Happy New Year everybody!
After a few free-scoring rounds, round 21 was a bit tighter with 16 goals across the nine games, including three 0-0 draws. Aside from Chelsea’s 5-0 rout of Stoke, all the other teams were separated by one goal or less. A third successive draw for United, coupled with Chelsea’s resounding win, sees the Blues replace the Red Devils in second place, breaking the Manchester stranglehold on one and two. City dropped points for just the second time, although it could have been worse, a late penalty save preventing their first loss of the season. The dropped points have reduced the Citizens’ lead at the top, but it is still a whopping 14 points between them and the Blues in second.
Top fantasy points from 21 go to Willian with 17, the third straight week that was the top score. A goal, two assists and top bonus points enough to see the Brazilian come out on top.
Round 22 sees the first games of 2018 and the first round in which a team plays more than once, with Spurs and West Ham playing two games. Short turnaround from 21, with the first game kicking off around 18 hours after the last game of the previous round. As good as that is for football fans, it has the drawback of potential rotation coming into play.
This is the round where trades and FPL chips kick into significance, so let’s jump in and have a look at the games ahead:
Arsenal v Chelsea (Game of the Round)
Always a big Premier League fixture and a potentially significant one in the battle for top four. With City rampaging and 14 points clear, top four is likely the best either of these sides can hope four. PL mainstays, these tow have met 51 times since the league formed in 1992, with 19 Gunners’ wins, 17 Blues’ wins and 15 draws including the most recent fixture in September.
Both sides haven’t seen a loss in their last five games. Chelsea come in from a massive 5-0 win while Arsenal beat Palace by the odd goal in five before being held by West Brom. Both sides scoring similar amounts on average, but Chelsea’s defence has been tighter, conceding almost half as many. That said, the history favours the hosts, with 24 of 36 wins going to the home side in these meetings. With the transfer window opening, I cynically expect the like of Sanchez and Ozil to step up the form in hopes of a move, so I’m backing the Gunners.
Brighton v Bournemouth
Shortest turnaround for these two, playing the early New Year’s Day game. Brighton drew 0-0 with Newcastle last out, while Bournemouth ended Everton’s good run with a 2-1 win. Both sides scoring less than one a game on average, but the Seagulls have conceded less and have double the amount of clean sheets. Bournemouth took out the first meeting 2-1, but I see the home side getting the win in what is likely to be a low scoring game here.
Burnley v Liverpool
Three draws and a loss to Spurs in their last four have seen Burnley fall away slightly in the battle for fourth. They’re still 7th, which is a fantastic effort by them, but they’re seven points behind this round’s visitors Liverpool. The Reds came from behind in 21 to beat Leicester 2-1 and haven’t lost in the league since Spurs beat them in October.
Seven PL meetings between the two have seen 5 Liverpool wins and a draw. The Clarets’ sole win came in their last home game against the Reds last season and the draw was the reverse fixture this season. On the basis that Liverpool are creating and scoring about three times as much as Burnley, I’m backing them to get up.
Leicester v Huddersfield
Two sides hovering around the middle of the table. Leicester started the season poorly but have regrouped under Claude Puel and sit 8th. Huddersfield have been consistently inconsistent throughout the season, mixing unexpected wins with poor defeats and sit 11th.
After regrouping under the new manager, the Foxes are in a mini-slump, with no win and three losses in their last four. The Terriers are unbeaten in four, drawing the last three after beating Watford. The earlier game finished 1-1, but I have to go with the home side for this one.
Stoke v Newcastle
After playing out one of the most uneventful games I’ve ever seen in the 0-0 draw with Brighton, Newcastle head to the bet365 stadium to face Stoke, who were spanked 5-0 by Chelsea, albeit with a much changed side. The Potters sit a point above the Magpies, with neither side inspiring so far this season and both struggling in terms of goals scored and chances created.
15 previous league meetings see Stoke lead 6-5 in terms of wins and there has only been one away win for each side. Newcastle took out the September game 2-1 but the home ground advantage could help Stoke to a much needed win.
Everton v Man United
Wayne Rooney and Romelu Lukaku face their respective clubs for the second time since summer moves, with both sides without a win in three. Given he was carried off on a stretcher against Southampton though, the Belgian is likely to miss out. Everton we thrashed 4-0 by United in round five, but have improved since then to climb into the top half.
Unsurprisingly, the history strongly favours the visitors. The 4-0 rout was their 34th victory in 51 meetings (eight Toffees’ wins and nine draws). The Red Devils have the quality in their squad but have been held three successive times. Having held Chelsea here last time, you’d suspect Everton would take another draw and I’m backing that to be the case.
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Southampton got a good point at Man United in round 21, but they are without a win since round 13, picking up just four points in that time. Palace’s draw with Man City saw them stay outside the drop zone by a point and they have been improved recently from a poor start. The history in this favours the home side, they’ve won 11 of 17 PL meetings, including the round five game, with four draws and two Palace wins in the remaining meetings. The Saints’ poor form coming into this has me favouring an Eagles’ victory here.
Swansea v Tottenham
Carlos Carvalhal’s first game in charge saw Swansea come from behind to beat Watford 2-1 and move off the bottom of the ladder briefly before West Brom’s draw with Arsenal put them back there on goal difference. Spurs had the round off, so their last game remains the 5-2 win over Southampton in round 20 and they will look to win both their round 22 games to keep pressure on Liverpool and Arsenal in the quest for a Champions League spot.
It’s a tough second game for Carvahal. Swansea haven’t beaten Spurs in 13 attempts and have only managed three draws from those, one of which was the meeting in September. Harry Kane has apparently come down with illness and may miss this one. While that throws a potential spanner in the fantasy works, the visitors have a good enough squad to account for the Swans even without their prolific forward.
West Ham v West Brom
The other side with round 21 off, West Ham, host West Brom, who come off a draw Arsenal and are without a win since round two, only off the bottom by virtue of goal difference after Swansea’s win. The Hammers are also in the relegation zone by a point after Palace’s draw with City.
In the 19 meetings, the draw has been the most popular result, with nine of them including a 0-0 in round five. That said, the Hammers have shown a bit more for me in recent weeks and I’m backing them to get up in this one.
Man City v Watford
City remain unbeaten in the league, extending their lead to 14 points and you feel the title is already theirs. It’s just a question of whether they can match Arsenal’s invincibles and go unbeaten through the season, despite Pep saying they won’t. With their recent form, Watford should be very afraid of this fixture.
Seven PL meetings have yet to produce a Watford win, they have just two draws. The Hornets lost the return fixture 6-0 in September, and given current form, it’s hard to bet against a similar score line.
Tottenham v West Ham
Closing out the round is a second game for Spurs and West Ham, catching up for a missed game in round 21. This will be the 44th PL meeting of these two, with Spurs leading the previous 43 by 21-14 with eight draws. Despite leading the head to head, Spurs haven’t won both games against the Hammers in a season for the last five years. The last five have alternated between Spurs and West Ham wins, but the round five Spurs win was the first in those five to go to the away team. Coming into this on good form and with a ‘home’ game, I fancy the boys in white for this one.
To get the most out of the double game week for the two sides, there are a few options you can go with:
- Put your Triple Captain chip on one of the West Ham or Spurs players.
- Use your second half of the season Wildcard to bring in players from either side and refresh your team in the process.
- Play your Free Hit chip to pick a brand new squad for this round only and fill with West Ham and Spurs players.
If you have enough West Ham and Spurs players in your squad and you’re confident that all 15 of your team will play, you could also use the bench boost, but unlikely to be as effective yet.
Remember, you can only use one of the above in a single game week.
My preference would be towards the first two, as the free hit would work better when there are more than two teams playing a double GW, as you can only have max three players from each side in your team.
If you’re playing your Wildcard or Free Hit, or even just making some trades for this round, you’ll want players from Tottenham and West Ham.
Not a surprise then that all the top five trades are Spurs and West Ham players with the double game week, with Kane (12.8m), Son (8m), Arnautovic (6.9m), Eriksen (9.2m) and Alli (9m) the top five favoured players by FPL players.
Aside from the favourites, Hugo Lloris (5.5m) is a good shout for two clean sheets, as would be the likes of Vertonghen and Sanchez (both 6m). Given the rotation we’ve seen of the fullbacks, I wouldn’t be gambling on Davies, Aurier, Rose and Trippier unless you already have them.
Aside from Arnautovic, the Hammers have the likes of Lanzini (6.8m), Kouyate (5m), Cresswell (5.1m) and Ogbonna (4.4m) who would me my picks to win them games.
Aside from the double game players, City’s home game leads to the likes of Aguero (11.6m) Sterling (8.8m), Otamendi (6.4m) and Sane (8.5m) being good trades. With Jesus out for a while and De Bruyne going off on a stretcher, the rotation risk for City players drops a bit.
A good home game for the Foxes makes Vardy (8.6m) and Mahrez (8.5m) attractive prospects to me as well.
At minimum, your captain needs to be from Spurs or West Ham. If you play the Triple Captain, it also needs to be from one of the teams.
Harry Kane the obvious choice, but his illness casts some doubt over involvement in one or both the games. If you’re not keen to risk Kane not playing, look at the likes of Eriksen, Arnautovic or Son as your captain/triple captain choices.