The line can finally be drawn under double Gameweek 22 after last night’s events at the Bridge. Chelsea and Southampton both occupy our thoughts here, as we look at the Saints’ main man up top in addition to the value offered throughout their side, while the uncertainty over Chelsea’s lone striker situation continues to plague us.
A double Gameweek 22 was an obvious selling point prior to last Saturday’s deadline but Rickie Lambert’s displays across the course of the campaign have more than merited our consideration before now. Goals in each of the Saints’ pair of fixtures merely cemented his position as the top value outfield player in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game this season and propelled Lambert into fifth position in the forward standings on 109 points. What’s remarkable is that in spite of his 10 goals, four assists and 16 bonus points, Lambert has never really been afforded a bandwagon of his own – starting at a lowly 6.0, he’s risen just 0.4 in price so far.
As Adkins’ side go from strength to strength, their reliance on Lambert is becoming more obvious as the Gameweeks go by – he has played a part in seven of their 10 strikes from Gameweek 14 onwards, courtesy of five goals and a pair of assists. Although he dropped to the bench for only the third time last night, Adkins revealed this was part of a pre-match plan as he looked to bring Lambert on later in the game – his tactics proven spot on as the hitman notched within three minutes of his introduction. Indeed, Lambert has now scored in two of his three sub appearances, demonstrating his ability to produce within a limited time frame.
Last night’s goal at the Bridge means Lambert has now registered goals against each of the top three this term; highlighting his fixture-proof appeal as Adkins’ side prepare to face both Manchester clubs in the next four Gameweeks. With a home game against Everton and a trip to Wigan also on his short-term agenda, Lambert’s scoring form – aided by spot-kick duties and a share of set-pieces – is making a persuasive case for his inclusion in our squads. While many Fantasy managers are looking at five man midfields comprising the likes of Michu and Marouane Fellaini, Lambert’s stats may sway many back to a 3-4-3; not only has be outscored Fellaini over the season by three points, he has now registered six points more than the Swansea star from Gameweek 3 onwards. Food for thought, perhaps, for those looking for ways to save budget with their winter wildcards.
With 28 goals conceded in their opening 10 league fixtures, Southampton’s return to the top-flight earned them the tag of early-season whipping boys as Nigel Adkins’ side struggled to acclimatise to the lofty heights of the Premier League. Since Jack Cork’s midfield return from injury in Gameweek 11, the defensive turnaround has been remarkable, however, with just 12 goals conceded in the subsequent 12 fixtures highlighting their increased resolve.
Many Fantasy managers have perhaps been deterred from investing in Adkins’ backline due to those first few results but, with their 4-2-3-1 system finally clicking, the full-backs have been afforded plenty opportunity to bomb forward and lend weight to the attacks. Nathaniel Clyne’s assist last night was his third in 10 appearances and with three clean sheets also thrown in for good measure over that period, his 4.0 price tag looks strong value, given his propensity to pick up points at both ends of the pitch.
The extra resilience hasn’t been detrimental to their attacking endeavours, either – 14 goals in the first 10 have been followed by 16 in the next 12. While Lambert has benefitted more than most, Jason Puncheon’s cut-price appeal came to the fore once again last night as the winger continues to prove just why he’s a popular cheap midfielder around these parts. Having started all but one game since Gameweek 7, his consistency of game time has proven crucial to his appeal and with attacking returns produced against the likes of United, Arsenal and Chelsea so far this term, he’s demonstrated his fixture-proof appeal within Adkins’ improving side.
Despite the loss of influential skipper Adam Lallana to a knee injury in Gameweek 16, the Saints have regrouped and have lost just once in the subsequent six, with Gaston Ramirez and Jay Rodrigues also chipping in with key contributions. Clyne, Puncheon and Lambert remain the most likely protagonists, however, and while the clashes with City and United are less than enticing, those Fantasy managers who loaded up on Saints coverage for the double may now think twice over offloading any of the trio given their flourishing form.
The Talking Point
Demba Ba’s owners sighed with relief last night when the line-ups arrived from Stamford Bridge. Rafa Benitez’s obsession with rotation had many anticipating a drop to the bench for the former Newcastle man but his inclusion in the starting XI afforded Ba the chance to notch once again – it’s three goals in four appearances in all competitions now since he arrived from St James’ Park earlier this month.
Indeed, Ba has now been omitted only once from the first XI over that quartet of fixtures – problems with his hamstring and knee forced him out of the Capital One Cup clash with Swansea, as Fernando Torres lead the line despite suffering from a stomach bug. Handed just 32 minutes over the double Gameweek, Torres seems to have dropped down the pecking order as Benitez looks to the in-form Ba to grab the goals but Rafa’s admission earlier in the week that he will “manage” Ba’s long-term knee condition remains an issue for the Senegal striker’s Fantasy owners.
There’s two ways to look at Ba’s likely chance of a start at home to Arsenal on Sunday. The first suggests that his form, allied with the fact that the clash is not until Sunday, should give Benitez plenty time to rest him for the Gunners game – the other school of thought suggests that the interim-manager may reckon Torres is far fresher, given their recent respective game times.
The very fact that this quandary exists, however, highlights our Fantasy frustration. Ba, clearly, is the form player and has been one of the most consistent Fantasy assets this season – up to third in the FPL forward standings, he’s more than capable of producing the goods in any given Gameweek but it seems there will always be a risk with Benitez at the helm.
With Roberto Mancini’s tinkering up front also an issue over at City, many may decide it’s just not worth the hassle or risk investing in Chelsea’s attack; with alternatives such as Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez nailed-on options by comparison, leaving ourselves at the mercy of Benitez’s rotational whims is a risky business. Granted, the pay-off could be substantial if Ba continues to stave off Torres’ threat but that weekly wait for the teamsheets can only lead to nervous dispositions – hardly conducive to our Fantasy planning as the season starts to heat up.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
Next Six Ticker
|No Change||Hart||MCI||B, Vs|
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“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas