In Gameweek 12 it finally happened – I won a head-to-head match!
I got the second-best score in my eight-team Draft league and for once I wasn’t playing the manager who got the best score.
However I needn’t wait long – he’s my next opponent.
Vish Pillai posted an impressive 73 points with returns from eight of his eleven players and double-figure hauls from Sadio Mane and Reece James.
The headline acts in our head-to-head clash were set to be our two Liverpool players – Mane vs Trent Alexander-Arnold – and our Chelsea full-backs – James vs Ben Chilwell. But Chilwell’s injury has forced a rewrite.
Chilwell is thought to have suffered an ACL injury on Tuesday night in the Champions League, potentially ruling him out for the season.
Marcos Alonso is available to sign on a waiver in my Draft league – but I’m not bottom, so I don’t get first dibs.
Of the candidates Neale mentioned when assessing replacements, Lowton, Ait Nouri, and Castagne are free in addition to Alonso.
Chilwell replacements – goal threat
Comparing the defenders on my seven-player short-list, anyone apart from Alonso offers significantly less attacking threat than Chilwell.
Semedo and Tierney follow the Chelsea pair averaging a shot every 95.7 and 97.5 minutes respectively – more than double the average of Chelsea’s wing-backs.
Chilwell replacements – creativity
Tierney again fares well when it comes to chance creation, fashioning an opportunity every 68 minutes on average. Ait Nouri betters his team-mate, Semedo, in this category, a share of corner duties boosting his tally.
Chilwell replacements – set pieces
Ultimately anyone apart from Alonso is a major downgrade on Chilwell. The best alternative options appear to be Tierney or one of the Wolves players.
Comparing their defences, it’s Wolves who have the better underlying numbers:
Chilwell replacements – defences
Although Arsenal have had the more difficult fixtures with away trips to Liverpool and Manchester City and a home encounter against Chelsea – all three of whom Wolves face over the next six Gameweeks.
The concern with Tierney, however, is – will he start?
He picked up an ankle injury ahead of Gameweek 9 and since returning to fitness in Gameweek 11 has played second fiddle to Nuno Taveres. Is that just Arteta being cautious in rushing Tierney back or is the Scotsman no longer first choice?
Whatever the reason, after the 4-0 loss at Anfield last weekend the expectation is that Tierney will return to the starting XI.
After Alonso, he’s my top choice to replace Chilwell, with Rayan Ait Nouri in third.
Expected Minutes and Positive Signs
Heading into the congested festive season, I’m happy that the rest of my backline are all first choice players. With the fixtures coming thick and fast, there will no doubt be the odd benching but they should play the vast majority of games.
Further forward, there were positive signs with Jadon Sancho playing the full 90 minutes away to Watford and again at Villareal in midweek. The former Borussia Dortmund player capped a fine Champions League performance with his first goal for the club.
Christian Pulisic appeared as a second half substitute and scored against Leicester, before being handed a start against Juventus. Despite the competition for places at Chelsea, Pulisic is good enough to make an impact from the bench – although hopefully he starts more often than not.
I continue to face a dilemma over his team-mate Timo Werner, especially with Patrick Bamford and Roberto Firmino available in Draft, both of whom I would expect to get more minutes at Leeds and Liverpool respectively when fit.
If this was FPL I’d wait to see how Bamford looks once he returns to the starting XI but I doubt I’ll be afforded such a luxury in Draft. He was a key player for Leeds last season featuring in all 38 Premier League matches – you can’t ask for better expected minutes than that!
The Leeds No 9 totaled 194 points in 2020/21 averaging 5.11 per match, which compares favourably to both Firmino (3.92 points per match in 36 appearances) and Werner (3.66 ppm in 35 app).
The reason I’m reluctant to part company with Werner is that we haven’t seen the best of him in the Premier League yet – and I feel there’s much more to come.
Before his hamstring injury there were signs that he could prosper alongside Romelu Lukaku playing in a position not dissimilar from his role at RB Leipzig. A reminder that the 25-year-old netted 28 goals in 34 Bundesliga appearances during his final season with the German outfit.
So despite his disappointing debut campaign in London, I feel his ceiling is higher than both Bamford and Firmino.
But with Pulisic already in my squad, a player with a much less impressive Bundesliga record, can I afford two similar rotation risks?
Add the in-form Hudson-Odoi, Lukaku, Havertz, Mount, and Ziyech to the mix and the wealth of talent at Thomas Tuchel’s disposal is obscene. And crucially for us Fantasy managers, seven into three doesn’t go.
Has Gundogan cemented his place?
The final player I want to focus on this week is Ilkay Gundogan, a player I nearly traded out recently but am very glad that I didn’t.
It was Gameweek 13 last season when Gundogan entered a purple patch.
Gundogan’s FPL record from Gameweek 13 in 2020/21 season
He sustained his form until a groin injury caused him to miss the match against Everton in Gameweek 24.
Kevin De Bruyne played for the first seven games of that run but an injury forced him off against Aston Villa. And Bernardo Silva started the majority of matches, too, often taking one of the front three positions with Rodri anchoring Gundogan and De Bruyne in a midfield three.
Touch heatmaps from 2020/21 for Bernardo Silva (left), De Bruyne, and Gundogan (right)
Looking at the touch heatmaps from last season shows that De Bruyne was largely given the license to roam across the middle, while Bernardo Silva often dropped to the right of midfield.
Expected goals data from 2020/21
The expected goals data from last season reveals Gundogan’s goal threat with his 0.38 xG/90 just shy of De Bruyne’s average (0.40 xG/90).
Expected goals data from 2021/21
Encouragingly his xG/90 so far this term is not much different, 0.35xG/90, which backs up his appraisal ahead of the Champions League tie against PSG:
Players like me who play an offensive midfield role, approached into the opponent’s box to get in more scoring situations. That is probably the reason why I was able to score more goals last season than ever, this season it is quite similar.–Ilkay Gundogan
The main doubt regarding his nailedness in Pep Guardiola’s side is what happens when De Bruyne is fit?
With Bernardo Silva thriving in a deeper midfield role it would seem less likely that the Portuguese is switched to a position in the front three to accommodate both De Bruyne and Gundogan in midfield.
Although, as the heatmaps above illustrate, starting position isn’t necessarily where you end up playing.
For now I’m optimistic that Gundogan is about to enter another purple patch, I suppose the broader question I’m asking myself is should I get him for my FPL team too?