Surely some of you suffered unexpected rest/rotation/injury news leading to fantasy problems in Week 14 last weekend (yes, last weekend is already the 2nd game-week back). Likely the same happened on Tuesday and Wednesday for Week 15. With Week 16, how can you cope and minimize the carnage? Well, I covered some strategy in Week 15 Fantrax player picks, and now I’m going to copy and paste — and then modify as necessary — for Week 16 of Official FPL. It runs largely along the same lines, but with some important differences.
1. Prioritize players who are likely to start every game.
For the most part, that means defenders > midfielders > forwards. And within the defender realm, central defenders > wing defenders. I’m not saying that you should target someone such as Fernandinho (after all, he is a defensive midfielder, which tends to be Fantasy poison), but when you’re adding a player in, you should look for someone whose manager views him as indispensable.
Earlier in the season, you may have been more likely to go with only three or four defenders in your formation, utilizing the maximum three strikers or five midfielders. Now you’ll generally want to start four or five defenders, while going with fewer offensive players than before. There’s nothing worse than having a player in your XI who starts from the bench and comes in late for a nothing-gained 5- or 10-minute cameo at the expense of a defender on your bench who started and delivered more reward.
And yes, I realize that if you followed the strategy in Week 15, it probably blew up in your face, since in unbelievably stupefying fashion, none of the 20 teams kept a clean sheet. The only way you got any return better than 2 points from each defender was if he was removed before his team conceded (such as Kieran Trippier) or if he did something on offense (as with Matt Doherty and Virgil van Dijk). But the odds of that shutout goose egg happening again would be like you getting hit by lightning in the same spot. So just don’t go shaking a golf club skyward during the rain and you should be fine this time.
As well, you may be better served going with studs from lesser teams rather than stars from the Big Six squads, which are blessed with more depth, enabling dreaded rotation. On top of that, four of those top teams face vital Champions League fixtures where the stars will be needed. If you are going with Big Six players, the teams that are likely to sit their stars in Europa League (Chelsea and Arsenal) are more attractive than the sides in Champions League (Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United) who are fighting either to win their group or to get through to the knockout round.
2. Don’t worry too much about holding onto long-term discounts.
Early in the season, it’s a good strategy to hold on to players who get injured for a short period of time if you have them at a nice discount. Now though, it’s time to consider abandoning that principle. For one thing, we’ve already passed one-third of the season, and are rapidly approaching the half-way point; thus the long-term advantage, while not disappearing entirely, is diminishing somewhat.
More importantly, though, if a player was out two weeks last month, that would have meant only one or two games; now it can mean three. That’s a huge difference! You simply can’t afford to take too many zeroes. Each zero is opportunity lost; sure, you may not get much out of the replacement, but what if you do? You don’t want to miss out on too many chances to get something big. So expand your range for wheeling and dealing rather than standing pat.
3. Target stars who were rested the past game.
It’s always horrible when a high-priced star you have in your team is rested and gives you a big fat Christmas goose egg. But whether it hits you or someone else, exploit it when it happens. For instance, if a healthy star is rested for one game, chances are extremely high that he is going to start the next one (which could be in UCL, so watch for that too). Especially if he has a favorable run of fixtures, go ahead and grab him!
4. Use up your free transfer(s). If you have one, use it. If you have two, use both of them.
There is no need to hoard a free transfer for Week 17, which is next weekend and means that many in your squad will have plenty of time to rest and recover before then. (Other than those who feature in Champions League, of course.) If you have line-up holes and are worried at all that you may not end up with 10 starters among your 13 field players — and chances are that you are — go ahead and patch those doubts with players who you are pretty sure will start in Week 16. You can’t afford to take too many zeroes with dead spots in your XI that don’t get filled because you’re stuck with goose eggs on the bench, too.
And if it does turn out that your Week 17 team ends up with holes in need of filling, then you can consider taking a -4 hit or two and just call it the cost of doing business in this crazy, congested festive period. But worry about that later. Now is the time to take care of things for this weekend.
With all of that in mind, who are some good options for Week 16?
The Everton defense got off to a bad start, but have really clamped down lately with four clean sheets and only six goals total allowed across the past nine games. You may choose to focus on the Liverpool gaffe — and how can you forget it? — but to be fair and look at the bigger picture, Pickford has made 26 saves in that time for an outstanding save rate of 81%. Watford has scored a total of two goals in its past five games, and the game is at Goodison.
Amazingly, Fabianski is tied for the 5th most points at the position despite having only two clean sheets (and just one penalty save). Why? Because he has racked up 63 saves. He’s also unluckily conceded one goal a whopping eight times. Now West Ham welcomes a bad Palace offense to London.
If you are among the 9% of fantasy gaffers who have Hart in your team, you’re going to be worried about Nick Pope’s impending return. But with Brighton coming to Turf Moor, feel free to roll with Hart at least one more time. Admittedly, Brighton has been on a tear recently, scoring five goals in the past two games, but the Seagulls hadn’t scored more than once in any of their previous eight.
Virgil Van Dijk (£6.1, Liverpool at Bournemouth)
Given the fixture congestion including Liverpool’s need to field the best team in Champions League next week as David pointed out, there normally would be concern that VVD could be rested for this game. However, the big Dutchman has been Jurgen Klopp’s security blanket thus far this season — starting every game — and that pattern should almost assuredly continue, given that Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren are both out injured. VVD has exploded for 17 points in the past two games, and while Bournemouth boasts a dangerous offense, it would be no surprise to see the Reds notch yet another clean sheet.
Toby Alderweireld (£5.9, Tottenham at Leicester)
Normally the Spurs defensive pick would be Kieran Trippier, but he has been ruled out one week with injury. Alderweireld rested in Week 14 against Arsenal and should be fresh enough to get back into a long stretch of regular starting appearances.
Yerry Mina (£5.4, Everton v. Watford)
Despite his cheap price, Mina has been an awful performer in the Fantrax format, since he simply does not pick up any phantom points, but in Official FPL it’s a tough call between Mina, Digne, Coleman and Keane. I really think that Mina will prove to be Everton’s best defender from here on out. He’ll get the clean sheet bonus just like everybody else, and as we saw in the World Cup with Colombia, Mina will deliver no shortage of set piece header goals.
Hector Bellerin (£5.4, Arsenal v. Huddersfield)
The Gunners have kept only two clean sheets this season, none since Week 7. But Bellerin has four assists, so he offers a good shot at joy from both ends of the pitch as the Terriers visit the Emirates.
Sead Kolasinac (£4.9, Arsenal v. Huddersfield)
Kolasinac might not have the long-term track record of Bellerin, but “Tank” has two goals and six assists in just 32 games over the past two seasons for Arsenal, and he costs less than his opposite wing defender if you’re short on scratch.
Raheem Sterling (£11.5, Manchester City at Chelsea)
Sure, it may seem like a tough match-up on paper, but Chelsea’s defense has looked extremely suspect lately, conceding thrice at Spurs in Week 13 and twice at Wolves in Week 15. This one’s at home, yes, but the last time the Blues played a Big Six side at Stamford Bridge, they allowed two goals to Manchester United in Week 9. Sterling rested against Watford and is having the most dynamic season of any City player. True, Leroy Sane has come on like gangbusters lately, but now he may be rested after starting the past three games.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.5, Everton v. Watford)
After Theo Walcott was given plenty of rest midweek, Siggy or Richarlison will be at risk to suffer the same fate at the weekend. While Richarlison has played at least 87 minutes in each of the past 10 games, Siggy was withdrawn after 69’ against Newcastle, perhaps with an eye to keeping him fresh for Watford.
Felipe Anderson (£7.2, West Ham v. Crystal Palace)
Lucas Perez and Robert Snodgrass stole the thunder in the Hammers’ midweek triumph over Cardiff, but Anderson has been the side’s most consistent offensive force with five goals and one assist across the past nine games.
Pascal Gross (£6.7, Brighton at Burnley)
Gross unfortunately was sacrificed and subbed off in the first half as Chris Hughton brought in another defender following Shane Duffy’s red card dismissal. So use that to your advantage! He’s as close to 100% to start as you can get, and while the game is at Turf Moor, Burnley has been a dumpster fire this season.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£5.9, Burnley v. Brighton)
“Goody” Guddy has four of his five assists at home this season, and you can expect the Icelandic maestro to be in a giving mood with subpar Brighton coming to town.
Callum Paterson (£5.3, Cardiff v. Southampton)
Cardiff Winger Josh Murphy emerged as a nice low-cost pick after scoring in Weeks 7 and 9, but has cooled since, worryingly not starting in Weeks 13 & 15. Murphy did score off the bench mid-week, but it’s Paterson who has emerged as a better Cardiff budget option in midfield, as he’s actually playing at forward where he has notched three goals and an assist since Week 9. With 18th place Southampton visiting Wales, the Bluebirds could scarcely ask for a better match-up.
Harry Kane (£12.5, Tottenham at Leicester)
Harry Kane is in scorching form, with a goal and/or assist in each of the past five games. There’s nothing better as a fantasy manager than when Harry Kane is on fire and you have him in your teams. There’s nothing worse than when he’s in full beast mode and you’re sitting on the sidelines. I am slightly worried that Pochettino will rest Kane in favor of Fernando Llorente or even Lucas Moura. However, I looked back at last year and saw that Kane played at least 75 minutes in every Premier League game between November 5 and December 26 in 2017. So if history repeats itself, you can count on Poch turning to his talisman with regularity.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette (£11.2 or £9.6, Arsenal v. Huddersfield)
If you have don’t have enough moolah for Kane but can squeeze in PEA, don’t cry about it. After all, he has eight goals and two assists in his past eight games. If you can’t afford Kane or Auba, Lacazette is not a bad consolation prize, as he has two goals and one assist in his past four affairs. Arsenal’s next four fixtures are very friendly — v. Huddersfield, at Southampton, v. Burnley, at Brighton — so you can expect Auba and Laca to keep on scoring. Keep an eye on team news, though, regarding whether Unai Emery is leaning toward starting the Gunners’ dynamic duo or just one of them.
Romelu Lukaku (£10.7, Manchester United v. Fulham)
We all know how Lukaku struggles against the top sides but bullies the minnows. Last place Fulham certainly qualifies in the latter department. Lukaku got a good amount of rest midweek against Arsenal, so the hope is that Jose Mourinho will put the big Belgian in the Red Devils’ XI for the Cottagers’ visit.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (£6.2, West Ham v. Crystal Palace)
With Marko Arnautovic out injured, Lucas Perez and Chicharito are expected to pair up front. Lucas is coming off a brilliant brace while Li’l Pea was silent against Cardiff, but let’s just say I trust the Mexico international star with 47 career goals in the Premiership an awful lot more than the former Arsenal flop who has just three. There is a slight worry that Andy Carroll poaches a start, but given the big man’s injury history, Manuel Pellegrini would be better served if he keeps Carroll handy as substitute option off the bench.
Raul Jimenez (£6.0, Wolves at Newcastle)
Jimenez has tallied a pair of goals and a trio of assists in the past five games, Wolves travel to 14th place Newcastle, and you’re getting plenty of bang for the buck at his low price.
How many moves are you going to make this week? Which players are you relying on, and which formation is in your plans? Let us know in the comments!