FPL Season 20-21 Gameweek 17 preview

“January 3rd brings us the first clash of giants of the year 2021 when Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge” (CC by 3.0). Image by: Vespa125125CFC.

Chaos. Mayhem. Carnage. Gameweek 16 has been called all of these names and more since its kick-off last Monday. First, there was the corona-related postponement of Everton vs Manchester City just after the deadline. Then, the encounter between Spurs and Fulham followed suit yesterday, just two or three hours before the kick-off. Owners of De Bruyne and especially captaincy candidates Kane and Son, we feel you, but at least your vice captain was one of Liverpool’s in-form stars, right? To still end a crazy gameweek with a bang? Nope, blanks all around (apart from defenders) after the 0-0 draw at Saint James’ Park.

Now, with two games added to the slowly but steadily growing pile of postponed fixtures that need to be fitted into the already cramped schedule some time soon, for FPL managers the uncertainty keeps growing as well. At the moment of writing this gameweek preview, no GW17 fixtures have been postponed yet (although Burnley v Fulham seems most in doubt), but we do expect some relevant news over the coming days, with particular relevance to the upcoming blank and double gameweeks. Whether this will be before the gameweek 17 deadline is unknown, unfortunately. All we can say is, keep an eye on the Fantasy Premier League news and try to build as much flexibility as possible into your FPL squad.

Don’t forget: the deadline for gameweek 17 is set for 16h00 (UK time) on Friday, January 1st. Do check out the Predicted Line-Ups for the Premier League clubs as well as the latest injury news (click on ‘Team’ to sort per club rather than the default ‘date’) before finalising your transfer(s).

Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per December 31st, 2020)

GKMendy (CHE), Ryan (BRI), McCarthy (SOU)Martinez (AST), McCarthy (SOU), Leno (ARS)
DEFVestergaard (SOU), Zouma (CHE), James (CHE)Dallas (LEE), Bednarek (SOU), Chilwell (CHE)Chelsea lack of clean sheets, Vestergaard injury, Chilwell quick return to fitness, Dallas recent returns
MIDGrealish (AST), Ward-Prowse (SOU), De Bruyne (CIT)Fernandes (UTD), Neto (WOL), Zaha (CRY)Man United’s form, De Bruyne lack of returns
FORCalvert-Lewin (EVE), Wilson (NEW), Werner (CHE)Bamford (LEE), Vardy (LEI), Calvert-Lewin (EVE)Lack of performing forwards, Werner and Wilson lack of returns, Bamford form

Premium pick

Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United have been a terrific addition to the Premier League so far, thanks to their attacking game approach and open-ended matches full of goals on both sides. The downside of this approach is that every now and then, the Whites suffer a heavy defeat, usually when facing a high-level counter-oriented opponent. It happened back in gameweek 14 with a 6-2 defeat at the hands of Man United and we can see a similar scenario taking place on Friday when Leeds visit Spurs. José Mourinho’s men will certainly lean back and wait for opportunities on the counter, which they will get for sure. It’s the manager’s favourite game and something that has had us considering Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son (£9.7m) from the get-go. As our premium fantasy pick for gameweek 17, we have gone with the latter, thanks to his deeper positioning when Spurs are counter-attacking and despite his lack of returns over the past two weeks. On top of that, the North London side had the opportunity for some extended rest as their GW16 game against Fulham was postponed at the last minute.

Non-premium picks

With budgets being stretched to their maximums as FPL managers try to fit in as much of the template big hitters as possible, we have gone for two very budget-friendly non-premium fantasy picks this week. Our first pick is Leicester City’s Harvey Barnes (£6.7m), who has recovered his starting spot in manager Brendan Rodgers’ starting eleven. The English forward scored a goal in each of the last two gameweeks, against Man United and Palace, for a total of 15 FPL points. He is visiting Saint James’ Park this coming Sunday and will be looking to work on his current tallies of 5 goals and 1 assist against a leaky Magpie defence. Despite their clean sheet against Liverpool, they rank amongst the bottom four of the entire league when it comes to defensive stats like shots conceded, shots in the box and shots on target. A second consecutive clean sheet looks unlikely here.

Our second non-premium fantasy pick for gameweek 17 is just a tad more expensive. As usual, Wilfried Zaha (£7.4m) is Crystal Palace’s talisman this season. The Ivory coast international has so far been directly involved in 11 of his team’s 20 Premier League goals (8 goals and 3 assists), which is a dream for FPL managers. This weekend, the Eagles are hosting a Sheffield United side for which the drop to the Championship seems inevitable already, just 16 rounds into the current campaign. Zaha ended a four-game goal drought against Leicester in GW16 by scoring the opening goal and we hope this has given him the confidence to repeat that feat against the Blades on Saturday.

The budget enabler

On top of our two budget-friendly midfielders, we have also identified a very much budget-enabling defender who currently represents excellent value. Burnley had a bad start to the 2020-21 campaign, but the Clarets have been steadily improving over the past few months. As a matter of fact, with 3 clean sheets in their last five games, manager Sean Dyche’s men seem to have found back the defence-based approach that has brought them so much success since their return to the Prem in 2016. On the right-side of their defence plays Matthew Lowton (£4.4m), who has rather quietly racked up 23 FPL points over the past five rounds for an average of just under 5 points per game. The 31-year old Englishman has no attacking returns to his name yet, but he is a nailed-on starter at a bargain price in an improving team that should record plenty more shut-outs this season. He could be just the enabler you need to free up those crucial 0.1m or 0.2m of budget but do check if their match against Fulham will be on.

A differential pick or two

Our first differential fantasy pick for GW17 is a defender as well, though with a different recent history. The Wolverhampton Wanderers have not recorded a clean sheet since gameweek 7, which was their fourth shut-out in seven games, but since then, they have conceded more than a single goal on just two occasions (4-0 away to Liverpool in GW11 and 2-1 away to Burnley in GW14). With an away game against goal-shy Brighton up next, they will be looking for their fifth clean sheet of the campaign, which is what we are hoping for as well with Romain Saïss (5.0m). The Moroccan central defender is the highest-scoring defensive Wolves asset with 55 FPL points, in big part thanks to his 2 goals, one of which he scored back in gameweek 15 versus Spurs. Saïss and the rest of the Wolves have a decent fixture schedule coming up and with an ownership of just 7.7%, he could be a shrewd investment at a reasonable price.

Our second differential fantasy pick is an Arsenal player. That’s right, we said it, he’s a Gunner. With 20 points from the first 16 games of the campaign, Arsenal are performing way, way below par, but their last two results have provided some hope for improvement. Both Chelsea and Brighton were beaten, and Alexandre Lacazette (£8.2m) hit the target in both games. Now, the Frenchman is not as nailed-on an asset as we would like and Arsenal are still Arsenal, but he is currently owned by just 2.9% of FPL managers and has a decent set of fixtures coming up. This weekend, the Gunners are rolling up to the Hawthornes for a third consecutive victory, followed by home games against Crystal Palace and Newcastle, and an away game versus Southampton. Lacazette might just turn out to be a very rewarding outfield choice for those managers chasing in their mini-leagues.

The captaincy

As far as the captain’s armband for gameweek 17 goes, we have mainly focused on Spurs as they host Leeds United. It was between Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, obviously, and we ended up going with the Korean as our captain for this weekend. Both Tottenham assets look promising in the build-up to the game, especially when considering they have had an unexpected rest in gameweek 16, but we feel they expected counter-attacking style of José Mourinho’s men might benefit Son just a tad more.

Besides the dynamic Spurs duo, GW17 offers a few other interesting options for the captaincy as well. Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes play a sturdy Aston Villa side at Old Trafford, and Leicester are visiting one of the league’s most suspect defences when they visit Newcastle on Sunday, bringing the inevitable Jamie Vardy into the captaincy fold as well. For the more differential kind of choice, managers can look at Wilfried Zaha at home against Sheffield United, Daniel Podence for the away game against Brighton, or even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang/Alexandre Lacazette for Arsenal’s visit to West Brom.