Every week here on Fanfeud, we will look at some of the players who featured among the best performers on Fanfeud.co.uk cash games over the past few weeks but may have been overlooked by the majority of managers on Fanfeud or season-long FPL. Is he a player who you should rely on in future to win the cash? Or if you do, would you be better throwing your £3 stake in the trash?
Is he cash or is he trash? This week Brian Carty looks at WBA defender, Gareth McAuley.
Gareth McAuley became the oldest goal-scorer of the season so far when netting for West Brom at home to Everton on Saturday. And though that goal wasn’t enough for the Baggies to achieve victory, it nonetheless contributed in the central defender picking up 7 FPL points. In fact, that has been his average return in the first two games of the season thus far, but with a take-up rate at a rather substantial 14.5%, is the Northern Ireland international worth investing in in the long-term, particular as a means to incorporate some of the bigger names into your side?
The 36-year old has been something of a late bloomer in terms of his Premier League career, only making a move to the top flight five years ago after spending five seasons in the Championship between Ipswich Town and Leicester City, and two campaigns with League Two Lincoln City. The county Antrim native has been a virtual ever-present since arriving at the Hawthorns, playing at least 32 games in each of the last four seasons. He has also provided somewhat of an attacking threat from set-pieces too, with Saturday’s goal his 9th in the Premier League.
His vintage stock has also translated onto the International stage, becoming the 2nd oldest player to score at the European Championship when scoring the winner against Ukraine in the North’s first ever win in the tournament, although he also suffered the misfortune of scoring an own goal in Wales’ round of sixteen triumph.
One of the worst-kept secrets in English football is Tony Pulis’ obsession with keeping clean-sheets, and though his pragmatic approach has brought on inspired more yawns than wonder in spectators, it also makes defenders under his tutelage a valuable commodity in fantasy football circles. In fact, West Brom only conceded 48 goals last season, making them the seventh best defence in the league- not bad for a time that finished in 14th position (only the teams who finished in the eventual top six positions conceded less).
However, in contrast, only the demoralised Aston Villa scored less than West Brom, with their “goals for” tally a completely under-whelming 34, with Solomán Rondon their top scorer with nine goals. Unsurprisingly, it’s the players with the sole responsibility of shutting out the opposition that maximise their talents under the baseball-capped Pulis.
And McAuley is already excelling in the bread and butter aspects of the game- averaging 6.5 clearances, two tackles and 1.5 interceptions from the opening two gameweeks. A clean-sheet on the opening day of the season against Crystal Palace, combined with that goal against Everton, means that his fourteen point tally is the joint-highest accrued by any defender to date, with West Ham’s James Collins the only other player to reach that threshold. Interestingly, the Hammer has been chosen by half the number of lineups (6.9%) as McAuley.
In fact, of every defender valued at £5.0 million or less, McAuley is the fourth most popular option, with Man City’s big money signing John Stones (35.4%), captain of reigning champions Wes Morgan (23.7%) and Watford’s bargain-basement Juan Carlos Paredes (15.6%) the only defenders in that bracket that have been selected in more teams. McAuley works out as the most popular Baggie in the game, with team-mate Darren Fletcher and Ben Foster the only other players to boast an ownership rate higher than 10%.
West Brom welcome strong-starting new boys Middlesbrough to the Hawthorns in this coming Sunday’s early kick-off, before kicking off the September schedule with a trip to the south coast to take on Bournemouth. West Ham (H), Stoke City (A) and Sunderland (A) all lie in wait in the following three fixtures leading up to October. Although it is still early days, and it’s foolhardy to make assumptions after only two games of the season, but it’s arguable that trip to West Ham is the only fixture in that sequence that will pose difficulty to West Brom.
In fact, Bournemouth, Stoke City and Sunderland have only managed one point between them across the two weekends, although to be fair the former had to play a rejuvenated Manchester United, while the other two suffered defeat to Pep’s City. If anything, they will all target West Brom as a genuine chance of registering their maiden win of the campaign.
Tony Pulis is not one from deviating away from his tried and tested formula. They will remain hard to break-down, and even harder to bully. Don’t expect much fireworks or free-flowing football. However, that resilience he has bred into the squad makes including a West Brom defender in your FPL side a logical choice. Therefore, Gareth McAuley should be regarded as CASH. Accommodate him into your team as one of your mid-priced defenders now before he has further price-rises.
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