Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good gameweek.
That's right, it is Christmas Day where I am standing and, instead of sipping egg nog while listening to a little Bing Crosby by the fireplace, I am here to talk about fantasy Premier League. To be honest, I can multi-task. I am writing while listening to ol' Bing. The holiday ambience is palpable and I am in good spirits coming off a fantasy round as an owner of Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero. So, forgive me for making this column short and sweet. There are holiday obligations that need to be met before hunkering down for Boxing Day.
So we have hit the halfway mark of the season. Nineteen rounds down, nineteen to go. If it has been a tough first half for you, as it has been for me, there is hope. Double gameweeks, unused chips, a new wildcard in hand when the calendar flips...significant ground can be made up in the second half of the season and it starts now. I already have a working plan to bring in some double gameweek options for Week 22. I already brought in a cheap defender from West Ham that I have no problem benching for his blank in Week 20, and I will make a point to save two FTs for Week 22, so I can bring in two more Tottenham players to go along with Harry Kane.
Speaking of Kane, Boxing Day will begin in style as the round opens with Tottenham playing Southampton. Kane needs one goal to break the PL record for goals in a calendar year currently shared with Alan Shearer. Whether Kane rises to the occasion or not, given that he is fresh off a hat trick and poised to grab a huge record, how do you not give him the armband? Especially since it appears Virgil van Dijk has no chance of being involved for Southampton. You get the feeling that he will sign for Liverpool at around 12:01am on January 1st.
Anyway, before I start to ramble on further, it is time to focus and look at the landscape ahead of Week 20:
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
So now it is time to look at the players to think about ahead of Week 4. As a reminder, there are four categories of players which I feel are worth mentioning week to week when making decisions about transfers....
1) Players to buy
2) Players to sell
3) Players to hold onto
4) Players to avoid buying
I will also include later in the section, my top choices for the captain's armband. While I will consider every player from A to Z, you will normally find the usual suspects there.
Right, so let's dive in...
*Just as a reminder, keepers should always be the last position to think about using transfers for, unless there is an urgent need. So, when you see who I have listed here, bear in mind that my keeper advice does not carry as much weight as the outfield positions.
Player to buy: Jonas Lossl - Playing the fixtures for Huddersfield and I'd rather try to collect points through their defense rather than their attack. Three of the next four are at home for the Terriers against Stoke, Burnley and West Ham.
Player to sell: Fraser Forster - The next two games for Southampton are brutal. Forster will have to stop Kane from his record-breaking goal, then the Saints travel to Old Trafford at the weekend. Tottenham are on the schedule again by Week 24.
Player to hold: Mathew Ryan - A trip Stamford Bridge usually doesn't help a visiting keeper, but Everton just pulled off a clean sheet there. There are several good fixtures after the Blues either way, so just take what Ryan gives you.
Player to avoid: Lukasz Fabianski - Fabianski has been doing well lately, closing the gap with Nick Pope for highest-scoring budget keeper. I would not invest in him at the moment though. Swansea have to stop Liverpool's attack twice in the next five weeks with Tottenham thrown in for good measure.
Player to buy: Phil Jones - It is time to welcome Jones back into your side. He should be as nailed as any defender for United as long as he stays fit. The Red Devils have several strong clean sheet opportunities in the coming weeks.
Player to hold: Newcastle defenders - If you have one, they probably spend more time on your bench than in your XI, as should be the case for Week 19 when the Magpies have the daunting task of taking on Manchester City. There are promising opponents immediately after though. There could be some cheap cleanies with Brighton and Swansea at home and Stoke away, Weeks 21-23.
Player to avoid: Phil Jagielka - Jagielka was the highest scoring defender in Week 19, getting the maximum bonus as he re-entered the XI for Sam Allardyce. He and Michael Keane came in for Mason Holgate and Ashley Williams. I worry though that this defense is not settled. Jordan Pickford is obviously the safest entry into the Toffee defense, but I would buy Jonjoe Kenny before opting for Jagielka.
Player to buy: Jesse Lingard - I always like to highlight attacking players who are quietly producing. Lingard has been doing just that for Man United and it is time to consider his spot in the XI safe for the foreseeable future. Only 6m, he has three goals and two assists over United's last six games. Fantastic value if he can keep it up and United are not facing tough opponents right now.
Player to sell: Leroy Sane - Suggesting to sell a City attacking player naturally comes with trepidation. Sure, Sane could explode this week. But, he has generally been quiet outside of his two-assist haul in Week 18. If not this week, you need to find a week you can flip him for David Silva or Raheem Sterling if you want to maintain coverage.
Player to hold: Gylfi Sigurdsson - Everton's attack looked rather poor against Chelsea, but things should pick up with easier opponents and Wayne Rooney likely returning from illness. I predict a huge day for Siggy coming very soon.
Player to avoid: Wilfried Zaha - You keep Zaha if you have him, but hold off buying him until Palace get their next two opponents, Arsenal and Manchester City, out of the way.
Player to buy: Alvaro Morata - Back from suspension, Morata should be fresh and ready to start all of the matches in this congested stretch of the season. He should pay off immediately when the Blues host Brighton on Boxing Day.
Player to sell: Marcus Rashford - With Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata in good form and Anthony Martial being a preferred option, Rashford has seen his pitch time dry up in recent weeks. Time to cut bait.
Player to hold: Callum Wilson - It had been a headache for owners of a Bournemouth forward, as rotation was rampant. With the injury to Jermain Defoe though, Wilson should be starting regularly and the Cherries have two straight home games this week.
Player to avoid: Alexandre Lacazette - Lacazette picked up an assist in Arsenal's goal-fest with Liverpool but the Frenchman has yet to justify his price tag.
TOP CAPTAIN CHOICES
1) Harry Kane
2) Mo Salah
3) Sergio Aguero
4) Eden Hazard
That's it from me this week folks. Please, bear in mind much can change between the publishing of this column and the FPL deadline on Tuesday. Remember, some injuries are not revealed until just before the deadline. Always try to refrain from executing your transfers for as long as possible to avoid wasting it on a player who turns out to have had a problem in training. That said, if you only have just enough money for the player you are looking to bring in and that player is at risk of rising in price, then sometimes you need to take a calculated risk and hope the fantasy gods will be kind to you.
Good luck, and may your arrows be green.