A 5-1 home defeat at the hands of Chelsea in last weekend’s FA Cup Third Round fixtures was hardly morale-boosting for Southampton but the result afforded Fantasy managers their first double Gameweek of the New Year. The Saints now travel to Villa Park this Saturday before rolling up to the Bridge the following Wednesday as Nigel Adkins plots revenge for their St Mary’s humiliation:
While their form on the road has hardly impressed, with just a single victory on their travels, Southampton’s recent away displays will perhaps give potential investors cause for optimism. Having tasted defeat in each of their first five outside of St Mary’s, Adkins’ side have lost just one of the subsequent four, with a win and a couple of draws also thrown in. They hit three past QPR at Loftus Road and also scored three times at Stoke in their last away game – a hugely impressive display, given that the Potters had shipped just four in the previous nine at the Britannia.
The trip to Villa clearly holds the most promise. Paul Lambert’s erratic side have shipped 17 goals in their last four matches, with seven goals conceded in their last two home fixtures, though the midweek match with Chelsea could prove problematic – the Blues have been particularly miserly since the arrival of Rafa Benitez, with a single goal against in four matches at the Bridge under the new manager. Bearing in mind that strike was in their previous home match, in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of QPR, Adkins’ side will travel to London with hopes of producing another upset.
Jack Cork ‘s return to action in Gameweek 11 has been significant to an upturn in resilience – the Saints have conceded more than a single goal just once since Cork’s installation in central midfield, though it’s worth noting that they have failed to keep a clean sheet in any away game thus far. Cork has also been deployed at right-back in recent matches, with Nathaniel Clyne troubled by injury. That’s seen Steven Davis drafted into midfield areas but, should Clyne be available for the forthcoming matches, it could see Adkins revert Cork back to the engine room role.
The Likely Lads
Rickie Lambert is the obvious option. Adkins’ first-choice pick in the Saints’ 4-2-3-1 formation, Lambert has started all but two of his side’s league games this term and has featured in the first XI from Gameweek 9 onwards. The 6.2 priced forward has picked up more new owners than any Southampton player heading into the double – almost 70,000 Fantasy managers have clambered aboard the bandwagon for the best value forward in the game so far. Up to sixth in the forward standings in FPL, with 95 points accrued, Lambert has scored in three of his last four away games and with two assists and eight bonus points also accrued, has racked up 34 points over that quartet of fixtures.
With Adam Lallana remaining on the sidelines, Adkins will require strong displays from his attacking midfield regulars. Gaston Ramirez missed the weekend cup defeat due to a dead leg but is expected to recover in time for the Villa game – the Uruguayan brings a touch of real class to the Saints’ offensive forays and has produced a goal, an assist and five bonus points over his last couple of league appearances. Coming in at 5.6, he remains firmly under the radar with an ownership of less than 1% and could be a real differential.
Jason Puncheon has picked up over 50,000 new owners this week, with his cut-price appeal proving irresistible for many. The right winger has scored or assisted in seven of his 17 starts for the Saints this term, with a couple of goals and six assists to his name thus far – five of those have come at home, however, with his last set of attacking returns on the road back in Gameweek 12 at QPR. At 4.9, though, Puncheon is a relatively risk-free option and offers the option of a budget fifth midfielder for our squads beyond the double.
At the back, faith is understandably tempered in light of Southampton’s above-mentioned away defensive record. Fantasy managers will be scouring the back-four for potential but with doubts over their highest scoring defenders, Jose Fonte and Nathaniel Clyne, it’s hard to justify any other options. Danny Fox is the only other Saints defender to score or assist this season but lost his first-team spot to Luke Shaw back in Gameweek 11. Shaw has started the last ten league games and, at just 4.0, is earning interest in the light of doubts surrounding Fonte and Clyne.
For those willing to take a risk, Artur Boruc may appeal. The stopper started the previous league game and was also selected for the weekend cup clash against Chelsea, suggesting he may have edged ahead of the likes of Kelvin Davis and Paulo Gazzaniga in the pecking order once again. Coming in at 4.4 in FPL, he’ll likely benefit from save points should clean sheets fail to materialise and, as our recent Wildcard Goalkeepers article suggests, Southampton rotate well with Villa over the next few, allowing us to hold beyond the double – unlike Chelsea’s Ross Turnbull, whose game time is threatened by the impending return of Petr Cech.