The Premier League is back, the Weekend Recap is back, Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defoe – all back. It was a weekend of nostalgia capped with the slowest #DeadlineDay in recent memory, non-Ranger’s loan division, as Gouffran, Ameobi and Cabella netted for Newcastle, Lukaku scored a tap-in at Palace, van Persie and Falcao did the business at Old Trafford and Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane once more put the Spurs to an opponent, this time hitting early instead of leaving it late.
Perhaps no pairing of fantasy premier league performers invoked a sense of yesteryear as the dynamic duo of Jonathan Walters and Stephen Ireland. The Potters pair led their side over an outclassed QPR, with Walters hitting a hat-trick and Ireland securing a brace of helpers. Walters is a fantasy goldmine: inexpensive, under-owned, and playing out of position as a forward while classed as a midfielder (in Official FPL – in Draft FPL leagues like Togga he is a forward). The Potters face a decent run of fixtures in the coming weeks: Newcastle (a), Man City (H), Villa (a), Hull (H), Everton (H) and Albion (a).
Walters, the long-time spot-kick No. 1, will continue to lead the line as Bojan deals with a ruptured ACL and Peter Crouch’s role diminishes as the big man grows ever older. The Moreton-born Walters is 31-years-old himself and this may be a last season in the sun. But that shouldn’t dissuade FPL managers – the time to buy is now.
While Walters is an easy acquisition as an under-priced midfielder, two market-rate players returned from injury and are pressing their own case. Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge hit his second goal of the campaign shortly after his introduction on 67′. As the tip of the spear, Sturridge will benefit from the pristine collection of youth assembled at Anfield as Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Lazar Markovic, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson continue to grow together.
There is every reason to believe Brendan Rodgers side can make a run in the second half and Sturridge scored in some eight or nine on the spin a season ago. He’s priced amongst the very best but possesses the ability to perform at that level. One of the few posh differentials available and one who could easily lead your side up the table.
The other market-rate player is, of course, Arsenal’s own Theo Walcott. The 25-year-old is reportedly set to sign a new five-year deal to stay at The Emirates. In his career, Walcott has shown signs of pure class and compiled a pair of seasons among the best in recent FPL seasons. Priced £8.9m (down a scant £0.1m despite playing 146′ this season), Walcott is also classed a midfielder. His ownership stands below 1% at the time of writing and is unlikely to rise much. With many stronger options in the discount aisle and a handful of the very best FPL players occupying his position, Walcott is a viable differential play. He showed a touch of class to finish his only shot on target, but was not heavily involved. He created no chances, had a single cross and successful TakeOn. But the 70′ on the pitch are all FPL manager should concentrate on now – the chances will be there for Walcott in the coming weeks.
Arsenal have one of the easiest run of fixtures in the coming month. Following their visit to White Hart Lane in GW24, the Gunners will welcome Leicester and then run Crystal Palace (a), Everton (H), QPR (a) and West Ham (H). With Giroud, Ramsey, Walcott, Santi and Ozil all healthy, Arsene Wenger can handle the continued absence of Danny Welbeck, the Ox, Wilshere and Mikel Arteta. The wildcard is the health of Chilean talisman Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez has been the best player in fantasy EPL by a narrow margin over Eden Hazard, but that duo form a two-man tier well ahead of the chasing pack. A healthy Sanchez would create some positional issues for Wenger but likely not create much rotation. Sanchez and Walcott can flank Olivier Giroud with Ramsey, Ozil and Cazorla in the midfield. This creates a minor tactical shift without Arteta, Flamini or Coquelin. However, Ramsey can occupy that role, leaving five sublime attacking players to keep possession and maintain constant pressure in the opponents half.
None of the sides that Arsenal will face from 10 February until 4 April possess the quality to challenge the attacking force Arsenal posses. The 4 April match-up marks the visit from Liverpool and may well determine which side finishes in the top 4. Liverpool boast a fine defensive record in recent weeks and have one defender worth owning in all FPL formats. Alberto Moreno is part of the U-25 cadre at Melwood and is playing out of position as a midfielder. Priced £5.1m, Moreno is 4.4% owned at writing and earned the full 90′ in three of the last five, never playing less than 70′ in that span. He has benefited from Liverpool’s defensive fortitude by earning clean sheet points in three on the spin. He has recorded no less than 6pts in four of the past five, having hit a goal in the 4-1 thrashing of Swansea on 29 December.
Moreno makes for a good addition for the 28.6% of managers who will be without Ryan Bertrand for the next three weeks. It was a moment of madness from the defender as he left the referee no choice but to hand him his matching orders. An unfortunate loss of composure from the former Chelsea man who marked Deadline Day by completing a permanent move to St. Mary’s. Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne are the second-best defensive duo in fantasy premier league – behind Chelsea’s Ivanovic and Terry – but that is down to skill as much as system and Bertrand’s replacement should not be expected to match his performance.