FPL Gameweek 21 – The Fixtures

Following on from Friday’s look into the fixtures of Tottenham, Man United, Arsenal and Huddersfield, here we look at four more teams with an interesting run of games. Naturally, Spurs followed impressive 6-2 and 5-0 wins with a shock home defeat to Wolves, shattering their title chances as soon as they were starting to hit form. Merciless Mohamed Salah (£13.3m) continued to punish the FPL managers who disowned him with a 12-point display in Liverpool’s 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal, although the headlines went to Roberto Firmino’s (£9.1m) hat-trick – his first Anfield goals of the season. Then, in the final match of 2018, Paul Pogba (£8.2m) made it four goals and four assists from Man United’s three post-Mourinho games. His 18 points make him Gameweek 20’s top scorer.

GW21 FIXTURES

Tuesday 1st January

Everton v Leicester (12:30)

Arsenal v Fulham (15:00)

Cardiff v Tottenham (17:30)

Wednesday 2nd January

Bournemouth v Watford (19:45)

Chelsea v Southampton (19:45)

Huddersfield v Burnley (19:45)

West Ham v Brighton (19:45)

Wolves v Crystal Palace (19:45)

Newcastle v Man United (20:00)

Thursday 3rd January

Man City v Liverpool (20:00)

MANE HAPPY RETURNS

Right now, it feels like fixtures don’t matter for Jurgen Klopp’s relentless table-toppers. Arsenal only have one defeat in 17? No problem, 5-1. Newcastle are solid travellers? Give them a 4-0. Confidence is sky-high going into Thursday’s huge New Year showdown against Man City, especially after City’s unexpected slump of three defeats from five games. If they can leave the Etihad Stadium still unbeaten, Liverpool will hope to extend this against Brighton, Crystal Palace, Leicester, West Ham and Bournemouth. It’s a middle-of-the-road run, facing sides that aren’t amongst the top six but are solid, testing and known to give anyone a tough game.

Salah leads the way as the league’s joint-top scorer and FPL’s frontrunner with 149 points. It had been argued that the Egyptian was overpriced because he wasn’t on penalties and rarely racked up bonus points, but both arguments have been destroyed since Gameweek 16’s hat-trick at Bournemouth. Six goals (two penalties), three assists and seven bonus points have led to scores of 21, 2, 12, 12 and 12. Will this run ever end? It’ll be painful for non-owners to find this out. For those who will cover Salah with cheaper alternatives, it was encouraging to see Sadio Mane (£9.5m) and Firmino also on the scoresheet. Meanwhile, in defence, Andrew Robertson (£6.6m) remains the top option but Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.1m) offers a money-saving option.

ALONSO’S TIME TO GO

Fear plays a role in FPL decisions. Right now, it’s scary to go into a matchday without Salah, no matter what the price. It’s the same for Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso (£6.8m), who is on course to beat his 165 and 177 points totals from the past two seasons but only has one goal at the halfway stage. He has seven assists so far but is far away from the six and seven goals scored previously – it’s not even close. Yet his 27 shots have not been topped, with several recent ones unluckily hitting the post. He’s getting in the right positions and is the game’s second most-owned player because of the early-season spurt that brought five assists and a goal from his first four matches.

The fear is that Alonso will finally get those goals as soon as he’s removed from your team. They’ll suddenly go in, instead of hitting the post. Once that happens, a seven-goals-per-season defender is great value. However, there are other defenders who are seemingly capable of this and cost a lot less money. Whilst Alonso tops the shot count, he falls below the likes of Lucas Digne (£5.2m), Matt Doherty (£5.2m) and Jose Holebas (£4.8m) in most other attacking statistics.

So there’s a debate to be had. Chelsea have encouraging home fixtures against Southampton and Newcastle, before trips to Arsenal in Gameweek 23 and Man City in Gameweek 26. If Alonso still doesn’t score, it may be time to give up, trust the other flying full-backs and invest the money elsewhere. Further upfield, prolific Eden Hazard (£11.1m) is the only real Chelsea option.

WOLVES TALENT DOESN’T COSTA LOT

As mentioned, Wolves overturned a Harry Kane (£12.6m) opener to claim a wonderful 3-1 away win at Spurs. Newly-promoted, they have accumulated some highly impressive results against the big sides, drawing against Man City, Man United and Arsenal alongside a win over Chelsea. Central to that has been Doherty - with three goals and four assists from the wing-back - and Mexican forward Raul Jimenez (£6.3m). Although their defence have only kept one clean sheet in 12 games, things are more promising up front.

In a highly-competitive pool of cheap strikers that includes Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.7m), Danny Ings (£5.6m), Marko Arnautovic (£6.9m) and Callum Wilson (£6.7m), Jimenez stands out as a fantastic option. His pre-season price of £5.5m has already risen by £0.8m ahead of a run of games that sees Wolves face just one of the top six in the next nine games. They’re at home to Crystal Palace, Leicester, West Ham, Newcastle and Cardiff, whilst travelling to Man City, Everton, Bournemouth and Huddersfield. With six goals and six assists, his 21% ownership will feel optimistic.

CAMARASA’S BARGAIN PENALTIES

An interesting thought – are Cardiff actually quite good? With four home wins now accompanied by four points (and two clean sheets) from back-to-back festive away games, Neil Warnock certainly hasn’t let the Bluebirds be the foregone relegation that was widely assumed. Removing the immediate game with Tottenham and a Gameweek 24 trip to Arsenal, Cardiff have a clear run of solid fixtures for three months.

This includes facing Huddersfield, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Southampton. However, it’s a problem to identify possible FPL talents. At Leicester, goalkeeper Neil Etheridge (£4.5m) saved his third penalty of the season, making him the second highest-scoring FPL stopper behind Alisson (£5.9m). Roughly the same price gets defender Sol Bamba (£4.5m), who has scored twice and penalty-taking bargain midfielder Victor Camarasa (£4.6m). The problem with the latter is that, at such a price, his goals will often be left on many benches. Callum Paterson (£5.1m) is still being played out-of-position up front, which boosts his appeal, although Cardiff are expected to sign a striker in the January transfer window.