Our regular critique of a player, team and discussion point that attracted our interest in the previous Gameweek returns.
Double Gameweek 35 dominates our thinking, with the form and fixtures of Raul Jimenez and Southampton discussed as well as strategy over the Bench Boost chip debated.
The Player – Raul Jimenez
With two home fixtures to come over the next week, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ assets are – on paper, at least – among the most appealing Fantasy options for Double Gameweek 35.
That is certainly borne out in our captaincy poll, where Raul Jimenez (£6.9m) leads the way with a 28% share of the vote.
Wolves are unbeaten in their last five matches at Molineux, while Brighton – who were so awful in Gameweek 34 – and Arsenal have only two clean sheets in 32 away league games combined this season. The Gunners, indeed, only broke their season-long shut-out drought on Monday night when beating ten-man Watford 1-0.
Saturday’s game against Southampton was a bit of a downer for Wolves’ players to end on, then, going into Double Gameweek 35.
Jimenez wasn’t alone in turning in a below-par performance but failed to make much of an impression in a 90-minute showing, with the Mexican striker slashing one presentable volley so far wide it ended up going out for a throw.
A shot from outside the box that Angus Gunn (£4.3m) comfortably dealt with was Jimenez’s only other attempt on goal and apart from some good early combination play between he and strike partner Diogo Jota (£6.2m), this was an afternoon to forget for the Mexico international.
Away form has deserted Wolves of late and this latest defeat (Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are winless in five on the road) might just be chalked up to travel sickness.
Certainly at home, where Wolves play twice in Gameweek 35, they are a different prospect.
Santo’s troops have four wins from the last five Premier League matches at Molineux, scoring 12 goals and keeping two clean sheets along the way.
Jimenez himself sits third among all FPL assets for expected goal involvement (xGI) when players are filtered by their last six home matches.
The Mexican has banked FPL attacking returns in four of his last five league games in the West Midlands, registering three double-digit hauls along the way.
All four of his returns of 10+ points this season have been on home soil.
The concern for owners of Jimenez and other Wolves assets is that the psychological damage that an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Watford may have inflicted could take a little while to recover from, regardless of where Wanderers’ games are staged.
Jimenez was one of a handful of players who looked spent at St. Mary’s, either due to the physical exertions of the extra-time defeat to Watford or because of the mental fatigue that such a loss could impart.
That is completely understandable given the circumstances, and the hope for owners – and possible captainers – is that an extra week of rehabilitation will have a positive impact on the Wolves’ squad.
Santo has taken his team away for warm-weather training in Marbella this week, something he did his earlier this year after a gruelling December and January.
Santo hailed the results of February’s break to Spain and the hope from Fantasy managers’ perspectives is that this latest jolly abroad has a similarly galvanising effect – although it should be said that Wolves laboured to a 1-1 draw with Newcastle in their first game back following their previous Mediterranean excursion.
Should the Brighton game prove to be anticlimactic (Wolves have won only one of their six meetings with the bottom four this season), next Wednesday’s clash with Arsenal should rouse the Molineux faithful and Jimenez from their slumber – the Mexican has four goals and three assists in six evening kick-offs against the “big six” in 2018/19.
The Team – Southampton
One of two teams who have two fixtures in Double Gameweek 35 and who avoid any of the ‘big six’ clubs between now and the end of the season (the other being Arsenal), Southampton sit at the top of our Season Ticker for the final month of 2018/19.
Not only do the Saints have appealing fixtures, they also have the form to go with it.
When clubs are filtered by their last 12 matches, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s outfit six sixth in the Premier League form table.
Since the Austrian’s appointment back in December, Southampton lie seventh in the away form table and only the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool have conceded fewer goals than the Saints (nine) in those last eight matches on the road.
Away form is of particular interest as Southampton’s fixtures in Double Gameweek 35 are at Newcastle and Watford.
In the south coast club’s last six top-flight games on the road, only four sides have conceded fewer goals or big chances.
The Saints haven’t particularly excelled at the other end, however, ranking in the bottom six for attempts on goal, shots in the box and big chances over their last half-dozen away games.
Southampton did face Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea in that run, in mitigation.
Saturday’s match against Wolves was promising on all fronts.
While the disclaimer is that this game was at St. Mary’s and against a deflated Wanderers side, no club created more big chances or conceded fewer gilt-edged opportunities than the Saints in Gameweek 34.
The importance of Danny Ings’ (£5.4m) return can’t be underestimated, either, as the Saints have struggled to adequately fill the centre-forward role in the on-loan Liverpool striker’s recent absence.
Link-up play and dropping deep have always been strengths of Ings’ and that was again in evidence on Saturday, with the injury-prone attacker almost playing a false nine role and frequently dropping in behind Josh Sims (£4.4m) and Nathan Redmond (£5.3m) – turning a 3-4-2-1 into a 3-4-1-2.
Two of the three opportunities that Ings created were ‘big chances’, with one leading to an assist.
Whether Hasenhuttl uses such an attacking set-up away at Newcastle and Watford is another question, as he has generally favoured a 3-5-2/3-5-1-1 (using a 4-2-2-2 at Brighton) away from St Mary’s.
With Wolves possibly on a low after that FA Cup semi-final defeat, Watford with potential availability issues in attack and Brighton in atrocious nick, there is an argument to suggest that Southampton are the most attractive non-‘big six’ side going into Double Gameweek 35 and indeed beyond that into the season climax.
The Talking Point – Bench Boost
Many FPL managers will be planning to deploy their Bench Boost in Gameweek 35, in keeping with the widespread tradition of using this chip in a Double Gameweek.
The upsides to this strategy are obvious, the most glaring one being that there exists the potential for a Fantasy boss to get up to and including eight fixtures out of their benched assets instead of the usual four.
Not only does this approach raise the points ceiling for the ragtag array of budget players and bench fodder options, but it also offers the consolation of a second bite at the cherry should a particular Fantasy asset blank in their opening Double Gameweek match.
Those who deployed their Wildcard either last week or in the preceding few Gameweeks will likely have targeted an active bench, too, with the Aboubakar Kamaras and Collin Quaners of this sometimes odd Fantasy world consigned to the dustbin in favour of players in their respective clubs’ first-team picture such as Yan Valery (£4.1m), Victor Camarasa (£4.5m) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£4.4m).
What has prompted some Fantasy managers to reconsider the ‘Bench Boost in Gameweek 35’ approach are the events of an underwhelming Gameweek 34.
Those FPL bosses who doubled or tripled up on Brighton players will now have even less faith in their Albion assets getting much out of away fixtures at Wolves and Spurs following the abysmal performances against Bournemouth and Cardiff.
The first Gameweek 35 fixtures also fall days after Manchester United, Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester City (plus single Gameweekers Liverpool and Chelsea) are in action in Europe, so rotation is a possibility in some quarters for the league matches involving the ‘big six’ this weekend.
Then there are suspensions and injuries.
Anthony Knockaert (£5.2m) and – pending appeal – Troy Deeney (£5.9m) will be sidelined for Double Gameweek 35 after being sent off in the last few days, while the availability of Valery, Gerard Deulofeu (£5.6m) and Roberto Pereyra (£6.0m) is still to be confirmed with yellow flags currently hanging over their heads in FPL.
A transfer or two (perhaps at the expense of a hit) may fix the necessary issues but those Fantasy managers with a flag-heavy squad may now be mulling over a different strategy.
Those with the Triple Captain chip still to burn may now consider using it in Double Gameweek 35 and instead save their Bench Boost for later in the season.
The upside of using the Triple Captain chip in Gameweek 35 is the same as deploying the Bench Boost in that it allows a player two stabs at banking FPL returns.
Raul Jimenez (£6.9m) is a possible option given that Wolves are twice at home, although whether Nuno Espirito Santo’s troops have mentally bounced back from their FA Cup semi-final defeat is another question.
Sergio Aguero (£11.7m) and Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) will no doubt get plenty of backing for the armband, too, though City’s two Gameweek 35 fixtures are potentially tricky.
The fact that no player has more than 30% of the vote in our Captain Poll is reflective of the lack of a stand-out captaincy candidate for this Double Gameweek, however, and therein lies one of the problems with using the Triple Captaincy in Gameweek 35 instead, for example, on Mohamed Salah (£13.2m) or Sadio Mane (£10.1m) against Huddersfield in Gameweek 36.
One upside to using the Bench Boost in Gameweek 36, especially for those who doubled or tripled-up on Brighton assets, is that the Seagulls have a more enticing fixture at home to Newcastle.
The Magpies have shown recently that they are no pushovers, however, and Brighton’s form is such that there couldn’t be any confidence in backing their players against any team presently.
Rotation, a surprise benching or a late injury would also be a downside to using the Bench Boost in a single Gameweek. Should one or two of a Fantasy team’s starting XI be unexpectedly sidelined, then substitutes would be automatically made anyway and the value of using a Bench Boost would be considerably damaged.
Wolves Ay We prompted discussion on this very subject on Tuesday and the responses of our site users can be viewed here.