Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a column out last week but I’m back this week to take a brief look into events to come over the coming weeks, as well as preview the looming Festive fixtures.
The African Cup of Nations is almost upon us and FIFA rules state that players must be released by clubs no later than the 2nd January. In previous years PL clubs have been able to negotiate and delay release until after fixtures on the 2nd January. It remains to be seen if this is the case again this year. We risk losing players from out Sky teams for up to 5 PL games as a result of the AFCON, so you should now be planning an exit strategy if you have any of the below ‘popular’ players:
Sadio Mane, Idrissa Gueye, Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani, Daniel Amartey, Sofianne Boufal, Wilf Bony, Lamine Kone, Papy Djilobdji, Andre Ayew, Cheik Kouyate
This list is not exhaustive and squads are not announced yet so some may or may not feature. Sadio Mane and Idrissa Gueye are certain to be departing though and this will affect a lot of teams. My top picks budget price picks for replacing Gueye in particular are below.
The beauty of the bonus point system in Sky means cheap midfielders will almost always offer better points returns than similarly priced defenders, even without the potential of clean sheets. Consider that the 3 midfielders below have all scored more points so far than similarly priced defenders: Baines (38 pts -7.3m), McCauley (46 pts – 6.7m), Pieters (50 pts – 6.8m), C Daniels (51 pts – 6.8m), Van Aanholt (46pts -7.3m) to name just a few.
Harry Arter 6.6m – Arter has scored a solid 70 points so far, offering great value at just 6.6m. He’s managed to pick up bonus points on 11 separate occasions, along with a couple of assists and 2 MoM awards. Arter is a nailed on 90 minute man and looks a prime candidate for the enabler role to allow us to squeeze 3 of the heavy-hitting forwards into our teams.
Oriel Romeu 7.4m – Priced at 7.4m Romeu comes in at 0.8 more expensive than Harry Arter, and has scored 5 points less overall (65). Romeu has managed to pick up 14 bonus point awards and a single MoM award. Romeu has proved to be a key player for Southampton and is a key part of their lean defensive shape. Romeu is another who is nailed on and offers consistent bonus returns along with the occasional chance at a MoM award.
Adam Forshaw 6.3m – Forshaw is another cheap and cheerful midfield option who guarantees you security of starts and bonus potential. Forshaw has so far returned bonus points on 10 occasions, and thrown in 2 assists and a MoM award too. 61 points at just 6.3m, Forshaw is clearly a value option.
Gameweek Points: 57
Overall Points: 1201
Overall Position: 480
Those who follow this column will note my team looks slightly different than it did a couple of weeks ago, as does the transfer count! After a rocky couple of weeks where I’ve been forced into making a number of transfers I’m now sat on 18. This is probably 2 less than I’d like at this stage, but given the events of the past couple of months I’m not too upset with my transfer situation. I’ll be revising my January 1st target down from 20 (!) to 16. I’m going to be spending a transfer to replace Idrissa Gueye, as reliable as he’s been for me I can’t realistically carry him throughout AFCON.
I’m likely to bring in Harry Arter, and use the cash to bring in Diego Costa & Aguero. Once Costa has the ban out of the way he looks formidable, he’s producing that beautiful combination of goals, assists and MoM awards like nobody else at the moment. There seems to be a trend with the MoM awards at the moment going to single goal match winners (Rose v Burnley, Sterling v Arsenal, Mane v Everton) – how many Costa match-winners can we expect in the coming months, 4 or 5 at least.
My other big move will be to bring Sergio Aguero back in. Aguero has somehow managed to miss 7 matches this season through suspension, and yet has managed 10 goals in 11 starts, comparatively Diego Costa has 13 in 17, and Ibrahimovic has 11 in 16. Aguero will be back for City’s visit to Liverpool on 31st December but it’s the home fixture against Burnley (2/1/17) that looks the optimal moment to draft Aguero back in, security of starts should be assure since he’s going to have had almost 4 weeks of rest. Going forward Aguero offers a number of captaincy opportunities, particularly Swansea on 5th Feb, and Bournemouth away on the 13th Feb – the only fixture that day. Other than these moves I’ll be trying desperately to conserve transfers, because come March thru May, it will be essential to have flexibility, especially when the multiple DGWs hit.
On Monday I’ll look to Alexis Sanchez to deliver some late Christmas presents, he’s in pretty sensational form, delivering returns in each of the last 5. The other obvious option for Saturday is Eden Hazard but he’s been disappointing of late and will be without his partner in crime Diego Costa so doesn’t really appeal. Those of you with Zlatan Ibrahimovic will surely throw him the armband given his recent scoring form, looks the smart bet of the week.
Tuesday is simple, I’ll captain Roberto Firmino since he’s my only player involved. There’s likely to be a slight doubt on his start given the busy festive period but no more than usual. Firmino has failed to deliver a goal or assist in the last 6 – incredibly frustrating considering the attacking positions he finds himself in. The goals will surely come though, he was incredibly unlucky against Everton on Monday, having forced a great save out of Robles and then having a late chance blocked on the line. Sadio Mane meanwhile pounced for a tap-in and somehow walked away with the MoM despite offering very little throughout – those are the margins that we can so easily find ourselves on the wrong side of!
Wednesday I’ll be moving the armband to Harry Kane, more through obligation than anything else. Southampton are excellent at the back and Kane has been desperately poor in the last two. He’s certainly on the way out for me, with Costa and Aguero looming. Last chance saloon!
It’s unlikely I’ll have a chance to put out another column between fixtures next week so for the rest of the week my plan will be as follows:
Friday – Snodgrass (EVE)
Saturday – Hazard (or potentially Costa) (STO)
Sunday – Sanchez (CPL)
Monday – Aguero (likely to come in for Kane) BUR
Tues – Sanchez (bou)
Wed – Hazard (tot)
Fixtures will come thick and fast for the next 2 weeks so it’s the time to be as on-the-ball as possible, you can never account for rotation but keeping on top of starting lineups and getting captains right is essential.
Good luck over the festive period! Have a great holiday, see you on the other side!