Cesc Fabregas and Graziano Pelle back on form as Harry Kane stars again
This season's ESPN FC Premier Fantasy game continues to bring twists and turns aplenty, with all the key issues -- winners, Champions League qualifiers and relegation -- still wide open. And the events of Gameweek 31 left us none the wiser but better informed.
At least we can use the international break to draw a breath or two.
The Swansea defence is not the obvious place to find a Gameweek's top scorer, but Federico Fernandez (£5.6m) was the man this weekend. He scored his first goal of the season and recorded a second clean sheet in three matches for 15 points -- that's a real differential performance for a player owned by a mere 0.6 percent.
Cesc Fabregas (£7.4m) ran him close, scoring both Chelsea's goals for a 14-point haul that moved him into the top 25 midfielders.
Southampton's Graziano Pelle (£6.5m) continued his renaissance with a pair of assists and his third goal in two gameweeks for 13 points. The Italian is now a top 10 striker despite only having 20 starts this season.
Harry Kane (£9.4m) continued his blistering form with a brace for Spurs against Bournemouth -- that's five in three matches now -- for 11 points as he continues to hunt down Jamie Vardy (£9.9m) at the top of the strikers' table.
And another great differential candidate, Stoke midfielder Jonathan Walters (£6.0m) -- who is owned by only 0.3 percent of managers -- hit a goal and an assist against Watford to take him to 100 points for the season.
Southampton's comeback win over Liverpool caught the eye, but it was a tough match for many ESPN FC Premier Fantasy managers.
The Saints shuffled their defensive pack again, with Matt Targett (£5.8m) replaced by Jose Fonte (£6.7m) -- a situation that doesn't bode well for the former's involvement over the rest of the campaign.
The major impact made by subs Victor Wanyama (£5.8m) and two-goal Sadio Mane (£5.9m) will only cloud the midfield issues at St Mary's.
Jurgen Klopp also rang the changes, with Roberto Firmino (£8.0m) injured, James Milner (£7.0m) suspended and Jordan Henderson (£7.2m) benched. In came Divock Origi (£6.5m), Joe Allen (£4.9m) and John Flanagan (£5.6m) as Liverpool's starting XI continues to be a work in progress.
Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink threw in a couple of curve balls too. Loic Remy (£5.6m) made only his second start of the season up front, while midfielder Nemanja Matic (£5.7m) was dropped despite recording his first assist of the campaign in the Blues' previous match. John Terry (£6.8m) made his first start in four matches and Kenedy (£5.5m), so often used as a left-back, put in a shift on the wing.
THE NUMBERS GAME
Two major players from last season have endured tougher times this campaign, but their stock is on the rise again, making them attractive assets due to low ownership figures and competitive values.
Fabregas managed 19 assists and three goals in Chelsea's championship-winning team last year, but a loss of form amid the turmoil of Jose Mourinho's decline means he's now owned by just 3.1 percent of managers.
His match-saving performance against West Ham was an impressive one -- two goals from five attempts, four chances created and four shots in the box -- which points to a player being used as the fulcrum of Chelsea's attacking threat from midfield.
The Spaniard has three goals from his last four starts, and his stats over that timeframe are way beyond those for the season as whole: an average of 4.5 penalty area touches compared to 2.7; 37.9 minutes per attempt as opposed to 69.7; minutes per chance created has gone from 48.9 to 37.9 and he is averaging nearly twice the goal attempts.
With Aston Villa and Swansea next up, and double fixtures against Sunderland and Liverpool in Gameweek 37, Fabregas looks great value at £7.4m.
Pelle has just the seven matches left this season, and no double Gameweek to further his cause, but his 3.4 percent ownership figure is very low for a man back to his goalscoring best.
Three strikes in two matches is reminiscent of his fantastic form of last season, when he hit 12 and managed seven assists as well. He's now scored nine, with seven assists, in the current campaign and his latest revival suggests a man who's going to finish the season with a bang.
Over the last two matches, Pelle is averaging way more touches overall and, crucially, in the final third when compared to the season as a whole. And other key stats are well up too, including goal attempts (4.5 vs. 2.8), minutes per attempt (21.3 vs. 27.9), shot accuracy (55.6 percent vs. 29.6) and goal conversion rate (33.3 percent vs. 12.7).
Valued at just £6.5m, Pelle offers great value for a proven goal scorer in the richest of form.