EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Could Jesus be a shrewd Haaland alternative?

By Sports Desk August 04, 2022

It may feel like it has only been away for a few weeks, but the Premier League is back on Friday, meaning time is running out for you to get your fantasy team into shape.

With all the transfers and new teams to keep track of, getting a fantasy team that you're happy with on the opening day can be a tricky task.

Has the new striker settled? Can the promoted defence remain solid in a higher division? That guy scored goals in another country, but can he translate that form to the Premier League?

There is lots to take into account, but Stats Perform have crunched the Opta numbers in the aim of giving you a hand, so here are four picks that might be worth considering…

JOSE SA (Leeds United v Wolves)

The likes of Alisson and Ederson might be more likely to get clean sheet points for you, but many fantasy football players see goalkeeper as an area to save a bit of cash.

Sa could be a solid option to consider if that sounds like you. The Portuguese keeper prevented more goals than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League last season (8.5), according to expected goals data – the next best was David de Gea with 2.8.

Similarly, only Alisson (76) had a better save percentage (75) than Sa (minimum 1,000 minutes played), highlighting just how dependable he was when called upon.

REECE JAMES (Everton v Chelsea)

Even though he missed a chunk of the season through injury, James was a standout performer when he was fit.

His 14 goal involvements (five goals, nine assists) was a joint-Premier League high among defenders alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold, though the latter played almost 1,000 minutes more.

That haul gave him an average of one goal involvement every 133 minutes. Of all the defenders to play at least 90 minutes, that was the best record. He might be pricey, but James could be a real asset.

DEJAN KULUSEVSKI (Tottenham v Southampton)

It is not easy to come into a team mid-season and impress almost instantly, but that's essentially what Kulusevski did last term, proving a hugely reliable player as Tottenham went on to clinch Champions League qualification.

The service he provided to his fellow attackers was invaluable as he recorded eight assists – between his debut on February 9 and the end of the season, no Premier League player set up more goals.

He also chipped in with five goals of his own, giving him a goal involvement total (13) that was only bettered by Karry Kane, Son Heung-min (both 19) and Kevin De Bruyne (15) over the same period.

If he can reach that level again, Kulusevski will be a fantasy favourite.

GABRIEL JESUS (Crystal Palace v Arsenal)

Most people will be making Erling Haaland their main choice in attack – you can't blame anyone for that, but he does have a certain cost.

Jesus may have only left Manchester City because of Haaland, but the early indications are the Brazil international and Arsenal could be a great marriage. He'll be cheaper than the man who has replaced him at the Etihad Stadium, too.

But also, we shouldn't overlook how good a player Jesus – who scored seven in five pre-season games – actually is. After all, only once before has he managed more goal involvements (16) than he did last season, and he was mostly playing from the right wing.

Additionally, his minutes per goal involvement ratio in the Premier League (minimum 1,000 minutes played) since his debut is the fifth best (107) – now he'll be a regular starter, and many expect him to blossom.

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    Thomas Tuchel's post-match comments about referee Anthony Taylor following Chelsea's 2-2 draw with Tottenham are under investigation by the Football Association (FA).

    Tuchel was furious at some of the decisions made by Taylor during the feisty stalemate at Stamford Bridge, a game that saw tensions boil over.

    The German suggested Spurs' first goal should have been disallowed due to the offside Richarlison standing in Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy's line of sight, and then he felt aggrieved over the visitors' second equaliser due to two incidents.

    Firstly, he felt Kai Havertz was fouled by Rodrigo Bentancur in the build-up to the corner that Harry Kane ultimately headed home from, and at the same set-piece Cristian Romero avoided being penalised for pulling Marc Cucurella to the ground by his hair.

    Tuchel and Spurs coach Antonio Conte clashed during and after the game, with their second confrontation resulting in both bosses being shown red cards.

    This was a particular bone of contention for Tuchel, who sarcastically said: "I cannot coach but the referee can whistle the next game? Good."

    Chelsea fans have voiced their displeasure with Taylor before, but Tuchel went even further when asked about the supporters' concerns, as he suggested "the whole dressing room of us, every person thinks that."

    He was then pushed on whether the players are worried when Taylor is the official in charge, and he added: "Yeah, of course."

    Stats Perform understands the FA is already looking into Tuchel's comments, meaning disciplinary action could be forthcoming.

    The FA's investigation will focus on whether Tuchel has brought the game into "disrepute" by implying bias or attacking the integrity of a referee.

     

  • Klopp mocks early critics of Nunez and Haaland Klopp mocks early critics of Nunez and Haaland

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp thinks it is "crazy" how quickly critics were on the backs of Darwin Nunez and Erling Haaland in pre-season.

    Uruguay striker Nunez joined the Reds from Benfica in a transfer potentially worth £85million (€100m) in June, while Manchester City sealed a reported £51m (€60m) deal with Borussia Dortmund for Haaland a month earlier.

    Both major investments were seen as deals that could widen the gap between them and the rest of the Premier League, though each player has courted criticism.

    For Nunez, the flak arrived as early as his first pre-season game after missing a big chance in a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United.

    Haaland was then ridiculed for a difficult day against the Reds as Klopp's side won the Community Shield at the end of July.

    Nunez scored in that win over City before coming off the bench to find the back the net and provide an assist for Mohamed Salah in a 2-2 draw at Fulham, while Haaland marked his Premier League debut with a double in a win at West Ham.

    For Klopp, the desperation tp write players off is unhelpful and unfair.

    Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of Monday's clash with Crystal Palace, Klopp said: "Five weeks ago, when we started pre-season and [Nunez] had his first game and it didn't look great from the outside world.

    "Not for us, but it's crazy how quick we judge people… wow!

    "Imagine if somebody did that to us and said, 'First day of work, it didn't work out. Go home, we never want to see you again! And you don't get a second chance by the way' – we would have all been long gone! No chance.

    "Everybody can now see, 'Ah he's a proper striker' – so good for us and good for him.

    "He's a handful and is a different type to what we had. He's very lively and very energetic. Physically he's really strong and technically he's really good, that obviously goes together with being more settled and confident and more secure in yourself in a new environment.

    "You can't say, 'Come on, you have to give me 100 per cent immediately' – you have to develop it and that's what we're doing at the moment and in a good way.

    "It's funny as well, we won against Manchester City the week before the season and everybody was asking, 'Will Haaland score this and that?'

    "A week is like 10 years in football!"

    Klopp has had to contend with the disruption of several injuries already, but he reiterated the Reds are not planning to go into the transfer market.

    "If there was the right player and an opportunity, we would have done it, we would do it, but I don't see it because we had a lot of conversations already and it doesn't look like something will happen," he added.

    "I'm happy with the strength, size and quality of my squad but we have injuries. There are plenty of solutions for it. One of them is the transfer market, but that only makes sense if you can bring in the right player.

    "All the other solutions are inside the squad. We have too many injuries, that's clear. Naby [Keita] will be back for Monday and Kostas [Tsimikas] will train for the first time, so he might be back as well."

  • Klopp confident the goals will come for Reds winger Diaz Klopp confident the goals will come for Reds winger Diaz

    Jurgen Klopp is confident the goals will come for Luis Diaz after the winger was wasteful in the 2-2 draw at Fulham last weekend.

    Diaz missed two Opta-defined 'big chances' in the Reds' opening match of the Premier League season at Craven Cottage, rattling the post in the first half.

    The Colombia international took no time to settle at Anfield following his big-money move from Porto in January, scoring six goals and providing five assists in 26 appearances last season.

    Liverpool lost Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich in June, but Klopp is backing Diaz to help fill the void left by the Senegal forward.

    Asked if Diaz can score 10-15 goals this season, the Reds manager said: "Oh definitely, that is his quality. We need to see but of course that is his potential.

    "We work on it but not with Luis specifically. We don't take him out because the other two scored and he didn't, so we show him how. That's not necessary. It's not a problem. You can't force it

    "Last week people were asking ‘How can you play without Sadio?' but in November/December everybody was thinking about when he would score the next goal, and Mo [Salah] was on fire. You just let it go.

    "You see the situations Luis had, big chances, and he was just unlucky. He started on the first day with us and took part in all the sessions and that is the most important thing.

    "All the rest will come. In the long term it is of course not a problem. It is about being prepared and fighting through moments like this."

    Klopp called for patience with Diaz ahead of Liverpool's first home game of the season against Crystal Palace on Monday.

    He added: "When Sadio played against us, he scored three times for Southampton but it was not that he scored every week. He didn't even start the game when he played against us.

    "So the consistency came with the confidence and with the team-mates, the structure of our game. So that is what we're working on that doesn't change. The way we play should help strikers. It is the way we play. It's the way we bring the boys in the situation.

    "Of course it is about whether it is in you or not, but it's the way we play, how we position the players, how we protect the players, where we win the balls back.

    "And it is how the boys can use their speed in these moments. They will be in a lot of goalscoring situations and that then makes you the player we remember."

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