The Premier League experience in 2019 feels like the preseason buildup in mid-summer. Ten days will have passed between game-weeks 21 and 22. In December, teams were playing three games in that time span. And, while the English footballing action has not ceased, the fantasy ramifications of those matches surely did. With the holiday furor now behind us, rotation tensions ease, and the metronomic quality of the FPL schedule returns as we trudge through winter’s less cheery remnants.
An extended break has allowed ample time to assess the carnage of the festive fixtures and chart a proper course of action heading into the second-half. Below are my picks to click for week 22.
Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea (£5.6m)
When it comes to keepers this week, managers are offered plenty of premium outlets. Of those (Kepa, Alisson, and Ederson) Chelsea’s match-up hosting Newcastle stands out. The visitors this weekend come in as the second-lowest scoring side. With Liverpool having a bit of a defensive injury crisis, and with the lack of fortitude in the Manchester City defense, Chelsea are the best bet for clean sheet opportunities this week.
Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester (£5.0m)
Leicester will look to take full advantage of the Danny Ings injury this weekend. The Foxes will be looking to cement their recent defensive performances by snuffing out current relegation candidates Southampton, a feat they were not able to achieve versus similar strugglers Cardiff. I believe that trend begins to normalize as Leicester chase an eighth clean sheet of the season.
Neil Etheridge, Cardiff (£4.6m)
Did you know Etheridge is now the second highest scoring goalkeeper in FPL? If we like playing goalkeepers against Newcastle, then we must like the prospects for the only side to score fewer goals than the Magpies. Cardiff have registered five clean sheets this season, already, one of them coming in the reverse fixture at Huddersfield. Perhaps Lukasz Fabianski is not the droid we have be looking for?
Marcos Alonso, Chelsea (£6.8m)
The insanity continues! Alonso is now only £0.3m above his preseason price., but he remains the top fantasy producer among all defenders. Chelsea are second in the league in clean sheets. The Spaniard also leads all defenders in shots, shots hitting the post, assists, and bonus points. What exactly is the problem?
Ricardo Pereira, Leicester City (£5.3m)
The out of position defender has risen to fifth in fantasy scoring among defenders. The surge in Leicester’s form has seen Pereira benefit more, for fantasy purposes, than any other teammate. The clean sheet prospects for the Foxes have been fairly steady to this point in the season. The key to Pereira’s contributions is attack. With Jamie Vardy appearing to return to the form of seasons’ past, the Portuguese defender could be the emerging mid-table defender we have been waiting for.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool (£5.2m)
With the loan of Nathaniel Clyne, TAA is now the only true right-back remaining on the Liverpool roster until Joe Gomez returns from injury (which could be later this month). His increased job security adds to his fantasy prospects. The defensive double-up for Liverpool is now in play at a much friendlier value. I would prompt Alisson owners to move to TAA, if you’re already at the three player maximum for ‘Pool. How many goals and assists has the Liverpool keeper provided this season?
Sean Morrison, Cardiff (£4.7m)
Huddersfield’s attacking woes were discussed above. If you look at assists, Sean Morrison is among some lofty company. His four equal the like of Sead Kolasinac, Ricardo Pereira and Matt Doherty, who better the likes of TAA and Lucas Digne. At less than 1.0% ownership, Morrison offers managers a juicy differential for week 22.
Callum Chambers, Fulham (£4.2m)
I will be the first to say it: I believe in the recent defensive performances that Fulham have delivered under Claudio Ranieri. They have kept two clean sheets in their last four matches. A less open gameplan could see them handle a Burnley side whom they dominated early on in the campaign.
Mo Salah, Liverpool (£13.3m)
Following the match with Manchester City, Liverpool do not play a Big Six club until the end of February. The Egyptian’s end-of-season run is more succulent than a CostCo rotisserie chicken. SET IT AND FORGET IT!
Eden Hazard, Chelsea (£11.1m)
We have premium options aplenty this week. Among assets with a double-digit price tag, Hazard comes in second to Salah. It was the game against Newcastle in gw-3 that began a scorching run for the Belgian. Managers will be hoping for a second edition of that print run.
Leroy Sane, Manchester City (£9.5m)
The win over Liverpool looks to be a springboard for the Citizens, who now hope to chase down the league leaders. Despite trailing Raheem Sterling for the team lead in points, Sane outperforms his teammate on a per-minute basis. With the returns of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City’s injury woes should be nearing an end. Give me the young German at the discount.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Everton (£7.3m)
When Bournemouth and Everton get together, there always seems to be goals scored in bunches. It is always a neutral’s delight. Sigurdsson is the pivotal component of the Toffees attack, both as scorer and provider. There will be plenty of chances for goals in this game, for both teams, and the Iceland international is the most likely contributor.
Ryan Sessegnon, Fulham (£6.0m)
Following his return from injury, Sessegnon has managed to log a goal and two assists in three appearances. Those are fair returns at face value, but when you look at the mere 136 minutes associated with those appearances, the impact looks significantly greater. Under Ranieri’s tutelage, we saw Riyad Mahrez turn superstar. I think it possible for the Italian manager’s influence to have the same effect on the young Englishman.
David Brooks, Bournemouth (£5.1m)
With Ryan Fraser’s injury following the F.A. Cup match, David Brooks is the next man up in midfield. His supply to Callum Wilson and Josh King will be vital if Bournemouth are to hit the scoreboard.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal (£11.4m)
The lack of midfield production places a heavy burden on Arsenal’s attackers. To fantasy managers’ benefit, Aubameyang has been the focal point. Against a maligned West Ham defense, Aubameyang should be given every opportunity to find the back of the net, ideally more than once.
Jamie Vardy, Leicester City (£8.9m)
Vardy tallied his seventh goal against Everton in week 21. While a return to the 20-goal plateau seems unlikely this season, he could match the goal-scoring rate of those seasons. Saints’ defensive woes are well chronicled. Being on penalties against those center backs could be another avenue to a multiple goal haul.
Marko Arnautovic, West Ham (£6.9m)
Arnautovic returned to his early season form against Brighton, scoring two goals. While his return may limit the production of teammate Felipe Anderson, that midfielder’s acclimatization to the Premier League could yield a higher upside for Arnautovic. Arsenal’s inability to keep clean sheets should be exploited by the Austrian.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham (£6.6m)
Mitrovic broke his goal-scoring hex against Huddersfield. Fulham’s need to earn points will fall squarely on the shoulders of their most potent attacker. As the play around him improves, Mitrovic should see an increase in both number and quality of attacking opportunities.
The bulk of this week’s best options fall in the premium price bracket. Evaluating the best middle tier talent is a talent that I expect to be critical over the final stretch of the season. Now that the largest period of rotation is behind managers, the amount of risk you are willing accept could pay massive dividends if you can add one more premium asset to your squad.
What big hitters are you relying on in week 22? More importantly, how have you buoyed those players with the limited remaining budget? Did the festive fixture run force you into an early playing of your Wildcard? Let us know in the comments below!