The festive fixture crunch is upon us and this part of the season will pass a lot faster than you know. Much ground can be made or lost in this 40-day period spanning 10 Gameweeks; that’s a lot of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) action.
First up, I just want to talk about a few factors to keep in mind during this period.
BUDGET OPTIONS TO ENABLE A BIG FPL SQUAD
A big squad is going to be very useful in this period. The clubs involved in European competition are pretty much playing twice a week right until the New Year. Even the teams not in Europe are going to have three rounds of midweek Premier League games until January. Keeping this in mind and to protect yourself from inevitable rotation, I think it is very important to have a big squad to pick from.
This is very much possible given the flurry of good defenders available to pick from. The good attacking premium options from Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have been spoken about and very well documented. But due to inevitable rotation, it might not be a bad idea to have one or two nailed budget options as insurance. Crystal Palace are fourth for ease of fixture difficulty on the Season Ticker until Gameweek 21 and only Manchester City have a better expected goals conceded (xGC) tally than the Eagles. The likes of Tyrick Mitchell (£4.5m) and Marc Guehi (£4.5m) will be great enablers in this period. While Mitchell has some assist threat, Guehi looks good for bonus points. Only six defenders have a higher Baseline BPS score than Guehi and both these Palace defenders look like solid ‘big squad’ enablers that will be very useful in the festive fixture crunch. The schedule below is very convincing:
We obviously have Tino Livramento (£4.5m) in that price bracket and for the more risk-friendly managers, our favorite Mr. Lively, Tariq Lamptey (£4.4m), is back in the fray after a good outing against Newcastle United. He supplied seven crosses in the draw with the Magpies, shooting twice inside the box and clocking eight penalty area touches. Keeping the above factors in mind, I think having five playing defenders from this great pool of value options is going to be very helpful in the festive fixture period. It doesn’t just insure against rotation but also against taking hits if your team is suddenly having a lot of injury issues.
Another pool of players enabling a bigger squad is the sheer number of options in the £5.5m to £6.5m midfield bracket. My current favorite in this price rung is Jarrod Bowen (£6.3m), who has a really good run of matches from Gameweek 16 onwards. Not that fixture difficulty seems to matter at the moment: West Ham have scored 3+ goals on four occasions already in 2021/22 and have failed to find the net in only one game, as shown by this chart from Andrew Gower below.
In the last six Gameweeks, only Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) has a higher expected goal involvement (xGI) figure than Bowen.
There are a bunch of midfielders in this bracket who can give you five playable options across the middle of the park. The likes of Conor Gallagher (£5.8m) who has a good run of fixtures until Gameweek 21, Emile Smith-Rowe (£5.8m), Raphinha (£6.6m), Maxwel Cornet (£6.0m), Bryan Mbeumo (£5.6m) and Leandro Trossard (£6.5m) are all good picks in this bracket – and that is without considering the Aston Villa midfielders, as Steven Gerrard seems to like his inside forwards.
An injury to Roberto Firmino (£8.8m) along with the upcoming unavailability of Salah and Sadio Mane (£11.9m) in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) also makes Diogo Jota (£7.5m) too much of a gift not to accept for this upcoming run of games. Jota clocked 0.49 expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes last season (only Gareth Bale and Salah had more) and is averaging the same xG/90 figure in the current campaign, as well. His expected minutes for the upcoming period look encouraging, although we admittedly don’t have clarity on the length of Firmino’s injury at the moment.
Having at least 12 playable outfielders looks like it will be very useful in the festive period and given the names I mentioned above, it’s very doable.
GAMEWEEK 12 TRANSFER PLANS
I am currently debating what to do with my own team and there is a big decision to be made. I am looking to sell Kai Havertz (£8.1m) and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang (£10.1m) to fund at least one Spurs premium attacker in my team. If I get Son Heung-min (£10.3m), I will transfer in Callum Wilson (£7.3m) alongside him. If I go for Harry Kane (£12.2m), I will bring in one of the mid-priced midfielders mentioned above.
I quite liked Kane’s positioning in the Everton game, where I thought he was playing more as a number 9 under Antonio Conte than under his previous managers, and seemed to show a lot more intent than what we’ve seen so far in 2021/22. I know he only faced Albania but the quality of Kane’s finishes was encouraging on Friday, too. Given his propensity to haul against promoted teams, I do like the idea of chancing upon him. Simply put, he’s a world-class player and Conte is a world-class manager, so I want to put myself in a position to get lucky given the fixtures Spurs have.
What I said about Kane also applies to Son and arguably Wilson is a better asset compared to the midfielders, especially for the next four weeks. One thing playing on my mind, however, is squad structure and I do feel that there are outs I’m more comfortable with if I go with Kane. Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.4m) has a great run of fixtures from Gameweek 16 onwards and it looks like Romelu Lukaku (£11.5m) is going to be back in the conversation very soon. These outs, plus the wide variety of players in the mid-price midfield bracket, have me currently leaning towards Kane. I am also generally more comfortable captaining the Spurs forward and I like having that option should I want to go there in Gameweeks 14 and 15, when he plays Brentford and Norwich City at home. My mind could change before the deadline as it is a very close call but I thought it might be useful to let you know about my thought process.
Enjoy this little bit of a break because things are going to get very chaotic very soon. See you on the other side.
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