With gameweek 20 behind us, we’ve true and well kicked off the second half of the 2018-19 Premier League season. We’ve also reached the last fixture of the relentless festive period, the end of a run of eight rounds in just over three weeks, as gameweek 22 starts on January 12th. While this might represent a welcome break for FPL managers, there’s no such luck for the real-time PL managers. Between January 4th and January 12th, the third round of the FA Cup will be played, while Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs will also be playing their respective League Cup semi-finals. These encounters will surely have an impact on the starting line-ups for gameweek 22, so try to keep an eye on the Cup developments as well.
Some observations ahead of gameweek 21
We’ve been trying to temper the enthusiasm surrounding Mourinho’s departure from the United bench, in part due to the club’s easy fixture schedule of the past weeks, but the Red Devils really do seem invigorated. Against Bournemouth at Old Trafford, United booked a third consecutive victory, making it three in three for caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. They’ve shown plenty of attacking intent over that period, scoring 12 goals in those three games. A reason for slight worry might be that they’ve also conceded three goals, one in each game, against some of the lowest-scoring outfits in the league (Cardiff and Huddersfield). Few will care about that at the moment though, and most few will be looking forward to another winning performance at Saint James’ Park coming Wednesday.
One of the weekend’s surprise results was the Wolves away victory over Spurs on Saturday. The home team put in a fine performance in the first half and went into the break 1-0 ahead, courtesy of a fantastic left-foot strike by Harry Kane. The Wolves were probably content to make it to that point with minimal damage, but the outlook was completely different in the second half. Spurs seemed drained and Wolves slowly found their way back into the game, with Willy Boly’s powerful header drawing the score 1-1. It was all downhill for Spurs from there, and it was hard not to notice the lack of energy and conviction in the team as time advanced. They’ve had a great first half of the season, but they’d be wise to use the winter transfer window to deepen their squad a bit, especially considering the fact that they’re still active on four fronts: the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup.
The fact that Cardiff are in 16th place after the first half of the season is also worth mentioning. When the Bluebirds clinched promotion, they looked like they would be one of the nailed-on candidates for relegation. When they just spent £28 million on incoming players during the summer transfer window, it looked like it was going to be more than a tough season for them. Twenty one weeks later, Neil Warnock’s men are in 16th place, with 18 points and a team that seems to be settling in the League. Last weekend’s away game to Leicester, the team that had triumphed against Man City just a few days earlier, ended in a 0-1 victory for the Bluebirds, their first away victory of the season. If they can limit the damage against Spurs coming Tuesday, the club might be starting 2019 well above the drop zone, a position they’ll be more than happy to be at after gameweek 38.
At the top of the table, Liverpool took the opportunity to show Arsenal coach Unai Emery that his Gunners are still some way off from challenging for the title. Sure, Arsenal have had an unbeaten run of 20+ games and their attacking play looks impressive at times, but last weekend’s game at Anfield showed that Liverpool (and the likes of City, Spurs and even Chelsea) are still a few steps ahead. What especially stands out is Arsenal’s defensive vulnerability, because conceding 30 goals in 20 games is no feat of a title challenger. The 5-1 drubbing by Liverpool will have hurt, so a home match against Fulham on New Year’s Day could be the perfect way to regain some confidence and get back to winning ways.
We hoped you liked our ‘punt’ Premium Pick last gameweek of Firmino who banged in 3 goals and 17 points to be the 2nd highest gameweek scorer, second only to Pogba who we tipped as the Gameweek Captain. This week we’re start by looking at Arsenal’s home encounter with Fulham which stands out this round. Despite the Gunners coming off a painful 5-1 defeat to Liverpool and Fulham booking a 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Huddersfield, a result of which the clean sheet will have especially pleased manager Claudio Ranieri. Still, Arsenal versus Fulham could well become a goal bonanza and Gunner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) would be the one to benefit from such a game. The Gabonese striker is the current Premier League top scorer and Fulham is still the team with the league’s leakiest defense: 43 goals conceded in 20 games. Over the last three gameweeks, the Cottagers have allowed 32 attempts on goal (18 of which came from inside the area), and after a quiet and undoubtedly very frustrating game at Anfield, Aubameyang will be looking to get back to scoring ways in gameweek 21.
Our second premium pick of the week had a quiet gameweek 20, but we’re counting on Eden Hazard (£11.1m) to deliver the goods yet again against Southampton at home on Wednesday. The Belgian was placed on the left wing again after a few weeks as Chelsea’s “false nine”, which pitted him against the tireless Aaron Wan-Bissaka and saw him appear less in Palace’s danger area. The Eagles tend to count on their solid defense anyway, so while the Hazard blank will have disappointed many, don’t worry. He was still very close to a couple of assists (both shots ended up against the woodwork) and he still recorded 33 points over the past four gameweeks. Hazard has provided attacking returns in 14 of the 19 Premier League in which he featured, resulting in his current totals of 10 goals and 9 assists. The Saints have conceded 9 goals in the 5 games under Ralph Hasenhüttl, but what might be more worrying is the number of attempts the team has allowed in the last three games: 16 vs Huddersfield in gameweek 18, 16 vs West Ham in gameweek 19, and 14 vs Man City last weekend. Southampton will also be missing their Captain, Hojbjerg, who covers a lot of ground in midfield, following his red card against Man City. Eden Hazard will be licking his lips in anticipation.
When a player scores 4 goals, provides 4 assists, and brings home 46 FPL points in his last three games, we can’t afford not to mention him as a premium pick. We recommended Paul Pogba (£8.1m) as a prime candidate for the captaincy last weekend and the Frenchman delivered: 2 goals, 1 assist and 18 points to top score for GW20. He also hit the woodwork and was the player with most passes in the game, which shows just how central he is to the new manager’s more attacking approach. Next up is an away game at Newcastle, where the home team have conceded 15 goals in 10 games so far this season, a run from which they’ve taken just 7 points. Only Huddersfield have performed worse in home games. Pogba has the form and he has the fixture, and at his current price, he’s an absolute steal.
A differential pick or two
Our first differential pick for gameweek 21 is based more on what’s about to come than what has happened recently. Lucas Moura (£6.9m) recorded 11 points against Wolves in gameweek 19, courtesy of a goal and an assist, but the Brazilian dribbler had been blanking for a period of three weeks prior to that. Overall, the first half of his 2018-19 campaign has been pretty decent, with 6 goals, 2 assists, and 84 FPL points, and he could find himself among the points again on a regular basis soon. It’s doubtful whether or not he’ll start away to Cardiff on Tuesday (keep an eye on the Spurs team news), but in-form attacker Son Heung-Min will be off for the Asian Cup soon and Moura seems poised to take his place. The Spurs schedule is relatively kind between now and gameweek 27, and at a price of £6.9 million (and an ownership of just 8.6%), the Brazilian could be a great differential.
This week’s second differential pick is Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.7m) who we also tipped last week and were rewarded with a goal. This is even more of a punt, seeing as the Cottagers are visiting Arsenal at the Emirates on Tuesday, but it might just pay out. The Serbian striker was a one-man attack force against the Terriers last weekend, with his tireless efforts culminating in the first and only goal of the game, in the 91th minute. He could’ve had another one less than ten minutes earlier, but team mate Kamara demanded to take the penalty that he would eventually miss. Mitrovic took 5 shots at goal, of which 2 were on target, and he also created one key chance for a team mate. Fulham will definitely not visit Arsenal thinking they’re taking the three points back home, but they will create chances against the Gunners, as all teams do. Emery’s men have conceded 9 goals in 10 home games, and the Gunners defense could be suffering against the Serbian striker’s relentless physical style. Like we said, a real punt, but an interesting one.
Arsenal hosting Fulham in gameweek 21 is such a juicy fixture on paper that we’re taking one of our premium picks as the number one candidate for the armband. This game sees the current top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) facing the league’s worst defense, in a home game, after a 5-1 beating by Liverpool a few days earlier. What better way to get over such a harsh reality check than by banging in a bunch of goals against Fulham? It might also be worth mentioning that Auba has scored 11 of 13 goals so far against teams not currently in the top six. After his almost invisible game against the Reds last weekend, some managers have already decided to transfer him out, but they’re likely to be regretting that decision after coming Tuesday’s game. If you have Auba, you should captain him.
Our second captaincy suggestion this week is Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min (£8.8m), because he’s in incredible form and we’ll have to do without him for a while soon. He produced the assist for Kane’s wonderful 1-0 and had another four shots at goal himself. On top of that, the Korean gave three key passes that led to danger in front of the Wolves goal, making him the most threatening man on the pitch. Opponents Cardiff kept a nice clean sheet against Leicester in gameweek 20, but it should be noted that the Bluebirds did so while allowing for no less than 31 attempts on goal, 22 of which came from inside the penalty area. With Son in red hot form and with Kane always ready to pounce, it looks like Cardiff, who have conceded 20 goals in 10 home matches in total, could be in trouble against Spurs on Tuesday.
You can also see what fiso members think of their GW21 Captain in our weekly forum poll where over 100 votes have already been cast giving Hazard a commanding 46% of the votes followed by Aubameyang on 23%, Kane 14% and Pogba 12%.