FPL Gameweek 23 – Projections

An injury to Harry Kane (£12.5m) headlined Gameweek 22 alongside yet another goal for the most-captained Mo Salah (£13.4). Reports say the England striker will miss around six weeks of action. That rules him out until Gameweek 28, with 31 potentially blank depending on Spurs’ FA Cup progress. It comes at a bad time for Mauricio Pochettino - Son Heung-Min (£8.7m) has gone to play in the Asian Cup, leaving Fernando Llorente (£5.6m) as the club’s only striker.

There was more misery for the many new owners of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.2m). The Liverpool right-back shook off a pre-match knock to complete 90 minutes at Brighton, yet it was announced on Tuesday that a knee injury will keep him out of action for four weeks. Truth be told, it was a strange weekend which saw the same number of own goals as goal-scoring FPL strikers – four. Gameweek 23 has Arsenal face Chelsea on Saturday evening, with many FPL managers hopeful of big returns from their Liverpool, Tottenham and Man City assets.

OPTIMUM SQUAD

A terrible week for last week’s side, amassing just 23 points. There were no clean sheets or goals, with only Ricardo Pereira’s (£5.3m) assist registering any sort of return. Richarlison (£6.9m) disappointed as captain, as neither he nor Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.3m) delivered attacking returns at home to Bournemouth, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.3m) was starved of service during Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at West Ham. Another shock was Chelsea’s inability to keep out a generally toothless Newcastle, costing Marcos Alonso (£6.6m) and Antonio Rudiger (£6.0m) some clean sheet points.

Unfortunately for Kane owners, an away game at Fulham is a fantastic fixture. This week’s optimum squad may just as well be called ‘Tottenham’, such is the algorithm’s faith in their ability to win at Craven Cottage. In a 5-4-1 formation, three defenders belong to Spurs – Danny Rose (£5.8m), Jan Vertonghen (£5.9m) and Kieran Trippier (£6.1m). The last eight games have seen Rose and Ben Davies (£5.6m) take it in turns to start at left-back, although both featured in the 1-0 win over Burnley as Davies filled in at centre back. Trippier’s free kicks were showcased in a World Cup semi-final and in August’s reverse fixture against Fulham, adding some attacking threat to his team’s strong odds of a clean sheet.

Fulham aren’t the only team heavily-backed to not score: Leicester have two defenders for their trip to Wolves. It’s not easy predicting the fortunes of under-pressure Claude Puel’s side, showing remarkable inconsistency. Therefore it could be said that, following a home defeat to Southampton, the Foxes are in a prime position to shock Wolves in a battle of the carnivorous nicknames. Be warned, however, as this match could bite.

Harry Maguire (£5.4m) has two goals this season but it’s Pereira who has the bandwagon. The right-back is often played further forward as a winger, leading him to two goals and five assists. Defensively, he is FPL’s fifth highest-scorer and comes fourth in bonus point rankings. Neil Murray tweeted a thread (starting below) that points out all the reasons why Pereira is the standout option at the back. For example, their run of fixtures from Gameweeks 27-35 is fantastic.

For those looking to shift Lukasz Fabianski (£4.8m), the obvious choice is Neil Etheridge (£4.6m). Cardiff are quietly accumulating both points and clean sheets, with three shut-outs in four games and an enticing trip to impotent Newcastle on Saturday. He has the second best points-per-game of all goalkeepers and the second highest number of saves – showing that, like his manager Neil Warnock, Etheridge is passionate about keeping things out. Especially penalties.

He may struggle to stop a Salah penalty, though. Two of the biggest complaints about last season’s top-scorer were that he didn’t rack up enough bonus points, and that he wasn’t even on penalties. Disappointing for such a huge outlay. However, Salah has now scored three penalties in four games and grabbed ten bonuses since Gameweek 16. Unprecedented scores since then of 21, 2, 12, 12, 12, 2 and 11 have punished all FPL managers who dared not to have him.

He has great fixtures on the horizon too, with Man United their only top-six opponents in the next nine games. Expect his rise in ownership to escalate even further, with the combination of Kane’s fund-freeing injury and the pure fear of continuing without the Egyptian. The next victims are Crystal Palace. Raheem Sterling (£11.3m), on the other hand, has been unable to replicate that fear after a phenomenal November was followed by a change in fortunes from 1st December.

The England man was then benched twice within three games and, despite starting their last half a dozen and assisting in each of their last three, he has been unable to return more than six points. Huddersfield and Newcastle are great fixtures to get Man City coverage, which Gabriel Jesus (£10.1m) made tougher for Sergio Aguero (£11.2m) owners by scoring twice against Wolves. Be careful, though: assuming Burton Albion don’t overcome their 9-0 first-leg deficit, City will be in the Carabao Cup Final and won’t play in Gameweek 27, alongside Everton and two of Chelsea, Brighton, Tottenham and Burnley.

Across Manchester, interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has racked up six wins from six and rejuvenated the likes of Marcus Rashford (£7.5m), Ander Herrera (£5.0m) and Paul Pogba (£8.5m). They’ve even kept clean sheets! Anthony Martial (£7.3m) is getting regular starts and is included in the optimum squad, with Pogba expected to continue his resurgence at home to Brighton.

The 25-year-old has four goals and five assists from only five league games, setting up Rashford’s winner at Spurs. He gets forward a lot more, with Pogba himself saying: “The manager told me to get in the box, get goals, because you will score goals if you're in the box. My best example is Frank Lampard. He was the one who made those runs and he created a lot of chances, he scored a lot of goals." If the new father can score anywhere near what Lampard did, he’ll be an essential FPL asset.

Just one striker this week, considering how few scored last weekend. The lone spot belongs to Jamie Vardy (£8.9m) in Saturday’s early kick-off. Seven goals is a solid return for the first half of the season, although the unpredictability of his goals infuriated many and explains his low 4.6% ownership. Vardy blanked in the ‘easy’ games but scored recent winners at Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park.

THE REST – GOALKEEPERS/DEFENDERS

Tottenham, Leicester and Cardiff are further covered by Hugo Lloris (£5.4m), Kaspar Schmeichel (£5.0m), Sean Morrison (£4.7m), Sol Bamba (£4.5m) and Ben Chilwell (£5.1m). Of the rest, it seems that David Button (£4.0m) has been chosen to replace Mat Ryan (£4.4m) while the Australian is away at the Asian Cup. Cheap and cheerful, he has Fulham and Burnley amongst his next four games. Ederson (£5.6m) assisted last time he faced Huddersfield, whilst Jose Holebas (£4.8m) will be confident of either a clean sheet or a goal at home to Burnley.

THE REST – MIDFIELDERS/FORWARDS

In Kane and Son’s absence, Spurs will be heavily-reliant on their midfielders to steer them to victory. Considering Pochettino’s apparent reluctance to play Llorente, there’s even a chance that Dele Alli (£8.9m) or Lucas Moura (£6.8m) could be played as a striker at Fulham.

Bernardo Silva’s (£7.6m) algorithm points are affected by the return of Kevin De Bruyne (£9.7m), who will eventually reclaim his starting position after impressive cameos. Leroy Sane (£9.6m) is now on seven goals and ten assists. Elsewhere, Rashford is a surprising absence from the optimum 11 considering his 11, 12 and 7 points totals of recent weeks, whilst Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) scored a hat-trick when last at Anfield.