There comes a time, or a few times, in every season where it becomes absolutely pivotal for managers to make bold calls and strategy overhaul that would either make or break their seasons.
This is one of them, for many a manager.
This is the juncture where the league has sort of taken shape, teams settle on their first elevens and the form players and teams start their (either short-lived or glory-inspiring) runs. This is also the juncture where the fixtures make drastic turns for many teams, with fortune smiling on some and kind ties giving way to horrific encounters with big boys.
Add on Aguero’s coming back from suspension to a City team looking to emulate Barca’s invincibility of a few years back under Pep, United’s sudden loss of form under Mourinho and Liverpool and Arsenal going on good runs, this is a pivotal time to make paradigm shifts in our approach to the game.
Certain chops would have to be made and sometimes you need to eat the humble pie to bring back a player dropped in the initial stages of the season.
I foresee the season will turn on these few hot burning questions…
(1) Which City midfielder to back – with goals and assists flowing from Sterling, KDB, Nolito (temporarily out due to his sending off), Silva (when he shakes off his ankle situation) and Sane (when he gets into the team), there is no telling who the points will come from. Sterling and KDB has shown that they are able to step up in the absence of Kun (or maybe they flourished because of it). With Kun being an almost essential, it would seem that many of us would be doubling up on City attack with Kun + a City midfielder. The question is, which one? The wildcard but highly attacking Nolito? The rejuvenated renaissance man Sterling? Or the more expensive but superbly sublime KDB? Picking the right one will be a key determiner of many a mini league, I reckon.
(2) Everton Attackers – Everton has shown more quality and steel under Koeman. Even Lukaku has nabbed his first hattrick of the season. With the capture of Bolasie, they look a more vibrant attacking team. That is why it is crucial to decide who to pick as your Everton attacker. Some brave souls (or Everton fans) may opt for a mid + attacker, but seeing that the 3 strikers slots are so precious, it makes little sense to waste it on Everton. Question is between Lukaku, Bolasie (cheap at 5.5 or 5.4), Mirallas or Barkley?
(3) Liverpool Star – The red half of Merseyside gives us quite a similar headache as the Toffees. Under Klopp, Liverpool have transformed into a highly attacking and fast-paced unit. They still don’t have a prolific striker who can hog the goals. So it’s anyone’s guess who will score or assist at any given gameweek between Coutinho, Mane, Firmino, Sturridge or Origi. Add a resurgent Lallana into the mix and you see why picking a Liverpool attacker to fit into your team can be quite a headache. But pick one of them, you must, as Liverpool is about to embark on a really kind run of fixtures that look prime for points.
(4) Budget Mids With Great Potential – Every season you’d have a cast of budget (4.5-7.5) mids who would get the job done, go on an amazing bandwagon run, and make the difference between really template looking teams. This season is no different. Already several have emerged, with Capoue leading the pack in terms of price, value and goals. He is followed Snodgrass, who has been getting some great freekicks in, and we cannot overlook Antonio of West Ham who is the priciest of the lot, but stealing most of Payet’s limelight. Add Bolasie, who is playing for an attacking and vibrant Everton, to the mix, and the duo of Zaha and Puncheon who may reap benefits from having Benteke as a target man. Nacer Chadli of West Brom has just thrown his name into the mix too, with a great performance last weekend. Picking one or two of them as your 4th and 5th midfielder would be really great and enable you to beef up on premium mids and strikers.
(5) Dare We Ignore Ighalo / Deeney? – Watford are about to embark on a good run of fixtures. We know these two, on their day, can do the business. Do we trust one of them enough to fill our budget striker position? In exchange for maybe the early favourite Negredo and Gray?
(6) Abandon Defence – There are some seasons recently where it pays to pump money on good defenders. I personally benefited from a rampaging Toby Alderweireld last season plundering goals for me. Most people will have 1 or 2 premium defenders with 3 or 4 cheap ones rotating for the final slots in a 3-4-3. This season, cleansheets are rare and unpredictable. It would seem that putting too much money into defence will hinder your team-building elsewhere especially when midfielders and strikers are getting goals aplenty. At this stage, the Premier League looks surprisingly full of goals. 4 goals per game seem the norm. Nearer to the end of the season, defences will surely tighten up. But until them, could it be a legit strategy to just go for 5 defenders all worth 4.5, with the money pumped into attack? The drawback is when defenders such as Baines or Coleman or Bellerin or Walker or Fuchs or Scott Dann or PVA start popping up with goals to put their more expensive midfielders to shame. However, it doesn’t look likely at this stage, yet, so it may be a good strategy to think about.