Our regular look at the upcoming schedules, taking in the next four to six Gameweeks, is rolled out once again. Arsenal and West Ham’s appeal is boosted by their imminent doubles and, while the likes of Swansea and City have reason to be cheerful, the bottom two are faced with a rough road to see them into the new year. With the season tickers freshly updated, let’s glance at what’s on offer…
Michael Laudrup’s side have three strong home games in the next six to take advantage of, as Stoke, QPR and Newcastle all roll up to the Liberty. While trips to Sunderland and West Ham could also be potentially prosperous, Swansea’s upcoming cup schedule suggests rest and rotation is likely to play a part in their manager’s thoughts; Wednesday’s FA Cup replay at Arsenal is the start of a run of games which sees them play five times in 17 days – a win at the Emirates would add another fixture to that congested schedule.
Nevertheless, this won’t dent our faith in Michu’s abilities to produce the goods, while Pablo Hernandez offers a cheaper, if far less explosive, option in the Swans’ midfield – he has scored or assisted in six of his last 10 appearances. At the back, Swansea have been particularly impressive on the road; they have conceded just two goals in their last trips, highlighting the appeal of 4.2 priced Ben Davies. Intriguingly, Angel Rangel was fielded on the right of the attacking midfield three at Everton on Saturday, though it’s likely this was a temporary measure brought on by Laudrup’s need for rotation and the ploy to shackle the Steven Pienaar/Leighton Baines combination.
Look beyond the upcoming double Gameweek and the fixtures continue to smile kindly on Arsene Wenger’s side. Arsenal are set for a run of four home games in the next five (che & WHM, LIV, STO, sun, AVL) suggesting that their Fantasy assets can be held for the next few Gameweeks. A home loss against City was hardly helped by Laurent Koscielny’s early dismissal and Wenger will be optimistic of recovering; his side had dropped just two points in the last five prior to City’s arrival on Sunday.
Kieran Gibbs’ attacking potential will be snapped up by plenty – the left-back’s five assists have kept the likes of Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna firmly in the shade, though Wojciech Szczesny comes in cheaper in FPL and affords an alternative option at the back. Theo Walcott is the most wanted Gunner heading into the double – the “out of position” midfielder has earned significant investment already, while Santi Cazorla offers a costlier alternative with the potential of similarly explosive returns. Lukas Podolski looks the only forward worth investing in here; although his appeal is somewhat tempered by a role on the left of the attacking midfield three, the German is next in line for spot-kicks in light of Mikel Arteta’s calf injury, according to Wenger.
Sam Allardyce’s side will be licking their wounds after a 3-0 defeat at Sunderland but a double against QPR and Arsenal is expected to earn the Hammers plenty new Fantasy investment. With games against Fulham, Swansea and Villa also on their short-term agenda, the fixture list certainly looks kindly on the Upton Park outfit – whether they have the form to produce is another matter entirely.
With James Collins ruled out due to a calf injury and Joey O’Brien still struggling to overcome a hamstring problem, the Hammers potential for clean sheets is diminished – Jussi Jaaskelainen has save points to fall back on should his side concede, while Guy Demel’s 4.0 price tag should see more Fantasy managers snapping up his services. Kevin Nolan remains their top scorer despite netting once from Gameweek 9 onwards, while an influx of new forwards – in addition to the possible return of Andy Carroll – makes the lone striker role impossible to call, though Marouane Chamakh will miss the game with parent club Arsenal due to the conditions of his loan deal. Joe Cole has started both games since returning to the club from Liverpool and his 5.6 price tag could appeal to those intent on a mid-price punt.
Buoyed by their weekend win at the Emirates, Roberto Mancini’s side are handed a potentially prosperous schedule over the next six in their attempt to rein in United at the top of the table. City play host to Fulham this weekend and while Liverpool and Chelsea also pay visit, trips to QPR, Southampton and Villa hold plenty promise. Up top, much depends on the return of Sergio Aguero – the Argentine missed last weekend’s trip to Arsenal with a hamstring injury but had started 11 of the previous 12. If he’s fit, Aguero looks nailed-on, with Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez battling it out for the remaining forward slot, though Dzeko has certainly staked a claim with four goals over the last three matches. Despite supplying a pair of assists at the Emirates, Tevez continues to frustrate in front of goal with a single strike from Gameweek 13 onwards.
David Silva is the obvious option in midfield but with one goal all season, he’s struggling to replicate last season’s form, while at the back, City await the results of an appeal to overturn the red card received by Vincent Kompany on Sunday. While this is likely to promote Joleon Lescott as a short-term investment, Matija Nastasic looks more secure – he has started 12 of the last 14 and offers a mid-price appeal at 5.6, though Pablo Zabaleta comes in at 6.0 and offers far greater attacking potential than the teenage centre-half.
Wigan – A point at the Cottage helps steer Roberto Martinez’s men into a run of three Gameweeks that could well seem them calm their immediate relegation worries. Home encounters with Sunderland and Southampton, with a trip to Stoke in between, looks a crucial spell for the Latics. With the away trip to Stamford Bridge the only major test in the next five, Fantasy managers may be glancing at the Wigan squad, with Emmerson Boyce, Shaun Maloney and even Franco Di Santo deserving of some interest.
Sunderland – a comfortable home win over West Ham will boost the Black Cats’ confidence ahead of a strong run of fixtures as Martin O’Neill’s side begin to climb the table. Sunderland travel to Wigan and Reading in the next three and over the upcoming six, welcome Swansea, Arsenal and Fulham to Wearside. Those home games, in particular, will be earmarked for points by O’Neill – four clean sheets in the last six at the Stadium of Light highlight Simon Mignolet’s worth, while Adam Johnson has now scored or assisted in four of his last five at home, offering an attacking alternative to the likes of Stephane Sessegnon and Steven Fletcher.
Stoke – Tony Pulis’ side are afforded the chance to bounce back from the loss of their unbeaten home record against Chelsea last weekend. Three enticing home fixtures in the next six (WIG, RDG, WHM) look potentially profitable for the likes of Asmir Begovic and Ryan Shawcross, while Kenwyne Jones will be looking to continue the form that has produced attacking returns in four of his last five at the Britannia. With trips to Swansea and Fulham also on the agenda, Pulis will be desperate for a reaction after seeing his side collect just one point and concede 10 times in the previous three.
Everton – the Toffees have three enticing home fixtures in the next six (WBA, AVL, RDG) in addition to trips to Southampton and Norwich as David Moyes’ side looks to push on from their current fifth placed position. A first clean sheet since Gameweek 5 bolsters Leighton Baines’ potential of returns at both ends of the pitch, while Marouane Fellaini’s mid-price appeal continues to reap rewards. Nikica Jelavic has been afforded plenty chances in recent games and could pick up the points if he rediscovers the scoring touch that has deserted him of late.
Any Fantasy managers who loaded up on the Saints for the double Gameweek 22 will be wary of their next four. Nigel Adkins’ side now square up to three of the top five, with home clashes against Everton and City in addition to a trip to Old Trafford – a visit to Wigan offers the Saints some respite, however. While Rickie Lambert’s owners will be a little concerned, the 6.3 priced forward has already scored against both Manchester clubs this term, while Adkins’ side have been impressive at the back in recent matches, conceding more than a single goal in just one of their last 11 league games.
The Baggies will be deflated after Saturday’s late collapse at the Madejski and now face three of the top five in the next six, in addition to a trip to Liverpool. Home fixtures against Villa and Sunderland offer potential of points for the in-form Romelu Lukaku but a single clean sheet in their last 12 is worrying for owners of Ben Foster and Liam Ridgewell, with defensive returns looking less promising for Steve Clarke’s side as he looks to arrest a run of three back-to-back defeats.
It’s just two wins and a single clean sheet in the last 14 for Martin Jol’s side – a real concern as they face up to both Manchester clubs in two of the next three Gameweeks. The Cottagers also host Stoke and make their way to Sunderland and Norwich over the upcoming six; fixtures that are far from straightforward. Owners of Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz will be worried after both dropped deeper at the weekend – the Bulgarian moved to “the hole” in order to accommodate Mladen Petric up front, while Ruiz was fielded in central midfield due to the absence of both Steve Sidwell and Momo Diarra.
Also Be Wary Of
Reading – Brian McDermott’s side showed plenty resilience to battle back and beat West Brom on Saturday but trips to Newcastle, Stoke and Everton in the next six could see them struggle. With a home game against Chelsea also thrown in, the Royals will likely be reliant on the visit of Sunderland and Wigan to boost their chances of survival – Pavel Pogrebnyak’s run of a goal in each of the last three will be firmly put to the test.
QPR – four points and back-to-back clean sheets from games against Chelsea and Spurs highlight the upturn in fortunes under Harry Redknapp but the R’s upcoming schedule continues to look decidedly dodgy. The next five Gameweeks pits them against United and City and also sees them travel to West Ham and Swansea – with two goals scored in the last five, Redknapp will likely rely on the heroics of Julio Cesar in his attempt to climb the table, though Adel Taarabt has proved something of a bonus magnet in recent games. The Moroccan has picked up nine bonus in the last six Gameweeks and with two goals and an assist also thrown in, has produced 35 FPL points over that run.