While it may well be the most wonderful time of the year for time with friends and family, it’s also wonderful for football fans. Four game-weeks in two weeks is as good as it gets, especially if your side is on a good run of form. From a fantasy football perspective, the shadow of rotation looms, but if you can plan and guess right on your player selection, then you may well earn yourselves an extra cracking Christmas Present. With that in mind, let’s see if we can help you plan the period and select your final choices for the opening Christmas game-week.
Rotation , Rotation, Rotation
A contender for the worst word used within the realm of fantasy football: Little annoys us more than spending hours analyzing squad structure and fixtures before putting faith in certain players only to see them benched. With the fixture congestion over the festive period, the risk for any player only increases. In FPL therefore, you will need a fully operational bench to cover for whoever misses out. If you currently find your squad lacking in that area, then that should be where you focus your free transfer/s.
Bet big on the citizens
- Manchester City have won 9 in a row at home.
- In those 9 win they have scored an incredible 33 goals.
- Raheem Sterling has 7 goals, 3 assists and averages 3 shots per match in 6 home games.
- Sergio Aguero has 7 goals and 4 assist in 7 home games. He also averages 5.4 shots on goal per game.
- Crystal Palace have lost the last 3 visits to City at a combined 14-0 score line. City Scorers during that run were Sterling/Kun 3 goals, Delph, David Silva 2, Vincent Kompany, KDB, Otamendi and Sane 1 goal.
Sterling, benched both last Saturday against the Toffees and during the midweek Cup QF at Leicester, he surely starts on Saturday. He has proven recent history against his opponent, and he’s in great form. The recent benching will be marked as a chance for him to rest, but I think it also shows him his starting spot is never safe in this City side if his standards drop. Kun playing midweek when added to his limited pitch time before injury means Sterling is the better captain choice this week.
The City shot stopper has been conceding the odd goal too often in recent weeks, and it will be something Pep looks to address. Home to Palace maybe just the fixture needed to return to winning clean sheet points. Laporte has been the most secure player to start in the City back line. Palace at home is nice, as are the trips to Leicester and Southampton that follow.
Mendy’s injury has seen Delph and Zinchenko sharing left back duties, making Delph a less attractive proposition than we thought when Mendy was first ruled out. Still, if you have a spare transfer, then Delph is a great one-week pick. He got a rest midweek, bringing the thought that he plays against Palace. He’s a great clean sheet shout, and even his scoring record brings hope.
Red Devils with a smile
- The biggest news of the season so far saw Jose Mourinho removed from the United hot seat on Tuesday. Living legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes charge until the season end, and we can at least hope to see a more expansive attacking approach. Observing Ole’s system of play and player selection could unearth some new options, and I would think we will see some improvement at least when in possession of the ball. Be careful about loading up on players from Old Trafford as Jose is not the cause of a number of the problems with the squad, but there is some brilliant value in them if Jose’s departure sparks the players.
- Cardiff has 1 clean sheet in 8 home games.
- Lingard has 2 goals in his last 3 league games.
- No more Jose.
Full of talent and comfortable in the limelight, he now has a third and likely final chance to shine at Old Trafford to prove his performance can match his talent on a weekly basis. Ole has spoken previously of building the team around Pogba, so I will take the view he will be in the starting lineup against Cardiff. When his mind is right, he can be a devastating player on his day. With a point to prove, I’m expecting Pogba to respond well in the short term at least.
He is a a gamble, but there are few reasons to try and get in early in FPL. At 7.9m, he represents amazing potential value, and he has a fantastic run of fixtures over the holiday period. Finally, he has been well rested during the last few weeks, I therefore expect four starts over the Christmas period. There are few players you can feel confident about doing the same.
Marcus Rashford / Anthony Martial / Jesse Lingard
The first two are exciting young players still a few seasons from reaching their peaks. Both will likely start at Cardiff, and if either can secure that no9 spot in addition to seeing a more attack-minded Utd — that’s a lot of ifs — then they become huge temptations at their FPL prices. As for Lingard at 6.7m, he is one more potential alternative in midfield and has form on his side.
Hammers really hammering
- West Ham have won 4 in a row.
- The Hammers have scored 13 goals in their last 6 games.
- Anderson has 4 goals in 9 home games.
- Snodgrass has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last 4 games.
- Watford have won only 2 of their last 20 away games.
- The Hornets have conceded 2 or more in each of their last 5 games.
Felipe Anderson / Robert Snodgrass
The West Ham white hot form seen in recent weeks has coincided with Anderson and Snodgrass playing some of the best football of their careers. You have to assume they can’t keep providing returns every week, but as the saying goes, strike while the iron (and footballer) is hot. Snoddy at his price may be the pick.
Betting on the Blues back line
- Chelsea are unbeaten in 12 home games.
- The blues have had 3 home clean sheets in a row, conceding just 4 goals in their last 6 at the Bridge.
- Chelsea have scored only 4 goals in their last 3 home games.
- Leicester have conceded just 2 in their last 3 games and just 6 in their last 6.
The stats back a tight home win to nil, and Alonso offers the chance to get the clean sheet plus attacking returns and bonus point trifecta. Even at 7m, he is brilliant price this week.
Typically, he scored a 15 point monster just after I sold him. A player who enjoys himself in the bonus point system when he gets a clean sheet, he is always a danger at direct free kicks. Saving you 1.4m over Alonso, he is the best alternative.
Gambling on Gunners
- Burnley have failed to score in 5 of their last 7 way games.
- Burnley’s last 3 away games saw fewer than 2.5 goals per.
- The Clarets fired just 4 shots on goal in the game against Spurs last week.
The eye test shows at this point under Emery that Arsenal do not defend well as individuals or as a team. The return of Laurent Koscielny will help matters against a shot-shy visitor, and the trip to Brighton on Boxing Day is a second potential clean sheet.
In the games before last week’s thigh injury, we saw the Tank looking like the attack minded player from last season. The move to a back three has helped to cover his defensive weaknesses, allowing him to play higher up the pitch. The injury was a blow, but if ruled fit, then with his attacking possibilities he is a player you can even take to the tougher matches to come.
Alexandre Lacazette / Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Normally the player picks are all about those whom we think you should be buying. The two Arsenal danger-men are on many players’ minds right now. They may well both start against Burnley, and they may well destroy them, but I see warning signs ahead.
Emery has shown himself too comfortable with rotation or changing players for tactical decisions. No player in the Gunner squad can be certain to start or complete any game. Lacazette hasn’t started in the league for five matches. Meanwhile, Auba has played the last eight, including 90 minutes each in the last six.
I wrote this post before the League Cup QF derby, but the team news in that one may direct us toward the side Emery selects at the weekend. Should Auba start (with or without Laccazette) then Emery may see the home tie against Burnley as the right one to give him a breather. Even if they do start at the weekend, Burnely have shown themselves capable of shutting down sides, coming within a whisper of holding Spurs scoreless last week.
And the best of the rest
Watching him live, he still doesn’t look the Kane of last season. But despite all the evidence, one can’t help but feel there is an explosion coming. My head says there are much better options at cheaper prices in FPL, but I have a theory that Kane is one of those players at his most effective in congested fixtures. When the opposition have reduced rest days, perhaps holding back a little for upcoming fixtures, and when games become a test of mental strength, I think Harry becomes stronger. Add to that the return to fitness of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Son and Kieran Trippier, and I expect more space on the pitch for Kane withmore chances created for him. We will see over the festive period, but he has 3 goals and 2 assist in his last 5, which is a good starting point.
He will be heading to the Asia Cup next month, so you will need to plan ahead. But before being benched last week, Son had 16 shots, 4 goals and an assist in his previous 4 games. You are unlikely to get the full 90 minutes from him, but boy can he be explosive at a great price.
Fulham have conceded 16 goals in their last 6 away games, conceding 2 or more goals in 8 of the last 9. Our man Rondon has 2 goals and an assist in his last 3, and 4 goals in his last 7.
FPL’s top scorer took care of Brighton last week before going off with a knock. He trained, so he should be fit. With the Fox’s defensive record, he may be the man who solves the puzzle.
Eddie Howe was careful with him at Wolves, starting him from the bench. With Bournemouth in a terrible run of form, I don’t think he gets benched this week. Brighton do not travel well, and with Wilson rumored to be the target of a Chelsea transfer bid in January, he will never have more motivation.
Here’s a final pick if you need to free up funds for problems elsewhere in you squad. Bednarek appears to be first choice and will set you back just 3.9m. Away to Huddersfield could return a rare clean sheet, and he gets himself involved during corners.
From all at NMA, we wish you a happy Christmas and hope you pile up the fantasy points while being merry.
Caveat on all picks: Keep a weather eye out for “white Christmas” impact on schedule. All bets are off if snow threatens postponements!
So which players are on your FPL Christmas list? Who looks like a Scrooge? Please share with us in the comments below!