And just like that, in a matter of days, we’ve gone from a few “Covid-19 cases” further complicating an already challenging FPL festive season to there being rumors of gameweek 18 being postponed as a whole. At the time of writing, the two Saturday kick-offs are going ahead as planned (along with three on Sunday) and no official statements have been issued regarding a possible scrapping of PL football altogether this week, but it’s strongly recommended to keep an eye on Premier League news over the coming 24 hours. That also implies there is some wisdom in saving potential transfers for as long as you can.
As a result of four GW18 games having been postponed already (see overview below), a majority of fantasy managers will face a major challenge in just trying to field eleven players, let alone an optimal team to rise in the rankings. We’re expecting a relatively high number of hits, as well as some chip usage with managers trying to find ways to either fend off a nightmare gameweek or to pounce on other managers as they lose ground this weekend. In any case, it’s going to be an interesting one, that’s for sure.
|Taking place (so far)|
|Aston Villa – Burnley||Saturday 18th, 15h00|
|Leeds – Arsenal||Saturday 18th, 17h30|
|Wolves – Chelsea||Sunday 19th, 14h00|
|Newcastle – Manchester City||Sunday 19th, 14h00|
|Spurs – Liverpool||Sunday 19th, 16h30|
|Postponed (so far)|
|Southampton – Brentford|
|West Ham – Norwich|
|Everton – Leicester|
|Manchester United – Brighton|
|Watford – Crystal Palace|
Don’t forget, the deadline for gameweek 18 is set at 13h30 (UK time) on Saturday, December 18th.
Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per December 17th, 2021)
|TRANSFERS OUT||TRANSFERS IN||POSSIBLE REASONS|
|GK||Mendy (CHE), Sanchez (BRI), Guaita (CRY)||Ramsdale (ARS), Ederson (MCI), Martinez (AST)|
|DEF||Van Dijk (LIV), Livramento (SOU), Walker (MCI)||Cancelo (MCI), Alexander-Arnold (LIV), Gabriel (ARS)||Van Dijk COVID-19, Walker injury issue, Cancelo and TAA good form + fixture in GW18|
|MID||Bernardo Silva (MCI), Townsend (EVE), Benrahma (WHU)||Foden (MCI), Mount (CHE), Smith Rowe (ARS)||Bilva and Townsend injury issues, Foden, ESR and Mount form|
|FOR||Antonio (WHU), Vardy (LEI), Ronaldo (MUN)||Watkins (AST), Dennis (WAT), Lacazette (ARS)||COVID-19 outbreaks|
Generally, and excluding Mo Salah, premium midfielders and forwards have disappointed so far this season, so Kevin de Bruyne’s (£11.8m) brace against Leeds in GW17 was very welcome. Not only for the roughly 2% of managers who owned him for his 16-pointer, but also for us, as it provides us with a good argument to add some variation to our premium fantasy picks category. It sounds incredible, but this is actually the first time that KDB has featured here. Apart from a short run of returns in gameweeks 7 and 8, the Belgian maestro has been struggling to find consistent fitness (and therefore form) this season. The Leeds game on Tuesday was also the first time he started since gameweek 11 and only the third time this season that he completed the 90 minutes in a league game. His qualities are undeniable though, and with Newcastle away and Leicester at home up next, his double strike against Leeds might end up marking a first good stretch of the season for him.
Another player who has been largely underwhelming so far this season is Ollie Watkins (£7.7m). The Aston Villa forward had a great break-through season during the last campaign, scoring 14 goals and providing 9 assists for a total of 168 FPL points. This season though, he started out with an injury and has kind of struggled to find an extended run of good form since then. That is, until Steven Gerrard was appointed as Villa’s new manager back in GW12. Including that game, Watkins scored 3 goals and gave 1 assist since then, bringing home 34 FPL points in the process. As a matter of fact, his 12-point haul at Carrow Road on Tuesday was his most successful outing this season, for now, at least. With a home game against Burnley coming up as one of the five games still left on the calendar for this weekend and with Watkins showing some form, the Villa forward might suddenly end up being one of the most coveted forwards in gameweek 18.
The budget enabler
As our stand-out budget fantasy pick this weekend, a name that we have seen far too few times in our articles over the past years, Gabriel Martinelli (£5.2m). The Brazilian winger, once lauded by Jurgen Klopp as the biggest talent of his generation, has struggled to get a good footing at the Emirates as a result of injury troubles and an unstable club culture, but he’s fought himself into the Gunners’ starting eleven. Since coming on as a substitute against Newcastle in GW13 and scoring the decider, the 20-year old has started every single league game and he has paid back that confidence in his abilities with goals and assists. With 2 goals and 2 assists in 5 games, to be precise, for a total of 27 FPL points. Not too shabby for a starting forward classified as a midfielder and priced at a very gentlemanly £5.2m while playing for, I can’t believe we’re writing this, one of the form teams in the league at the moment. Combine that with the fact that Arsenal are facing Leeds and Norwich away from home next, and you can understand why Martinelli should at least be on your watchlist.
Truth be told, with the Gunners one of just ten remaining teams with a game in gameweek 18, the fact that they are actually combining form and fixture this weekend has us thinking that they might be worth pursuing aggressively on the short term. That’s why we’re highlighting Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m) as our differential fantasy pick of the week this time. The Frenchman is not cheap, but in a forwards category that has been majorly disappointing overall of late, he could prove to be a shrewd signing for those who can afford him. He has been good for an assist and a goal in his last two league outings, but he could’ve done much better for the roughly 2% of managers who owned him had he not missed his penalty against West Ham this week. Any way, in a glass-half-full kind of way we can say that at least he is (or was) on penalties and he seems to have conquered a starting spot in Mikel Arteta’s eleven (partly thanks to PEA’s uncaptain-like behaviour recently). Those two things alone might already turn out to be differentiating factors for a depleted gameweek 18.
Mo Salah is obviously our captain. Yes, De Bruyne just scored a brace and is facing Newcastle next. Yes, Lukaku might start against Wolves (if Covid free). Yes, Kane plays at home against a Liverpool side missing some key players. But no. Salah has returned in every gameweek so far bar GW2 and currently sits on an unprecedented 168 FPL points, courtesy of 15 goals and 10 assists. That’s 15 and 10, from 17 games. The only “downside” is that captaining him does not help you gain any advantage over active players any more, BUT the “downer downside” is that if you don’t captain him and he returns as usual this season, you can expect a serious red arrow unless your own captain at least matches Salah’s points. Are you confident enough to bet against Salah at this point? Do make sure your vice-captain though is not from Liverpool or Spurs in case that game is called off at late notice.
If you are tempted to go against Salah, then the previously mentioned Kevin de Bruyne is a good option against Newcastle, just like his team mate Phil Foden. Chelsea’s Mason Mount could be a big differential punt as the Blues visit Molineux, while Alexandre Lacazette and Ollie Watkins will be looking to extend their goal-scoring form against Leeds at Elland Road and Burnley at home, respectively. For more suggestions check fiso’s Fantasy Premier League forum.