It’s official – Chelsea Football Club now has the unenviable status of having the equal-worst record for a PL title defence in the opening month of a season. Not since the days in which the North Stand of Stamford Bridge was partially a car park has the club been so porous and disjointed, both on and off the pitch.
Alarm bells are rightly ringing in West London, and Jose Mourinho, having seen his side comprehensively beaten at Goodison Park, must finally be coming to the realisation that no manager is safe from the axe – no matter how ‘special’ they may be.
A tight game is expected in the London derby with Arsenal, while Manchester United are unlikely to get an easy game at St Mary’s Stadium. By contrast, Manchester City (at home to West Ham) are all set to extend their perfect record to a sixth game, meaning that fantasy managers will need to be imaginative in their decisions ahead of GW6.
1/2. Tim Krul & Massimo Haidara – vs Watford (H)
Given Manchester City’s perfect record to date, Joe Hart is the obvious choice as goalkeeper, even though this weekend’s visitors, West Ham United, have ‘saluted’ Liverpool and Arsenal in their respective backyards already this season.
However, if you aspire to spread your allocation more evenly, Tim Krul is the next best choice.
Watford may have claimed a hard-fought 1-0 win over Swansea at the weekend, but it still represents a paltry return of one goal from four games. That is a concern for Watford, and although new signing Victor Ibarbo is a lightning-quick fan favourite on the FIFA series, in the real world it will take the Colombian striker some time to adapt to Premier League life.
In addition to Tim Krul, also consider including Massimo Haidara if you plan to invest more heavily in the latter two thirds of the pitch. He is a regular starter and statistically the best defender at the club, though curiously not the most expensive.
A close game is anticipated at St James’ Park, but the Magpies should be capable of eking out a win to nil.
3. Ross Barkley – vs Swansea (A)
Everton will be brimming with confidence after a convincing win over Chelsea, but the challenge presented by a trip to South Wales is an entirely different one.
Bafbatemi Gomis looks like the real deal, and he is a worthy inclusion in any game, but Everton have yet to lose a Premier League encounter at the Liberty Stadium. Indeed, it was only a dire mistake, by the usually reliable Seamus Coleman, that deprived Everton of a fourth straight league win at Swansea back in April.
One player set to disrupt Swansea’s game plan is Ross Barkley, who enjoyed an improved all-round game against Chelsea and set up one of Steven Naismith’s goals en-route to victory. As a visiting team on Saturday, Everton’s emphasis will be on counter-attacking football, with Barkley as the distributor.
If Barkley shows the same flashes of inspiration at opportune moments (as he did against Chelsea), then the homegrown Merseysider will enjoy a productive afternoon on Saturday.
4. Jermain Defoe – vs Bournemouth (A)
Bournemouth’s defensive woes continued with a losing performance at Carrow Road that was foreseen in last week’s article.
The international break has apparently changed nothing for the Cherries, and it was undoubtedly disturbing for Eddie Howe to see Norwich destroy Bournemouth despite barely getting out of second gear. Seven goals conceded in a three-game sequence is a dangerous record to have at Premier League level, and it is difficult to see where the first clean sheet is coming from.
Sunderland’s problems in defence also show no sign of abating, and this weekend’s visit to the South Coast should be an entertaining spectacle for neutral fans. Given the weakness in defence for both sides, Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat must now think in terms of simply outscoring the opposition, rather than attempting to break them down in phases.
For that reason, this weekend represents a golden opportunity for Jermain Defoe, one of the most experienced men on the pitch, to earn his red and white stripes.
5/6. Richie de Laet & Jamie Vardy – vs Stoke City (A)
Simply put, the momentum is with Leicester. The Foxes are flying high in second place while this weekend’s hosts Stoke City flounder at the foot of the Premier League.
Richie de Laet will be high on confidence after scoring in the midland derby against Aston Villa and Jamie Vardy is enjoying yet another purple patch, making him an affordable but very worthy addition to any fantasy squad. Unlike Riyad Mahrez, England international Vardy will not appear in every other team you play against this weekend, providing a differential source of points that could serve as a massive boost.