FPL Gameweek 22 – Projections

Liverpool players saved the Gameweek 21 line-up in a disappointing start to 2020. Mo Salah (£12.3m) opened proceedings against Sheffield Utd, alongside clean sheets for Virgil van Dijk (£6.4m) and captain Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m). The trio contributed 29 of the slightly below-average 47 points. Danny Ings (£6.7m) was the only other successful pick, bagging the winner and maximum bonus points during Southampton’s 1-0 win over Spurs.

The remaining seven players totalled 9 FPL points due to the blanks of Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m), Anthony Martial (£7.9m), Marcus Rashford (£9.1m), Ben Foster (£4.8m) and Willian (£7.2m). The initial booking for Christian Kabasele (£4.3m) was upgraded to a red card for preventing what was deemed to be a goal-scoring opportunity for Wolves, bringing in a score of minus one. However, the biggest blow to most Fantasy Premier League managers was the unexpected further absence of Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) – this time because of a slight calf injury. He was by far the most captained player of the matchday but missed Leicester’s 3-0 win over Newcastle.

OPTIMUM SQUAD

This week’s team is very similar, with just four changes. Foster continues in goal, having kept three clean sheets in the last six games. Watford have been resurgent under new manager Nigel Pearson and are about to travel to Bournemouth, the side immediately above them that are in freefall. As well as losing eight from ten matches, the Cherries scored in just two of their last seven and have attempted fewer shots and big chances than any other team in that period.

Their 4-0 defeat to West Ham brought 11 points for Ryan Fredericks (£4.5m) via a clean sheet, assist and two bonus points. Fredericks was originally selected by the algorithm but picked up a hamstring injury against Gillingham in the FA Cup. His place goes to probable replacement Pablo Zabaleta (£4.2m), with the Hammers buoyed by the return of Lukasz Fabianski (£4.9m) in goal and the successful shut-out that came with it. Again, a doubling-up of Liverpool’s defence has occurred, as has the captaincy of Alexander-Arnold for their trip to Spurs.

For so much of the season, Jurgen Klopp’s underachieving defence had always found a way to concede that one goal, but they are now on a streak of five consecutive clean sheets. Their phenomenal full-backs already have 16 assists and three goals between them, the latest being an Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) cross for Salah’s opener. FPL’s two highest scoring defenders are highly productive at both ends of the pitch and represent remarkable value.

Sadio Mane (£12.3m) only has two goals from his 11 meetings with Spurs, whereas Salah has seven from 11. Liverpool’s win against Sheffield Utd ended a brutal December schedule and, fresh from a nine-day break for most senior players, going forward there should be less rotation for the league leaders. One of this week’s new faces is the in-form Jack Grealish (£6.4m). Nine matches have seen four goals and three assists, snatching one of each (plus a goal disallowed by VAR) during Aston Villa’s 2-1 over Burnley. The season-ending knee injury to Wesley (£5.6m) could either help or hinder Grealish, depending on how manager Dean Smith intends to alter their system.

When De Bruyne was face down on the pitch after clattering into Victor Lindelof (£5.3m), many hearts were in mouths. Luckily, he was soon able to walk off and declared as “fine” by Pep Guardiola following Man City’s 3-1 win over Man Utd in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg. Pep also noted that “the team I see is a little bit tired” after the hectic festive period but, considering City lost both matches without De Bruyne, it is unlikely that the Belgian will be rested against Aston Villa. Rashford played all 90 minutes for the Red Devils, with Martial making a late cameo, but both are strongly backed to deliver at home to bottom-side Norwich.

Gameweek 22 is the reverse meetings of Gameweek 10, the weekend famously remembered for Leicester’s 0-9 win over Southampton. Vardy netted a hat-trick that day and will presumably again be the most-selected captain, although his manager declaring him “absolutely fine” does echo his previous belief that Vardy “will be back for Newcastle”. He wasn’t and Leicester coasted to victory in his absence. From Ings’ last 14 starts, the St Mary’s thrashing was one of only three occasions where he hasn’t scored and that was partly due to being sacrificed at half time by ten-man Southampton. The striker is in breathtaking form and has gained over a million new owners since that night, with goals often coming with all three bonus points. His 27 bonuses are more than any other player.

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