With the first major blank gameweek of the 2020-21 Premier League campaign upon us, FPL managers are approaching what is probably one of the most uncertain periods in terms of fixture and squad planning in recent (and not so recent) memory. In gameweek 18, we have just six games on the calendar at the moment of writing although Spurs are now playing Fulham instead of Aston Villa, but FPL faith would have it that the first major BGW is also coinciding with a very serious resurgence of the coronavirus on British territory. Several FA Cup games have already been postponed due to outbreaks at different clubs, including Aston Villa, and it remains to be seen how many will follow in the coming days. We can just say two things in this regard: we hope you are healthy and do keep an extra strict eye on the team news these days.
The reason why these circumstances cause lots of extra complications in terms of the Fantasy Premier League is that many people marked blank gameweek 18 as a perfect opportunity to activate their Free Hit chip and thus planned accordingly for weeks. If more postponements follow, how will that affect the already limited pool of available players? We don’t know, nobody does, so the best advice we can give you is to wait with the activation of your chip (if this was your plan) or with the confirmation of your transfers. At the same time, we will be recommending our picks for the upcoming round as usual, assuming that all games will take place. Hope dies last, right?
Don’t forget: the deadline for gameweek 18 is set for 16h30 (UK time) on Tuesday, January 12th. 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 January 11th, 2020)
|TRANSFERS OUT||TRANSFERS IN||POSSIBLE REASONS|
|GK||McCarthy (SOU), Mendy (CHE), Fabianski (WHU)||Martinez (AST), Leno (Arsenal), De Gea (UTD)|
|DEF||Zouma (CHE), James (CHE), Chilwell (CHE)||Tierney (ARS), Cancelo (CIT), Cresswell (WHU)||Chelsea’s recent bad form, the upcoming BGW18|
|MID||Salah (LIV), Ward-Prowse (SOU), Zaha (CRY)||De Bruyne (CIT), Saka (ARS), Fernandes (UTD)||Salah being transferred out to fit in premiums for BGW18, Saka form + BGW18 fixture|
|FOR||Calvert-Lewin (EVE), Bamford (LEE), Vardy (LEI)||Wilson (NEW), Kane (TOT), Lacazette (ARS), Bamford (LEE)||Good fixtures in BGW18 plus form.|
After a stellar 13-point performance against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, courtesy of a goal and an assist, Kevin de Bruyne (£11.7m) looks to be one of the stand-out fantasy picks for blank gameweek 18. The Belgian maestro has not been in his absolute best form yet this season, but he still has 3 goals and 8 assists to his name from 14 games. Not bad at all for a midfielder, though his heavy price tag does require him to perform from an FPL point of view. Still, he looked as motivated as ever against the Blues, playing as a false 9 to which the opponent had no answer, and up next is Brighton. The Seagulls have been lauded more than once this season for their positive game approach, but the reality is that they are currently hovering just three points above the drop zone. Only four teams have conceded more goals than Brighton, while only six teams have scored more than them. A City side gaining momentum with KDB at the wheel will likely be way too much for them right now.
Talking about momentum: from being a laughing stock just a few weeks ago, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are currently one of the most interesting teams to bet on for gameweek 18. The Gunners have won their last three league games, which saw them rise to 11th place in the league, just six points off a European spot, as a matter of fact. One of the players who has stood out in the last few weeks is striker Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m), with 4 goals and 27 FPL points over the past three rounds. As a result, Laca suddenly represents the coveted fantasy combination of form and fixture. This coming Thursday, Arsenal are hosting Crystal Palace, who have conceded 29 goals already. Only struggling West Brom and crazy Leeds have conceded more. The Eagles did win against Championship-bound Sheffield United in GW17, but in the three games before that, they got just a single point and conceded a worrying 11 goals, including 7 against Liverpool and 3 versus Villa. In other words, Lacazette looks like a very interesting fantasy pick for the upcoming blank gameweek.
Our second non-premium fantasy pick is Jack Grealish (£7.7m), whose Aston Villa are currently hit by a heavy coronavirus outbreak. As a result, it’s not entirely sure what will happen to Villa’s home game against Spurs in gameweek 18, but for now, we’re recommending their talisman as one of the best possible non-premium picks. It should be noted that the club is now in lock-down, but their next league game takes place next Wednesday. In other words, much can happen still. As far as Grealish goes, the creative midfielder has been phenomenal so far this season, with 5 goals and 9 assists to date. That’s an excellent return considering his budget-friendly price tag. Spurs are tough to beat and score against, we know, but the Villains are in very good form and the young Englishman could be a shrewd pick for Free Hitters.
The budget enabler
For our budget-enabler category, we usually try to pick the real bargains of the moment, but this week we’ve gone for a slightly more expensive type of budget-enabler. Callum Wilson (£6.5m) represents excellent value this season, seeing as he has already scored 8 goals and provided 4 assists for Newcastle this season. Managers with Free Hit plans will be trying to include as many heavy hitters as possible from the big teams, which makes Wilson probably the most straightforward budget pick. On top of that, the former Bournemouth striker is up against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. The Blades have collected just two points so far this season and even though they are rarely conceding boatloads of goals in a single game, they still boast one of the worst defensive records in the league with 29 conceded goals and no clean sheets to their name.
A differential pick or two
Our first differential pick is actually a team mate of Wilson’s, because besides their defence, Sheffield United are also having serious issues at the other side of the pitch. After 17 games, the manager Chris Wilder’s men have scored just 8 goals, which is more than worrying. In the last three games (against Everton at home and Burnley and Crystal Palace away), they failed to net a single goal, which is why we have selected Magpie defender DeAndre Yedlin (£4.3m) for blank gameweek 18. The American right-back has recuperated his spot in the starting eleven since gameweek GW14, though the fixture run since then has been tough: Fulham at home, followed by encounters with Man City, Liverpool (clean sheet for Yedlin) and Leicester). Newcastle managed to make it through this nightmare run with 4 points and just 5 conceded goals, which points at a certain defensive confidence in the Magpie camp. We wouldn’t be surprised to see them book their second clean sheet of the season coming Tuesday.
Our second differential fantasy pick for blank gameweek 18 is of a different category than Yedlin, in all aspects. When discussing Kevin de Bruyne, we already briefly discussed City’s favourable match-up with Brighton for the upcoming round, which has also put Riyad Mahrez (£8.1m) on our FPL radar. The Algerian forward is an extremely explosive player and the game against the Seagulls could very well see him record his third double-digit haul of the season. The main issue with him is his manager and more specifically, his manager’s special love for extreme and often heartbreaking rotation. The Cityzens played United in the semi-finals of the League Cup last Wednesday and Mahrez was in the starting eleven, but whether or not that is any indication of his chances of a start against Brighton, we’re not sure. There is a week of rest between these two games, after all. What we do know, is that he is currently owned by just 3.9% of FPL managers, which could make him an extreme differential for the upcoming blank gameweek.
Despite there being just six games in GW18, the round does present us with plenty of good candidates for the captaincy. We have gone with Kevin de Bruyne against Brighton after his double-digit haul at Stamford Bridge and his status as (practically) untouchable in Pep Guardiola’s starting eleven. With seven days of rest between this week’s League Cup clash with Man United and the upcoming home encounter with the Seagulls, we feel he is the stand-out captaincy pick.
The Belgian is expensive though, and he has been disappointing for FPL managers at times this season, so it’s a good thing to have a few more than decent alternatives on hand. His teammate Raheem Sterling could be a big-time differential pick, while Bruno Fernandes from city rivals United looks like a great choice as well for his visit to Turf Moor. The inevitable Spurs duo Harry Kane and Heung Min-Son is, of course, worth considering as well, despite their tricky away game at Villa Park. The likes of Callum Wilson (away at Sheffield United), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (away at Molineux), Lacazette (at home to Palace) and Marcus Rashford (away against Burnley) could all deliver big returns as well.