Next up is the third in our series of Winter Wildcard articles. Having rolled out pieces on the Goalkeepers and Defenders, it won’t be much of a surprise to learn that the midfielders are next on the agenda.
Due to a hectic summer with his national side, the first three fixtures of the season were something of a write-off but after being rested for Gameweek 4, Mata has been simply sensational. Chelsea’s key midfielder has scored or assisted in 11 of his subsequent 12 starts, with only the occasional threat of rotation scuppering his prospects in a season that has so far seen him average 7.2 FPL points per start. As the Blues head into their double with Stoke and Southampton, we can only hope Rafa Benitez has learned his lesson, after the decision to bench the 9.9 priced proved disastrous last time round as Chelsea slumped to a 1-0 home loss to QPR. The stats say it all, really; the London outfit have scored two goals over the five games Mata has failed to start, compared to 37 strikes in the 15 fixtures he has been named in the first XI. According to our season ticker, the Blues have the second strongest schedule over the next 10 Gameweek; aside from the double, games against Reading, Wigan, West Brom, Fulham, West Ham and Southampton look set to continue the sensational displays that have already seen the former Valencia man better both his goal and bonus haul from his debut campaign at the Bridge. Tonight’s 90 minutes in the Capital One Cup defeat to Swansea might shake the double Gameweek confidence in Mata somewhat, but, given his league form, he remains difficult to ignore.
While a move up front in Arsenal’s recent league matches has bolstered Walcott’s appeal, he’s consistently produced the points regardless of position over the last few months. The first 10 Gameweeks earned Walcott a single start for the Gunners, with Arsene Wenger’s faith seemingly floundering, but from Gameweek 11 onwards he’s been hugely impressive. The former Southampton man has scored or assisted in seven of his last eight starts and despite a handful of sub appearances, has still managed to average 6.3 points per game – bettering Santi Cazorla’s 5.8 average, in spite of the fact that the latter has started every league game under Wenger. Walcott has racked up 956 minutes so far – almost a third of last season’s game time – yet has already equalled his goal haul and has supplied just three assists less than the previous term’s tally. Coming in at 9.0 in FPL, Walcott will be looking to take advantage of an upcoming run that hands Arsenal a home game in five of the next six Gameweeks (MCI, che & WHM, LIV, STO, sun, AVL) with the upcoming double against Chelsea and West Ham set to entice plenty more owners his way – over 87,000 managers have snapped him up heading into the weekend clash with City.
The Welshman seems to have upped his attacking displays since Andre Villas-Boas’ arrival at the Lane last summer. Bale has already notched nine times and racked up 20 bonus points and is clearly on course to smash last term’s totals of 10 and 21 respectively, with five lots of double figures already returned in 17 appearances. While he continues to frustrate at home, with just two goals in nine at the Lane, Bale’s away displays have proved sensational, with a 16 point haul at Old Trafford indicative of his fixture-proof potential. Indeed, Spurs seem to be suit playing on the road – they have scored 22 times in 10 away matches, compared to 17 goals in 11 games at the Lane; a reason for optimism ahead of a run of fixtures that sees them on their travels in four of the next six (qpr, MUN, nor, wba, NEW, whm). So far this season, Bale has averaged 6.5 points per game – top for midfielders, with Robin Van Persie the only attacker to prove superior; with that in mind, a price of 9.8 looks a bargain.
The rumour mill is buzzing over a potential move away from Goodison over the winter window but for the purposes of this article, we’re assessing Fellaini’s potential from an Everton perspective. With a goal or assist in 10 of his 16 appearances, the Belgian’s move to a more advanced role this season, tucking in behind Nikica Jelavic, has been hugely beneficial to his Fantasy prospects – he is just 11 points short of his best FPL tally of 111, set back in 2008-09. Having peaked at 7.9, Fellaini has tumbled down to 7.4, with huge numbers of Fantasy managers shipping him out in light of a result of a recent three-match suspension. David Moyes’ side are now handed four enticing home fixtures in the next seven (SWA, WBA, AVL, RDG) and with trips to Southampton and Norwich also on their short-term agenda, Fellaini’s mid-price appeal has persuaded almost 130,000 managers to scramble aboard the bandwagon since the end of the previous Gameweek. With eight goals, five assist and five lots of double figures already accrued, he looks primed to produce the goods once again.
The Uruguayan is expected to recover from a dead leg in time for Southampton’s visit to Villa this weekend for the first match of their double Gameweek. Coming in at just 5.6 in FPL, Ramirez has produced a goal, an assist and five bonus points in his last couple of appearances and looks a real differential prospect, with an ownership of just 0.5%. An average of 4.2 points per game is second only to Rickie Lambert for the Saints and with a home clash against Everton and a trip to Wigan in his next four, Ramirez could prove a canny short-term acquisition, with Nigel Adkins relying more than ever on his output, in light of Adam Lallana’s knee injury.
A single goal since Gameweek 8 has lessened his appeal but a favourable short-term schedule could afford the Hammers skipper a chance to return to form. In addition to double Gameweek 23 (QPR, ars), Nolan also squares up to Sunderland, Fulham, Swansea and Villa over the next five Gameweeks – with Andy Carroll edging towards a comeback and the aerial threat of Marouane Chamakh also added to the options up front, Nolan will be looking to benefit from and still looks a reasonable shout for just 6.5, before the fixture list takes a turn for the worse once again for Sam Allardyce’s side in Gameweek 27.
A goal and assist in the opening 13 Gameweeks was scant reward for the Norwich playmaker but Snodgrass has flourished over the last few matches. With the majority of free kicks and corners in his locker, the summer signing from Leeds United has subsequently racked up three goals, three assists and 10 bonus points in his last eight matches in a series of displays that bring him firmly into our thoughts. Clearly, his contribution is vital to Chris Hughton’s side and a run of five home fixtures in the next eight (NEW, TOT, FUL, EVE, SOT) will hold no fear for a Canaries side that have already seen off the likes of United and Arsenal at Carrow Road earlier this season. Coming in at 6.2 in FPL, Snodgrass’ total of 16 bonus points has been bettered by just two midfielders so far (Gareth Bale and Yaya Toure), while four lots of double figure hauls is indicative of the explosive potential that will surely see his current ownership of 7.9% rise further.
A pretty obvious option but it’s impossible to ignore Swansea’s summer signing. A total of 13 goals and one assist, supplemented by 11 bonus points, earns Michu top spot in the current FPL midfielder standings, with an ownership of 46% indicative of our collective show of faith – a good Fantasy week for Michu can send you tumbling down the rankings if you don’t have him. While his price has leapt from 6.5 to 8.2, he still remains exceptional value for money ahead of a schedule that sees him play host to Stoke, QPR and Newcastle in his next three at the Liberty – eight goals in 11 home matches highlights his deadly form in front of the Swansea faithful, while trips to Sunderland and West Ham in the next four also hold appeal. Tonight’s strike in the Capital One cup win at Stamford Bridge underlined his qualities – Michu’s confidence in front of goal seems to be unwavering.
Adam Johnson/ Stephane Sessegnon
Sunderland’s enticing schedule brings the pair into our thoughts. Over the next nine Gameweeks, Martin O’Neill’s side welcome West Ham, Swansea, Fulham and Norwich to Wearside and also pay visit to the current bottom three, with trips to Wigan, Reading and QPR on their agenda. So far, Johnson has outperformed Sessegnon in terms of Fantasy returns, despite the latter’s role in “the hole”; although both have found the net three times, Johnson has provided four assists to the Benin international’s three. Indeed, Johnson’s average of 4.1 points per game is superior to Sessegnon’s 3.8 and is second only to Steven Fletcher for the Black Cats – a FPL price of 6.7 and ownership of less than 2% could well appeal to those looking for a real mid-price differential, who has scored or assisted in three of his last four home games. Sessegnon, at 7.2, has also ticked along in recent games, with attacking returns in three of his last six and is certainly the most explosive of the pair, as last term’s returns testify – if he hits form, he could prove the better option.
There’s no doubt the recent displays of Steven Gerrard have kept the teenager out of the Fantasy limelight but an upcoming run of fixtures, which sees Liverpool travel to United, Arsenal and City in the next four, is likely to deter many from investing in the premium priced Reds’ skipper. Sterling, on the other hand, is priced at just 5.6 and could appeal to those Fantasy managers who still want Liverpool coverage without going overboard on budget – a goal and a couple of bonus points in the previous Gameweek against Sunderland suggest a return to form after a couple of bench appearances and with the schedule looking particularly enticing from Gameweek 26 onwards, many may decide to snap him up just now rather than spend a transfer later on.
A somewhat unglamorous pick, the Stoke man continues to steadily accumulate the points and currently sits in joint ninth spot for FPL midfielders on 92 points, alongside Yaya Toure. Walters’ appeal was somewhat diminished earlier in the season by a shift to the Potters’ right flank but a tactical reshuffle has earned him a role in “the hole” behind Kenwyne Jones and boosted his out of position prospects once again. Patience in the key with Walters; he has started every game under Tony Pulis this term, though tends to be less explosive than most, with just two double figure returns to his name. Walters has earned nine extra clean sheet points thanks to the resilient Stoke rearguard and with spot-kick duties also in his locker, he’s capable of ticking along nicely. After 10 matches at the Britannia, Pulis’ side remain the only unbeaten home side in the league and now have five fixtures in front of their own fans (CHE, WIG, RDG, WHM, WBA) to continue their impressive form. Coming in at 6.6 in FPL, Walters is the second top scoring Fantasy asset for Stoke, just one point behind Asmir Begovic – while the Chelsea clash lessens his appeal, the remaining above-mentioned home fixtures affords him plenty opportunity to add to his five goals, three assists and 10 bonus points so far.
Omitted from Morocco’s African Cup of Nations squad, the maverick midfielder is free to aid QPR’s bid to beat the drop. Harry Redknapp’s arrival has made a definite difference to Taarabt’s Fantasy potential – he has averaged 4.6 points per game over the R’s eight games under their new manager, compared to 3.2 ppg beforehand. Up next, he has three home games in the next four (TOT, whm, MCY, NOR) and if he can turn his superb Opta stats into Fantasy points, Taarabt could yet prove a bargain at 5.6 for the short-term and beyond, as Redknapp looks to engineer a scramble to safety.