Our first Blank Gameweek of the season is upon us. Liverpool’s participation in the FIFA Club World Cup means their fixture against West Ham is postponed. And with Manchester City taking on Leicester City this weekend, we are faced with trickier captaincy and transfer decisions than normal.
This is reflected in the Scout Picks with the starting XI featuring players from eleven different teams. And one of the better captaincy options doesn’t even make the cut.
What to do with our Liverpool players?
Stick or twist. Andy made his moves early with Trent Alexander-Arnold shown the door. While the Liverpool fullback has continued his attacking potential supplying seven assists this season, the lack of clean sheets is a cause for concern.
Having looked at the Season Ticker, Andy decided there may not be too many shutouts for Liverpool on the horizon. Liverpool are second worst for defence over the next seven Gameweeks. With Alexander-Arnold costing £7.3m, the Pro Pundit feels there is better value elsewhere.
However Andy has decided to keep Sadio Mané. A decision shared by fellow Pro Pundit Holly, but not by Scoutcast host Joe or Pro Pundit Sam.
Holly’s faith in her subs allows her to bench both Mane and Alexander-Arnold this Gameweek. Undaunted by Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures, she observes:
We can see from Jurgen Klopp’s teamsheets in the FIFA Club World Cup exactly where his priorities lie. This season is Liverpool’s best chance of winning the title in the Premier League era, nipping at Manchester United’s heels for the most titles in history.– Holly Shand
She turns to this site’s Rate My Team tool to justify her decision to hold onto Alexander-Arnold, noting that out of all defenders he’s still top for points projections despite the blank.
Holly feels so bullish on Liverpool she’s even considering adding Mohamed Salah to her contingent.
Indeed it’s a desire to own the Egypt international that has prompted Joe to swap Mane for Son. He then plans to bring in Salah after Liverpool’s fixture against Leicester in Gameweek 19.
Joe feels there’s an opportunity because of the Blank Gameweek to forgo a Liverpool player and take advantage of a resurgent Tottenham Hotspur. Sam agrees.
On the cusp of the top 10,000 and with her Wildcard in hand, she feels that benching a player of Mané’s value is a poor use of budget. She too is targeting a Spurs replacement. And, like Joe and Holly, is looking to draft in Salah down the line.
Pro Pundit Tom Freeman has been similarly impressed by the Liverpool attacker. In his latest article the five-time top 1,000 manager noted how a positional change improved Salah’s attacking potential:
Mohamed Salah’s (£12.2m) best goalscoring form has come when leading the line in a 4-2-3-1, with Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) positioned in the pocket just behind, and this trend continued against Watford, with the Egyptian not only scoring twice but also causing the Hornets defence problems all afternoon.– Tom Freeman
As the Scout Notes on Liverpool v Watford confirmed, Salah’s seven goal attempts all took place inside the box and far exceeded the two for both Mané and Firmino.
Further good news for those favouring Liverpool players was provided by Pro Pundit Zophar who looked at the rest period afforded each team over the busy festive period:
Liverpool (290.5 hours) and Sheffield Utd (293 hours) have the most relaxed schedule. West Ham’s total is inflated by their blank week in Gameweek 18.– Zophar
Although not many own West Ham players, their Blank Gameweek affords them an actual rest. And an improved performance in Gameweek 17 caught the eye of Tom Freeman, who felt Antonio and Haller thrived in their new striker partnership.
David Wardale observed in his Scout Notes on the match:
Haller, in particular, was reborn. He’d struggled to replicate the form that had prompted his transfer from Eintracht Frankfurt, partly because he thrived in Germany alongside Luka Jovic, now of Real Madrid. Antonio is unlikely to be moving to the Bernabeu anytime soon, so his presence could continue to galvanise both Haller and the team as an attacking force.– David Wardale
Finally, before we leave the topic of Liverpool and West Ham, Joe mentioned on the Scoutcast that Ben Crellin is predicting Gameweek 24 as a possible slot for rearranging the fixture. This would make Gameweek 24 the first Double Gameweek of the season:
Liverpool have lost their EFL Cup QF at Villa, so I reckon there’s about an 85% chance that WHU vs LIV will be moved to GW24 (Jan 28-30). It’s the next midweek that both teams will definitely have free.– Ben Crellin
I declared at the top of the article that one of the better captaincy options hadn’t made the Scout Picks. I was referring to Raul Jimenez, whose Wolves’ team travel to Norwich City. David noted in his Captain Sensible article:
While Norwich have made some improvements on the road recently, their home defence, much as it was even as they won the Championship, tends to suffer from their increased propensity to attack their opponents.– David
Joe backed that up on the Captaincy Video, observing that Norwich have conceded 12 big chances in their last four home matches.
However David did point to the recent return of Christoph Zimmermann has having boosted their defence. Although, as Neale reported in his team news round-up, fellow centre-half Tim Godfrey has been ruled out until February with an ACL injury.
Marcus Rashford was highlighted as a strong candidate in both the Captaincy Video and Captain Sensible articles. Form and fixture align: five goals and two assists in six matches, including two double-digit hauls, is coupled with a match against a Watford defence who have conceded a high number of big chances.
Vardy and De Bruyne present form options with a tricky fixture. A trip to the Etihad means recent captain-favourite Vardy is not so heavily backed on this occasion.
The bottom line is that the attacking players are arriving at the Etihad in strong form and so are the defences. Not every Fantasy manager will be comfortable placing the armband here.– David
Spurs duo Son and Alli have attracted a lot of attention this week. Good form meets poor form as Chelsea travel to North London for the last match of the Gameweek. Joe quipped:
If Chelsea conceded eleven goal attempts against Bournemouth, how many will they concede against Spurs?– Joe
Son is handed the captain’s armband in this week’s Scout Picks.
Finally a mention must also go to Danny Ings, who was immensely unlucky not to score against West Ham. In her video review of Gameweek 17, Sam pointed out his talisman status in the Southampton side. And over the last four Gameweeks and the season as a whole, no team has conceded more shots in the box than the Saints next opponents Aston Villa.
Despite the Scout Picks featuring players from eleven different teams, attacking double-ups was a popular hot topic this week.
It’s been a successful tactic for World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, as Greyhead reported in The Great and The Good. Currently third overall, the Norwegian has benefitted from doubling up on Manchester City and Liverpool players at different times this season. De Bruyne and Sterling early on followed by Salah and Mane later.
With two free transfers many will be wondering whether the chess king will sacrifice one or both of his Liverpool players.
One high-value piece that is coming back into play is Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. As Rotation’s Alter Ego revealed in his team news summary the Argentina international has returned to training. Could he soon prove a canny differential?
Neal Maupay was one of the three players highlighted by Pro Pundit Ash (aka FPLHints) in his differentials article this week. While 9.1%-owned Richarlison is included in the Scout Picks, he faces Arsenal’s shaky defence this week. And the fixtures look particularly rosy for Everton from Gameweek 22.
One midfielder who has disappointed recently is Christian Pulisic. The Chelsea forward may have registered 13 shots in the box over the last four Gameweeks but, as Karam pointed out on the Scoutcast, only two of those were on target. Pro Pundits Andy and Zophar have both parted company with the American.
If you’re a member and are yet to get to grips with the custom statistics tables, you can view this movie for an explanation of how they work. Also, remember to tag them so that people can find the tables with ease.
Rolling monthly subscriptions are now available, with the first month costing only £1.99 for a limited time only. Click here to sign up or upgrade your account.
For an update on all FFS Mini-Leagues and Community Competitions, please click here to read the latest round-up.
For those interested in the Head-to-Head Leagues, the main page can be linked to here. The fixtures for Gameweek 18 can be found below:
Use the drop-down menus to show your league and division. To find out which league and division you are in, follow the instructions on the main Head-to-Head page.
Once the Gameweek starts, if you click on your opponent’s name you will be linked to their team on the FPL website.
Best of luck for Gameweek 18!