Away: Bournemouth (1) – Home: Niasse (2)
Oumar Niasse doubled the Toffees goal total on the season with his 35 minutes of heroics, saving Everton from embarrissing defeat to Bournemouth. Niasse bagged his brace after coming in as a sub for the battered and bloodied Wayne Rooney, scoring his first goal with 13 minutes to go in the 2nd half. The game winner was the ultimate scrappy goal, as he corralled his own blocked header from 6 yards out and buried it home past Begovic. His efforts gave Everton their first two goals in the Premier League since August 21st, when their other top goal scorer on the season, Wayne Rooney, scored his 2nd on the season and remains on 2 in now 497 minutes.
While it would be something special for a magical 5.0m forward to emerge like a phoenix from the ruins that Lukaku left bare at Goodison Park, especially in a season currently defined by the plethora of marquee, expensive forward options, there is nothing here to make me truly believe we are witnessing the first roots of fantasy glory. Nobody knows, nay, not even Niasse, if he is suddenly going to supplant Wayne Rooney or Calvert-Lewin up top in the Toffee’s attack. What I do know, however, is that performances like his on Saturday are what make the Premier League worth watching. This is a player that Ronald Koeman (clearly not a football savant) had played a grand total of 0 matches prior to the weekend’s game. Rather than play a single minute during the first half of last season – playing time is slim pickings behind Lukaku – he was loaned last January to Hull City, where in 19 appearances and 1213 minutes under Marco Silva (definitely possibly a football savant), he scored 5 goals and made 1 assist, averaging just over 60 minutes a match. Koeman has never wanted to play him, but was forced to put him on for a clearly tired, ailing, aging and ineffective Rooney in a match that Everton did not really deserve to win.
Niasse was the last player signed by Roberto Martinez, before Martinez was sacked in 2015 and replaced by Koeman. He was never wanted on this team, and told blatantly to his face he would never play under Koeman. Seriously, The Guardian conducted a spectacular interview with him from last October that you may find linked here. Read it. Learn about what he has struggled to get this half hour of glory, to be rewarded in front of his home crowd that he has never truly been embraced by, by no fault of his or their own. Koeman for some reason felt he understood this player after watching just 45 minutes of play, but Niasse now has had his day. The genuine joy on his face after he scored those goals was what makes football the beautiful game.
As far as fantasy goes, I cannot officially endorse a player on either of these two teams at the moment. Everton has the signs of a team that might be able to find itself in a season that will undoubtedly have them finish right around midtable. As they are unlikely to come close to sniffing a top 4 finish in Premier League title race, they certainly will give their all in the fight for a Champions League birth through the winning the Europa League competition. Unfortunately, they lost their first match 3-0 two weeks ago against Atalanta, and now face off against Cyprus based Apollon Limassol on Thursday. Rooney is out with a facial injury, let’s take a shot in the dark and guess Koeman throws his hands in the air and gives Oumar Niasse his first start in his Everton career. If he does something special in that match, both he and Calvert-Lewin are firmly on my radar as cheap forwards priced at the punt-worthy 5.0m mark for that special moment of the season when I need to squeeze something extra out of my attacking ass(ets).
Bournemouth Next 6 Fixture: Leiceter (H), Spurs (A), Stoke (A), Chelsea (H), Newcastle (A), Huddersfield (H)
Everton Next 6 Fixtures: Burnley (H), Brighton (A), Arsenal (H), Leicester (A), Watford (H), Crystal Palace (A)
Away: Liverpool (3) – Home: Leicester City (2)
Easily the most exciting match of the weekend, Liverpool had lost earlier in the week 2-0 at Leicester City for the WhatevahWhatevahz Cup (formerly the League Cup) match. Jamie Vardy had sat mid-week, but Liverpool still seemed lost defensively and you could see this weekend’s match point toward being a shootout. The Saturday match was played with lightning-quick pace, with Liverpool ending the day with 23 shots (6 on target) and Leicester with 12 (7 on target).
Vardy looked dangerous early, and Liverpool’s center back pairing of Lovren and Matip were slow compared to the well-rested former 5th division striker. However, it was a perfect cross from finally-fit left winger Phillipe Coutinho that found the flying fro of Mo Salah that led to the match’s opening goal. Coutinho placed this ball literally so far to the right of the goal and on the touch line that it took the most perfect of touches by Salah to slot it back in and past a helpless Kasper Schmeichel. Just a few minutes later, Coutinho conjoured up some more Carioca Candomblé and slotted home his first Premier League goal of the season with a flawless freekick to send Liverpool ahead 2-0.
Before we get to a few other players’ performances from the match, that 5 minute stretch of football just showed the rest of the Prem that Liverpool’s offense is as explosive as the top teams in all of the Prem, and will become even more so with a well-rested Sadio Mané returning this week from his 3 match suspension. They could realistically start a front line of Coutinho, Firmino, Salah from left to right, with Mané playing right behind Bobby Digital. Or better yet, bench Bobby Digital and run with Coutinho, Mané and Salah and Firmino as a super sub slotting in for whichever needs to save his legs according to Klopp’s definition of match fitness. I am personally going to wait until after the Champions league match but will give a long hard thought to bringing in Coutinho at 8.9m. He is the cheapeast of their star midfielders, but they do play Home to Manchester United and Away to Spurs in GW 8 and 9. Coutinho with just 5% ownership, for me, appears to be the best player to invest in with the most potential to grow in value. Joga bonito!
Besides the Liverpool assets, Shinji Okazaki scored a literal toe-tapper to end the first half on a completely broken down defensive effort by Liverpool. They should have been up 2 or 3 nil at halftime, but in typical Liverpool fashion, let Leicester City back into the game. It was a similar story after Jordan Henderson’s 3rd goal, which was immediately answered by a perfectly vultured off the rebound by Vardy, bringing the score to 3-2 with 22 minutes to play. It took just 4 more minutes later for Vardy to find his way to the penalty marker and line up for the potential game-tieing penalty. He scorched it low and straight as he always does, and Simon Mignolet opted to follow the scouting report and not dive to either side, making the save and ultimately winning the match for Liverpool.
Despite Vardy finishing on just 3 points after his missed penalty and yellow card, he looked as dangerous as ever during the match and still works as a great 3rd striker option. If punting is more of your thing, Okazaki is clearly a spark for the Foxes and they seem to always play better with him in the lineup. He may only be on for 60 minutes, but at 5.5m he is a solid punt with the number of favorable matchups that they have coming their way.
Leicester Next 6 Fixtures: Bournemouth (A), West Brom (H), Swansea (A), Everton (H), Stoke (A), Man City (H)
Liverpool Next 6 Fixtures: Newcastle (A), Man Utd (H), Spurs (A), Huddersfield (H), West Ham (A), Southampton (H)
Away: West Brom (0) – Home: Arsenal (2)
Why do they put games on Monday!? It’s just as stupid as the NFL’s decision to play a weekly Thursday night game….that was supposed to be meant just for Thanksgiving, you know, when nobody works.
Anyway, Arsenal hosted West Brom on Monday and did enough to come away with a cleansheet and a 2 nil win. That being said, West Brom looked very dangerous in the first half, and Jay Rodriguez had Peter Cech and the Arsenal defense scrambling during some key moments. Nacho Monreal made an incredible ninja kick save off Rodriguez’s chance in the 37th minute to keep Arsenal ahead 1-0, and really the Baggies deserved to be level at half time. He was also robbed of a penalty opportunity, as he got up to his feet after clearly being taken out in the box and was inches from scoring anyway. Had he thrown his hands up in disgust, there was a good chance he’s awarded the penalty kick for that play and the Baggies have a shot to tie it before half. Although he looked great on the pitch, I would not recommend Jay Rod for your team, since their upcoming fixtures don’t seem like wise bets for a 5.8m forward punt.
Alexandre Lacazette nailed a brace in the match, heading home his first goal in the 17th minute on a free kick. Alexis Sanchez richocheted it off the crossbar and Lacazette completely were NBA players alley-ooping to the other. His second goal was a sublime penalty, putting the game mostly out of reach for West Brom to mount an attack. Arsenal’s defense held up, and showed once again that it can handle the lesser opponents but still have yet to go toe-to-toe with any of the big attacking clubs in the Premier League.
Nothing I saw in this match makes me think they suddenly will be able to hold their ground against Man City and Spurs in GWs 11 and 12, but until then, their fixtures are decent and could potentially make some of their players worthwhile investments. At defense, Monreal is the best investment at 5.4m, and Kolasinac for 6.0m is their best attacking wing back for fantasy purposes. Given that I don’t believe Watford and Everton on the road are easy clean sheets, I would prefer to have Monreal for less money and just cash in on the potential clean sheets vs Brighton and Swansea and lower your expectactions for those other fixtures.
Attacking-wise, Ramsey bagged an assist and now sits comfortably at 24 points on the season, with 15 over his last 3 matches. He is one of the lone MF options at 7.0m that might be justifiable and could still give you consistent returns, something my current 6.0m and under MF crew will most likely not be capable of doing. Lacazette at forward looks first class and clinical in the matches he’s played, and I hope Arsene allows Sanchez and their new striker to find a rhythm playing together in all matches moving forward. Lacazette might feel like a viable option after games like this, but I still don’t prefer him to the likes of Kane, Lukaku, Morata, Aguero, Jesus or Firmino.
Likewise, the Chilean Sanchez remains unrosterable due to just how large of a chunk of your budget you would be forced to pay. Until he really gets going, I would prefer to stay with Ramsey or an Arsenal defender if you feel so inclined. The only important thing to note is that Sanchez is playing for potential future employers right now, so he won’t take any league matches lightly as those are the teams he needs to impress the most. If Arsenal stubbornly refuse to move him during the January transfer window, you better believe he’ll be playing to earn quite a sizeable wage increase, as the team that acquires him will save a metric boatload of cash by getting him on a free transfer.
Arsenal Next 6 Fixtures: Brighton (H), Watford (A), Everton (A), Swansea (H), Man City (A), Spurs (H)
West Brom Next 7 (YIKES!) Fixtures: Watford (H), Leicester (A), Southampton (A), Man City (H), Huddersfield (A), Chelsea (H), Spurs (A)