Managers tearing up their Double Gameweek plans are now turning to differentials to catapult themselves up the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) charts.
Additional matches added to both Gameweek 18 and Gameweek 19 has severely altered plans for the single and double Gameweeks.
Manchester City, Manchester United and Aston Villa are all playing in Blank Gameweek 18 as well as having Double Gameweeks in Gameweek 19.
These three clubs have become key targets for many FPL managers – especially those who aren’t planning to deploy their Free Hit chip in this period.
We asked the Scout Academy for their views on these three teams as well as the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal who, while they don’t play twice in Gameweek 19, do play in both Gameweek 18 and 19.
Paul Pogba in action for Man United against Spurs during Project Restart
I think targeting teams is a risky strategy. We’ve seen in the last couple of Gameweeks that games have been cancelled post-deadline, and add in the potential for bad weather too, loading up on teams, only for them to have games cancelled will pile on the misery.
Instead of targeting specific teams, I will be looking for some differentials across the teams with good fixtures. While the focus will obviously be on the likes of both Manchester clubs and Aston Villa due to them playing three games, there are teams such as Everton, Spurs and Arsenal who play in both Gameweeks and who have favourable fixtures.
Despite owning Emiliano Martínez (£5.0m) and Jack Grealish (£7.7m), I’m not keen on Villa’s fixtures over this period, so I probably won’t look to get any more into my team.
From City and United, two players I want as differentials are John Stones (£5.0m), currently owned by 5.5% of teams, and Paul Pogba (£7.7m), owned by just 1.4% of teams.
Stones has been impressive since working his way back into City line up, and with Brightons fondness of conceding headed chances, he offers not only a cheap route into City’s defence, but a potential goal threat from set-pieces.
And while Pogba is a player who divides opinion, his influence seems to be growing in the United midfield.
He has averaged a chance every 43 minutes over the last four Gameweeks and his range of passing is always likely to create chances for assists.
As he showed when winning the penalty against Villa, he isn’t afraid of driving into the box and causing trouble for opposition defenders.
In terms of players who play in both Gameweeks, but do not benefit from the Double Gameweek schedule, then Arsenal are a team to target.
There is a lot of justified hype surrounding Bukayo Saka (£5.3m), however, I’m very tempted by their new creative force Emile Smith Rowe (£4.4m).
Spurs are another team with games in both Gameweeks, hosting Villa and then travelling to Sheffield United.
While he is anything but a differential – my advice to FPL managers is to just get Harry Kane (£11.0m).
I feel people may overlook him for the similarly priced Jamie Vardy (£10.2m) or maybe even a differential Sergio Aguero (£10.3m) for the double, but a trip to Bramall Lane could see him outscore any viable replacements, even if they do have two games
FPL Side Net
City’s Ilkay Gundogan celebrates scoring their first goal against West Brom
Heading into the Blank and Double Gameweeks, many managers will have different chip strategies.
It feels like this is going to be a period which will really define how we look at the end of the season, but I think it’s important to remain flexible with your strategy. There is no right or wrong way to navigate it. Just your own.
The addition of Man United, Burnley, Man City and Villa all thrown into the mix over the two rounds has added extra elements into our thinking, and while the popular players speak for themselves, there are plenty of options that offer some real differential potential.
While City have looked inconsistent going forward this season, Ilkay Gündogan (£5.4m) continues to offer amazing returns with his eye-catching price tag and 0.9% ownership. While in the past, Gündogan hasn’t been an attractive asset to hold, he has been given licence by Pep to get further up the pitch.
His recent form of three goals in four games is evidence of that. And with five of his next six matches against clubs in the bottom-half of the table, Gündogan can be a handy differential that can be the difference between a good and a great Gameweek.
While Arsenal only feature twice across Blank Gameweek 18 and Double Gameweek 19, their form and fixtures remind us they should not be overlooked.
If you are using your Free Hit in Gameweek 18, then at £4.4m and 1.3% ownership, Smith Rowe could prove to be an excellent punt for managers looking to get a little cavalier with their squad.
While he has only recently broke into the starting XI, Smith Rowe seems to have Arteta’s backing to be the creative number 10 Arsenal have been craving this season.
He is yet to feature for a full 90 minutes, but he is still averaging six points in the three matches he has started, with three assists so far and the promise of more to come.
FPL Side Net
Spurs feature in both Gameweeks 18 and 19, although they do not have a double in Gameweek 19.
In defence for Spurs, Toby Alderweireld (£5.4m) looks like a good option. Alderweireld scored in Gameweek 17 showing he is good in the air from set-pieces.
With the Blades in Gameweek 19 who are leaky on set pieces, he could be in for some nice attacking returns as well as a likely clean sheet.
He has also picked up zero bookings this season which always helps not to lose points.
There is an obvious pick in the midfield for Spurs in Son Heung-Min (£9.8m), however I always like to try and find hidden gems.
A look at his underlying stats suggests Tanguy Ndombele (£5.9m) could be a great differential pick and offer a lot of value at his price point.
He has registered two goals and one assist already this season and his ability to take on and dribble past opponents should make him a good pick in Gameweek 19.
Up top for Spurs there really is only one pick. Kane has an impressive 10 goals and 11 assists so far this season, making him top for assists across the league.
On the other side of North London, Arsenal are starting to hit form at the right time for us as FPL Managers. Kieran Tierney (£5.4m) looks like a fantastic option for Blank Gameweek 18 and Gameweek 19 even with a single fixture in both.
Tierney has Crystal Palace and Newcastle at home and Southampton away in his next three fixtures.
He has also picked up two assists this season and a goal, which is promising when viewed alongside Arsenal’s torrid start.
Saka is another excellent option for the Blank and Double Gameweeks and beyond. Saka has registered three goals and two assists so far this season and he has an expected goals rating of 4.21.
In his last three games, Saka has scored two goals and created one assist, so his form is ideal for two matches against Palace and Newcastle.
Finally, Alexandre Lacazette (£8.2m), has been flying somewhat under the FPL radar, especially as a result of his inconsistent appearances at the start of the season.
However, he is now regularly playing for Arsenal and has scored seven goals this season, with four of those goals in the last three games.
While the likes of Dominic Calvert–Lewin (£7.8m) are drying up in front of goal, Lacazette certainly is not.
There will be a lot of City targeting for Double Gameweek 19 and rightly so, but you won’t make any great leaps up the rankings without a differential or two.
If you’re in a similar position to ITD and you’re looking to make a jump to catch up with the leading pack, West Ham have two very appealing fixtures.
Both homes matches against Burnley and West Brom are very appealing and defensive assets such as Aaron Cresswell (£5.4m) and Vladimir Coufal (£4.7m) could score both defensive and attacking points.
Another more differential pick would be Vardy.
With just over 25% ownership, in comparison to Harry Kane with 44% and Son with 66%, the Leicester forward has two home matches with the first being against an injury-hit Southampton and then an out-of-form Chelsea.
Vardy’s explosiveness could really stretch these teams and make him a worthy selection.
My number one pick, even over the City players, is Bruno Fernandes (£11.3m). He thrives on away days and his Double Gameweek fixtures are both on the road.
Man Utd face Liverpool who are without a recognised first-team centre back and Fulham.
Fulham have only kept three clean sheets this season and with Fernandes being so influential in United’s attack, we could see more away day hauls coming his way.
While both sides of Manchester offer plenty of FPL options over the upcoming Gameweeks, those more maverick FPL managers looking for a bit of a poc fada (long-shot), need look no further than Phil Foden (£6.2m).
Suffering from a serious lack of Premier League minutes, Foden has to be considered one of the FPL’s biggest disappointments so far this season.
While being mainly reserved for Europe has limited Foden’s returns, he offered a sharp reminder of his FPL potential in Gameweek 17.
A goal and an assist against Chelsea will surely offer Pep food for thought going forward, not to mention City’s recent bout of illness which should increase Foden’s chance of minutes.
Not without its risks, a budget-friendly option with great fixtures makes Foden someone I’d certainly consider.
With so much focus on teams that play twice in Gameweek 19, it’s easy to overlook the single game assets.
When these happen to be elite fantasy assets with a mouth-watering fixture, perhaps it’s best to pay a bit more attention.
Of course, I’m referring to Spurs visiting Bramall Lane, and in particular, Kane and Son.
For those of you that aren’t planning on using a chip in Gameweek 18, these are also two of the top assets for that week as well, making for a perfect carry-over into 19.
After a tough run of fixtures and a couple of blanks, the dynamic duo reminded us of their potential with a goal and an assist each against Leeds.
A lot has been made of Spurs’ more defensive approach ever since their collapse against West Ham, with their attempts on goal drastically dropping.
However, what they’ve lacked in quantity has been made up with quality, with the highest chance conversion rate in the entire league this season.
With nearly no fear of rotation for Kane and Son, it’s tough to pick out better options for Gameweek 19, even with one fewer fixture.
Arsenal have been well off form and off the radar for most of the season.
Recently they have picked up the pace, scoring nine goals in their last four games along with two clean sheets.
Kieran Tierney has played a pivotal role in the Arsenal turnaround having created plenty of chances, with one assist and two clean sheets in the last four Gameweeks.
Saka is also an excellent budget option with two goals and one assist in his last four.
Based on the fixtures, the ideal teams to target for both Blank Gameweek 18 and Gameweek 19 would be Man Utd, City and Arsenal.
Over the last three Gameweeks the Red Devils created 33 chances and had 39 attempts on goal with 16 of these on target, averaging a chance every 7.4 minutes.
The players to target would be the obvious ones such as Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford (£9.6m).
Others include the likes of Anthony Martial (£8.7m), Harry Maguire (£5.4m), Aaron Wan–Bissaka (£5.3m) and Luke Shaw (£4,8m).
Over the last three Gameweeks, Bruno ranks third-best in the league for goal attempts with 11 and second in terms of chances created with 11.
But the one player who has caught my eye is Luke Shaw. Over the last three Gameweeks no defender created more chances than the United left back with nine.
With their emphatic win against Chelsea, Man City proved why they’re one of the top teams in Europe.
Over the last three Gameweeks no team created more big chances, and had a better goal conversion rate than the Cityzens with 13% & 17.2% respectively.
Their opponents for blank Gameweek 18, Brighton, have conceded six goals in their last three games, ranked third-worst in the Premier League in this period.
The best players to pick from City include the likes of Kevin De Bruyne (£11.7m), Raheem Sterling (£11.4m), Joao Cancelo (£5.7) and Ruben Dias (£5.8m).
With City playing in a defensively cautious manner at the start of the season. most managers would prefer going with two defenders and maybe KDB or Sterling.
In my opinion I would prefer going with both KDB and Sterling and then either Cancelo or Dias.
Mikel Arteta’s injection of youth into the Arsenal side has clearly made the difference. They’ve won their last three matches and are starting to pick up form.
No team has scored more than the Gunners’ eight goals over the last three Gameweeks, and their 47 attempts on goal is the best in this period.
Arsenal have also created 31 chances over their last three games, averaging a chance every 6.1 mins.
Kieran Tierney ranks joint second best in terms of chances created by a defender with seven over the last three Gameweeks.
He has two assists to his name and had two attempts on goal, scoring once.
No player has scored more goals over the last three games than Lacazette with four. The other two options to consider would be Smith-Rowe and Saka. Smith-Rowe has created six chances and had two attempts on goal over the same period while Saka created four chances, had eight attempts on goal and scored twice.
Their opponents for blank Gameweek 18, Crystal Palace, have conceded 10 big chances over the last three games, the worst in the period alongside Newcastle.
Of the four teams that play three times across Blank Gameeek 18 and Double Gameweek 19, Burnley are (perhaps correctly) receiving the least amount of attention.
However given their fixtures in Gameweek 16 (Sheffield United) and Gameweek 17 (Fulham – ultimately postponed), many FPL managers, including the last-minute wildcarders from the first half of the season, would have had one Burnley defender in their squads.
In fact, Mark Sutherns on his wildcard stream for FPL BlackBox even had an audacious plan to bring in Nick Pope (£5.4m) for Gameweeks 16 and 17 with the intention of replacing him directly after those two very green fixtures before the games ahead toughened up.
However, those thinking about free-hitting away Burnley’s defensive assets before a run of Man United, West Ham, and Liverpool should be reminded of a similar decision point from the previous season.
Facing a tough run against Leicester (then a solid third place), United, and Arsenal, Burnley defenders and especially Pope were transferred out en masse.
They ended up taking seven points from those three matches conceding only one goal in the process. Pope holders were especially rewarded with a penalty save as well. He racked up 28 points across just those three Gameweeks.
Burnley are a proven commodity when it comes to defending against the big teams. Sellers and free-hitters would do well to remember that.
Even though it’s easy to be blinded by the splendid fixtures and form of the two teams from Manchester (and rightly so), there are some players every manager should at least have in the back of their head over the next two Gameweeks.
With the Villa’s fixtures, a double up seems questionable and a triple up looks outright undesirable.
However, the form of Villa this season has been generally very good. While it’s hard to predict who will be the goalscorer in their attack, Grealish seems like the one who is always involved in the goals they score.
Many who have owned Grealish know how frustrating it is to see his teammates spoil his perfectly placed passes. Looking at chances created in the last two Gameweeks, Grealish is third only behind Bruno Fernandes and Leeds’ Mateusz Klich (£5.5m) with his tally of six.
One could argue Grealish deserves more with his expected assists being one of the highest over the last few Gameweeks.
So who are the players who are unable to convert all these chances?
Looking at who tops expected goalscoring metrics at Villa Anwar El Ghazi (£5.8m) and Ollie Watkins (£6.1m) are doing well in expected goals, shots inside box and shots on target.
But both of these players are barely edging past Grealish in the expected points category.
It’s not long ago since Arsenal were a team in deep trouble, barely managing enough points to stay above the relegation zone.
But after a win over out-of-form Chelsea, confidence seems to be blooming.
With an expected goals tally of 4.81 over the last two Gameweeks. it seems things are on the right track again.
However, since they are not playing a double in Gameweek 19, some tend to overlook their assets. Next up are games against Palace and Newcastle, two seemingly weak teams defensively, so it’s time to give Arsenal’s assets serious consideration.
With the same amount of chances created as Jack Grealish over the last two Gameweeks, we find Kieran Tierney.
With Arsenal having only conceded three goals over the last four Gameweeks, it seems there are some clean sheets imminent, combined with some attacking returns.
Looking at shots on target their last two games, we find an old friend in Alexandre Lacazette, whom Arteta seems to have newfound faith in.
If one is on the lookout for budget enablers from Arsenal then Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka and even Rob Holding (£4.5m) offers good value in the short term.
What’s happening in the Scout Academy?
FPL Shake ‘n’ Bake
FPL Shake ‘n’ Bake was busy throughout December ahead of Gameweek 12 he discussed the merit’s of Timo Werner. Ahead of Gameweek 13 he discussed his own FPL teams and making changes to his plans and being adaptable to the game. Gameweek 15’s preview discussed the FPL dynamo that is Bruno Fernandes as well as the arrival of an old tried and tested FPL favourite in to his squad.
During this festive period FPL Focus has been collaborating with the Scout Network’s FPL Nymfria on her FFScout sponsored Dream Team Stream. He has also been hosting his midweek FPL Focus Show with guest @kendallrowen and @Migtavius. These midweek streams happen every Wednesday over on FPL Focus’ YouTube Channel.
FPL Focus has also provided a Blank Gameweek 18 and Double Gameweek 19 chip strategy video which is available on his channel. Throughout December FPL Focus also teamed up with fellow Scout Academy podcasters FPL Academica Vertex to talk about Gameweek 14 points and discuss the all important Blank and Double Gameweeks’.
This week’s midweek stream will feature @Rey_Quraishi as a guest to discuss the Gameweek 18 fixtures and how to navigate that small but vital Gameweek.
Americans Talk FPL
In December, Americans Talk FPL held their first successful livestream. This is something that they will be looking to continue to make for a more interactive experience for Americans Talk FPL followers. The guys at Americans Talk FPL also have a lot of content planned ahead of Blank Gameweek 18 and Double Gameweek 19 so keep a watch out for this across their channels.
FPL Side Net
December was a very busy month for FPL Side Net with six episodes released, covering the hectic FPL Christmas schedules. Three of those episodes were solo recordings for Peterson as Dubs had work and travel commitments. The FPL Side Net also filmed a fun Christmas episode where they re-cast their favourite Christmas films (yes, that includes Die Hard) with current Premier League personalities.
They also got down to the more serious side of FPL discussing key topics such as how many premiums is too many, and chip strategies ahead of the Blank Gameweek 18 and Double Gamweek 19. You can find the FPL Side Net Podcast on all your favourite platforms.
Fantasy Football Academy – The Academica Vertex
Throughout December the guys at the Fantasy Football Academy had multiple guest appearances on their livestreams. Ahead of Gameweek 12 they welcomed FPL_Beery, as well as streaming with fellow Scout Academy members FPL Focus while discussing their initial thoughts regarding the blank and the double gameweeks.
In December, FPL Gents created a website that shows the probability of clean sheets, goals, assists, and as always anytime return chance. It works using the recurring segment of “anytime FPL return probabilities”, calculated by looking at the bookies’ projected outcomes. The page currently shows 98 different assets and you can sort by, for instance, position or simply search for the player you are looking for. The page is updated no later than 24 hours before each Gameweek deadline.
FPL Gents have also written a Twitter article to help FPL Managers work out when to deploy the triple captaincy chip most effectively. Here FPL Managers will find comparisons of using the chip in a good single Gameweek fixture versus a tougher Double Gameweek.
FPL Talking Points
December was the busiest month yet for FPL Talking Points. Throughout December the 25 Days of Podmas feature put the spotlight on a new content creator each day of December leading up to Christmas. Each podcast or video stream was given a page on the Talking Points website featuring their latest episode as well as promotion on our Twitter and Instagram channels.
This feature allowed FPL Talking Points to highlight some up-and-coming members of the FPL community, as well as grow his own presence in the community as well. As a result, the FPL Talking Points Twitter account tripled its following in December! Merry Christmas to me!!!
FPL In The Dug Out
Throughout January, ITD will be continuing to publish POWERPLAY teams in an attempt to be the highest scoring manager of the week while giving everyone some transfer considerations to bolster their point potential!
David at FPL In The Dug Out will also be doing some Q&A sessions on Instagram to help FPL managers with their planning for the double gameweek and beyond. The first session is scheduled just ahead of double Gameweek 19. David is also planning to record a second FPL Family x video with Sam from the FPL Family following our pre-season Dream Team prediction video to see how those picks are going so far.
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