Welcome to Deadline Day kids.
And no, for you citizens of the United States, I am not referring to deadline for Obamacare health coverage, I am talking about the closing of the winter transfer window. At 11pm tonight, Greenwich Mean Time, the shop closes for those looking to wheel and deal to improve their clubs. That means we only have a few more precious hours to listen to the never-ending rumor of Saido Berahino moving to a new club.
Speaking of health coverage, I got caught performing one of the more obvious no-no's for fantasy Premier League managers - I made an early transfer in my FPL team in a week where there were not one, but two cup competitions to be played before the next league round was to begin. Sometimes, an early transfer is simply necessary. You may have only enough cash to make the move you want, and waiting can price you out. That was not the case for me this week, especially considering the player I brought in, Matt Targett, is not exactly an essential pickup. So, inevitably, a couple days later, with a week still to go before Week 24 was to kick off, I was one of many owners who lost the services of Kevin de Bruyne for an extended period of time after he suffered major knee damage in the Capital One Cup.
At first, I thought "Well, your other seven attacking options are quality enough to where you can afford to just bench de Bruyne this week, take the monetary loss of his falling price on the chin, and look to make an informed decision on who to replace him with after studying the results of Week 24. Then, Alexis Sanchez had to go and look like the fantasy stud we know him to be with a goal and an assist in Arsenal's FA Cup win over Burnley. I was considering Sanchez for next week, but when a player of his quality makes headlines, managers go ballistic and begin to transfer said player in rapidly. I could not afford to wait for the deadline this week to pass, lest I be priced out by .1m to make the swap. So yes, I took a four point hit. The silver lining is, considering the players entering and leaving my squad, it would have taken a point hit either this week or next to achieve the same roster. To borrow a phrase from the sophisticated older gentleman in those Dos Equis commercials, "I do not often take point hits, but when I do, I prefer it to be for a player like Alexis Sanchez."
Getting back to deadline day, and transfers deals this month in general, if you play in a draft league, this is the time to be ultra-attentive to your game's player pool. I have been like a coiled snake ready to snatch some of these players, and I am hoping the ones I have picked up thus far help guide my team to glory. In the two draft leagues I play in, I plucked Benik Afobe straight off the Free Agent list and that move seems to have already paid off. In one of those leagues, I was able to pick up Charlie Austin as well. In the other league, which is much deeper, I have rolled the dice on two players that have much to prove but, in my estimation, will be immediate starters, which is vital in this particular league. Those players are Alberto Paloschi, the new Swansea striker, and Wahbi Khazri, the new attacking midfielder for Sunderland. I had the opportunity to take Alexandre Pato if I wanted to, but again, in draft leagues where you have a limited roster and players are only owned by one manager, you really need to collect players that are guaranteed to start regularly, and my feeling is that Pato, while a quality player, does not fit that criteria. Just ask the fellow manager in my league who has owned Wilfried Bony all season how he enjoys the impact his selection has given him. If you have not given draft leagues a shot, I urge you to try it next season. There is an entirely different element to the strategy and can provide an additional method of getting your fantasy fix.
Right, let's get to this week's fixtures now, shall we...
Week 24 Fixtures
Arsenal v Southampton
Leicester City v Liverpool
Norwich City v Tottenham
Sunderland v Manchester City
West Ham United v Aston Villa
Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth
Manchester United v Stoke City
West Bromwich Albion v Swansea City
Everton v Newcastle United
Watford v Chelsea
Let's face it, this week is not so much about matchups between clubs, but more about individual players who are new to their teams and the potential impact they may have. Will Charlie Austin get the start for the Saints after scoring in his debut last round as a substitute? Could Loic Remy partner Jamie Vardy up top straight away if Leicester are able to pull off a deal? How will Newcastle line up with the many acquisitions they have made (and are still making) when they face Everton? I could pose questions like this for virtually every club, so you get the idea. It will all go off in a flash too, as eight of the ten matches this week will be kicking off no more than 15 minutes apart from each other. Twitter had better be ready for a spike in their numbers come Tuesday night. With all the new players creating an influence, whether positively or negatively, this is surely one of the harder gameweeks of the season to predict, so my rankings this week will be filled with "trusty" names in "stable" situations more than usual.
What follows are my top picks at each position. It doesn't matter what format you play, these rankings will help you figure out how players at each position compare with one another, and can help you on transfer decisions in the FPL.com game, who to start or bench in draft leagues, and who is worth putting up the cash for in salary-based leagues. You will also see how I have begun to highlight prospects that are especially valuable in formats like Playtogga, Fantrax and DFS, so that they are given the credit they deserve. At the end of the day though, nothing gets the points flowing more than goals, assists and clean sheets. So without further ado, let's get cracking...
David de Gea - Goals are hard to come by this season at Old Trafford for either side. Stoke can show flashes of attacking brilliance, but I still think DdG is the best option at the position this week.
Adrian - Yes, it is time once again to pick on Aston Villa. West Ham are at home against the bottom side, and the visitors have some injury issues at the striker position to contend with.
Petr Cech - Take away the 3-3 draw with Liverpool and Arsenal have conceded just one goal in the other four of their past five games.
Hugo Lloris - Time to see what the loss of Jan Vertonghen will have on the Spurs defense, but according to Mauricio Pochettino, "Kevin Wimmer is just like Jan, only younger." Still a good clean sheet chance for Lloris.
Joe Hart - It will come down to whether the Sky Blues can contain Sunderland's best attacking threat - defender Patrick van Aanholt.
Artur Boruc - On paper, Boruc should be the #1 option this week. He is tops in the FPL form guide and playing a Palace side that has not scored in six straight games, minus the own goal they were given by Tottenham.
Kasper Schmeichel - Leicester are top of the table mainly for their attacking might, but it has been the defense since the festive period that has been the story. Liverpool will either blank or score three. I feel more strong about the blank result.
Aaron Cresswell - This is the perfect fixture for returns from both ends for Cresswell, at home to the Villans. A clean sheet, an assist and some bonus points seem very possible.
Patrick van Aanholt - Surely, PvA cannot keep up the form he has been in, but until he fades off, he has to be considered a real threat in any fixture.
Seamus Coleman - Last gameweek, I preferred Leighton Baines as the Everton fullback of choice. This time, I switch to Coleman. Yes it was against a lower division side, but he was attacking like crazy against Carlisle and opponents Newcastle aren't exactly a dominant defense on the road.
Branislav Ivanovic - I think it is more likely than not that Watford can get one past the Chelsea defense, but I still believe Ivanovic carries a true attacking threat in any fixture.
Craig Dawson - West Brom are always a good bet for a home clean sheet, and that notion should not change when they host a Swansea side still looking to offer a consistent attacking threat.
Hector Bellerin - It will be too much to ask for a clean sheet and attacking points in the match against the Saints, but my gut tells me Bellerin will get one or the other here.
Toby Alderweireld - FPL's top scoring defender is due for another haul at both ends. He should get something positive out of the match against the Canaries.
Ryan Bertrand - Playing farther up the left flank and delivering threatening crosses with regularity, Bertrand deserves consideration despite the tough fixture.
Chris Smalling - Expecting a clean sheet but nothing more, though Smalling can certainly pick up bonus if there's another 0-0 at Old Trafford.
Laurent Koscielny - A superb defender in reality and fantasy, Koscielny seemingly always finds a way to reward fantasy managers.
Leighton Baines - I am not ready to give up on Baines as a fantasy option yet. He should get something from this fixture, and having Phil Jagielka in the mix only helps their defending.
Christian Fuchs - The Zen master of the art of the throw-in, Fuchs has been solid as a fantasy option ever since the Foxes defense began to tighten up.
David Silva - Silva keeps looking sharper with each passing week, has a cupcake matchup against a poor Sunderland defense, and is the clear creator behind Sergio Aguero with the loss of de Bruyne.
Dimitri Payet - It has been two quiet games in a row for Payet, but there is a reason why he is still being transferred in with regularity by fantasy managers. He is a constant threat. If he cannot produce at home to Villa, it may be time to worry, but I still have confidence he will.
Alexis Sanchez - I am going to guess that he only gets 75 minutes against the Saints, but that is fine by me. Sanchez is a beast when he is right, and by the looks of his contribution in the FA Cup this past weekend, the Chilean is right.
Mesut Ozil - There is no denying it, Ozil is in a slump right now. With a healthy Sanchez giving him one more great option to link up with, now is the week for him to turn it on. If he doesn't, owners may rightfully begin to give up on him.
Ross Barkley - Barkley scored a screamer in Everton's FA Cup match and he is the best Toffee midfielder to own in a plus matchup, at home to the Magpies.
Christian Eriksen - Eriksens is really heating up now with 22 points over the last two gameweeks. Surely, he can find a way to reward managers when Spurs travel to Carrow Road.
Roberto Firmino - Two goals, an assist and three bonus points made Firmino the MVP of Week 23. Playing out of position up top only enhances his appeal. I need to see more consistency though before I can rank him in the upper echelon at the position.
Yaya Toure - Toure will be a nightmare for the Black Cats provided that his head is in the game. He, like Silva, should have more opportunity to be on the score sheet with KdB out.
Eden Hazard - Call me sentimental, but I have to give Hazard a crack in his first game coming off his first goal (finally) of the season yesterday in the FA Cup. I am sure that if he is ever going to catch fire, it will be after getting that monkey off of his back.
Dele Alli - Pochettino may tinker with the players' positions as he may attempt to insert Nacer Chadli, who is in top form, into the XI. No matter, Alli has shown to be class anywhere you put him. Start your bargain midfielder against Norwich.
Riyad Mahrez - An assist last week for Mahrez may be the beginning of finding his form again after hitting rock bottom with a penalty miss the previous week. We just need one more dynamic performance from him to get him higher up the ranks.
Andre Ayew - We will see if the new striker Alberto Paloschi gets a start right out of the gate. Even if he does and Ayew is not playing in an advanced role, he is still the type of player capable of scoring at any time, even in a tough match at The Hawthorns.
Michail Antonio - Antonio reminded us last week that he is not a one-month wonder. He provided an assist against Man City and should be able to at least match that output against Aston Villa.
Georginio Wijnaldum - Pretty much every great game from Wijnaldum has come at St James' Park. I still squeeze him in for a road match in this week's rank because Everton have been vulnerable on their own ground.
Sergio Aguero - He's a stud. He's in proper form. He's playing Sunderland. You give him the armband. End of.
Romelu Lukaku - The Belgian has been quiet in recent weeks but the Toffee attack has been scoring without his help anyway. I think you give him the benefit of the doubt and start him with confidence against the Magpies.
Harry Kane - It is looking more and more like Spurs will not be adding another striker to their squad. Kane is the man and looks a strong bet for at least one goal at Carrow Road.
Olivier Giroud - The form seems to come and go for Giroud, but he is still a solid option at the Emirates with his job looking secure as the lead striker.
Diego Costa - Costa is back to full fitness and should put the Watford defense to the test on Wednesday. Chalk him up for a goal in my opinion.
Benik Afobe - Afobe has been a scoring machine at every level of professional football, and he is now doing it at the top level with his debut goal last gameweek. Trust in him to add to his account against a struggling Eagles side.
Odion Ighalo - I am only ranking Ighalo this low because I will give some credit to Chelsea for tightening up in defense. Still, Ighalo has the skill to score on anyone, and a goal against the Blues would be of no surprise.
Jamie Vardy - After five league games without a goal following his record-breaking scoring streak, Vardy finally found the net again last week. Is it the beginning of another run? If it is, the Foxes are seriously contending for a title.
Wayne Rooney - Rooney has been in very respectable form lately, being the Red Devils best attacking threat like in days gone by. Still, I have to be a little cautious with his ranking as Stoke can be a pesky side to break down and, as mentioned before, goals at Old Trafford are a rare treat.
Enner Valencia - Two braces in the last three weeks, Valencia certainly deserves a spot in the ranks against last place Villa, even though he is not nearly as consistent as the options above him.
Troy Deeney - Oh, just go ahead and assist Ighalo's goal already. It's what you do, Troy. So do it.
So there you have it. The best of the best to consider for Week 24. Keep with us throughout deadline day and leading into your fantasy gameweek deadlines with all the latest transfer and injury news here at Rotoworld.
Good luck fellow managers, may your arrows be green.