WEEK 14: Fantasy EPL REVIEW
Salah has been the story of the season so far. Looking at what he and De Bruyne are doing, one has to wonder: What was Chelsea thinking?! That’s a different discussion for a different article. Now, let’s see what happened in the previous round and what to anticipate in the next one.
You can see it wasn’t a regular round of play just by looking at the highest scorers among goalkeepers below. Everton is the leader because of its 4-0 victory over West Ham, in which Rooney went back in time with a natural hat-trick. In general, it was a relatively high-scoring midweek, with only two games finishing with fewer than three goals. Five out of the top six teams won. Arsenal did its job in a 5-0 drubbing of Huddersfield. Lacazette and Giroud played a half each, and Giroud won the battle, scoring two in the second half, compared to Lacazette’s one. Ozil was the player of the match with a goal and two assists. Klopp decided to hand Solanke his first Premier League start and leave Salah on the bench. Solanke did well, but Salah is in scintillating form, so it comes as no surprise that he managed to score two goals after entering the frame with 23 minutes left in regular time. Mane scored the first goal, and assisted Salah on the second to earn a share of the man of the match honors. Pedro and Willian did start as I projected, but they didn’t do enough to convince Conte to give them more playing time, considering Chelsea struggled to find the net in a fixture against Swansea it was supposed to dominate. It was also apparent that Hazard was missing from the lineup. Rudiger’s header decided the final outcome. Raheem Sterling’s star is shining brightly right now, as he has turned into City’s golden boy in the clutch. After last week’s game-winner and the 97th minute Week 3 strike in Bournemouth, he did it again on Wednesday in the 96th minute versus Southampton. Regardless of the win, though, teams appear to be figuring City out. Despite having most of the possession, goals have been harder to come by. De Bruyne and Romeu were the other scorers in the 2-1 victory.
We are witnessing the resurrection of Ashley Young. Mourinho turned Valencia (a former winger) into one of the best right backs in the world, and he seems to be doing the same with Young, a feat made even more impressive considering the left back is in the later stages of his career at 32. He was the “guilty” party in last game’s winning own goal, and now opened the scoring for United with back-to-back goals in what should’ve been a tough trip at Watford. Martial gave The Red Devils a 3-0 lead before half-time. However, Watford didn’t give up and scraped its way back through Deeney (penalty kick) and Doucoure. Lingard crowned a great performance in a rare start with an 86th-minute goal that sealed the win. Tottenham is now on a three-game losing skid, after suffering defeat at the feet of Leicester. Unusually, the usual suspects found their ways to the scoresheet (Vardy, Mahrez and Kane). It’s too early to wave the crisis flag, but The Spurs are becoming monotonous, and that’s never good. Burnley used its magic recipe for road victories one more time, beating Bournemouth 2-1. Wood and Brady gave The Clarets a 2-0 lead at the half, reduced by King towards the end of the second. The win sees them overtake Tottenham for the 6th position on the table.
In the two remaining contests, Brighton and Palace failed to find the nets, while Newcastle and WBA shared the spoils as well in a 2-2 draw. The Baggies might have thought they’d won the match with two first-half strikes by Robson-Kanu and Phillips, but Ciaran Clark and Evans’ own goal proved them wrong.
Week 14 highest fantasy scorers
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Mathew Ryan (Brighton), Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), and the other two who kept clean sheets.
Defenders: Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Ashley Williams (Everton), Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), Sead Kolasinac (Arsenal), Mamadou Sakho (Crystal Palace), Ciaran Clark (Newcastle).
Midfielders: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Robbie Brady (Burnley), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Matt Ritchie (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Sam Field (WBA).
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Everton), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Chris Wood (Burnley), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Joshua King (Bournemouth).
WEEK 15: Fantasy EPL PREVIEW
Chelsea vs. Newcastle
– Chelsea has an important Champions League encounter coming up. After a pale showing versus Swansea, they’ll be looking to sharpen themselves up for Atletico Madrid. I don’t expect fireworks, but rather a routine victory. Hazard should be back in the starting lineup, and make his presence felt accordingly.
Brighton vs. Liverpool
– The Reds are getting their groove back. They’re the epitome of a team that can beat anyone, but hiccups way too often as a result of an offensive style of play and a lack of quality at the back. I have no doubt that Klopp’s men can penetrate Brighton’s compact defense. The question is whether they’ll have the focus and awareness not to concede. Firmino has scored only once in the last 11 Liverpool appearances. Digest that information as you wish. Luckily, I drafted Salah instead.
Everton vs. Huddersfield
– Was Everton’s win over West Ham a fluke, or a sign of things to come? After all, a similar start to the season (by the team and by Rooney) was followed by a downhill slide. The time at which they’re facing West Ham and Huddersfield couldn’t be better. They must make good use of the opportunity.
Leicester vs. Burnley
– The inconsistencies of everyone else, along with the balance of EPL’s middle class, have benefited Leicester, as they lie in 9th place despite an underwhelming campaign. For all intents and purposes, this should end in a tie.
Stoke vs. Swansea
– Two disappointing teams square off, and I’m having a hard time promoting anything or anyone from this matchup. Tammy Abraham will feature, after missing the previous game against Chelsea due to a clause in his loan agreement. He and Shaqiri are two players I’d expect to influence the game more than anyone else.
Watford vs. Tottenham
– Watford has talented players, but as a team, they’re easier to beat than, for example, Burnley or Brighton (as shown by Manchester United). It’s a good chance for Tottenham to get back to its winning ways, although I honestly wouldn’t bet on it.
West Bromwich vs. Crystal Palace
– 19-year-old Sam Field has emerged as the lonely positive that can be taken from WBA’s recent run of form. Hodgson doesn’t bring much excitement, but he brings stability and balance. Palace’s starting 11 is beginning to take shape, and it is not out of the question they’ll not only escape the relegation zone, but keep moving up toward the middle of the table as the season progresses.
Arsenal vs. Manchester United
– Wenger and Mourinho meet again. Oh, the awkward handshakes (or lack thereof), the angry frowns and sarcastic grins! So much fun for the sensationalist journalist. For fantasy purposes, though, it’s just another game. And it needs to be seen with an objective eye. Tight affairs such as this one are, more often than not, decided by moments of inspiration (or mistakes). Unlike previous years, The Gunners have been excellent against the best. I’m looking for them to outperform, and perhaps even outscore, United. Alexis Sanchez, anyone?
Bournemouth vs. Southampton
– The Saints are who they are, and even though I’ll keep waiting for them to improve, in all likelihood, this is their maximum under Mauricio Pellegrino. Tadic and Austin were the most influential players last weekend. As a reward, they didn’t play against City. Not a nice way to motivate them, I’d say. Callum Wilson and Steven Davis are my players to watch for this one.
Manchester City vs. West Ham
– When will the unbeaten streak end? Well, not this round. Not against West Ham. I was a bit disappointed Gabriel Jesus didn’t fulfill my prediction by not scoring, but I’ll be persistent and keep my faith by saying he’ll score now. Another fun day for City supporters is approaching.