Welcome to the AM's Players To Watch for Gameweek 18. As long-time readers of my columns will know, my 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, while Togga, sadly, was not able to return for this campaign which put an end to the Perfect XI column I'd been penning for the past two years.
This season I'll be a bit more general in my advice. Whether you're playing Official FPL, FPL or 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 five 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 transfers or pick up a free agent in draft.
Last week's column was another very successful one. A reminder of the picks ...
Hazard scored, assisted and returned maximum bonus points, Jimenez scored and grabbed maximum bonus points, Sane picked up two assists and two bonus points, Davies returned a clean sheet and two bonus points, while both Anderson and Kane provided assists. We're on a bit of a roll and long may it continue over the next few weeks.
On to Gameweek 18 ...
Friday 21 December
Wolves v Liverpool
Saturday 22 December
Arsenal v Burnley
Bournemouth v Brighton
Chelsea v Leicester
Huddersfield v Southampton
Man City v Crystal Palace
Newcastle v Fulham
West Ham v Watford
Cardiff v Man Utd
Sunday 23 December
Everton v Spurs
This weekend our focus should be on Arsenal players at home to Burnley, Manchester City hosting Crystal Palace, Bournemouth at home to Brighton, Newcastle at home to Fulham, Liverpool away at Wolves and Chelsea at home to Leicester. With that in mind, here are the players ....
Paul Pogba (MF - Manchester United @ Cardiff) - Say what you want about José Mourinho management of Manchester United; it can't defend Paul Pogba's performances over the past four months. The French midfielder is one of the most talented players in world football but has simply not been putting in the effort since those well-publicised falling(s)-out with his ex-manager, letting down his team-mates and Reds fans in the process. Now the ex-Special One has left Old Trafford it will be fascinating to see how Pogba reacts on the pitch and we'll get our first glimpse at Cardiff this weekend. Don't be surprised if he turns instant match-winner.
Salomon Rondon (FW - Newcastle v Fulham) - The first thing I do when prepping for this column is to check to see who Fulham are playing in order to select an attacker from their opponents. The Cottagers have the worst defensive record in England conceding 42 goals in 17 games and there are few signs of improvement under Claudio Ranieri; hence the selection of Newcastle's Salomon Rondon. After a slow start to life on Tyneside the ex-West Brom striker has become a bit of a cult hero, notching four goals and two assists in his past six starts and I'm backing him add to his tally this weekend.
Sead Kolasinac (DF - Arsenal v Burnley) - Sead Kolasinac was a fantasy favourite at the start of last season, consistently offering defensive solidity and a genuine threat in attack. Unfortunately he lost his way after an injury but has forced his way back in to the starting XI under Unai Emery and has put in some fine displays. The Bosnian has missed the past two games due to a thigh problem and the Gunners have lost both, conceding five goals. The good news for fans is that Kolasinac has been training since Wednesday and has decent chance of being fit for Burnley. If we get this confirmed via Sir Ben of Dinnery then he's the top defensive pick of Gameweek 18.
Ryan Fraser (MF - Bournemouth v Brighton) - I've owned Ryan Fraser since Gameweek 2 in Official FPL. I considered selling the winger prior to Gameweek 5, but I didn't. He scored twice, laid on an assist and returned maximum bonus points. I considered selling him prior to Gameweek 10, but I didn't. He assisted twice and returned maximum bonus points. The same thought crossed my mind this week as I planned out my wildcard, but I've decided to stick with Fraser long-term. A home clash with Brighton should offer plenty of attacking opportunities and he'll be reunited with the returning Callum Wilson, a partnership which has been the key to Bournemouth's best performances this season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (FW - Arsenal v Burnley) - The best finisher in the Premier League? Probably. Personally I feel Aubameyang still needs to improve his all-round performances as he can go missing for long periods in games when his team need him to lead the line, but that won't be an issue this weekend at home to Burnley. Arsenal will dominate possession, dominate chances and I'd expect the striker to convert at least a couple to extend his lead at the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts.
Captain Choice: Raheem Sterling (MF - Manchester City v Crystal Palace)- The horrific penalty miss in mid-week was quite possible the first mistake Raheem Sterling has made this season. Manchester City's most consistent attacker has notched a phenomenal nine goals and six assists in 14 Premier League appearances already and should be well rested for the clash with Palace after starting the club's last two games on the bench. This combination of form stats and facts is enough to grant Sterling the column’s captain armband for Gameweek 18.
That's it for Gameweek 18. Check out the Rotoworld Features page to access a host of fantastic content to get you ready for the new season. 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 fantastic Christmas!