Leicester go five points clear, Arsenal and Spurs leave their contest feeling disappointed and Swansea virtually guarantee some Welsh representation in the Premier League next season. 5 things we learned from the weekend:
Another reminder to mostly avoid derby matches
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t find the North London Derby gripping to watch. Everyone groans at the cliche of ‘form goes out the window’ for rivalry games and with the recent results for Spurs and Arsenal it was hard to tell if that cliche held true or not. With both teams coming off narrow defeats but pushing for the title, it was declared the most important fixture between the teams ever to be contested. Unfortunately, all of this excitement and entertainment made it nigh on impossible to pick a fantasy team suited to the occasion.
Michael Oliver came armed with a yellow card to White Hart Lane and he wasn’t afraid to use it, while the peculiar trend of Arsenal’s big games this season always involving a red card continued. This is the main reason to avoid selecting players participating in derby matches, the widespread dispersion of disciplinary cards of both colours. Personally, I tend to steer clear of defences in particular for these games. Francois Coquelin isn’t a factor in fantasy football, but his rush-of-blood red card could have happened to anyone and Eric Dier probably should have gone for a slightly early bath. There aren’t many derbies left this season, but proceed with caution when 2016/17 rolls around.
Lukaku becoming a fully fledged star
Saturday eventually morphed into a day of doom and gloom for the Toffees, whose disappointing season has started to linger into ‘Roberto Martinez might actually get fired’ territory, especially given that new owners are in town. Regardless of yet another lead being let slip, Romelu Lukaku showcased his complete game – aside from penalty taking – against West Ham and it’s getting to the point where he’s making Everton’s attack deadly week in, week out. Firstly, he went about sending Reece Oxford back to the U21s in the process of scoring his first and then set up Aaron Lennon to create the two goal advantage that Everton’s non-existent defence would lose.
Lukaku at under £9.0M is really undervalued in FPL and this is in a season where Riyad Mahrez (£7.3M) and Jamie Vardy (£7.8M) are stamping their authority all over the league. The Belgian has 18 goals, second in the goalscoring charts to only Jamie Vardy, and he could have boosted that tally even more against West Ham only to let a couple of chances go. Many seem to always have the sense that Lukaku never quite lives up to his billing and it’s difficult to understand why. Lukaku should be enjoyed for what he is right now, which is a striker who’s clearly on the path to being world class. As fantasy managers, we should enjoy him before his price is set in double figures next season.
Newcastle and McClaren should have parted ways a while ago
It was fitting that Ayoze Perez was the one to score for Newcastle while they still came out second best against former relegation candidates Bournemouth. The Spaniard is a rare spark of life in this Newcastle team when he plays so, naturally, Steve McClaren left him on the bench for the games prior to this one. It’s not just Perez that has received this puzzling treatment. Seydou Doumbia, of CSKA Moscow and Roma fame, threatened Stoke City in midweek when he came off the bench. Who did McClaren choose to start vs Bournemouth? Emmanuel Rivière of course, of 1 goal in 23 appearances fame.
No one is saying this Newcastle squad should be challenging for anything serious. But looking at what McClaren is working with, they should at least be able to score goals freely. Starting Rivière feels like he wants to get sacked and truthfully it has never looked like his heart was really in it. In fantasy terms the club feel like a poor man’s version of Manchester United, where you know there’s good players in the squad but it’d be wasting transfers and money to go after them while they’re under the direction of van Gaal or McClaren. Clubs should always look to be patient with their managers, but McClaren was a poor hire from the start and it’s only getting worse.
Bertrand Traore will be a sleeper next summer
Chelsea’s conveyor belt of prospects, most of whom might make a couple of starts during the season then fade into obscurity, is hard to keep up with at the best of times. However Bertrand Traore looks like he might stick around a tad more permanently. In the Premier League he’s up to 2 goals and an assist in just 166 minutes, as well as his recent emergence being the only interesting thing about Chelsea right now. The question is: will we see him starting next season under the next Chelsea manager?
Presuming Hiddink departs over the summer and Chelsea look to recruit as they normally do, it isn’t such a simple path to the starting XI for Bertrand. For example, Chelsea opened 2013/14 with Kevin De Bruyne in their side and he looked like he might be part of a funky new look Chelsea attack. But Mourinho and Chelsea decided otherwise and moved him onto Wolfsburg in the following January, so you just never know. But if Bertrand Traore looks set to get minutes from the off next season, pick him up. Or you could always just get him in your teams now of course, why wait?
Manchester United are just like every other team now
In the last couple of seasons, as soon as United look like they’ve found something and get on a bit of a roll someone like Tony Pulis and his West Brom team turn up to ruin it. Louis van Gaal has to be frustrated with the result at The Hawthorns that brought about the abrupt end to their winning streak, yet the way it happened was simply bemusing. The notorious Juan Mata picking up 2 yellow cards in nearly as many minutes? Not only is this iteration of United less talented than squads we’ve seen before, it’s also less intelligent. We all grew up dealing with Sir Alex Ferugson’s monolithic team, so to watch them playing with 10 men against West Brom and not being able to scrap a result just isn’t very…United.
On the positive side, Anthony Martial looks really dangerous regardless of where he plays and that versatility makes him an enticing prospect for the foreseeable future in fantasy football. If he can switch almost seamlessly between the left wing and leading the line, he’ll get plenty of minutes which for obvious reasons is a good thing. We don’t really know what Marcus Rashford is yet and I imagine he might be a tad overpriced next season because of his reputation. One final piece of advice for the coming double gameweek frenzies, perhaps you should drop your United defenders if Michael Carrick really is going to continue starting over Morgan Schneiderlin. I thought we’d solved this issue before, van Gaal?