Our final look back at Gameweek 36 salutes Sunderland’s new-found saviour, as the Black Cats finally climb out of the bottom three. We also acknowledge Ryan Giggs’ immediate impact at the United helm ahead of the double Gameweek, and as many Fantasy managers look to chase down mini-league leads, we also assess the need for differentials over the run-in:
The subject of ‘The Team’ section in last week’s Digest, Sunderland duly delivered a 4-0 home victory against relegation rivals Cardiff, with Connor Wickham serving up a brace, an assist and three bonus points in the Wearsiders’ biggest win of the season.
On loan at Leeds United in the Championship only a month ago, the resurgent Wickham has now scored five Premier League goals in just three games, which have helped lift the Black Cats out of the bottom three, with a game in hand on the teams below them. Gus Poyet’s in-form outfit can now enjoy a double Gameweek 37, where they first visit Manchester United before hosting West Bromwich Albion, another side battling for survival, at the Stadium of Light.
Neither game will hold any fear for Sunderland, bearing in mind they have already having tasted victory at Old Trafford earlier this season in the Capital One Cup semi-final, whilst a further home fixture, against the now-safe Swansea City, brings the season to a close. Having earned 37 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) points in his last trio of appearances, Wickham’s outstanding form, allied with a bargain price of just 4.6 has already persuaded over 22,000 Fantasy managers to take the plunge – the bandwagon looks set to build at pace, with his endeavours up front looking increasingly likely to fire Sunderland to safety and provide the miracle his manager called for earlier in the month.
Manchester United’s stuttering form under David Moyes has been a cause of real frustration to Fantasy managers all season. Renowned for their swashbuckling displays and never-say-die attitude during Sir Alex Ferguson’s lengthy tenure, the champions struggled for any semblance of consistency or self-belief this time round and finally called time on Moyes’ misery by bringing his brief reign to an end this time last week.
Interim manager Ryan Giggs predictably went for experience over youth in his first team selection, and with the focus on attack, United duly served up their most emphatic home win of the campaign. A 4-0 drubbing of relegation-threatened Norwich City strengthens our faith in the Red Devils’ main assets ahead of the upcoming double Gameweek, where Giggs’ side play host to Sunderland and Hull City in back-to-back home fixtures. Indeed, of the six sides set to feature twice in the upcoming round of fixtures, United are the only one to play at home on both occasions.
The clamour for Wayne Rooney’s signature has intensified after his 13-point haul at the weekend, whilst Juan Mata has also earned himself a bandwagon ahead of the weekend. Only Yaya Toure has been acquired by more Fantasy managers than either player after they both bagged braces against the Canaries – Mata’s cameo off the bench against Neil Adams’ side has certainly strengthened his claim for a return to the starting line-up against Sunderland at the expense of Danny Welbeck.
At the back, there’d be no real surprise if Giggs continues with the experience of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra – the weekend win was, after all, United’s first home clean sheet since January. Phil Jones seems to be in the driving seat for the right-back berth, though the return to fitness of Rafael may threaten his security of starts, and whilst David De Gea looks nailed on, many will be happy with Sunderland’s Vito Mannone as their chosen stopper for the run-in. United may have nothing more than pride left to play for at this stage, but as Saturday’s emphatic showing suggests, that may be more than enough to persuade Fantasy managers to jump on board as Giggs attempts to arrest their dramatic fall from favour.
THE TALKING POINT
The prospect of a double Gameweek so close to the end of the season presents the ideal opportunity for Fantasy managers to serve up triple-figure hauls and climb up the rankings. A combination of player form and fixtures suggest that we may see a final peak in the template this week and perhaps offers alternatives to those looking to chase down mini-league deficits.
In terms of coverage for the double, most actively managed Fantasy sides will be likely to have Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Vito Mannone as part of their starting XI – Wickham aside, this represents both the form players and teams with two games next week. The most popular captaincy choices are also likely to be from amongst this pool, leading to very similar returns and an ‘as you were’ outcome to our mini-leagues. Add to this the likely event that many will also be holding players like Luis Suarez and a Chelsea defender for the final Gameweek, and it becomes very difficult for significant ground to be made up –unless we are willing to gamble.
Whilst those at the top of their mini-leagues will be more inclined to play it safe, for those still in pursuit, this is now the time for taking risks and bucking the trend. Wickham’s recent displays highlight this very fact – only now has he moved to 1% ownership – while West Brom’s Morgan Amalfitano, at just 4.3, has now scored or assisted in four of his last five and is owned by only 2%. Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko offer alternative in-form options for title-chasing City, Antonio Valencia turned in an impressive display on the United right flank on Saturday evening, whilst Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long were both in the goals last week for Hull. Indeed, we only need to look back to double Gameweek 34, where Palace’s Jason Puncheon outscored the premium-priced players with a 23-point return, as evidence of the fact that going against the grain could well provide the pay-off many desperately need.