Yesterday we published an article looking at the forthcoming fixture schedules of the Premier League clubs involved in European competition.
In this latest piece, we will study how the seven managers in question have handled rotation in the previous block of four Gameweeks.
From Gameweeks 5-8, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers were competing on three fronts (the Premier League, the EFL Cup and the Champions League/Europa League) and playing twice a week, every week – a situation that will continue until the next international break for all of those clubs bar Spurs.
As we mentioned in the first article, managers have handled the fixture congestion differently.
Where Nuno Espirito Santo and Pep Guardiola have rung the changes, Jurgen Klopp has kept a relatively settled side.
The club-by-club breakdown below analyses rotation in greater detail, paying particular attention to the involvement of key FPL assets.
You can read how Messrs Klopp, Guardiola, Emery and Pochettino handled rotation last season in an article we previously wrote in September.
Ignoring Ilkay Gundogan (£5.2m) and Rodri (£5.5m), two City midfielders who have been the least productive from an offensive perspective and who have been largely avoided by the Fantasy community, Guardiola has regularly rotated his attack-minded assets since the September international break.
Raheem Sterling (£12.1m), Sergio Aguero (£12.2m), Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m), Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0m), David Silva (£7.6m) and Bernardo Silva (£7.9m) haven’t started more than two successive matches over this period and the same was true of Riyad Mahrez (£8.7m) until Gameweek 8 – although the Algerian winger didn’t even last an hour of that defeat to Wolves.
Rodri is the only one of City’s midfielders or forwards to start all four league matches from Gameweeks 5-8 – a sign of things to come, perhaps, in the next month and beyond.
At the back, Guardiola has obviously had his hands tied when it comes to playing Nicolas Otamendi (£5.6m) regularly but John Stones (£5.3m) ought to return after the international break and offer the City boss another option at centre-half.
Kyle Walker (£6.0m) continues to be an ever-present in the league this season but Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.4m) is feeling the heat on the opposite side, with three others players having deputised in that position in league or cup over the past month.
The situation is far more serene at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp has kept a very settled side up front and at the back, with the EFL Cup match against MK Dons used to hand his first-choice players a breather.
Mohamed Salah (£12.5m), Sadio Mane (£11.7m), Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m), Andrew Robertson (£6.9m) and Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) started every Premier League and Champions League match from Gameweeks 5-8, while Roberto Firmino‘s (£9.6m) benching in Gameweek 5 was more to do with his late return from international duty with Brazil – a problem Firmino won’t have in Gameweek 9.
Even in central midfield, where Klopp more frequently chops and changes, Fabinho (£5.5m) has started all six Premier League and Champions League games and Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.4m) has only been benched for one of them.
Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures may not be great but the Reds’ assets look less likely to fall victim to rotation than, say, City’s players.
Despite the bloated squad he has at his disposal and the plethora of midfield options available, Frank Lampard has adopted an almost Klopp-esque attitude to his team selections in the Premier League and Champions League.
Mason Mount (£6.8m), Tammy Abraham (£7.7m), Willian (£7.0m), Fikayo Tomori (£4.7m), Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.9m) and Jorginho (£5.1m) started all matches bar the EFL Cup win over Grimsby Town between the September and October international breaks.
N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) may have done likewise had he been fully fit, while it remains to be seen if Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.9m) becomes as ‘nailed’ a starter as Mount now the young winger has recovered from injury.
The glass-half-full mentality would of course be that, with all these minutes to their names already, a rest can’t be too far away for the likes of Mount and Abraham.
However, the risk of the occasional breather is different to the week-in, week-out uncertainty that we experience with, for example, certain Manchester City assets.
Harry Kane (£10.9m) is, as he has been for several seasons under Mauricio Pochettino, as close to a sure-fire starter as any of the premium options Fantasy managers can call upon.
He and Son Heung-min (£9.8m) have started all four league games between the two international breaks, with the cup matches used to hand the strike pair a breather.
The centre-half pairing of Toby Alderweireld (£5.5m) and Jan Vertonghen (£5.3m) have remained unchanged in the Premier League and Champions League, although the concession of ten goals in Spurs’ last two matches may threaten the duopoly in that position.
Elsewhere there has been a degree of rotation, which is unsurprising given the options Mauricio Pochettino has at his disposal in midfield especially.
Dele Alli (£8.4m) has been used exclusively in the cups, while Lucas Moura (£7.1m) has not started a league match since Gameweek 3 as Son and Kane continue to be trusted by their boss.
Most of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team changes in the Premier League have been enforced by injury this season, with Europa League involvement having little effect.
Daniel James (£6.1m), Harry Maguire (£5.4m) and Marcus Rashford (£8.4m) are among seven United players to be ever-presents in the league from Gameweeks 5-8 and the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m), Victor Lindelof (£5.4m) and Paul Pogba (£8.4m) would surely have joined them had injury not blighted them recently.
Backup players or academy graduates such as Mason Greenwood (£4.4m), Angel Gomes (£4.8m) and Fred (£5.3m) have instead been used on the continent, with Solskjaer’s priority evidently the Premier League at present.
Much of what we’ve written about Solskjaer and Manchester United could also apply to Unai Emery at Arsenal.
The Gunners’ boss had a reputation for rotation last season but what is perhaps forgotten is that he treated the Europa League group stages as an opportunity to blood youth products and reserve players, only really naming stronger starting XIs once the competition entered the knockout rounds.
Much the same is happening this season, give or take the odd appearance from the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m).
Eight players started in every league match from Gameweeks 5-8, with the changes that were made either being due to form – Callum Chambers (£4.4m) in for Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£5.0m) at right-back – or tactics – the shifting between a 4-4-2 diamond, a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 necessitating the need for a winger and/or ‘number ten’ – rather than due to Europa League-led fatigue.
Rob Holding (£4.5m), Hector Bellerin (£5.4m) and Kieran Tierney (£5.4m) have been building up their match fitness in the EFL Cup and Europa League after spells on the sidelines so these players will likely be challenging for a league start soon.
Wolves are a slightly special case in that their European campaign began even before the domestic season had kicked off.
The takeaway message so far is that Raul Jimenez (£7.1m), much as he was last season when making 36 out of a possible 38 starts, looks to be the most secure route into the Wolves attack.
The Mexican striker, who won’t be representing his country in the October international break, is one of just three Wolves players to be ever-present starters in the Premier League so far: the others being Conor Coady (£5.0m) and Rui Patricio (£5.1m).
Willy Boly (£5.0m) would almost certainly have been likewise had he not been suspended for Gameweek 5.
As we saw in Gameweek 8, the likes of Jonny (£5.4m) and Matt Doherty (£6.0m) are no longer the reliable options we could count on last season.
Diogo Jota (£6.1m) was being handled carefully even before he picked up this current toe injury, meanwhile.
Nuno Espirito Santo hadn’t made a single change to his starting XI at this stage last season – not since Gameweeks 1 and 2 has he named an unaltered line-up this time around.
Adama Traore (£5.0m) has started the last five Premier League games in a row and his involvement in the Wolves starting XI doesn’t just rely on rotation with Doherty: Santo used a 3-4-3 at Palace and Watford with both players in the side, while Traore joined Jimenez up front in a 3-5-2 in the second half at the Etihad last Sunday – with successful results.
Lessons learned from Gameweek 8
- Brighton 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur
- Burnley 1-0 Everton
- Liverpool 2-1 Leicester City
- Norwich City 1-5 Aston Villa
- Watford 0-0 Sheffield United
- West Ham United 1-2 Crystal Palace
- Arsenal 1-0 Bournemouth
- Manchester City 0-2 Wolves
- Southampton 1-4 Chelsea
- Newcastle United 1-0 Manchester United
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