The Premier League schedule becomes jam packed awfully soon, as eight game weeks (14-21) are shoehorned into six on the calendar, November 30 through January 3. On top of that, many of the clubs have extra competitions such as Champions League, Europa League, and Carabao Cup to contend with. And then the top-flight sides immediately enter the FA Cup in 3rd round action on their weekend “off” (Jan. 5) to bookend the madness. If you go back and add in Week 13 for the teams playing Champions League this week, it’s a head-spinning number of contests in such a short period of time. Throw in the threat of snow cancellations in this fast and furious festive period, and it’s an awfully complex question: Which single player should you be certain to have in your fantasy teams?
CHRIS: Chelsea Defender Marcos Alonso
West Ham has the most favorable schedule of any team, but the Hammers are in 14th place and have not exactly impressed against bad teams so far. Bournemouth has been playing very well, but has begun an absolutely brutal schedule, and the Cherries’ studs will likely see their fantasy production diminish considerably. So let’s play it safe and turn to the “Big Six” sides. Among those, it makes sense to look at Arsenal or Chelsea, since neither features stars who will want to take part in two vital Champions League rounds; rather, they can be rested in less consequential Europa League action.
And the winner is... Blues’ defender Marcos Alonso, who is the second-highest scorer in the entire (FPL) game. Sure, he’s the most expensive defender, but he’s still a bargain compared to similar-scoring forwards or midfielders. The only player who has tallied more points than Alonso is Manchester City midfielder Raheem Sterling; not only is Sterling considerably pricier, but he’s also more likely to be rested periodically.
Alonso boasts six clean sheets, which is pretty good. But as we all well know, he can contribute on both ends of the pitch, and his offensive exploits are where his true value comes. The raiding left wing-back has delivered one goal and seven fantasy assists already. Amazingly, among his 22 shots, he has actually hit the woodwork three times (tying for the league lead with Sergio Aguero, Philip Billing and Aleksandar Mitrovic), so Alonso could easily have a couple extra goals with better luck. The dynamic Spaniard should be able to add another score or two while sprinkling in a fair number of assists and clean sheets to make this period supremely festive for the 48% of managers who are already backing him. That means the other 52% are sure to be left wanting; don’t be stuck in that group!
DAVID: Chelsea Midfielder/Forward Eden Hazard
I’ll go with Eden Hazard. He’s a proven fantasy stud who’s averaging 14 ppg in Fantrax and 6.4 ppg in FPL. He’s as nailed on as almost anyone in Chelsea’s squad provided he’s healthy, and he takes PKs. Oh, and this is Chelsea’s run over the festive period: Fulham, Wolves, City, Brighton, Leicester, Watford, Palace & Southampton. It doesn’t get much better than that.
JEFF: Manchester City Defender Fabian Delph
It looks as if Fabian Delph will be filling the lucrative left wing-back role of injured Benjamin Mendy right through the festive season. If he plays like last year, he’s a bargain at just $3.78 in Fantrax and £5.3m in Official FPL.
MATZY: Tottenham Midfielder Christian Eriksen
Tottenham have the best run of any team during the holiday run-up, particularly in comparison with the other top-six sides. Spurs, reinvigorated with good health, once again look like the dynamic Champions’ League qualifiers of seasons’ past. Christian Eriksen reminded managers of his importance as the conductor of the attack. Over the past three seasons, the Denmark international has yielded goals-plus-assists (G+A) totals of 19 (2015-16), 23 (2016-17), and 20 (2017-18). Despite missing some games, his per-90 rate of G+A this season is in line with with his rates of the past three (statistics courtesy of fbref.com).
Getting back to a double-digit goal tally in 2018-19 could be difficult. But, the assist total could rise somewhere close to 20 if this rate continues. The best comparison in the FPL game, in my mind, is David Silva. Tottenham have plenty of weapons capable of scoring, much like City (at a far lesser quality, though). Predicting who will be the player to put the ball in the net can be difficult, though Harry Kane provides some unique advantages. However, I think the ability to predict who is setting up the primary goal scorer is decidedly easier.
If Spurs can run up the score over the favorable fixtures leading into the new year, Eriksen has a safe floor of consistent contribution, with plenty of goal scoring upside given his propensity to fire on frame, via set pieces and open play. And, while everyone runs to get a second City midfielder, Christian Eriksen provides plenty of differential opportunity being owned by less than five percent of managers.
How many of our Staff Picks do you have in your teams already, and which of the others are you rushing to add in? Is there anybody else we missed who you believe is even more essential? Let us know in the comments!
PS: Be sure to note the early game and deadline (Friday) this week. Don’t be caught out!