With all of the premium options turning our heads for one reason or another, be it explosive form (Sterling) or decent form with amazing fixtures coming (Kane), it’s difficult to know which of these titans we should select for our teams.
“You can’t have them all” is an expression often used in the Twitter community and sadly, it applies here. These players are all far too expensive to own if you hope to resemble any form of balance to your squad.
So I’m going to blend in the use of my own insight from the games I’ve watched (which is typically most of the live games available) with, of course, stats, to help form a clearer picture on which of these colossal assets are the best to own going into the frantic festive period.
Agüero has been extremely solid so far this year and a reliable captaincy option, which makes him all the more valuable and likely the reason he’s the highest owned player in the game at the moment.
Unlike previous seasons under Pep, he’s also more reliable in terms of starting games, which may suggest he’s finally 100% understood what Pep wants from him in his system.
In this system, Pep wants him to play a bit like how Firmino does for Liverpool, perhaps not as unselfish as Firmino, but certainly to help link the play and create as much as score – he’s already equalled last years assist total and has surpassed the previous two and has created more chances than any other forward to this point.
So now he’s a double threat, whereas in previous seasons, it was more about the goals for him. This may seem a negative, seeing as you get more actual points for a goal than an assist and you also get much more points on the BPS for a goal (24) than you do for an assist (9) as a striker however, Agüero is still firing in a lot of goal attempts, so I don’t think Pep has asked him to be full Bobby Firmino.
The one thing that is perhaps a little concerning with Serge, is that in comparison to the previous two seasons at this stage, his goal conversion is pretty low. In 16/17 at this point, his goal conversion rate was 18.2% and last season it was 27.3%, much healthier than the current 14.5%.
Harry Kane is currently the least favoured of the big premium options, but with Spurs showcasing their class against Chelsea last week adding to a run that has seen them win all of their last 5 games in all competitions with good fixtures to come, the interest level in the former 2x time Golden Boot winner is rising.
Given the strength of the other 3 midfielders, I think the case for owning both Agüero and Kane is pretty clear – it’s not worth the money. So that leaves a choice between Kun and Kane.
The main interest for us, is that we know for a fact that if ‘Arry is fit, he will start every game throughout this hectic period and will likely play 90 mins or close to each time – can we safely say the same for Agüero? I highly doubt it.
So the temptation to make the switch is there and it would be logical, as we know that Kane can explode and over the previous 4 seasons has been able to hit above 20 goals, so he’s reliable too.
The problem is what Agüero could do with the less game time he’ll get in a City side that don’t seem to care who they’ve got in front of them, they just go through them all the same, scoring 4/5/6 goals whereas, we’re yet to see Spurs take teams apart this year more regularly.
In the early part of the season, Kane looked sluggish, likely down to World Cup exploits, then Eriksen/Alli got injured and have been out of the team recently, so I believe this has contributed to him dropping deeper and his all-round play not being as good as it probably should be.
But both Eirksen and Alli are back fit and in the team, so I believe Kane can focus all his energy on being the 9 again rather than the 10, and even with him not in top gear, he’s still only 1 goal behind the top goal scorer, to put things into perspective.
Over the first 13 GWs, you have to say Salah has been solid. 6.4 points per game isn’t bad, but it’s way below his level last season and this season of course, you have the highest price to pay for it.
With 4 goals and 2 assists in the last 5 GWs however, the spotlight has definitely shifted slightly away from him, but the previous 5 were heavily testing times for owners, with 4 blanks and just 1 goal.
A lot jumped ship, and deservedly so, you can’t show too much patience with the highest priced asset in the game if he’s not delivering when so many other fairly priced midfielders are, but now he’s beginning to light up again, just like he did this time last year – an incredible run that saw him smash the record points total.
But when you have both Hazard and Sterling who are bettering or matching him for roughly £2m less, can we really justify owning him?
Well at this stage, the obvious answer is no, but what we have to assess, is whether Hazard and Sterling can keep it up, because we know Salah has more to give.
We know Salah has more to give because at this stage last year, he was producing very similar underlying numbers and none of the variables have drastically changed; the manager is the same, the system is the same, the players are more or less the same, the opponents are more or less the same, there’s been no significant extenuating circumstances in his personal life – so basically nothing to suggest he cannot do what he did last year or similar from this point.
Eden Hazard has looked like thee asset to own this year. He’s been magical at times and it’s only been the last 3/4 GWs where he’s slowed down, due to some tough fixtures and injuries.
Sarri has got Chelsea playing some great football which has got pundits talking of them in terms of title challengers, but I think last weekend brought them crashing down to earth, as Spurs made them look like an under 18 side – it will be interesting to see how they react, but if they bounce back and play the kind of football they have so far, then I think they’ll be a consistent source of attacking and defensive points all season.
In terms of Hazard though, you can see that the way they are playing under Sarri really suits Hazards game and that he’s very much enjoying his football now whereas under Conte, it perhaps was a little too defensive and restricting for him.
I believe Sarri’s style helps to get the very best out of Hazard, and although in the past Hazard has had a tendency to go through spells where he doesn’t return much for a good 5/6 GWs, I don’t anticipate that being the case over the festive period and he, like Kane, is a player that’s unlikely to be rested or rotated, unlike the players from City.
Everything is way up from last year at this same stage in terms of underlying numbers, where he played 10, had 28 pen area touches, created 20 chances and had only 13 shots – he seems to be getting into the box more and going for goal a lot more than in previous years – this suggests to me, that drops in frequency of returns will be less than in previous seasons.
The hike in price and the signing of Riyad Mahrez put us off Sterling at the beginning of the season, and after we saw him being dropped for the home game against Huddersfield in GW2 where they smashed the Terriers 6-1, sights were firmly off the England international.
But after that, he made 6 consecutive starts and collected 43pts along the way which alerted us to the situation, but it would be the last 4 GWs that turned the little alert to a big red alarm, with a whopping 45pts in that time.
The main issue still remains with Sterling, in that you’re going to get games in which he sits out, like the Huddersfield game (6-1) and the Burnley game (5-0) which you know if he played, he would have had a decent piece of those pies, but the fact of the matter is, he does so well when he does play, that it doesn’t really seem to matter.
To put that into context, if you take into account those 2 games he has missed, he’s still averaging 7.3 points per game, which is higher than any of the other premium assets – so although you are missing out, you’re still getting more than what you would get from the other expensive options.
Not only that, but he’s consistent and reliable in terms of returns – you know if he starts, he’s very likely to return and has a good chance of a double figure return, such is his role within Pep’s system.
The danger here, is reliability, not in terms of returns, but in terms of being rotated/rested, because if you’re going to have Sterling as a captaincy option in your side, then it’s going to be extremely frustrating missing out on a Huddersfield or Burnley result and your vice coming in with a low scoring return whilst Agüero starts and is hitting a big score, if you don’t own him.
As I stated previously, it doesn’t make much sense, given the strength of the 3 premium midfielders and the more budget-friendly forward options available to us, to put so much of our budget into Agüero AND Kane – it would be a poor use of £23.8m value wise.
So it’s one or the other and this one is a toss up for me, as I really do worry about Agüero’s game time and not just being pulled early, but actually being rotated for Jesus who surely has to start some of the games over this period.Embed from Getty Images
Kane, we can rely on to start and play 90 minutes. He is in decent form and he has excellent fixtures to go with it. Moreover, Alli and Eriksen are back and they looked fantastic against Chelsea – I’m slightly leaning the way of Kane in honesty.
Given that Mané is producing similar returns to Salah and is more than £3m cheaper than him, it’s hard to justify paying his price-tag, so if you want an attacker from Liverpool, then simply save yourself a lot of money and get Mané – his underlying numbers aren’t anywhere near as good as Salah’s, granted, but he manages to get those points regardless, which is all we’re after at the end of the day.
In order for Salah to justify his price, he literally HAS to get back to smashing double-figure returns regularly and even if you think he will, if either Hazard or Sterling continue their form for cheaper, is there much point in choosing the Egyptian? The value is elsewhere this season for me.
So this leaves us with Hazard and Sterling. I would personally advocate having both of these players in your team if it’s possible, but for some, it might not be possible (without 2/3 extra transfers to re-balance the team) to do that and have Mané if you were to lose Salah to help fund getting both in.
So this may leave a choice for a lot between Hazard and Sterling.Embed from Getty Images
Out of those two, I don’t expect them to be too far apart come the end of the season unless there’s a significant injury to one of them, but if I were pushed to choose, looking at the upcoming hectic festive period, I would slightly edge toward Hazard simply because he’s more reliable in terms of starting games – I simply can’t imagine Sterling doesn’t get a rest or two over that period.
Especially if you don’t have Agüero, just imagine how frustrated you’d be if you really fancied City to turn a team over like they do to so many, and Sterling is the only City attacker you have, and he gets rested and they go out and score 5/6 goals and your vice captain comes on for 2pts – it’s just something I personally look to avoid.