FPL Festive Preview – Navigating The Fixture Pile-up

With four gameweeks squashed into the space of 14 days, FPL managers must effectively manage their resources over the busiest period of the season as midfielders continue to dominate the game.

Gameweek 19 Fixtures

Friday 22nd December
Arsenal vs Liverpool (19:45)

Saturday 23rd December
Everton vs Chelsea (12:30)
Brighton vs Watford (15:00)
Man City vs Bournemouth (15:00)
Southampton vs Huddersfield (15:00)
Stoke vs West Brom (15:00)
Swansea vs Crystal Palace (15:00)
West Ham vs Newcastle (15:00)
Burnley vs Spurs (17:30)
Leicester vs Man Utd (19:45)

Midfield Minefield

With leading fantasy scorers Man City garnering almost 54% of their total points from midfield, the case for heavy investment in that position over Christmas is very strong. Having scored two goals per game between GW12 and GW16, Pep Guardiola’s side netted four times in each of the last two gameweeks.

Kevin De Bruyne (£10.3m) and Raheem Sterling (£8.5m) have been at the forefront of City’s return to the attacking form that saw the team score 33 goals from GW4 to GW11. The pair have scored 22 and 23 points respectively over the last three gameweeks, while David Silva (£8.2m) racked up a huge 33 points in his last three before missing out on the 4-1 win against Spurs in GW18.

Investment in the Spaniard will ramp up should he make a swift return, while Ilkay Gundogan (£5.3m) could be a canny Christmas purchase if Silva remains sidelined. The German produced a delightful assist against Leicester on Tuesday, though his inclusion could mean Silva’s return is imminent. De Bruyne and Sterling, both rested for the cup tie, have each risen once in price this week with more hikes possible ahead of Friday’s 6.45pm deadline. Both players are strong captaincy contenders for GW19.

After facing Bournemouth at the Etihad on Saturday, Guardiola’s league-leading outfit face road trips against Newcastle and Palace before hosting Watford. The City triple-up that served FPL managers so well earlier in the season looks viable once more, with Nicolas Otamendi (£6.2m) the choice pick in defence. The Citizens have just one clean sheet in the last six gameweeks, though conceded just once in each of the other five fixtures.

At the other end of the pitch, City’s forwards continue to frustrate as fantasy assets. Gabriel Jesus (£10.2m) played 120 cup minutes this week so Sergio Aguero (£11.5m) looks a shoe-in to start his third gameweek in a row against Bournemouth. The Argentine, who has scored just twice in the last six gameweeks, is reportedly battling with a heel problem since GW2.

Second top-scorers Manchester United also face a good four-game run, with home ties against Burnley and Southampton sandwiched by away fixtures against Leicester and Everton. Romelu Lukaku (£11.3m) is set to be heavily captained against the Foxes, having netted in each of the previous two gameweeks.

The return of Paul Pogba (£7.9m) should see Jose Mourinho’s side rack up the goals; United have only scored 15 goals in the eight league fixtures the Frenchman has missed this season, compared to 24 with Pogba in the starting XI.

Despite playing 90 minutes in the shock 2-1 Carabao Cup defeat to Bristol City, the midfielder should be immune to rotation over Christmas following his three-game ban. Considering the inevitable rotation of heavy-hitting midfield assets over the next four gameweeks, Pogba’s pitch time only adds to his FPL appeal. The 24-year-old has failed to post attacking returns just twice in 10 starts.

For those struggling for funds, Jesse Lingard (£6.0m) has started each of the last five gameweeks -scoring four times and producing one assist. In defence, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are identically priced at £5.4m. Mourinho’s press conference should contain an update on Antonio Valencia (£6.9m), who suffered a hamstring injury during United’s 2-1 win away to West Brom in GW18.

Fresh from another double-figure haul away from home, Philippe Coutinho (£9.0m) is hot FPL property ahead of trips to Arsenal and Burnley, which border home ties against Swansea and Leicester. Sadio Mane (£9.4m) was the odd one out for Liverpool in GW18, though Klopp’s rotation policy means all of the Reds’ fantasy darlings face being rested at some point over Christmas:

Roberto Firmino (£8.6m) is the go-to option in the mid-price forward bracket, having scored 25 point in his previous two away games while allowing managers to divert funds into midfield. Mohamed Salah (£10.0m), meanwhile, is proving an unstoppable force for Premier League defences:

Andy Robertson (£4.6m) could prove a valuable festive option as Alberto Moreno (£4.5m) remains out for “a few weeks”.

Another previously popular full-back, Sead Kolasinac (£6.2m), started in Arsenal’s victory over West Ham in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday. The Serb, who features in 14% of squads, has failed to feature in either of the last two gameweeks.

Arsene Wenger’s side have consecutive away trips against Crystal Palace and West Brom following GW19’s crunch clash against Liverpool, though Chelsea also visit the Emirates at the end of a decidedly mixed four-game run. Unfortunately for the value hunters, Kolasinac’s replacement Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.5m) is listed as a midfielder in FPL.

Owned by 22% of managers, Alvaro Morata (£10.7m) is one player being moved out of FPL squads for Firmino. Over 70,000 have sold the Chelsea striker this week, with the forward’s one-point cameo against Southampton the final straw for many.

The Spain forward scored the winner for the Blues against Bournemouth on Wednesday night but a fifth yellow of the season followed; Morata is now out of the Everton game, providing owners with an unexpected transfer headache.

Eden Hazard (£10.9m) provided a delightful backheel assist for that late goal but may operate as a false nine in Morata’s absence – a role that reduced the Belgian’s goal threat in GW17 against Huddersfield (though the midfielder was unlucky not to pick up at least one assist).

The Blues face a mixed festive schedule. The Toffees tie now looks much tougher than it did when many managers invested heavily in Chelsea. A GW22 trip to Arsenal may also stifle returns for Antonio Conte’s attackers; the two sides cancelled each other out back in a GW5 goalless draw. However, consecutive home ties against Brighton and Stoke in between those away fixtures put forward a strong case for keeping Hazard, in particular.

Harry Kane (£12.8m) continues to split FPL opinion; over 65,000 bosses have opted for a ‘Kanexit’, while the striker’s continued attempts on goal give hope to ‘reKaners’ that he will begin to find the net with greater regularity.

The Spurs forward now sits on four yellow cards ahead of a trip to Burnley and a home clash against Southampton. Luckily for those holding Kane, the five-yellow threshold rises to 10 after GW19 so a ban for the double gameweek is not a worry (if only we could say the same for the fantasy scoring). A booking against the Clarets would mean two blanks in a row for the forward; nothing new there, then.

Player Points Per Million

James Tarkowski (£4.8m) features high in the PPM standings, though the Burnley centre-half has been slapped with a three-game ban for violent conduct. Kevin Long (£3.9m) should deputise, though the Clarets have an ugly fixture list from GW19 until GW26.

Sean Dyche’s side, who face Spurs (h), Man Utd (a) and Liverpool (h) over the next four gameweeks, do have the joint-best defensive record in the league alongside the Manchester sides.

Not quite in the PPM top 20 are Everton forwards Wayne Rooney (£7.6m) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.4m). The latter, who has returned over 11 points per million, profited from the former Man Utd striker’s saved penalty to net his second goal in four gameweeks on Monday.

That penalty miss couldn’t stop Rooney, who sits on 12 PPM, from amassing a 13-point haul. Both players present further convincing cases to reduce forward spend in order to achieve a ‘power five’ midfield – a trend which is evident in the current top 10 teams:

The Toffees do face both Chelsea and Man Utd at Goodison Park over the next four, the latter preceded by trips to both West Brom and Bournemouth. Jonjoe Kenny (£4.4m) and Mason Holgate (£4.2m) should continue to offer excellent value as part of a defensive rotation.

With a double gameweek 22 on the horizon ahead of fixtures at home to Newcastle and away to Bournemouth, West Ham assets are also proving popular following a manager change. Aaron Cresswell (£5.0m) has returned over 11 PPM, though has usually played in a back three under David Moyes.

Angelo Ogbonna (£4.4m) offers a cheaper option in that trio, while Arthur Masuaku (£4.4m) roves forward from a left wing-back role. Manuel Lanzini (£6.8m) will play no part in GW19, having picked up a retrospective two-game ban for diving. The playmaker, who assisted all three of West Ham’s goals against Stoke last Saturday, will be available for DGW22.

Marko Arnautovic (£6.8m) spurned several big chances against his old club before finding the net last weekend. Used as a lone striker in GW18, the Austrian could rival Lanzini for our double gameweek attentions. Any investment in West Ham assets comes with the disclaimer that the club, like Spurs, have no fixture in GW21.

As fantasy bosses switch to 3-5-2 and even 4-5-1, budget forward options are becoming more popular. Huddersfield pair Laurent Depoitre (£5.3m) and Collin Quaner (£4.6m) are both attracting investment as managers go heavy in midfield.

The former has scored in each of the Terriers’ last two fixtures, while the latter picked up an assist in GW18 on his third start in five gameweeks. Steve Mounie (£5.7m) will disrupt Depoitre’s pitch time, though Quaner could feature more regularly in attacking midfield due to Elias Kachunga’s long-term injury. Saturday’s opponents Southampton could be without both first-choice full-backs, adding to the appeal of Huddersfield attackers.

David Wagner’s side play both Stoke and Burnley at home following GW19, before rounding off the festive period at Leicester. Zanka (£4.5m) looks the safest route for investment, though Huddersfield have kept just two clean sheets since GW11.

Player Home vs Away

Sitting pretty in the middle of the above graph is Marcos Alonso (£7.0m), with the defender’s 90 points split almost equally between home and away fixtures. The Spaniard is the leading defender for efforts in the box this season with 22.

The marauding wing-back will need to continue posting attacking returns, having supplied an assist and a goal over the last two, in order to show his worth over Andreas Christensen (£5.6m). The Danish defender continues to provide good value, though David Luiz’s reported return for GW22 could eat into Christensen’s pitch time.

Finally, for anyone with the luxury of still holding their first wildcard, it must be used before GW21. After the 2.00pm deadline for that gameweek on 30th December, the second wildcard will come into play.

Gameweek 20 Fixtures

Tuesday 26th December
Spurs vs Southampton (12:30)
Bournemouth vs West Ham (15:00)
Chelsea vs Brighton (15:00)
Huddersfield vs Stoke (15:00)
Man Utd vs Burnley (15:00)
Watford vs Leicester (15:00)
West Brom vs Everton (15:00)
Liverpool vs Swansea (17:30)

Wednesday 27th December
Newcastle vs Man City (19:45)

Thursday 28th December
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal (20:00)

Gameweek 21 Fixtures

Saturday 30th December
Bournemouth vs Everton (15:00)
Chelsea vs Stoke (15:00)
Huddersfield vs Burnley (15:00)
Liverpool vs Leicester (15:00)
Newcastle vs Brighton (15:00)
Watford vs Swansea (15:00)
Man Utd vs Southampton (17:30)

Sunday 31st December
Crystal Palace vs Man City (12:00)
West Brom vs Arsenal (16:30)

Gameweek 22 Fixtures

Monday 1st January
Brighton vs Bournemouth (12:30)
Burnley vs Liverpool (15:00)
Leicester vs Huddersfield (15:00)
Stoke vs Newcastle (15:00)
Everton vs Man Utd (17:30)

Tuesday 2nd January
Southampton vs Crystal Palace (19:45)
Swansea vs Spurs (19:45)
West Ham vs West Brom (19:45)
Man City vs Watford (20:00)

Wednesday 3rd January
Arsenal vs Chelsea (19:45)

Thursday 4th January
Spurs vs West Ham (20:00)

Good luck and Merry Christmas from the TSZ FPL team!