We review some of the key talking points from Gameweek 9 in the Premier League.
I anticipated that the power vacuum left by David Silva and Sergio Aguero would be a crippling blow to their campaign on both home and European fronts, but City cruised to a 5-1 victory over Bournemouth at little more than canter in Gameweek 9.
It was suggested last week that Kevin De Bruyne would be the man to step up and assume the creative and goalscoring control, and while the Belgian put in another fine showing – sealing his third assist in five appearances – it was two somewhat peripheral figures that provided the thrust to City’s win.
Wilfried Bony and Raheem Sterling were the stand-out performers on the day and any fantasy manager worth his salt will have earmarked the duo as a potentially points rich option over the coming weeks.
Bony had been largely disappointing since his transfer from Swansea last January – failing to really capitalize on Aguero’s frequent absences, the Ivorian had scored just two in 16 league appearances prior to Gameweek 9. Here, he not only grabbed two classic centre-forward goals – assisted by his two flying wingers – but he also turned provider for one of Sterling’s three. In fact, Bony was the most creative striker of the weekend, forging three chances in total, while he trailed only the irrepressible Jamie Vardy – 10 – for shots on goal, with 5 to his name.
Sterling meanwhile, showed exactly why City stumped up £44m for his services over the summer. Unleashed in the normally Silva-occupied number 10 position, the 20 year old put in an exhilarating shift, reminiscent of his Suarez-era Liverpool form. Although City have a bounty of riches in the position, Sterling is undoubtedly at his most comfortable and most effective centrally.
The England international had six efforts on goal in this game, half of his entire efforts – 12 – in his seven other games this season. He likewise enjoyed hugely increased involvement in the penalty area – with 15 touches in the box compared to an average of 6 per game previously.
City won’t come up against a team as weak as Bournemouth every week, but the Sterling-Bony combo looks to be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Vardy Continues to Confound, Wijnaldum Stops the Rot
It’d be nice to read an article or piece on Jamie Vardy without mentioning his non-league beginnings, but it’s still startling that English football allowed a player of this calibre to toil in obscurity for so long.
The 28 year old continues his meteoric hunt for the golden boot week on week, and added two more to his name against Southampton to make it nine in nine league games.
Leicester have very much appropriated the comeback as their thing this season, having come from behind on a number of occasions – winning 7 of their 16 points from losing positions overall.
They did it again in Gameweek 9 after the Saints went ahead through Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk. It was Vardy’s combination with Mahrez and Nathan Dyer that enabled the Foxes’ claw-back to 2-2, but Vardy’s goal haul this season has been indicative of the sheer individual work-rate in his game.
The England international beats his marquee striking contemporaries to register 38 attempts on goal this season, 13 chances created and 79 touches in the box. Coming up against Palace, West Brom and Watford, he has every opportunity to extend this run.
Newcastle meanwhile, finally claimed their first win of the season, subduing Norwich to the tune of 6-2.
It’s no surprise that Georginio Wijnaldum was the man to spearhead the whole thing. The Dutchman has been one of the few beacons of hope in an otherwise awful start to the campaign for Steve McClaren. With six goals, he now trails only Sanchez as the league’s top scoring midfielder – albeit, this match alone accounted for four of those goals.
The Toon lock horns with Sunderland, Stoke and Bournemouth over the next few fixtures, so we may now actually see an upturn in their form and points across the board – both in fantasy and reality. Expect Wijnaldum’s PlayON ownership to boost considerably.
Arsenal Cruise, Hammers Turn the Screw
The Gunners have put their September woes well and truly behind them and roll into a tough Champions League showdown with Bayern on the back of some very positive league displays. The front four appear to be hitting form at the right time with Ozil, Walcott, Ramsey and even Giroud doing the business in recent weeks. Their reemergence however is in large part down to the work of Alexis Sanchez.
With Aguero injured, the Chilean is undoubtedly the Premier League’s superstar player and must-have fantasy inclusion. Another goal in Gameweek 9 made it six in four from 17 attempts. As such, he holds a markedly better conversion rate than his closest rivals, Phillipe Coutinho – 21 shots, 0 goals – and Sadio Mane – 15 attempts, 2 goals. While claiming no assists in those past four games, his creativity is still a key facet of his value, with nine chances created and 7 through balls played. Simply put, a team without the ex-Barca forward is at an immediate fantasy disadvantage.
Across London meanwhile, the West Ham way is alive and kicking for Slaven Bilic, particularly away from home. Not only are they playing expansive football, but they’ve simultaneously been the most clinical in the Premier League with 22% of their efforts on goal hitting the back of the net.
Dimitri Payet has arguably been the player of the season so far and showed that again with a superbly taken goal as the Hammers ran out as 3-1 winners against Palace. It was Manuel Lanzini that deserved the man of the match award however. The Argentine got the nod in his natural number 10 position and flanked by Payet and Moses, put in his best performance to date in the claret and blue.
Payet was again the most creative midfielder of the Gameweek with six chances created, but Lanzini claimed a goal and assist – from three chances created and four attempts on goal.
The Argentine is still very much in the differential pick category in terms of weekly selection rate. However, we can expect that to grow noticeably if he sustains this level of performance.