FPL Gameweek 23 – The Fixtures: Kane and TAA replacements, top-six schedules and early blank gameweek assessment

Injuries are unfortunately the biggest news in FPL this week, as both Harry Kane and Trent Alexander-Arnold have been ruled out of action. We analyse replacements for the pair, while delving into the fixture lists of sides with favourable schedules over the next five gameweeks.

GW23 FIXTURES

Saturday 19th January

Wolves vs Leicester (12:30)

Bournemouth vs West Ham (15:00)

Liverpool vs Crystal Palace (15:00)

Man Utd vs Brighton (15:00)

Newcastle vs Cardiff (15:00)

Southampton vs Everton (15:00)

Watford vs Burnley (15:00)

Arsenal vs Chelsea (17:30)

Sunday 20th January

Huddersfield vs Man City (13:30)

Fulham vs Spurs (16:00)

FEELING THE KANE

Harry Kane (£12.5m) is not expected back in training until early March after damaging ankle ligaments last Sunday. The England striker suffered the injury late on at Wembley in GW22 as Spurs were beaten 1-0 by Manchester United.

Tottenham face Fulham (a), Watford (H), Newcastle (H), Leicester (H) and Burnley (a) over the next five gameweeks. That GW27 trip to Turf Moor could be rescheduled if Spurs overcome Chelsea in their EFL Cup semi-final – Mauricio Pochettino’s men hold a 1-0 advantage going into the second leg on January 24.

Dele Alli (£8.9m) could be the pick of the Spurs bunch for those favourable fixtures. The midfielder fired off four attempts against Man Utd in GW22 – all of which were taken inside the box – hitting the target three times. One of those efforts was a big chance saved by David de Gea (£5.7m). Alli also made one key pass as Tottenham failed to convert numerous opportunities at Wembley. The England man may be on penalties with Kane sidelined, which would add a significant string to his fantasy bow.

It remains to be seen how the north London outfit cope in attack without Kane and Heung-Min Son (£8.7m), who is also not available after flying out to compete in the Asian Cup. Moussa Sissoko (£4.9m) is another injury concern for Mauricio Pochettino, with Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) forced to drop deep in a 4-2-3-1 for the second half of the defeat to the Red Devils. The Dane’s fantasy appeal would wane in that position, though Eric Dier (£4.7m) could return soon after joining in “some team training sessions” from last week.

Erik Lamela (£6.1m) and Lucas Moura (£6.8m) could both benefit from the absence of Kane and Son, though the Brazilian was unavailable in GW22 due to a knee injury. Fernando Llorente (£5.6m) may stake his claim in the budget forward bracket if he becomes Pochettino’s first choice to lead the line for Spurs. Hugo Lloris (£5.4m) represents the safe option for investors in the Spurs defence, while Kieran Trippier (£6.1m) has started five of the last six gameweeks. The right-back’s crossing ability could become a key attacking weapon for Poch if the aerially-gifted Llorente earns significant pitch time.

TAA BUT NO TAA

Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.2m) is the other highly-owned injury loss this week, with the defender facing between two and four weeks on the sidelines due to a knee injury. The Reds’ first-choice penalty taker James Milner (£5.6m) is perhaps the likeliest deputy for TAA, which is not what Mohamed Salah (£13.4m) owners want to hear. The Egyptian’s last three goals have come from the spot, though the previous four (of seven strikes since GW16) were netted during open play.

Joel Matip (£4.9m) was pictured in training on Tuesday after making the Reds’ GW22 squad, though there was no sign of Dejan Lovren (£4.9m) or Joe Gomez (£4.9m). Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.5m) was also absent amid fears the midfielder could miss the visit of Crystal Palace this weekend with a knee problem. Andrew Robertson (£6.7m) looks an extremely secure pick as Jurgen Klopp is forced to fill in other spots in his four-man backline, while Virgil van Dijk (£6.4m) and Alisson (£5.9m) are ever-presents.

Klopp’s team play the Eagles, Leicester (H), West Ham (a), Bournemouth (H) and Manchester United (a) to GW27. The clash with the Red Devils should be the biggest test of that Liverpool defence, while the attacking outlook remains bright for the Anfield club. The appeal of Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) is slightly lessened as he moves back into a No 10 role in a 4-2-3-1 formation, though the Brazilian is certainly a contender in the ‘Kane replacement’ debate considering Liverpool’s fixtures and his recent form (4G, 2A in last seven gameweeks).

Sadio Mane (£9.5m) has just two goals in the last six gameweeks and is without an assist since GW13, while Salah’s consistent returns against sides outside the top six continue to make him the go-to Liverpool option. Xherdan Shaqiri (£7.1m) could be a viable pick for managers looking to double up on the Reds’ attack; the Swiss has started eight of the last 11 league games under Klopp, scoring five goals over that period.

ROULETTE IT BE

Sergio Aguero (£11.2m) could have been the perfect Kane switch, though the recent emergence of Gabriel Jesus (£10.1m) has a put a Pep Guaridola-shaped spanner in those transfer plans.

The Brazilian started against Wolves on Monday, with Aguero not returning to training soon enough after illness to warrant a starting place. Jesus bagged a brace, with one goal coming from the penalty spot, and looks set to eat into some of his Argentinean team-mate’s pitch time over the coming gameweeks.

City take on Huddersfield (a), Newcastle (a), Arsenal (H) and Chelsea (H) to GW26, while their GW27 trip to Everton will require rescheduling due to the Citizens essentially reaching the EFL Cup final. With the visit of Chelsea likely to be the stiffest test of Guardiola’s men from a goalscoring point-of-view, attacking assets from the champions are in demand this week despite the upcoming blank gameweek. With Benjamin Mendy (£6.2m) possibly returning by GW24, Leroy Sane’s (£9.6m) run of starts could be under threat – though owners and potential investors could well be rewarded in the short term.

The winger has begun all but one of City’s league fixtures since GW13, a run which coincides with Mendy’s absence. The 13.7%-owned Sane has posted attacking returns in six of those nine starts; trips to take on the manager-less Terriers and the Magpies may see further returns. Away to non-top-six teams over the season (six fixtures), Sane has returned six points per match. That includes two sub appearances totalling 19 minutes, with the German tallying 10.5 points per 90 over those outings.

Raheem Sterling (£11.3m) is without a goal since GW17, though the England star has provided an assist in each of the last three gameweeks. He might be the more secure pick of City’s wingers, though Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m) is capable of replacing either of Guardiola’s regulars in a given gameweek. The Algerian last started in GW20 as Sane made a late cameo from the bench.

Kevin De Bruyne (£9.7m) gave City’s attack greater thrust on his GW22 introduction against Wolves, notching an assist as Conor Coady (£4.5m) diverted the Belgian’s wicked cross-shot into his own net. David Silva (£8.5m) and Bernardo Silva (£7.5m) will see their minutes reduced as KDB gains full fitness, though the Portuguese can also operate on the wing in Guardiola’s 4-3-3. City’s first clean sheet since GW13 is unlikely to encourage too many investors, particularly with two top-six clashes and a blank gameweek on the horizon.

RASH BREAKS OUT

Having beaten Spurs 1-0 last Sunday, Man Utd assets are heavily in demand going into GW23. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have fixtures against Brighton (H), Burnley (H), Leicester (a), Fulham (a) and Liverpool (H) in the next five gameweeks.

Marcus Rashford (£7.5m) looks set for a triple rise in price this week following his winner at Wembley. The England striker is one of several options for replacing countryman Kane in FPL squads, with Solskjaer recently saying that Rashford “has been different class” since the Norwegian took over at Old Trafford. Reports since then suggest the 21-year-old was told that he is United’s first-choice striker. Rashford has started all five league games under Solskjaer so far (accumulating 38 FPL points) while Romelu Lukaku (£10.7m) has been reduced to substitute appearances since returning from injury in GW20.

Paul Pogba (£8.5m) has scored a huge 54 points in the last five gameweeks. The midfielder added an assist to his recent collection by setting up Rashford’s goal against Spurs. Pogba was at the heart of the Red Devils’ excellent first-half attacking display in GW22 and took six shots (five on target) over the 90 minutes. Four of those on-target efforts were inside the box, while the midfielder also made three key passes.

On his new-found attacking freedom under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pogba said: “The manager has told me to get in the box and get goals because I will score goals if I am in the box. My best example is Frank Lampard, he is the one who makes those runs, makes a lot of chances and scores a lot of goals. If I can do that and obviously the players help me, but if I am in the box then I can be involved in the play and get the ball to someone else but at least I am there in the box.” With the French international and Rashford accounting for a high percentage of United’s goals and seemingly more secure for pitch time, Anthony Martial (£7.3m) and Jesse Lingard (£6.8m) are currently struggling to justify selection.

United have kept two clean sheets in a row after conceding in Solskjaer’s first three league ties. The Manchester club were fortunate to shut Spurs out last weekend, with the hosts missing several big chances amid an inspired David de Gea (£5.7m) performance.

Despite that, Luke Shaw (£5.0m) could provide value over the next four gameweeks. The left-back has played every minute under his new boss and is a ready-made ‘TAA’ replacement/place-holder. Shaw is without an attacking return since GW7, though United’s goalscoring intent under Solskjaer will give owners and investors hope on that front. Victor Lindelof (£4.8m) is an even cheaper option for managers that feel United can keep clean sheets over a great run of games apart from the visit of Liverpool.

FALSE HOPE?

Eden Hazard (£11.1m) returned to the ‘false nine’ role in GW22, providing the assist for Willian’s winner as Chelsea beat Newcastle 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. That was the Belgian’s only key pass of the game, while his sole attempt on goal against the Magpies was blocked.

Despite a lacklustre attacking display, Maurizio Sarri is keen to continue using his star player in that centre-forward role. Following the Blues’ win, the Italian said: “At the moment in the defensive phase we are doing very well and one of the reasons, in my opinion, is that Eden is playing in that position. In the second half my feeling was that he enjoyed it.”

Sarri added: “I played him there because I wanted to see the solution with the three small players. I think that at this moment it is a very good solution because we are not less dangerous in the offensive phase. And in the defensive phase we are more balanced. In the last six matches we have conceded only three goals and one was a penalty. Now we need to improve attacking in the box when the ball is out of the box. It is impossible for Eden to stay in the box.”

While those comments are not particularly encouraging for Hazard owners in the long term, the Belgium star has a PPM average of 5 against top-six sides this season ahead of the short trip to face Arsenal this weekend. Four of those Chelsea fixtures were at home, while the midfielder blanked against Man Utd (H) and Spurs (a). Hazard has also scored 26 points in the last four gameweeks, 15 of which came away to Watford in GW19.

Chelsea are likely to be afforded more space to attack at the Emirates on Saturday evening than they were allowed by Crystal Palace, Southampton and Newcastle. Unai Emery has recently favoured a wing-back system, which should give Sarri’s forwards the opportunity to counter-attack against a three-man central defence.

The Blues play Bournemouth (a), Huddersfield (H) and Man City (a) to GW26, while their GW27 fixture at home to Brighton currently hangs in the balance. If Sarri’s men can overcome a 1-0 deficit in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final against Spurs, that game against the Seagulls will have to be moved to another gameweek. One of the admittedly less likely possibilities is for the tie to be brought forward to GW25, a scenario which may encourage owners of Chelsea assets to hold firm until next week at least.

With no attacking returns since GW11, Marcos Alonso (£6.6m) is really struggling to justify his price tag at present – particularly considering David Luiz (£5.9m) has created two goals in the last three gameweeks.

P.E.A SHOOTER

Arsenal take on Chelsea (H), Cardiff (H), Man City (a), Huddersfield (a) and Southampton (H) to GW27. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.3m) is one of the few like-for-like Kane replacements, though two top-six clashes for the Gunners in the next three gameweeks don’t bode well for the striker – Spurs are the only ‘bigger’ side that Auba has scored against this season.

On the other hand, Arsenal’s other three games in that run appear ripe for attacking returns. With Man City and one of Chelsea or Tottenham blanking in GW27, when Liverpool travel to take on Man Utd, Aubameyang looks the standout captain option that weekend.

Sead Kolasinac’s (£4.9m) attacking potential might sway some TAA owners, with the Bosnian one of Arsenal’s chief creators as Unai Emery remains reluctant to use Aaron Ramsey (£7.2m) and particularly Mesut Ozil (£8.0m). Alex Iwobi (£5.4m) has started each of the last three gameweeks, providing two assists over that period.

BEST OF THE REST

EVERTON

Next five gameweeks: Southampton (a), Huddersfield (a), Wolves (H), Watford (a), BLANK

Potential transfer targets/assets to hold – Lucas Digne (£5.3m), Richarlison (£6.9m)

WOLVES

Next five gameweeks: Leicester (H), West Ham (H), Everton (a), Newcastle (H), Bouremouth (a)

Potential transfer targets – Matt Doherty (£5.2m), Jonny (£4.3m), Raul Jimenez (£6.4m)

CRYSTAL PALACE

Next five gameweeks: Liverpool (a), Southampton (a), Fulham (H), West Ham (H), Leicester (a)

Potential transfer targets Julian Speroni (£3.9m), James Tomkins (£4.3m), Aaron-Wan Bissaka (£4.5m), Luka Milivojevic (£6.1m)

CARDIFF

Next five gameweeks: Newcastle (a), Arsenal (a), Bournemouth (H), Southampton (a), Watford (H)

Potential transfer targets – Neil Etheridge (£4.6m), Victor Camarasa (£4.6m) [pending injury update]

WEST HAM

Next five gameweeks: Bournemouth (a), Wolves (a), Liverpool (H), Crystal Palace (a), Fulham (H)

Potential transfer targets – Felipe Anderson (£7.4m), Samir Nasri (£5.5m)

SOUTHAMPTON

Next five gameweeks: Everton (H), Palace (H), Burnley (a), Cardiff (H), Arsenal (a)

Potential transfer targets – Jan Bednarek (£3.9m), Nathan Redmond (£5.2m), Shane Long (£4.7m), Danny Ings (£5.5m) [pending injury update]

WATFORD

Next five gameweeks: Burnley (H), Spurs (a), Brighton (a), Everton (H), Cardiff (a)

Potential transfer targets – Kiko Femenia (£4.2m), Jose Holebas (£4.8m), Roberto Pereyra (£6.2m), Gerard Deulofeu (£5.5m), Troy Deeney (£5.9m)