Review of some of the key talking points from all of the weekend’s Premier League action, with particular attention paid to anything that might have an impact on fantasy football.
Bank On City Backline, Chelsea Not So Much
The weekend could have scarcely gone better for Manchester City as they dominated Chelsea in a comfortable 3-0 victory. The result in truth could have ended in a far greater margin had Asmir Begovic not kept Sergio Aguero – turning six of his nine touches in the box into attempts on goal – at bay in a first half flurry of chances. But in a game of so many high points for the Sky-Blues, it was their impregnable defensive unit that deserved the plaudits.
Kompany and Mangala – so inconsistent and underwhelming on so many occasions last season – were absolute paragons here, snuffing out Diego Costa and permitting the visitors just two opportunities on Joe Hart. Kompany’s all-powerful display in particular should see several fantasy managers snapping him up over the coming weeks, particularly given a favourable run of home fixtures. The captain has now bagged two goals and two clean sheets in his first two games, recalling the type of form unseen since his fantasy football heyday in 2013/14.
Aside from the central pairing, Alexander Kolarov impressed again at left-full. The Serbian international, so often a deputy to Gael Clichy, appears to have finally cemented a claim in what is now a fifth season at the club. His defensive solidity, coupled with his set-piece threat and that undisputed wand of a left peg, should see his stock shoot up in this early season phase.
Kolarov’s international teammate, Branislav Ivanovic, was poor again in Gameweek 2. One of the consistently dominant performers last season, the Serb was culpable for at least two of the goals, struggling to contain the left-side pairing of Sterling and Kolarov and perhaps more tellingly, meekly out-muscled by Kompany for the second goal. Worrying still for Mourinho enthusiasts will be the half-time hooking of captain John Terry following a ragged 45 minutes. Whether this hastens their pursuit of John Stones is debatable, but City appear to have replaced Chelsea as the top four’s defensive guarantors.
Norwich Play Ball
Just two games in and Sunderland are now odds on favourite for Daily Fantasy Focus’ inaugural “Crisis of the Month” award. Dick Advocaat’s ominous and melodramatic admission that he “cannot go on this way” have certainly not helped the growing sense of unease at the Stadium of Light.
If Sunderland’s rep among fantasy managers is now firmly in the pits, Norwich should be strongly considered as a potential differential darkhorses. The Canaries exuded confidence and gave the Black Cats a lesson in slick passing and teamwork on Saturday, with Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond – scoring one and creating four further opportunities – impressing in particular. “Wessi” was the conduit for the visitors with two fine assists and displayed those long underrated talents as a midfield linkman and creator. A very bargain option in PlayON terms, Hoolahan created three opportunities and had 88% pass completion rate in the final third of the pitch.
New signing Robbie Brady was likewise an effective performer, causing havoc with set pieces and testing Pantilimon on three occasions. The young Irishman may suffer via his positional flexibility – a midfielder in PlayON, but a left-back in Gameweek 2 – but he’ll undoubtedly grow into an effective and low-cost performer, much like he did for Hull at the back end of 2014/15.
The Canaries are unlikely to challenge our perceptions of football and philosophy this season, but Redmond, Hoolahan and Brady will prove effective differentials and left-field daily fantasy inclusions against teams ranked in the lower half of the table. Best to pick your battles.
Everton Firing On All Cylinders?
With so many positives for Everton in Gameweek 2, it’s easy to prematurely gush over Roberto Martinez’ men. Everton were impressively dominant at St. Mary’s, as young gun duo Lukaku and Barkley caught the eye with some of the most impressive displays of the Gameweek.
The pair largely flattered to deceive last year, failing to replicate their shared breakthrough season of 2013/14, but both served up a timely reminder of their considerable talents in a convincing 3-0 victory over Southampton. Barkley showed a capacity for creativity as well as goal threat, doing both in one game for the first time of his club career, but Lukaku’s brace and sheer power play has thrust him the forefront of analysis.
In terms of efficiency, the Belgian now reigns top for goal conversion among players with more than five efforts on goal, claiming a 40% conversion rate. A total of 13 touches in the box over the opening two rounds clearly shows the new-found intent and involvement of the striker this season and to the naked eye his weekend performance was quite possibly his best ever Premier League showing.
Arouna Kone meanwhile, has proved something of a catalyst for the duo. The elder striker has now laid on an assist to each over the course of the opening two fixtures and managed to nab a goal for himself in the process. If the Ivorian can keep fit, the trio will be the first names on the teamsheet for a slog of games – City, Spurs, Chelsea and Swansea – that could prove the barometer of their season.