We prepare for Gameweek 25 in this edition of the Friday Foreplay by producing captain picks, investigating the heavy hitters, predicting clean sheets, and speculating on possible punts.
Basing the captain picks on the thoughts below we arrive at:
- Rooney: Rooney has a history of going through patches of goal scoring form and patches of droughts. Following his brace against Chelsea I’m predicting it’s the start of a new run. United always score at home, averaging a little under three goals per game. Rooney accounts for a high percentage of United’s league goals (as shown on Chris Glover’s excellent Captain Data graph) and United could exploit the absence of Enrique; a Valencia cross to a Rooney goal wouldn’t surprise me. Add to the fact that United will be firing on all cylinders to avenge the FA cup defeat and I foresee a possible big week for United’s talisman.
- Bale: Is facing a Newcastle team that has been prone to defensive lapses since the loss of S. Taylor to injury. Since Taylor’s injury in Gameweek 13 Newcastle have conceded three or more goals in five of the last twelve games. Tottenham score an average of two goals per game at home and Bale plays a major part in Tottenham’s attack. Expect him to be heavily involved and he is a viable captain’s pick.
- Dempsey: Fulham has a poor record away from home. However, the Cottagers are different beast at home, scoring over 1.8 goals per game at home versus a little under 0.6 goals per away game. Stoke concede almost two goals per game away from home, leading to the conclusion that Fulham could put several goals past the Stoke defence on Saturday. Dempsey is Fulham’s most potent attacking force, sitting on 126 points with four goals in his last three.
Despite last weeks amazing 23 point return, three factors stop me from captaining Van Persie this Gameweek. First, Arsenal play away from home. Second, the risk of Wenger resting RvP for the midweek Champions League game against Milan. Third, RvP faces a Sunderland team still riding high on the O’Neill wave; Sunderland have only conceded four goals in the last nine games. Still, play him if you have him and you wouldn’t be out of your mind captaining him. Many would even say that I’m bonkers for suggesting he isn’t a captain’s choice for the Gameweek.
Manchester City have scored 26 goals away from home this season, a little over 2.1 goals per game. The attacking trio of Aguero, Dzeko, and Silva are therefore great plays in every game. I rate Rooney, Bale, and Dempsey as better captain picks this Gameweek but as with RvP, captaining any of the aforementioned players is also a decent punt.
Sessegnon has benefited from O’Neill’s arrival by being moved in the middle, behind the striker. He’s on a great run of form, with seven of the last eight Gameweeks returning over four Fantasy points. Although Arsenal’s defence has improved lately, they have still conceded in four out of the last five games.
Ba’s comeback from the African Cup of Nations delivered an instant return, with a well taken goal against Aston Villa. He has shown that he scores in the big games (e.g. goals against Manchester United) and scored against Tottenham in October. If Newcastle score, Ba is likely to benefit.
Other strong plays include:
- McClean’s rise to prominence has been as surprising as a relaxed Tiziano Crudeli. He’s cheap, Fantasy wise, and an exciting fifth midfielder. I would rate Sessegnon as the better long term buy as a third or fourth midfielder but McClean isn’t a major step down.
- Zamora’s started his QPR career with a goal, albeit in a defeat to Wolves. His last four games include three goals, three assists, and five bonus points. He faces a Blackburn defence that hasn’t kept a clean sheet all season and should be good for a goal or two.
- Valencia could cause damage on the right wing for United. He’s United’s in form winger and has forged a valuable understanding with Rooney that has delivered many a goal.
With the top eight teams either playing away from home (City, Chelsea, Newcastle, Arsenal, Liverpool) or have difficult fixtures (United, Tottenham, Sunderland) there is not much to chose from in the clean sheet department. I only feel comfortable predicting two clean sheets this Gameweek.
- Fulham face Stoke at home. Both teams play better when at home so Fulham should have the edge. Also, Stoke have only scored eight goals away from home all season. Kelly is Fulham’s cheapest defender and a decent value play this Gameweek.
- Swansea haven’t kept a clean sheet in four games but a home game against Norwich is a good shout for the next one. The Swans will dominate possession and try to deny Norwich the opportunity to attack. Caulker is the cheapest access to the Swansea defence, and is a budget buy at £4.0.
Taking a Punt
- Yakubu returns for Blackburn that face QPR at home. He is deadly in front of goal, with twelve goals this season. Despite Blackburn’s precarious league position, they have been scoring over a goal per game at average.
- Fletcher is pretty much the only ownable Wolves player at the moment. He has a great scoring record for Wolves this season (nine in eighteen) and is the likeliest home player to score against West Brom.
- Having patiently waited for his opportunity this season, Oxlade-Chamberlain delivered when called upon at Arsenal. He’s fast, strong, skillful, and can deliver dangerous key passes. He’s only 18 so he’s susceptible to being rotated by Wenger to control his exposure. But the way he terrorized Blackburn in the last game, I would venture a guess that he will start against Sunderland.
- Sigurdsson is a young attacking midfielder that has delivered a goal, three assists, and three bonus points in his four games for Swansea. He moved on loan from Hoffenheim. At £5.0, he’s benchable when Swansea have difficult fixtures. This doesn’t apply this Gameweek, as the Swans welcome Norwich to Wales.