By Stuart Thomson
This week will surely provide an anti-climax after the dizzy highs of week 37’s double gameweek, with 26 players notching double-digit returns, 18 of which were on double gameweeks. For me, this meant my biggest score of the season, which should be enough to secure one mini-league. Sadly, I trail in another, where my rival has second-guessed all my moves for the last 4 weeks. I wonder how he always knows what I’m going to do, it’s like he’s reading my mind…or perhaps this thing.
With many players now being rested, the threat of rotation is real and may not necessarily be over. As such, any players I highlight here could be hindered by the end-of-season meaninglessness of some matches. Chelsea won the league on Friday night last week, rendering their—and title rivals Spurs’—next games redundant. Elsewhere, Hull’s 4-0 away defeat to Crystal Palace sealed their fate as the 3rd and final side to be relegated.
With the title and relegation race both over, the only thing really left to play for is a Champions League spot for the sides finishing 3rd and 4th. Man City and Arsenal are 2 of the 3 sides still playing for a Champions League place (Liverpool being the other) and both provided big returns.
Arsenal vs Everton
Arsenal’s bid for Champions League football should be enough to ensure they go into this match looking for the win.
Now, the biggest piece of news this week: Sanchez is back! With a goal and assist against Stoke, followed by 2 goals against Sunderland, Sanchez (£11.6m) provided the biggest haul in FPL this week with 27 points; a satisfying reward for those who continued to keep the faith. Sanchez has now racked up double-digit returns in 3 consecutive games and will look to sign off for the season with another strong performance.
My favorite differential option for Arsenal going into this game is Bellerin (£6.5m) who—despite being largely disappointing this season, at least compared to last year’s standards—has come back into contention following Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury. Registered as a defender, Bellerin is essentially playing as a winger. This stands him in good stead to get attacking returns—as shown with his 2 assists against Stoke— while still benefitting from any Arsenal clean sheets. In recent games, Giroud (£8m) has also demonstrated his worth with 3 goals in his last games. I’m loathe to ever pick the guy because of his perceived disinterest in being on a soccer pitch, but when he does decide to put in some effort he can be clinical.
Burnley vs West Ham
This game means so little to me it’s unbelievable. For Burnley, Vokes (£5.6m) has scored 3 in his last 2. For West Ham, the only random point of interest is whether midfielders Lanzini and Snodgrass can manage get 1 and 2 points respectively to end the season higher than injured teammate Antonio who has missed 7 of the last 10 games. I’m not sure whether it’s testament to Antonio’s earlier performance this season or a sign of the lack of quality in the team that he is still the joint highest-scoring performer for West Ham despite missing so much time.
Chelsea vs Sunderland
Chelsea will look to end the season on a high in front of their own fans, but are a sever rotation risk with Costa, Alonso, Fabregas, Pedro and Moses all seeing limited or no gametime in their 4-3 win over Watford after the title was sealed.
Instead, man of the moment Batshuayi (£8.4m) followed up his league-winning substitute appearance against West Brom with a start and 2nd goal in 2 outings. Game 37 was his first start of the season in the Premier League, so it looks like Conte is happy to give fringe players a chance and see what he’s got for next season. With the rumored move of Costa away from Stamford Bridge, Batshuayi will be keen to prove his worth and cement his place in the team. Another strong performance could go a long way towards discouraging investment in another top striker. But hey, it’s Chelsea… of course they’re going to splash the cash on a big name! Additionally, his starting place isn’t certain to be repeated and, at this stage, you’re probably not going to get him in for one game. I’d be tempted in daily fantasy leagues, but otherwise it’s probably not a big concern.
Hull vs Spurs
With nothing left to play for Hull welcome Spurs to the KCOM Stadium. Spurs are secure in 2nd place and can’t go up or down. The only thing really at stake here is Kane’s push for the Golden Boot. After smashing in 4 in the late game against Leciester, Kane is showing that he is not yet on the beach. He’ll hope to repeat his success of last year and, in doing so, become the 5th player of the Premier League era to win the Golden Boot in back-to-back seasons.
Leicester vs Bournemouth
Remember last season when Mahrez and Vardy appeared from almost nowhere to become the best players in FPL? Well, this year that guy is Josh King and he’ll face the other 2 this week. King (£6.2m) scored again last week to take his tally to 16 for the season, with 14 of these coming in the second half of the season. This will be the last time for a while we can get him at such a price; expect a massive hike next year to take him out of the budget category.
As for last year’s darlings, whether or not they’ve crashed and burned is up for debate, but they’ve definitely failed to emulate last year’s highs. One thing that has stayed the same: Mahrez still can’t take a penalty to save his life. After last week’s miss against Man City, he’s now missed 2 penalties in each of the last 2 seasons. Seriously, just let someone else take them!
Liverpool vs Middlesbrough
Liverpool will follow up their 4-0 win against West Ham by welcoming relegated Middlesbrough to Anfield. The most popular asset for Liverpool here must surely be Coutinho (£8.5m) after his 19-point haul last week. This was Coutinho’s biggest score of the season but he has blanked more often than he’s produced this season, underlining his frustrating inconsistency. Still, this performance—paired with the visit of a demoralized Boro side—shouldn’t dissuade owners from running him out against this week.
Man Utd vs Crystal Palace
Palace showed a glimpse of their previous form with a 4-0 win over Hull. This came on the back of 3 straight defeats and it seems inevitable that they could struggle again away to Man Utd, who have lost only once at home this season. Given Utd’s penchant for a home draw this season though (10 draws from 18 games), I won’t be looking to invest in this game.
Southampton vs Stoke
“Stack up on double-gameweekers”, I said. “It’ll be fine”, I said. Did Gabbiadini and Stephens start both games last week? Of course not. Did Gabbiadini score more points in the game he did play than the one he didn’t? Did he hell! In his one start this week, Gabbiadini missed a penalty, deducting 2 points from his total. That gives him a grand total of 4 points across the last 4 games, an absolutely stunning effort. I’ve realized now though that I can’t be mad at him. It’s not his fault; he’s just not that good. I only have myself to blame for buying into his hype and getting onboard for the double gameweek. When he first signed for Southampton I looked at his previous stats, which showed a proven track record of being completely average: in Italy he never scored 10 goals in a league season. At that point I wasn’t interested in him, but then he started well with 4 goals in his first 3 games and it looked like maybe I’d underestimated him. Fast forward through an injury and 7 consecutive blanks, and that penalty miss is the last straw for me. I look forward to never having him in my team again. I don’t care which striker I replace him with this week… it doesn’t even matter if I have needs elsewhere, he can go! The one saving grace is that I was not alone in my belief or my disappointment with the guy; he was transferred in by over 200,000 FPL managers in the last 2 weeks. Stupidity loves company.
Oh, and this week Southampton play Stoke.
Swansea vs West Brom
Swansea secured safety last week with a 2-0 win over Sunderland that saw both Llorente (£6.2m) and Sigurdsson (£7.4m) registering attacking returns. Whether or not the lack of pressure coming into this game will see them return to their previous poor form remains to be seen, but these 2 players will continue to provide the most likely source of points for Swansea.
Watford vs Man City
Since securing their Premier League safety, Watford have since lost 5 consecutive games, conceding 11 in the process. Man City will look to capitalize as they battle for 3rd place in the table and a coveted Champions League spot.
After registering a single assist in the 5-0 win 2 weeks ago, Gabriel Jesus (£8.9m) scored back-to-back goals in week 37 and also registered an assist. His price should rocket over the summer if he cements his starting place, but should still be cheaper than Aguero who started the season at £13m. FPL managers everywhere will be hoping he can lock down this spot and I’m already looking at him as my first striker for next season.