With the hectic festive fixture list behind us and the tempting red button of the January wildcard within reach, we return to our regular look at the forthcoming fixtures in the next four to six Gameweeks. As the fixture list smiles more kindly on an early-season source of Fantasy profit, the table-toppers’ assets also come highly recommended. Meanwhile, two relegation strugglers are due to be given a chance to turn their fortunes around:
The Gunners left it late to seal their position at the top of table – Arsene Wenger and Fantasy managers alike will be hopeful that their next four opponents are dispatched more decisively. Home games against strugglers Fulham and Crystal Palace as well as trips to Aston Villa and Southampton ought to be relatively routine before a pair of tricky games against Liverpool and United.
Arguably the most sought-after defensive outfit in the game, Per Mertesacker has justified his jump into the premium price-bracket with his attacking threat and a whopping 15 bonus points, though Laurent Koscielny offers the same security of starts for considerably less money. Wojciech Szczesny is now the top-scoring keeper in the Fantasy Premier League game and will be fancied by many a wildcarder. A midfield that until recently served up a feast of Fantasy relevance has been beset by injury woes – of the proven assets, only Theo Walcott remains unscathed. Lukas Podolski looks like a very intriguing differential option up front, though Olivier Giroud has recovered from an ankle problem and is attempting to shrug off illness in time for the FA Cup clash with Spurs.
Defeat to Fulham and the suspension of their captain was not the start to 2014 that the Hammers needed. Big Sam Allardyce has reason to be hopeful of steering his side clear of the drop-zone over the next few weeks, though. With home games against Newcastle, Norwich and Swansea, coupled with trips to Cardiff and Aston Villa in the next six, league points could be heading their way, along with Fantasy returns.
Kevin Nolan’s dismissal and subsequent suspension is frustrating after his goal and two assists in the previous game. However, with Andy Carroll on the comeback trail, the Hammers attack could be boosted once he’s match-fit. Mohamed Diame’s goal in the Fulham clash makes him a budget-priced proposition, whilst Ravel Morrison faces a late fitness test for tomorrow’s cup clash with Forest. The Hammers’ defence has been hit hard by injury recently – clean sheets look hard to come by even with these fixtures, though Guy Demel will be hoping to offer attacking potential to compensate. Jussi Jääskeläinen was dropped for Spanish stopper Adrián for two games but has since regained his position, making that situation somewhat murky.
After holding Chelsea to a stalemate for much of the game, The Saints finally succumbed to the strength of The Blues’ bench. However, Mauricio Pochettino will be relieved that his team have finally emerged from their dark winter of terrible fixtures. Their league position has taken a beating but the next six games look almost custom-made to help them get back on track. With five profitable-looking fixtures and only daunting one – at home to Arsenal – Southampton could be set to return to full Fantasy relevance.
With Nathaniel Clyne back in the squad, the defence is slowly returning to full strength, though there is still no word on the return date of first choice goalkeeper Artur Boruc from a hand injury. In midfield, Adam Lallana has every opportunity to continue making a mockery of his price-tag – attacking returns in three of his last four games have served up a reminder of his early-season form. In attack, Jay Rodriguez has quietly racked up eight goals since Gameweek 7 to make his case for inclusion.
For a team that had kept three clean sheets in the previous four games, conceding at home to goal-shy Aston Villa was not in the New Year’s Day script. However, the Black Cats have plenty more opportunities to crawl off the foot of the table, as their fixtures – particularly at home – look good for a while to come. The next three visitors to the Stadium of Light are Southampton, Stoke and Hull City and, with a trip to Fulham next up, Fantasy managers could do worse than investing in the Wearsiders.
Gus Poyet has still not managed to tease a lot of goals out of his team and the main area of interest is defence. Wes Brown has now served his suspension and is available whilst Phil Bardsley has the added attacking threat that justifies his higher price-tag. In goal, the situation is not totally clear. Vito Mannone has performed marvellously well in Keiren Westwood’s absence but, with the latter thought to be returning soon, we can only speculate as to who will emerge as Poyet’s favourite. Further upfield, it’s hard to be enthusiastic, but Ki Sung-Yueng has emerged as an interesting budget-priced midfielder – he scored against Everton and also notched in the Capital One Cup. Steven Fletcher, however, continues to toil, though his goal at Cardiff served a reminder of his penalty box menace.
A hard-fought draw at Selhurst Park earned the Canaries a vital point but they are still hovering perilously close to the relegation zone. They have a handful of good fixtures coming up to address that, though; after a trip to Everton, they have two home games – Hull and Newcastle – and a visit to Cardiff, which could prove profitable. In defence, Martin Olsson is still the pick of choice, though Sebastien Bassong has played all of the last eight games and showed last season that he has an eye for goal. With Anthony Pilkington still injured, Robert Snodgrass and Nathan Redmond are the likely lads in midfield, whilst Gary Hooper will be hoping to add to the five goals he has scored in the last ten games.
Still in headline-grabbing mode, Tim Sherwood’s revitalised Tottenham stunned Old Trafford to continue his unbeaten run at the helm. With a home tie against Crystal Palace, and trips to Swansea and Hull in the next four, that form could be set to continue. The new attacking ethos looks less profitable in defence, but Kyle Walker and Vlad Chiriches have goal threat to atone for lack of clean sheets. It’s in the attack that we see such renewed promise, though. Christian Eriksen scored for the second time in three games, whilst Emmanuel Adebayor took his tally to three goals and two assists in four since coming in from the cold. The latter was stretchered off late in the United game to give his owners a scare but he’s since taken to twitter to reveal he has recovered.
A tepid draw at Stoke continued Everton’s wobbling form but the fixtures are still on their side as they push to get back into the top four. Home games against Norwich, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace and a trip to West Brom in the next six are marred only by visits to Liverpool and Tottenham to help us maintain faith in Roberto Martinez’s side. The Toffees’ strong defence has faltered lately but top-scoring defender Seamus Coleman will be in plenty of Fantasy sides, while Tim Howard is always a strong choice between the sticks. The return of Leighton Baines presents an intriguing option for those with cash to spare – his penalty winner serving a timely reminder of the added value he brings to the table. In midfield, Kevin Mirallas was unlucky not to score against Stoke and Ross Barkley’s cut-price appeal continues to draw the eye. Romelu Lukaku, however, has hit a poor patch of form, with just one goal in seven games – owners may be hopeful of returns around the corner but new investment looks unlikely.