For many managers, gameweek 20 gave them the opportunity to activate the January Wildcard. Available until the deadline for gameweek 24 on 7 Feb, there are generally two schools of thought; activate early and try to get ahead of your rivals and to climb the overall rankings, or keep your powder dry and activate as late as possible. The first strategy is my personal choice, however, amongst “serious” fantasy Premier League players, I may be in a minority. By leaving it late you can potentially take advantage of new players signed in the transfer window, possible double gameweeks due to weather or cup replays or the return of injured players to the Premier League. This year this includes Sergio Aguero (who made his return this week), Aaron Ramsey, Daniel Sturridge and Marouane Chamakh…
Whichever strategy you choose, activation of the Wildcard must be at a time that suits your objectives and I implore you to remember that when you go asking for advice on social media. Now, let’s turn our attention to who made the dream team in gameweek 21.
Some say form is key, class doesn’t matter – however, in this case it is definitely the latter! Making only his third appearance of the season and walking straight into the team of the week was Chelsea keeper Petr Cech. Only playing due to a hand injury to Thibaut Courtois, he oozed class in the 2-0 home win over Newcastle. This was no easy game for Chelsea, particularly in the first half when Newcastle’s Remy Cabella stole the show. Cech stood firm but his 7 points were probably only added to teams belonging to managers who abandoned their interest after gameweek 1.
Over 23% of managers have Branislav Ivanovic in their teams, and although he is expensive at £7.2m, he does reward owners with consistent point returns from defence. Another 11 points courtesy of his assist and 2 bonus points mean that with the loss of form of other marquee defenders like Baines and Zabaleta, the Chelsea man is the one to invest in if you have that kind of cash to splash on your back line.
Arsenal look an altogether stronger unit when centre-half Laurent Koscielny lines up alongside Per Mertesacker, and in his third game back from injury he once again proved this to be the case. Having opened the scoring against Stoke, he went on to contribute to the clean sheet and picked up 2 bonus points to end with a 14 point total for the 6.1% of his owners – myself included.
A somewhat surprise inclusion in any team of the week, let alone in defence is a Leicester player. However, fresh from his one game suspension for his second red card of the season, Paul Konchesky made his mark during the 1-0 home win over Aston Villa. Scoring the only goal of the game and picking up a clean sheet and maximum bonus points meant he was the second highest scoring player this week with 15 points.
Man of the match for Crystal Palace in their home win over Spurs was Jason Puncheon. As we all know, Alan Pardew never loses his first match in charge, and Puncheon had obviously read the script. His second goal of the season was scored FOR Pardew, his first goal had come back in gameweek 3 when he scored AGAINST Pardew in the 3-3 draw at Newcastle. On both occasions he has been awarded maximum bonus points, and this week that meant 9 points.
With his second goal in 3 games, Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho scored in the 1-1 draw with Everton. He is not to be confused with Manchester City midfielder Fernando, although one Sky Sports commentator admitted he couldn’t tell the difference in a bit of Saturday afternoon casual racism! 9 points were earned for Fernandinho after the awarding of maximum bonus points in a game that could very well be costly come the end of the season when the title is decided.
Pre-season, big things were expected from Liverpool signing Lazar Markovic. As with most things to do with Liverpool this season, it has ultimately ended in under achievement and disappointment. However, in what was only his second full 90 minutes, he turned in a superb performance in the 1-0 win away at Sunderland. With the winning goal and maximum bonus points, he earned a double digit haul with 11 points for the 0.3% of you that (bizarrely) have invested in the £7.2m midfielder.
With the majority of managers giving the captain’s armband to Hazard, Costa or Fabregas this week, it turned out we were looking in the wrong area for a Chelsea player. Turns out it should have been Oscar if you own him. Dreadfully inconsistent, drifting in and out of most games, including this one if we are to be honest. However, a goal, an assist and a 3 point bonus meant that he inspired Chelsea to beat a resilient, but ultimately toothless, Newcastle side. 13 points for you if you own him.
After poor returns in gameweek 19 and 20 (1 and 2 points respectively) I came to the conclusion that Arsenal’s talisman Alexis Sanchez was looking tired. After dumping him with my January Wildcard I sat back horrified on Sunday afternoon as he almost single-handedly took Stoke City apart. In what must rank up there as one of the best individual performances of the season, the fantasy Premier League’s leading points scorer racked up 19 points. 2 goals, an assist and maximum bonus points punished us non-owners severely. He now has 141 points for the season. His nearest rival is Eden Hazard on 128. Perhaps a stat I should have checked on prior to transferring him out!
Having seemingly gotten over his sulk following his drink driving charge and transfer speculation linking him with a move elsewhere, West Brom striker Saido Berahino appears to have turned a corner. Perhaps Tony Pulis has told him what he wants to hear as he has entered a rich vein of scoring. Scoring for the second league game in succession to add to his four goal haul in the FA Cup, he ended up getting the winner in the 1-0 home win over Hull City. Maximum bonus points meant a 9 point total for a striker now available for £5.5m from a season peak of £6.1m. Will he stay at West Brom? Who knows, but I’d say there is a good chance now under Pulis.
There are a lot of English strikers in good goal scoring form right now; the aforementioned Berahino, Charlie Austin, Harry Kane and Danny Ings. It is the Burnley man who takes up the final spot in the team of the week, with his goal in the 2-1 win over QPR proving to be the winner and earning him 9 points. Two in his last two games and with a favourable run of games between now and gameweek 24, he can easily add to his 6 goal season total.
More Wildcards will no doubt be activated this week, especially following the return to action of Aguero. As mentioned there are a number of forwards in the budget price range showing good form, but I would urge caution. Their price is low for a reason; they play for teams at the lower end of the table (Kane an exception) and while form cannot be ignored, it is unlikely the likes of Berahino, Ings etc will guarantee you consistent points returns for any length of time. It’s your choice obviously, but don’t end up regretting your decisions at this crucial time of the season. Oh, and don’t be daft enough to dump the games highest points scorer just because you think he looks a bit jaded!