In this latest Discovering Differentials piece, I’m going to defer from normality and offer up my picks for the Christmas and new-year period.
Rather than weekly choices which could be highly affected by rotation over the festive season, I’ll be discussing a few headline picks and revealing my lineup for GW20 and GW21.
Rotation woes were on my mind last weekend when my much-fancied Spurs triple failed to bring home the bacon. Apart from Christian Eriksen, who scored a late goal to save Spurs – and my – blushes, it was slim pickings for managers heavily backing the London side.
But looking back at my week, there were plenty of positives. Robert Snodgrass continued his fine form with a goal and bonus points, while Lukasz Fabianski chalked up a clean sheet. With a fine fixture run continuing, I would not be surprised to see Hammers players handsomely rewarding fantasy managers.
How the XI performed
Key: G = goal, A = assist, CS = clean sheet, MOTM = man of the match, T1T/T2T = tier-one/two tackles, T2P = tier-one/two passing, TI/2S = tier-one/two shots, TI/2SA = tier-one/two saves (c) = captain YC = yellow card
Lukasz Fabianski – 9 – CS
Hector Bellerin – 1
Jan Vertonghen – 0
Matt Doherty – 7 – CS
David Luiz – 5 – T2P
Christian Eriksen – 7 – G
Robert Snodgrass – 10 – G, T1T
Lucas Torreira (c) – 8 – T1T
Abdoulaye Doucoure – 8 – A, T1P
Roberto Firmino – 4 – T1S
Son Heung-Min (c) – 2
Ole the saviour?
News of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s appointment as interim manager of Manchester United had this sucker of a fan pouring through Youtube for footage of that memorable night in ’99.
With absolutely nothing to savour in terms of fantasy potential this season, United players have been firmly off my radar in both my actual and differential teams.
Yet Solksjaer’s appointment gave me hope of a brighter future – and certainly one more fruitful than recent Mourinho months.
I vowed to sleep on a decision to name United players in this article, to make certain that it wasn’t just nostalgia influencing me.
Yet despite it being a gamble, and based mostly on gut instinct over statistical evidence, I am sticking to my guns to seek United differentials for the games against Cardiff and Bournemouth.
We’re yet to see the Norwegian’s tactics, or preferred XI, but I am fairly confident the teamsheet will include Marcus Rashford (£10.4m/3.1%) and Paul Pogba (£10.6m/7.12%).
Statistics are arguably less important, given the change in manager. Take Fulham’s switch to Claudio Ranieri, for example. In his first match, the number of passes players like Jean Michael Seri registered were nowhere near the levels which saw him achieve bonus points under his old gaffer.
It’s a high-risk option. Many will prefer to wait. But in the absence of being able to pick the likes of Salah, Kane and co., a punt on them seems as good a differential as any. A good week against Cardiff will surely see United ownerships rise sharply.
Romelu Lukaku had made my initial team but it is reported he could miss two games because of compassionate leave.
Saints no longer a pushover?
The appointment of Ralph Hasenhuttl at Southampton bemused many of the fantasy footballers in my office as much as the pronunciation.
As a Football Manager addict, who took the reins from the German at RB Leipzig not so long ago, I suspected he might well prove to be an excellent choice.
Early indications seems to be that Hasenhuttl has the potential to live up to his Football Manager credentials!
Saints GW20 is far better than their GW21. A trip to Huddersfield and a home tie against West Ham is far more attractive than matches against Manchester City and Chelsea.
The West Ham match is the only game on December 27, and I’m plumping for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£7.1m/2.1%) given Danny Ings is out of the equation due to him being the most popular Southampton choice.
Saints saw just 33% possession against Arsenal, yet the midfielder wasn’t too far off a passing bonus, attempting 48 and completing 40. With form for bonus points so far this season, he offers an outside return for points across the gameweeks.
Deulofeu pips Doucoure?
Gerard Deulofeu was among the names on my shortlist at the start of the season, so impressed was I by his flashes of brilliance last season.
Injury sadly dashed my hopes of an early season bargain – but against Cardiff the ex-Barcelona ace showed his quality, with a goal, assist and MOTM. Sporadic returns elsewhere show inconsistency is a major hurdle for him to overcome. But with four games to impress, I’m backing Deulofeu over Doucoure to come out on top by the time 2019 comes around.
Differential XI (Under 10% ownership at the time of writing, not team’s most popular player)
Lukasz Fabianski (£6.5m/2.1%)
David Luiz (£8.8m/6.13%)
Antonio Rudiger (£9.5m/3.9%)
Matt Doherty (£6.5m/9.3%) (C: Dec 21/29)
Jose Holebas (£7.2m/4.07%)
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£7.1m/2.1%)
Paul Pogba (£10.6m/7.12%) (C: Dec 22/26/30/2)
Robert Snodgrass (£7.1m/1%) (C: Dec 27)
Lucas Torreira (£8.4m/2.6%) (C: Jan 1)
Gerard Deulofeu (£7.7m/3.5%)
Marcus Rashford (£10.4m/3.1%)
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