What can a Fantasy Premier League manager do in a season where down is up, and black is white?
Sergio Aguero has been transformed into a ill-tempered thug while Diego Costa has morphed an angelic pillar of the community - although the Chelsea star’s contribution from the dugout certainly eased any fears about his fitness and inherent aggression.
What was Aguero thinking? Maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised - he certainly has some ‘previous’ with football’s own Krusty the Clown.
Why does Aguero hate Luiz? pic.twitter.com/dzgBzg5m5t— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) December 3, 2016
However it happened, the most expensive player in the game is now out for four Gameweeks - and the decisions we make now could define our FPL seasons.
Kane, Costa… or Zlatan?
The most immediate problem for Aguero owners has been who to replace the Argentinean - and with money no object, three big-name candidates have emerged.
With only two blank Gameweeks out of 14 played, Diego Costa (CHE, 10.8) has been the most consistent striker in the league by far.
The problem with Costa in previous seasons was his frustrating lack of bonus points - but only Defoe has scored more than him this season.
Boasting an impressive a 25.9% shot conversion rate, Harry Kane (TOT, 11.1) is another obvious name - since his return in GW11, he’s scored more Premier League goals (5) than any other forward.
Harry Kane has scored 5 goals in his last 4 Premier League games
Arsenal: ⚽️November 26, 2016
Then we have our old friend Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Written off until recently, he’s on a great scoring run and his £11.2 pricetag strangely doesn’t seem as prohibitive now that it’s more in line with Kane and Costa.
7 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored seven goals in his last six games for Manchester United. Form.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 8, 2016
Let’s have a look to see how their stats compare over the last four league matches...
They’re all decent options with some promising fixtures ahead, so it all depends on your gut and what you’re looking for, really. If you don’t have Alexis Sánchez (ARS, 11.6), Kane or Zlatan could provide the more explosive captain option.
Of course, with all this cash flying around, suddenly options are opening up all over the place.
Aguero’s absence could be an opportunity for managers to bring in Kevin De Bruyne (MCI, 10.8) or Kelechi Iheanacho (MCI, 6.6). The last time Aguero went MIA in GW4&5, they each stepped up with double-digit returns in both matches.
He's an assist machine, but with just one shot on target in his last six games, De Bruyne would really want to find those shooting boots again - can we put it down to nerves?
Happy birthday to my future wife. She said yes 😘😍❤️ pic.twitter.com/ifhvvLjdd6— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) December 8, 2016
As far as Iheanacho goes, it's usually a bad idea to buy a player you know will be dropped again soon, but you can’t argue with his stats.
Kelechi Iheanacho for Manchester City:
- 18 starts
- 13 goals
- 5 assists.— We Are Football (@WeAreFootballGB) December 6, 2016
Elsewhere, Spurs continued their scoring run against CSKA Moscow at Wembley, although they were given the kind of space usually enjoyed by Nasa missions.
After tipping him as a punt in November, Christian Eriksen (TOT, 8.3) is finally turning those underlying stats into big, juicy FPL points, and has some lucrative fixtures to look forward to after his trip to Old Trafford.
Over at Liverpool, an assist from Jordan Henderson (LIV, 6.3) saw his evolution into a box-to-box midfielder continue apace, and Mane (LIV, 9.3) delivered his fourth double-digit return of the season. Emre Can (LIV, 4.9)’s forays into the opponent’s box are great news for his FPL owners, even if they probably contributed to the horror show at the other end against Bournemouth.
Gung-ho budget defenders
It’s not often you spot a promising defender in a 4-3 thriller, but Bournemouth may just have produced one. If Nathan Ake (BOU, 4.3) can keep his place when Charlie Daniels returns (and they earned a clean sheet together against Stoke in GW12), do you really care if a £4.3m goalscoring defender concedes a few?
If you like cheap, devil-may-care defenders and you've made your peace with the lack of clean sheets that comes with them, there’s plenty to get your pulse racing.
Steve Cook (BOU, 5.0) loves a shot and has two goals to his name already. So has Michael Dawson (HUL, 4.4) - and he needed only six games to do it.
Chris Brunt (WBA, 4.9) has been the subject of much FPL chatter since his emergence as an out-of-position prospect, and his new owners were duly rewarded with his goal against Watford.
And don’t forget Patrick van Aanholt (SUN, 5.0) - he’s created 11 chances since GW10 - four more than the premium-priced Alonso and Rose.
That punishing Christmas schedule is coming up - and some teams have it worse than others. Expect rotation at Leicester, Liverpool, Man City, Middlesbrough and Southampton in particular.
Fixtures In Festive Period (2016/2017)
Continuation from my last season's edition.
*Assuming each matches take 105 mins (2x45 + 15) pic.twitter.com/hAXqpD6fmZ— Andrey Arshivan (@arshifpl11) December 8, 2016
No surprises this week - you can’t argue with an assist and a hat-trick now, can you?
Alexis Sánchez has shrugged off both challenges to his place and fitness doubts to cement his status as Arsenal’s go-to marksman.
Alexis just ran his balls off for 70 mins and looks like an unused sub... from heaven pic.twitter.com/jQOOM8K7CT— Miami Arsenal Supporters Club (MASC) (@ArsenalMiami) December 6, 2016
Expected to rise the full £0.3m by the GW15 deadline, it would take a brave fantasy manager to go without.
FPL redemption can be found in the strangest of places - and this week, I give you … West Ham United!
You’ll hardly need me to tell you the Hammers have had about as much cutting edge as one of their on-pitch bubbles this season.
But while Dimitri Payet must be looking at the fine print in his new contract, he’s still providing bucketloads of chances (a table-topping 47 so far) for his inept teammates.
The Frenchman is too expensive to consider, but at just 1.4% ownership, this week’s punt (and he’s certainly that) is Andy Carroll (WHU, 6.1).
He faces a generous Liverpool defence next - with Burnley, Hull and Swansea coming up after that.
If you’re stuck near the bottom of your mini-league, and willing to take a chance on his calamitous injury record, this is one of those “what-the-hell” transfers that could really pay off.
He's been mentioned here before, but with the search on for replacements up top, one player to avoid at all costs is Romelu Lukaku (EVE, 9.4).
Without Bolasie to provide the chances, the Belgian has suffered an alarming dip in form.
Now that we know that Leighton Baines (EVE, 5.3) takes the penalties, the last remaining reason to own Lukaku has finally evaporated.
Time for Lukaku to go....December 8, 2016
Top of the League
Micheàl Nevins retain his place at the top of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 251768-521616) thanks to a 76-point Gameweek - captain Sanchez weighed in with 46 of them!
Look out for the Irish Examiner's own Mark Evans though - a whopping 95 points saw his Shaelum Utd climb to 21st in the table.
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