We look back at Gameweek 11 for the final time, picking out the key performer, an emerging source of Fantasy talent and chew over the major talking point to emerge from the ten matches.
Mohamed Salah rediscovers his form ahead of some outstanding fixtures for Liverpool. Brighton’s star continues to ascend under Chris Hughton, while Harry Kane’s struggles under the weight of the armband remains a real problem for Fantasy managers.
Here’s the Digest…
After a run of just one goal and an assist in the previous four league fixtures, Mohamed Salah’s Fantasy fortunes took a turn for the better thanks to Jurgen Klopp’s change of tactics away to West Ham.
Handed a central role alongside Roberto Firmino up front, the Egyptian profited from his link-up with the fit-again Sadio Mane as the pair combined for both Salah’s goals in the 4-1 triumph.
A season-high 15 points took the Reds’ summer signing to just one point off the top of the Fantasy Premier League summit and triggered major interest as the final international break of 2017 gets underway.
In spite of his recent mini-drought, Salah has remained one of the most consistent sources of FPL returns. He’s only gone more than a single Gameweek without scoring on one occasion – a two-match barren streak over Gameweek 6-7.
The underlying numbers show why.
Ranked fourth overall for total attempts (37), he climbs to second behind Harry Kane for shots in the box (32 to 39) and rises to first when it comes to efforts on target – a total of 24 leaves Kane (22) and Romelu Lukaku (18) trailing in the top three.
The forthcoming schedule merely strengthens his appeal.
Between now and Gameweek 21, only a visit from Chelsea and trip to Arsenal look problematic.
Aside from that, Salah offers five very favourable home matches (SOT EVE WBA SWA LEI) and three strong road trips (stk bha bou) in the next 10 rounds of fixtures.
After being rested from international duties over the next fortnight, the bandwagon is reaching full pace – he’s the top player for transfers in over the current break, with over 121,000 FPL managers turning to Salah to solve their midfield conundrum.
Both Burnley and Brighton more than merit a place in this section but, having covered the Clarets as recently as Gameweek 7, we turn to the Seagulls instead.
Chris Hughton’s side got off to a shaky start upon their return to the top-flight, with just four points accrued from their opening five league fixtures.
But Brighton have found their stride over the subsequent six, losing just once – a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal was the only time they’ve failed to score – in a run that has harvested three wins, two draws and a trio of clean sheets.
There’s no doubt that Pascal Gross has been their jewel in the crown so far.
The top-ranked player for key passes in each of the last two Bundesliga seasons, Gross has needed little time to make his impact felt in the Premier League – two goals and five assists earn him joint-seventh spot in the FPL midfield standings on 58 points. When on the pitch, he’s played a part in 64% of his side’s goals, more than any regular midfielder.
But it’s not all been about Gross in recent weeks, with Glenn Murray stepping up as a viable budget forward. With the German dictating play in a support role behind him, Murray has chipped in with four goals, six bonus and 27 FPL points in the last three Gameweeks.
Elsewhere, in midfield, last year’s Championship Player of the Year, Anthony Knockaert, has also become more influential – having blanked in the opening seven, a goal, assist and five bonus over Gameweek 8-11 coincides with Murray’s return to the teamsheet.
At the back, keeper Matt Ryan remains their top scoring player on 41 points – that’s level with Spurs’ Hugo Lloris, for example – though the underlying numbers point to centre-backs Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk as the most profitable options for those looking to invest.
Neither has produced attacking returns, yet they both rank inside the top eight defenders for attempts in the box. And in terms of Clearances, Blocks and Interceptions (CBI), Duffy is the league’s number one player on 134, with Dunk sitting fifth on 107.
Up next, home encounters with Stoke, Crystal Palace, Burnley and Watford and a trip to Huddersfield in the next eight give Hughton’s side the chance to maintain momentum.
With trips to Man United and Spurs also over that run, though, looking for a rotation pairing for our Seagulls players could be the answer.
Conveniently, Burnley could be the answer. Between now and Gameweek 19, the two sides offer a straight run of eight home matches (SWA ARS CRY LIV WAT STK BUR WAT) that, aside from Liverpool’s visit to the Amex in Gameweek 15, looks conducive to Fantasy returns.
The Talking Point
Harry Kane’s struggles at Wembley continue to dominate discussion.
The runaway favourite for our Gameweek 11 armband, his blank at home to Crystal Palace was a fifth in six league starts at Spurs’ temporary home.
It was also the fifth time in six that Spurs have failed to score before half-time at Wembley in a run that has also included the likes of Burnley, Swansea and Bournemouth.
Stubborn opponents who are willing to sit deep and frustrate are having more success on the expansive Wembley pitch, with Spurs’ pressing game having less effect early on in matches.
By comparison, they have scored at least two goals before the break in three of the four away fixtures than Kane has started, with their hosts’ inclination to go on the attack allowing Mauricio Pochettino’s team space in the final third.
What’s all the more annoying is that, when it comes to underlying numbers, Kane’s statistics remain the best on show from any player at home.
Given that his overall numbers are so far ahead of any other forward, keeping faith with Kane right now is surely a wise decision. All the more so when you consider that three of his next four are on the road, where he has scored twice in each of his last three away outings.
But when it comes to Spurs’ home fixtures, we can either keep faith with Kane’s numbers and armband potential or look for alternatives when he entertains underdogs.
Over the next six Gameweeks, West Brom, Stoke and Brighton all roll up to Wembley – typically, those are matches you’d identify as home bankers for the captaincy.
If you’re willing to overlook Kane as a captain, there’s no shortage of alternatives.
Salah (CHE EVE WBA) and Lukaku (BHA MCI BOU) have two favourable home matches in the same three Gameweeks (13, 16 and 17) and both have delivered double-digits twice at home already.
Swansea’s Tammy Abraham (BOU WBA MCI), who has three strikes in his last four at the Liberty Stadium, is another option.
And Crystal Palace’s (STK BOU WAT) schedule over those Gameweeks could also promote Wilfried Zaha’s armband appeal – the Ivorian has scored in each of his last two at Selhurst Park and continues to be fielded up front, though Christian Benteke is nearing a return.
But can these options really threaten Kane as our preferred captain?
In truth perhaps only two players appear potentially explosive enough to rival him.
But Lukaku seems woefully short of confidence and certainly form. Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero, perhaps the more natural alternative, remains uncertain of his starting role.
We would expect the Argentinian to start at the King Power Stadium in Gameweek 11, but having been recalled to international duty and with Gabriel Jesus an option for Pep Guardiola, we can’t be certain. For now, Aguero still comes packaged with the threat of being reduced to a 30-minute cameo from the bench, so we’d be risking a one-point return from our captain.
Is that a bigger gamble than backing Kane to deliver at Wembley? If feels like it.