Every Friday this season I will be offering my humble opinion – although, I should add that I top the Football Whispers Fantasy Football table at the time of writing – on the players you need to draft into your starting XI for the weekend’s fixtures.
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Game Week 5
Last week was a story of bad luck. Firstly Shane Long didn't even start for Southampton against Arsenal and when he did, he proceeded to miss a series of golden chances (including an open goal!). Talk about luck of the Irish.
Then Stephen Ward and Burnley managed to throw away a one-goal lead in the 95th minute against Hull City, costing valuable clean sheet points.
And finally Ross Barkley was subbed at half time in Everton's 3-0 stroll against Sunderland in the Monday Night Football. There really isn't an explanation there, so I apologise for that! I do, however, believe that the young Evertonian has some favourable game weeks coming up, and is well worth persevering with.
On to this week's must haves…
Defender Of The Week: Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Next fixture: Tottenham vs Sunderland – 18/9/2016 (4.30pm)
Beginning with a highly impressive 4-0 away win over Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium and ending with a surprising 2-1 home Champions League defeat to AS Monaco – at their newly adopted Wembley home – it's been a funny old week for the White half of North London. This weekend sees the Lilywhites return to their more familiar surroundings of White Hart Lane against David Moyes’ struggling Sunderland. With the Black Cats sitting joint bottom of the table and yet to keep a clean sheet, this looks like the perfect opportunity for Spurs to end the week on a high.
This week I expect a big week from Tottenham's right back. Walker has already amassed two assists in Spurs' first four games, and with Sunderland struggling so desperately for attacking creativity, the attacking full-back should have ample time and space to surge forward. Having Walker provide width further up the pitch will allow the likes of Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min and Erik Lamela to drift into their move favoured central roles. With Spurs scoring in every game so far this season, I expect attacking opportunities aplenty at White Hart Lane, with Walker to play a big part in a lot of them.
Midfielder of the week – Dušan Tadić (Southampton)
Next fixture: Leicester City vs Burnley – 17/9/2016 (3pm)
With early season away days at the Emirates and Old Trafford largely responsible for Southampton currently sitting in the relegation zone, this weekend's clash against Hull City will undoubtedly be seen as a fixture to kick-start their season. Week by week, new boss Claude Puel is slowly moulding the Saints into his own team away from the one he inherited. Having said goodbye to Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle over the summer, Puel has turned to an attacking trio of Dušan Tadić, Nathan Redmond and Jay Rodriguez. With all three unable to occupy a classic centre forward role, Southampton had a decent level of success at the Emirates by allowing the three to roam between both touchlines in very much a free role.
With another week of further preparation and cohesion under Mike Phelan’s recently assembled squad's belt, I fully expect Hull to remain tight at the back and be hard to break down. As a result of the Tigers' main attacking threat coming by absorbing pressure and hitting teams on the break (the Leicester City game on the opening weekend being a prime example) will allow Southampton to dominate possession and play the passing football they are so typically good at. Players like Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu will undoubtedly have large amounts of time on the ball and consequently plenty of opportunities to feed the attacking trio.
Striker of the week – Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace)
Next fixture: Crystal Palace vs Stoke City – 18/9/2016 (2.15pm)
Entering the 2016/17 season, if a team could be deemed a ‘dark horse’ it probably would have been deemed Stoke City's young, talented squad sprinkled with World class talent (Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay) and topped off with the further addition of players with an international track record (Joe Allen, Wilfried Bony, Bruno Martins Indi). Four games in and sitting bottom of the table, it would be safe to say that the Potters' season hasn't exactly begun as they would have wished. With Mark Hughes’ job coming under understandable scrutiny, and laying claim to the worst defence in the league (10 goals conceded), a tough trip to Selhurst Park is the last thing Stoke need this weekend.
The Eagles come into Saturday's fixture flying high on the back of a hugely impressive away win at newly-promoted Middlesbrough. Andros Townsend seems to be quickly becoming a focal point in Palace’s attacking creativity operating on the left side of Alan Pardew’s regularly adopted attacking quarter.
Both Townsend and Wilfried Zaha have made positive starts to the season following the addition of Christian Benteke from Liverpool. Both wingers now have a big, strong aerial presence to aim for, something which will no doubt be put to good use this Saturday. Having conceded 10 goals in four matches this season, Stoke’s defence is already being brought into question which bodes well for Benteke. The Belgian is prolific in the air and will look to capitalise on Stoke’s misfortunes against defending crosses – they currently lead the league in goals conceded from headers.