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You can almost taste the Christmas pudding (and the diesel fumes of the van that delivered it) and hear the carols (over the Zoom hosted Midnight Mass featuing choristers in their living rooms) but before the bells go ring ding dingaling (for your fifth online shopping package of the day) and your debit card does it’s best jing-jing-jingaling impersonation, it’s time for another FPL ABC Transfer Guide!
Throughout these articles so far we’ve been keen to stress that we’re looking specifically for players that can make a strong contribution to your weekly score over the medium to long term, using our ABC criteria built from looking at last season’s data. We’re identifying players who, over the most recent six gameweeks have:
A) Returned (5+ pts) in at least 50% of appearances (3 out of 6)
B) Hauled (10+ pts) in at least 15% of appearances (1 out of 6)
C) Played at least 410 minutes (or 76% of the time available, maximum 540)
Players sustaining those levels of performance are almost certain to score 200+ FPL points over a season. Players falling a little short in one of the criteria are heading for 160-200. So let’s get started with…
STRIKERSEmbed from Getty Images
What you want in this hectic part of the season is a forward whose place in his team is unassailable and who finds a way to get you returns even when his team is less than fluent offensively. But Harry Kane can be prohibitively expensive. So thank goodness, then, for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. You could hardly describe the Everton frontman as a secret, but we were surprised to see so many FPL managers thinking of offloading him before last weekend’s game against Chelsea. Where he once again got a return through being fouled for the winning penalty. Because of course he did. He’s only failed to get a return in two gameweeks (at Southampton in GW6 and hosting Leeds in GW10) while Tottenham’s captain has failed in three (criteria A doesn’t acknowledge his 4 against Manchester City in GW9). Kane has acquired the coveted set-and-forget mantle where the FPL community deems him able to return against any team, no matter how tough. We hope DCL’s contribution against Chelsea will finally dispel any doubts that, even now at £7.9m, he should be a cornerstone of every squad, including the one third who still mysteriously don’t have him (Kane’s ownership is just over 40%). LiveFPL.net reports that only 28.5% of managers have both.
At which point we are delighted to welcome Jamie Vardy to our elite list for the first time this season! He’s overcome his nagging injury concerns to log enough minutes to satisfy criteria C and although he is in the second tier of goalscoring opportunities for FPL forwards he is very much in the front rank for finishing. Saying that, so far this season all his goals have come against defences that currently rank in Tiers D-F of our current team ratings except his penalty-enhanced hat-trick at Manchester City that came when their wheels fell off after they re-organised to try to force the game. Those same tiers predict that Vardy has one of the toughest upcoming schedules for a forward, facing Everton at home (who just blanked Chelsea) before visiting Tottenham’s clean sheet specialists, welcoming Manchester United (who seem to be a tougher proposition away from Old Trafford) and then going on the road to Palace and a Newcastle side who have only conceded 3 big chances in their last four outings.
Talking of the Geordies, the only other striker to meet all three of our ABC criteria currently is Callum Wilson of Newcastle. As of this writing he is only owned by less than 20% of managers which might attract you to this £6.6m asset who has three double digit Hauls (criteria B) so far this season including two in his last five appearances. He shares something in common with the defence of next opponents Leeds United in that in recent matches they both tend to either score big or blank comprehensively. Wilson then gets the improving, but still leaky, Fulham backline at St James’s Park but then faces a brick wall of a festive week against Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester.Embed from Getty Images
Given that only four frontmen have made the elite list this time we feel duty bound to give more prominence than usual to those who just missed out (mostly through failing the Hauls criteria) to offer you a few more options, some very low priced. Southampton continue to surprise, riding high in the league in no small part thanks to the striking duo of Che Adams (4 Returns) and the fit-again Danny Ings (5 Returns in his last 6 actual appearances). Timo Werner is quietly ticking over nicely (7, 7, 5, 2, 5, 2 in the last six), but is not producing the big scores his £9.4m price tag should demand. Team mate Tammy Abraham is a good deal cheaper, but he hasn’t returned for the last 3 weeks as he gradually loses his place to Olivier Giroud. Patrick Bamford continues to get a great supply of chances from Leeds’s all action style and has Newcastle, Burnley and West Brom in his next four as well as Manchester United on their uncertain home patch. And finally, two new entries to our consideration are Danny Welbeck (1, 2, 9, 5, 5, 2 – £5.5m) who has Fulham and Sheffield United on the slate in the next few days while Bobby Decordova-Reid (7, 2, 4, 5, 2, 9 – £5.3m), last seen thumping a finish past Alisson to hand Liverpool a setback, could equally benefit from Brighton’s own failure to keep clean sheets.
Joining Dominic Calvert-Lewin as the only other FPL asset to net 5 Returns over the last six gameweeks is his fellow Merseysider Mo Salah (8, 9, 0, 6, 14, 8). If it hadn’t been for Covid denying him the chance to face Leicester he might even had got the full house. He is looking, thankfully, to be well-recovered from the illness and back to simply threatening a big score every time he takes to the pitch. Which is currently in every game, even if Spurs will provide a very stern test at Anfield on Wednesday.Embed from Getty Images
It is also no surprise to see the fantasy football juggernaut that is Bruno Fernandes (2, 17, 11, 10, 6, 3) right at the top of our list of elite midfielders. Having now shown that he can get maximum bonus points when he comes on as a sub at half time in a game where his team were struggling and only registering one assist in the process that he is not so much essential as some sort of Jedi master (“You don’t *need* to see my passing statistics…”) . And now he faces rock bottom Sheffield United in an away game (previous Bruno away game FPL scores 12, 11, 17, 10, 6) before Leeds at the weekend. If you’re one of the more than half of FPL managers who don’t currently have him, find the resources to get him in. This is the way. I have spoken.
Much more surprising is the quiet emergence of Pascal Gross (6, 3, 5, 10, 8, 2). Yep, you read that right – 4 Returns in his last six games. And a Haul against… <checks notes>… Liverpool. The tiers tell us that he joins Danny Welbeck in facing a ludicrously friendly upcoming schedule (ful, SHU, whu, ARS, WOL) while manager Graham Potter has confirmed that he is on penalties (and therefore also very unlikely to be dropped). However, as @ffscout_az reported, Potter also dropped Gross back into a more reserved role in his most recent outing, so he may not be so involved in attacks as he has been.
Pursuing this Big (Gross?) Three there is a magnificent(ish) seven midfielders who match all the ABC criteria. As with the strikers, two of them are from Southampton. James Ward-Prowse has been dazzling us with his dead balls for a while now (17, 3, 2, 11, 5, 3) but he has now been joined by Stuart Armstrong (5, 10, 2, 2, 2, 8) who could be that bargain (£5.5m) fourth or fifth pick you’ve been looking for in this position.Embed from Getty Images
A pair of perennial big hitters can also be found in this company. Heung-Min Son is still rattling up the points (2, 3, 10, 3, 13, 5), but not at quite the lightsaber flourishing levels he was managing in the first few gameweeks. After two tough matchups with Liverpool and a Ndidi replenished Leicester, a run of Wolves (away), Fulham and Leeds may see him back to the double-digit path. Last season’s HaulMeister Kevin De Bruyne has finally got himself back to those kind of levels (6, 3, 2, 10, 14, 3) and games against West Brom, Newcastle and Everton in his next four suggest he may well be able to maintain that, though City, apart from the festival against Burnley, seem to be somewhat more cautious going forward than we have become used to.
We’re pleased to hear that Raul Jiminez is on the mend, but his enforced absence has provided the opportunity for others stake their claims for a permanent place in the Wolves lineup. Pedro Neto (7, 2, 6, 13, 2, 2) is foremost amongst them , though he hasn’t been able to take full advantage in his two full games since against the durable defences of Liverpool and Aston Villa (when on the road). With Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United in their next four, all Wolves attacking assets may find it heavy sledding over Christmas.
Villa’s own Jack Grealish (1, 15, 6, 1, 10, 2) is anothe who tends to get a lot or a blank in any given gameweek, but with 11 goal involvements in only 10 games there’s always a good chance he’ll get something. Given Villa’s imperious away form, next weekend’s trip to The Hawthorns might even elevate him to captaincy material and the home tie with Burnley also looks promising if he can weave a way through their gradually resurgent rearguard.
Finally, a Crystal Palace attacker surfs their recent good form to glide themselves on to the elite list. And it isn’t Wilfried Zaha (1, 5, 0, 0, 18, 2), who misses out basically because of his recent Covid absences but will surely be back soon, but rather impressive youngster Eberechi Eze (1, 13, 2, 2, 5, 7) who, as Match of the Day 2 pointed out, is beginning to form a formidable attacking triangle with Zaha and Christian Benteke. Unfortunately, the festive fixtures are not kind to Palace (West Ham, Liverpool, Villa, Leicester) so it may be better to wait and see how their chemistry develops before investing.Embed from Getty Images
Other midfielders with three Returns, but no Hauls, over their last six are the surprisingly dependable Mason Mount, the sadly injured Diogo Jota, the steadily effective Marcus Rashford, the enthusiastically industrious Theo Walcott and the Very Tall Tomas Soucek (who is also an absolute bargain and finally scoring some goals unlike when I owned him earlier in the season, grudge, grrr, etc…).
Although for defenders and goalkeepers we’re willing to let criteria B slide because Hauls are so rare for them, it so happens that a quartet have managed to keep up with the kind of elite levels we expect from the attackers. Kurt Zouma‘s (14, 2, 6, 5, 8, 2) ability at set pieces (and various teams’ obliging defending of them) means he is still outpacing Chelsea’s more celebrated full back pairing of Ben Chilwell (6, 8, 7, 8, 2, 2) and Reece James (6, 2, 8, 6, 5, 1). This trio jointly head up the defenders category with four Returns each while the much less popularly owned, but occasionally rested, Thiago Silva has three.Embed from Getty Images
Another centre half with a head for goals is Angelo Ogbonnna (1, 5, 6, 9, 1, 11). Two goals in his last three have seen him accelerate away from his Hammers colleagues except for Aaron Cresswell whose chance creation has helped him to three Returns (1, 6, 7, 2, 1, 5). The much cheaper Fabian Balbuena and Vladimir Coufal can also get involved in goals, but not so far to the extent of their more expensive team-mates. West Ham’s upcoming schedule is full of games where the opposition attack is certainly capable but not generally the strongest so those attacking returns could continue to make all the difference.
Once again Southampton weigh-in with a pair of contenders in the Soucek-like shape (and, crucially, height) of our perennial favourite Jannik Vestergaard (7, 6, 2, 1, 9, 7) and Jan Bednarek (1, 6, 2, 8, 2, 12). First up they visit a somewhat dishevelled Arsenal but then face Manchester City and Liverpool in their next four along with the lively frontrunners of Fulham and West Ham so, although we still heartily recommend that you buy at least one of them, you may need to temper your short term expectations. Kyle Walker-Peters (1, 9, 3, 1, 5, 6) can also get you something in attack, but is a smidge more expensive than Bednarek.Embed from Getty Images
Currently, the most FPL effective shuttler up and down a flank is Manchester City’s Kyle Walker (15, 1, 1, 9, 0, 7) who can also add an explosive shot to his regular crosses and cutbacks. This makes him our standout choice amongst City’s backline, but Ruben Dias (6, 2, 0, 6, 6, 6) is surely going to send a free kick or corner hurtling into the back of the net before long while John Stones (0, 0, 0, 6, 6, 8) is obviously low on minutes but could be a veritable steal if he can keep his place in a suddenly galvanised City defence. To go by Twitter you’d think Joao Cancelo (8, 3, 1, 0, 6, 6) was 95% owned, but he’s actually 95% UNowned and still has only a single assist all season despite setting up what feels like a zillion chances.
Leading the charge amongst defenders with no recent Haul to speak of is another England international with a fierce shot on him in Tottenham’s Eric Dier (2, 6, 7, 6, 6, 2). Spurs have let in a mere four goals in their last ten (TEN!) fixtures. That record may be sorely tested at Anfield on Wednesday, but at the moment you’d readily believe it could survive intact or at worst only slightly damaged. Sergio Reguilon is also putting together a really nice run of scores (4, 6, 6, 5, 6, 2), but is a lot more expensive than Dier. Toby Alderweireld has three Returns, but missed a game as has Serge Aurier who missed two back when Mattt Doherty (remember him?) used to play.
Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings (0, 6, 6, 1, 1, 8) and Ezri Konsa (1, 0, 6, 8, 1, 5) could benefit from two imminent matchups against the lacklustre forward lines of Burnley and West Brom, but must then contend with Palace, Chelsea and Manchester United. Burnley themselves might be glad to be facing Villa on the road where they seem more fragile, the beginning of what our tiers suggest is the equal easiest upcoming schedule for a defence apart from Brighton’s (Wolves, Leeds, Sheffield United and Fulham to follow). The redoutable James Tarkowski (1, 6, 6, 0, 2, 6) and Ben Mee (0, 8, 6, 0, 2, 7) are worth consideration but the value is to be had with James Lowton (1, 6, 5, 0, 2, 8) and especially Charlie Taylor at a very generous £4.4m (1, 8, 7, 0, 2, 6).
The only remaining elite defensive qualifier is that modern Paul Madeley, Stuart Dallas (6, 0, 5, 8, 1, 1). It’s his bizarre consolation goal in the home humbling to Leicester that’s keeping him up here, but it does remind us that, wherever Marcelo Bielsa deploys him, he normally finds himself surging into the area or on the end of a cross at least a couple of times a game. Luke Ayling always looks very lively indeed, but it has yet to translate into steady FPL points and he’s currently being deployed as an auxiliary centre back as Leeds await the return of Diego Llorente who missed a bunch of games before failing to emerge unscathed from his sole appearance against Chelsea.
GOALKEEPERSEmbed from Getty Images
Save points and bonuses can elevate a keeper’s FPL scoring rate above those of the men in front of him and so it has proved with Hugo Lloris (2, 6, 10, 10, 6, 3). Spurs, as we mentioned above, have hardly let anything into the net at all and yet they have faced 41 attempts inside their own box in just the last four fixtures (Manchester City conceded only 16), though only four were big chances. Lloris’s shot stopping has been a signifcant part of that (save percentage of 93.3% over the last four matches), but one thing to look out for is his tendency historically to miss a match here and there for all sorts of reasons. Owners of Spurs defenders might note that last season Paulo Gazzaniga provided a steep drop off from Lloris’s stats and Joe Hart might be similar.
You may also have spotted some bloke called Nick Pope (3, 9, 10, 0, 3, 11) on telly making stop after stop to keep Arsenal at bay. We think there could be an FPL future for this Burnley lad if he can keep that going…Embed from Getty Images
No other FPL keepers clear the full ABC criteria, but there are three who manage A and C. Ederson joins his City colleagues in enjoying a litany of clean sheets and having several upcoming fixtures that look likely to add to that pile. As always, though, absolutely nailed, but off-puttingly expensive. having looked briefly more indestructible than Captain Scarlet, Edouard Mendy (6, 2, 6, 6, 2, 3) has lately come back to earth a bit, but is still an impressive looking keeper in a solid defence, though the attacking exploits of his defenders may mean you prioritise them at a similar price. And there’s Alex McCarthy, durably reliable since gameweek one and still going strong (3, 6, 7, 2, 2, 6). We’ve owned him since the start of the season and also roster his backup Fraser Forster just in case, but we must admit we’re gritting our teeth and smiling ahead of Arsenal, Manchester City, Fulham, West Ham and Liverpool.
Until the next time, then and thanks to Fantasy Football Scout’s membership area for the wonderful stats that underly both the ABC criteria and the tiers which are available for your perusal over on Twitter this week.