‘Tis the season for rotation, tra-la-la-la-laaaa-la-la-la-la!
Don’t worry – this piece isn’t going to continue in that frivolous festive vein. The point is that the premium players in your teams are never more vulnerable to sitting out a fixture than they are in the next couple of weeks.
All Premier League teams will play three fixtures in the space of 10 days between 26 December and 4 January in what’s already been an energy-sapping season. So big hitters such as Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes and Kevin de Bruyne are bound to sit out some of the action.
Now you could get lucky like the 1,291,420 managers who captained Mohamed Salah against Crystal Palace in gameweek 14. They would have been cursing last Saturday when they saw Liverpool’s teamsheet with Salah named among the substitutes, but then cheering as he came off the bench to rack up 16 points with two goals and an assist in 33 minutes.
It is more likely, however, that you will need your squad players to step in at some stage in the next three gameweeks to play 90 minutes and earn you some points.
I was making this point to my good friend and fellow manager Chris Sutton in the latest episode of the Fantasy 606 podcast with Crystal Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell, Wolves’ Max Kilman and Aston Villa’s Keinan Davis occupying the three spots on his bench recently.
Mitchell and Kilman have been good value picks earlier on this season, playing regularly and enabling us to afford the big-money players in our squads. But Mitchell hasn’t played since gameweek six, with Patrick van Aanholt reclaiming the left-back spot for Palace, while Kilman only returned to the Wolves team in gameweek 14 after sitting out the previous three matches.
Davis, meanwhile, has made two substitute appearances this season for the sum total of 38 minutes and two points.
That’s not to say that Mitchell, Kilman and Davis won’t be getting game time over the next couple of months. They almost certainly will. But at the moment, I would prefer to have 13 outfield players in my squad who I’m pretty certain are going to be starting most games for their clubs. That way when Bruno Fernandes misses out, you have someone such as Oriol Romeu or Andre-Frank Anguissa stepping in who are most likely to be playing 90 minutes to try to earn you some points.
This is also worth bearing in mind for gameweek 19, the bumper double gameweek, when a lot of managers might be reaching for that Bench Boost chip and you want every one of your players to be playing as many minutes as possible.
The rub here is that you will probably have to sell one of your premium players to raise the money to upgrade two or three of those squad players.
In my case I want to replace Tariq Lamptey and upgrade both Mitchell and Rhian Brewster but I’ve got to sell one of Salah, Fernandes or De Bruyne to do it.
Now the only sensible choice, given current form and Manchester City’s rather spluttering recent performances, is that the brilliant Belgian will have to go. He’s yet to score from open play this season and has just 65 points compared with Salah’s 118 and Fernandes’ 102 but it’s still so hard to sell him. Form is temporary, class is permanent and all that.
What soothes my nerves though is that there are some excellent options to replace him. Son Heung-min is one at £9.7m with Tottenham soon to start a run of games against Fulham, Leeds, Aston Villa and Sheffield United. Jack Grealish is another at just £7.8m, although Villa’s next run of fixtures looks rather less appealing.
Or how about the slightly less obvious choice of Marcus Rashford at £9.4m? Statman Dave was singing his praises in the Fantasy 606 podcast this week and thinks he’s ready to bring in some big points hauls – he scored 14 points with his two goals in Manchester United’s 3-2 win at Sheffield United on 17 December, and somehow only managed to get two points in the 6-2 thrashing of Leeds three days later, but could easily have had more. He’s owned by fewer than 10% of FPL managers.
Replacing De Bruyne with one of those three should still bring some consistent points hauls but will also enable me to strengthen my bench ready for the festive fixture frenzy.
Interestingly, at the time of writing, De Bruyne is among the five players most transferred out going into gameweek 15, while Salah and Fernandes are in the top five of the most transferred in.
Salah looks a very good bet for the captain’s armband with Liverpool at home to West Brom although don’t forget that Sam Allardyce was the last manager to inflict a Premier League defeat on Liverpool at Anfield with Crystal Palace back in April 2017.
Remember to be on your toes for all the deadlines on the way. The first up is 11:00 GMT on 26 December quickly followed by 13:30 on Monday 28 December.
You snooze, you lose in this game.
Have a great Christmas.