Six players get unanimous backing as our Scout Squad panel reconvene to select their top picks for Gameweek 17.
This is the final article of the year and the last in this series for the best part of a fortnight as the Premier League briefly pauses for breath in early January.
For those new to this feature, Fantasy Football Scout editor David, deputy editor Neale, video content manager Andy and Pro Pundit Tom each put forward an 18-man long-list of players and explain their notable inclusions and omissions below.
The assets listed will then be narrowed down to a squad of 15 (with the starting XI not exceeding a total cost of £83.0m) for the weekly Scout Picks selection ahead of the FPL deadline at 16:30 GMT on Friday.
In each writer’s squad, there are requirements for at least:
- One goalkeeper costing £5.0m or less
- One sub-£5.0m defender
- One midfielder listed at £6.5m or below
- One forward priced at £7.5m or lower
Each panelist is also restricted to no more than three players from the same team, as is the case in FPL.
We will again be adding a captaincy to the Scout Picks, with details of that revealed on New Year’s Day.
|GK||Nick Pope||Nick Pope||Nick Pope||Nick Pope|
|Emiliano Martínez||Vicente Guaita||Vicente Guaita||Vicente Guaita|
|Alex McCarthy||Kasper Schmeichel||Bernd Leno||Bernd Leno|
|DF||Andrew Robertson||Andrew Robertson||Andrew Robertson||Andrew Robertson|
|Trent Alexander-Arnold||Kieran Tierney||James Justin||Trent Alexander-Arnold|
|James Justin||Timothy Castagne||Romain Saïss||Ben Mee|
|Rob Holding||Romain Saïss||Matthew Lowton||Patrick van Aanholt|
|Erik Pieters||Erik Pieters||Michael Keane||Hector Bellerin|
|MF||Son Heung-min||Son Heung-min||Bruno Fernandes||Bruno Fernandes|
|Bruno Fernandes||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah||Mohamed Salah|
|Mohamed Salah||Bruno Fernandes||Son Heung-min||Son Heung-min|
|Anwar El Ghazi||Wilfried Zaha||Wilfried Zaha||Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang|
|Bukayo Saka||Bukayo Saka||Bukayo Saka||Pedro Neto|
|FW||Harry Kane||Harry Kane||Harry Kane||Harry Kane|
|Alexandre Lacazette||Jamie Vardy||Jamie Vardy||Jamie Vardy|
|Patrick Bamford||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Dominic Calvert-Lewin|
|Chris Wood||Alexandre Lacazette||Chris Wood||Chris Wood|
|Christian Benteke||Christian Benteke||Anthony Martial||Christian Benteke|
Most popular picks: Nick Pope, Andrew Robertson, Bruno Fernandes, Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-min, Harry Kane (four), Vicente Guaita, Bukayo Saka, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Chris Wood, Jamie Vardy, Christian Benteke (three)
Ahead of facing a potentially depleted Fulham outfit, my inclusion of Nick Pope and Erik Pieters (likely to fill in for Charlie Taylor) seems self-explanatory. Instead, I will discuss some of my other defensive selections.
Emiliano Martínez and Alex McCarthy have challenging fixtures this weekend, facing Manchester United (away) and Liverpool (home) respectively, but I think each of them can perform better than some might think. Over the last four matches, the top three regularly starting goalkeepers for save percentage are Ederson (100%), Martínez (93.8%) and McCarthy (92.3%). Even with clean sheets less likely than usual, I think there is the potential for lots of saves and maybe some bonus points for the two most-popular Fantasy goalkeepers.
Considering Southampton’s recent struggles in front of goal, I am doubling-up on the Liverpool defence for Gameweek 17 with Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men have now gone three matches without finding the net and the absence of ball-playing centre-back Jannik Vestergaard across the last two has damaged their ability to build from the back. Meanwhile, Liverpool have conceded the fewest shots in the box over their last four matches.
James Justin seems a solid inclusion at this time of the year, considering he has managed to play every minute of the campaign thus far – an impressive feat in a season as compressed as this one. Leicester’s Gameweek 17 fixture is an appealing one too, taking them to Newcastle, who have blanked in each of their last two Premier League matches.
Meanwhile, I fancy Arsenal’s defence ahead of their run of appealing fixtures. In Gameweek 17, they travel to face a West Bromwich Albion side without a home goal since Gameweek 11. Mikel Arteta has overseen some improvement at the back again over the last two, with budget option Rob Holding featuring for 90 minutes in eight of the last nine Gameweeks.
Son Heung-min and Harry Kane may have disappointed their owners recently but I believe Saturday’s meeting with Leeds will produce plenty of attacking returns. Games involving Marcelo Bielsa’s men tend to feature tonnes of goals; their last four containing an average of 5.3 and, in that time, they rank third-worst for big chances conceded.
Anwar El Ghazi gets into my selection based on his hot form, with five goals in as many matches, while Jack Grealish has offered up just two assists in that time. The case for the Dutch winger is certainly convincing when we consider he sits top of the league for shots on target over the last four.
Arsenal’s trip to West Bromwich Albion has me liking the look of Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette. The former has been one of Arsenal’s best players during Arteta’s recent mini-revival while no player with more than 170 minutes to their name has a superior figure for minutes per expected goal involvement (xGI) than Lacazette over their last four.
There’s still the chance that Burnley v Fulham could go the way of the two postponed Gameweek 16 fixtures given that the Cottagers were unfit for action barely 24 hours before this piece went out, so I select my two Clarets players with the obvious caveat that their upcoming match could fall by the wayside.
If it goes ahead, the prospect of Sean Dyche’s side facing an under-strength Fulham – who have scored only twice in the last five Gameweeks even with a full complement of players – is too good to overlook.
Burnley simply know how to keep clean sheets against the fellow also-rans, having already registered five of them against teams ranked 13th or below this season. The top-scoring goalkeeper of 2020, Nick Pope, is a shoo-in for this squad, then, while Erik Pieters ought to get a game either at left-back or further up the flank depending on who is fit in Dyche’s squad.
The visit of the lowest-scoring team in the division leads me to plump for Vicente Guaita between the posts, with uncertainty over just who Roy Hodgson plans to field in his under-performing defence in Gameweek 17.
Further forward, I’ve gone back to 2016/17 for my selection of Christian Benteke alongside Wilfried Zaha. Now seemingly established in Palace’s front two, the Belgian will be up against a Sheffield United defence that have shipped the joint-second-highest number of headed chances all season – and Benteke has had more of those than any other forward over the last six Gameweeks.
Aerial prowess is also what leads me to Romain Saiss, whose Wolves side will be up against a Brighton outfit conceding goals from set plays for fun.
It’s still too early to tell if Arsenal have turned a corner but I’m certainly willing to back a Gunners asset or two for Gameweek 17, with a West Brom side fresh off the back of a 5-0 spanking in midweek playing host to Mikel Arteta’s troops.
An attacking threat when he’s playing at left-back rather than at centre-half, Kieran Tierney has created 11 chances over the last six Gameweeks – a total inferior to just to two other defenders. The budget Bukayo Saka, meanwhile, is among the top ten midfielders for efforts on goal and penalty box touches over the same timeframe.
Southampton and Newcastle’s propensity to concede more chances from their right flank results in my selections of Andrew Robertson and (a hopefully rested) Timothy Castagne, meanwhile.
As for the staple selection of big hitters, it’s a recharged Harry Kane and Son Heung-min who head their respective positions with a Leeds side capable of scoring five and letting in six at the other end in town on Saturday.
With one of the standout defensive fixtures of the round, I’m doubling up on Burnley via Nick Pope and Matthew Lowton. The Clarets have now won three of their last four matches at Turf Moor, keeping two clean sheets, while of late their opponents Fulham have struggled in front of goal.
Andrew Robertson is my first-choice defender based on his potential for points at both ends of the pitch. In the absence of key centre-halves, Liverpool’s backline can sometimes look vulnerable, but it’s worth noting no team has conceded fewer shots than the Reds in their last four matches. The defensive data also tells us that Southampton have given up 17 chances from their right flank since Gameweek 13, compared to just four from their left.
I’m also backing Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Romain Saïss. Since returning to the starting XI in Gameweek 12, the Moroccan international sits top amongst defenders for shots in the box and headed attempts. That aerial ability could be key too, given Brighton and Hove Albion’s ongoing issues defending set-pieces.
They’re joined at the back by goalkeepers Vicente Guaita and Bernd Leno, plus defenders James Justin and Michael Keane.
Further forward, heavy-hitters Bruno Fernandes, Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy all look like excellent options for Gameweek 17, so I’ll dedicate a bit more time to some of my other picks.
Back-to-back wins for Arsenal has seen several intriguing budget options emerge, none more so than Bukayo Saka. His inclusion in Spot the Differential a few weeks back may have raised a few eyebrows at the time, but he’s been key to their turnaround since, collecting 19 FPL points since moving to the right flank.
Wilfried Zaha has impressed too. Following his goal in Gameweek 16, he now has eight from 14 appearances since Roy Hodgson moved him into a free role as a second striker. His numbers suggest there is more to come, as he ranks among the top 10 midfielders for shots, attempts in the box, big chances and penalty area touches.
Elsewhere, I’m keeping faith with Chris Wood. The forward has scored just three goals from an expected goals (xG) total of 6.24 so far, making him one of the top xG under-performers in the division. However, the fact he’s getting into good shooting positions in the box is encouraging, and I’m backing him to return on Sunday.
The forward list is completed by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Anthony Martial.
Even with two wins on the bounce, I’m not sure I fully trust Arsenal yet – but I do tend to trust any team that is playing West Brom. Fresh from a 5-0 battering by Leeds in Gameweek 16, it won’t get any easier for Sam Allardyce’s men this week. I’ve opted for both Bernd Leno and Hector Bellerin against a team with just 8.78 expected goals (xG) this season, a full 5.42 less than the second-worst side, Burnley. That works out at 0.55 xG per game for the Baggies, which is truly awful.
I know you probably stopped reading once you saw Christian Benteke in the squad but hear me out. Sheffield United still haven’t kept a clean sheet all season and Benteke has an xG of 2.18 over the last six Gameweeks – that’s the sixth-highest among forwards. Over those Gameweeks, he’s played Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and Leicester, while missing the Liverpool game. There have been returns in the easier fixtures against West Brom and West Ham and it doesn’t get much easier than Sheffield United at the moment.
While Gameweek 16 might have given us postponements, it also gave the chance for some players to get some rest after a hectic festive period. All of Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dominic Calvert-Lewin played limited or no minutes and now face Newcastle, Leeds and West Ham respectively, who are all among the bottom seven teams for expected goals conceded so far this season.
Over the last six Gameweeks, Ben Mee has had five shots inside the box – only four defenders have recorded more. Burnley face a Fulham side that have only scored two goals in their last five matches, with the Clarets keeping three clean sheets over the same period. There could be joy at both ends of the pitch for Mee, with Nick Pope also looking to return points for the fourth time in six Gameweeks.
THE COMMUNITY CHAMPION
Each week, one of the Fantasy Football Scout community takes on the Scout Picks by pitting their chosen XI against ours.
The community member who beats our picks by the biggest margin over the campaign will win a £100 Amazon Voucher and a place in our Moderators and Contributors League for the following season.
AA33‘s whopping 53-point winning margin in Gameweek 2 is the target to beat.
In Gameweek 16, Forever In Our Shadow defeated us 68-55. That means the Scouts and the community are tied on eight wins apiece over the course of 2020/21.
Our next Scout Picks article on Friday will have further details on who is representing the community this week.
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