Our final look back at Gameweek 30 considers the consistency and form of the Liverpool and England captain and examines the contrasting fortunes for both the blue and red halves of Manchester ahead of some favourable upcoming schedules:
Steven Gerrard stepped up and delivered a brace of penalties and a kiss for the camera on Sunday to take his tally to ten goals for the season. The Liverpool skipper also has ten assists and 19 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) bonus points, ranking him behind only Eden Hazard and Yaya Toure in the midfield rankings, yet still sits in less than 12% of Fantasy teams due to the overwhelming popularity of team-mates Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge up front.
Since the South American returned from suspension in Gameweek 6, his captain has served up a series of consistent performances that have been unparalleled amongst midfielders, with a goal or assist in 16 of his subsequent 19 starts.
As we saw on Sunday at Old Trafford, spot-kick duties have played a major part in his rise up the rankings. Liverpool have been awarded nine penalties this season; a remarkable statistic, considering that no other team has been given more than four. The penalty-box mayhem being wreaked by their attacking players may well continue to benefit Gerrard during the final quarter of the season – the Reds’ captain is firmly in the box seat for penalties and is unlikely to relinquish the responsibility again to his goal-hungry strikers; Daniel Sturridge having missed last time he did so.
With a double Gameweek visit to Cardiff and home game against Sunderland, Gerrard’s bandwagon is on the rise. Over 42,000 FPL managers have already snapped him up since Sunday’s mauling of United, with a price of 9.2 in FPL making him an ideal, heavy-hitting midfield choice for Fantasy managers choosing not to go into the weekend with both Suarez and Sturridge up front. Holding all three of these players looks a viable strategy in light of the Reds’ current form, but may stretch the budget a little too far given that premium assets from other popular sides are also in high demand for the run-in.
Recent defeats to Wigan and Barcelona ended hopes of an unlikely quadruple of trophies and has simplified Manchester City’s season in terms of both fixtures and targets. Those exits from the FA Cup and Champions League have allowed the Premier League fixture list to be finalised and City now face 11 remaining games, including three double Gameweeks, as they re-focus solely on the title race.
Manuel Pellegrini’s deep squad has experienced considerable rotation, injury and disciplinary issues in recent weeks, making second-guessing their starting line up something of a lottery. Recent events may have helped to clear the fog, however, and point to a number of safer options for starts and even some value options.
At the back, Vincent Kompany’s weekend dismissal is frustrating for the Belgian’s would-be suitors and, whilst he’ll only miss the first match of double Gameweek 31, reports suggest he could face further sanction after an alleged gesture to the Hull crowd. This makes Pablo Zabaleta the safest selection in a defence boasting three consecutive clean sheets going into the weekend, with continued doubt over the left back position between Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy, much to the chagrin of those eyeing up the Serbian as a differential punt.
Further up the pitch, David Silva hinted at a return to form with a spectacular strike at Hull and offers a viable alternative to Yaya Toure or even a double-up option in midfield. Owned by only 5% of Fantasy managers, the little Spaniard looks poised to afford us a real differential over the run-in, whilst Toure’s move to the role in “the hole” against Hull strengthens his appeal should Pellegrini persist with a lone forward formation.
Even Edin Dzeko comes into consideration, albeit as a more short-term option. Priced at a mere 6.7, a strike at the KC took his tally to four goals in his last seven appearances and, given Alvaro Negredo has found the net once in his previous seven, the Bosnian looks the likeliest to benefit as Sergio Aguero continues to struggle with fitness and availability. Indeed, even if Aguero returns to action soon, Dzeko’s form suggests he may have done enough to nail down a regular run if Pellegrini reverts to 4-4-2 in his attempt to chase down Chelsea at the summit.
THE TALKING POINT
A convincing Gameweek 29 win at West Brom had suggested United were on the road to recovery but Sunday’s demolition at the hands of Liverpool has given Fantasy managers cause to think again and consider whether we can afford to hold any of Old Trafford’s finest for much longer.
Despite their double Gameweek 31, a collective loss of faith has already seen plenty of transfers out for the likes of Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie since the weekend. Mata started brightly at Old Trafford with three assists and four bonus points in his first three starts but has not delivered returns for four consecutive matches. As the likes of Gerrard, Toure and Silva blink brightly on our radars, the 9.5-priced Spaniard is being sacrificed as our patience finally snaps.
Up front, Robin van Persie looks disinterested, despite public claims to the contrary and with Wayne Rooney describing Sunday’s events as one of his worst times in football, confidence could barely be lower. If United fail to overturn their Champions League deficit against Olympiacos this week, their morale will be rock-bottom ahead of a trip to West Ham and home game against City.
As the subject of the Digest’s ‘The Team’ section only last week, we highlighted United’s upturn in form and kind run of fixtures from Gameweek 32 onwards – urging Fantasy managers to exercise caution before parting with their assets ahead of the double Gameweek. Now, Moyes’ side are leaving us with a real “form versus fixtures” dilemma.
It’s a situation United fans and Fantasy mangers are not accustomed to. Typically, their final four Old Trafford matches against Aston Villa, Norwich and a double home Gameweek 37, hosting Sunderland and Hull, would fill us with hope and expectation but this time around, we’re struggling. The fact that the Red Devils have only scored 18 goals at home all season – the same number as third-bottom Fulham – somewhat tempers the potential returns that can be expected from those matches; a situation far from ideal, given the premium price tags of Mata, Rooney and Van Persie.
Many will perhaps choose to hold their United assets for the immediate double and hope for an upturn in form before reassessing the situation. For those wielding late wildcards or looking to finalise their Gameweek 31 acquisitions, however, it’s becoming more apparent there is clearly greater value and points potential to be found elsewhere.