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FPL Roundup: Is Aguero's Time Over?

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

The past week of Premiership action saw all 20 teams play twice, but only two sides were able to string together back-to-back wins going into the final third of the campaign. While Watford dealt the first blow that knocked Arsenal out of the title race, and then followed up by beating 10-man Burnley on Saturday, Manchester City’s pair of victories included the most significant fantasy storyline.

With a team full of household names, it was the Citizens’ newest big-money signing that stole the show, as 19-year-old Gabriel Jesus introduced himself to fantasy owners at the expense of long-time City star Sergio Aguero. On the back of just one league goal since Thanksgiving weekend, Aguero made way for the Brazilian for Wednesday’s trip to West Ham. Not only did Jesus set up Man City’s opener after just 17 minutes, but he later killed off the match by scoring his side’s third just before halftime. In doing so, he spearheaded a mouthwatering under-23 attacking trio with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, earning them all another start Sunday versus Swansea City. For his encore, Jesus – who can also operate on the left wing – responded by scoring both of Man City’s goals, including a stoppage-time winner even after Aguero was brought on as a second-half substitute.

Now, despite only arriving in Manchester after winning the Brasileirao with Palmeiras in December, Jesus has already staked his claim to cut into the playing time of one of the five best center forwards in the world. Whereas Kelechi Iheanacho has similarly impressed in Aguero’s stead over the past couple seasons, Jesus’ meteoric rise suggests he’ll join Aguero among the globe’s elite before long.

It was around this time last year, when at 18 years old, the Sao Paulo-born striker really began to make a splash in South America, scoring four goals in five matches in the Copa Libertadores – a competition that launched the careers of Aguero, Luis Suarez and Alexis Sanchez, to name a few, before him. Although a red card forced him to miss Palmeiras’ final group stage contest, and further feistiness resulted in the third-most bookings (11) in league play, he still notched 11 goals and three assists through Palmeiras’ first 14 Brasileirao matches, which saw the club rise from a ninth-place finish in 2015 to champions by the end of 2016.

Thanks to those eye-opening exploits, the youngster was called into Brazil’s squad for last summer’s Olympics, where the host country faced considerable pressure to overcome its epic collapse on home soil in the 2014 World Cup. Along with that added scrutiny, he began the games by having his £27 million transfer to Manchester City announced the day before Brazil’s first match of the tournament. However, since donning his country’s famed shirt – and specifically the no. 9 jersey – Jesus has never looked back. He scored three goals in six appearances en route to a gold medal at the Olympics, and then registered five goals and four assists through his first six games in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Despite seemingly playing non-stop over the past year, Jesus’ success has yet to be slowed at Manchester City, where his lethal finishing, positional flexibility, and relentless work rate make him a perfect fit atop Pep Guardiola’s attack. While Aguero figures to eventually return to the fold, and Iheanacho remains one of the brightest prospects at his age, Jesus’ top-class talent is undeniable, and he’s already proven capable of playing alongside international stars like Neymar and Philippe Coutinho. Such experience has enabled him to appear undaunted within the Citizens’ setup and under the Premier League spotlight, where he projects to remain for years to come.

Speaking of striking sensations, how good was Everton’s Romelu Lukaku on Saturday?

The Belgian scored inside the first minute of the Toffees’ match against Bournemouth, and then proceeded to put his team up three with another goal before halftime. Although the Cherries made things interesting with two unanswered goals on the other side of the interval, Lukaku scored in the 83rd and 84th minutes to crush their hopes of a road result. In doing so, Lukaku brought his tally to seven goals since Everton’s dramatic Merseyside Derby defeat – a span in which the Toffees have gone seven Premiership matches unbeaten.

Furthermore, thanks to Saturday’s four-goal ambush, Lukaku has now scored 16 times in league play, moving him into the driver’s seat in the race for this season’s Golden Boot award. That total also leaves Lukaku just three shy of setting a new career high, which seems a foregone conclusion with 14 fixtures remaining on the schedule.

What’s more, since joining Chelsea in 2011, Lukaku’s 76 career Premier League goals rank third among those still playing in England. However, unlike Aguero (28 years old) and Wayne Rooney (31) ahead of him, the fact that Lukaku is yet to celebrate his 24th birthday suggests he hasn’t even reached the peak of his powers.

Now that we’re in February and have seen the winter transfer window come and go, the fallout from certain roster changes will certainly be of importance for fantasy owners to monitor.

While Manolo Gabbiadini and M'Baye Niang have started their respective Premier League careers with Southampton and Watford rather well, the biggest impact of transfer activity could be felt at West Ham, who offloaded disgruntled midfield maestro Dimitri Payet last month.

After supplying 11 goals and 18 assists in his season-and-a-half in the Premier League – which he still leads with 66 scoring chances created this season – Payet’s absence leaves a considerable creative burden on the Hammers’ remaining attackers. Although Robert Snodgrass was brought in from Hull City to help compensate for that loss, Andy Carroll, Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini appear to be the most likely Hammers players to rise through the fantasy ranks now that Payet is gone.

To that point, in four league matches since Payet last suited up for West Ham, here’s how each member of that trio has performed with regards to the Premiership’s official fantasy game:

As can be seen, all three players have elevated their performances since Payet’s departure, and with four of West Ham’s next six games coming against bottom-eight defenses, those attacking exploits could very well continue.