There’s been little time to digest an action-packed few days of Premier League action that has left fantasy managers distraught and elated in equal measure.
Both Walcott and Lukaku briefly sent their former owners into spirals of regret, before quickly providing us all with reminders of why they were dumped in the first place.
There was plenty of panic elsewhere too, with a knock forcing Eden Hazard (CHE, 10.4) to sit out Chelsea’s trip to Sunderland.
Eden Hazard will be missed in GW16:
1,625,123 Starting XIs
281,129 CaptainedDecember 14, 2016
Those fantasy managers who have hastily shipped him out could soon regret it if they see him lining out against a leaky Crystal Palace defence on Saturday.
Charlie Austin’s injury prognosis followed by Iheanacho’s sacrifice on the altar of Pep Guardiola's 0-10-0 formation had armies of fantasy managers desperately looking around for a sub-£7m striker they can rely on.
But alas, there’s no Jamie Vardy this year folks - now every player cut-price striker with a caveat. Let’s look at the main contenders...
Salomon Rondon (WBA 6.5)
A hat-trick of headers had the West Brom target man exploding back onto the FPL radar last week, but those hoping for a repeat performance should look away now.
In the nine games before his hat-trick against a typically awful Swansea defense, he scored a single goal and assist - and both of those were at home to Burnley.
— Fantasy Football Secrets ⚽️📈 (@FPLSecrets) December 14, 2016
With the Baggies set to face Man Utd, Arsenal and Southampton in their next three, the signs aren’t encouraging.
Having said that, he’s a nailed-on starter, so you would at least be assured of sparing yourself the heartache of another Iheanacho debacle - something that can’t be said for our next candidate.
Divock Origi (LIV, 6.8)
The Kop have been singing his name, and why wouldn’t they - the Belgian striker has been banging in the goals of late.
5 - Divock Origi has now scored in five successive appearances in all competitions for @LFC. Streak.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 14, 2016
Many have bemoaned not bringing him in weeks ago, as well they might, but the reason they didn’t then still applies even more today - can the 21-year-old expect regular game-time in the future?
Does his form makes him impossible to drop? If so, then snapping him up is a no-brainer. Personally, I’m not convinced, and the spectre of Christmas rotation looms large over Anfield.
Andy Carroll (WHU, 6.1)
A confirmed favourite of his club manager, this “miracle man” represents an entirely different kind of risk.
Bilic on Carroll: "It’s no secret I'm a big fan. I see on the training pitch. He is a miracle. What he gives to the team is massive." #WHUFC— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) December 15, 2016
With his playing time steadily increasing, now could be the optimum time to bring Carroll in. Owned by just 1.9%, he took six shots in GW16 (second only to Eriksen) and The Hammers are just starting to find their mojo again right as they prepare to face Hull and Swansea in the next two.
The injury-prone Geordie comes with a massive health warning (literally), but for those willing to take the risk, he offers great potential at just £6.1m.
I went big across every format at the start of the season. On his day, excellent, but ZERO confidence in Carroll staying fit— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) December 15, 2016
Fernando Llorente (SWA, 6.2)
If you’re looking for a short-term option, the Spaniard has some inviting fixtures until GW21.
He has yet to play 90 minutes since his return in GW13, but has scored two braces in that time. His pricetag should provide some useful pocket change too.
Troy Deeney (WAT, 6.8)
Watford’s fixtures are tempting, but the fact that their talisman hasn’t scored a goal since GW7 is a concern, to say the least.
With just nine shots to show for those nine barren matches, he’s one to avoid.
Troy Deeney not scored in months and has only one goal all season, and only one goal off 100 for Watford. We all know what's happening.— 🤘🏼 (@EFCal97) December 9, 2016
Callum Wilson (BOU, 6.4)
Bournemouth’s fixtures are pretty bumpy in the short term, with Southampton up next, followed by a GW18 trip to Chelsea and Arsenal in GW20.
Five goals in 15 games is a reasonable return for this price range, but he may be unsettled by recent transfer speculation and his recent lack of minutes doesn’t inspire confidence.
Not a great option then, but with penalties and some decent home form in his locker, he’s not the worst option out there.
Callum WILSON has scored in 5 of his 9 #EPL starts at AFC Bournemouth's Vitality Stadium.— REAL SOCCER FACTS (@RealSoccerFacts) December 5, 2016
Let’s see what the stats say about our six prospects...
Let’s face it - there’s no season-keepers here, so a decent strategy could be to rotate players in and out of this vital third-striker spot every few weeks based on their form and fixtures. Be prepared to bring in some injury-proof, nailed-on (i.e. boring) players elsewhere though, to keep those free transfers ticking over.
Or, if you don’t see value in this bracket and can’t afford a Defoe or Benteke, you could opt for a cheapie like Victor Anichebe (SUN, 4.7) or Adama Diomande (HUL, 4.5) and go 3-5-2, as more than 200 of the top 1,000 teams did last time.
The idea of spending so little cash to have a potential goalscorer coming off your bench when called upon is appealing, but be warned - if a mid-priced striker starts proving his worth, that bargain basement novelty appeal won’t last long.
Besides, if it’s cheap thrills you’re after, there’s plenty to be found among…
This season’s trend of Premier League teams playing three at the back has been a Godsend to the wily fantasy manager. Not only does it open up an extra place for a cheap centre-back, but it also pushes full backs right up the pitch, instantly enhancing their attacking potential.
Billy Jones (SUN 4.4), Patrick van Aanholt (SUN 5.0), Andrew Robertson (HUL, 4.3) and of course Marcos Alonso (CHE, 6.3) are regularly found outflanking their midfield teammates.
You don’t even have to play this system to have great full backs though, as Bournemouth have shown. Right now, you can make a case for owning any of their four starting defenders - and they’re dirt cheap, too!
Steve Cook (BOU, 5.1) and Nathan Ake (BOU, 4.4) have two goals each, with the latter only needing five starts to score them.
Simon Francis (BOU, 4.6) has sent in more crosses than any Premier League defender in the past four Gameweeks. On the other side of the pitch, Charlie Daniels (5.1) created four chances in his last two games. Both are playing so far up the pitch these days, they’re basically wingers.
The re-emergence of Daniels has even pushed Adam Smith (BOU, 4.8) into midfield, providing us with yet another out-of-position prospect.
A return of five clean sheets out of 16 games so far this season isn’t amazing, but who cares? You need to get one these swashbuckling Cherries into your team just for the fun of it!
Wilfried Zaha (CRY, 5.7) has been one of the most consistent midfielders around this season, but if you don’t have him by now, hold tight - a trip to the African Cup of Nations is on the cards after he applied to switch allegiance from England to Ivory Coast.
With three double-figure hauls in his last four gameweeks, it’s finally time for Christian Eriksen (TOT, 8.5) to graduate from ‘punt’ status. The Dane is finally bringing home the points his stats had threatened to produce for so long, and could do some serious damage when Spurs welcome the league worst away team, Burnley, next.
The GW15 visit of Spurs aside, it looks like smooth sailing for a Southampton defence that has picked up four clean sheets from their last five league matches. Virgil van Dijk (SOU, 5.7) is a reliable option here - he’s a threat from set pieces and has been hoovering up the bonus points lately thanks to some impressive CBI stats.
With no returns in the last five Gameweeks, Roberto Firmino (LIV, 8.6m) looks all at sea without his Brazilian buddy. Labelled “Failmino” by some understandably bitter FPL managers, the switch to Eriksen or cheaper Liverpool teammate Adam Lallana (LIV, 7.3) is overdue.
Top of the League
It was a gameweek to forget for Micheàl Nevins, but is 46 points was enough to keep him top of the of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 251768-521616). An impressive 103 points from Padie O' Mahony and his Mané of Horror side catapulted him up to third - can he dislodge the long-time league leader?
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