Goodbye to the mad Christmas FPL rush and hello to 2019, which opened with a fourth successive Man United win, a blank for Eden Hazard (£11.1m) and an extraordinary Bournemouth 3-3 Watford first half spectacular. Five goals in 13 minutes bamboozled spectators but, sadly, the action didn’t duplicate for the second half. Elsewhere, Harry Kane (£12.6m) bagged 12 points at Cardiff and we saw Marko Arnautovic (£6.9m) return to action with two goals but all headlines belonged to Man City, who ended Liverpool’s unbeaten streak to return the favour from last season.
Here are the teams for Wolves vs Liverpool.— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) January 7, 2019
If Liverpool lose tonight, they won't have a Blank in GW31 (when all the other top 6 sides are likely to Blank) and pretty much every live FPL team will have Salah (c) plus another 2 Liverpool players for their trip to Craven Cottage. pic.twitter.com/ex0c0b8Vpk
Jurgen Klopp’s side followed that with another loss, this time to Wolves in the FA Cup, albeit with a second-string side. As we start to think ahead to wildcards, free hits, blank gameweeks and double gameweeks, the defeats of Liverpool and Fulham mean their Gameweek 31 meeting will definitely go ahead, despite it being the weekend of FA Cup Quarter Finals. Yet that’s all two months away, let’s see what Gameweek 22 has in store!
Too much time has passed since the last projections piece, in Gameweek 18, so let’s ignore catching up on how that optimum squad fared. Nothing to do with the lack of goals or clean sheets, of course, where only Ryan Fraser’s (£6.1m) assist delivered anything. Nope. The halcyon days of GW18 were before Paul Pogba (£8.4m) woke up from his slumber and before vegan sausage rolls were sold by Greggs. It was even a time when Joe Hart (£4.5m) still started for Burnley, before Tom Heaton (£4.8m) took his place and guided Burnley to a clean sheet and two vitally important wins.
They have a strong chance of making it three in a row, as they face Fulham at home. Although Claudio Ranieri’s side are known for their leaky defence, they struggle just as much to provide goals. Only Newcastle and Huddersfield have scored fewer. Heaton and James Tarkowski (£4.7m) hope to turn back the clock and recreate Burnley’s previous two seasons, when their solid defence collected ten and 12 shut-outs. Furthermore, Tarkowski has scored already scored three times.
Alongside them are two Chelsea defenders. Marcos Alonso (£6.8m) grabbed two bonus points from the disappointing 0-0 draw with Southampton, despite infuriating owners by extending his goalless streak – it’s now just two assists from 17 matches. However, no player has hit the woodwork more than his five times, suggesting a slice of bad luck that could turn good at any minute.
Alonso has already lost 0.3m in value over the Christmas period, which will drop even further if he flops against Newcastle on Saturday. For many, it’s his last chance. Antonio Rudiger (£6.0m) is also on one solitary strike for the season, in addition to two from 2017-18. Completing the defence is Ricardo Pereira (£5.3m), whose unpredictable Leicester side keep proving that on any given day they are capable of beating or losing to anyone. Back-to-back wins over Chelsea and Man City were followed by a home defeat to Cardiff and a win at Everton, whilst they’ve just been dumped out of the FA Cup by Newport County.
Burnley getting knocked out of the fa cup before the quarters would leave Leicester with some tasty fixtures and no blanks.— fᏢᏞ fᏒᎪuᎠ (@FplFraud) January 6, 2019
Maybe a triple up time 👀vardy Pereira Madison 👀#FPL pic.twitter.com/CzdjPw4AX1
Defenders by Most Goals + Assists + Clean Sheets 📊— Fantasy Football Secrets ⚽️📈 (@FPLSecrets) January 7, 2019
1⃣4⃣ van Dijk
1⃣2⃣ David Luiz
1⃣1⃣ van Aanholt
At least in Pereira, they have an FPL defender who in reality plays as a right-winger. He’s pricey but has justified the price tag of late by scoring against Man City and assisting the only goal at Goodison Park. In defence, only Alonso and Andrew Robertson (£6.6m) top his 14 bonus points. Hosting Southampton is a great opportunity for Pereira to deliver at both ends of the field, just like last time.
Don’t be put off by the cold, wintery weather outside – our midfield will be full of son-shine thanks to Richarlison (£6.9m), Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.3m), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£5.6m) and Son Heung-min (£8.8m). The first two are at home to an out-of-sorts Bournemouth who have made Fulham seem catenaccio-like by conceding 18 goals in their last six games. Richarlison is our algorithm’s captain, which makes it even more baffling that he is this week’s most-transferred out player so far, with almost 100,000 sales.
Between them, the two have amassed 17 league goals and have a strong few games before a frustratingly unsettled fixture list to see out the season. Gudmundsson’s set pieces will be an asset against Fulham, while Son faces Man United in his final game before departing for Asian Cup duty. In the form of his life, Spurs will hugely miss Son and hope to squeeze as much out of him as possible before letting him join up with South Korea. As well as a goal and two assists versus Tranmere, he has a staggering eight goals and six assists from eight starts – 10.88 points per game. He certainly won’t be fearful of Man United, it doesn’t matter if their manager is permanent or interim!
Which forwards score or assist the most often? 📊— Fantasy Football Secrets (@FPLSecrets) January 4, 2019
🇦🇷 Aguero - goal or assist every 73 mins played
🇫🇷 Lacazette - every 86 mins
🇬🇦 Aubameyang - 86
Kane - 90
Rashford - 90
Wilson - 97
🇲🇽 Chicharito - 102
🇦🇹 Arnautovic - 117
🇫🇷 Giroud - 120
🇧🇷 Firmino - 123#FPL
Shots inside the box - this season— Fantasy Football Fix (@FantasyFootyFix) January 5, 2019
🇷🇸 Mitrovic - 57
🇦🇷 Aguero - 52
Kane - 51
🇪🇬 Salah - 50
🇲🇽 Jimenez - 49
Wilson - 43
🇬🇦 Aubameyang - 40
🇧🇪 Hazard - 37
🇧🇷 Richarlison - 37https://t.co/2triwD2hh6 pic.twitter.com/a4ZST5cq1j
Our two strikers bookend the weekend, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) kicking things off at West Ham and Sergio Aguero (£11.2m) closing with Wolves. And because he’s at home, it’s highly likely that the Man City man will score. That’s certainly what he did against Liverpool, opening the scoring with a fantastic strike from a tight angle. However, his two goals since returning from injury have both came without any bonus points.
Aubameyang, on the other hand, has more bonuses than any other FPL player with 21 (despite his goal and assist against Fulham resulting in none) and his 14 goals top the scoring charts with Kane. Opponents West Ham have conceded at least twice in four of their last six appearances, with a defence that lets so many shots through it, that goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (£4.8m) has made the most saves this season (80). It’s hard to bet against Arsenal’s main man.
The other three keepers expected to keep a clean sheet are Ben Foster (£4.5m), Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m) and Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.6m). The Watford stopper faces Crystal Palace, who defend magnificently but don’t seem to have enough attacking quality. The same can be said of Newcastle, who shouldn’t trouble Chelsea but can always rely on Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) to rack up save points and keep their defeats respectable.
Adding to the Watford love is Jose Holebas (£4.8m) and Craig Cathcart (£4.5m). The former has showcased his attacking capabilities by scoring three and assisting five in the first half of this season, although his eight bookings are a concern.
Hazard only being back-up to the optimum squad may surprise many, considering his generous home opponent makes him a hugely popular captain choice for FPL owners. However, form is just as important as fixtures and the Belgian disappointed in Chelsea’s last two games, suggesting either fatigue or being figured out as Chelsea’s only attacking danger.
Despite facing a resurgent Man United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, their poor defence will still encourage owners of Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) and Kane, who are fresh from Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg win over Chelsea. James Maddison (£6.8m) and Jamie Vardy (£8.9m) will aim to combine with Pereira against Southampton, whereas Mohamed Salah (£13.3m) is another prime captaincy candidate – travelling to Brighton – as he faces a side who they beat 5-1 in last season’s equivalent meeting and are this time without goalkeeper Mat Ryan (£4.4m). Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson (£6.7m) got back amongst the goals in the 3-3 versus Watford and faces Everton, who haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last eight games.