Many managers sacrificed overall position before a ball was even kicked this week by taking points hits in order to field a complete starting XI. Injuries and suspensions had decimated many teams, and nearly 39,000 managers activated their Wildcard. The other hot topic of debate this week was exactly who to give the captain’s armband to. With the loss of Aguero, and with Costa off the boil, many looked elsewhere for the double point bonanza. The most obvious candidate was Eden Hazard, but there was also value to be found in Sanchez, RVP and Rooney. Let’s have a look how it all played out by analysing the gameweek 16 dream team.
It was perhaps an unlikely candidate to pick up the top award this week. Not only in the dream team, but the highest scorer of the lot! It was down to the clean sheet, the amount of saves, the 3 bonus points and – importantly – his penalty save from Dusan Tadic, that led to a 15 point total and a place for Tom Heaton of Burnley in the team of the week. Interestingly, this now puts Heaton in the No.1 spot for highest scoring goalkeeper overall in this season’s competition, knocking David De Gea into second position.
Manchester City’s Eliaquim Mangala is yet to gather any momentum with his appearances being sporadic to date. However, with the injury prognosis on Vincent Kompany not looking great, he could be about to enjoy a run of games in the heart of the City defence. His 9 points this week were as a result of the clean sheet he contributed towards, and the 3 bonus points he was awarded. It may be worth noting that after a recent good return by goalscoring defenders, not one hit the back of the net this week.
Back for his second appearance in the weekly dream team was West Bromwich Albion’s Andre “Norman” Wisdom. The Baggies kept a clean sheet for the second week in a row, and this seems to be symptomatic of their season; when they play well they rarely concede, but when they are not on top of their game they leak silly goals. QPR away next followed by Manchester City at home. I wouldn’t bet against them managing shut-outs in BOTH of those games to be honest.
Proving that there is strength in numbers, Wisdom is joined in defence this week by Joleon “Joleon” Lescott. Not only is he a very talented centre-half, he is the leader of this Baggies team, and it was his clever marshalling of the defence that primarily led to the clean sheet in this match. West Midland derbys can be tricky affairs, but Lescott had the wily know-how to get his team over the finishing line against Villa. He picked up 8 points along the way, having been rewarded with 2 bonus points.
The smart choice for the captain’s armband this week was Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, and so it came to pass as a very good decision. His points returns at home cannot be ignored. Absolutely garbage away from Stamford Bridge, but the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to having him in your team. Let’s just take a look at those stats: Points at Home – 9 / 2 / 3 / 11 / 10 / 11 / 9 / 14 Points Away – 2 / 5 / 7 / 3 / 2 / 2 / 3 / 2 Enough said? The 14 points came courtesy of a goal and an assist plus maximum bonus points in the 2-0 win over Hull. Hazard now sits joint top of the overall form table with Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen.
All of the stats that were available a few weeks ago were pointing towards one player going points crazy and he has lived up to that billing. Arsenal man Santi Cazorla is the man in form over recent weeks, even out-trumping his own team-mate, Alexis Sanchez. A brace in the 4-1 demolition of Newcastle made it 3 goals in his last 2 games, and 33 points in 4 games in total. Liverpool away and QPR at home up next for the Gunners, the little Spaniard will no doubt add to his points tally during those fixtures.
The third midfielder to hit 14 points in gameweek 16 was another little Spaniard, this one in the form of Manchester United’s Juan Mata. Notching his 5th goal of the season and his 2nd assist in the comfortable home win over arch-rivals Liverpool, it is difficult to fathom why his ownership percentage is still under 7.5%. Admittedly, his inclusion for the full 90 minutes has only really come about since the injury to Angel Di Maria, but his returns are pretty decent.
It was the afore-mentioned Christian Eriksen who completes the midfield, with his injury-time winner for Spurs against Swansea gaining him 13 points. There is no doubt Eriksen is a formidable player who provides excellent points returns, it is just his inconsistency that leaves a doubt in my mind. For instance, his goals in gameweeks 12 and 13 led to a 13 point and a 9 point total respectively. But in gameweeks 14 and 15 he provided just the box standard 2 appearance points. Can you afford to carry these limited returns in the hope of the one gameweek in 3 or 4 where he collects big points? I can’t justify it myself.
Since his return from injury in gameweek 12, Arsenal front-man Olivier Giroud has been picking up minutes and form. His double against Newcastle this week proves that slow and steady is the key with long term injury lay-offs and advocates that managers wait until form is proven before taking a punt on bringing players back in after injuries. Those who rushed to bring in Dzeko, Jovetic, Silva, and a few weeks ago, Walcott, would be wise to remember this. Giroud’s 13 points set him up nicely to enter a run of winnable fixtures for Arsenal, and a run that could well see him pick up a decent amount of goals between now and the New Year.
A second consecutive appearance in the team of the week for Manchester United’s overpriced – but red hot – striker, Robin Van Persie. As United put Liverpool to the sword at Old Trafford, RVP picked up his 4th goal in 4 games and 11 points for those managers that had invested £12.5m in him. Arguably only as a result of the Aguero money being freed up, but whereas some have decided to strengthen throughout their team, others have decided to plough all the cash into a like-for-like player. At the moment it is paying off, and United have a very favourable run of fixtures coming up. Be in no doubt, despite their ropey defence, they are very real title challengers.
Back in the starting line-up for the first time in 3 weeks, and looking to score his first goal since he netted at Old Trafford back in gameweek 7, it is Everton forward Steven Naismith who completes the line-up this week. After a slow start on Monday evening against QPR, he came to life and picked up a goal, an assist and all 3 bonus points. He is now available at the budget price of £4.8m after everyone dumped him out of their team after his early season hot streak cooled off. Interestingly, he is still owned by 13.6% of managers. This figure repeats itself when you investigate some of the other long-term injured players (Ramsey, Aguero, Krul etc) implying that 13-14% of all FPL teams are now “dead” ghostships abandoned by their managers. I would suggest Naismith may be worth putting on your Watchlist as there is every chance he could go on another goalscoring run over Christmas.
Gameweek 17 rolls around on Saturday, and if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to start planning your squads for the festive period. Most Premier League managers rest and rotate players during this period of fixture congestion, so it is essential you have players who look like being guaranteed starters. Your bench players may well come into play, so shift out that dead wood and populate it with players who when they are called upon, can auto-sub into your team and pick up some points here and there.