Gameweek 11 is upon us and with it over a quarter of the Premier League season has already passed. It would be easy to say things have settled down and results have returned to normal but Leicester’s 9-0 demolition of Southampton suggests anything but. Meanwhile, FPL is as unpredictable as ever from Perez and Pulisic hat-tricks to back-to-back Aguero benchings. But amidst all the confusion, what can be inferred ahead of this gameweek and the upcoming schedule heading into Christmas?
The only place to start is with Friday’s fantastic Foxes, who fittingly marked the one year anniversary of their chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s tragic death. This is certainly a side outperforming what is expected of them as an xG of 13.60 is defied by their 25 goals so far, 12 of which were scored against ten men. But as always, football is a game played on a pitch, not on a spreadsheet. Jamie Vardy is thriving under Brendan Rodgers, having netted 18 times in 20 games under the Northern Irishman. Rodgers also recently stated he is encouraging Vardy to stay away from the ball and play on the last line of opposition defences at all times, both playing to his strengths and allowing him to score more goals. That rate of goals will eventually slow, but with home matches against Arsenal, Everton, Watford and Norwich in his next seven, Vardy is a tantalising option at £9.2m. If ever there was a time to own him this season, this is it, whilst he and Leicester continue to ride the crest of a wave.
That run of fixtures arguably warrants defensive investment too. Conceding just eight goals so far, with an xGC of 10.58, Leicester rank amongst the top three Premier League teams on both counts. With viable options at a variety of price points, we are spoilt for choice. Kasper Schmeichel is amongst the top scoring goalkeepers, Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira have two routes to points, supplementing clean sheets with goals and assists and Caglar Soyuncu provides the most budget friendly route to any clean sheets. Any of the four or even Jonny Evans look a good bet for defensive returns as Christmas approaches.
Looking at the midfield for those considering a triple-up, it has to be one of James Maddison or Youri Tielemans. Whilst Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes caught the eye on Friday night, early substitutions and occasional benchings will be the norm, giving the pair far less time to make an impact. Tielemans at £0.4-0.6m more is simply a no-brainer in comparison, arguably ahead of James Maddison too, who continues to shake off an injury and whose points per match is only very marginally more favourable. But despite the obvious attraction of Leicester’s assets, expectations should remain realistic. The defence looks great and Vardy is on fire, but beyond the upcoming run of fixtures, a triple-up looks a step too far. Consider an exit plan if it all goes wrong.
After creating seven chances in the 2-1 victory over Spurs at the weekend, Alexander-Arnold has now created more chances than any other Premier League player this season. Eight of those have been big chances, second only to De Bruyne (10); it is easy to see why the likes of Jamie Carragher have drawn comparisons between the two, albeit in very different roles. More stats could be reeled off in relation to his attacking productivity but they all point to the same conclusion – there is no comparison between Trent and any other defender in the final third. In a side who have conceded the joint fewest goals this season, accompanied by the second best xGC, it is only a matter of time before he becomes the top scoring defender in FPL. All that denied him from that mantle in 2018/19 was a couple of injury problems limiting his game time – no defender got near his 6.4 points per match. Even though he is in 28.9% of teams already, it is certainly not too late to bring him in. Points in abundance are surely imminent.
The Manchester United Conundrum
Sitting in seventh place with just three league wins, Manchester United have flattered to deceive for much of 2019/20. Defensively, they are one of the most resolute sides around, conceding the fifth fewest goals, the lowest xG and the joint fifth fewest goal attempts. Whilst they perform favourably in these metrics, they continue to look unconvincing on the pitch and therein lies the conundrum. Gameweek 3 favourites Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire could quite easily play themselves into the considerations of FPL managers but with Lundstram, Soyuncu and others costing less and producing more, it appears very difficult to trust either. However, that is predominantly based on current information. Looking ahead, Brighton, Aston Villa, Tottenham, Everton and Newcastle all visit Old Trafford by Boxing Day. With three of United’s defensive assets owned by at least 13%, this could well be a base worth covering and a potentially fruitful one at that. An alternative to Manchester City’s run of facing Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal in the space of six gameweeks, perhaps?
United’s attack also provides points potential in the coming weeks. Anthony Martial has returned from injury and Marcus Rashford looks rejuvenated following a sluggish spell in September when Solskjaer’s reluctance to rest him took its toll on him physically. Both players combined superbly on Sunday, albeit against a struggling Norwich defence as they swiftly exchanged three passes before the Frenchmen dinked the ball over an onrushing Tim Krul. The pair’s consistency stretches beyond this week though. Only five forwards boast a better total points and points per match tally than Rashford, whilst Martial has an assist or goal in every start. Meanwhile at £6.1m, Daniel James is more than justifying his price tag with an attacking return arriving every other game. Ahead of the aforementioned fixture run, offensive investment in the again fifth highest ranked side for goal attempts should warrant at least consideration.
Last week it appeared difficult to look past Manchester City attackers for the visit of Aston Villa, yet Leicester defied that with their record-breaking victory. However, it is once again a fairly straightforward decision on paper, aided by sorry Southampton travelling to the Etihad on Saturday afternoon. Having been beaten 6-1 in the corresponding fixture last November, the Saints will be keen to avoid a repeat. A basic level of commitment must be Hassenhuttl’s main priority, such was the abysmal defending that led to many of Leicester’s goals last weekend.
Second guessing Pep Guardiola’s team sheet is a nigh on impossible task, but Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne’s omission from Tuesday’s starting lineup against Southampton in the Carabao Cup suggests both will return in the league. Such is the form of both players, from both a footballing and FPL perspective, an argument can certainly be made for backing either player with the armband. But given the scoring system rewarding midfielders three points for an assist and five for a goal, Sterling’s greater goal threat suggests he is the go-to pick. Having scored twice against Southampton in the cup midweek, Sergio Aguero provides an interesting alternative, if he starts, in an all or nothing show of support before sales inevitably follow in favour of Jamie Vardy’s cheaper price, secure starting spot and superb fixtures.
To summarise, Leicester’s 9-0 victory last weekend is a lesson for many reasons. FPL and the Premier League remain as unpredictable, Leicester are a force to be reckoned with this season, but that should not be exaggerated too far at this early stage of the season. Nevertheless, investment in their assets, particularly Vardy and a defender looks wise. An alternative defensive and offensive double-up could also be viable at Manchester United, who fail to match Leicester’s goal and points tallies, but perform similarly in an underlying stats. This combined with the last two performances provide encouraging signs, but investment comes down to how far you can trust the data and that small sample in a side that has performed unsatisfactorily six months or so. But where there is uncertainty, there is certainty too – as far as can be the case in FPL. A Manchester City attacker for captaincy and Trent Alexander-Arnold for the top of the watchlist, if not already part of your squad, look safe bets in that regard. All the best for Gameweek 11 and may your arrows be green.