I orignally thought that the USMNT missing the World Cup was going to make me mad, but now that I am a few days removed from it, it may have actually set me free. I will now enjoy the World Cup in 2018. I will watch it with the fervor and joy of all participating nations' fans. I will pick a side in every match. I will never worry about how my side stacks up against the big boys, because quite frankly, we don't. The USA may one day soon have the talent to compete - side note and shoutout to Christian Pulisic, homie now has 7 goals and 6 assists in 11 WCQ matches, INSANE! and a shame he won't have the chance to play in as many World Cups as humanly possible - but sometimes it takes an event like what just transpired to get the best out of the collective. Next time around, the desire and urgency to improve throughout the World Cup Qualifying process must be there. If not, the right combination of coach and captain better be in place to deliver an even stronger kick in the nuts.
Away: Manchester City (1) - Home: Chelsea (0)The marquee match played at Stamford Bridge on Saturday felt like an away game for Chelsea, as Man City came out relentless from the start pressuring up top and pushing Chelsea back. Chelsea never looked comfortable playing out of the back, and Man City dominated early and often. Alvaro Morata picked up a hamstring injury in the 34th minute, and was replaced by Willian who saw little opportunity to attack alongside Eden Hazard.
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.
Away: Man City (6) – Home: Watford (0)Man City is flying through the early portion of the prem - through 5 games, 16 goals scored and only 2 against (1 by Everton and 1 by Bournemouth). Aguero dominated the attack with a hat trick, Jesus netted a goal, Otamendi burried a header and Sterling scored on a late penalty. So many points to miss out on when you don't have any of these players, which begs the question, why don't we have any of these players? Clearly it's time to reevaluate who you like the most between Jesus and Aguero, allocate funds and bring one of them - my advice would be to trust your gut and don't ever look back, as they will both return points and hopping back and forth will make you lose out on consistent returns, which they will provide throughout the season as long as that attacking midfield and defense remain healthy.
So I saw It over the weekend, and while I didn't even come close to crapping my pants in fear (thanks hangover!), I'm about 99% sure that Harry Kane's fear of August shares a creepy amount of commonalities with that homicidal crazed clown creature; both of them enjoy floating through open space (Kane on the pitch; the clown in a mind-altering expanse of sewer pipe only Mario would be jealous of), speaking in weird accents (seriously, listen to Harry Kane give an interview sometime), have an affinity for the color white (duh), and lastly, they both enjoy making red balloons go POP! (metaphorically speaking, that would be the hopes/dreams of all Gunner fans everywhere; FFS that's not a spoiler! he's a clown, he owns balloons!) Whether or not the fear of August (Augustamphobia?) has an actual effect on Kane's past performances (it doesn't), it's good to see him conquering his "fears" and getting on the board with a brace, a very important and necessary step as he looks to become only the third player in Premier League history to win three consecutive Golden Boots. The other two are Prem Legends Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry, who were 24 and 26, respectively, when they won the first of their three Botas Doradas. Kane just turned 24 this past July and has two under the belt. To paraphrase another mildy entertaining movie, you're [once again] a wizard, Harryyyy!
The highest scoring matches this week both ended up being shutouts, and GW 3 ended with 9 teams acquring clean sheets, almost 10 after Burnley's late equalizer to tie it. Certainly, all of those defensive clean sheets must have given some FPL managers a huge boost if their attacking returns over the weekend were less than imagined. If you didn't manage to pick up any clean sheets, then you defensive options may not be the best moving forward, but I wouldn't burn your wild card trying to sort them out. Why? Clean sheets are litterally a crap shoot to predict, so wild carding just because your defense let you down doesn't make any sense - save it for the higher priced forwards and midfielders you'd like to bring in over the next few weeks. Here are some notes on players I like/dislike from Game Week 3:
Welcome back all! We have two weeks down in the books, and I've provided some insight below into what I saw from a handful players, for better or for worse. Although I wish I could write about every player, remember that while we would to amass all of the players in the Fantasy Premier League universe, we are obligated to field a starting XI from your fifteen-man squad within the constraints of our budget. Hopefully some of these players below will at least be on your radar as you move forward with transfers and potential Wild Cards.
The Prem is here, and we can all now rejoice. Now that the season has kicked off, I will be doing my best to fill your Mondays with sweet, fond memories from the games from over the weekend. I also ask for some patience as I work through how to best provide both a summation and meaningful outlook on the matches. I was hoping to write about all 20 teams for this post, but it started to become lengthy and I started to get sleepy. So, here are my notes over the weekend on Arsenal to Liverpool (alpha order because why not?)...I will hopefully have Man City to West Ham by tomorrow.
The Hammers are one of the hardest teams to peg coming into the 2017/18 campaign. They currently have 7 players injured – Aaron Cresswell, Manuel Lanzini, Andy Carroll, Michael Antonio, Diafra Sakho, Sofiane Feghouli, Chekhou Kouyate – but have transferred in a few playmakers that should help them get through a pretty tough schedule to start the season. Marko Arnautovic and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández are the two big names here, and both could provide great value for a number of FPL managers this season. Hammers start the season away to Manchester United, but have great fixtures immediate after, facing Southampton (A), Newcastle (A), Huddersfield (H) and West Brom (A) from weeks 2-5. That stretch is followed with a tough home match versus Spurs in Gameweek 6, and then back into the green fixtures with Swansea (H), Burnley (A), Brighton (H) and Crystal Palace (A). While starting the season with three road starts might prove difficult, keep in mind that they do not possess too much of a “home field” advantage going into just their second season playing home matches at the London Stadium.
The Prem darlings from just two seasons ago crashed and burned in their attempt at a title defense for 2016/17 campaign. Despite dropping over £60million in transfers in order to contend for both the Prem and Champions League trophies, their new signings, Ahmed Musa, Islam Slimani, Luis Hernandez (left in January) and Nampalys Mendy did not even approximate their weight in pounds. Islam Slimani - heretofore to be known as the Muslim Slim Jim - was the only new signee not to struggle, tallying 7 goals, 4 assists and 35 shots in 1279 minutes playing striker coming off the bench. Their season was very much a tale of two teams: since Shakespeare took over the team last February at the end of Gameweek 25, the Foxes surged from 17th place and 1 point above relegation to finish the season in 12th place, 10 points clear of relegation and a mere 3 points behind sole possession of 8th. Part of their success was a return to the 4-4-2 formation that won them the Prem Title in 2016, and certainly their old manager had begun to rub people the wrong way. Ranieri’s 2016/17 campaign was characterized by unnecessary rotations and constant meddling with formations, resulting in abysmal 24 goals scored while allowing 43 in 25 matches. Shakespeare's return to the basics led to the Foxes scoring 24 more while only allowing 20 in 13 matches, 6 of which were throttled down their throats by Spurs in the penultimate week of the season; if you take out those 6 goals, that's 14 goals against in 12 matches (1.17 goals conceded/match, right on par with Arsenal's 1.15 goals conceded/match rate for the entire season). It’s a new season, and Leicester City does not have Champions or Europa League as a distraction this campaign, which gives me hope that they will be focused on winning the FA Cup or maintaining a higher position in the top half of the table as they look to compete again in continental fútbol. What does this all mean for fantasy? Leicester's nose dive last season and surprise season two years ago has created good value here, prettay prettay good value. Their two most expensive players, Vardy (3.5% owned) and Mahrez, are both priced at £8.5, cheap when you consider that Man City has 5 midfielders over 8.0 (thanks Smokey). Also keep in mind that Mahrez has been the focus of transfer rumors all summer (see below), and very well could be the man to replace Alexis Sanchez should Arsenal part ways with him. In terms of attacking, it would seem that Craig Shakespeare would do well to experiment with both Vardy and the Muslim Slim Jim up top. At £7.0, Muslim Slim Jim might be too expensive for most budgets as a 3rd striker with no track record, and if Kelechi Iheanacho (more on him below) does indeed finalize his transfer to Leicester, he might remain a fixture on the bench for the upcoming season. The calendar has turned to August, so let’s speculate who are the players to focus on, and what it means for your squad...