Robin Van Persie (and Wayne Rooney)
With the signing of Juan Mata last week, the return from injury of RVP went largely unnoticed. It took him just 6 minutes to score and remind everyone just how good he is and convince 13,500 fantasy players to get him in his team. The question with Van Persie is not over whether he’ll score, it’s whether he is value for money. I’ll also consider the prospects of Wayne Rooney who also made a return from injury this week. The pair, alongside new recruit Juan Mata, seem to have returned just in time to save Moyes’ season.
Let’s take a lot at the stats and compare them to the other expensive forwards in the game.
Focusing on shots on target, we see Van Persie falls way behind the almost essential Suarez and Aguero, getting half as many shots on target on a per minute basis. Already we suspect he might not offer good value. But, assuming you already have Suarez and Aguero, is he a good choice for the 3rd slot in your team? The short answer is, yes he is, but the better answer is he isn’t the best choice. Sturridge shoots more regularly, gets more on target and has scored more goals than Van Persie on a per minute basis, and is a full £4.1m cheaper than him. Even if you wanted coverage for Manchester United’s attack over their kind fixtures, Wayne Rooney offers almost identical shooting stats but again for a saving of £2.3m. Rooney is also more creative, creating far more chances than his strike partner.
There’s also Van Persie’s injury record to worry about. Not only is there a chance of more injuries, but having been burnt with overplaying him and rushing him back before, it would be understandable if Moyes were to rest Van Persie more often. With Champions League games coming up, this is going to be increasingly likely. Moyes also has more options in Rooney and Welbeck, as well as Mata, Kagawa, Valencia, Young and Januzaj just behind, so there’s less pressure on playing Van Persie in every game. For £13.6m I’d hope my striker would be playing every game, Van Persie doesn’t offer the same security that Suarez does.
What about Rooney? Before his injury he was starting to gain momentum and become a fantasy asset alongside Suarez and Aguero. I’m not sure he’ll reach that level, but he certainly offers better value than Van Persie. Again, there are options like Sturridge, Giroud and more recently Adebayor who have similar stats but for a lower price tag.
Verdict: Avoid. A brilliant player that will rack up fantasy points, but his price is too prohibitive, even for those with a great team value. If you wanted a Manchester United striker, then Rooney may be the one worth owning, or get coverage through Mata.
With Remy suspended, Cabaye leaving and Goufran injured Newcastle are looking starved for attacking players ahead of the Tyne-Wear deby this weekend. Ben Arfa could be that man, but he was taken off on 74mins with cramp suggesting he's isn't fully fit, and with his history it might be wise to err on the side of caution on that one. So, step forward Moussa Sissoko. The man who made an instant impact when he arrived in the January transfer window last year could prove a valuable fantasy asset again. Priced at 5.6 he is perhaps too expensive to be considered a budget 5th midfielder, but for those looking to spend big up front, he offers a considerable saving over mid-priced options of Lallana or Eriksen.
Last time out against Norwich he hit the post and created 6 chances, only Willian, Hazard and Navas created more this week. He also had more touches and passes in the final third than any other player in that stalemate, highlighting his attacking involvement.
So what of Sissoko’s fantasy credentials? The first thing you get with Sissoko is security, he’s played in every game so far this year, and has played the full 90 minutes in all but 3 of those games. His fitness and injury record is spotless, so no worries there. He usually plays a box-to-box role, getting up in support of Cabaye, but has also played on the right. Notably against West Ham 2 weeks ago he was played as a right winger and got an assist for his efforts. Sissoko is already top of Newcastle’s midfielders for points, and with the departure of Cabaye he has a chance to build on that.
Despite scoring just once so far this season, Sissoko has averaged one shot per game (about half the number of shots he had last season), and has 11 shots on target for the whole season, so is massively underperforming his underlying shot stats. He won’t go on a crazy scoring run anytime soon, but it would be realistic to expect 3 or goals from him for the remainder of the season. It’s on the creative side that Sissoko really thrives though, playing key passes more often (every 42 minutes) than big hitters such as Oscar (every 53 minutes), Lallana (every 58 minutes) and Coutinho (every 43 minutes). For the season so far he has 5 assists, only 6 players have more. With Tiote and Anita behind him, I see an increasingly attacking role for Sissoko which could yield more assists.
The forthcoming fixtures are tricky, after the Tyne-Wear derby Newcastle face Chelsea and Tottenham, but Sissoko is a consistent player, and his creative stats have not dropped off for away games.
In conclusion, Sissoko is a solid asset for your team. However his awkward price, which sees him cost £0.7m more than budget midfielders such as Puncheon, Noone and Ki, makes him a difficult buy as a 5th midfielder. He sits in a category with Fer and Shelvey of reliable players with some upside, and I’d target Sissoko only if he fits in your teams strategy. He is a viable 4th midfield option which allows you to invest heavily in forwards, or even go with an enticing midfield trio choosing from Hazard, Cazorla, Toure, Silva and Mata. If you’re looking to play 4 defenders at the back then Sissoko is also a good option to have as a reliable stand-in. For a steady stream of points and frequent assists it’s hard to look past Sissoko.
Verdict: Buy, but only if he fits into your midfield strategy. There are better 5th midfielder options at a cheaper price.
(A quick point worth making is that the signing of Luuk De Jong could positively impact Sissoko. The Dutch striker is strong in the air and has assists to his game. He’s adept at holding up the ball and laying it off to teammates, something that Sissoko could thrive off. Last season we saw his driving runs from deep and De Jong could be the perfect forward man for Sissoko to play off as he approaches the penalty area.)
An assist in the thrilling home game against Arsenal on Tuesday night thrusts the young left back onto our radars again as the Southampton defence readies itself for a kind run of fixtures. The return of Boruc 3 weeks ago seems to have sured up Soton’s leaky defence over the Christmas period and with Lovren out and Clyne dropped, Shaw seems the best route into the team that had the best defence at the start of the season.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Shaw’s game is his attacking potential. He only has 2 assists and 0 goals so far, but he possesses a unique mix of shooting and passing stats that doesn’t see him far off the likes of Coleman, Debuchy, Kolarov and Walker. He’s had 5th most shots on target for defenders, and is the only defender to have 5 or more without scoring. He’s also created 14 chances for his teammates, often from crosses such as the one on Tuesday night. He’s attempted 76 crosses, 4th most for defenders, and has played 2 through balls. He isn’t in the elite of attacking defenders, but he’s not far off and is much cheaper than many of his rivals for that position.
As a defender though, Shaw’s bread and butter points will come from clean sheets and this is an area Southampton still thrive in. They’ve kept 2 clean sheets in the last 6 games, but more impressively they’ve only conceded 50 shots on goal, only Chelsea have conceded fewer (49). Pochettino must take credit for their incredibly pressing that forces opponents away from goal ensuring they rarely get a chance to score. They’re unlikely to repeat their amazing run from earlier in the season, but more clean sheets are certainly on the cards.
The Saints visit Fulham next, followed by a home game against Stoke City and trips to Hull City and West Ham United. Each of these opponents have struggled for goals this year, and it’s unlikely that Southampton will be generous as they look to secure themselves in midtable and perhaps push on for Europe.
With just 1 yellow card all season discipline isn’t a problem for the English starlet. He’s only missed 3 premier league games all season as well, so fears of his injury proneness may also be overstated. Though he has been withdrawn at half-time on 3 occasions this season, an obviously frustrating event for fantasy managers.
At 4.9 Shaw is perhaps a little too expensive, especially when there are defenders such as Evans and Azpillicueta in the same price range but in Top 6 teams. However his combination of clean sheet and assist potential make him a brilliant prospect. It might also be worth considering Maya Yoshia or Callum Chambers, both of whom started against Arsenal but offer a very budget friendly option at 4.0 and 3.9 respectively.
This should be one of the shortest sections I ever have to write. The highest point scoring midfielder, who’s nailed on in one of the best teams in the country, with goal and assist potential, and a share of set-pieces, yet 10k have ditched him so far today. Are they crazy? Yes, probably.
You might have expected me to launch into some analysis to show why Hazard isn’t quite so great as we think he is, and it’s certainly true that Cazorla, Adam Johnson and even Puncheon have better stats over the last few games, but there’s nothing to suggest dropping Hazard at this point. I can only speculate that many are dropping him in rage of last night’s blank against West Ham. But Chelsea had 39 shots and 9 on target last night, the probability of failing to score given those shot stats is around 1-2%, it was a freak result. On another night West Ham’s bus would have broken down and it could have been 4 or 5.
The lesson here is in patience and non-knee jerking, players can’t and won’t score points every game, which is why we here at insideFPL like to look at players underlying stats as they give a better indication of long term prospects. A case in point would be Lallana and Rodriguez, both are great options but ahead of GW23 they lost over 80k owners between them. Come the GW23 clash against Arsenal and both scored points and are finding new owners again. If the players you own have good stats and have good fixtures coming up, have faith in them, even if they haven’t quite delivered over the last few games.
Hazard hasn’t had many huge scoring games and has never gone on crazy scoring streaks, but he has been consistently good all season and has never gone 5 weeks without getting a goal or an assist.
There is an argument for swapping Hazard to Cazorla, Silva or even to Oscar, and ahead of an away trip to Manchester City would be a good time to make that move, but I can see his sellers wanting Hazard back within a few gameweeks, and short term moves like this are often regretted.
He’s the top scoring FPL midfielder and top of the insideFPL player projections for midfielders. This fading star is an easy decision.