The games on Saturday were scheduled in a way perhaps almost as if to replicate what is going on in the minds of most Fantasy managers. This season has been, as was expected, blessed with a plethora of options in midfield. The problem is that there are only five spots available in every squad. This is a great problem to have, but the multitude of options also means selecting the right players, at the right time and learning when to let go of them.
While the defenders are failing and falling like a group of old trees after a thunderstorm, players like Maddison, Sterling, and Diaby of Aston Villa, and Foden, have all put their hand up asking serious questions about inclusions. The popular midfield players going into the season of Bruno and Rashford and Martinelli or a Saka have all been mostly failing to justify the faith placed on them in this marathon-tight race. Many managers had already gotten rid of either of Manchester United duo of Bruno or Rashford before the Red Devils’ match against Forest. Traffic surge has been towards mostly Foden, or Maddison. Managers with still two Arsenal and United players in their sides filling up four of the five spots were welcoming Saturday perhaps with the last breaths of patience.
Spurs took on Bournemouth in the lunchtime game, with Richarlison, failing to pretty much assert or impress in the game once again. He did come close once, but his lack of confidence at the moment was on clear display, fluffing his lines, a yard from the goal line. Ange Postecoglou’s side has become heavily reliant for now on new signing James Maddison. So much so, the Australian was asked in the presser, given the way he is playing, if the new signing is to be considered a bargain for Spurs. Maddison was the focal point of the Spurs’ attack for the length of the game, he is also on set pieces, and is shouldering the offensive duty for his new team.
The former Foxes midfielder was the most lively opening the scoring from a Sarr through ball. Arguably, managers in FPL with him in their squads might be feeling a tad unlucky given Maddison’s immense dominance. On another day he could have had a bigger haul. He had four goal attempts, one big chance created, and two shots on target, with an xA of 0.44 and an xG of 1.08. His xGi on the day was 1.52. A goal with two bonus points and the clean sheet point meant he completed the game with ten points.
Much has been talked about Bruno and Rashford over the last week. The footballing world is a result-based business, and Bruno and Rashford were both certainly not delivering much joy in FPL. United, at large have evident problems of their own, dwindling further faith for Fantasy managers. So, when Manchester United, went down, by two goals, within the opening minutes on Saturday, fears of a repetition of the previous weekend were beginning to surface. Thankfully, and much to the relief of a million players hoping for points, Bruno and Rashord led the resurgence of their team. Particularly Bruno was excellent in the game, with, a goal from the penalty spot and an assist.
The Portugal international created two big chances, with three total chances created, with six attempts on goal and three shots on target. Bruno registered an xA of 0.54, an xG of 1.21, and an xGi of 1.75 against Forest. He was by some distance the pick of the midfielders from United, combining his good play with actual returns. Fantasy players who had passed their tested patience on Bruno and sold him will have a sour taste of the case of hindsight.
Rashford, for his part, was involved in two assists including the opening goal of the game, and winning the penalty that Bruno scored. He had a lesser impact than Bruno with no big chances created, and only one chance created, with two goal attempts and one shot on target. His xA on Saturday was 0.58 with an xG of 0.12 and an xGi of 0.70. While Bruno acquired twelve Fantasy points, Rashford had seven, courtesy of the yellow card he received.
The midfielders in most of the chopping block list had their games side by side, and that meant Arsenal played Fulham at the same time as United. It might come as a surprise but Saka, given all the speculations of his lack of attacking threat and better options elsewhere was the best midfielder statistically of game week 3. The England winger had a massive xGi of 2.44, recording amongst the highest in the season so far for all players, with an xA of 1.08 and xG of 1.36. Saka’s compatriot Martinelli, finished the game with no returns, continuing his bleak run of attacking output, with an xA of 0.11 and an xG of 0.54 and an xGi of 0.65. Odegaard played far deeper to warrant any potential Fantasy attraction and for now, Saka is back on penalties.
Foden didn’t start the game against Sheffield due to illness. He traveled alone but came on to supply the assist to Rodri, and as is known Sterling scored a brace and an assist to haul nineteen points on Friday. Popular picks like Mbeumo finally failed to register an output, while Eze dominated the stats again, without any returns.
So, what to do now? There are only five spots and about nine to ten midfielders in demand for our consideration. Fantasy players who haven’t started well, early in the season, will look desperately to differentiate from the pack and bring differentials in their squads. Early season lost ranks propels for an early wild card, often. It may not be the best of play on paper but is team dependent. There is no use in going with an influx of Arsenal and Manchester United players in such a scenario.
Spurs play, Burnley away next, followed by Sheffield United at home, following two tough games against Arsenal and Liverpool, they play Luton away, Fulham at home, and Palace away. The combinations of fixtures and form and the price make Maddison almost too good to ignore. It would be unwise to not advantage of the glaring opportunity provided by Maddison. The same points can all be said for Sterling as well. Chelsea are having the best run of fixtures till game week eight with the Blues playing Forest next at home. Sterling is even half a million cheaper than Maddison and he is playing as the chief creative force in midfield with a spring in his steps again like the good old days.
City play Fulham at home next, followed by West Ham away, Forest at home and Wolves away. Foden before his illness this week, seemed to be glimpses of the player we all know he is, in the absence of De Bruyne, he is shouldering the creative responsibilities for Guardiola’s side. He played in his natural position behind the striker against Newcastle, in a performance of excellence. Sterling, Foden, and Maddison are all players deserving of inclusion given their performances and fixtures, and not a case of knee-jerk.
The rebuttals to them would probably be, even though, Arsenal and Manchester United play against each other in the coming game week. They might have players that have to go for most Fantasy players to make way for Sterling or Foden but historically, United and Arsenal have always been goal-scoring games. The defensive solidity of both sides at the moment is not the best, something that will bode well from an attacking perspective. Bruno and Saka both are on penalties and have displayed good performances, in particular Bruno, against Forest. There will be no surprises, even though either Martinelli or Rashford may not look like candidates for a huge haul if they bag a brace anytime soon. They are both players capable of that and have security of minutes. Arteta seems to be rotating, Nketiah, Trossard, and Jesus up front. Martinelli’s minutes seem to be secured at the moment.
In some ways, this is a great start to the season and what makes this game so great. Unlike many of the last seasons when managers were playing like puppets all buying players with double game weeks on their sides. This season there are actual decisions to be made. It is certainly not boring this year. Every move comes with a caveat and for managers transferring out, United or Arsenal assets. There needs to be caution the move can backfire pretty soon. The same applies to those, who are keeping them as well. It is not being risk averse but the ability to perceive the risk and reward ratio that makes a Fantasy manager worthy of their chop. I will be leaning toward selling Rashford and Martinelli, but that’s just me, and there is a whole week to go before final decisions are made.