Thankfully, it looks like the Premier League is considering revising its rules on postponements during the winter break which should hopefully lead to a lot fewer Premier League matches being called off.
The signs are also good when it comes to weekly testing for coronavirus, with positive results at their lowest since early December.
“Premier League says of 13,625 Covid tests last week there were 33 positive cases. Third week in a row the number of positive results has decreased and the lowest number of positives since December 5. Makes a mockery of attempted postponements by clubs loaning/selling players.” – Samuel Luckhurst
Keeping this in mind, I think as Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers, we can start looking ahead and get back into a little bit of planning. I did a long-form article last week scanning the potential chip opportunities which I highly recommend you to read here.
Now that you’re up to speed with the article, there are two teams that I mainly want to discuss and target with my FPL transfers: Aston Villa and Manchester City.
All stats and graphics from this piece are taken from the Fantasy Football Scout Premium Members Area.
Villa’s fixtures right until Gameweek 29 are very favourable and their two unscheduled games are against Burnley at home and Leeds United away. These are excellent match-ups for a team that has really impressed me every single time I watch them and who have an array of attractive FPL options.
A lot of us are sitting on Chelsea defenders at the moment, including myself, which is why Lucas Digne (£5.0m) is in my thoughts as a prime candidate to come in. In his time in Scotland, Steven Gerrard progressively transformed Rangers from a team that shipped 50 goals a season to a side that conceded on just 13 occasions in 2020/21. We’ve already seen some good defensive progress from Aston Villa under Gerrard, as they are the sixth-best team for minutes per expected goals conceded (xGC) since his appointment. This is even more impressive when you consider that Villa have faced the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester City in that period. It should, ideally, only get better from here onwards.
Gerrard likes his full-backs to offer width in attack as he plays with inside forwards, which means that for a quality player like Digne, who has averaged nine returns a season at Everton, the points potential on both sides of the pitch is very high. We already saw signs of that against Manchester United, where Digne was very advanced on that left-hand side, and he slotted in seamlessly, creating two chances and clocking up two shots in the box. At a price of just £5.0m, I think Digne offers a lot of value and is someone I’m considering very, very strongly.
Above: Digne’s touch heatmap in Gameweek 22 (from the Fantasy Football Scout Premium Members Area)
Further up the field, there are three main options that I am looking at. Philippe Coutinho (£7.0m) is someone we know all about and you could see the instant lift he gave Aston Villa once he came one. Tom did an excellent article on him here if you want to read about the sheer pedigree of the player but my primary concern is that I expect him to take a couple of weeks to get up to full speed with his fitness. I am really excited to get him in my FPL team because I have fond memories of him being a trigger-happy player that creates a ton of chances and I expect him to quickly settle into this Aston Villa team in a role almost tailor-made for him as an inside forward.
The other two attackers I am looking at are Jacob Ramsey (£4.6m) and Ollie Watkins (£7.7m) who, in my opinion, are first choices in that Aston Villa team. Ramsey has a real eye for goal and has missed only one game under Gerrard, which was due to a knock. The player and manager have a real blossoming relationship at the moment and when I watch Aston Villa play, Ramsey has a knack for making the right runs towards goal and is very creative as well. He’s behind only John McGinn (£5.8m) for expected goal involvement (xGI) among Aston Villa midfielders under Gerrard and is getting better with every passing game.
In the same mold, Watkins is very important to Gerrard’s pressing system, but I do believe that the hard work he does will open up more spaces for Coutinho and Ramsey. Emiliano Buendia (£6.2m) is a decent alternative FPL option who has really caught my eye in the last four weeks but as things stand, I prefer the other two midfielders from Aston Villa. We need to be careful with price bias when it comes to Ramsey because he’s very much a playable midfielder in my eyes, especially in this kind upcoming run of matches for the Villans. He’s potentially one of the best enablers in the game and he might come in particularly handy if we want to pair Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) with a couple of other premium attackers in the future.
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