Week 9 & 10 Reflections
It happens every now and again, and I’m happy to admit it on those rare occasions: I was wrong. My predictions last time out were not great to say the least. Evidently this week I’ll have to put in some overtime with the research to make sure I’m handing out good advice. Before we get to this week though, let’s quickly see where I went wrong in weeks 9 and 10.
- I suggested a Crystal Palace defender might be a good choice, and named van Aanholt as one in particular to target. How wrong I was. The Dutchman scored -1.75 against Newcastle before going off injured after just 11 minutes against West Ham. In the search for a silver lining I also checked Scott Dann’s scores – the only Palace defender to have played 90 minutes over the past 2 weeks – and he has averaged just 4 points over that span too. So yeah…I guess I got this one wrong!
- My lone bright spot from last time was the suggestion to pick up Mame Biram Diouf. The versatile Stoke man scored 16.5 points when starting up front against Bournemouth, and then followed that up with 7 points against Watford – which looks better when you consider he was playing at wing-back in that game.
- The Lallana punt obviously has yet to materialise, but it’s worth noting that he is still owned in only 54% of leagues…despite Jurgen Klopp coming out and saying that he’ll be back after the international break (that’s week 12 people!). The other pick – Dominic Calvert-Lewin – can be assessed though. Whilst an average of 6.5 PPM over the last 2 games may seem below average, I’m a “glass-half-full” kind of person, so consider the following: 1) Everton were hammered by Arsenal and comfortably beaten by Leicester – and yet the forward still managed to bring in some points, 2) Calvert-Lewin has a PPM on the season of 8.1 despite having yet to score in the league! Once this (surely?!?) happens, his points should increase dramatically, and 3) Unsworth clearly likes the young forward, having chosen to substitute off Wayne Rooney instead of him in the match against Leicester. The point: keep the faith with Calvert-Lewin.
- Two weeks ago I told you that Guardiola had finally settled on a team he likes, and that team doesn’t feature Bernardo Silva. Lo and behold, Pep starts him in the next two matches. The Portuguese midfielder responded with a 16.5 in the home game against Burnley, but only 2 in the away victory at West Brom. What’s more, in this week 10 match he was subbed off for Raheem Sterling – who went on to score. Only Guardiola knows what all this means for the City starting 11 this week. Regardless, an average of 9.25 over the past 2 weeks is okay, and if you took my advice to trade him then the accuracy of this will be based largely on what value you got for him. (Note; in my experience in a competitive, 12-man league, if your outfield players can score you over 9 points per game, you stand a good chance of winning most weeks. This will clearly differ in smaller leagues).
- An interesting one to analyse now; my suggestion to get rid of Ben Davies – the highest scoring defender (by a mile!) in Togga. Based on Rose’s return, and Tottenham’s tough upcoming fixtures, I thought Davies would struggle. An injury meant he missed the game against Liverpool, but he came back to score 12.25 against Man United. Technically this is a 6.13 average over the past 2 weeks; which makes my advice a good one. But clearly it’s confounded by the Liverpool non-appearance. Tricky to call…like with Silva and Calvert-Lewin, I’d be tempted to stand by this piece of advice.
- I clearly saved the best piece of advice for last. And when I say “best”, I mean, absolutely, positively, undeniably terrible. With a poor Arsenal team set to face tougher fixtures, I came up with the ridiculous idea of possibly offloading star men Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. How did they respond? Well they combined for a measly 70 (!!!) points against Everton in week 9, and then a meager 30 points against Swansea in week 10. I know nothing.
Strength of Schedule
It may all be going wrong at Everton, but in Koeman’s (and now Unsworth’s) defence, they have had the toughest schedule of any Premier League team so far this season. Their neighbours across the park have fared only slightly better, and this explains why in the Alternative EPL table Everton climb out the relegation zone and sit in 15th place, whilst Liverpool leapfrog Arsenal to take 5th place. Outside of the Merseyside clubs, three other teams have schedules that are considerably more difficult than average: Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and AFC Bournemouth. All of which means that these teams should – in theory – have a more comfortable time of it in the second quarter of the season.
At the other end of the scale, Manchester United continue to have the least taxing of schedules by quite a margin, with Southampton, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Newcastle United all also experiencing a somewhat fortunate opening slate of games. Consequently, rather than being 3 points clear of third place Tottenham, Mourinho’s men are just 1.1 points clear in the Alternative EPL table, whilst Arsenal and Newcastle both drop a place. Southampton’s schedule – second easiest in the league – sees them fall from 10th in the real table to 14th in the alternative table.
- I don’t want to say it, but the data points towards it: it might be a good time to grab an Everton player. Which one is the big question though, not least because it’s almost impossible to predict who will start for them (outside of the non-Togga worthy positions of Gueye, Jagielka, Williams, and Pickford). At almost £45 million, Sigurdsson must surely force his way into the starting 11 and begin paying back some of his fee with some goals and assists. He’s owned in 94% of leagues but with an average of just 6.22 PPM you may be able to capitalize on another manager who’s grown tired of the Icelandic man’s poor start to his Everton career.
- James Milner. Clearly the veteran isn’t going to replicate his 32-point performance against Huddersfield every week, but there’s reason for promise in adding Milner right now. Owned in only 56% of leagues, the Togga defender could get his fair share of game-time in midfield in the coming weeks with Liverpool seemingly experiencing injuries to key players on a weekly basis. Salah’s missed penalty against Huddersfield may also mean set-pieces duties return to Milner if he’s on the pitch – which, if last season is anything to go by, will prove very valuable for Togga managers.
- I tend to avoid centre-backs and stick solely to full-backs where possible, but with Stoke set to face Leicester at home and Brighton away, Kurt Zouma could be set for a busy day of aerials, whilst at the same time having a good chance of collecting a clean sheet or two. According to WhoScored.com, Zouma has been the 29th best player in the Premier League this season, the 8th best centre-back in the Premier League, and Stoke City’s best player (by some distance). He’s also owned in only 39% of leagues, and having played every eligible minute this season (he couldn’t play against his parent club Chelsea), it could be the right time to bring him in.
- Okay, I’m going to stick my neck out with one here: it may be time to move Mkhitaryan on. United’s fixtures won’t get any easier from now until Christmas, and we all know how Mourinho likes to play defensively in big games. Given that Mkhitaryan has averaged just 5 PPM in his last 5 games (compared to 19.1 in his first 5 games), it makes sense to cash in now on a player whose overall PPM is still a very respectable 12.05 – 10th best in the league. Mkhitaryan’s WhoScored ratings for his past 3 matches have been 6.32 (vs Liverpool), 6.26 (vs Huddersfield), and 6.09 (vs Tottenham); will Mourinho continue to trust him this week against Chelsea?
- Southampton face 7th-placed Burnley at home and then 6th-placed Liverpool away in their next two matches. In December it gets even worse with games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Man United. If you’re still holding on to Dusan Tadic, it’s time to let go. An 8.55 average PPM isn’t bad, but it’s not great either, and provided you can get adequate value in a trade then I would definitely encourage you to do so (maybe even for Sigurdsson!?). Tadic’s WhoScored average is just 6.80 – below fellow Southampton midfielders Lemina, Romeu, Davis, and Boufal.
- I know I got it wrong – big time – with Arsenal last time out, but I can’t refute the evidence in front of me. The Gunners have had an easy ride so far this season and tougher times are ahead…immediately ahead actually, in the form of Manchester City away and arch-rivals Tottenham at home (whom they haven’t beaten in their last 6 league meetings). The two I’m highlighting this time? Hector Bellerin and…again, Mesut Ozil (honestly, I don’t have a vendetta against him). Bellerin has been far below par this season and with Kane, Aguero, and Jesus coming up, clean sheet points would be a big surprise. Ozil, meanwhile, has a reputation for not performing in big games, and given his last two performances (against 18th-placed Everton and 17th-placed Swansea remember!) you should be able to get good value in any trade negotiations.
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