The winter transfer window has closed, and it was an exciting one. A “love” triangle between Arsenal, Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund was the main reason for the tense anticipation until the final hours. Arsenal eventually got their man, as Aubameyang’s childish behavior was rewarded with a team record-breaking $77 million move to London, which sees him re-unite with his former Dortmund teammate – Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Gabonese’s arrival triggered a domino effect, the result of which was Chelsea’s acquisition of Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi’s loan move to Dortmund. Auba’s arrival also severely devalues Lacazette, unless Wenger decides to play them together, with the Frenchman taking over Alexis Sanchez’s role. Debuchy, who has been one of Arsenal’s worst ever signings, returned to France and will wear the green and white St. Etienne jersey. Recognizing that Giroud will likely join them, The Blues gave up on their chase for Roma’s Edin Dzeko. However, they did buy another Roma player, Brazilian left back Emerson.
Guardiola also saw his wish come true, as City paid Aymeric Laporte’s expensive release clause. The Spaniard is regarded as an accurate passer, which is the most desired and appreciated characteristic in Pep’s system. Stones’ owners should be worried. Due to the presence of Otamendi and Kompany, Mangala became disposable, thus was loaned out to Everton.
There were two other big moves – Lucas Moura joining Tottenham and Andre Ayew re-joining Swansea. The latter unites with his brother in the battle to help Swansea avoid relegation. The former will have a tough time entering an already established Tottenham starting lineup, but he could prove quite valuable off the bench, or in case someone up front gets hurt. For now, he’s best left on the waiver wire, unless you have some bench spots to spare. Roque Mesa didn’t manage to adapt to life in England and was loaned to Sevilla. The same story holds true for Everton’s Sandro Ramirez, who also joined Sevilla on a loan. Another member of Everton who departed on a loan was youngster Ademola Lookman, who will try his fortune in Germany playing for the up-and-coming RB Leipzig.
Watford was one of the most active negotiators during the transfer window, bringing talented winger Dodi Lukebakio from Charleroi and midfielder Didier Ndong from Sunderland (in addition to Deulofeu’s loan). Rafa Benitez finally succeeded in bringing a striker, even if it is on a loan. Leicester’s Islam Slimani came over, whereas Aleksandar Mitrovic was sent to Fulham in a corresponding move. Leicester parted ways with Ahmed Musa, as well, with the Nigerian returning to CSKA Moscow on an initial loan. Liverpool’s out-of-favor Lazar Markovic was loaned out to Anderlecht.
ROUND 25: FANTASY EPL REVIEW
The round was marked by two shockers. The first one was Arsenal’s humiliating 3-1 loss to Swansea. Sam Clucas was the hero for the Welshmen, who are on the verge of exiting the drop zone with three wins in their last five matches. Gunners’ fans can only hope that Auba will have the influence everyone’s expecting him to have. The second resounding surprise was Chelsea’s 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth. Having no strikers available didn’t help the cause, but it’s certainly not an excuse for a such a subpar performance. Barkley showed he’s not ready for the first team yet, while Christensen proved his value, as the defense fell apart after he had to come off injured in the 28th minute. Callum Wilson, Stanislas and former Chelsea member Nathan Ake gave The Cherries a famous win. Liverpool and Manchester City were on the other end of the spectrum, both securing routine 3-0 victories.
Tottenham’s 2-0 win over Manchester United could’ve been much more emphatic, judging by what happened on the pitch. The 11th-second goal by Eriksen cut off United’s wings, and they never recovered. Kane was a menace as always, while Lukaku was a ghost nowhere to be seen. The only other winner in the round was Everton. Walcott’s amazing potential, the one that made him one of the best prospects in England a few years back, resurfaced. It would be wise for fantasy owners to keep an eye on his playing time going forward. Vardy’s converted penalty cut the lead in half, and that’s how it ended. Mame Biram Diouf was back to his old position as a center forward, but it didn’t benefit Stoke in its 0-0 home draw to Watford. Three more 1-1 ties between West Ham and Crystal Palace, Southampton and Brighton, and Newcastle and Burnley, round out the scores of the two game days.
ROUND 25 HIGHEST FANTASY SCORERS
Goalkeepers: Nick Pope (Burnley), Ortezis Karnezis (Watford), and the rest who kept clean sheets.
Defenders: Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Jamaal Lascalles (Newcastle), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Jack Stephens (Southampton), Ryan Shawcross (Stoke).
Midfielders: Theo Walcott (Everton), Sam Clucas (Swansea), Emre Can (Liverpool), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Junior Stanislas (Bournemouth), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Cristian Eriksen (Tottenham), Mark Noble (West Ham).
Forwards: Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Glenn Murray (Brighton), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Jordan Ayew (Swansea), Jamie Vardy (Leicester).
ROUND 26: FANTASY EPL PREVIEW
Burnley vs. Manchester City
– Saturday begins with an early contest, where the soon-to-be-crowned champions take on a declining Burnley. A missed penalty by Joselu and an own goal by Darlow saved The Clarets from a certain defeat in Newcastle. It’s not going to be easy, but as they’ve showcased many times this season, Dyche’s men have the capability to pull out rabbits out of a hat. Vokes, Lennon and N’Koudou all came on from the bench and might be in for starts in the near future, including Saturday. David Silva exited the win over WBA in the first half and will likely miss this game. Laporte was baptized by fire and didn’t blink in the clean sheet. However, Stones should be preferred in the second match in three days. De Bruyne, Sterling and Aguero are fantasy gold for the foreseeable future.
Bournemouth vs. Stoke
– Bournemouth has different contributors every game, yet that hasn’t stopped it from avoiding defeat in its last six Premier League matches. Callum Wilson has been the only constant. I can state with assurance that the win against Chelsea has them flying high with confidence. Will they be grounded? That’s the question. Stoke is not dangerous, but they are a tricky opponent. We could see Crouch and/or Berahino in the starting lineup, as well as a return from a prolonged absence by Glen Johnson. I doubt Howe will want to change anything after the successful visit to Stamford Bridge.
Brighton vs. West Ham
– Despite being forced into a tactical switch (5-4-1) because of all the absentees, West Ham survived. Joao Mario made his debut and should continue to feature until the hospital beds clean up. It’ll be a difficult trip to enemy territory in desperation mode. Knockaert missed the visit to St. Mary’s, so he should be playing in this one. Ulloa could also see a start instead of Murray. I favor Brighton in this matchup. Schelotto and especially Gaetan Bong are a couple of cheap options you can take a chance on.
Leicester vs. Swansea
– Is Swansea for real? We’re about to find out. A visit to The Foxes’ den should give us the answer. Reports say that Mahrez’s transfer request didn’t go down well with his teammates. He’ll be in a limbo for the rest of the campaign, awaiting the end to be able to finally have his wish granted and leave. The situation could drive the entire club into turmoil, while his creativity will be sorely missed, as evidenced in the loss to Everton. Andre Ayew is questionable to make his debut for Swansea. Clucas’ value is rising, but I like Okazaki’s prospects the most.
Manchester United vs. Huddersfield
– I feel sorry for Huddersfield. This is going to painful. After the pitiful performance against Tottenham, even five or six goals past Lossl wouldn’t astonish me. Luke Shaw should give Young a rest, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Herrera and Mata start over Pogba and Sanchez, considering how poor they were in the previous outing. Being as it is, I would start every Manchester United player I have on my roster.
West Bromwich vs. Southampton
– Seven victories combined between these two teams in 50 matches. Considering the pre-season expectations, that’s awfully disappointing. Gibbs and Evans missed the visit to Manchester, but they should be back in the fold on Saturday. Barry should start in place of Krychowiak, and I also expect to see Sturridge on the field when the referee blows the opening whistle. As far as Southampton goes, Boufal and Lemina should be in the starting lineup, perhaps Guido Carrillo, too. Long or Gabbiadini is anyone’s guess at this point. Maybe even none.
Arsenal vs. Everton
– Will we see Aubameyang? I bet we do. Too much money was spent for him to be sitting on the bench. Mkhitaryan saw 30 minutes in Swansea, which should have got him prepared enough to start this time around. The former Dortmund stars have the ability to change Arsenal’s season, but their presence won’t do anything to destroy The Gunners’ kryptonite – their defense. I do think this London derby will go their way, though. One background story to follow is Walcott’s return to The Emirates Stadium.
Crystal Palace vs. Newcastle
– Benteke. That’s the only player I have some confidence in before the beginning of this encounter. There are plenty of players you can take a chance on, as the outcome could go either way.
Liverpool vs. Tottenham
– The Spurs were mightily impressive against United. The Reds’ state of disbelief after consecutive embarrassments ended in Huddersfield. Now they face off in the game of the round, and generally one of the most intriguing matchups of the season. Personally, I like Liverpool to win. As to which players could have good games, well, Salah and Kane are a given by now, and not much of a prediction. Son and Oxlade-Chamberlain could be the X-factors.
Watford vs. Chelsea
– Some rest and time to regroup could do wonders for Chelsea. I love the addition of Giroud. I believe he’s the ideal fit for Conte, both on the field and off it. Since Morata is still on the sidelines, he’ll have the opportunity to make an immediate impact, and I fully anticipate for him to deliver. Marco Silva and the management did a great job improving Watford’s midfield during the transfer window. Now, it’s a matter of whether those reinforcements can be accommodated into his system. The prospect of Richarlison and Deulofeu on the wings is scary. After missing the previous fixture, Janmaat and Zeegelaar should be back in the starting lineup. It’ll definitely be an unusually interesting match for an EPL Monday.