Chelsea are Unbeatable...
Well, Chelsea may come unstuck at some point this season but they’re flying at the moment. As ever, Chelsea’s success under Mourinho is built on solid foundations provided by their back line and their defence looks a worthy investment over the coming weeks. Three consecutive clean sheets in the league shows they aren’t giving much away and with the attacking potential thrown in too Chelsea defenders are worth the premium price they demand. Going forward they are dangerous too and proved that against Spurs this week where they hit 3 past them without their star striker Diego Costa. They did struggle away to Sunderland though who sat back and defended very well against them and we may see more of this as the season goes on. A few points to bear in mind over the coming weeks with Chelsea:
- Nemanja Matic is suspended for the trip to Newcastle. His contribution to the team this season has been invaluable as both a solid defensive presence and a platform to build attacks on. It will be interesting to see how the team lines up without him this weekend.
- The very popular Cesc Fabregas (owned by upwards of 50% of managers) has only produce attacking returns in 1 of his last 4 games and is only 1 yellow card away from a 1-match suspension.
- Eden Hazard on the other hand has scored in Chelsea’s last 4 games at Stamford Bridge, picking up double figure returns in three of those games. However, 4 of Chelsea’s next 6 games are away from home.
...but Southampton aren’t.
One of the biggest questions of the season was answered this week – how will Southampton perform against the best teams in the league? After a very kind early-season fixture list Southampton were both surprising and impressing everyone and sitting second in the league. However, this was the week their fixtures turned as they took on Man City and Arsenal with a visit from Man Utd still to come this weekend. On the face of it things don’t look too good. They lost both games, conceded 4 goals and failed to score; all bad things for fantasy football investments. However, they’re actual performances weren’t too bad and the squad has too much quality for the wheels to simply fall off. They’ve certainly lost some momentum (and key player Morgan Schneiderlin) but are by no means a sinking ship.
Let’s remember why we have been in love with Southampton so far this season: their mid-priced players have performed as elite players. Now we’ve established that Southampton are not in the same league as Chelsea, Man City et al. their players still offer good value because they aren’t too far off. Fixtures are always a key factor in fantasy football and in the short term home games against Man Utd and Everton plus away trips to Burnley and Palace should offer plenty of point opportunities before the fixtures once again turn against them at the end of the month.
Arsenal Grind Out Wins
Arsenal have shown the resilience needed to get their season back on track after their back-to-back defeats at the hands of Swansea and Man Utd. They’ve ground out 1-0 wins against West Brom and Southampton to show they can pick up the three points even when they aren’t playing the sort of flowing attacking football we’ve come to expect of them. It’s no coincidence that Koscielny’s return to first team action has brought with it two clean sheets and in Sanchez they’ve finally found a player who will take a game by the scruff of the neck and will pop up with a goal when necessary. With the return of Giroud Arsenal’s attacking play has become more dynamic. Giroud’s introduction with half an hour to go against Southampton added a physical presence they were lacking before and we should expect to see a lively, forceful Arsenal front-line once he becomes fully-fit. However, the by-product of this is that goals are more likely to be share around which means investment in any of the three up-top will not be as effective as investing in those players who are the spearhead for their team (Costa, Aguero etc). With Sanchez’s move back out wide his threat level has slightly decreased but he still has the quality to score goals, especially since he offers the added value of being listed as a midfielder.
We can’t review the last week without giving credit to Sergio Aguero. The Argentinean is the closest thing to a must-have in your fpl squad this season as his 2 goals and 3 assists in the last 2 GWs have shown. He’s the first player to break the 100 point barrier this season and shows no signs of slowing down as Man City start to build momentum. They put 4 past Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, where Chelsea failed to score, and 3 past the best defence in the league down at St Mary’s. Aguero is absolutely key to City’s title push this season and his 14 goals in as many games show just why he’s the most expensive player in the game. He’s actually performed better away from home so far this season (except that 4-goal performance against Spurs in GW8) and has some very favourable fixtures up until the middle of January which may mean he ends up being the undisputed captain choice every week for the foreseeable future, barring injury and rotation issues of course.
Europa League Hangover
English football’s two representatives in the Europa League this season, Everton and Spurs, are struggling to build any momentum and consistency in the league. Having played last Thursday both teams then played on Sunday (against each other) and Wednesday with more games to come this weekend. The money for being in the Europa League is significantly less than the Champions League which leaves teams playing just as many games as the Champions League clubs but with smaller squads. Inevitably this leads to some fatigue for key players which may go some way to explaining why these 2 clubs take their place amongst just 4 teams to have made defensive errors leading directly to a goal in the last 2 GWs (Palace and Leicester are the other 2). Their performances have been unreliable and they’ve only managed three clean sheets each so far this term whilst the two standout performers, Baines and Chadli, have struggled to make any real impact recently due to fitness issues and form. Both squads are undoubtedly filled with talented individuals but it would be advisable to limit your squad to just one player from each of these whilst avoiding defenders (unless you believe Baines’ form and attacking returns will turn around over the coming weeks).