Saturday 16th December
Leicester v Crystal Palace (12:30)
Arsenal v Newcastle (15:00)
Brighton v Burnley (15:00)
Chelsea v Southampton (15:00)
Stoke v West Ham (15:00)
Watford v Huddersfield (15:00)
Man City v Spurs (17:30)
Sunday 17th December
West Brom v Man Utd (14:15)
Bournemouth v Liverpool (16:30)
Monday 18th December
Everton v Swansea (20:00)
In FPL terms, the highest-scoring set of Premier League fixtures of the season so far came in midweek. A total of 891 points were racked up in Gameweek 17, a figure bolstered by nine sides keeping clean sheets.
With this being the warped world of FPL, this didn’t translate into huge scores for many managers. An average of 48 points was some way down on the season-high of 60 clocked up in Gameweek 6, the mean score held back by highly owned captaincy picks drawing blanks – though Harry Kane’s two-pointer at home to Brighton was not the shock it would have been in previous seasons and very much in keeping with his exasperating form at Wembley in 2017/18.
Plum home fixtures for Liverpool and Spurs saw well over half of all FPL managers hand the captain’s armband to one of Mohamed Salah or Kane, this figure being considerably higher when looking at the captaincy statistics for the top 1,000 managers in the game. Despite the meagre hauls for both of these well-backed options, were we still prudent to do so? Does home advantage really increase the prospect of explosive returns or do some players in fact thrive on the road? A glance at the FPL big hitters’ home versus away statistics highlights some intriguing trends – and may sow seeds of doubt for managers sizing up one or two players in particular.
Salah and Kane, it transpires, are as consistent on their travels as they are on their own patch; 48% of the Egyptian’s 127 points have come away from Anfield, while 49% of Kane’s total of 96 have arrived at Wembley, despite his well-documented troubles in HA9.
Other leading point-scorers evidently prefer their home comforts. Kane’s in-form teammate Son Heung-min, who has been acquired by over 100,000 managers following his 16-point bonanza in Gameweek 16, doesn’t travel so well – only 22.1% of his points have come in Spurs’ away games. The majority of Son’s starts for Tottenham this season have though come at Wembley – the Korean has lined up in only two away league games all season, something to be considered given that three of Spurs’ next four league games are away fixtures.
Arsenal’s indifferent away form is manifest in the above table. Sead Kolasinac (76.3%), Alexandre Lacazette (67.2%) and Aaron Ramsey (60.5%) have plundered the bulk of their FPL points at the Emirates, despite having played one away game more going into Gameweek 18. Back-to-back home games against the porous defences of Newcastle and Liverpool is therefore good news for owners of any Arsenal assets – though Alexis Sanchez (loitering just outside the top 40 leading FPL point scorers of 2017-18) bucks this trend, having accrued 53.8% of his 65 points when playing outside of north London.
Over two-thirds of Leroy Sané’s points this season have arrived at the Etihad, while David Silva’s midweek masterclass means he has now banked almost 60% of his 102 points in away league games.
Also enjoying life on the road are Chelsea and Watford assets. Marcos Alonso (61.8%), Willian (60.7%) and Andreas Christensen (54.5%) have been more successful away from Stamford Bridge this season, but dwarfing them all is one Eden Hazard. Despite consecutive blanks at West Ham and Huddersfield, 63% of the Belgian’s 73 points have surprisingly been amassed away from the Bridge this season – surprising because Hazard has long had a reputation as something of a ‘homer’ amongst grizzled FPL veterans.
Watford’s impressive start to the season has been defined by their away results – indeed they’d be languishing in 17th place were only home matches taken into consideration. True to form, Richarlison (68.7%), Abdoulaye Doucouré (60.6%), Heurelho Gomes (59.6%) and Kiko Femenia (58.8%) have all been more productive away from home than at Vicarage Road.
Burnley’s miraculous ascent reached its zenith on Tuesday when they briefly leapfrogged Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool into fourth place by beating Stoke City 1-0. This was their ninth win and eighth clean sheet of the season, but might the end be nigh for Messrs Pope, Tarkowski, Mee and Ward in our teams?
The Clarets top two unwanted tables – the highest average fixture difficulty ratings for the next five and ten gameweeks.
Sean Dyche’s penchant for a settled side has been tested of late – Robbie Brady’s knee injury looks set to keep him out for the majority of the season, while Stephen Ward limped off on the 40-minute mark in his side’s win over Stoke; the Irishman will be assessed on Friday. Ben Mee and Matthew Lowton have also been missing from Dyche’s first-choice backline in recent weeks (to little negative effect, it has to be said), and a horrendous run of fixtures after this Saturday’s trip to Brighton may persuade owners of Burnley assets to reluctantly sell.
Brighton and Huddersfield’s fixtures in the short term look appealing, but both clubs are bang out of form having taken only two and three points respectively out of the last 18 on offer. Might we look then to another claret-clad outfit for replacements?
West Ham are resurgent under David Moyes – a scarcely credible sentence, that – having shut out Arsenal and Chelsea in their last two league games and taken Manchester City all the way at the turn of the month. Their fixture list is a sea of green and the dectet of games below includes the first double gameweek of the season at the beginning of 2018:
The stand-out candidates undoubtedly are to be found at the back. Though only Stoke (36) have conceded more Premier League goals this season than the Hammers’ 32, Moyes’ side have tightened up at the back since their 4-0 pasting at Everton and recorded those aforementioned clean sheets against Arsenal and Chelsea over the last week. Having usurped Joe Hart as West Ham’s number one ‘keeper, Adrian looks excellent value at £4.3m for FPL managers looking to offload the benched Rob Elliot or Wayne Hennessey - as well as stockpile Hammers assets ahead of Gameweek 22.
The fact that Adrian saved only five shots in total in those two London derbies is testament to how solid the Hammers have looked in recent weeks. Angelo Ogbonna (£4.3m) accrued four bonus points in those fixtures at the heart of the Hammers’ backline, while Arthur Masuaku (£4.4m) – deployed as a wing-back in Moyes’ favoured 3-4-2-1 formation – offers attacking threat in tandem with his clean sheet potential.
Question: the ‘strikers’ of which side have scored more combined FPL points than any other forwards in the Premier League this season? Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City, perhaps? Roberto Firmino and, er, Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool? Answer: Everton’s quartet of Wayne Rooney, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Oumar Niasse and – to a much lesser extent – Sandro Ramirez.
Rooney (£7.5m) is FPL’s in-form forward, averaging 6.0 points per game over the last six matches – despite not featuring in two of them. England’s reinvigorated leading goalscorer of all time has five goals and one assist in his last four games and is on penalty duties going into Monday night’s enticing-looking home game against Swansea.
With three clean sheets in his last five starts meanwhile, Jordan Pickford (£4.8m) is currently FPL’s best-performing goalkeeper. A ten-point return against Newcastle in midweek means the former Sunderland shotstopper matches Rooney’s mean of 6.0 over the last six matches – better than any other ‘keeper in the Premier League.