The Fantasy Football transfer window for game week 23 is now closed. Join me in our virtual Fantasy Football world while we watch the games and hope our points rack up. Sit back, relax, enjoy the football and hang-out here with your fellow Fantasy Football managers and chat in real time as the action unfolds. Perhaps everyone else is experiencing the same “Aggghhhh” player difficulties you are, or the same “Yeahhhh” moment as your captain puts the ball into the back of the net? Talking Points is simply a chat area for us Fantasy Football First managers. Tell us about your highs and lows, and get into the match day atmosphere. Get involved.
To help you with your early transfer, these are the expected talking points for this weekend
Crystal Palace remain without a Premier League victory under Sam Allardyce as Everton secured all three points at Selhurst Park. Luckily for Big Sam, the next five look winnable as The Eagles face Bournemouth (A), Sunderland (H), Stoke (A), Middlesbrough (H) and West Brom (A).
It seemed Palace had done enough to earn a point but caved in to late pressure as they have done all too often lately. The Eagles have now lost three of their last four home league games to a goal scored in the 87th minute or later. While Big Sam was quick to point to the referee for letting the play go on while Jeff Schlupp was down injured, he will know that the level of organisation and concentration in the defence will need to be improved to avoid relegation. Palace have kept just a single clean sheet this season and as their defenders aren’t exactly prolific at the other end either, there’s no need to consider them right now.
Despite sitting inside the relegation zone, Palace lack urgency and failed to carve out a shot on target until the 79th minute. Over the whole game, The Eagles managed just eight shots with only two of those on target. It’s clear that they are weaker going forward without the speed and creativity of Wilfried Zaha and while he is away, there is no reason to include any of the Palace midfielders or attackers in your team.
Manchester United struggled to find a way though the Stoke defence until Rooney’s late record breaking moment of magic, which gave the visitors the point they totally deserved. The draw preserved a 17-game unbeaten run, which has every chance of being extended further with games against Hull City (H), Leicester (A), Watford (H), Man City (A) and Bournemouth (H).
The United defence has been solid lately despite keeping only three clean sheets in the last eight games. They largely limited Stoke attacks to counters, and were unfortunate that one of those counters resulted in Mata’s own goal. The upcoming games offer a chance of more shut-outs, with Jones and Valencia the main targets to get.
On the other end, United had almost all the play – 65% of the possession, 25 efforts on goal, almost a third of the game was played in Stoke’s defensive third – and yet they could only score once as many chances were either wasted or saved by Lee Grant. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was strangely subdued and on more than one occasion he opted to pass when an effort on goal looked the better option. Despite this blank we expect the Swede to bounce back and start scoring again quickly.
Tony Pulis’ men stay in eighth after their third league victory in four games. They’ll look to cement this place in favourable fixtures against Middlesbrough (A), Stoke (H), West Ham (A), Bournemouth (H) and Palace (H).
The Hawthorns is slowly but surely becoming a fortress again as West Brom have won five of their last six home Premier League games, having won just one of the nine before that. The lack of clean sheets has been a worry lately but they comfortably kept out Sunderland and rarely looked in much danger. On top of the defensive shutout, both Gareth McAuley and Chris Brunt chipped in with attacking returns as they managed an assist and a goal respectively. Both are good options going forward while Allan Nyom offers a budget-friendly alternative.
The full back linked up well with Matt Phillips on the right wing as the latter was West Brom’s most potent attacking force. The winger did not return any FPL points but his performance bodes well for the future and merits inclusion in your squad.
Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League run at Anfield ended after 17 matches (11 wins, six draws) as they suffered a shock defeat at the hands of relegation strugglers Swansea. The defeat leaves Liverpool ten points behind leaders Chelsea, who also happen to be their next opponent. After that the fixtures are mixed, with winnable away games against Hull City and Leicester, and very tough home encounters with Spurs and Arsenal.
The Liverpool defence has been criticised all season and while they limited the Swans to only three efforts on target, all three went in. With plenty of alternatives on offer for a similar or even cheaper price, there’s no reason to turn to Liverpool for defensive cover.
Despite having Philippe Coutinho back in the side and ending the game with Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge on the pitch, the Reds were short of attacking invention and strength in the absence of Sadio Mane, who is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal. Firmino scored his first goals in six games, but a total of five shots on target and an Adam Lallana deflected effort against the bar is not productive from nearly 75% possession, and a long way from the free-scoring team we saw at the start of the season. Until Mane is back, it might be better to turn your attention elsewhere.
Hull City have shown signs of improvement after sacking manager Mike Phelan and replacing him with Marco Silva, but this wasn’t enough to avoid a somewhat expected defeat against league leaders Chelsea. Unfortunately for the Portuguese boss, the upcoming schedule looks very hard as the Tigers face Man Utd (A), Liverpool (H), Arsenal (A), Burnley (H) and Leicester (A).
Hull have now gone 20 Premier League games without a clean sheet since beating Swansea 2-0 back in August. If Marco Silva can shore up defence, then Harry Maguire might become an interesting option. The defender already has three assists to his name this season, and against Chelsea he made more tackles (eight), clearances (seven) and interceptions (eight) than anyone else – and had more shots (four) and efforts on target (two) than everyone bar Diego Costa.
Going forward the Tigers played well but lacked cutting edge without the injured Robert Snodgrass. The West Ham target has scored or assisted 50% of Hull’s league goals this season and his departure would be detrimental for their hopes of survival. Monitor the transfer actions in the coming days.
Sunderland dropped to the bottom of the Premier League when they lost 2-0 to West Brom at the Hawthorns. Moyes will have his work cut out to turn it around as the next five games against Spurs (H), Palace (A), Southampton (H), Everton (A) and Man City (H) look testing.
The Sunderland defence is one of the poorest in the league and on top of that they are missing Lamine Kone who gives them a steadying influence. They are making too many mistakes and until they tighten up there’s no reason to include them in your team.
The attack is not faring much better as only Defoe seems capable of scoring. He has scored 12 of the 20 Sunderland Premier League goals this season, but the former England striker struggled to make an impact against the Baggies defence. He managed just two touches in the West Brom box in the first-half, while as a team Sunderland only had seven touches in Foster’s area. Things did improve after the break with seven shots and two on target, but six of them came from outside the box. It looks as if Sunderland will need to strengthen their attack in the January transfer window if they are to have a chance of survival, so wait and see if they improve.
Other Talking Points
- He may not be as mobile as he once was, but Llorente still knows where the goal is. This was his third Premier League double of the season and he has now scored eight Premier League goals in total. Monitor the Swans resurgence before getting him back.
- Bournemouth have now won just one of the last seven games in all competitions, while Watford are winless in their last seven Premier League games. Don’t over-invest in either.
- Ross Barkley had an excellent afternoon as his 91 touches in the match were 21 more than the next best Everton player. He also led his team in overall passes (63), passes in the opposition half (47) and shots (5), with two of those on target. Consider him in midfield.
- No defender has scored more goals (excluding pens) than Seamus Coleman in the Premier League this season (4 – level with Gareth McAuley). The Toffees defence also kept three consecutive clean sheets so investment looks to pay off.
- Tom Davies has been directly involved in three goals in his last three league games for Everton (one goal, two assists). Get him if you’re looking for a fifth midfielder.
- Middlesbrough’s struggles in front of goal continue and they only look to be a viable source of defenders. Chambers excelled from right-back, getting forward and delivering 10 crosses including the assist for Cristhian Stuani’s goal. He also enjoyed a 97.7% passing accuracy rate, better than any other player. Get him as part of a rotation.
- Andy Carroll scored in successive Premier League games for the first time since April. He won 70% of his duels against Boro, only bettered in the West Ham starting XI by captain Mark Noble, and his aerial prowess also proved key to the visitors when defending set-pieces. The upcoming games are mixed but when in form, Carroll can score against anyone.
- Lee Grant seemed unbeatable in the Stoke goal and it took a moment of brilliance – and history – to change that. He remains a good bargain option between the sticks.
- City deserved victory and for all the justified criticism aimed in their direction, there was not too much wrong with their performance. Kevin de Bruyne scored Man City’s second goal and made a game-high four key passes. Monitor if he and the rest of the team pick up the pace again in the upcoming period.
- Spurs were over-run for much of the game, unsettled in possession by the pressure applied by City, but showed resilience and determination to get a draw they barely deserved. Dele Alli has scored more Premier League goals this season (11 in 21 games) than he had in the whole of last season (10 in 33), and looks like an excellent option. Eriksen and Kane are equally good alternatives.
- Chelsea got their 13th Premier League clean sheet of the season and on top of that Gary Cahill chipped in with a goal. The Chelsea captain has scored six goals this season – his record is seven – and is back on top of the defender rankings.
- Alexis Sanchez was again Arsenal’s most dangerous player, frequently beating his man down the flanks to set up chances and converting the penalty that gave Arsenal a dramatic late win. If nothing happens in the transfer period, then the Chilean looks to stay in our teams until the end of the season.