Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane go toe-to-toe for the Golden Boot on the final day, boosting large numbers of Fantasy scores as they go.
More than 175,000 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers made Salah the second most purchased player of Gameweek 38, many no doubt taking a transfer hit to bring him back in after Liverpool’s single match in last week’s round of double fixtures.
The risk, as it turned out, was well worth it as the Egyptian scored his 32nd goal of the season and also provided an assist in Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Brighton.
Salah’s 11 points took him to an FPL record 303 points for the season, surpassing Luis Suarez’s 295 from 2013/14 with some ease. It was his tenth double-digit home haul and fifteenth over the campaign overall.
It also saw off Kane’s attempts to catch him in the Golden Boot race.
The Spurs striker scored twice in Tottenham’s remarkable 5-4 win over Leicester City, but that took him to ‘just’ 30 goals, three short of Salah’s haul.
The pair were the most captained players on the day, Salah leading the way on 25.2%, well ahead of Kane’s 18.66% backing. Among the top 100 managers, 52 went for the Egyptian and 35 for the England international.
The majority of managers who played their Triple Captain chip did so on Salah (54.09%) or Kane (20.30%) as well, with FPL’s eventual champion for the campaign, Yusuf Sheikh, owing a generous slice of his amazing last-day haul of 93 points to triple captaining the Liverpool star.
Vive Les Differentials
Salah (56.7%) was the most popular asset in the game, with Kane (37.7%) the most owned striker.
So while their final-day influence was significant, it was also widely experienced.
Leicester City pair Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez also delivered big-hauls, much to our frustration.
Second only to Man City’s Gabriel Jesus for transfers-out, Vardy was cast aside by 117,702 after scoring just twice in his previous four outings in disappointing Double Gameweeks 34 and 37 for the Foxes.
He picked the perfect time to serve up only a second double-figure haul of the season. The first one – back in Gameweek 1 – was also away to a north London side, in a 4-3 at Arsenal.
Mahrez, meanwhile, was subject to a major midfield exodus ahead of Double Gameweek 37, having produced five successive blanks prior to that round.
But yesterday he trolled us all, scoring and providing two assists in the 5-4 thriller at Wembley to make it 20 points from the final two matches.
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (14%) scored the winner as Arsene Wenger said adieu rather than au revoir with a 1-0 victory at Huddersfield.
The striker has 10 goals and four assists to his name since his Gameweek 26 debut, blanking only twice in 13 matches, one of which involved a penalty miss – a remarkably consistent run that should make him a very popular choice when the 2018/19 season kicks off.
Only Sergio Aguero bettered Aubameyang’s points per match up front, by 6.8 to 6.7.
Crystal Palace midfielder Wilfried Zaha was the most purchased player of the final Gameweek, 176,000+ new managers taking him to 10.6% ownership overall.
The winger responded with a goal and 10 points – his third successive double-digit haul at home – as the Eagles beat West Brom 2-0.
The Ivory Coast star ended the campaign with five goals and four assists in the last nine Gameweeks and has upped his consistency by some distance since partnering Andros Townsend up front. If Zaha remains a midfielder in FPL – which will surely be the case – he’s sure to be a popular pick come the start of next season.
But the 3.1% owning Patrick van Aanholt were the real winners.
The defender netted for the third straight match, kept a third clean sheet in four and even had time to notch his first assist of the campaign in an all-action, maximum-bonus 18-point display which was the highest score of the Gameweek.
That indicated just how prescient the 75,000+ managers who made him the fifth most signed player of Gameweek 38 truly were. Like Zaha, Van Aanholt’s compelling end to 2017/18 – five goals, four clean sheets and an assist in the final nine – will turn plenty of heads when planning for next season gets underway.
In fact, only one of the top five transfers-in, Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, blanked, and three of them produced double-digit hauls.
But only one player – Reds left-back Andrew Robertson (7.4%) – could match Van Aanholt’s score, and he did so by exactly replicating his performance.
The top two scoring midfielders on the day were the epitome of differential material.
Erik Lamela scored two and set up another of Spurs’ five goals, bringing in 16 points for his 8,618 (count them) owners, while West Ham’s 3-1 win over Everton came courtesy of a Manuel Lanzini brace benefitting just 44,860, or 0.8% of, FPL managers.
The other Hammers goalscorer, Marko Arnautovic (7.6%), completed his impressive conversion to the lone striker role with a goal and an assist for 12 points.
All 11 of his goals and all seven assists have arrived since being moved up front by David Moyes in Gameweek 16.
Arnautovic had mustered just 13 points in the opening 15 fixtures before delivered a further 131 points in 20 outings with the Scot in charge, averaging 6.55 points per match under Moyes.
It remains to be seen whether Moyes will remain at the helm, though, or whether any new manager will retain the Austrian up front. Like Zaha, if he continues as a forward for his club and is listed as an FPL midfielder, big investment for 2018/19 already looks on the cards.
Mentions must also go to Man United’s Marcus Rashford (7.6%), who scored in the 1-0 win over Watford, and Newcastle striker Ayoze Perez (6.5%), whose double in a 3-0 win dismissal of a wretched Chelsea earned his owners 13 points.
The Magpies’ frontman has made an early claim for the cut-price striker role in our three-man frontlines next term. Perez ended the campaign with six goals, two assists and ten bonus points over their final eight league fixtures.
Backline bliss in short supply
Only four defenders managed double figures on the day – Dejan Lovren and Florian Lejeune were the other two – and Robertson’s 7.4% ownership made him the most popular of the top ten scoring players in defence.
As it happened, of the eight most owned defenders in the game, only two of them featured in Gameweek 38 at all.
They were Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta (21%) and West Brom man mountain Ahmed Hegazi (17.8%).
Neither kept a clean sheet and they brought in a combined haul of two points.
No goalkeeper managed to make it into double digits, with Swansea City’s Lukasz Fabianski (10.1%) the pick of the crop thanks to a penalty save and nine points in a 2-1 home loss to Stoke City.
The Pole between the sticks saved three spot-kicks over the season – more than any other keeper – and owners of Wayne Rooney, Gabriel Jesus and yesterday’s victim Xherdan Shaqiri have good reason to be cheerless as a result.
Then again, more than 309,000 of Fabianski’s near-600,000 ownership benched their man for Gameweek 38…
Another tale of woe centred on Burnley’s backline, a much-vaunted unit that flattered to deceive all of us nearly all of the time.
Five of their defence, plus keeper Nick Pope, enjoyed ownership of at least 4.9%, and yet they kept just two clean sheets from Gameweek 22 onwards, culminating in a 2-1 home loss yesterday which involved shipping two goals in the last 16 minutes against Bournemouth.
Still, there’s always someone worse off, and the 9% of managers with Man City keeper Ederson in their squads had it bad.
The Brazilian didn’t even play in the champions’ 1-0 win at Southampton.
But he still managed to ‘score’ -1 points when he ran onto the pitch to celebrate Jesus’ last-gasp winner and was promptly booked.
That intervention might well have decided many a mini-league and should live on as a hard-luck story for the ages among FPL’s long-suffering acolytes.