The story of this gameweek for me was Sergio Agüero. As discussed in my Gameweek 28 Starting XI article, I decided on the Argentine as captain over several other quality options, with Luis Suárez leading the pack as my vice. With Kun missing out, Suárez and his seventeen points were awarded the captain band with Guy Demel and his clean sheet coming in as a sub. This made a mediocre gameweek solid, increasing my lead over both second and third place to a very comfortable 44 and 111 points, respectively. For once, an injury resulted in a pleasant substitute appearance. I am not apologetic.
Well, I am a little apologetic. I feel quite badly for those that needed Agüero to come through, especially after my tweet the evening before (see screen cap above). Still though, it seems Sergio will be healthy long-term and it is only fantasy football even if it sometimes feels more important. So with that out of the way, let’s get on to the Gameweek review.
Chelsea 1 – West Bromwich Albion 0
It was interesting to see this game play out now that Rafa has confirmed his interim status will become nothing more (seriously, bravo for the rant…bravo). For the first time during his tenure, Benítez played the three playmakers together, something his predecessor did regularly. Chelsea dominated as expected with the Brommies missing on-loan Blues forward Lukaku. Rafa’s men managed only a single goal but probably deserved at least one more. Ba, Mata and Oscar were solid statistically.
Everton 3 – Reading 1
As I mentioned in my Gameweek preview, Everton should have dominated an overmatched Reading and, for once, they managed to do so. Eight shots on target and twenty-one in total would be exciting for most teams, but Everton has shown this type of superiority before. Kevin Mirallas’ six shots (five in the box) are somewhat exciting though as Jelavic needs replacing as soon as possible.
Manchester United 4 – Norwich City 0
The story here was Van Persie’s start and subsequent 66 minutes. Those who dropped the Dutchman (yours truly included) were more than a little worried to see his name in the starting XI. But a single assist and no bonus points left little damage. Rooney continues to excel when playing behind a lone striker. On the other side, the Canaries created just a single chance, the worst performance of the season. Thrilling stuff.
Southampton 1 – Queens Park Rangers 2
Very surprising result. While QPR has looked much more dangerous with Rémy up front, I couldn’t foresee a loss for the Saints. From the numbers, Southampton appeared to struggle to penetrate QPR’s backline with Jay Rodriguez settling for five shots outside the box while Lambert managed only one inside. Those numbers should ideally be reversed or at least equal. Even more perplexing was Artur Boruc’s performance. The Polish veteran has now allowed nine goals on the last fourteen shots faced. Is this a recurrence of the goalkeeping problem that plagued Southampton early this year? If so, Boruc could find himself once again benched and my upcoming budget goalkeeper recommendations significantly altered. I’ll be looking at the keeper’s play when watching the replay later this week.
Stoke City 0 – West Ham United 1
This game was always going to be a terrible display of football and the box score indicates as much. Fifteen total chances and five shots on target between the two clubs…yawn. At least I bet on the under 2.5 goals. No real fantasy implications here either although there is some consternation about Stoke’s lack of clean sheets in the new year. They haven’t been as strong as early in the season, but the Potters have allowed just nine shots on target and two clear-cut chances the past three weeks. Accordingly, Marc Wilson still remains a very good value at just £ 3.9.
Sunderland 2 – Fulham 2
My first of two losing bets, Fulham’s draw at Sunderland obviously surprised me. The numbers fully supported a draw too, although I believe that’s more of an indication of the current form of the Black Cats defense rather than any improvement with Fulham’s attack. I still remain unimpressed by Berbatov yet somewhat intrigued by Stéphane Sessègnon as a attacking right midfielder.
Swansea City 1 – Newcastle United 0
And here is the second loser of the weekend. I had really bought into Newcastle’s post-transfer window attack, but they were pretty nondescript at Swansea. Swansea was also fairly toothless with neither team able to generate many chances. Cabaye and Sissoko were active statistically although all but one of Sissoko’s shots came from outside the area. Not surprisingly, only one of his attempts found the target. He is still intriguing but the mass transfers (over 250,000 heading into this week) are a bit much for me at this point.
Wigan 0 – Liverpool 4
Luis Suárez is a pretty unlikable lad, at least on the pitch. With that said, the diminutive forward is simply on fire right now. His hat trick against Wigan was a bit lucky (how often do you see a free kick scored from one’s ass?), but he was absolutely dominant in a first half that put the game out of reach. He now leads the race for the Golden Boot and has a shot at the top fantasy scorer for the season. Who would have guessed it preseason? Unsurprisingly, Wigan did produce some chances but Liverpool held on for their second consecutive clean sheet; Liverpool’s defense is very attractive at the moment. All told, the Reds provide a veritable cornucopia of fantasy options for the remainder of the season.
Tottenham 2 – Arsenal 1
The battle of high lines in North London saw André Villas-Boas’ men come through with a convincing victory against Arsenal. Gareth Bale was once again among the goals while Theo Walcott continued to produce consistent points even during his recent “downturn” in form (notice the quotes as I think his form his fine). Olivier Giroud once again was wasteful, turning his thirteen penalty area touches into just a single shot on goal. One wonders how many more opportunities the Frenchman will get out front. Also at issue is Arsenal’s defense which has been well below elite in my team ratings the majority of the season. While they have solid fixtures, I much prefer Liverpool, Tottenham, or either Manchester defenders to anyone on the Gunners’ backline.
Aston Villa 0 – Manchester City 1
City were customarily underwhelming offensively while stifling defensively. Villa had nary a single shot on goal and produced not one clear-cut chance. This game was over once Carlos Tévez made his way around Brad Guzan a few minutes before half. With that said, I thought Christian Benteke looked very dangerous and is a potential few week punt for me. For Man City, Yaya Touré’s time up front ended as soon as Jack Rodwell pulled another hamstring. One suspects Mancini will be forced to go 4-4-2 again with a when healthy Agüero pairing with Tévez or Dzeko. At this point, probably only Agüero (again if healthy) and possibly Silva are ownable attackers although Zabaleta, Clichy, and Nastasic all represent studs in the back.
SoccerSaber’s Team Review
A solid week for me after the auto-subs kicked in. I gained spots in all but one league and now sit just a few hundred over 10K overall. As stated, I was quite fortunate to end up with such a total. Both my captaincy and my defensive decisions were poor but Sturridge’s and Agüero’s injuries made this a non-issue.
While only ten weeks remain in the season, multiple double gameweeks and other scheduling quirks create numerous opportunities for further advancement for fantasy players. For me, my plan will be looking to survive Gameweek 29 while positioning myself for maximum double gameweek coverage moving forward. All of this would be easier if clubs would actually get off their arses and reschedule some fixtures (seriously take your time, whenever it’s convenient). Patience may be a virtue but it’s not one of my virtues, dammit!
Until then, it’s all a guessing game. I have my eye on Benteke and Marc Wilson short-term with longer-term aspirations for possibly Agüero (again), Rooney, Sissoko, Sessègnon, De Gea, Clichy and Kyle Walker. In addition, I might look at players such as Azpilicueta, Hazard, Fellaini, Mirallas, Heitinga, Cazorla, and Jenkinson/Sagna for double gameweek coverage. Time will tell which actually get a shot in my lineup.
Stay tuned this week for my usual team ratings review, gameweek preview and starting XI discussion. In addition, I should have my budget goalkeeper rotation evaluation posted sometime by the weekend. Hope to see you then!