Fantasy Premier League managers for the first time this season felt a big pinch of the coronavirus as a record return of 18 positive cases led to two fixtures being postponed in GW 16. To make matters worse, the games involved three teams in the top half of the table where FPL managers were heavily invested in.

The result a season-lowest average score of 37.

However, the fixture postponement wasn’t the only reason for the low scores. Teams showed signs of festive fatigue as just 12 goals were scored in the last gameweek. Everyone apart from Leeds United found goals hard to come by, as Marcelo Bielsa’s men who smashed five past West Brom and were the only team to score more than one goal in the week.

Manchester City returned no new positive tests this week and their fixture against Chelsea on Sunday looks set to go ahead. But with a general lack of goals, FPL managers may do well to adopt a different approach. Defenders were the among the leading scorers last week and it could well be the case in GW 17 as there is little time for respite.

Fixture difficulty

The blank and double gameweeks in GW 18 and 19 respectively means, its not just the fixture difficulty index but also the number of fixtures a team is playing from GWs 17-19 that has to be taken into account by managers. If you do not want to play wildcard already, the planning for the shortened GW needs to be done this weekend.

Teams with four games: Aston Villa, Burnley, Manchester City and Manchester United.

These are the teams to pick most players from as they not only play in GW 18 but also play twice in GW 19. Among these teams, Man City have the best fixtures followed by United. Villa, however, have a hard run of games.

Teams with three games (Blank in GW 18): Chelsea, Fulham, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Southampton, West Ham, West Brom.

These teams have two games in GW 19 but do not have a game in GW 18. Among these teams, Leeds and West Ham have the best set of games. Barring the game against Man United, Liverpool too have excellent matches and play twice at home during this period. Leicester have two home games, while Chelsea have two difficult matches against City and Leicester.

Teams with three games (Single in GW 19): Brighton, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Everton, Newcastle United, Sheffield United, Tottenham, Wolves.

These teams have fixtures as they are during normal gameweeks. The two north-London clubs have stand-out games during the next few weeks and should be considered by FPL managers.

Fixture difficulty ratings

Team *Combined Difficulty rating for GW 17-19 GW 15 opponent(Dec 26) GW16 opponent GW17 opponent
Arsenal 7 (2, 3, 2) WBA(A) CRY(H) NEW(H)
Aston Villa 16 (4, 4, 3,5) MUN(A) TOT(H) EVE(H), MCI (A)
Brighton 11 (3, 5, 3) WOL(H) MCI(A) LEE(A)
Burnley 14 (2, 4, 3, 5) FUL(H) MUN(H) WHU(A), LIV (A)
Chelsea 10 (4, 0, 2,4) MCI(H) NA FUL(A), LEI (A)
Crystal Palace 10 (2, 3, 5) SHU(H) ARS(A) MCI(A)
Everton 9 (3, 3, 3) WHU(H) WOL(A) AVL(A)
Fulham 9 (2, 0, 4, 4) BUR(A) NA CHE(H), MUN(H)
Leeds 9 (4, 0, 2,3) TOT(A) NA SOU(H), BHA(H)
Leicester 10 (3, 0, 3, 4) NEW(A) NA SOU(H), CHE(H)
Liverpool 10 (3, 0, 4, 2) SOU(A) NA MUN(H), BUR(H)
Man City 12 (4, 2, 3, 3) CHE(A) BHA(H) CRY(H), AVL(H)
Man Utd 10 (3, 2, 5, 2) AVL(H) BUR(A) LIV(A), FUL(A)
Newcastle 9 (4, 2, 3) LEI(H) SHU(A) ARS(A)
Sheffield Utd 9 (3, 2, 4) CRY(A) NEW(H) TOT(H)
Southampton 11 (4, 0, 4,3) LIV(H) NA LEI(H), LEE(H)
Spurs 7 (2, 3, 2) LEE(H) AVL(A) SHU(A)
West Brom 10 (3, 0, 3,3) ARS(H) NA WOL(A), WHU(A)
West Ham 7 (3, 0, 2, 2) EVE(A) NA BUR(H), WHU(H)
Wolves 10 (2, 3, 2) BHA(A) EVE(H) WBA(H)
*as per FPL website

The big ins and outs

Stuart Dallas, the free-scoring, assisting Leeds defender, leads the incomings ahead of GW 17. The evergreen Bruno Fernandes is second. Another Leeds player, Patrick Bamford who is the almost must-have considering his value, is also high in demand.

Most transferred (in) players ahead of GW 17

Position Player Club
DEF Dallas LEE
MID Fernandes MUN
FWD Bamford LEE
As of Thursday, Dec 31

Southampton’s Vestergaard, who is out with an injury, is the most transferred out player this week. Jack Grealish, who has failed to convert performances into points, is second on the list despite the four games for Villa in the next three GWs. Chelsea’s dip in form sees Kurt Zouma being shipped out of teams. Dominic Calvert-Lewin who has slowed down in recent times is also on his way out of teams.

Most transferred (out) players ahead of GW 17

Position Player Club
DEF Vestergaard SOU
MID Grealish AVL
MID Ward-Prowse SOU
FWD Calvert-Lewin EVE
As of Thursday, Dec 31

Top picks for Gameweek 17

Whether you bring them in through transfers or (luckily enough) have them in your squad already, these are the five hottest selections for GW 17:

Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur): Spurs may have slowed down in terms of attacking returns, but against Leeds, Kane would get plenty of opportunities. Away from home against the big sides, Leeds have leaked plenty of goals (four against Liverpool, six against Man United, three against Chelsea) and Mourinho will set up his side to hit Leeds on the break. Kane has been at the thick of everything that Spurs have created going forward, and is a top pick for GW 17.

Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur): If there was ever a time to double up on Spurs assets it’s now. And not just because Leeds leak goals, but Kane and Son hunt in a pair. Son has assisted Kane eight times while Kane has assisted Son four times. It’s risky to buy two big attacking players from the same team but against Leeds the potential of a big haul overrides the threat of a blank.

Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United): Fernandes had more goal contributions than anyone in 2020 and there is no reason why it won’t continue in 2021. Aston Villa have been on song away from home, but an in-form United side should have too much for them. With Fernandes, though you typically don’t need to worry about the opponent. He’ll just tick along nicely.

Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace): Sheffield United have found goalscoring really hard this season and against a defensive-minded Palace side it will be an even harder task. After being rested in the last GW, van Aanholt is a fine choice for GW 17. He also is a big threat in the opposing box and is due an attacking return.

Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal): Arsenal seem to have turned a corner with two straight wins and face the second-worst defensive side in West Brom. With two goals in the last two matches, Lacazette is Arsenal’s form player and could be set for a start having only come on from the bench in the last match.

Top differential picks for GW 17:

Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton): Once a FPL superstar, the Everton midfielder has returned in three out of the last four gameweeks and seems to have got back his form. West Ham have conceded plenty of chances to opponents in the last few matches and Sigurdsson who is also on penalties could continue his fine streak. Owned by just 1.8% of FPL managers, he has great differential potential.

Kieran Tierney (Arsenal): The Gunners have conceded just once in their last two games and against a goal-shy West Brom have a good chance of keeping a clean sheet. Tierney has been getting in some good attacking positions in the last few games and could be worth a punt this week. Low ownership makes him a good differential pick.

James Tarkowski (Burnley): With three clean sheets in their last five matches, Burnley are showing the resolve of old. Against a Fulham side that have tightened up defensively but are still struggling for goals, you would back Sean Dyche’s side to not concede. Tarkowski is also due a goal this season and you might get lucky this week.

Captain’s conundrum

The top captaincy candidate for this week has to be one of the Spurs players. Picking between Son and Kane is tough but with Leeds offering Spurs plenty of space to run behind them, it seems like a perfect situation for Son, although Kane could be equally good candidate. Make sure though, to not make them captain *and* vice-captain, because if Spurs blank (or their fixture doesn’t go ahead), then you lose out on double points.

Mohamed Salah has blanked for two straight weeks and could be due a return against Southampton who have been solid defensively in the last few weeks. United’s Fernandes could also be an option but against Villa who have conceded just thrice on the road this season, it could be a low-scoring encounter.

With so many good premium options, going for a differential one comes with a big risk, but in case one wants to be brave, putting the armband on either Sadio Mane or Dominic Calvert-Lewin can also be considered.

FPL Deadline for GW16: 9.30 pm IST, Friday, January 1, 2021.