Some players tantalize with visions of dancing sugar plums and prancing points hauls, but beware–it may be trap. Based on one or two eye-popping results, you come nosing around. They sucker you in: they’re available and they just pulled in a major points haul. How can they not continue in this rich vein of form, as evidenced by this rich vein of form. (It’s the circular reasoning that really gets you.) And then suddenly they’re taking up space in your team, not scoring for your team, from now til infinity and you curse the day you voluntarily stepped right into the trap.
For one reason or another they just don’t work out. Actually, it’s really simple why they don’t. They don’t play. Or they only sort of play. Because when they play, they’re great. But they since they don’t play reliably they are reliably not great for the fantasy game. The odd benching, who cares. But the 5-minute runout at the end of the match as the third substitution, when there’s no time for anything but a 1-point appearance point and you probably have better points on the bench, it just kills it. That’s when it becomes toxic to the winning ways of your team. Cameo artists will not help your peace of mind, but they can offer huge highs alongside the lows. It won’t make up for it necessarily, or not definitely, but then that’s why they’re gambles.
Divock Origi essentially defines the role of “major rotation risk but when he plays he scores.” He will score. But will he play? Don’t know, but if he plays he scores. Will there be a ten-game gap or so between appearances? Very possibly. Probably. There are zero assurances other than the fact he has demonstrated a constant, freakish ability to score in clutch situations. Pinning down the time and location of these fleeting masterclasses, however, may be harder than nailing down the GPS coordinates to the ends of a rainbow, but that’s how it is.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has scored three and assisted one in his last two appearances, but these have not come in the Premier League, so what use is that for anyone in a draft Premier League game? It’s a tease, is what it is. He’s scoring braces in the Champions League (?!), as well as scoring and forcing own goals in the Carabao Cup, but anyone who has him in the league has been seeing a whole lotta nothin’. He could be one for the immediate future, though. Like Origi, he is just one step removed from the starting role that would make him something closer to a must-own. Coming into the festive fixtures, rotated players across the top clubs will get more opportunity through more games, and may get their chances (not wishing injury on anyone, its just they happen when games come fast and quick). If it becomes apparent before waivers that a star striker at one of the top clubs will be out for a while (and the go-to awaits in the available player pool), they are the players you’d snap up upon confirmation the starter is out. But if you’re in a league position where there’s no chance of getting one of the first waiver picks and managers are active in choosing off the waiver wire, sometimes you have to take a preemptive strike and pick them up before there are any guarantees.
Wilfried Zaha earned another penalty last week, but RFF owners saw nary an assist or attacking point, because he ain’t scoring goals and Real Fantasy Football doles out points only for scoring penalties, not getting fouled. Also classified as a forward, he features none of the perks of midfielder scoring, so a point fewer for every goal and a point fewer for every clean sheet. Unless he goes on a tear, which he hasn’t been, he may not be the fantasy dynamo many have been led to believe. He may always move to another club come January, though, so he remains a wild card. Zaha is more of a no-show than a cameo. Ironically, he’s playing all the matches. It’s more that he’s just been checked out. If he looks like he’s checking back in, go for him. Crystal Palace are 6th in the table and he is their best player. He just hasn’t been anything like it of late.
Phil Foden got a rare runout in the Champions League, then got two yellows/red-carded in the Champions League, but did that grease the track towards first team football? Not in the Premier Leage. Or not quite yet, but one would have thought this was the ideal opportunity. Anyway, a starting position under Pep is a relative term regardless, with an everlasting game of musical chairs in midfield. At least he’s not risking burnout at an early age. If you have Foden, will you be starting him, assuming no harm if he doesn’t play because players on the bench will be happy to step in for you? Maybe not so fast. That’s why the 1-point cameo is so evil. Often it’s blocking the way for someone who legitimately put in a shift to come off the bench. You stare at the benched number and remember why some free agents are so free and available in the discard bin.
David Silva was supposed to be much riskier this season than any other, a tag he has defied this season, though it’s far from over. What about Riyad Mahrez or Ilkay Gundogan? Either one or Foden will mostly deliver only from the bench because no manager can predict when they’ll perform. Do you start them if it’s as likely they’ll get a 5-minute cameo as a no-show or the elusive starting spot? The week after a double-digit week for a free agent player at an excellent club will always be tempting. You go nosing around, you get suckered in all over again and only remember the error of these ways after an interminable stretch of 1-point cameos and no-shows. Pep Guardiola’s rotation formation is a vortex where players refuse reliability at every turn. Getting on the pitch reliably doesn’t seem that tall a task until you realize that at City, it is.
Kieran Tierney has been lauded as one of the best left backs around, a rival to Andrew Robertson both in the Scotland setup and beyond. So far in the league, though, it has only just started and there haven’t yet been hat tricks of assists. In Arsenal’s Thurs/Mon schedule Tierney had been locked into the midweek cup schedule, excelling in the Europa League and Carabao Cup, but blocked out of Premier League output. Now he seems timed in phase with the Premier League schedule. Will our gobs be smacked?
Gabriel Martinelli is another new Arsenal player who used the Carabao Cup to maximum benefit. After his side bowed out to Liverpool in the epic 5-5 (5-4 pens) clash, will Martinelli and other young Gunners get a chance in the main event between the cups? Although the youth players and new recruits won’t get that crucial blooding/runout anymore, it may have lasted juuussst long enough to bring most of the peripheral players into the fray. Perhaps it would have been productive to progress, possibly even win the Cup, but we are fantasy Premier League managers, not Kroenke Enterprises.
Brighton under Graham Potter appear to be poised for good things, and by extension does that mean Leandro Trossard will cut the mustard if called upon? Or Aaron Connolly? Without finding out from Marcelo Bielsa the most effective to spy at a club’s training ground, what to do? Suffice it to say the Wormburner doesn’t know but is very interested. Both prospects look promising. Just don’t pin every hope you’ve ever had on the gamble paying off.
In the enduring enigma/saga of a Chelsea-managed Christian Pulisic, the 21-year-old’s days on the sidelines may be over after scoring the hat trick against Burnley, but he leveraged the possible momentum recent substitute appearances, culminating in an assist in the match before Burnley that earned himself the platform to deliver a hat trick. That said, he has still only started 4 league matches and has a whole slew of Lampard youth favorites to stay ahead of to stay on the pitch. But he made the statement he needed to make with the time allotted. Pulisic is basically a former no-show turned cameo who may have played himself into first-teamo. A success story! Unless it’s still a trap… Callum Hudson-Odoi and others won’t necessarily be cast aside so easily.
Stay tuned, fantasy sports fans.
The Wormburner is a column that plays the draft format on Real Fantasy Football (realff.co.uk). It did not get its annual copy of the Premier League script. Please give a shout to @The_Wormburner at your earliest Twitter convenience if you manage to track one down.