So a lot has happened in the FPL universe the past few days. A lot, a lot. It is, of course prime festive season right now, which means that gameweeks are coming thick and fast until mid-January, more or less. At the same time, coronavirus is flaring up again all over the world and the Premier League clubs have outbreaks to deal with and people’s safety to prioritise, adding a considerable factor of uncertainty to an already intense period of (Fantasy) Premier League football.
Considering the short turn-around in terms of gameweeks, we’ll get to business straight away. Just remember that a few games from GW19 have been postponed already (see below) and that fantasy managers have all received an extra Free Hit chip to cope with the once again growing uncertainty. Also, take an extra good look at the deadlines of the coming gameweeks as we recommend to hold off on any transfers or related decisions until the very last moment (not always easy to do with the holidays or work committments). At this point in the season and considering the potential impact on your week performance as a result of a sudden COVID-19 outbreak, it’s probably justified to put squad value in the back seat for a few weeks and focus solely on points.
|Taking place (so far)|
|Manchester City – Leicester||Boxing Day, 15h00|
|Norwich – Arsenal||Boxing Day, 15h00|
|Spurs – Crystal Palace||Boxing Day, 15h00|
|West Ham – Southampton||Boxing Day, 15h00|
|Aston Villa – Chelsea||Boxing Day, 17h30|
|Brighton – Brentford||Boxing Day, 20h00|
|Newcastle – Manchester United||Monday 27, 20h00|
|Postponed (so far)|
|Burnley – Everton|
|Liverpool – Leeds|
|Wolves – Watford|
Don’t forget, the deadline for gameweek 19 is set at 13h30 (UK time) on Sunday, December 26th.
Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per December 25th, 2021)
|TRANSFERS OUT||TRANSFERS IN||POSSIBLE REASONS|
|GK||Mendy (CHE), Alisson (LIV), Foster (WAT)||Ramsdale (ARS), Sa (WOL), De Gea (MUN)|
|DEF||Van Dijk (LIV), Alexander-Arnold (LIV), Robertson (LIV)||Cancelo (MCI), Dias (MCI), Alexander-Arnold (LIV)||VVD COVID risk, Robertson red card, Liverpool GW19 blank|
|MID||Salah (LIV), Jota (LIV), Raphinha (LEE)||Martinelli (ARS), Son (TOT), ESR (ARS) & Jota (LIV)||Liverpool GW19 blank, Leeds GW19 blank|
|FOR||Antonio (WHU), Vardy (LEI), Dennis (WAT)||Ronaldo (MUN), Dennis (WAT), Broja (SOU)||Antonio COVID risk, Watford GW19 blank|
Looking at the fixtures, current team form and individual player quality, we normally would’ve picked Cristiano Ronaldo as our premium fantasy pick for gameweek 19. In the current circumstances though, with United only playing on Monday, the risk of a match postponement as a result of a coronavirus outbreak at Newcastle or Manchester is too high, in our opinion. That’s why instead, we have gone with Kevin de Bruyne (£11.9m) as Manchester City kick off the Boxing Day round of fixtures this year. In great part due to injury issues, this season had been sub-par compared to the Belgian’s usual standards, but he looks to be back on track. Pep Guardiola gave him the full 90 minutes in the past two gameweeks, including for the 7-0 thrashing of Leeds in which KDB scored twice and brought his differential ownership a sweet 16 FPL points. He’s up against a leaky Leicester side this weekend, so Salah sitting out this round could well result in more than a few managers opting for De Bruyne, either as a free transfer or as part of their Free Hit.
Now, for our non-premium fantasy pick of the week, we considered Phil Foden as we feel he’ll get the chance to redeem himself this weekend after missing out in gameweek 18 due to a disciplinary sanction. Looking at the postponed fixtures though, and at the added uncertainty of players even starting this weekend, we figured that Alexandre Lacazette (£8.5m) might be a wiser choice this time. The French striker is pretty-much nailed-on as Arsenal’s man leading the line up front and has delivered decently of late. In his last three league outings, he recorded a goal and 2 assists for a total of 15 FPL points. That’s not extraordinary, especially not at his price, but it should be noted that he is on penalties and missed one against West Ham back in GW17. Up next are Norwich and despite the fact that the Canaries have improved considerably under new manager Dean Smith, a Gunners formation in good form should be a bridge too far for them. On top of that, Norwich are rumoured to be coping with a few COVID-19 cases at the club, so Laca might end up facing a depleted defence.
The budget enabler
For our budget-enabling fantasy pick of the week, we’re going for a defender. Ben Davies (£4.5m) has been a major benefactor of Antonio Conte’s arrival as Tottenham’s new manager. The Wales international has not missed a minute of league action since gameweek 10, a period of six games (Spurs had a few postponements in between as well) over which he scored 29 points, courtesy of 3 clean sheets and 2 assists. As an overlapping central defender, Davies actually carries the highest goal threat of all Spurs defenders, while defensively, Spurs are actually among the best in the Prem. Just five teams have conceded more than their 19 goals despite their mediocre start to the season. This weekend against Crystal Palace at home, their chance of a clean sheet is estimated at about 44%, meaning that another good score could be on the way for their Welsh defender.
After recommending Gabriel Martinelli (£5.4m) as the stand-out budget pick for gameweek 18 and seeing him bring home 15 FPL points, courtesy of a brace and a 3 bonus points, we decided we’re going to ride the Brazilian’s train for at least another week, as a differential this time. Martinelli has been spectacular for Arsenal of late and it’s difficult to see the side’s recent resurgence separate from the winger coming into red hot form. He has started the last five league games, and provided 3 goals and 2 assists over that period. Such is his form at the moment, that for the first time in a long time, Arsenal fans are pondering over how to fit all of their four exciting youngsters (Martinelli, Odegaard, Saka, Smith Rowe) into one starting lineup around striker Lacazette. For now, the Brazilian, who is listed as a midfielder in FPL and owned by just 6.8% of managers at the time of writing, seems assured of a start and that’s worth a lot during the festive period, especially when the next encounter is at Carrow Road on Boxing Day. Expect Martinelli to be in plenty if not all Free Hit sides this weekend.
With Salah out of the equation, the captaincy has been blown wide open for gameweek 19. Normally, Cristiano Ronaldo would probably be our pick of the bunch for his away game against Newcastle, but as we pointed out earlier, risking the captaincy over a full two-day period with COVID-19 outbreaks once again the news of the day doesn’t fill us with confidence. Instead, for the GW19 captain we’re going with Kevin de Bruyne for City’s home encounter with Leicester. As usual, this involves rotation risk as well, but we feel the Belgian will be an integral part of Guardiola’s starting eleven over the festive period after missing so much of the earlier part of the season.
If you’re feeling less confident about KDB, you could also opt for Harry Kane (or Son) at home against an injury-plagued Palace defence after his goal against Liverpool in GW18, his first attacking return of any sort since gameweek 8. Another interesting option could be Riyad Mahrez, as him starting for City would mean that he would be facing Leicester’s weaker left side of the defence. As a matter of fact, no defence in the PL has given up more chances from their defensive left. For the more differential captaincy picks, Michail Antonio (if fit after covid isolation) at home to Southampton and Alexandre Lacazette away at Norwich could reap big rewards.