Fantasy Premier League managers have faced a Christmas dilemma this year as a number of popular defenders sustained festive injuries.
Ben Chilwell (£ 6.1m) and Reece James (£ 5.3m) are both “doubtful” of taking on Arsenal and Aston Villa, according to Frank Lampard Tariq Lamptey (£ 4.8m) was excluded from Gameweek 15 with an ongoing thigh problem.
But it’s not just about finding direct replacements for these players. With the blank and double gameweeks now announced, it’s time for these games to guide our transfers …
Replacement for injured defenders
Rúben Dias (£ 5.7m) seems like the first option on my books when looking for a defense attorney. This season Manchester City are playing against two defensive midfielders and Pep Guardiola definitely wants to build from behind.
Not so long ago, Raheem Sterling (£ 11.4m) mentioned Dias showing up in the dressing room as the section leader and talking about the impact he’s made that reminds him of Vincent Kompany. Guardiola was kudos to the center-back as well and he looks like Manchester City’s most nailed defender to me. These quotes from Guardiola lately are very encouraging:
“Ruben has helped us a lot to be solid and he has settled in perfectly with John [Stones]. It’s incredible [the defensive solidity] – so we can still be there. Knock on the door of teams above us. We need it to be stable and maybe one day the players will be fresh to score the goals. Ruben [Dias] doesn’t make a single mistake, he is always focused. He’s able to run the line, just like John [Stones]. Our club bought an exceptional defender – especially for personality. When buying a player, it is important that you feel that it is in place for years to come. And we’re pretty sure [that] Ruben will give us great moments. “ – Pep Guardiola
Dias has started every Premier League game he had available for this season and is a set-piece threat as well.
More importantly, Manchester City have kept four clean sheets in their last six games. Don’t let the away games Everton and Chelsea put you off. They are not quite the same attacking beast without their recognized full-backs, while Frank Lampard has shown us this season that he has learned his lessons from last year and has a very conservative approach against big teams.
The only thing I like about a Manchester City defender (or two) right now is that they have a game in Blank Gameweek 18, a single playable game in Gameweek 19, and a great schedule from Gameweeks 20-22.
So your team’s condition after Gameweek 20 is in good shape if you own some Manchester City assets, and it could probably save you a Free Hit chip in Gameweek 18 if you want to save it for later (more on that later) .
John Stones (£ 4.9m) is also an option if you ask me if he doesn’t inspire as much confidence about launches as Dias, who was eliminated in Gameweek 13. The only game he’s missed since Gameweek 10 (as Stones reclaimed his seat) is the only time City has actually conceded, so Guardiola should understand his importance to the team by now.
Whether or not you choose Stones depends on how you rate him as a player. If he continues to play that way, he will remain City’s starting defender.
There are two other things that are beneficial to Stones. He’s right footed, of course, which helps in a partnership with Dias (Laporte’s left footed, of course). He’s also a great passerby who helps the partnership as well as helping Stones get bonus points. In his last two starts he has run in a total of four.
West Ham has one of the best combinations of games in Double Gameweek 19, Burnley and West Brom at home, as well as an engaging array of games beyond that. Accordingly, I can only recommend it Vladimir Coufal (£ 4.6m).
Aaron Cresswell (£ 5.2m) is also an option, but in the last six weeks of play Coufal has created 13 chances by comparison, while his more expensive colleague has only developed six, which have played in a deeper role since moving to a back-four will. Hence, Coufal is also more likely to receive assists and bonus points for creating opportunities.
I think we should also talk about the Liverpool full-backs. They showed us by winning at Crystal Palace that a glimmer of their former glory is still there.
Like Manchester City and West Ham, the Reds have two home games in Double Gameweek and have played three decent games before that. So I think if you switch early enough Trent Alexander-Arnold (£ 7.2m) can be a practical differential.
I still prefer Andrew Robertson (£ 7.2m) is based solely on an eye test. The simple fact is that the left-back is spending a lot more time in and around the box this season and due to the fact that he is doing so many overlapping runs his likelihood of assisting is very high. In addition, he also stays on certain set pieces.
There’s a lot of chaos and confusion around the blank and double gameweeks, but if you ask me, any good worth money fantasy manager sees this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
If you want to keep up to date with the latest developments, I recommend reading this article on the website.
As for my chip strategy, read my first thoughts on blanks and double gameweeks here. For your information, I’ve already used my first wildcard.
At first I thought about free hitting in Gameweek 18 as I don’t have a great team for Blank Gameweek 18 and then attack Double Gameweek 19 (without bank push). I’m now thinking about saving my Free Hit Chip in Gameweek 18 for three reasons:
- Aside from Manchester City and partially Spurs, very few games look exciting to fantasy managers
- If in the next few weeks I buy Spurs assets (they have great fixtures for Gameweek 16 and 17) and Manchester City assets for their above schedule, then I don’t really need much more in Gameweek 18 and can see myself getting along in something this game week.
- It is likely that we will have a big Double Gameweek in Gameweek 26 and a big Blank Gameweek in Gameweek 29. Since I’ll likely be wildcarding in Gameweek 24 or 25 and bench boosting in Gameweek 26, I don’t want to issue transfers between those Gameweek 26 and 29 with an emphasis on blank Gameweek players.
So that you know, this strategy is only specific to my team and you should do what best suits your team.
Zophar, BigManBakar, and I covered the blank and double gameweeks in depth in this week’s episode of The FPL Wire (embedded below for your convenience). We discuss Gameweek 18, 19 and which strategies would be worthwhile depending on whether or not you have your first wild card in hand.
As for my own team, I finally had a good round last week of the game and scored 88 points after signing Anthony Martial (£ 8.7m) and directed it.
Since I’ve already owned Bruno Fernandes (£ 11.0m) there was enough insurance to keep Martial on the higher uptrend. As you know, that’s how I really like to play the game.
It doesn’t make sense to me to play this game if you don’t support your own gut instinct. It was good to see that moving without a template is finally paying off. I jumped from 2.95 million to 2.24 million and hope this is the start of a good run.
While I have you, I want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. See you on the other side of the madness!
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