First up is Kevin Mirallas, who we’re big fans of here at InsideFPL. While his fantasy season has been inconsistent, he’s still the 9th highest scoring midfield, currently on 95 points with a respectable 4 PPG so far. Off the back of good form, scoring against Norwich and WBA, he found himself 55,000 new owners last week, and 20,000 have already welcomed him to their team this week. With that said, let's have a look at how he compares to the similarly priced alternatives in midfield.
|Player||Price||Apps||Mins||Goals/90||Shots/90||On Target/90||Penalty Box Touches/90||Assists/90||Chances Created/90|
With 2.9 shots per 90 minutes and 1.1 on target, Mirallas leads the mid-priced pack for goal threat. While he doesn’t get as many touches in the penalty area as Lallana, he’s certainly making them count. Somewhat surprisingly he’s also a standout leader for key passes, creating one more chance than Lallana per 90 minutes. We do have to add the caveat that Mirallas also averages less time per game than the other options, usually being benched for the last 15-20 minutes, but that doesn’t hurt his potential too much. Compared to the much more highly owned Lallana, Mirallas appears to have some serious upside as a differential. (Note, Nolan was nearly the focus of this article, but with the news of Carroll’s suspension being upheld we’re holding off until that partnership is reunited. Paulinho too is a great option, but it’s not clear if he’ll play every game under Sherwood).
Any of the midfielders above are brilliant mid-priced options worthy of a place in your team. What makes Mirallas stand out is his move to the centre-forward position again Aston Villa last weekend. With Lukaku out injured until early March and Traore still not-match fit, Martinez elected to play the Belgian in a central role. Until either of their strikers are fit, Mirallas is expected to continue in that role.
So how did he do? Well the good news is that he scored a cracking freekick, something that might worry Baines owners. The bad news is he only had 2 other shots the whole game, finding the target with neither. We only have one game to go off, but Aston Villa don’t have a great defence and we’d hope for a few more shots from Mirallas. In fact it was Osman who seemed to benefit most, with 3 shots all inside the box, and 9 touches in the penalty box. It could well be that Mirallas and Everton miss Lukaku’s hold up play. For them to get the best out of Mirallas, and for him to have greater fantasy potential, they made need to adapt their system. Unfortunately we can’t see that happening before Lukaku or Traore returns to fitness, with the latter closing in on his debut.
Everton's fixtures are a truly mixed bag, with away trips to Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle split up by home games versus Crystal Palace, West Ham and Cardiff. At 7.2 you might be reluctant to rotate him, but with such kind home fixtures and difficult away trips, it may be a fruitful strategy. If you were to follow this strategy then a Crystal Palace or Cardiff midfielder would give a nice rotation, Puncheon and Mutch our first choice suggestions in their respective teams.
In conclusion, Mirallas is a solid fantasy pick with some great upside. But the move to centre-forward might not deliver such a boost to his potential as you might think. He is against Tottenham this weekend, which is a tough game on paper. But with Spurs playing with such a high line, Mirallas could flourish by making runs in behind the defenders much like Aguero, Suarez, Remy and Morrison have in previous games at White Hart Lane.
Verdict: Buy, but don’t get too excited about him playing as a central striker.
Another player who could see a change of position improve his fantasy fortunes is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who enjoyed a debut at CM scoring the only two goals in a win over Crystal Palace. Energetic, determined, quick, strong and capable of scoring goals, you’d be forgiven for thinking this could be Aaron Ramsey mk2.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has barely managed 180 minutes this season, so we can’t look at his stats too much. But I did find his performance in this match versus his historic data quite interesting.
|Shots/90||In Box/90||On Target/90||Chances Created/90|
We can see that over the last 3 seasons he’s gradually increased his per minute shooting rate and his chance creation rate has actually fallen. This may be due to a pure statistical fluctuation, but it’s not hard to imagine that as he grows and develops into a senior player he is more confident in his own shooting ability and feels less pressured to create opportunities for others. The standout stat about his big recent game is the shots in the box one, historically only 2 out 5 shots have been inside the box, against Palace it was 3 out of 4. I can’t stress just how spurious this could be given the sample sizes, but it is encouraging numbers for Oxlade-Chamberlain as a player and for his fantasy potential.
This season we’ve already seen how Ramsey and Wilshere have become fantasy assets playing in that box-to-box role in Arsenal’s midfield. Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly has the abilities to emulate those players and there’s no reason to suspect he couldn’t match their attacking returns either given the chance.
Before we get too excited, here’s the downside. It was a home game versus Palace, one of the easiest fixtures in the calendar even under the Pulis system (Stoke never replicated their home form on the road), so we must temper expectations. Next, it was only his second start of the season. Although the fact that Wenger started him first game of the season suggests he favours Oxlade-Chamberlain, and his deployment of him in an unfamiliar position must surely reinforce that. If he can maintain fitness then he could be in for a run of starts, even with a heavily congested Arsenal midfield.
The other big question is whether he’ll continue to start at central-midfield, especially this week against Liverpool. The expectation is that he’ll probably be moved to his more natural right-wing position which Arsenal have struggled to fill without Walcott. At home against Crystal Palace Wenger had the freedom to play Cazorla, Ozil and Podolski, but away at Anfield he’ll probably be more cautious and move Cazorla back to the left. The move out wide might benefit Oxlade-Chamberlain, but there certainly seems to be something about players in that Arsenal box-to-box role which is yielding great shooting opportunities.
Verdict: Avoid. If he continues to start in a central position and the likes of Ramsey and Wilshere remain out, then he could be worth picking up. But with 2 tough games coming up there’s no reason to jump on the bandwagon yet, especially if you already own one of Cazorla, Ozil or Giroud.
One of the most unglamorous and unexciting fantasy players is Robert Snodgrass, but if we were to be playing fantasy moneyball then he might be exactly the type of player that is overlooked by your rivals. Receiving attention after delivering an assist and a goal over the last 3 gameweeks we have a look at whether Snodgrass is a player Billy Beane would be interested in.
In all honesty, Snodgrass’ output isn’t something to get too excited about, but against Cardiff he racked up an incredible 7 shots, 6 of them from inside the box. Over the last 6 gameweeks he’s had 22 total shots, only Mirallas has had more for midfielders. In that same period only Hazard has touched the ball in the penalty area more times than Snodgrass. That’s pretty impressive attacking involvement for someone more known for their crossing and set-pieces. He’s only managed 4 shots on target from all this activity, but that still matches Mirallas for the same period.
Not only that, but Norwich’s attack is surprisingly good. Over the season they place midtable for shots taken, and the quality of those shots has been inline with expectations as well. In fact, if we narrow our thinking to the last 6 gameweeks then Norwich have had 95 shots, the 4th most in the league! And despite only scoring 3 goals in that period, they managed 22 shots on target, suggesting they’ve been unlucky and faced some outstanding keeping performances.
As always though, there are negatives. First, Norwich’s impressive form stats coincede with a kind run of fixtures that has seen them play Cardiff, Hull and Crystal Palace. Second, Snodgrass’ monster game came against a Cardiff left side consisting of Declan John and Wilfried Zaha. An inexperienced full-back and a winger that won’t track back would have been Snodgrass’ dream and he took full advantage of it. But with Man City, West Ham and Tottenham up next, don’t expect such tactical indiscipline for him to exploit.
Priced at 5.9, he falls in a category I discussed last week in respect to Moussa Sissoko. He’s too expensive to be a valid budget 5th midfielder, but most people have a team that allow someone along the lines of Mirallas or even Lallana as their 4th. This leaves Snodgrass in a bit of a no-mans land since he offers good value but in a price range that most won’t consider entering.
Verdict: A good buy, but not one to target at this time given his fixtures. We’d recommend stretching to one of the midpriced midfielders we looked at earlier if you can.
Since Sturridge’s return from injury, Brendan Rodgers has deserted his usual tactics and opted for something resembling a 4-2-2-2, similar to Pellegrini’s favoured formation at Man City. Sturridge and Suarez have led the line, with Coutinho on the left and Sterling on the right. This has forced Gerrard into a deeper holding role. Despire this he’s scored 3 goals in his 4 appearances in this system, so why is he a fading star?
Quite simply, he’s stats don’t suggest any attacking potential. Here’s how his performances in the new system compare to his performance in the rest of the season.
|Shots/90||In Box/90||On Target/90||Chance Creation/90||Passes Final Third/90||Touches Final Third/90||Corners/90|
We see he’s taking half as many shots as before, and creating under a fifth as many chances. That’s a huge drop off. He’s involved in the attacking third much less as well, attempting just a quarter as many passes in this region as before Sturridge returned from injury. Not only that but his set-piece threat is down as well as he’s only taking 1.4 corners per 90 minutes.
Gerrard’s recent goals have come from penalties, and while him being a penalty taker is obviously a huge bonus, it’s not a replicable skill. Liverpool might not win another penalty all season (last year they had 5, this year they’ve already had 4), and it’s not something to rely on for points.
I may well be caught by the Yaya Toure trap here, but there’s little attacking involvement from Gerrard, and I don’t see much fantasy potential, especially for 8.9 of your precious FPL millions. As his career has progressed he has developed a deeper role and this has never been more prominent than in the last 4 game weeks when he has barely contributed to attacking play in the new system.
With Gerrard you’re only buying security of starts and set-pieces. For 8.9 you have to expect a lot more from a midfielder.