Whilst us FPL managers have had a little over a week to recover from the Premier League’s festive period madness, there has been plenty of League Cup (semi-finals) and FA Cup (3rd round) action. Seeing as what matters to us, from an FPL perspective, is which Premier League clubs are still active in the Cups, we’ll start off this article with an overview from Freetips.com of the teams that are still involved in one or both Cups after this week. To find out more about the consequences of their continued involvement when it comes to your FPL planning, there are plenty of specialised sources online, most notably the excellent Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin on Twitter).
League Cup semi-finals (first leg)
|Man City – Burton||9 – 0||Man City virtually qualified|
|Spurs – Chelsea||1 – 0||Uncertain (return on Jan 24th)|
FA Cup 4th Round (only matches involving PL clubs, in bold)
|Team 1||Vs Team 2|
|Crystal Palace||Tottenham Hotspur|
|Newcastle or Blackburn||Watford|
|TBD (non-PL)||Wolverhampton Wanderers|
|Wimbledon||West Ham United|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||West Bromwich Albion|
|Accrington||Derby or Southampton|
*The Premier League teams that are no longer in the FA Cup are: Liverpool, Leicester, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Fulham, Huddersfield
Some observations ahead of gameweek 22
One of the biggest FA Cup 3rd Round surprises, and perhaps of the entire tournament, was the elimination of Leicester at the hands of League Two outfit Newport. Manager Claude Puel left the likes of Jamie Vardy, Harry Maguire and Kasper Schmeichel at home for the tie, but, without taking away any merit for Newport, the Foxes should still have won it comfortably. They didn’t though, so it remains to be seen to what extent the Leicester squad has been affected by the loss, and to what lengths Puel will resort to “punishing” some of the participating players by benching them for Saturday’s home game against Southampton. In terms of FPL planning, Leicester’s elimination is not all bad news though, as the Foxes are now only active in the Premier League.
Current Premier League bottom club Huddersfield also crashed out of the FA Cup after losing to Bristol City. The 2018-19 campaign is turning into more and more into a nightmare for the Terriers, as they have no more Cups to play for and are currently eight points from safety in the league. They currently look like the league’s prime candidate for relegation and they’ll need a small miracle to still act at England’s elite level next season. Sure, the season is still long and the winter transfer window is still open for another three weeks, so all’s not lost yet, but in terms of FPL, you’ll probably want to stay away from Huddersfield assets for now, should you not have realised that already.
This coming weekend’s most interesting match sees Tottenham visit Old Trafford in what could be seen as United manager Solskjaer’s first serious test. Both teams progressed to the FA Cup’s fourth round: Spurs made quick work of League Two number nine Tranmere Rovers (0-7), while United beat Reading 2-0, Solskjaer’s fifth consecutive victory in all competitions. Both teams took the opportunity to rest several of their starting star players (including Eriksen, Kane, Rashford and Martial) and are in excellent form ahead of Sunday’s clash. Confidence will be high on both sides, which will hopefully translate into two teams without a fear to attack and plenty of spectacle for everyone. If you can, tune in on Sunday, 16h30 (GMT).
After a festive period in which Man City suffered three defeats, some people started to doubt whether the reigning champions were really as good as they looked in the first half of the season. The Cityzens proved the quick doubters wrong by beating current leaders Liverpool 2-1, and then took the opportunity of Cup football to fill up on confidence ahead of the home clash with Wolves coming Monday: they beat Rotherham 7-0 in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup and destroyed Burton 9-0 in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final. The sky blues from Manchester are really as good as they’ve shown until now, they are still competing as favourites in four competitions (Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, and League Cup) and the confidence is back. We all know what can happen when Pep’s men are on a roll, so Wolves, prepare.
Despite his blank against Southampton in gameweek 21 (a game for which we recommended him as a premium pick as well), we’re repeating Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (£11.1m) as our first premium pick this week. It’s not realistic to expect big hauls from a player week in, week out, not even when that player is one of the finest the Premier League has seen in recent years, so sometimes patience (and possibly forgiveness) is a necessity. The Belgian superstar is likely to be playing either as a false nine or in support of Olivier Giroud, the two positions that seem to fit him best. He’s not returned attacking returns in his last two games, but he did record 5 shots on target and created another 7 big chances in those games. He’s also taken more shots in the box (10) than any other midfielder over the past four gameweeks. Against a Newcastle side that has conceded 29 goals in 21 games, Hazard’s name could once again return to the score sheet.
Liverpool have lost their last two games in all competitions, so the Reds will be looking to bounce back away to Brighton on Saturday. Seeing as Mo Salah (£13.3m) has brought home a staggering 61 FPL points over the last six gameweeks and was rested for Liverpool’s mid-week FA Cup showdown, he sort of automatically becomes a recommendation. Brighton are tough to break down though, especially at their AMEX stadium: the Seagulls have lost just two of their ten home games in the Prem so far, while they’ve conceded just 10 goals in 6 games versus top six teams. Still, if there’s one man who can make the difference against such opposition, it’s Salah. The Egyptian magician has scored 3 goals and provided 3 assists over the past 5 gameweeks, while he has also created another 5 big chances in that period. Gameweek 22 might be one of those rare weekends in which there are a few better options for the captaincy than Salah, but don’t discard him from providing returns under any circumstance.
Our third premium pick of the week is Man City’s Leroy Sané (£9.5m), who, surprisingly enough, is still something of a differential as well (10.3% ownership). The German winger was subbed in on January 5th during City’s FA Cup encounter with Tranmere, in which he ended up scoring the last goal of the game, and subbed off in the 66th minute on January 9th during the League Cup semi-final against Burton, in which he gave two assists. This playing history over the past two cup games makes it likely that Sané will be in the starting eleven for Monday’s game at home to Wolves. Confidence will be high among Guardiola’s men and it’ll be interesting to see Sané directly face Wolves’ Matt Doherty. The winger will have plenty of space on the left wing, but he’ll probably also need to track back sufficiently to provide cover for City’s left-back against the marauding Doherty. We nevertheless count on him to bring home some FPL points as part of a City outfit that have scored 37 goals in 11 home games this season.
A differential or two
Our first differential pick for gameweek 22 is Everton’s Richarlison (£6.9m). True, looking at his current ownership level (29%), the Brazilian winger/forward is far from a differential, but his recent performances have seen interest and trust in him wane. Over the past 5 gameweeks, he recorded a not-so-impressive 16 FPL points as part of a kind of hot-and-cold Everton side, but we shouldn’t forget his price tag. At his current more than kind price of £6.9m, he’s still the fifth-highest scoring player from the midfielder and forward categories in that price range, with 97 points as a result of 9 goals and 2 assists. Over the past four gameweeks, Richarlison has scored just 1 goal and provided the assist for another, but he’s also the midfielder with most shots in the box (10) over that period. Against a Bournemouth side that has conceded a worrying 14 goals over that same period, as well as 16 big chances, Everton’s talismanic Brazilian could have a field day at Goodison Park on Sunday.
This week’s second differential pick is Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira (£5.3m), who’s been in red-hot form as part of a Leicester team that beat both Chelsea and Man City in December. The Portuguese right-back got 30 FPL points over the last four gameweeks, courtesy of a goal, an assist, and two clean sheets, and of the fact that he’s often used as a right winger by Claude Puel. Coming Saturday, the Foxes are facing Southampton at home and the Saints have scored just 10 goals in 11 away games this season, while conceding 21 in those games. It’s true that Leicester as a whole remain frustratingly unpredictable, but gameweek 22 could see Pereira deliver at both ends of the pitch.
For further ideas on who to transfer in to your FPL team ahead of the GW22 deadline please check out this fiso FPL forum topic.
It’s been a while since we recommended Man City’s Kun Aguero (£11.2m) as a prime candidate for the captaincy, but here we are. As we write, the Argentinian striker is still marked as “ill” in the official game, so keep an eye on news related to him, but we think he’ll start coming Monday at home to Wolves. His main rival Gabriel Jesus started both cup games in the build-up to gameweek 22 and Aguero didn’t play a single minute in those games, which is another encouraging statistic. Speaking of encouraging statistics: the diminutive Argentinian has provided 8 goals and 6 assists in just 8 home games, and there hasn’t been a home game yet this season in which he hasn’t booked attacking returns. Like we mentioned in regard to Sané earlier on, Wolves do tend to turn up big against the league’s heavyweights, so do keep that in mind. Having said that, if you have Kun, slap that armband on him.
Our second captaincy suggestion for gameweek 22 is Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m). We included him in our captaincy options last gameweek as well and it paid off, as the Gabonese striker hit one home and provided an assist, resulting in 9 points. The current Premier League top scorer (14 goals, on par with Tottenham’s very own, Harry Kane) is playing away at West Ham. While the Hammers have shown real quality at times in December, they’re still fragile in defense. In 11 home games, they have conceded 18 goals, and at least twice in four of their last six games overall. Hammers goalie Fabianski is the goalkeeper with most saves this season (80) and it’s true that he’s been an excellent, consistent performer for them, but it’s hard to see him keep Aubameyang from adding to his current goal tally on Saturday.
Do also keep an eye on the FISO FPL GW22 Captain Poll where currently Hazard is leading the way with 47% of the vote.