Finding a credible differential is a test at the best of times, but even more so this week, with just 12 teams currently in action.
However, despite a smaller pool of players to choose from, we’ve found two options at Arsenal who we think can offer real value, as well as examining an alternative route into Everton’s attack.
As always, to qualify, the players must have an ownership of 5% or less at the time of writing.
- FPL ownership: 4.1%
- Price: £7.8m
- GW18-22 fixtures: wol | avl | LEI | NEW | lee
With James Rodríguez (£7.7m) and Lucas Digne (£6.0m) returning to action at the weekend, now might be a good time to re-evaluate Everton’s attacking assets.
In their absence, Carlo Ancelotti was forced to change his teams’ setup, opting for a more conservative approach. However, with key players back, I expect we’ll see them in a 4-3-3 again, the system which provided some good results in the early part of the season.
And while Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.8m) is the long-term play, team-mate Richarlison (£7.8m) might be worth a punt this week.
The Brazilian has been reliable on the road this season, producing attacking returns in each of his last four away matches, which has included goals against Leicester City and Crystal Palace. On his travels, he’s shooting more often, is more involved in the final third and is accumulating big chances at a faster rate too, all of which bodes well for his prospects at Molineux.
The defensive data also tells us that Everton’s opponents, Wolves, tend to concede most of their chances from wider areas. In the last six matches, they’ve given up 17 from the left zone, 23 from the right and just eight from the centre. With Nélson Semedo (£5.4m) often looking vulnerable since his move, I think Richarlison will fancy his chances tomorrow night.
Everton were off the pace against West Ham United last time out, but will be given a lift by their returning players, and Richarlison could be an ideal gamble for those eyeing up a differential in their Free Hit squads.
Emile Smith Rowe
- FPL ownership: 2.1%
- Price: £4.4m
- GW18-22 fixtures: CRY | NEW | sou | MUN | wol
Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe (£4.4m) has impressed in recent weeks, and quickly established himself as a key part of Mikel Arteta’s young team.
Since making his first Premier League start of the season against Chelsea on Boxing Day, the 20-year-old has supplied three assists and created six chances. For context, that latter total ranks joint-fifth amongst all midfielders over that period.
Such is his importance right now, he didn’t start Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie against Newcastle United, but still came off the bench to inspire a 2-0 win. After a goalless 90 minutes, he finally broke the deadlock in extra time with a good finish, which helped earn him the man of the match award. It wasn’t a pretty win for Arsenal, but it was another performance which emphasised just how important the club’s youngsters are.
What’s noticeable is how much quicker the Gunners move the ball with Smith Rowe in the number 10 role, and having that creative figure in central areas has really helped them click going forward. In fact, since Gameweek 15, no team can improve upon their 6.87 expected goals (xG).
Next up for Arsenal is Crystal Palace, who have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their eight away matches this season. It’s also worth noting that their total of 15 big chances conceded in the last four Gameweeks is more than any other side.
Heading into Blank Gameweek 18, it looks like Smith Rowe will be one of the first names on Arteta’s team sheet on Thursday, and could be a nice differential pick for FPL managers on the lookout for a budget midfielder.
- FPL ownership: 4.8%
- Price: £4.5m
- GW18-22 fixtures: CRY | NEW | sou | MUN | wol
Staying with Arsenal, another cheap differential worth considering is defender Rob Holding (£4.5m).
The 25-year-old has revived his career this season, becoming a regular for the Gunners. He has now started 13 of Arsenal’s 17 league games, including all of the last seven. He was even rewarded with the captain’s armband at Everton last month, highlighting his growing importance to the team.
Since returning to the starting XI against Tottenham Hotspur at the beginning of December, his impact is backed up by the numbers.
During their last seven matches, Arsenal have afforded their opponents just 18 shots on target. Only Manchester City and Everton have given up fewer during that time, both of whom have played one game less. He carries a bit of goal threat too, as he ranks joint-sixth amongst all defenders for goal attempts, while he’s also posted team leading totals in most of the key defensive metrics.
His partnership alongside Pablo Mari (£4.4m) has helped deliver consecutive clean sheets against Brighton and Hove Albion and West Bromwich Albion, but we may see him pair up with the returning Gabriel (£5.0m) when they take on Crystal Palace at home on Thursday. After that, the North London side will then face Newcastle United.
Holding has established himself as a key player for Arsenal this season, and with an ownership of just 4.8%, could be a useful differential.
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