Each week, Sport360 will bring you tips for the English Premier League’s official fantasy football game. Fancy pitting your wits against us? You can join “Sport360 Fans'” league using the code 118790-38575.
In this week’s column, we look at why you should captain Adam Lallana despite the big stars enjoying favourable fixtures and also a look at three bargains who could put you ahead.
But first, a shout out to these tactical geniuses who top our Sport360 fans league going into this week!
WHO TO PICK AS CAPTAIN
Jermain Defoe [7.9m] was the pick for captain in Gameweek 21 and despite Sunderland losing 3-1 to Stoke City, the Englishman didn’t disappoint, scoring the only goal for the Black Cats.
There are plenty of options for the armband this week with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool playing Hull City, Burnley and Swansea City respectively.
However, while most will flock to the big stars like Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana [7.7m] is the one who may prove most worthy.
Liverpool boast the best attack in the league while Swansea’s defensive record is the worst. The Reds are terrific at home so the floodgates could open if they manage to break the deadlock early on.
Choosing Lallana over Coutinho could help you to a tidy differential as well.
Adam Lallana goal vs Swansea 🔥 What a touch from Coutinho 🎩 pic.twitter.com/7WFNGJkjPN— Anything Liverpool (@Anything_LFC) January 19, 2017
THREE LOW-COST POINT-GETTERS
There are a few players in the lower price bracket with some great fixtures coming up and here are the ones who could well return handy point tallies.
TOM DAVIES [EVERTON – 4.3m]
Everton’s new Golden Boy is turning a few heads. With Idrissa Gueye away at AFCON 2017, Tom Davies has been thrown into the first team and hasn’t looked out of place at all.
He made his first two starts for the club over the last couple of Gameweeks and delivered 14 points from midfield.
Everton have a great run of fixtures at the moment and at just 4.3, he’s a fantastic option.
MATT PHILLIPS [WEST BROM – 5.9m]
Matt Phillips is a fairly well known option for those who looking for a bargain but if you don’t have him in your side, now is when you may regret that the most.
He’s already the eighth highest scoring midfielder in the game this season and is now entering his best run of fixtures. West Brom’s next six games reads: Sunderland (H), Middlesbrough (A), Stoke (H), West Ham (A), Bournemouth (H) and Crystal Palace (H).
The midfielder has bagged 24 points in the last three weeks as well.
Matt Phillips in his last 11 games.— Read West Brom (@ReadWestBrom) January 8, 2017
Goals: ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️
Assists: ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅
His form: 🔥 🔥 🔥 pic.twitter.com/plrzgX9c3v
PETER CROUCH [STOKE CITY – 4.8m]
Yes, that lanky scorer of some exceptional goals is back in the thick of things. Peter Crouch has been drafted into first team action with Wilfried Bony at AFCON 2017 with Ivory Coast.
The former Liverpool striker has been in fine form, scoring a whopping 27 points in his last three outings.
If you have Defoe in your side, you may want to consider swapping him for Crouch and use the money elsewhere with Sunderland facing a challenging fixture list.
Fancy pitting your wits against us? Join the “Sport360 Fans'” league using the code 118790-38575.
You don’t want your team’s defenders to be left having to make too many last-gasp tackles but, when they do, you want them to be able to get them right.
And, according to stats from our friends at WhoScored.com, there are three men you most want in that position.
Arsenal duo Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny lead the way with a league high 11 last-man tackles.
In third is Southampton’s Jose Fonte with eight, making his availability in January that little more enticing for any onlooking managers.
Who would you rely on the most and who would you not like to be left with it all to do and a striker bearing down on your team’s goal?
José Fonte: Only Mertesacker & Koscielny (11 each) have made more last man tackles in the last 5 PL seasons than Fonte (8) pic.twitter.com/zyOSnz9Nkg— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 20, 2017
Old-school fans of the Premier League have long been complaining that defending has become a lost art. Now, there’s statistical evidence to back up that claim.
There has been a sharp drop in the number of tackles per game made by the Premier League’s best-tackling centre-backs since the 2009/10 season. Carlos Cuellar led central defenders with 3.7 tackles during that campaign, and for the next two seasons, the tackles per game number for the leading centre-back was 3.8.
However, since then, there has been a significant decline in the number of tackles the top-tackling defender has made. In each of the last four seasons, including the ongoing one, the per-game number has been 3.0 or less.
Given that Manchester City’s defence has been much maligned in recent weeks, it may come as a surprise that their Argentine centre-back Nicolas Otamendi currently leads all central defenders in the Premier League in tackles per game. Otamendi in fact led the league in this statistic last season as well.
But Otamendi’s manager can provide the best explanation for the declining numbers seen here. Pep Guardiola famously said last month that he doesn’t coach tackles. While the Spaniard faced ridicule for his statement, especially given City’s shambolic defensive performances recently, his is not an isolated opinion.
Where centre-backs’ primary duty used to be tackling, now priorities have changed, with attributes like positioning and passing ability being prized over old-school defensive technique. It’s no wonder the number of goals being scored is rapidly increasing – defenders are now as valued for their ability to launch attacks as stopping them.