), he is not faring too badly! He naturally lags quite a bit behind in the play-making aspects of the game (key passes, chances created) but manages to hold to his own when it comes to shots and shots accuracy. Walcott’s transformation this season can also be seen in his defensive contributions winning more tackles (13-8-6) and making more clearances (6-0-3). He is respectably second in interceptions (6-5-9) but is last in my new favourite stat “fouls suffered” (10-15-11). Having endured all that, I now applaud you. “Applause”. It is clear Walcott is a man in form (if not on fire) right now, but questions and doubts still remain over his ability to be clinical in front of goal as well as his role when and if Giroud return to the starting lineup. Meanwhile, he is just as good an option as the very dear Sanchez and the slightly more accommodatingly priced Ozil.
Charlie Austin (FOR), Southampton, £6.5m
Our third and final ‘flavour of the week’ is journeyman Charlie Austin. A true ‘rags to riches’ story the 27 year-old Austin has played for no less than 8 clubs with half of them being non-league scoring an overall… wait for it… 234 goals. For the sake of perspective, Diego Costa is about the same age and played for 9 clubs scoring a total of 149. A natural predator around the box (United fans nod in dismay) Austin can sometime seem rather awkward, even un-coordinated, but the Van is convinced it’s all a ruse, a devilish ploy to lull defenders into a state of walking coma, only to be released from the spell when it’s all too late. Now finally playing for a decent team (sorry hoops but you were awful that year), Austin has the potential of reaching around 20 goals this season and with Shane Long’s patchy form and injuries he is (almost) guaranteed a start every week. Costing a meagre 6.5 means I cannot compare him to the Zazas of this league so I am hoping Wilson and Deeney will prove worthy adversaries as all three have played in the Championship in recent years.
Starting with the most important: goals 4-3-3, chances created 2-7-5, fouls suffered 8-12-3 and shots – total 20-17-12, inside the area 15-14-11, outside the area 5-3-1 and accuracy of shots is 50%, 58%, 60%. Aerial duels won (important for a mid-tier forward in the premier league) 14-3-49 yes Deeney is apparently a dragon but – percentage of aerial duels won is 50-20-49, ironically though, out of the 3 only Wilson has scored from headers. Said stats, as confusing as they might seem at first (for me at least) do tell us much about the attacking style of each team. Bournemouth like to play in and around the box when possible, Southampton rely heavily on their designated no.9 and Watford play as direct football as they can (to put it in nice words!). And so, while priced attractively and plays arguably for a better team than Bournemouth or Watford Austin’s fixtures for the next 5 gameweeks range from the uncomfortable to the unwanted. Afterwards though the schedule is much kinder but by then we will all most likely be playing 4-5-1!
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 19, 2016
Raheem Sterling (MID), Manchester City, £8.5m
As we should all be familiar with now, Manchester City is still not a pinnacle elite of European football due to their 4-0 clobbering at the hands of Barcelona. Now this City team is still quite early in its Guardiola days, so improvements should be seen in coming months. But for now, we must look at the present, and the truth is, few individuals from City did much to warrant respect. The blue side of Manchester has yet to record a win since September 28th, and during that span, players such as Sterling have not performed to their maximum capabilities.
For instance, just midweek, Sterling attempted no shots, and owned a horrid passing accuracy of less than 80%. He was dispossessed six times, a statline that more than likely led to a lack of attempted crosses. And to speak of crosses, the Englishman was a whopping zero for five in accurately delivering balls into the box. Now this upcoming weekend City hosts Southampton, a team who in their own right has been on the upturn, meaning the fixture may not be all that routine. In saying this, it may be sensible to simply stick with the reliable Aguero, and look elsewhere for midfield dynamism.
Etienne Capoue (MID), Watford, £5.3m
Perhaps a bit of cooling point has been reached by the Watford surprise package of the 16/17 campaign, having blanked the past three weeks. Capoue has scored nine points against Chelsea and ten against Man United this year so far, yet could not muster the effort to put together a few returns in three clashes which have included Burnley, Bournemouth, and Middlesbrough. So maybe Capoue won’t be a Michu of four or five years ago, but more of a Ramsey during the 2013/2014 campaign; not a completely week to week performer, but just enough to warrant season-long ownership. And let us not be too greedy or demanding either by garnering extreme expectations for the midfielder.
Capoue plays for Watford, a side that is as far away from a consistent juggernaut as one can imagine, yet when they score, Capoue has seemed to be involved in some form this season. Obviously, the Frenchman still boosts a modest price tag, and his side plays Swansea away and then Hull at home in the next two weeks, so fixtures will be encouraging. (Though the whole fixture thing hasn’t seemed to benefit him the past three weeks ) But to sum things up, hold Capoue, play him when (or if) he gets hot, and keep him as a fifth midfielder when not doing so hot. But for a fifth midfielder to carry any kind of threat, owners should be content for blanks, even if they may come from home games against Bournemouth.
Michail Antonio (MID), West Ham, £7.1m
The seemingly obvious Payet alternative for those in search of a West Ham attacker (if there are managers out there who value such coverage), Antonio started the season off in fine form, averaging over seven points a game, an average which included a total of zero points in the first round of fixtures. Since, the midfielder’s ppg has dropped over one and a half points, and has blanked for three consecutive weeks.
The disappointing outings also came against sides in which more perhaps could have been expected, including a home fixture with Middlesbrough. West Ham has only scored twice in the past three weeks, and during this time, Antonio has cooled off in parallel fashion. Although the Hammers host both Sunderland and Stoke on either side of a trip to Everton in the next three weeks, a horrendous run of games follows, leading one to say that selling Antonio, if still owning, is the way to go. A four game stretch in which West Ham plays Spurs, Man United, Arsenal, and Liverpool consecutively means Antonio, as well as Payet, should be glanced at with caution.