GW08 – One Week Punts

GW8 is looking like it’s shaking up to be a defining week for many FPL managers. With the league’s big boys Liverpool and Manchester City facing up against each other at Anfield this weekend, many are turning their attentions away from captain favourites Mohamed Salah (12.9) and Sergio Aguero (11.4), with fellow big-hitters Harry Kane (12.5) and Eden Hazard (11.1) looking at particularly kind fixtures – home to Cardiff and away to Southampton respectively – and thus looking like the most coveted captain options this weekend. While much has already been said about these two, it is also worth considering this week that many an FPL gaffer who has so far held onto their wildcard will likely be looking to fill the bleakness of the upcoming international break by pushing the button this weekend. As such, here’s a look at 5 one-week pre wildcard punts for GW8 whose names aren’t Harry Kane or Eden Hazard – because do we really need to hear any more about those two?

 James Maddison (6.9) MID. Leicester City. GW8 fixture: Everton (H)

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A man who’s no stranger to these lists having already featured in our pre-season mid-priced midfielder preview and our GW5 differentials article, Leicester midfielder James Maddison continues to establish himself as one of the true FPL bargains of the season so far. With 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 4 appearances, including an assist in a tricky away trip to Newcastle last time out, the young Englishman has found himself on the radar of many an FPL manager given Leicester’s upcoming fixture run – a veritable sea of green which sees only one fixture ranked higher than a 3 (a trip to Arsenal in GW9) and only 2 higher than a 2 over the next 8 GWs.

Next up in that run is a fixture that’s arguably as good as any from an attacking perspective – especially for a side like Leicester, who have managed to score in every single game of the campaign so far. Despite a noticeable improvement for Everton’s defence in their last 2 matches – an unlucky 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in GW 6 followed by their first clean sheet of the season in a 3-0 win over Fulham last time out – you’d have to go back to November 2017 for Toffees manager Marco Silva’s last away clean sheet in the Premier League, when his Watford side ran out 3-0 winners away to Newcastle. In the 8 games on his travels since, Silva’s teams have failed to keep a single shutout, conceding 19 goals along the way. Indeed, this season, Everton currently sit 16th in the away table, with 2 draws, a defeat, and 6 goals conceded.

Those defensive frailties will be something Leicester’s main creative force will no doubt be looking to exploit at the weekend, and his recent performances suggest that he’s more than capable of doing so. In his last game against Newcastle, Maddison comfortably led the way in terms of key passes with 5, with no one else on the pitch managing to register more than 2. That figure contributes to his average of 2.1 per game for the season, level with the likes of Eden Hazard (11.1) in 10th place overall, just 1 place behind Spurs’ Christian Eriksen (9.2). Firmly in charge of free kick and corner duties, the 21-year-old midfielder will look to add to his impressive recent output from set pieces at the weekend. He added to his fine GW6 free-kick against Huddersfield with an assist for Harry Maguire (5.5) from a corner against Newcastle last Saturday, and with the big England centre-half and the ever goal-hungry Jamie Vardy (8.9) – himself an extremely enticing option going into this GW with 2 goals and an assist in his last 2 appearances – Maddison will be looking to increase his assist tally further at the King Power on Saturday, and will surely even fancy adding to his own impressive goal tally of 3 himself.

Alexandre Lacazette (9.5) FOR. Arsenal. GW8 fixture: Fulham (A)

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Next up we have another player who’s gone on to impress having featured in one of our previous articles. After his appearance in our GW5 differential watch, Alexandre Lacazette has managed to return in all 3 fixtures since, registering 2 assists, a goal and 2 bonus points. If you managed to read what we had to say about him then, you’ll know that with his recent returns, the Frenchman is simply adding to a hot streak which now sees him on 9 goals and 4 assists in his last 12 starts in all competitions, and with a trip to Fulham up next, it would quite frankly be something of a surprise not to see him add to his tally. The Cottagers currently have the joint-worst defence in the division alongside basement-dwellers Huddersfield and Cardiff, having conceded 16 goals in 7 games so far, compounded by a 3-0 defeat away to Everton last weekend. Conversely, Arsenal go into this game on the back of a 5 game winning streak in the league, and the 12 goals they’ve racked up during that run has seen them become the league’s joint 3rd highest scorers, level with Spurs with 14 overall and behind high-flyers Manchester City (21), Liverpool and Chelsea (both 15).

If, as expected, the Gunners are to continue their scoring streak at Fulham, it seems reasonable to assume that Lacazette will be involved somehow. Of Arsenal’s last 12 goals, the Frenchman has had a hand in 6 – scoring 2 and assisting 4, and that output has some reflection in his underlying stats. Despite being unable to get on the scoresheet last game, the forward registered a game-high 4 shots on goal. Only Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure (5.9) came close to that tally with 3. Averaging 2.4 shots a game so far this campaign, Lacazette comes out on top for goal attempts amongst Arsenal players, so it’s likely that the former Lyon man finds himself back amongst the goals before too long.

Perhaps most encouraging of all when you consider Lacazette’s success when starting games is that he appears to have finally made the central striker berth in manager Unai Emery’s 4-2-3-1 formation his own, having managed 90 minutes in each of his last 4 league games and, crucially, being granted a rest in Arsenal’s last 2 Europa League games, including a bench role against Qarabag this Thursday – a strong suggestion that his services in the league are top of Emery’s priority list. With the game against Fulham as good a fixture as any for the in-form forward, Lacazette looks a great choice for GW8, and at only 7.2% ownership, a big haul from him could see you fly up the ranks going into the international break.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson (5.9) MID. Burnley. GW8 fixture: Huddersfield (H)

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With a home fixture against Huddersfield being up there with the best a team can ask for going into any given weekend, it would be remiss not to include a player from a resurgent Burnley side on this list, and of their attacking options (though given the bluntness of the opposition, Clarets defensive coverage could also be a shrewd investment – goalkeeper Joe Hart (4.6) and defenders Ben Mee (4.9), Matt Lowton (4.8), Charlie Taylor (4.4) and Kevin Long (4.3) could all see clean sheet points this weekend), the best bet looks to be in-form midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson. A player that we previewed in pre-season, the Icelandic midfielder initially struggled along with his teammates as Burnley found the demands of Thursday night Europa League football too much to cope with given the limited depth of their squad. Since bowing out of the competition, however, Burnley have begun to look like the well-drilled Premier League side that they’ve established themselves as over the past 2 seasons.

That upturn in form has been spearheaded by Gudmundsson, who’s managed 3 assists, a goal and 3 bonus points in his last 2 appearances – Burnley’s first two victories of the season. The 27-year-old is fast becoming the talisman for Sean Dyche’s men, and it appears that if Burnley score, you can expect him to be involved – of the 9 goals Burnley have scored this season, Gudmundsson has been involved in 5. Speaking of goals, they should be something of a formality against a Huddersfield side with the joint-worst defensive record in the division (16 goals conceded) along with Fulham and Burnley’s previous opponents, Cardiff. In that game, Gudmundsson managed a goal and an assist despite Burnley only managing to get 3 shots off for the entire game, highlighting how integral he is in terms of his side putting the ball in the back of the net.

The Clarets weren’t quite so starved of opportunities in GW6, converting 4 of their 12 shots on goal as they thrashed Bournemouth. Predictably, Gudmundsson was Burnley’s most creative player on the day, providing 2 shots, 2 key passes and a game-high 3 crosses, which was reflected in his returns as he came away with 2 assists. That rate of creativity is closer to what we’ve come to expect from the former Charlton man, who was in the top 10 in the league for average key passes per game last season (1.9), just behind David Silva (8.5), Xherdan Shaqiri (7.1) and Pascal Groß (6.7), and was 2nd overall for crosses at just under 2 a game, ahead of the likes of Groß and Kevin De Bruyne (9.7). Gudmundsson is still in the top 10 for crosses this year, and you can expect him to climb higher if Burnley can continue to steady the ship as they have done in their last 2 games. A home game against the league’s bottom side looks like the perfect opportunity to do just that, and the perfect opportunity for Gudmundsson – currently the league’s joint 3rd highest assister with 3 – to add to his recent tally.

Troy Deeney (6.1) FOR. Watford. GW8 fixture: Bournemouth (H)

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While there’s not much to split Troy Deeney with his strike-partner Andre Gray (6.0) in terms of who to pick for your FPL side for their attractive home fixture against Bournemouth this weekend, it’s the Watford skipper who just edges it for us. Deeney, along with Watford, has made a fairly strong start to the season, scoring 2 goals and managing an assist so far. He’s also managing 2.1 shots per game and 1.1 key passes per game – for reference, Gray is averaging 1.7 shots per game and 0.6 key passes per game, though the former Burnley man does have one more goal than his captain. Deeney will be looking to convert those shots into goals and add to his tally for the season as his side host a Bournemouth team against whom he has scored 2 goals in his last 4 appearances. Despite a solid start to the season, Eddie Howe’s men have shown signs of slipping into the old defensive habits which have seen them concede more goals than any other team in the Premier League since their promotion to the top flight 3 years ago, with only Brighton, Cardiff and Huddersfield holding worse defensive records this campaign. Conversely, Watford’s 2-0 defeat away to an Arsenal side who have won their last 7 in all competitions was the first time they’ve failed to score this season, so a Bournemouth shutout would be nothing short of surprising. Moreover, Bournemouth have conceded 2 penalties so far this campaign, and Deeney, first in the queue for Watford spot-kicks, has converted 12 of his last 15 Premier League penalties, so this particular route to goal does not seem all that unlikely in this fixture.

With Javi Gracia at the helm this season, The Hornets have placed much emphasis on the output of their strike-pairing in a 4-4-2 system. This double spearhead looks to have benefited Deeney in particular; his aforementioned rate of shots and key passes per game is significantly up from the previous 2 seasons, and is more akin to his statistics from his first season in the Premier League in 2015/16, which saw him return 13 goals and 7 assists in 36 starts – still his best season in the top flight to date. That season, he averaged 2.5 shots per game, with that slipping to 1.1 and 1.2 the following 2 seasons. If he can keep up his rate of 2.1 shots per game this season, then, Deeney could be on course to replicate his FPL success from 3 seasons ago. Helping Deeney, there is also Watford’s midfield supporting cast, with Roberto Pereyra (6.3), Will Hughes (5.0), and Abdoulaye Doucoure (5.9) managing 4 goals and 3 assists between them so far this season. While a Watford clean sheet against the Cherries is less of a guarantee, left-back Jose Holebas (4.9) may be worth a shout on assist potential alone, as he looks for his 5th tee up of the season.

Kieran Trippier (6.2)/Danny Rose (5.9) DEF. Tottenham Hotspur. GW8 fixture: Cardiff (H)

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To compliment man-of-the-moment Harry Kane, you might want to look at bringing in further Tottenham assets, such is the nature of their GW8 fixture, which is as likely to see a Spurs clean sheet as it is a glut of goals at the other end. Cardiff are the 3rd side in this article to be part of the unenvied 16 goals conceded club – a record which, combined with the fact they’ve only scored 4, leaves them 2nd from bottom of the league table, marginally ahead of Huddersfield on goal difference. With Kane – and one or two other Spurs attacking assets, which we’ll return to shortly – likely looking to fill his boots against a side who conceded 4 to Chelsea in their last away game, and with Cardiff’s struggles in front of goal, looking to the Tottenham supply-line from the fullback positions could turn out to be a shrewd move. In terms of one week punts, there is little to separate Danny Rose from the more popular FPL option Kieran Trippier this week. Both seem like excellent choices; with 3 assists and a goal to his name already, making him the 3rd highest-scoring defender in FPL so far this season, along with a recent injury to rotation threat Serge Aurier (5.8), it’s easy to see why Trippier is the 2nd most selected defender in the game this season. The England right-back leads the league for crosses this campaign, averaging 2.5 per game, and after demonstrating he has free kicks in his locker with a fine strike against Fulham back in GW2, his attacking potential looks higher still.

In a 1 week vacuum, however, we think there’s every reason to save yourself 0.3 and opt for the man on the opposite flank this GW. After a turbulent season for the former Leeds man last campaign, Rose is finally showing signs of returning to the form that saw him lauded week in, week out the season before last, helping himself to an assist vs. Brighton in GW6, before earning a penalty last time out against Huddersfield for Kane to slot home. With 4 assists between the pair of them over the last 2 games, it might seem that the added bonus of set pieces sways things in Trippier’s favour. However, it should be noted that while he played 90 minutes in a high-intensity Champions’ League game which saw Spurs defeated 4-2 by Barcelona at Wembley on Wednesday night, Rose earned himself a rest, with Ben Davies (5.7) preferred for the tie. Given manager Mauricio Pochettino’s fullback rotation policy, it seems a certainty that Rose will be fresh and ready to start against Cardiff at the weekend. While Trippier also seems likely to start given the lack of other options there – though young right-back Kyle Walker-Peters (4.3) is still waiting in the wings – the extra verve might just be with Rose on the day, given his full week’s rest to Trippier’s mere 2 days. Whichever one you opt for though, returns at at least one end of the pitch seem likely against Neil Warnock’s hapless Cardiff side.

Further up the pitch, Lucas Moura (7.4) and Heung-Min Son (8.3) both deserve mentions. With injuries in the Spurs midfield ranks rife, these two are more or less nailed on to start at the weekend and it would be no surprise to see Son in particular return a big haul against Cardiff, as he so often does in home games against struggling opposition. If there was further evidence of form going into this game for the South Korean, he would certainly be higher up this list. After limping off against Barcelona on Wednesday, the availability of midfielder Erik Lamela (6.4) has yet to be confirmed.

Article written by @JdotQueralt

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