What we learned | Week TwelveWednesday, November 13 2019
Eyes roll. Here we go again…
Jamie Vardy. Goal, assist, 12pts. You’re welcome. Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham. Goal and goal. Don’t mention it. Ashley Barnes, goal. My pleasure. Salah, Mane. Goal, goal. Standard. Think nothing of it. Youri Tielemans, assist. No problem. Gerard Deulofeu, another goal (flagged up GW 11). Okay, stop it – this is getting embarrassing...
Unless the Sheffield United defender you added on my advice happened to be George Baldock. In which case, get them in. Kronenbourg. No ice.
Right, what other nuggets can we sift from the shenanigans of GW 12?
Look at the state of those sheets
With a weekend off, it’s time for a period of contemplation to plot our course for the next third of the season.
Let’s start at the back, shall we? It hasn’t been a season for clean sheets. The very best Goalkeepers and Defenders on offer have topped at five. And as they would have to play for Man City, Leicester and Sheffield United it’s clear where the bargains are.
You’ll be sick of me banging on about John Lundstram by now, but he’s the best value 70pts that 41.1% of FPL managers have bagged so far. Only Tammy Abraham is a more popular pick.
Tool up with a Blade or two
He’s a midfielder for a start – and has more goals in him than the three so far, trust me. Get him. Just get him. His And teammates Stevens, Baldock and O’Connell all feature in the Top 10 or so (available at £5.1m, £4.5m and £4.6m).
And after Man United, the Blades have a lovely run of fixtures until 2020.
Make room and save wedge for by dropping City Defenders. With their best Defender and Goalkeeper missing they are this season’s Both Teams To Score (BTTS) bankers.
Leicester’s Soyuncu (at £4.8m) is a cheaper option than fellow back four mates Chilwell, Evans and Pereira too.
Get your Villa in order
Just six teams have scored more goals than Aston Villa. And only City, Chelsea and Liverpool have had more shots on target. So McGinn, Grealish and El Ghazi might well be a more effective £5.8m, £5.9m and £5.5m options than your current Midfield passengers.
And as third choice strikers go, Wesley (at £6m) will get better. But I do like the Burnley three – Wood (£6.2m), Barnes (£6.3m) and Rodriguez (£5.7m) in that order. Only five sides have scored more than Burnley and almost all their goal threat comes from that trio.
But their top points scorer is Dwight McNeil thanks to five assists. Only De Bruyne has more. Double in fact. £16.2m for the pair is a nice compromise.
Check in next Friday for more stats, damn stats and lies.
The International Injury MinefieldMonday, November 11 2019
When the international break arrives, we invariably see a sudden glut of players confined to the treatment room. And, as one of the worlds’ most cosmopolitan leagues, injuries can be difficult to track, but, as always, we will endeavour to do our best throughout the build-up to game week thirteen to give an update, and insight, into the latest player withdrawals:
Tom Heaton (Aston Villa and England)
Potential return-to-play (RTP): Game week thirteen (Newcastle United)
🗣 Manager Dean Smith confirmed that the goalkeeper would miss Sundays’ midlands derby at Molineux due to a muscular problem: "Tom Heaton's been struggling with a calf, so I knew he was going to pull out of the game.”
Ross Barkley (Chelsea and England)
Potential return-to-play (RTP): Ongoing issue. No definitive timeline.
🗣 Barkley has not featured since suffering an ankle injury in week nine. Speaking ahead of the game with Crystal Palace, Frank Lampard revealed. “Ross has got an ongoing issue, so he’s not in the squad tomorrow." And when asked about Barkley's possible involvement for the Three Lions, he said. "It’s a conversation I’ll have with Gareth [Southgate] Steve [Holland], Ross and everyone to see how it pans out for him over the next ten days.”
Adama Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers and Spain)
Potential return-to-play (RTP): Game week thirteen (AFC Bournemouth)
🗣 Traore completed 90 minutes against Aston Villa on Sunday but released a statement via his personal Twitter account within hours of the final whistle confirming his withdrawal from the national team. “It is a shame not to be in the call of the Spanish Football Federation. I want to thank the coach and the entire coaching staff for the trust. I will continue to work hard so that, God willing, I have the opportunity to be summoned again in future calls.”
Josip Drmić (Norwich City and Switzerland)
Potential return-to-play (RTP): Being assessed.
🗣 The Canaries attacker was introduced as a second-half substitute at Carrow Road on Friday but limped through the closing stages of the game as Daniel Farke had already made three substitutions. The Swiss FA confirmed a day later that Drmic would remain in England “for further medical clarifications” on a muscular injury.
Roberto Pereyra (Watford and Argentina)
Potential return-to-play (RTP): Being assessed.
🗣 Pereyra pulled up on the half-hour mark at Norwich due to an apparent hamstring problem. The attacker had been called up for the upcoming friendly internationals against Brazil and Uruguay which are due to take place in Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea and United States)
Potential return-to-play (RTP): Being assessed. Hopeful for week thirteen (Manchester City)
🗣️ USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed on Monday that Christian Pulisic would not be joining the squad after he picked up a knock during the win over Crystal Palace. “The only frustration is he comes off with a bit of an injury,” Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said on Saturday. “He was going to be subbed before he scored his goal, he’s got a bit of a hip issue, but I’m hoping it’s not too bad because the way he’s in full flow at the moment is great to see.”
Lloyd Kelly (AFC Bournemouth and England Under-21s)
Potential return-to-play (RTP): Being assessed. No timeline.
🗣️ Kelly has been on the fringes of the first-team squad since his arrival from Bristol City in the summer. The Cherries boss confirmed on Saturday that the 21-year-old has a “thigh problem” which was likely to rule him out of the upcoming internationals against Albania and the Netherlands.
Aaron Connolly (Brighton and Republic of Ireland)
Potential return-to-play (RTP): Hoping to be ready for week thirteen (Leicester City)
🗣️ The Brighton attacker was forced off during Sundays’ defeat at Old Trafford and was sent for further tests on Monday. Ireland manager Mick McCarthy confirmed his withdrawal later that day. "Our team doctor Alan Byrne has spoken to the Brighton medical team and had a look at the scans. The scans have confirmed the groin injury, and Aaron won't be ready for New Zealand and Denmark."
Scott McTominay (Manchester United and Scotland)
Potential return-to-play (RTP): Assessments continue. Expected to be several weeks.
🗣️ Scott McTominay could be sidelined until mid-December following an initial scan which suggests the United midfielder suffered ligament damage against Brighton. "He went over on his ankle. It's a painful one,” revealed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. "I've had one, and I was out for eight weeks. But then again sometimes you're back in two weeks, so I don't know. It looked painful, and he's not one for rolling around."
View from the Boot Room | Week TwelveFriday, November 8 2019
Jamie Vardy is in decent nick – he’s hit 10 for the season, including 7 in the last five - and he loves a goal against (artists formerly known as) Top Four teams.
Leicester have won 5 out of 6 – and the other was away at Liverpool. Arsenal look rudderless. No away wins so far and only 2pts from three matches. Plus, the change of shop steward suggests to me that they are teetering on the edge.
So, load up on Leicester defenders too. And if you’ve got Youri Tielemans in the ranks, pat him on the back and tell him he’s doing a great job.
Manchester City haven’t enjoyed going to Anfield much in recent years.
They’ve only managed one clean sheet since Rodri’s hamstring ping on Champions League duty. And he was hardly the answer at Centre Back. The mobility, pace and poise of Salah and Mane will cause headaches, and Firmino could run amok. Any and all are recommended.
The Ox – or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to his friends – is worth a nibble at £6.2m too. He looks full of it since his return, hitting 4 in his last five.
Chelsea should push past Palace. Christian Pulisic has forced his feet under the table of late – and his presence might help Tammy Abraham out of his dry spell (just 1 in his previous five). At £7.9m and with Chelsea full of goals (29 so far), he’s worth persisting with.
Speculative Lobs from distance
I’m also tempted to go back in on Anthony Martial. Man United’s No.9 ranked as a midfielder in days gone by would’ve been a stick-on – van Persie… Nistelrooy… Cole… oof! I should coco. But even so, Le Sulk could prove his worth at £7.7m v Brighton.
Burnley should get back to winning ways v West Ham too. Yes, they’ve lost their last three, but they punch their weight at home. And the Hammers are five without a win.
Rodriguez and Barnes are both reasonably priced third choice frontmen (at £5.7m and £6.3m).
Yer man, Jimenez (Wolves) tickles my fancy v Villa too. He’s a bit streaky – currently four in 5, after a run of seven blanks, four in 4 before that. So, might be in an upswing although it’s got 1-1 written all over it.
As has Tottenham v Sheffield United. Blades are unbeaten on t’ road and Spurs haven’t tasted victory in 4. Could easily be five so keep Lundstram on side at the very least.
And with one bloodshot eye on the next couple of months, you could do worse than stock up with another Sheffield United defender. Or two. After Tottenham and Man United, they have a tidy looking run of Wolves, Newcastle, Norwich… then Villa, Brighton and Watford.
More clean sheets than a Chinese laundry. Is that racist? I don’t think so.
Andre Gomes: 'Full Recovery' or Return to PlayTuesday, November 5 2019
The Club, The Player, The Person. They’re not the same!!!
Everything is great until it isn’t
It’s impossible to truly define what football is. Sure you can referee it and score it, but can you really define it? It has the ability to help us forget the mundane of the 9 to 5, stir up hopes, dreams, aspirations and creativity. It can simultaneously tear apart and bring together families, neighbours, communities, cities and countries. It is the matriarch of a Friday night in the pub with your mates when speculating your starting XI for your fantasy team. But the name on everyone’s tongue at the moment is that of Andre Gomes, the Everton midfielder who suffered a fracture-dislocation of his ankle at the weekend and had surgery on Monday. Thankfully, Everton FC have stated that the procedure was a success and Andre is expected to make a “full recovery”. In this piece I’m going to discuss the nuance between making a full recovery and returning to play and how the two are not necessarily the same. I’ll touch upon what success looks like for club and player and what the duty of care Everton and their medical staff have for Gomes.
Return to Play Speculation from the “Experts”
A fracture-dislocation of the ankle can certainly cause chaos within the joint. There are plenty of so-called “medical experts” touting on social media their expected return to play timeframes, what damage the ligaments, cartilage and bones may be subjected to and the contents and legitimacy of surgical intervention to maximise Gomes chances of making a speedy return to play. A lot of nonsensical speculation: something I’m not going to cover. I’ll let the “experts” take the lead on this aspect rather than adding my own “mystic meg” return to play predictions into the mix.
Return to play is possible, but is full recovery a reality?
Injury analyst Ben Dinnery posted return to play timeframes for this type of injury. Firstly, this data proves that this injury is not always career-ending and that it is possible to return from a fracture-dislocation within as little as 138 days (Aymeric Laporte). However, when you analyse the data a little more, it would appear that this number is an optimistic outlier and that it is more likely that Gomes will return next season rather than this, as the average return to play timeframe is 225 days. Be warned though; this data is merely a documentation of when players have returned from this type of injury in the past, that does not mean that it was the right, it also doesn’t mean it was wrong either. It is a return to play date not a definitive indicator that any of these players had made a full recovery following injury.
What exactly do Everton mean by a “full recovery?"
Were Everton FC referring to Gomes’ ankle joint? Is the club stating that his ankle will function the same as the other one? Or are Everton FC commenting on his psychological status? Does it mean that psychologically, Gomes will contest every ball in the same manner as he did before this injury for the Toffees? Are the club stating that this injury will not cut short his career in professional football? Are they stating that his ankle joint will be able to tolerate the toll of training and playing week in week out in the Premier League for the next ten years? Does a “full recovery” mean that he won't suffer from post-traumatic osteoarthritis of his ankle joint in 15 to 20 years time (still a young man) and need further surgical intervention to manage pain, stiffness and decreasing function? Or are they speaking out to the Everton fans that Gomes will make a “full recovery” to play for the club again? There are many factors which can influence whether a player makes a “full recovery” or not. The figure below from the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine depicts beautifully the complexity of return to play decisions.
We are not the only ones playing Fantasy Football
The reality of playing professional sport is that players are a commodity; they are the product on the pitch in which the club have invested. In terms of Everton and Gomes, or any other player for that manner: will the primary concern be with the long term health and well-being of the player or is the outcome measure for success how many days it takes for Gomes to return to play?. Let’s say he returns in 225 days, the average for this type of injury, and this is recognised as a successful return to play by the club. However, let’s play devil's advocate for a moment and fast forward five years and imagine that Gomes is forced to retire due to ongoing ankle issues. Should this be defined as a “full recovery” just because he played football again or is it more factual that we term it a “return to play” date?
The Duty of Care
The duty of care is on the surgeon and the medical staff to keep in mind the long term sequelae of such an injury rather than focusing on a return to play date. Injuries of this nature (joint-related especially) shouldn’t be rushed. We shouldn’t be looking to put in place an accelerated protocol to hasten a return to play. The ankle joint and the player need time to recover from this traumatic event. The expectations of the player, manager, stakeholders and fans need to be addressed early on, and the big picture needs to be taken into consideration. What might look like a successful return to play for Everton FC might be far removed from what success looks like for Andre Gomes as a person.
I Doff My Hat
The consequences of serious injury in sport are far-reaching and complex. And although it is encouraging that surgery went well, the real work begins now with the medical team. The months ahead in the gym, on the bike, in the pool, on the treatment table, one to one with the physio will be the true determinant of what success looks like for Gomes and Everton. In fairness to Everton FC they stated that Gomes is expected to make a “full recovery”, they never commented on a return to play date, therefore, it would be reasonable to suggest that the club is ensuring everything is done so that Gomes’ health and well-being is at the foremost rather than when he will next play for the Toffees. I would expect nothing less from a such great club with a super bunch of fans. With that said I doff my hat to Everton Football Club: Take a bow.
Football Physio Columnist
What we learned | Week ElevenMonday, November 4 2019
You might think this FPL business is all ‘…I’ve seen the keeper off his line, had a go and lucky enough it’s gone in…’. But no. Every round leaves us a trail of breadcrumbs that lead us to better decisions next time.
This is where GW 11 led us…
Liverpool really DO have the look of champions
And maybe the luck too. I’ve said it before, and I daresay I will again. But the stars are aligning for the Kloppites this season.
Coming from behind to snatch the points from a spirited Villa in front of their raucous home support had all the hallmarks of champions.
Sadio was again the Mane man. Assisting and scoring his way to another 12pts. Hitting his third – count ‘em, third! - 90+ minute goal of the year. Andy Robertson also reminded anyone that needed reminding that he is arguably the best full-back in the Premier League. And the only argument is coming from his opposite flank.
Liverpool have now started the season better than any team since Jimmy Greaves’ double-winning Tottenham in 1960/61. It’s a funny old game.
Man City can come from behind though
Long way to go, of course. City’s 2-1 win followed a similar path to that of their title rivals. But it’s becoming clear that any success they enjoy this season will be down to their front players.
Their defence and midfield look as soft-centred as it has done for a couple of seasons, so don’t expect any clean sheets from their next couple. Liverpool, then Chelsea will fancy they can hurt them.
Sharp Blades = clean sheets
If it’s clean sheets you want, restock your backline with some Sheffield steel.
Their almost stainless recent record (four shutouts from six) could in the next two – Spurs, then Man United. But after that, they have a very tidy looking run of fixtures - Wolves, Norwich, Villa, Brighton and Watford - which should take them into 2020 comfortably in the Top Half.
And provides you with a low-cost pre-Christmas shopping list. The top of which should be John Lundstram. If you’re not one of the 37% (and growing) already.
For starters, he’s a midfielder listed as a defender. So he’ll bag you clean sheet points. Plus, he’s got goals in him - two (should’ve been three) at the weekend, with more to come. And he’s trading at £4.8m. Do it, brothers and sisters. Unless there’s a gift horse, you know about with a gob you’d rather be staring at.
Stick with me, and you’ll be wearing diamonds
But if there’s only one lesson we can collectively learn this weekend, let it be this one: you need to make reading this column part of your pre-match ritual.
In Friday’s View From the Boot Room, I gave you goal scorers Pulisic, Aubameyang and Deulofeu… I pulled a 21pt Blade on you – Lundstram’s brace, sheet and star player bonus… And even cooked up a baker’s dozen (13pts) from Lys Mousset.
His two assists were either brilliantly flukey, or fooking brilliant depending on your viewpoint. But either way – you’re welcome.
That one was free. But remember where you got it.
Check in next Friday for more of that good stuff.
View from the Boot Room | Week 11Friday, November 1 2019
Matt Nesbitt has dusted off his crystal balls and gazes into the immediate future…
The value of Sterling remains high this week as City host Southampton. Don’t expect another 9-0 drubbing (although you never know…), but they’ll be plenty of points to share in the Etihad home dressing room.
De Bruyne leads the list of usual suspects - Aguero, Jesus, the Silva’s et al. - with nine assists in 10.
I’m sticking with Pascal Gross too. If my PG tip was your cup of tea last week, this week’s home fixture with Norwich wouldn’t put you off. He’s the leading dead ball chance provider in the Premier League and could double up with a clean sheet too.
Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic has earned a recall with his hat-trick at Burnley. Captain America has not made a £58m impact so far – or a £7.2m one, to be Frank. But if Lamps is ready to cut him loose, he could be a valuable Winter Soldier.
And £4.7m bargain Blade of the season John Lundstram stays. Sheffield United have blunted better teams than Burnley this term. And 35m of us can’t be wrong.
That Man United have had their best couple of weeks for a while. For me (there’s only) Wan Bissaka is the pick, especially if he keeps the wing-back role. Can’t cross a road, but a game boy.
Unlike Ben Chilwell. He’s up there with Liverpool’s full-back pairing for assists since Brendan has been at the wheel at Leicester. They won’t hit 9 but should be okay at Palace.
Aubameyang is due one too. Don’t be lured in by Arsenal’s flakiness – at home they are decent. Six wins and two draws from eight, scoring 22 along the way.
Speculative lob from a distance…
Three goals from seven league appearances mean that Sheffield United’s Lys Mousset has suddenly become a player? It was three goals from 58 career Premier League matches previously. Might be worth a £4.9m punt.
And I’ve got a sneaky one for Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu (v Chelsea). Had a bit of a shocker so far, but he’s a player. And isn’t afraid of a big occasion.
Ben is football’s leading injury specialist. The ‘go-to’ guru for big hitters like Sky Sports, ESPN and NBC Sports when they need data. Or the BBC, talkSPORT and the broadsheets when a quote is required. His unique insight has helped provide a better understanding of what is really happening in the treatment rooms.
Johnny is a respected physiotherapist and sports scientist, specialising in football injuries and rehab. Johnny has headed up the medical departments at Chesterfield, Scunthorpe and Notts County. Overseeing everything from player-specific training loads to pre-signing medicals. He has a proven record working with elite athletes in Private Practice and is regularly called upon throughout Europe to deliver presentations on the latest rehab innovations.
Matt's short, unremarkable football career was ended by his own bad driving. His long, distinguished career as a football tipster was ended by his own good advice. Because bookmakers don’t like a winner. First, they closed his accounts. Then his members’ accounts. Then his tipping service. And now they employ him as a consultant. Funny old game.