Welcome to AM's Players To Watch for Gameweek 18 of the 2019/2020 Premier League season. As long-time readers of my columns will know, the advice in seasons' gone by had revolved around games that would allow you to make unlimited transfers each gameweek, selecting an entirely new 11 players if you so wished. Unfortunately Yahoo Fantasy Premier League is a glorious but distant memory, as is Togga's Perfect XI game which inspired my previous Rotoworld column.
Nowadays I’m mixing things up by generalising the player recommendations given each week. So, whether you're playing Official FPL, FPL/Fantrax Draft, Fantrax Salary Cap, Sky Sports, The Sun, The Telegraph or any number of other the fantasy games available to fans each season, I'll be offering my top picks for the week ahead, mixing "must-haves" with hunch picks and players flying under the radar. Hopefully this will offer something for everyone, whether you're considering captain options, looking to make a transfer or picking up a free agent in draft.
Gameweek 17 was a much better one for my own FPL side as it amassed 74 point to move up almost 300,000 spots in the overall rankings. Kevin De Bruyne was the key man but there were useful contributions from Jamie Vardy, John Lundstram, Sadio Mané, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Nick Pope. The column selections did okay with returns for Vardy, Mane and James Tarkowski but Marcus Rashford and James Ward-Prowse both blanked. We can do better this week and so let's get in to the Gameweek 18 fixtures ...
Saturday 21 December 2019
Everton v Arsenal
Aston Villa v Southampton
Bournemouth v Burnley
Brighton v Sheffield Utd
Newcastle v Crystal Palace
Norwich v Wolves
Man City v Leicester
Sunday 22 December 2019
Watford v Man Utd
Spurs v Chelsea
Gameweek 18 brings us another regulation 11:30am GMT Saturday FPL deadline as Everton host Arsenal in the early kick-off. As always our main focus will be on players from the teams that look set for comfortable wins, with goals or potential clean sheet points on the cards. This won't include Liverpool or West Ham this week as neither side have a fixture due to the Reds' involvement in the World Club Cup.
Everton players immediately spring to mind given the Duncan Ferguson / Carlo Anchelotti-factor combined with the Gunners' current troubles, as do Manchester United at Watford and Wolves at Norwich. I fancy José Mourinho to get one over his former club as Tottenham host Chelsea and Aston Villa can sneak past Southampton in a relegation six-pointer at Villa Park. With that in mind, here are the guys to keep in your thoughts ahead of the deadline ...
Jack Grealish (MF - Aston Villa v Southampton) - It took a while for Jack Grealish to convince observers that he could cut it in the Premier League but his performances this season have put any doubts to rest. Aston Villa's captain and talisman and been instrumental in the club's best displays and has contributed goals and assists at important times to help keep Villa above the relegation zone, albeit on goal difference only. This weekend's clash with Southampton is massive for both sides and my gut feeling is there will be goals, with the home side edging an entertaining encounter and Grealish playing a key role once again.
Raúl Jiménez (FW - Wolves @ Norwich) - Raúl Jiménez had a relatively slow start to the season as Wolves struggled to balance Premier League and Europa League commitments but things have really taken off over the past two months. Since the shock victory at Manchester City in Gameweek 8 the Mexican has bagged five goals, provided five assists and remains one of the most consistent forward players in the division, providing genuine value for money to FPL managers at his current £7.5million price-tag. Norwich's defence have improved in recent weeks but they still give up a lot of chances in the box which should provide Jiménez the opportunity to build on his already-impressive stats.
Richarlison (MF - Everton v Arsenal) - Despite Everton's struggles Richarlison has been quietly having another very strong season personally, continuing in a forward role and helping himself to six Premier League goals and three assists already. The fantasy points are flowing and he remaining reasonably priced below £8million so it's a real surprise to see the Brazilian with relatively low FPL ownership, just 8% at time of writing. His strike partnership with Dominic Calvert-Lewin looks promising and both men are likely to give the Arsenal defence the run-around on Saturday, so he could prove a great differential to bring in while the Toffees ride the new-manager-bounce.
Vice-Captain: Heung-Min Son (MF - Tottenham v Chelsea) - The football hasn't always been scintillating but José Mourinho has certainly had a positive impact since arriving at Tottenham with five wins out of six pushing Spurs within sight of Champions League places. In fact, victory over Chelsea on Sunday would see Spurs leapfrog the Blues in to fourth place, something that was unimaginable four weeks ago. Frank Lampard's young side had a brilliant start themselves but are currently on the ropes after losses to Everton and Bournemouth and won't be looking forward to facing an in-form Spurs attack, particularly the electric Heung-Min Son who has three goals and an astonishing eight assists in his last eight starts.
Captain: Marcus Rashford (FW - Man Utd @ Watford) - Marcus Rashford has helped revitalise Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United side in recent weeks, with the Red Devils jumping up in to the Premier League top 6 after the striker spearheaded impressive back-to-back victories over Tottenham and Manchester City. The 22-year old unexpectedly blanked in Gameweek 17 but was back on the scoresheet in the Carabao cup in midweek and is in his most consistent spell of form since bursting on to the scene in 2016. Eight goals in his last nine games Premier League games tells the story and I'm confident he'll bring his shooting boots to Gameweek 18 with United visiting bottom side Watford. Confident enough to hand the young man the captain's armband for the first time. Don't let us down Marcus!
That's it for Gameweek 18's Players to Watch. Check out the Rotoworld Features page to access a host of fantastic content to get you ready for the weekend. If you have any questions about a specific player or your own fantasy team then feel free to post them in the comments below or hit me on Twitter (@nikarg) and I will get back to you.
Thanks for reading - good luck to all managers this weekend and have a great Christmas break!