Gameweek 23 will go down in FPL history for all the wrong reasons after circumstances conspired to make it a real stinker.
First off, despite some great fixtures on paper, big teams like Arsenal, Spurs and Man United fell flat.
On top of that, none of the highly-owned players did particularly well. The only player owned by 10% or more to score double figures was Eldin Jakupovic (HUL, 4.0) - and most of his owners had to endure the sight of those 11 points sitting uselessly on their bench.
It was the kind of week where a single goal or assist from your captain was looked on with envy.
If that wasn't bad enough, all those shiny new players we transferred in, and the new sense of hope they brought with them, were spectacular failures.
SCOUT: Of the top 20 #FPL transfer targets ahead of GW23, Sanchez is the only player to earn a goal, assist or a clean sheet so far #ARSWAT pic.twitter.com/ST2kneapqE— Fantasy Premier League (@OfficialFPL) January 31, 2017
That was probably what tipped managers over the edge, as the mood quickly darkened among the FPL community.
I reckon 26 is the lowest GW total I've ever had in #FPL.
Morale in the dressing room is at all-time low. pic.twitter.com/h1SngWrFIB— FPL SW⚽️T (@FPLSWOT) February 1, 2017
Jakupovic - 11 points
Ibra, Kane, Lukaku, Coutinho, Pedro, Alonso - 11 points.
Guess which of those 7 is on my #FPL bench..go ahead..guess!— FPL Ghost (@FPLGhost) February 1, 2017
But while it’s never fun to see a low score at the end of any week, we could all benefit from a bit of perspective here.
No season was ever won or lost on weeks where the average score is a measly 35 points - it’s those times you score 35 and your rivals are scoring 70 or 80 that you really need to worry about!
So take GW23 for what it was - a non-Gameweek, an inconsequential blip - and don’t do anything crazy.
Rage wildcards are incoming. Don't do it. You'll regret it. # FPL— #FPL Penguin (@FPL_Penguin) February 1, 2017
Now that we’ve dusted ourselves down a bit, it’s time to freshen up our squads.
Those upcoming blank fixtures in GW26 and GW28 are looming ever closer, so be sure to keep them in mind for your next few transfers. You can check out
I've created a Twitter Moment so you can see all my Blank/DGW tweets in one place. ⚡️https://t.co/2nqo2OBvv8
I'll keep it updated 👍— Ben Crellin (@BenCrellin) January 20, 2017
So with that proviso in mind, let’s go differential-spotting, shall we?
Mid-table teams to invest in (and avoid)
Fortune can favour the brave in FPL, and if you’re chasing a sizeable gap in your mini-league right now, a strategy of picking reliable, highly-owned players every week won’t do you any favours.
It’s around this stage of the season that we start to see relegation-threatened clubs go on a charge, and some lower- to mid-table sides “too good to down” begin their freefall.
If I were fan of Leicester, Middlesbrough, Southampton or Bournemouth, I’d be pretty worried right now. As an FPL manager, I’m steering well clear.
It’s easier said than done of course, but getting in on the ground floor of these winning runs is a key part of any successful season.
Stoke seemed like relegation certainties until GW8, but FPL managers who spotted their resurgence early picked up players like Lee Grant and Joe Allen on the cheap and turned their season around.
Teams like Swansea, Hull and West Ham (that Man City drubbing aside) are showing signs of life and avoid blanks in GW26 and 28; even Sunderland summoned some steel to keep Tottenham scoreless.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (SWA, 7.2) and Tom Carroll (SWA, 4.2) are linking up well and offer excellent value.
Most Premier League goals & assists by midfielders this term:
Adam Lallana (14)
Gylfi Sigurdsson (14)
Christian Eriksen (13)
Dele Alli (13) pic.twitter.com/jWCklAap3E— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 31, 2017
Robert Snodgrass (WHU, 5.7) seems to have taken over dead-ball duties at West Ham, and Manuel Lanzini (WHU, 6.3) has really found his feet since Payet’s departure.
If you fancy a Hull’s player after their fixtures turn from GW26, then Harry Maguire (HUL, 4.4) leads the way among defenders for goal attempts in the past four Gameweeks (10) and if you need a cut-price second keeper, Jakupovic is your man.
But if you’re looking for a real under-the-radar team to hitch your wagon to for the long haul, have a look at Crystal Palace.
They stopped the rot against Bournemouth, and Big Sam has his mojo back.
Scott Dann (CRY, 5.2) finally brought in that huge points haul he’s been threatening to return for some time now. An ever-present threat at corners and free kicks, you can expect at least another two goals from the towering centre-back before the season is over.
GW23 pts for Scott Dann: 15
GW23 pts for Aguero, Kane, Lukaku, Ibra, Costa, Defoe & Rondon combined: 11 pic.twitter.com/r2O1LfTCjR— FantasyFootyGuru (@FPL_Guru_) February 1, 2017
Another potentially explosive option is January signing Patrick van Aanholt (CRY, 5.0).
The Dutchman has consistently been one of the most attacking defenders in the league, scoring six goals for Allardyce’s Sunderland side last year. His average position against Bournemouth was right up to the halfway line, and it seems that's where Sam wants him.
Goal threat is all well and good, but the prospect of a few clean sheets could yet make these Palace defenders particularly attractive. The addition of Liverpool loanee Mamadou Sakho (CRY, 4.7) should help with this - provided he turns up for training on time!
In attack, Christian Benteke continues to frustrate, but Wilfried Zaha (CRY, 5.5) is looking as menacing as ever. He didn’t miss a beat since his return from AFCON, firing three goal attempts and six crosses against Bournemouth. He won’t stay at £5.5m for long.
If Palace doesn’t take your fancy, there’s another team on the comeback trail that caught our eye this week…
Is it time to invest in Man City again?
A string of dodgy results saw Pep finally bite two bullets - dropping the lamentable Claudio Bravo and starting Gabriel Jesus (MCI, 9.1) - and it certainly produced the desired effect.
The Brazilian wonderkid’s impressive performance in Man City’s 4-0 wipeout of West Ham has made him the most transferred-in player this week despite that blank GW26.
With fixtures against Swansea, Bournemouth and Sunderland to come, of course it’s a tempting punt - but Sergio Aguero won’t give up his place without a fight and I suspect rotation could limit the minutes of both players. Perhaps the young striker’s real impact will be seen as the ending of Aguero as an FPL option by season’s end.
In the meantime, there are other players worthy of consideration.
Raheem Sterling (MCI, 7.7) has quietly returned five or more points in six of his last eight games, and 21 points in his last two could signal an overdue purple patch for Kevin De Bruyne (MCI, 10.5).
Fantasy football isn’t just for lads, you know - women are making their mark in the FPL community and probably have a better rank than you. The more the merrier!
I think we’ve officially run out of reasons not to get Chris Brunt (WBA, 5.1). When you find a defender who’s a nailed-on starter, often in midfield, who takes free kicks and scores goals in a side with good form and fixtures, it's probably time to think about getting him in.
I’ll happily own up to some patriotic bias with this one, but Robbie Brady (BUR, 5.5) is worth keeping an eye on since Burnley rescued him from the Championship.
He has plenty of FPL competition in that price bracket, but if the Republic of Ireland talisman assumes free-kick (maybe even penalty!) duties, that pricetag will start looking very small indeed.
Just two attempts in the last two matches tells its own story here. The experiment of starting Olivier Giroud (ARS, 8.7) up front seems to be winding down at Arsenal, as we all, deep down, knew it eventually would.
If you’re feeling loyal/stubborn, the fact that he’s facing Chelsea next, carrying a knock and has no fixture in GW26 should remove any lingering doubt.
Top of the League
It’s all change again this week in the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 251768-521616) as Dan O’Brien’s ‘Hammered again’ takes over top spot. But Dan has some worrying injuries to Pickford, van Dijk and Chambers to contend with in the coming weeks - can he hold on?
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