The Return of the King – Steven Gerrard

Posted: January 7, 2013 in Game Strategy

With the number of generic wildcard teams surfacing over the past number of weeks, it’s time to take a look at an old regular of Fantasy Premier League to see if he has what it takes to bring success to your FPL team…a man that has done it all and has the potential to change the course of your FPL season! Step up, Steven Gerrard.

A few years ago, there was a tried and tested method that ensured dominance over all your puny rivals. Had I started this blog back in 2008, I would have had an easier time. I could just write a simple guide and watch as everyone won their leagues.

Step 1: Buy 5 solid defenders. All the top defences never concede!
Step 2: Buy at least three of the following – Ronaldo, Gerrard, Lampard and Fabregas.
Step 3: Fill out the rest of your team as best you can.
Step 4: Collect Fantasy Football Prize Money
Step 5: Buy cars, horses and outdoor swimming pools

We live in different times now. These old Kings of Fantasy Premier League have been usurped. The courts of Chelsea are now being wooed on a regular by the flamboyance offered by the likes of Mata, Oscar and Hazard (or at least as regular as a certain Mr. Benitez will allow) and it seems that the club has little time for old King Lampard. Over on Merseyside, Luiz Suarez is successfully putting aside a difficult year by positively contributing to almost everything good that Liverpool are currently doing, and putting every other player at the club in the shade including a former member of FPL royalty. Meanwhile, Ronaldo and Fabregas have decided to leave Britain in favour of conquering foreign lands and are unlikely to return.

It seems that they are no longer missed. Apparently, they are relics of a different era. Newer, hungrier warriors have successfully vied for your attention after winning great battles over the last number of months. Michu, Mata, Bale, Walcott, Cazorla, Felliani, Puncheon, Silva, Van Persie, Suarez, Aguero, Berbatov and Ba are becoming the staples of so many teams, and with the Winter Wildcard giving managers the opportunity to completely change every player in their squad, it is inevitable that we are beginning to see some incredibly generic teams appear on forums across the web.

If you are way ahead of your rivals in your mini-leagues, this is great news – after all, how can people catch you when you share the same players? But perhaps you want to bring in a player who could potentially propel you above all these generic teams? Likewise, for those managers who have some work to do to win their leagues, different players are required to break away from the “copy and paste” teams. Perhaps the best idea is not to look to the future to see which upcoming stars could rival the Michu’s of this season, but to look to the past and see which grizzled veterans are still capable of giving us the edge. It seems that once such man fits the bill. The Red King of Merseyside. A man who has taken the heads of his midfield rivals for so long, but has faltered in the battles of recent fantasy seasons. From beneath the shadow of Suarez, he returns…

It’s amazing that, despite being owned by only 5.7% of managers, Steven Gerrard is sitting third in the list of top scoring midfielders, and only 1 point behind Santi Cazorla who has 20.2% ownership. He has returned a monstrous score of 50 points in his last 5 games, including a 17 point haul against a hapless Fulham side at Anfield. To break this haul down further, it includes 3 goals, 5 assists and 7 bonus points. Up until the end of November, it is fair to say that Gerrard was having a good, if not stellar, fantasy football season. He was chipping in with a decent share of points, but was being completely eclipsed by the likes of Mata, Michu and Felliani.

Since then, however, it is clear that something has changed at Liverpool, a change that has allowed Gerrard to return to the old days where he was a point-scoring behemoth. I could bore you with a myriad of different theories, but the reason for this is quite clear.

On December 1st, Lucas Leiva returned to the heart of the Liverpool midfield and this has had a direct effect on the output of Gerrard. Leiva is one of the most incorrectly maligned players in the Premier League. He provides a much-needed balance at the heart of the Liverpool team and allows Liverpool’s other midfielders to focus on attacking more, and Gerrard has been the greatest benefactor of his return. Without Lucas, Brendan Rogers has had to invert his favoured midfield shape and play with 2 defensive minded midfielders and 1 attack minded midfielder (such as Shelvey). Invariably, Gerrard was restricted to a more defensive role, which stifled his ability to get into those threatening positions that have defined him as a player for so many seasons. Now that Lucas has returned, it is clear that Rogers can play Gerrard in positions that have a more attacking contribution on their side.

However, as much as Gerrard’s recent form clearly warrants the attention of FPL managers, the question has to be asked…despite all this, should Gerrard be brought into your fantasy team? Firstly, Gerrard is in the same price bracket as a number of other incredible fantasy prospects, namely Juan Mata (112 points, 23% ownership), Gareth Bale (110 points, 17% ownership) and Santi Cazorla (115 points, 20.2% ownership), and it is likely that you can only afford a maximum of 2 of these players in your team. We need to compare our King to his peers…

There is absolutely no denying that Juan Mata is an incredible fantasy football player. He is a consistent points scorer and is involved in many of Chelsea’s goals. The main problem with Mata is the fact he is being played by a manager that is a subscriber to the theory that rest and rotation is the key to winning trophies. You simply cannot predict when Mata (or indeed any of the Chelsea midfield) will start a game. Now there is no question that Mata will start every major game for Chelsea in the league. However, when it comes to team selection for the easier home games (the exact games you hope Mata will return a massive score), there will always be a doubt as to whether Benitez will rotate or not. This is not the case with Gerrard. Barring injury, he will play every league game for Liverpool. With Gerrard, you have a player who you can put in your starting team every week and forget about him.

Turning our attention to Gareth Bale, here we have a player that is far less likely to be rotated when compared with many other midfield options. However, while Bale and Gerrard have similar scores, Bale is far more explosive when it comes to his returns. He could easily score 2-3 points for a month before delivering a devastating hattrick away from home, and he could easily score 2 points at home to a team where Spurs are expected to score five goals. Therefore he is rarely a reliable captain choice. In contrast to this, Gerrard scores steadily and is always a very solid captains choice when Liverpool are at home against weaker opposition.

Finally, Santi Cazorla has excelled in his first year on the Premier League. He has been steadily racking up a total of 7 goals and 7 assists over the last 21 game weeks. In terms of scoring, he is quite unpredictable, and seems to enjoy the extra space afforded to him when Arsenal are away from home.

It would take a brave man to replace any of these players with Gerrard, but he is an excellent choice for those managers who are looking to change things up from the generic teams we are beginning to see. Many managers have Mata and Suarez as lynchpin players in their team, but a superb differential would be to plump for Gerrard and Ba to cover Liverpool and Chelsea, respectively, instead of Mata and Suarez. Chelsea have only two senior strikers, and pundits are heavily backing Demba Ba to take the main strikers role from Torres. At the very least, he will play alongside him. This means that Ba might be less of a rotation threat than Mata. Also, the combination of Ba and Gerrard is over 2.0 million cheaper than Suarez and Mata, and this money could easily upgrade other areas of your team. It is hard to disagree that Chelsea and Liverpool are the two teams who seems to be able to put teams to the sword recently, definitely more so than Manchester City and Arsenal. It is important that both are covered in your teams attacking options.

If your team is set out to have just one expensive midfielder, then I think there are better options than Gerrard. However, I do feel he has a place in teams that have more money to plough into its midfield and are looking for something a little different from all those generic teams we have mentioned.

Going back to Lucas for the moment, if he can stay fit he will have an important role this season – that of Kingmaker. He has the power to return Steven Gerrard to the very top of the FPL charts. Are we seeing the return of the King? Only time will tell if Gerrard can recapture the throne of top FPL midfielder, but I get the feeling that he will spend his last breath to do so…

“Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Merseyside, of Anfield, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of Rogers comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you *stand, Men of Anfield – Steven Gerrard, just before Fulham game at Anfield, 2012

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Comments
  1. […] Gerrard was recently highlighted as a superb differential in a recent article here on strategist (https://fplstrategist.com/2013/01/07/the-return-of-the-king-steven-gerrard/) which highlighted his incredible return as a bona-fide fantasy prospect over the course of this […]

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