FPL is getting serious! Here’s some tips to see you through December
It is time for the November Premier League team of the month. As the final weekend of the month crossed into December, some sides had four matches and some had just three. Once again I have picked who I believe have been the most influential performers for their side. This month, we will be going with a 3-4-3 formation, in an attack minded side, where a few players were unlucky not to make the final cut.
Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester)
Three games, and three clean sheets for Schmeichel in November, as Leicester continued their superb start to the season. The Foxes were indeed the only side not to concede a goal in November, as they still boast the best defensive record in the league, having only conceded eight goals when the month ended. Schmeichel, did not have the busiest month in between the sticks, as the most saves he had to make were the three he made in the away win at Crystal Palace to start the month. The statistics speak for themselves however, and his solid start to the season deserves recognition. Brendan Rodgers seems to have learnt from Swansea, Liverpool and his last job at Celtic, that he needed to make his sides better drilled from back to front. Schmeichel is a grateful recipient of this and the Dane’s six clean sheets are the most of any keeper this season.
James Tarkowski (Burnley)
Burnley had a mixed November, as they won twice and lost twice. In the games that they won however, Tarkowski was pivotal. After being beaten by Sheffield United, Burnley made amends as they won 3-0 at home to West Ham, and Tarkowski assisted the opening goal for Ashley Barnes. The Clarets then went to Vicarage Road and after some early scares went on to another 3-0 win at the expense of Watford. Tarkowski atoned for an early error here that almost led to Sean Dyche’s men going behind, by winning the header from a corner that ended with the opening goal in the second half by Chris Wood. Tarkowski, then got on the scoresheet himself, as he snapped up the third goal after Ben Foster saved his initial effort. Overall, anyone that plays fantasy football had a great month if they owned him.
Ciaran Clark (Newcastle)
Newcastle have struggled for goals this season, new big money signing Joelinton only has one goal, and so Steve Bruce was praying others would step up to the plate. And a man who did just that was Ciaran Clark. The Irish international was not in Steve Bruce’s plans to start the season, but now he is in the side, he does not look like relinquishing his place anytime soon. He scored the opener as Newcastle started the month with a 3-2 win away at West Ham. Clark, then followed that up in the next game with the winner as the Magpies defeated Bournemouth 2-1 at St James’ Park. Newcastle also ended the month with a huge draw at home against the champions Manchester City. Now that Fabian Schar has returned after injury, it is more likely Federico Fernandez may exit the starting xi rather than Clark. Clark’s two goals have him as Newcastle’s joint second top scorer, embodying their struggles in goal.
Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
This could have easily been Robertson’s teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold, as their contributions have been similar, but Scotland’s captain gets the nod as he has been playing through the pain barrier. Liverpool’s November began with a late win at Aston Villa, where Robertson scored a rare headed goal for the massive 87th minute equaliser, when it looked like being one of those days for the Reds. Liverpool, then won their huge crunch match with title rivals Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield, where Robertson picked up an ankle issue. Before the knock he produced sublime ball to Mo Salah to head Liverpool 2-0 in front. In Liverpool’s next victory away at Crystal Palace, Robertson also assisted Sadio Mane’s opening goal. Robertson now is joint with Alexander-Arnold with 5 assists and that ranks them third in the league.
John Lundstram (Sheffield United)
Lundstram, barely started in the Championship last season for the Blades as they gained promotion, but this season he has been ever present in their central midfield. Lundstram’s industry and the fact he is comfortable with both feet, has meant he has been a problem all season. His timed runs into the box have brought so much space for his teammates, and has meant he is now one of Chris Wilder’s most important men. He grabbed a brace at home to Burnley, and should have had a hat trick, but he fired wide late on. He then almost scored twice in a 1-1 draw at Tottenham. The Blades drew 3-3 at home to Manchester United to end the month, and Lundstram had a good effort saved by David De Gea. Later on Lundstram was again was denied by De Gea but the rebound hit John Fleck to give them the lead.
Joao Moutinho (Wolverhampton)
Veteran Moutinho is currently outperforming his compatriot Ruben Neves in central midfield, despite Nuno’s men having a packed schedule, with their Europa League exploits. Wolves played three times in the league in November, picking up seven points and the Portuguese had a goal contribution in each game. He crossed the ball for Raul Jimenez’ leveller away at Arsenal in their first match. He was assisting again, as a square pass to Neves helped seal a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at Moulineux. They concluded the month with a 2-1 triumph away at Bournemouth. Moutinho opened the scoring here with a delicious free kick when the angle was against him. The 33-year-old is showing no signs of his age, as he is currently fourth in the Premier League in tackles with 47. His contributions to Wolves’ unbeaten month means he edges out Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse from this xi.
Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
Tottenham’s players have not been themselves this season, and had to let go of Mauricio Pochettino, and have brought in Jose Mourinho at the helm. Son has been plugging away however, and he edged out Dele Alli from being Spurs’ main man in November. This also meant he just squeezed him out from making this team of the month. Son is criticised for regularly holding onto the ball for too long, but this season he is releasing the ball a lot more, and his teammates are reaping the benefits. Son assisted Alli in Spurs’ 1-1 draw at Everton to start November. Son then scored the opener as Spurs drew at home with Sheffield United. He opened the scoring again as Spurs beat West Ham 3-2 at the London Stadium, before setting up Lucas Moura for the second goal. He then grabbed two assists as Spurs beat Bournemouth 3-2 at home. Son’s six assists in the league this season now mean that only Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne (9) has more than him.
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Such is Mane’s form, that some believe he is more essential to Liverpool than Mo Salah. As Salah is clearly feeling the effect of a nagging ankle problem, Mane has stepped up, just like he did when Salah went quiet last season. November began with Mane assisting Andy Robertson’s header to level things up against Aston Villa, before scoring a header himself to bring a 2-1 win at Villa Park. The Senegalese was netting with his head again, as he bagged the third goal in the 3-1 home win over Manchester City. Mane opened the scoring with a fortuitous volley in the 2-1 success at Crystal Palace, in Liverpool’s third match of November. Mane now has 8 Premier League goals, which leaves him in fifth place among scorers. His importance to Liverpool goes without saying.
Danny Ings (Southampton)
Southampton tied up Ings permanently in the summer, after having him on loan from Liverpool last season, and he has now clearly become their talisman. Che Adams seemed to be ahead of him earlier in the campaign, but now Ralph Hussenhutl is starting him every game, he cannot stop scoring. Ings is a willing runner much like his teammate Shane Long, the difference..is Ings actually puts the ball in the net. The Saints played four times in the month, and Ings scored in the last three of those games. Ings scored in the home defeat against Everton, before he benefitted from a quickly taken free kick and finished well in off the post to give Southampton the lead in their 2-2 draw at Arsenal. Southampton ended the month with a 2-1 win over Watford as they came from behind, and Ings was the man to get them level. His industrious nature always makes him a threat, and he has scored 7 of the Saints’ 15 goals this season, (47%). That percentage of his teams goals is joint with Teemu Pukki, and is only second to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 50% of Arsenal’s goals.
Raul Jimenez (Wolverhampton)
Many believed that Jimenez would be a flash in the pan, and that he would not be able to continue his goalscoring exploits for Wolves after his successful debut season. The Mexican is keeping the doubters quiet currently, as he continues to rack up the goals in all competitions. He was the quickest to react to Joao Moutinho’s ball in, as Wolves got a point at Arsenal to start the month. Jimenez then scored the vital second goal in a 2-1 home triumph over Aston Villa. Wolves’ top scorer then scored the second goal from a tidy move as Nuno Espirito Santo’s men won 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium against Bournemouth to close November. Despite the vigour of Europa League football, Wolves are showing how good a side they are, and Jimenez is spearheading the attack with 6 goals now in the league thus far.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Vardy just keeps on going from strength to strength. When he announced his international retirement at the start of the 2018/19 season, some thought that it may be a little premature, but he has shown it was the right decision. Vardy thrives in Brendan Rodgers’ system, and is still the leagues top marksman with 12 goals when November ended. Leicester won 2-0 away at Crystal Palace to start the month, and Vardy scored the second to kill things off. Vardy then scored the opener, and laid on the second for James Maddison, as the Foxes beat Arsenal 2-0 at home. In their last contest of the month away at Brighton, Vardy showed he is unselfish, by laying a goal on for Ayoze Perez, when he could have shot himself. He went on to get his goal later on however, when he scored a retaken penalty. If Vardy continues in this vein of form, who says he may not end up with another league medal?