Sadio Mane breaks out of the Liverpool malaise. Alexis Sanchez “hands” us a reminder of his near essential status and Gareth McAuley benefits from the most fortuitous of goals to build on his reputation. Here’s the Stock Check following Saturday’s Gameweek 25 action…
On The Rise
A sparkling first half performance re-ignited Liverpool and again offered indication that the Senegalese could be the Reds’ midfield solution we’ve been seeking.
The brace against Spurs were his first goals at Anfield since Gameweek 11 – a surprising statistic for a player previously so strong in home matches.
His 16-point return was his biggest haul of the season and enough to see him top the transfers in table overnight.
However, while Liverpool currently face a fixture in Gameweek 26, the FA Cup could yet play havoc with Mane’s schedule.
This report states that, should Millwall take Leicester City to a replay in their fifth round tie next Saturday, Liverpool’s Gameweek 26 fixture could be in jeopardy due to a possible replay date.
Liverpool’s meet with the Foxes is scheduled for Monday February 27, with the Tuesday/Wednesday slot that week set the default date for any fifth round replays.
However, there are possible solutions that are omitted in the report.
Liverpool’s fixture could move back from Monday to Sunday February 26, although that would be subject to restrictions surrounding the broadcasting rights.
Secondly, any potential FA Cup replay could possibly be scheduled for the week beginning March 6, immediately prior to the Quarter Finals.
However, there are Champions League ties scheduled for that week. Leicester City play their second leg with Sevilla in the week of March 13, however, UEFA frown upon fixtures being played out in the same week as European matches – although there have been exceptions.
A third solution would be for the FA to move the potential replay date back to the Saturday prior to Gameweek 26, forcing Leicester to play two crucial matches in three days.
Of course, Mane could also face a blank in Gameweek 28 should Burnley progress to the last eight of the FA Cup by seeing off Lincoln City.
Clearly, there continue to be many unknowns surrounding the Premier League schedule. Holding fire on Mane and other investments until the conclusion of next weekend’s FA Cup ties looks a very wise move.
The Sanchez brace against Hull City was, undisputedly, less emphatic than Mane’s contribution. Fortune played it’s part in the opener, although the goal scored via his gloved hand followed several opportunities spurned, as the Chilean again stood out as Arsenal’s most potent threat.
Sanchez then benefited from a late spot-kick, having also converted in stoppage time against Burnley back in Gameweek 22.
That appeared to confirm his status as the designated taker behind Olivier Giroud and the injured Santi Cazorla – another major plus.
Arsene Wenger’s decision to keep Sanchez on the pitch, despite Wednesday’s Champions League tie with Bayern Munich, proved vital again, then.
You have to wonder if the Swansea City incident and press questioning following Sanchez’ reaction has made Wenger far more mindful of withdrawing his star man. Although, with Hull City providing testing opponents, arguably there was no question of preserving Sanchez on Saturday.
The Gunners and Sanchez now face a Gameweek 26 blank, with the threat of a further postponement to follow in Gameweek 28. Arsenal need to beat Sutton United in the FA Cup, or for Leicester City to see off Millwall, to confirm that blank.
Sanchez has therefore been subject to sales once again, with Mane and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard proving the most popular replacements thus far. His price will likely fall significantly over the next 21 days.
However, omitting Sanchez for the Gameweek 27 trip to Liverpool appears to be a major risk and, once the blanks are navigated, there are surely fewer assets seen as more “essential”.
Oumar Niasse, Lazar Markovic, Kamil Grosicki
While the Hull City trio failed to deliver returns at the Emirates, their performance in a spirited Hull City display nonetheless gave us renewed confidence on their potential.
Marco Silva’s side are one of six to present us with a guaranteed Gameweek 28 fixture and, while we’ve already begun weighing up their defensive options, Saturday’s display demonstrated that their attack could also offer us solutions.
A Gameweek 26 blank dampens any immediate enthusiasm, but there can be no doubt that Gabbiadini’s performance at Sunderland has put the Southampton striker firmly on the radar.
Two more goals, adding to his debut strike against West Ham last weekend, confirmed the Italian as a clear option once we have steered through the ensuing blanks.
The Saints’ run-in is, however, a mixed bag, without a sustained run of favourable opponents. But acquiring Gabbiadini for successive home matches with strugglers Bournemouth and Crystal Palace in Gameweeks 30 and 31 certainly appears to be a viable strategy.
The Argentine is at least one standout performer from Saturday’s events unaffected by missing fixtures.
West Ham offer us coverage in both Gameweek 26 and 28 and, while our attention is drawn to Michail Antonio and Robert Snodgrass, Lanzini is making moves to suggest he can provide an effective alternative and differential.
His returns in the 2-2 draw with West Brom took him to two goals and three assists from his last four Gameweek starts.
Sofiane Feghouli, priced at just 5.0, matched Lanzini’s goal and assist but is perhaps less secure as a Hammers option.
Extremely fortuitous to benefit from a Jonny Evans header on goal, McAuley nonetheless has to be acknowledged for earning a fifth strike of the season and yet another from a West Brom corner.
Like Lanzini, he is an asset unaffected by the looming blanks and now faces very favourable home fixtures with Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.
McAuley appears to be an assured starter, while Chris Brunt, deprived of his assist as a result of yesterday’s decision on Evans’ header, could soon be part of a midfield selection puzzle.
Should Evans be restored to the Baggies central defence and Allan Nyom shifted to left-back, Brunt would then compete for starts with James Morrison and Nacer Chadli.
Both Morrison and Chadli came out of the London Stadium clash with returns, with the former providing the assist for Chadli’s goal. Morrison has now returned in three successive Gameweeks.
Once again deployed at right-back against Everton, the Arsenal loanee produced a third clean sheet in five starts and has now delivered bonus in four of his last five Gameweeks.
Middlesbrough are among the sides who could miss Gameweek 28, although Aitor Karanka’s men seem likely to field a weakened side against Oxford United in the fifth round so should not be written off as an available option just yet.
Everton claimed a fourth clean sheet in six at the Riverside Stadium and, while Coleman failed to provide attacking returns this time out, he still remained a key figure.
The right-back claimed a bonus point thanks to four successful tackles, although he also attempted five crosses having received more passes in the attacking third than any other Toffees player.
While the double-digit haul for Alexis Sanchez reinforced his reputation, Ibrahimovic failed to punish a Watford defence at Old Trafford to cast doubt on his mid-term future in our squads.
The assist for Anthony Martial’s goal provided some consolation for the 22% who trusted him with the armband and he has now returned a goal or an assist in ten of 13 Gameweeks.
However, like Sanchez, Ibrahimovic will suffer significant sales ahead of the Gameweek 26 blank and is perhaps likely to be identified as more disposable.
Despite peppering Watford’s goal, the Swede has produced a single strike in his last four Gameweeks and, depending on Saturday’s FA Cup results, could now struggle to see off claims from Romelu Lukaku, Diego Costa and Harry Kane for our forward slots once we emerge from the blank fixtures.
The Gameweek 27 Old Trafford meeting with Bournemouth is the one major factor in his favour.
Many Ibrahimovic owners will surely either hold or schedule his return for that match-up. However, having failed to score at home to both Hull City and Watford in his last two home outings, we should perhaps remain wary.
It would be folly to write off Phillips heading into two home fixtures with both Palace and Bournemouth. With an assured fixture for Gameweek 28, he remains a key asset for this period.
However, having failed to return a goal or an assist in previous five, clearly, there are question marks surrounding his output and we perhaps need to manage our expectations.
Arguably, Phillips came into this period having over delivered. His nine assists delivered up to Gameweek 20 had been produced from just 30 chances created: he matched Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne for assists during this spell, despite creating 50% fewer chances.
Regression was always likely.
However, while Chadli and Morrison remain options in the Baggies midfield, Phillips appears more secure and, despite the wobble, he’s an asset that should be held and considered for acquisition.
Unlike Phillips, the dent to Carroll’s stock is far more damaging.
Carroll has the fixtures to provide us with an option but, having failed to train ahead of Saturday’s West Brom encounter, he missed out.
Typically, the Hammers striker just cannot seem to overcome ongoing groin problems to offer us a degree of security. A player cursed by injury concerns throughout his career, it’s clear that we cannot invest with any real confidence.
Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli
With home fixtures with Stoke City and Everton to follow and missing assets to address, there is little need to reach for the panic button just yet.
Nonetheless, Spurs are now troubling us as a source of attacking points, having scored just a single goal in their last three Gameweeks.
That has damaged the reputation of their three principle options, who could all face a blank in Gameweek 28 should Mauricio Pochettino’s side see off Fulham in the FA Cup on Sunday.
While showing flashes, Zaha has failed to fire on his return from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Having delivered three successive blanks over a spell of favourable fixtures, Zaha and Palace are now edging into a testing period in their schedule and with a Gameweek 28 blank a strong possibility, Zaha’s stock, along with that of long declining Christian Benteke, continues to fall.