There’s just over two hours left until the first Gameweek of the calendar year gets underway. As always, we’ve come prepared for the occasion and roll out a trio of overlooked alternatives for your consideration, with an option for each of the three outfield positions considered as the winter wildcard looms large:
Climbing off the bench at Cardiff last weekend, the Black Cats forward proved the catalyst for a late comeback that extended his side’s unbeaten run to four matches. Having been used somewhat sparingly over the festive period, Fletcher now looks set to return to the Sunderland starting line-up with the praise of manager Gus Poyet ringing in his ears:
“Fletch is key, he is a key player for us and we need to make sure that we give him more chances. He had one only against Everton and he couldn’t score, but then he had one and somehow – I don’t know how, still, he stretched himself to score the goal – so we need to put him in there many, many times so that he will score plenty of goals. I need to find the balance for him to have chances, yes, no doubt, and that’s what we are thinking about.”
Clearly, if Sunderland are to beat the drop, Fletcher looks pivotal to their fortunes. He’s scored 10+ in each of the last three Premier League campaigns and, with Jozy Altidore continuing to toil up front, the Scot’s predatory instincts are likely to make all the difference inside the opponents’ box.
At just 7.2 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL), (8.0 in the Sky Sports game and 3.0 in the Sun Dream Team) he is poised for a superb run of fixtures which could barely be kinder. Villa, Southampton and Stoke all roll up to the Stadium of Light and, with a trip to fellow-strugglers Fulham also on their short-term agenda, Fletcher may well be set to grab the goals that will help steer the Black Cats away from the drop zone.
The summer signing was slow in showing his talents for City since arriving from Sevilla. Navas managed just a single assist in the opening nine Gameweeks and, after a number of starts, looked a peripheral figure under Manuel Pellegrini, with his game time mainly consisting of appearances off the bench as the season unfolded.
Sergio Aguero’s calf injury has benefitted Navas’ prospects in the last few matches, though. With Edin Dzeko looking an unsuitable partner for Alvaro Negredo up top, Pellegrini seems to prefer a 4-5-1 formation, allowing the Spaniard more minutes on the right.
With David Silva sitting out the trip to Swansea due to suspension, Navas looks a key figure as City seek their fifth successive victory tomorrow lunchtime. A run of form which has harvested a goal or assist in his last four appearances is far more consistent than Samir Nasri, for example – the Frenchman has only managed to produce back-to-back attacking returns once this season. Such form could even afford Navas the chance to oust Nasri as a regular under Pellegrini, even when his side is injury and suspension free – at 8.2 in FPL (7.6 in the Sky Sports game and 4.0 in the Sun Dream Team) he may well be worth a gamble for those looking to roll the dice before assessing their options with the winter wildcard.
An injury to Everton’s Phil Jagielka brings the Paraguayan into consideration as a short-term option. Alcaraz made his first start of the season against Southampton last weekend and, with the Toffees skipper expected to be sidelined for up to four weeks, his replacement looks poised to retain his role ahead of upcoming games against Stoke, Norwich and West Brom.
Certainly, if you are not a fan of doubling up in defence, then Alcaraz is likely not the man for you – Seamus Coleman is far and away the best option amongst Roberto Martinez’ defenders. If you’re on the lookout for a budget route into a backline with eight clean sheets to their name already, though, Alcaraz (at just 4.3 in FPL, 5.3 in the Sky Sports game and 2.0 in the Sun Dream Team) could be worth mulling over whilst Jagielka sits in the Toffees treatment room.