Romelu Lukaku does his talking on the pitch after doing so much off it, Leicester City’s star performers continue their ascent, and Josh King keeps things ticking over on a busy Gameweek 29 Saturday.
But injury mars another Alexis Sanchez goal-scoring performance while Diego Costa blanks again and Eden Hazard doesn’t even make the Chelsea squad. Here’s Saturday’s Stock Check.
ON THE RISE
All that worrying was for nothing…
After a fraught few days following the striker’s criticism of Everton’s ambitions, both verbally and by rejecting their contract, more than a million Fantasy managers handed Lukaku the armband with some trepidation.
An assist for the Toffees’ second goal against Hull City settled the nerves and then a late double of his own sealed the deal.
The Belgian has always been explosive – his 16 points against Hull was his eighth double-digit haul of the campaign – but there’s a new-found consistency that’s making him Fantasy Premier League’s must-have asset.
He’s now scored in six successive home matches and has nine in the last six Gameweeks.
At a time when premium forwards are succumbing to injuries, suspensions and declines in form, Lukaku is the glorious exception – 27 points clear at the top of the strikers’ table and, at 46.0%, the most-owned player in the game.
The Everton side he has so publicly questioned are on a great run, with just one defeat since Gameweek 17, and when allied to his personal form makes the big forward virtually fixture-proof.
Away matches at Liverpool and Man United will test that theory to the limit, but it will take a brave FPL manager to show him the exit at this point.
Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy
Last season’s heroes are back to last season’s output.
Jamie Vardy now has three goals and two assists from the last three Gameweeks and Riyad Mahrez has scored from successive starts.
Three league matches under Craig Shakespeare have produced three wins and three goals each time but, crucially, this was the Foxes’ first away victory of the season as they start to ease themselves away from the drop zone.
Up next are back-to-back home matches with Stoke and Sunderland as part of a run-in that will involve a double Gameweek and fixtures with four of the top seven.
In the short term at least, Leicester’s star duo are well worth a look, and both are in the top ten for purchases by managers buying early for Gameweek 30.
Manuel Lanzini, Andre Ayew
West Ham are currently a model of consistency – they’re winless in five and have lost three matches in a row.
But none of that can be pinned on Manuel Lanzini, who’s provided three goals and an assist during that spell and now has four goals and three assists from his last eight Gameweek starts.
Priced at 6.4 and owned by just 2.6%, the midfielder has real differential appeal in a team that has an excellent set of fixtures to try and reverse their decline.
Aside from a trip to Arsenal in Gameweek 31, the Hammers will face Hull, Swansea City and Sunderland over the next four matches.
Another blameless individual has been Andre Ayew.
The Ghanaian has been equally productive over recent fixtures, with three goals and an assist from his last four Gameweeks.
Finally given his first start since Gameweek 19 in the 3-2 loss to Leicester yesterday, the midfielder scored again and has now produced 25 points from just shy of 180 minutes of action over the last four weeks.
Three matches, three clean sheets – Sam Allaradyce’s loan signing from Liverpool has made all the difference to a Crystal Palace side finally finding ways to win.
Sakho has also produced maximum bonus point returns from his last two starts and his 4.7 price tag and 0.7% ownership base only add to his appeal.
But there is a major downside to owning any Palace asset – the Eagles will face six of the top seven over their ten remaining fixtures, and four of those will be away from home.
With Chelsea and Southampton, both away, up next, even Sakho’s prodigious influence might not be enough.
The Bournemouth midfielder keeps on giving to his expanding ownership – currently at 10.9% – with an assist for Benik Afobe’s goal yesterday meaning he’s now provided returns in six of his last eight Gameweeks.
In fact, King has been directly involved in eight goals from his last six starts, scoring seven and providing one assist to produce 57 FPL points.
A further 221,000+ managers bought in to him for the 2-0 home win against Swansea in which he was unlucky not to score for the fourth consecutive match when he was denied by a superb Lukasz Fabianski save.
Back-to-back Bournemouth wins have been timely, moving them well clear of the trap door just before they embark on a punishing four-match run involving a derby at Southampton, further trips to Liverpool and Spurs and a home match with Chelsea.
That schedule might well stall interest in King, but his 5.7 price and a kindly set of fixtures from Gameweek 34 should persuade many of his 472,000+ owners to keep faith in him until the season’s end.
Crisis is an over-used word in football, but seems wholly pertinent when discussing Arsenal at the moment.
Four defeats in five league matches, the manager’s future in doubt and now their star performer picks up an injury.
Alexis Sanchez has carried the side during their recent slump, scoring three times and providing two assists, and he found the net in the 3-1 defeat at West Brom before an ankle problem forced him off in the second half.
The severity of the injury is still not known, but Arsene Wenger described the midfielder’s ankle as being in ‘an absolutely terrible state’. That could rule him out of a vital World Cup qualifier with Argentina, one of two Chile matches scheduled for the international break.
The Gunners’ performance at The Hawthorns aptly summed up their issues at the moment. From 77% possession, they managed just two shots on target – the Baggies had eight.
Their reliance on Sanchez is absolute. The Chilean has been involved in more league goals than any other player this season, with 18 scored and a further nine set up.
Two double Gameweeks and an 11-match run-in that will involve facing only three top seven sides should keep Sanchez in the majority of the one million-plus sides in which he figures.
But the extent of that injury and Arsenal’s current lack of confidence and direction have the potential to turn him into a very expensive (11.6) risk.
Diego Costa, Eden Hazard
Two other pricey players failed their managers yesterday.
Diego Costa (10.7) provided just one point, while Eden Hazard (10.2) picked up a calf problem and didn’t even make the squad.
The Spanish striker was the most purchased player of the Gameweek, with nearly 260,000 managers buying into him ahead of the trip to Stoke City.
But Costa again failed to spark away from Stamford Bridge – he’s scored just twice in his last seven on the road – and a booking reduced his meagre returns even further.
Only Romelu Lukaku has scored more FPL points among strikers than Costa this season, with the Chelsea man relying on consistent hauls over explosive performances – the only match in which he has scored more than once came way back in Gameweek 4.
The problem is, he’s only scored twice in his last six starts, and has just three goals from his last nine.
Chelsea’s march to the title feels inexorable, Costa’s part in it is currently negligible.
A double Gameweek and a relatively easy run-in should keep his 39.4% ownership base onside, although the Blues’ immediate schedule will involve facing both Manchester teams over the next four Gameweeks.
Hazard’s 29% ownership have enjoyed slightly richer pickings, the Belgian providing two goals and as many assists over the last six Gameweeks.
Antonio Conte described the midfielder’s injury as ‘a little problem’, which should ease concerns over Hazard further still.
But the lack of major returns from both Hazard and Costa is a rather more expensive problem for FPL managers at present.
Winston Reid, Michail Antonio,Robert Snodgrass
While Lanzini and Ayew have flourished as the Hammers have floundered, the plight of three other West Ham players is more in tune with the side’s current woes.
The 4.0%-owned Winston Reid managed just 17 minutes of the loss to Leicester before a leg injury forced him off – and potentially out of the international break with New Zealand.
West Ham’s short-term schedule is an excellent one, and Reid was a key target for those considering investment in their defence.
Michail Antonio played the full 90 despite a hamstring problem that looks certain to deny him a second shot at earning an England cap.
His recent form has been good – he provided an assist yesterday and scored in the 3-2 loss at Bournemouth – but his 9.6% ownership base will now have to assess his fitness over the course of the international hiatus.
Much to the frustration of his 9.7% owners, Robert Snodgrass remains a bit-part player for the Hammers.
He was benched for the second successive match against the Foxes, although he was given 73 minutes as he came on for Reid, with Cheikhou Kouyate dropping back into defence.
With Andre Ayew starting and scoring, the competition for midfield places has not served Snodgrass well.
He might have to rely on the misfortune of others – and specifically Antonio’s hamstring injury – to earn a return to the starting XI for Gameweek 30.
The Hornets defender was dropped to the bench for the trip to Crystal Palace, a further blow for the 3.5% of FPL managers who have stuck by a man whose meagre clean sheet returns – just four all season – have been exacerbated by the 12 bookings he’s picked up.
Having been unbeaten from Gameweeks 21-24, Watford have now lost three of their last four matches, but Holebas owners would have been hoping for better returns from the next five fixtures, with only a trip to Spurs providing a major test.
His relegation to the bench puts that strategy in serious danger.
Marco Silva’s decision to switch to a 5-4-1 involving three centre-halves meant the bench for the Hull midfielder.
Grosicki had started every match since his Gameweek 24 debut, providing a couple of assists along the way.
That had put the Pole on our radars – at 5.5 and with just 0.3% ownership he looked a promising differential for a Tigers side with an excellent run-in to come.
With only Man City and Spurs of the top teams to face in their last nine matches, Hull still harbour hopes of escaping the drop.
Where Grosicki fits into that run suddenly has a measure of doubt surrounding it, although it would be a surprise if he doesn’t return to the starting line-up when the Tigers entertain West Ham and Middlesbrough after the international break.