FPL Family’s Sam Bonfield is looking forward to the downtime on FA Cup third round weekend and planning ahead.
What a rollercoaster this festive period has been. This point of the season is where I normally hit my stride and by making good decisions during the Christmas fixture congestion, it usually sets me up well for the second half of the season.
With the close of Gameweek 19 I was around the 7k mark having had a green arrow of around 6,000 places and I was hoping that this was the start of holding my position as opposed to yo-yoing as I had been in the weeks previous.
Alas, Gameweek 20 went catastrophically wrong with my players blanking, my captain – Jamie Vardy (£10.1m) – missing and Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m) causing me red arrows with every attacking return he registered as he was so highly captained and vice-captained as a result of Vardy’s absence.
In many ways, I think the Gameweek came too quickly for me – a match on the Friday followed by a new Gameweek on the Saturday just meant that I didn’t have the thinking time, which is so important to how I play the game.
One of my key FPL rules is that I never make a change on the day of the deadline, so this meant I had a matter of hours between the end of the Manchester City game on the Friday and my self-imposed deadline. I think I was also a little complacent as I had set my Wildcard team for Boxing Day’s Gameweek 19 and in turn also for Gameweek 20, meaning that because of the tight deadline, I didn’t think enough about the latter.
As a result, Gameweek 21 saw a lot of pondering. However, I just couldn’t settle on a transfer that felt right – they either involved getting in a player a week or two earlier than I had wanted or losing a player before a game I thought they would do well in. It was because of this I did something that I never do and burned a transfer.
This worried me but actually it was the right decision. Vardy was handed the armband again (mostly as a shield because he was rating so highly in all the captain stats and was indeed the most-captained player of the Gameweek) so when he missed the game, vice-captain Dele Alli (£8.8m) stepped up.
I really thought he would be better than he was especially given his record against Southampton, and so his blank filled me with dread as with most people’s vice-captains on Marcus Rashford (£9.1m) or De Bruyne I feared for my rank ahead of their fixtures. However, with blanks for Rashford, Anthony Martial (£7.9m) and De Bruyne, as well as a one-point cameo for Raheem Sterling (£11.8m) and Sergio Aguero (£11.7m) missing in action, I got away with it. Add that to goals from Todd Cantwell (£4.9m), Danny Ings (£6.7m) and Mohamed Salah (£12.3m), an assist from Tammy Abraham (£7.8m) and clean sheets for Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.4m) and Caglar Soyuncu (£5.1m), I have seen a green arrow back to around 9k. Now to maintain and build on it.
For me, the first FA Cup weekend is the perfect opportunity to look ahead through the rest of January and into February, as it offers a breathing space following on from the busy festive period. This is the time where the Members Area and the Season Ticker take on ever-increasing importance.
This year the changes in managers over Christmas at West Ham, Everton, Arsenal, Watford and Spurs add a whole different element to this period. All five of these new manager teams sit in the top half of the Season Ticker for Gameweeks 22-26. All five clubs also contain key players who, with a combination of fixtures and new manager bounce, could be fantastic differential picks after the FA Cup weekend.
The key players on my watchlist from ‘new manager bounce’ clubs are:
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.8m)
Carlo Ancelotti saying that he thinks the striker “is going to be at the top in England and in Europe” highlights just how important Calvert-Lewin is likely to be in this Everton team over the course of the rest of the season.
His heatmap and the stats from the Members Area highlight how much of a positive change Ancelotti has had on his game, as does the three goals in the last four games.
As a result, he has already scored eight goals this season: more than in any other Premier League campaign. If Abraham continues to under-perform, Calvert-Lewin would make a lovely third striker option and is one I am seriously considering for Gameweek 22 onwards.
Lukasz Fabianski (£4.9m)
West Ham’s poor run of form can be partially linked to Fabianski’s injury. Since his return for Gameweek 20, Fabianski has returned eight and six points respectively (a penalty save and a bonus point contributing to the first haul when he didn’t keep a clean sheet).
Historically, Fabianski has always been a great rotating keeper option. With West Ham needing the points and David Moyes being brought in to steady the ship, this should make Fabianski an attractive option once again, especially given the Double Gameweek 24 that West Ham enjoy.
Troy Deeney (£6.2m)
Nigel Pearson’s arrival at Vicarage Road has made Watford a team worth considering from an FPL stance and Deeney as their captain and talisman should not be overlooked.
Whilst he failed to return in Gameweek 21, his 12-point haul in Gameweek 20 shows that he has the potential to bring huge gains for brave FPL owners.
Deeney has the added advantage of being on penalties, which adds to his Fantasy appeal. If Watford continue to rebuild in 2020, Deeney or his teammate below could both be great options.
Ismaila Sarr (£6.2m)
With three returns in the last four gameweeks, Sarr is the in-form Watford player of the moment.
Two goals, two assists, two clean sheets and two bonus points show the change in him, as he previously only had one attacking return up until Gameweek 18.
Sarr’s heat map, xG and xGI stats all look excellent and thus at £6.2m he could be an excellent pick, especially over the next three Gameweeks where Watford play teams that are currently conceding a lot of goals (Bournemouth, Spurs and Aston Villa).
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m)
At 18.3% owned, Aubameyang isn’t exactly a differential. However, he had been a difficult pick in recent weeks as a result of a lack of consistency in his returns.
Even with a blank in Gameweek 21, he has returns in two of the last three and, more importantly, Arsenal have improved dramatically since Mikel Arteta’s arrival and this should only continue over the coming weeks.
If Arteta can get Nicolas Pepe (£9.1m), Mesut Ozil (£7.2m), Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) etc playing at their best week-in, week-out, this will only strengthen Aubameyang’s appeal.
Aubameyang looks for me to be the premium striker who is about to go on a run and, therefore, with Harry Kane’s (£11.0m) hamstring injury, a straight swap from one side of north London to another looks like it could be a good idea.
Ryan Sessegnon (£5.4m)
Spurs have a great deal of improvement to make and thus this one is very much a watching brief especially given that the Lilywhites play Liverpool in Gameweek 22.
However, with three consecutive starts, Sessegnon seems to be solidifying his place in the Spurs team. His positioning in the last two matches as well as the number of touches he has in the opponents’ half and in the final third, suggests that there is assist potential there.
Gameweek 22 feels like the tonic that we FPL managers need, with time to take stock, watch the FA Cup matches, get full updates on those injured in Gameweek 21 and make some forward planning decisions.
Knowing that Gameweek 24 is our first double of the season, rolling transfers, making transfers to free up funds and watching the markets will be vital in having the team you want.
For me, I want Sadio Mane (£12.3m) and Salah for their double and thus I need to free some money or at least plan where the cash to upgrade Alli to Mane will come from now.
I have £2.4m in the bank but this means I still need another £1.3m to make the transfer achievable. Ideally. I would have liked to move Toby Alderweireld (£5.4m) to Djibril Sidibe (£5.3m) – however, this only saves me £0.1m so I’ll either need to make another transfer to move Sidibe to a cheaper player in a couple of weeks time or I move him to a cheaper player now to free the money in advance. Doing the latter is a risk as it means early compromises to my team, while doing the former means playing to use an additional transfer which may be useful or needed elsewhere.
Either way, the FA Cup break is the perfect opportunity to look at the stats and heatmaps and forward plan for Double Gameweek 24 as well as for the rest of the fixtures in January.
Sam Bonfield is a member of our Pro Pundits initiative, a team of Fantasy managers here to bring you regular advice and updates on their teams. Sam has served up two top 30k finishes in the last two seasons and is currently inside the top 10k in the world.
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