Players gone to AfCON and Asian Cup.
GW-21 kicks off with many players absent to participate in AfCON or Asian Cup. Man City, Newcastle and Burnley are the only three sides not affected. Some of the most popular names missing: Salah, Son, Kudus and Hwang. Onana is expected to feature in Man United’s fixture against Tottenham before departing for AfCON.
Incurring a minus in a bid to replace your missing players might be a wise move, at least among your starters, but you should consider that there is only one full game-week left in January, and some of the missing players might make an early return.
Let’s take a look at our selections for GW-21
Areola (£4.2m, Sheffield v West Ham)
Four clean sheets in four games makes West Ham the best team defensively at the moment. The Hammers have shut out the likes of Arsenal, Man United and Brighton in recent weeks and look set to continue that impressive run against lowly Sheffield United.
Ben Johnson (£4.4m, Sheffield v West Ham)
Doubling up on West Ham defense at the moment looks like a wise decision. Priced at a lowly 4.4m, Johnson represents an economical option into the Hammers back line. In the absence of Kudus, Johnson had more license to attack and should enjoy the same freedom against Sheffield. Caveat: He has started only once, so watch late news to see if he might be demoted by anyone (e.g. Mavropanos) returning from a knock.
Estupinan (£4.9m, Brighton v Wolves)
Estupinan has delivered returns in his first two games since his return, most notably scoring a stunner against Tottenham in his first match. The left-back also scored another goal in the Seagulls’ FA Cup victory. His ability to contribute effectively in attack and defense makes him an interesting option.
Gabriel Magalhaes (£5m, Arsenal v Crystal Palace)
Gabriel grabbed his first goal of the season against Liverpool and got close to grabbing another in the defeat to Fulham last week. A home fixture against Crystal Palace represents a good chance for a clean sheet and an attacking return.
Bukayo Saka (£9m, Arsenal v Crystal Palace)
Saka ended his run of four straight games without an attacking contribution by scoring in Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat to Fulham last week. The Gunners have faltered in recent weeks and Mikel Arteta will need Saka back at his best if they’re to regain the form that saw them rip apart defenses last season.
Palmer (£5.6m, Chelsea v Fulham)
Palmer continues to repay the faith of fantasy managers who trusted him. The England international recorded his fourth double-digit haul of the season in the 3-2 win over Luton. The youngster had a hand in all three goals scored by the Blues.
Phil Foden (£7.8m, Newcastle v Man City)
The imminent return of Kevin De Bruyne seems to have sparked Foden into life, the youngster being the Citizens’ best player in their last two games. The midfielder has provided attacking returns in the last three games.
Gordon (£5.8m, Newcastle v Man City)
Gordon provided an assist in Newcastle’s defeat to Liverpool. The Magpies have been struggling for a while, but Gordon has been one of the few bright spots. Up next is a big game against Man City, and Gordon will once again be relied on to make things happen in attack.
Luiz earned his third double digit FPL tally of the season when he scored a late penalty to give Aston Villa a hard-fought 3-2 win over ten-man Burnley last week. The Brazilian being on set pieces and penalties for the Villans has made him an interesting option this season.
Giovanni Lo Celso (£4.8m, Man United v Tottenham)
Lo Celso rose to the occasion last week when he deputized in the Maddison role, delivering two assists and ending the match with 11 points. With Son off to the Asian Cup, Lo Celso will need to take on a bigger role and should be assured of a starting spot. Keep an eye out for injury updates as he is currently a doubt due to muscle injury.
Micheal Olise (£5.9m, Arsenal v Crystal Palace)
Four consecutive games with attacking returns tells you the kind of level Olise is currently playing. The midfielder has been the Eagles' go-to man for goals and assists since he returned from injury. A knock picked up against Brentford makes him a doubt, so monitor him for updates.
Richarlison (£4.8m, Man United v Tottenham)
Attacking returns in four of his last five games shows how Richarlison has turned results around for Ange Postecoglou's side. Since being moved to a more central role, Richarlison has become more efficient in front of goal and has looked like the player we all knew at Everton. Greater goal-scoring burden will be placed on Richarlison in the absence of Son (though Timo Werner’s arrival means he has at least some support), so now might be the best time to add him to your squad.
Cunha (£5.8m, Brighton v Wolves)
Cunha was in form when Wolves took on Everton last week, scoring one, assisting another, and earning three bonus points to hit his first double digit return this season. With Hwang at the Asian Cup, goal scoring will fall primarily on the shoulders of Cunha.
Raul Jimenez (£5.2m, Chelsea v Fulham)
Raul Jimenez announced his return from suspension with a well-taken goal in the victory over Arsenal FC. The Mexican was on a good run even before his suspension, and his return helped Fulham win for the first time in four. The Cottagers lost all three games and failed to score during his suspension.
Have to AfCON and the Asian Cup blown holes in your squad that have you already considering making use of your 2nd-half wildcard? Who will be your captain in the absence of Salah and Haaland? Please log in to share your FPL thoughts and questions in the comments below!