With three Gameweeks about to be shoehorned into nine frantic days, the Scout Picks selection committee are braced for a pre-Christmas frenzy.
But our ‘expert’ panel of Scouts appear ready for the rush, and they’ve gone big on Chelsea assets this week, with Marcos Alonso, Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata all receiving inevitable backing for the trip to West Ham.
By contrast, the Manchester derby is being viewed almost exclusively as a no-go area. Only Jonty is prepared to buck that particular trend, and even then his selection appears in the graveyard slot that is third-choice goalkeeper.
In fact, shot stoppers could well be a major bone of contention among our Fantasy hounds, with a whole cast of custodians up for consideration.
We’ll be back on Friday to see which players make the Gameweek 16 grade and in the meantime, here are the Scouts’ selections and justifications, logical or otherwise.
|Goalkeepers||Lukasz Fabianski||Thibaut Courtois||Lukasz Fabianski||Nick Pope|
|Julian Speroni||Asmir Begovic||Nick Pope||Jonas Lossl|
|Jonas Lossl||David de Gea||Jonas Lossl||Mat Ryan|
|Defenders||Kieran Trippier||Marcos Alonso||Marcos Alonso||Marcos Alonso|
|Marcos Alonso||Sead Kolasinac||Kieran Trippier||Sead Kolasinac|
|Mamadou Sakho||Mamadou Sakho||Mamadou Sakho||Kiko Femenia|
|Alberto Moreno||Charlie Daniels||Alberto Moreno||Mamadou Sakho|
|Kyle Naughton||Shane Duffy||Christopher Schindler||Charlie Daniels|
|Midfielders||Mohamed Salah||Eden Hazard||Eden Hazard||Eden Hazard|
|Eden Hazard||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah|
|Son Heung-min||Philippe Coutinho||Wilfried Zaha||Aaron Ramsey|
|Aaron Ramsey||Aaron Ramsey||Son Heung-min||Wilfried Zaha|
|Forwards||Harry Kane||Alvaro Morata||Harry Kane||Alvaro Morata|
|Alvaro Morata||Alexandre Lacazette||Alvaro Morata||Alexandre Lacazette|
|Alexandre Lacazette||Harry Kane||Roberto Firmino||Harry Kane|
|Christian Benteke||Wilfried Bony||Chris Wood||Jay Rodriguez|
|Wilfried Bony||Jay Rodriguez||Tammy Abraham||Glenn Murray|
Only Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero let me down last week in terms of midfield and attacking points as, unusually, all the other eight candidates did the business to a greater or lesser extent.
It’s just a shame I swapped my own team’s captaincy from Hazard to Kane at the eleventh hour.
With a few exceptions, I anticipate quite a range of suggestions from the Scouts this week, with no stand-out fixture when you consider Spurs’ ongoing trials at Wembley and the fact that Everton’s recent form suggests the Merseyside derby may not be a home banker for Liverpool.
Despite that, I do fancy Mohamed Salah to bring his one-match goal drought to an end on Sunday afternoon.
I also expect goals at the London Stadium, where I fancy the visiting Blues to continue their recent great form with Hazard, Marcos Alonso and Alvaro Morata dominating the attacking statistics.
Kane retains his place, but remains down in third place again despite his numbers and the prospect of yet another “easy home game”.
I’m going a little off-piste (given the homesick nature of his scoring thus far) by backing Alexandre Lacazette to continue to thrive on the creativity of a resurgent Arsenal which was highlighted in the recent Big Numbers article. Aaron Ramsey is a massive part of that creativity and joins his French team-mate.
Again, I have to resist the temptation to flood the squad with more premium players, with any number of Liverpool or Manchester City options tempting, while Alexis Sanchez will no doubt throw his arms up in disgust at being omitted.
Instead, I’ve gone for a budget-friendly spread from ‘lower’ teams, but my indecision is reflected by the fact that one or two of my attacking players are up against my defensive players – a cardinal sin in the eyes of many.
Last week I described Mamadou Sakho as the “bonus point hoover” and he duly returned eight points, including another two bonus. Selecting him for the second week in a row reflects not only the paucity of budget options this week but also Crystal Palace’s new-found solidity, with only one goal conceded in the last three Gameweeks.
Chelsea and Arsenal dominate my thoughts, as they prepare for away clashes against West Ham and Southampton respectively.
I’m expecting full support for my top-placed midfielder Hazard and number one striker Morata, given they scored 23 points between them at home to Newcastle last weekend.
The same applies to my selection of Alonso, who replaces my favoured Blues defensive option of Cesar Azpiliceuta; Alonso was rested for last night’s Champions League match so his start against the Hammers looks assured.
If only Manchester United still had Massimo Taibi in goal, Arsenal would have been looking at their greatest ever victory over their northern rivals when they met on Sunday. As it was, they lost 3-1 as David De Gea’s ‘worldie’ display saw off all but one of their 14 on target shots.
Fraser Forster will surely be having nightmares having witnessed the Gunners’ relentless attacking display, and I’m backing Arsene Wenger’s troops to make some early Christmas mincemeat of the Saints backline.
Among Arsenal midfield assets, Ramsey gets my vote over Sanchez due to value and a higher points per match average, with the Welshman registering 5.6 to the Chilean’s 4.8. Wing-back Sead Kolasinac’s four assists and a goal this season make him a shoo-in for me, while Lacazette’s seven shots on Sunday prove he is rewarding Wenger’s faith.
Sadly, Kane only makes third billing ahead of Stoke City’s visit to Wembley.
The Spurs talisman’s underlying statistics are on the slide. Over his last four matches he has more attempts (21) than any other player, but he is ranked just sixth for on-target shots and has only had two big chances over the same period. Hazard, by contrast, has had four big chances, and Sanchez six.
Elsewhere, I fancy West Brom’s trip to Swansea City to be this week’s source of cheap “magic beans”, with Wilfried Bony and Jay Rodriguez both considerations.
The Swans striker has racked up 10 shots over his last three starts and scored the opener against Stoke last time out.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez put in a highly promising display on the left flank in Alan Pardew’s debut match in charge, firing six penalty box efforts.
I’m overlooking both Manchester clubs for the derby at Old Trafford this weekend and have rolled out a handful of differential gambles along with the usual suspects.
Similar to my selection in Gameweek 13, I’ve gone for Kieran Trippier as my Spurs defender for the visit of Stoke. The right wing-back has started all but one of their seven home matches and leads Ben Davies by 16 key passes to 10 at Wembley.
His team-mate Heung-min Son has also started all but one of Spurs’ Wembley fixtures – he’s second only to Kane for goal attempts at their temporary home and faces the second-worst defence in the Premier League.
Christian Benteke and Bony have plum home fixtures against Bournemouth and West Brom respectively.
The big Belgian has now completed back-to-back 90-minute appearances since returning from injury and his aerial threat could punish a Cherries defence that’s second only to West Brom for headed efforts against (40 to 42).
Partnered with Tammy Abraham away to Stoke last week, Bony netted his first of the season and fired five attempts to his fellow frontman’s zero.
New Baggies boss Alan Pardew was hardly renowned for his focus on defence while at former club Palace and I reckon that the Ivorian can deliver again as Paul Clement’s side go in search of a much-needed win.
My two top midfielders – Hazard and Salah – along with both Kane and Morata, surely pick themselves this week.
My faith in Kane remains and, while I’ll entertain the idea that his star is fading with Spurs’ form, I still look at Stoke’s defence and doubt their ability to shut him out at Wembley. One early goal from Kane and confidence could flow back into Spurs legs, and I’m not prepared to risk overlooking that prospect.
That quartet look settled, then. Job done.
Around them, I’m also backing Chelsea and Spurs in defence via wing-backs Alonso and Trippier. I’ve switched allegiance from Davies to the former Burnley man of late, with the quality of his delivery from the flank appearing to be a more assured source of assists based on recent “eye tests” and a study of the numbers.
I regret opting for Scott Dann over Sakho three weeks back and, ever since, the Frenchman has punished me with bonus returns each time. I fancy a third successive Eagles shut-out at home to Bournemouth, so I’ll be pushing hard for Sakho’s inclusion in Friday’s line-up.
I’ll also be endorsing opting for a four-man defence, with Alberto Moreno edging into contention having been rested at Brighton last time out. While Everton will arrive at Anfield with back-to-back wins and some confidence under Sam Allardyce, I’m wary that their tactics may curtail any attacking threat in a typically combative encounter.
But I expect Liverpool to prevail, which is why Roberto Firmino sits third in my selection of forwards., although I doubt very much that he’ll factor in Friday’s XI.
Indeed, Chris Wood is perhaps more likely to earn inclusion on the bench should we go with a 4-4-2. The Clarets will miss Robbie Brady’s supply, but I still feel there’s profit to be had from Watford’s defence at Turf Moor given the confidence in the Burnley camp.
The Community Champion
Representing the community against the Scout Picks in Gameweek 16 will be veteran Sliver, who is in his 12th season, with 2008/9’s finish of 22,208 his best to date.
The Community Champion who has the best lead over the Scouts during 2017/18 will win a £100 Amazon voucher (currently we can only offer Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com vouchers).
Gameweek 15’s champion Lord narrowly beat the Scouts 51-50, but the one to beat remains Gregor, who achieved victory over the Scouts by a 33-point margin in Gameweek 5.