Michu’s double continues his outstanding scoring form but it’s not enough to halt Norwich’s climb up the table. Fernando Torres returns his biggest haul of the season as Chelsea pick up their first league win under Rafa Benitez, Jason Puncheon is the match-winner for Southampton, while Sunderland and Reading have an underwhelming start to their respective double Gameweeks…
Michu Marches On
Another brace from the Spaniard in yesterday’s loss to Norwich saw him shoot to the top of the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) rankings prior to today’s three matches. Playing in “the hole” with Danny Graham returning to the lone forward role after a recent illness, Michu is now up to 12 goals for the season already and continues to rack up huge amounts of new investment. His price will go on climbing as Fantasy managers scramble to get on board: Michu went up another 0.1 in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game last night, off the back of over 17,000 transfers in. Those who are acquiring him between now and Wednesday evening are certainly taking a risk – he currently sits in four yellows and a booking in the midweek Capital One Cup clash with Middlesbrough would see him suspended for next weekend’s trip to Tottenham.
Torres on the Radar
He’d drifted out of our Fantasy thinking but the Chelsea forward proved vital as the Blues registered their first league win under Rafa Benitez. Two goals and an assist will also bring the maximum bonus points, helping Torres to a 16 point return – his highest FPL haul of the season. Torres ended a seven-match blank spell in the league last week with an assist at West Ham and, with a brace also accrued in the midweek Champions League win, he’s starting to suggest that Benitez could maybe, just maybe, reignite his Fantasy potential. The delighted Chelsea boss brought us this on Torres, post-match…
“I said before that if the team play well and create chances he will score goals. It’s fair to say that we are watching a Torres with more confidence and belief. I was analysing his movements and adjusting a few things. It’s a question of confidence and differences in movements. The most important thing is that he appears confident.”
With the London outfit now flying off on World Club Cup duty, it’s another fortnight before they play in the league again but with home clashes against Villa and QPR in their next four, Torres – down to 9.4 in FPL – may earn himself new ownership, with rest and rotation pretty much out of the question right now. With Frank Lampard still sidelined with a calf complaint, Torres stepped up to fire home a spot-kick but post-match, Benitez revealed there is no pecking order; David Luiz, Eden Hazard and Torres are his three penalty-takers and made the decision between themselves.
Mata Outscores Hazard Again
Another goal for the Spaniard yesterday took his tally for the season to six as Mata continues to outgun Eden Hazard in the Chelsea midfield. While Hazard still maintains a slight edge in the overall FPL standings thanks to an assist at Sunderland, his form since Gameweek 4 pales in comparison to Mata’s, with the Spaniard returning 75 points in the last 13 weeks to Hazard’s 55. The Belgian has almost twice the number of FPL owners, despite the fact he has seen significant sales in each of the last six Gameweeks – the pattern is likely to continue, with Mata set for further transfers in after next weekend’s blank Gameweek.
Puncheon Above His Weight
Jason Puncheon’s budget-friendly appeal improved further after the winger notched Southampton’s winner against Reading. Currently sitting on eight points for yesterday’s display, he’s likely to grab the maximum bonus, too – such a scenario would be his second double figure return in the last five Gameweeks. Costing just 4.6 in FPL, Puncheon looks assured of starts in light of his recent displays and with Adam Lallana a possible injury concern, Puncheon is making a strong case for consideration as the ideal cheap fifth midfielder for our squads. Post-match, Nigel Adkins talked up Puncheon’s flourishing displays:
“He is good, he has matured and had a good pre-season. Since he has come back it has been a fresh start if you like and he has grasped it with both hands. It just shows if you work very hard and adapt to the culture that you are surrounded with you can grow as a player because he has done that.”
The Saints boss also took time to comment on Lallana’s condition after the midfielder was subbed off with just 39 minutes on the clock yesterday – with no game next weekend, Adkins was in hopeful mood:
“He has picked up a knee injury and as precaution as we always do we have put him in a brace and on crutches. We will let it settle down, assess him tomorrow and take it from there. Obviously we haven’t got a game next week but we will work hard through the extended period preparing for the Sunderland game.”
Southampton now have the Gameweek 17 blank, before they return for a potentially profitable home clash with Sunderland. That may give Lallana time to recover from his injury, while Puncheon’s progress in terms of ownership, may be tempered. The winger enjoyed just over 2000 FPL transfers in overnight, seventh in the rankings amongst midfielders on offer.
Clyne Flourishes In Improved Backline
Nathaniel Clyne is also benefitting from Southampton’s recent upturn in form. The return of Jack Cork to the midfield in Gameweek 11 has had a significant effect on Adkins’ side’s solidity – they have conceded just four goals in the last six compared to 28 in the first 10 matches, an incredible turnaround. Clyne’s assist and clean sheet against Reading took his tally to the season to 37 points – he picked up 10 points in the first 10 Gameweeks but has now produced 25 points in his last six. Coming in at 4.0 in FPL, Clyne has now provided a pair of assists in his last five and is starting to look an intriguing option, with clear potential for points at both ends of the pitch. Like Puncheon, interest in the right-back is likely to be calmed by the Gameweek 17 blank – it must also be stressed that Southampton’s fixtues following this suggest that they may struggle to maintain their recent defensive form (SUN ful stk ARS).
Canaries Flying High
With four clean sheets in five between Gameweeks 8 and 12, Norwich’s defence had started to look a reliable source of returns but yesterday’s 4-3 win at Swansea was the fourth match in a row they have conceded. In spite of this, Seb Bassong’s eye for goal shows no sign of abating – the centre-half grabbed his third goal in four matches to move up to 66 points; the top value player in the FPL game. Bassong is now fourth top scoring defender and his current 5% ownership looks set to climb dramatically. Basssong collected over 13,000 new owners overnight, with his price rising to 4.8 accordingly. He may have to rely on attacking returns to offer value on that investment, however: following the home encounter with Wigan next weekend, Norwich visit West Brom and host both Chelsea and Man City over Christmas. It’s clear that Norwich have worked on set-plays, however, and Bassong’s threat from crafted deadball deliveries will likely go on troubling defences, regardless of opposition.
Hughton’s Attack Comes Alive
As confidence flows through the Canaries’ camp off the back of ten games unbeaten, they are no longer grinding out results and have now netted six times in the last two Gameweeks – they had scored six in the previous seven matches, by comparison. While the defence seems less reliable in keeping out opponents, their midfield is starting to look enticing. Last weekend saw Anthony Pilkington and Bradley Johnson rack up double figure returns and yesterday it was Robert Snodgrass’ turn – the Scot produced a goal and two assists and moved up to 64 points; pre-bonus, that’s only a single point behind West Brom’s James Morrison for midfielders. With a 5.8 price tag and ownership of just over 1%, Snodgrass is also benefitting from Hughton’s reluctance to rest and rotate as his side continues to climb the table.
Grant Holt’s fourth of the season, coupled with a pair of assists also saw him contribute his biggest returns this term. Yesterday’s strike was his first league goal in seven outings and that form had seen him slip completely off the Fantasy radar. However, if Norwich can maintain goalscoring form, it’s clear that Holt will be integral and amongst the points. With 15 goals last term, he has the pedigree to enjoy a significant upturn in form to offer strong value for his 6.0 price tag. For those holding Southampton’s Rickie Lambert going into the Gameweek 17 blank, Holt looks a prime target replacement as he prepares to host Wigan at Carrow Road.
Johnson Makes His Mark
While over 68,000 FPL managers drafted in Stephane Sessegnon ahead of Sunderland’s double, less than 20,000 took the plunge on Adam Johnson. The former Man City winger vindicated their decision by grabbing the Black Cats’ only goal in the 3-1 defeat by Chelsea, while James McClean’s assist was his first lot of attacking returns since Gameweek 6. In what has been an underwhelming start to their pair of fixtures, Steven Fletcher failed to shake off an ankle problem but with yesterday’s result seeing Sunderland drop onto the bottom three, Martin O’Neill will surely be prepared to take a gamble on the Scot’s fitness as he goes in search of a vital three points. With the Royals possibly without Sean Morrison after the centre-half sustained an ankle injury at Southampton, Sessegnon’s owners will be hoping he can rediscover the home form that helped him to 13 points at the Stadium of Light as recently as Gameweek 13.
Reading Fail to Produce
Fantasy owners of Adam Le Fondre and Hal Robson-Kanu were left frustrated after the pair returned blanks in the 1-0 loss at Southampton. While the result continued the Royals’ record of conceding in every away game so far, they’ll be buoyed by Sunderland’s defensive form heading into Tuesday’s match at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats have now conceded seven goals in their last two home fixtures – while it’s a real concern for owners of Simon Mignolet and Carlos Cuellar, Brian McDermott’s side will be optimistic of grabbing a goal or two and turning their miserable start to the double Gameweek around. As mentioned above, they may have to do so without Sean Morrison in their ranks, with Alex Pearce or Kaspars Gorkss vying for the vacant starting berth. Post-match, McDermott was not quite ready to rule Morrison out of the Sunderland game, however:
“I’m not sure Morro will be available Tuesday, it’s his ankle and he’s on crutches as a precaution.”
A goalless draw with neighbours Stoke continued a series of solid defensive displays for Villa. Yesterday’s result was their third clean sheet in the last four Gameweeks and with just one goal conceded across that quartet of fixtures. Once again, Paul Lambert went with a three-man defence, with Ron Vlaar still absent through injury. The Villa boss was full of praise for his defenders post-match…
“They have done really fine. The three lads from last week to this week I thought have done great. Chris [Herd] has not played in a long time due to his injury. Nathan and Ciaran have been excellent. Chris was excellent last week and this week I thought he was excellent again. They coped brilliantly with Stoke’s strength.”
Lambert’s side are starting to suggest they could be worth our consideration – Matt Lawton, at 4.5, is now up to 52 FPL points, more than any team-mate. While trips to Liverpool and Chelsea and a home clash against Spurs will test their mettle at the back, Villa’s lack of attacking potency is a real concern – they have now scored just twice in the last five Gameweeks and could well struggle over those next three before the schedule takes a turn for the better.