Our final assessment of Gameweek 32 examines United’s in-form frontman and the numerous attacking options that have helped Everton to a five-match winning run and considers how much impact the upcoming double Gameweek 34 will have on our transfer plans:
After Robin van Persie was sidelined with a knee injury sustained in last month’s Champions League win over Olympiacos, Wayne Rooney’s contribution was more vital than ever for Manchester United. His two braces in the subsequent three league games makes it six goals in the last six for Rooney, and three double-figure Fantasy Premier League (FPL) returns in the last five suggests he is back on form after returning from injury.
Rooney’s move to spearhead the United attack has triggered an upturn in his form and points returns and has also allowed Juan Mata to tentatively move back onto Fantasy radars after the Spaniard delivered his first goal for the club, along with an assist and two bonus points, in last weekend’s 4-1 win over Villa.
Granted, a blank Gameweek 34 will press pause on many a manager’s plans but Rooney’s current exploits suggest he could be set to play a major part in the run-in. With Van Persie still out for a number of weeks, Sergio Aguero keen not to rush his latest comeback from injury and the Liverpool double-up option a little less enticing with City and Chelsea on the horizon, Daniel Sturridge owners may also be contemplating a move for the United frontman in the near-future.
Currently sitting in just 14% of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) teams, Rooney proved a real differential last weekend, and with a home clash against Norwich preceding a pair of Old Trafford matches in Gameweek 37, as Sunderland and Hull both pay visit, major investment looks on the cards before the campaign is out. For all their toils this term, last weekend’s convincing win over Villa suggests David Moyes’ side can still offer us viable Fantasy options over these last few matches, and with spot-kick duties also in hand due to Van Persie’s absence, Rooney’s flourishing form looks set to ease the pressure on his under-fire boss as Moyes seeks a silver lining on what has been a cloudy first season at the helm.
Everton made it five wins in a row with their victory over Fulham last weekend, and are now looking the most likely contenders to oust Arsenal from the fourth Champions League place. Following a difficult period that saw them lose to rivals Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham in quick succession, the Toffees have rediscovered their early-season attacking form and embarked on a run of results that has seen Fantasy returns spread around a number of talented options.
Despite losing Steven Pienaar to injury, Roberto Martinez still has Aiden McGeady, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith, Leon Osman, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu as options, with all six picking up game time and Fantasy points in recent matches. Admittedly, the Toffees boss warned us of his intentions to rotate the three positions behind Romelu Lukaku but the situation is, nonetheless, frustrating for Fantasy managers – compounded by the big Belgian’s inconsistency to deliver the goods up top.
Barkley’s calf injury withdrawal at Craven Cottage is a worry for his 20% FPL owners, though Martinez has plenty of alternatives should the youngster be forced onto the sidelines. As shown in Sunday’s win over Fulham, when all three subs climbed off the bench to score or assist in a 3-1 win, the rotation policy is working well for the Toffees boss and only looks set to continue. Kevin Mirallas’ owners remain frustrated by the Belgian’s lack of guaranteed starts yet he has still popped up with a goal and two assists over the last three matches, taking his points tally to 120 – just three behind David Silva, for example.
Regardless, few will be willing to bring in the midfielder at this point – Lukaku and the likes of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman look the safest targets as the Toffees brace themselves for an upcoming double Gameweek 34 which pits them against Palace and Sunderland. With home matches against United and City and a trip to Southampton directly after the double, though, many will be looking to offload from Gameweek 35.
Despite the testing fixtures, Martinez’ men, who have already beaten Chelsea and United this season, have the momentum to secure the points and deliver a European spot for next term – great for the Toffees supporters, but from a Fantasy perspective, the recent rotation policy looks ominous for next season already.
THE TALKING POINT
For many Fantasy managers, the strong returns achieved in double Gameweek 31 immediately appeared to justify the strategy to restructure our squads and cash in on a schedule which saw 10 Premier League teams play twice.
As many Fantasy teams were amended to feature the maximum compliment of players with a double fixture, some of this season’s most consistent performers (such as Chelsea’s Eden Hazard) were benched or even shipped out completely to make way. Adam Lallana, for example, was subject to 160,000 transfers out in advance of Gameweek 31, whilst many also parted company with the midfielder’s Southampton team-mates Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez to load up on the doubles. The Saints’ in-form trio have made many regret that decision over the last two fixtures as Mauricio Pochettino’s side notched twice at Tottenham before putting four past Newcastle last Saturday, with all three earning 10+ point hauls in the Magpies rout.
As we turn our attentions to the remaining double Gameweeks, Southampton’s exploits have served a timely reminder that sometimes we can get carried away by the potential offered up by those teams with doubles, and take our eye off the long-term.
Certainly, Man City, with a pair of doubles and some fine fixtures, surely merit the full three-player quota ahead of Gameweek 34. As mentioned above, aside from Lukaku, Everton’s attacking options look no more than a punt, judging by their manager’s recent rotation policy, whilst Baines and Coleman have mainly been relying on attacking returns from the back after a run of just two clean sheets in ten.
Sunderland’s appeal looks limited – until Gameweek 36, at least. Adam Johnson owners will be hoping his goal off the bench against West Ham last night can earn him a first-team reprieve, but with trips to Spurs and Chelsea on either side of a double Gameweek 34 against Everton and City, it’s difficult to justify immediate investment. Palace will be looking to push on from their impressive win over Chelsea, but with goals hard to come by, we’re likely to be relying on defensive points against Villa and Everton – furthermore, the Eagles still have City and Liverpool to play at home, with their options back on our benches for those fixtures.
After the high of Gameweek 31, the upcoming double looks far less enticing a prospect this time round. Indeed, those who loaded up on City and Everton last time around will already have their players in place – shopping lists are likely to be minimal, then, with many instead restructuring their side with one eye on the remaining strength of schedule and double Gameweek 37, where Rooney and, potentially, a fit-again Aguero, could be poised to wreak havoc.