The postponement of Arsenal’s Boxing Day clash has a marked effect on our Christmas Watchlist rankings, with Arsene Wenger’s assets stalling in our thinking, despite a convincing win at Reading last time out. That paves the way for familiar heavy-hitters to return to the upper echelons in midfield, while at the back and up front, the status quo remains. Our updated rankings are now available in your right sidebar; read on for details behind the big movers…
The goalkeeper situation remains a minefield for Fantasy managers, with seemingly ever-decreasing options in the mid-price and budget areas who can promise returns. An effective rotation pairing looks hard to find, with a “one stop shop” solution looking a more favourable route right now, at least until injuries clear.
The likes of Joe Hart and Hugo Lloris can also be considered as single solutions to the keeper conundrum but, while they have form and fixtures with them, their price tags are major obstacles and, arguably, there are more attractive routes to covering the City and Spurs defence.
Despite missing the Boxing Day Gameweek, Wojciech Szczesny remains in our thinking by virtue of offering the most secure route into an Arsenal defence that faces an obliging run of opponents going into January. While there are other options in the Gunners defence, notably Kieran Gibbs, the Polish keeper is assured of his number one status and is reasonably priced to offer promise between the sticks.
Ben Foster is now edging a return to the West Brom lineup and so can take his place in our thinking for the Christmas period. He fares well in tandem with Asmir Begovic, who looks set to suffer a torrid time in terms of fixtures. Foster also works well with Villa’s Brad Guzan, while West Ham’s Jussi Jaaskelainen is, at last, coming out of an evil run of fixtures to offer value once more in the New Year.
Glen Johnson continues to impress with his forward forays and has the fixtures to maintain his form both in defensive and attacking terms. He remains on top of our rankings, holding off the charge of Jan Vertonghen, who delivered on his promise with the winning goal against Swansea at the weekend. With very strong fixtures over the next five, the Belgian is an expensive punt but, as we mentioned last week, a clear differential who could prove highly effective.
City’s Matija Nastasic climbs in our thinking, despite continued concerns on rotation in the City ranks. The Serbian is priced at 5.6 in the FPL and that’s a big factor which makes the prospect of being rested somewhat more bearable. City’s fixtures are strong enough to warrant the gamble and, with Vincent Kompany likely to be fit for a return, defensive solidity is set to be restored, having conceded at Newcastle.
Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs would have been ranked higher had it not been for today’s news on the Boxing Day postponement. Gibbs showed his attacking qualities in the win at Reading and sneaks in above the less expensive Bacary Sagna. The Frenchman may have lost his fruitful partnership with Theo Walcott on the right flank after the winger was moved inside at the Madejski and that also works in Gibbs’ favour. Neither Arsenal full-back is 100% secure but Gibbs is possibly the safest route, with Sagna threatened by Carl Jenkinson for his starts over the busy festive spell.
The Chelsea defence is edging back into the equation, marked by Branislav Ivanovic’s climb in our rankings. His ascent is not enough to overtake Leighton Baines and United’s Rafael, however.
In terms of mid-price and budget, West Brom’s Gareth McAuley remains a solid option, have returned a clean sheet against the Hammers and with strong fixtures to come. Villa’s Ciaran Clark and Norwich City’s Sebastian Bassong have goal threat to compensate for a testing fixture list, while Joey O’Brien now appears to carry the flag for the West Ham defence – the full-back seems to have cemented his start and offers some attacking intent.
Michu remains top, despite the fact he’s still just a single yellow card away from a one-match ban. His form is strong enough to maintain his ”most wanted” status, regardless of some testing festive fixtures.
The charge of Arsenal pairing Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott is considerable but is tempered by the postponement of their Gameweek 19 fixture. Both players sparkled in the win at Reading but their potential has been somewhat derailed by today’s announcement.
With Arsenal drawing that Boxing Day blank, City’s David Silva earns a top three ranking: the Spaniard remains the most secure and sound investment in Roberto Maninci’s side ahead of the visit of Reading this weekend. Both Gareth Bale and Juan Mata also jump above the Arsenal pairing, despite the Tottenham man being on the verge of a ban and not yet being assured of his start against Stoke, following a recent hamstring injury.
Adel Taarabt is your best placed mid-price asset off the back of his outstanding display in the win over Fulham – although he, too, is just a booking away from a ban, with African Cup of Nations commitments also beckoning in January. Yaya Toure is also vulnerable to the call of international duty but offers enough in the short-term to retain a decent Watchist ranking: Silva remains the weapon of choice, however.
Southampton’s Jason Puncheon is the highest rank budget option, just nudging out Raheem Sterling, who looks set to earn a rest of some degree over the next fortnight. West Ham’s Kevin Nolan has poor form but – once his Boxing Day blank is out of the way – has fixtures ahead of him that show promise; look for him to climb further as the weeks roll by.
United’s Ashley Young is now our preferred midfield option in Sir Alex Ferguson’s ranks – ousting Antonio Valencia on form. There’s little doubt that Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney are the prime targets in the league’s most potent side, although Young is a decent compromise in midfield. Rotation remains a concern, however.
There’s no let up in the form of both Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney and it’s a brave Fantasy manager who goes forward from this point without one of them enrolled in their squads. Goals look forthcoming as United’s fixtures continue to please and the gap between these two and the rest of the chasing pack is pretty significant in terms of potential goal power.
Jermain Defoe is currently ranked third, with Luis Suarez suffering a blip of late. Dimitar Berbatov’s form is also a major concern, although his fixtures are so strong, he could well climb back into our top three following the trip to Anfield this weekend.
Villa’s Christian Benteke is undoubtedly your differential and man in form below these established names. He has enough in his favour to rank above the City pairing in our thinking – with fixtures falling nicely for the Belgian following the testing trip to Stamford Bridge.
Both Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero have to remain in our thoughts given their quality and the fixtures ahead of them, but there is real uncertainty over just how many minutes we’ll get from this pairing over the next two weeks. Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli remain factors in Roberto Mancini’s squad and this dents the appeal of the Argentine pairing, making Silva all that more enticing as an acquisition in midfield.