The Digest draws a line under Gameweek 15 as we check out the player, team and talking point catching our attention.
Philippe Coutinho stakes his claim as a double-up option along with Mohamed Salah as the Liverpool goal machine hits top gear ahead of a kind festive schedule.
Meanwhile, the competition for our Gameweek captaincy intensifies as a host of premium midfielders threaten to bury the big-hitting frontmen in the armband battle.
After serving up a career-high 171 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) points last season, it seemed as though we’d seen the last of Philippe Coutinho on these shores.
But the failure of long-term suitors Barcelona to secure his services over the summer has proved good news for Jurgen Klopp and FPL managers alike.
Stuck on the sidelines for the first five Gameweeks due to a back problem, Coutinho was something of an afterthought in our midfield plans as new team-mate Mohamed Salah grabbed the goals and early-season glory.
But in Saturday’s 5-1 hammering of Brighton, the Egyptian was, for once, rendered a bit-part player as Coutinho ran riot with a goal and three assists.
All the more impressively, an 18-point haul against Chris Hughton’s side was the South American’s fourth double-digit tally in just eight league outings.
Meanwhile, an average of 7.9 points per match (ppm) is more than any regular this season, with Salah – the top scoring player in FPL – sitting second on 7.5ppm.
In terms of goal involvement, Coutinho has now scored or assisted 60% of Liverpool’s goals when on the pitch – again, that’s top of the pile for Klopp’s charges and markedly more than last season’s 41%.
Still owned by just 7% despite a raft of 105,000 transfers in this Gameweek, Coutinho now looks braced to build on his display on the south coast.
With home encounters against Everton, West Brom, Swansea and Leicester and a trip to Bournemouth in the next six Gameweeks, his case for inclusion as an explosive differential for our FPL midfields could barely be more persuasive.
Perhaps, in retrospect, Liverpool’s 4-1 battering at the hands of Spurs in Gameweek 9 has done them a favour.
Since that Wembley reverse, Klopp’s side have played eight matches in all competitions and scored 25 times. On only one of those occasions – a 1-1 home draw against Chelsea in Gameweek 13 – have they failed to score a minimum of three goals.
The team statistics also highlight the Merseysiders’ potent attack – 19 goals over the last six Gameweeks is more than any side, while only Chelsea (42 to 40) have recorded more efforts on target.
While Salah and Coutinho look the standout candidates, Sadio Mane has delivered double-digits in two of his last three starts. He may yet prove another contender if Klopp eases up on the rotation that’s afforded the Senegal international just three starts in five since returning from injury.
And Roberto Firmino’s brace against the Seagulls brings him back into contention up front. After a slow start to the season, the Brazilian has now scored twice in two of his last three starts in all competitions.
The Reds’ defence have also shown improved resilience in recent league outings. Since that reverse at Spurs, Klopp’s men are the second best for shots conceded (39) and goals against (three).
Considering that they also have the league’s second-best defensive record at home – two goals conceded in seven – Alberto Moreno (4.7) could yet emerge as a budget option at the back ahead of those four Anfield fixtures still to come in December.
While Klopp continues to rotate his backline, he has continued to show support for Moreno as his first choice left-back. Rested at Brighton, the Spaniard will expect to earn a recall for the Merseyside derby and feature over the majority of the festive fixtures.
The Talking Point
Our faith in Harry Kane’s captaincy credentials took yet another hit in Gameweek 15.
Many backers ignored his struggles at Wembley Stadium as Spurs made their way to Watford – Kane had, after all, returned two goals and an assist at Vicarage Road last season.
Yet a blank against the Hornets was the eighth time in 14 appearances that he has failed to produce attacking returns.
Next up, Kane entertains a Stoke side that he produced three goals and an assist against at White Hart Lane last season.
Although his troubles at Wembley – five blanks and one double-figure return in seven – remain an issue, the underlying numbers continue to offer encouragement.
Comparing his stats against Gameweek 1-15 last season, Kane’s minutes per goal (121.6 v 121.7) are pretty much identical. He’s also firing attempts at twice the speed (from 30.4 to 15.2) but has converted just half the number of chances (from 25% to 12.5%).
Fail against the Potters, though, and it may not be until Double Gameweek 22 before many entrust him with the armband again.
This also comes at a time where his rival premium forwards are struggling to produce explosive returns.
Despite climbing to the top of the forward standings at the weekend, Alvaro Morata has managed just a single 10+ points haul since Gameweek 3.
Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku has one goal in eight, while the rotation issues at Man City renders Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus redundant in the captaincy race for most Fantasy managers.
The case for considering midfielders as our go-to captains is gaining momentum, with the likes Salah, Coutinho and Eden Hazard on the ascendancy.
Salah not only betters Kane for consistency over the season, with 11 sets of points returns six, he’s also far more explosive by six lots of double-digits to four. Coutinho, meanwhile, has matched Kane’s four sets of 10+ points hauls in far fewer appearances (eight to 14).
And Hazard’s new central role seems to have elevated his prospects to yet another level, with three substantial FPL tallies (11, 18, 15) in the last six Gameweeks alone.
Similar to the Liverpool pair, he also boasts a very favourable run to maintain that recent output.
A look at the top captain picks in FPL for Gameweek 15 is perhaps telling – Kane, Salah and Lukaku were all tied at the summit on 15%.
That’s the lowest backing that any top captain contender has earned this season and a sign of the growing lack of faith in the frontmen, who are typically considered default options for most.
Salah was ranked only fourth top contender in each of the previous four Gameweeks but his rise to challenge at the summit is indicative of a trend that seems to be edging away from the forwards, as more managers turn to the in-form options in midfield.