The midweek round of fixtures has slightly disrupted our rhythm but we’ve still found time to squeeze in our weekly regular, allowing us to assess the strength of schedule over the next four to six Gameweeks. Liverpool, Arsenal and Fulham are all facing up to a kind run in December, while Newcastle, Swansea and West Ham (once again) have little reason for festive cheer…
Three home games in four will see plenty investment right throughout Brendan Rodgers’ side. With just a single goal conceded in their previous four at Anfield, clean sheets could well be on the cards as Southampton, Villa and Fulham all pay visit, while a trip to West Ham won’t deter any would-be investors.
Jose Enrique’s recent move to the left of the front three makes him a wanted man for many Fantasy managers – his potential for points at both ends of the pitch looks hugely appealing, while Andre Wisdom remains the budget option at the back. Raheem Sterling has produced double figures in two of his last three at Anfield and continues to attract investment, with his current price of 5.7 still more than reasonable. Up top, Luis Suarez looks a real armband candidate for those three aforementioned matches and can expect huge numbers of transfers in, despite being a booking away from a one-match ban.
The Cottagers will be looking to take advantage of a run of four home games in the next six as the festive period picks up pace. Tottenham, Newcastle, Southampton and Swansea all pay visit, while a trip to QPR also appeals. Dimitar Berbatov is the obvious target for Fantasy managers – having averaged 5.7 points per game so far, his 7.4 price tag will ensure he’s a popular pick over the next few Gameweeks. Intriguingly, for those who are bold enough to go into the next few weeks without Robin Van Persie, Berbatov and Suarez offer a strong looking armband partnership over the next 10 Gameweeks. It’s a risky tactic, perhaps, but captaining the pair in their upcoming home games would afford a run of fixtures that reads (SOT, NEW, AVL, FUL, SOT, SWA, SUN, WIG, NOR, WHM).
John Arne Riise’s share of corner kicks has boosted his appeal – the left-back has provided four assists this term, though a single clean sheet in their last four at home may deter many from snapping up the Cottagers’ backline. Damien Duff has proven to be a decent mid-price shout in midfield, while Bryan Ruiz, with a goal and seven assists in nine appearances, could provide us with a budget forward alternative to Berbatov if he can shrug off a recent hamstring injury.
Arsene Wenger’s outfit are another side that look likely to receive plenty new investors over the next few weeks. The Gunners’ have four home games in the next six (SWA, WBA, WHM, NEW) and with trips to Reading and Wigan also on their agenda, the potential for points looks particularly strong as they seek to improve upon their current seventh place position.
Theo Walcott offers Fantasy managers a relatively cheaper alternative to Santi Cazorla in the Arsenal midfield area and seems to have nailed down the right flank role – with 28 FPL points in his last three, his ownership of less than 3% makes him a real differential right now. Olivier Giroud continues to be selected as Wenger’s main forward in the 4-2-3-1; his 8.4 FPL price tag is set to attract new investors but he’s managed attacking returns in just three of his last eight heading into December. At the back, rest and rotation seems to be on the cards right now; while Thomas Vermaelen’s eye for goal has impressed in seasons gone by, he’s done little to vindicate his 6.9 cost, with Wojciech Szczesny perhaps the most secure and budget-friendly route into the Gunners’ backline.
Three home games in the next four brings the Baggies Fantasy assets firmly back on the radar. Steve Clarke’s side have won six of their seven matches at the Hawthorns – they have also averaged two goals per game and registered four clean sheets in front of their own fans. Shane Long is the most obvious option ahead of West Brom’s short-term schedule. As Jonty mentioned in yesterday’s Watchlist article, the forward has scored or assisted in all of his seven home matches so far and looks primed to start against Stoke this weekend after being rested away to Swansea in midweek.
While James Morrison’s role in “the hole” has attracted plenty of interest, Chris Brunt offers an intriguing midfield alternative – the Irishman has started three of the last four and has provided an assist in each of those first XI appearances. At the back, Liam Ridgewell remains reasonably priced at 5.0, though Billy Jones has started the last five and comes in at 4.4 in FPL.
QPR – a goalless draw at Sunderland already suggests an extra resilience at the back under Harry Redknapp ahead of a potentially profitable schedule. The new man in charge will be earmarking victories in each of the next three at Loftus Road (AVL, FUL, WBA) while trips to Wigan and Newcastle will offer Redknapp hope of taking points in his bid to scramble up the table. Ryan Nelsen, at 4.0, looks the cheapest route into the defence, while the likes of Adel Taarabt, Esteban Granero and Djibril Cisse will be tasked with breaking down opponents’ backlines as the Londoners look to rectify their winless start to the season.
Sunderland – the upcoming double Gameweek is enough to keep interest in the Black Cats ticking over. Trips to Norwich and United in the next four are hardly enticing but with Chelsea and Reading rolling up to the Stadium of Light in Gameweek 16, there will be plenty willing to take a punt. Sunderland also have a trip to Southampton on their short-term schedule – those who decide to invest in the likes of Stephane Sessegnon or Steven Fletcher could hold until the St Mary’s clash before assessing their transfers out. Given the Black Cats’ form, though, there would be little surprise if the double Gameweek proved a bitter disappointment.
Sam Allardyce’s side remain firmly entrenched in this section of our weekly article with the schedule showing little sign of letting up. Normally, three home games in the next four would be a cause for optimism but with Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton rolling up to Upton Park, the fixtures are far from straightforward. The Hammers also travel to West Brom and Arsenal and with two clean sheets in their last 10 matches, faith in their backline will be limited, with Jussi Jaaskelainen’s save points helping boost his score. Up top, Allardyce’s troops have struggled to find the net of late – just four goals in their last six, and with Kevin Nolan notching only once since Gameweek 8, his 22% owners may be a little concerned in light of their next five fixtures.
Michael Laudrup’s side have just one defeat in their last eight but face a tricky time of it over the next four Gameweeks. The Swans square up to Arsenal, Spurs and United and also face a resilient Norwich side, currently unbeaten in their last seven. Faith in Michu’s potential may take a drop, though with eight goals to his name already, many of his owners will be content to see this run through. Swansea have just one clean sheet in their last 12 and aside from the home clash with Norwich, that record looks highly unlikely to improve anytime soon.
Having enjoyed an obliging introduction to the season, David Moyes’ side now embark on a run that will truly test their credentials for a top four spot. The trip to City this weekend is just one of three away games in the next four Gameweeks with Stoke and West Ham visits also looming. A home clash with Spurs in Gameweek 16 breaks that up but will also test the Toffees – particularly at the back where they are without a clean sheet in nine league matches. Those wavering on Leighton Baines will be reeling as a result of his hamstring injury and, with clean sheets looking unlikely, may refuse to bank on attacking returns over this spell. As for Marounane Fellaini, his threat is unlikely to be tempered too much by the fixture list, although Moyes remains concerned that his side continue to waste opportunities in attack.
The injury-hit Magpies face a tempting home fixture against Wigan this weekend but only one of their following six fixtures looks appealing. Alan Pardew’s side are set to travel to Fulham, United and Arsenal over the festive period and with home showdowns against City, QPR and Everton also thrown in, Newcastle will be hoping for a turn in fortunes, after losing four back-to-back league matches.
With Steven Taylor and Yohan Cabaye likely out till February and Hatem Ben Arfa still nursing a hamstring strain, Pardew’s side will be missing many of their key protagonists over the crucial upcoming period. Demba Ba has one goal in his last five and is struggling to replicate his early season form, while a defence that registered 15 clean sheets last season looks a shadow of its former self – the Magpies have kept out their opponents just once this term heading into their tough run of games.
Also Be Wary Of
Chelsea – Those banking on a Chelsea revival after two disappointing showings under Rafa Benitez thus far will do well to consider a testing short-term scheduled. The trip to West Ham this weekend is followed by another journey to Sunderland, before Chelsea blank in Gameweek 17 due to the World Club Championships. While things pick up after that, it’s debatable where the likes of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard can be held for the next three Gameweeks give the form of other midfielders in their bracket.
Reading – Brian McDermott’s side may have a double Gameweek 16 but with both those matches on the road (sot, sun), they could struggle to justify any investment. The Royals have just two points from seven away games so far and have conceded in all of those matches, suggesting Fantasy faith in Nicky Shorey and co may best be tempered. With home clashes against United and Arsenal on either side of the double, followed by a trip to City, Reading may struggle in their attempt to climb out the drop zone.
Stoke – three road trips in the next four could prove problematic for Tony Pulis’ troops. The Potters have scored just three times in their last five away matches, while their defensive resolve has been far from impressive away from the Britannia. Stoke may have conceded just two goals at home this term but have registered just one away clean sheet all season; trips to West Brom, Villa and Spurs suggest defensive points may be hard to come by for the likes of Asmir Begovic and Ryan Shawcross, while Peter Crouch (if available), Charlie Adam and Jon Walters are likely to struggle to produce if the Potters’ away form continues.
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