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Five Questions for FPL Week 18: Candy or Coal from the Crowded Holiday Calendar?

Following an exciting game week 17, there remains a plethora of questions for week 18 and beyond. You will want to ponder these queries as you pore over your fantasy line-ups going into the crowded late December schedule.

Is the Dickensian clock ticking for Manchester United Scrooge Louis Van Gaal?
Is the Dickensian clock ticking for Manchester United Scrooge Louis Van Gaal?
Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
1. What players are you concerned about being rested during the impending fixture mash?

Generally speaking, positionally, you have to worry most about midfielders and strikers being rested during the calendar crowding of late December. Meanwhile, the bigger squads usually are able to rotate their players while the smaller ones give you a better chance of relying on their stars throughout.

That said, are there any goalkeepers or defenders you fear will be rested? Perhaps Everton's Leighton Baines, having recently come off injury? What about Chelsea's John Terry and Everton's Tim Howard, owing to their advancing years? What are some other possibilities? Additionally, with Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United hit hard by injuries recently, will those big money clubs be unable to rotate players as much as they would like to?

2. Which fantasy stars are you worried about getting sold or loaned?

Given the impending January transfer window, the rumors and rumblings are growing very loud. What rising or falling stars have you biting your nails over the possibility of getting snatched up by other clubs, or worse, vanishing overseas? Who among Jack Butland, Yohan Cabaye, Diego Costa, David De Gea, Troy Deeney, Eden Hazard, Bojan Krkic, Odion Ighalo, Riyad Mahrez, John Stones and Jamie Vardy are most likely to change locale? Any others?

Sometimes January transfers work out well on the pitch, for instance with Juan Mata when he went from Chelsea to Manchester United in 2014. That is more the exception to the rule, though, with fantasy values plummeting when Wilfried Bony shifted from Swansea to Manchester City in 2015 and of course completely vanishing when Yohan Cabaye traveled from Newcastle to Paris-St. Germain in 2014, so there is reason to bite your fingernails if your fantasy squad is loaded with rumored transfer candidates.

3. Is Louis Van Gaal the next manager up on the chopping block?

Manchester United was recently knocked out of the Champions League, while consecutive losses to Bournemouth and Norwich (following draws with West Ham and Leicester City) have pushed its Premier League position for the time being outside of the top four necessary for inclusion next season. Van Gaal was given a much more open checkbook than had been afforded predecessor David Moyes, but the big money signings of Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger have not quite panned out, leaving the Old Trafford faithful booing the club's backward style of play and back-sliding standing.

Aston Villa, Chelsea, Liverpool, Sunderland and Swansea have already replaced their managers due to fading fortunes. Will Van Gaal suffer the same fate despite being considerably higher in the table? If so, who would replace him and would it make a difference? Would Jose Mourinho offer an upgrade or would that scenario simply prove more of the same with a plodding defensive-minded approach from a stubborn manager? Is there any chance for Ryan Giggs' ascension and would that work out better in terms of  improving offensive production? Or instead of (or in addition to) Van Gaal, is Manchester City's Manuel Pellegrini on the hot seat? Could we see high profile clubs Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City all change managers this season? Or can LVG and Pellegrini get back on track?

4. Is there an alternate universe you envision in which things had played out much differently?

In the holiday classic movie It's a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart's character is forced to imagine a world in which he had never lived. In a similar vein, can you imagine an alternate Premier League and fantasy realm where players had remained with their teams instead of moving, or changed locales instead of staying pat?

Would Jose Mourinho still be at Chelsea and would the Blues have remained a fantasy powerhouse had Nathan Ake, Petr Cech, Kevin DeBruyne, Romelu Lukaku and/or Mata still been around, or if the transfer for Stones had gone through? Would Louis Van Gaal's position be secure and would Manchester United be scoring and thrilling us all much more if the Red Devils had kept Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Robin Van Persie or Wilfried Zaha, or if Baines had been brought over with Marouane Fellaini as Moyes wished? How about Brendan Rodgers were Luis "Mr. Chompers" Suarez and Raheem Sterling still in Liverpool rather than Barcelona and Manchester City, respectively? Are there any other alternatives you would have old Clarence present us in a reimagined Premier League?

5. What manager are players enjoying playing for the most and the least? Which have left you surprised that you are rooting for or against?

We all know that a happy workplace can lead to a productive one. The miserable, paranoid environment of Mourinho clearly left Chelsea's players unable to perform at a high level this season, and there looks to be somewhat of a parallel for the acerbic, somnolent, uninspiring Van Gaal. Meanwhile, there is more of an unrestrained, free-flowing joy surrounding Roberto Martinez's Everton, Claudio "Pizza Party" Ranieri's Leicester City and even Quique Sanchez Flores' Watford. How much of a hand have the managers' styles and personalities had in the actual and fantasy prowess of their players this season? Will Guus Hiddink be able to improve morale at Chelsea? Can Swansea turn things around depending on its choice? Has there been enough time yet for judgment regarding Sam Allardyce, Remi Garde and Jurgen Klopp?

Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments!