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Fantasy Football Preview: Gameweek 24

Written by Mr. Niall Hawthorne

Now that AFCON, the winter break and the FA Cup are out of the way, we can concentrate on six glorious uninterrupted weeks of pure FPL mayhem, as Double Gameweeks approach, Blank Gameweeks loom large, and there’ll be more chips in circulation than Microsoft could handle.

Onto GW24!

GW24 Defender: Joao Cancelo, Manchester City

It feels like quite a while ago, because it was, but City’s bubble was slightly deflated in GW23 as they were held to a draw at Southampton, following a run of 963 consecutive wins spanning nine decades. 

This has left the door ever so slightly ajar for Liverpool, but City will be determined to slam it shut as soon as possible, starting this week at home to Brentford. This should be a routine home win with a clean sheet, so Cancelo is the obvious pick. He’s just penned a new contract and has only missed one start this season. With 12 clean sheets, 8 assists and a goal, the odds are he increases at least one of those stats this midweek. 

GW24 Midfielder: Jarrod Bowen, West Ham United

An astonishing 18 attacking returns in 23 league games for the Hammers, and he’s also doing it in the cups, scoring the 121stminute to shatter the hopes, dreams and future of non-league Kidderminster Harriers, the big bully. 

This week he has a home game against hapless Watford with Harry the Hornet alongside Hodgson hoping against hope for help in their relegation battle. 

While West Ham have wobbled in the league recently, they battered Watford in the corresponding fixture a few weeks ago, and Bowen racked up three assists and 14 points in that game. 

I’m expecting more returns for him this week. 

GW24 Forward: Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa

Ah yes, the forward pick. It’s like looking for the shiniest turd, the most-educated Brexiteer, the most logical anti-vaxxer. It’s basically impossible. 

However Leeds United have conceded a whopping 20 goals in their last 7 league games, and Ollie Watkins is due to break this worst barren spell of the season, so I’m going for him. 

GW24 Captain: Mo Salah, Liverpool

He’s back. 

They made him cry. 

They’ll pay. 

Oh, and Leicester City are imploding in typical Brodgers style as his time runs out at yet another club, so even if Salah only gets 20 minutes, he’ll plunder points. Nailed. On. 

GW24 Outsider: Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace

Following his AFCON excursion, Zaha returns for Palace away to Norwich City. In his next five games, he faces Norwich, Watford, Burnley and Brentford.

Less than 5% ownership and that fixture list? It’s a recipe for something, that’s for sure.

Your move…

Gameweek 21 Preview: Bonus Double Gameweek

Written by @ Niall Hawthorne

This is supposed to be a game of skill.

A game where you see who is going to play, you see who is not going to play, you select the best players you feel will deliver the most points. That’s the skill element. Of course,there is also luck, both good and bad, like any game. 

However, as we head into 2022, the skill element has been removed as we have no idea who will play or won’t play. I’m not even talking about individual players here; I’m talking about whole fixtures. As I type, two matches have already been called off for this weekend, but Chelsea v Liverpool looks dodgy, not to mention a couple of others.

So, my ability to show off my SKILLZ is removed, much to my frustration. I know that many of you (because I see your Twitter feeds) are feeling a similar sense of frustration with both the situation and the FPL organisation. 

To you all, I tell you this. 

It’s just a game. Never forget that. 

Onto GW21!

GW21 Defender: Dunno, don’t know who’s playing – Let’s guess at Harry Maguire, Manchester United

Stop giggling! 

I’m being serious! 

Aside from De Gea, he seems to be the only nailed on starter in the United backline these days. That’s important because United are allegedly supposed to play Wolves on Monday evening, and Wolves have scored one goal in their last six games. 

Really! One goal in 540 minutes of football, and that was against Brentford. They’ve blanked against City, Liverpool and Chelsea (understandably, I suppose) but also against Norwich and Burnley, which is not good. 

So, a United clean sheet looks probably in a game that looks possible. 

GW21 Midfielder: Dunno, don’t know who’s playing – Let’s guess at Heung Min Son, Spurs

He’s on a streak of five returns in a row, including four goals and two assists, and faces a Watford side that are conceding goals at a rate of three per game over the same five game period. 

Son is a decent captaincy pick, so if my captaincy pick picks up Covid, pick Son as your pick for captain pick and hope he can’t pick up covid too. 

GW21 Forward: Dunno, don’t know who’s playing – Let’s guess at Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa

Brentford host Villa, apparently, this weekend. 

Alvaro Fernandez took over in the Brentford goal in GW10, and in the nine games since he has one clean sheet and has conceded 16 goals – that’s not great. 

Since GW10, Ollie Watkins has played all nine games, scored four goals, provided one assist and has picked up nine bonus points. 

Make of those stats what you will. 

GW21 Captain: Dunno, don’t know who’s playing – Let’s guess at Mo Salah, Liverpool

If this game goes ahead, there’s a reason why you should get away from the ‘Chelsea are great in defence’ narrative, because they haven’t been…

In their last 10 league games, they have two clean sheets. 

In away league games this season, Salah has scores of 17 (Norwich), 13 (Watford), 24 (United, LOLZ) and 15 (Everton, LOLZ x 100). 

This is his last game in the Premier League for a month, if it goes ahead, so ignore him at your peril. 

Oh, and Ronaldo at home to Wolves? Have you seen the form of the Wolves defence? If not, you should….

GW21 Outsider: Dunno, don’t know who’s playing – Let’s guess at Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City

1.This is the first game of the weekend, so less chance statistically that it gets pulled (possibly)

2. KDB has picked up 34 of his 65 points this season in his last four games

3. He’s owned by under 5% of all players

4. He’s playing Arsenal, without lego-head on the touchline for Pep to patronisingly pat

KDB

Your move…

Fantasy Football Gameweek 18: Will it? Wont it? Who Knows?

Written by Niall Hawthorne

On the small off-chance that any football actually happens this weekend, I’m going to give you some tips. This hasn’t taken long, there are only five matches still due to take place, and I know many won’t have a full XI to rely on, but sure let’s give it a lash.

Oh, and in true Sesame Street style, this week’s column is brough to you by the word ‘If’. 

Onto GW18! 

GW18 Defender: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool

I could easily say it’s only because of THAT goal.

But that would be to overlook SIX double-digit hauls in 15 starts, the NINE attacking returns and the NINE clean sheets. 

If the game goes ahead, and if he doesn’t have the ‘rona and if Harry Kane continues being Harry Kane, then this is an easy pick. 

GW18 Midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City

If this game goes ahead, and if KDB doesn’t have the ‘ronaand if he really is back to his best form, then an away game to Newcastle United is almost as delicious as your Christmas dinner. 

Get stuck in! 

GW18 Forward: Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa

Picked him last week and a goal, an assist and 12 points later I’m going to pick him again this weekend. 

It’s only Burnley, like. 

GW18 Captain: Mo Salah, Liverpool

Can you remember the last time Mo Salah didn’t score or assist in a Premier League game? 

I do. 

It was Saturday, August 21st in the dreaded early Saturday slot. After his annual opening day haul, the goals and assists dried up. 203,000 players decided that he was a flash in the pan and transferred him out ahead of GW3. 

LAAAARRRFFFFF. 

14 goals, 8 assists and 17 bonus points in the next 15 games have made those people look very, very silly indeed. He’s on for 375 points in the season at this pace, and a reminder that he holds the record with 303 points in a season. 

This run he’s on is historic. It’s Vardy Party levels of historic, and he could beat it this weekend if the game happens and if he’s not got the ‘rona. 

GW18 Outsider: Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal

So ostensibly a striker, categorised as a midfielder, taking the place of an ostracised captain, costing £5.2m, owned by less than 1% and has two goals and three assists in the last five games? 

Your move…

Fantasy Football Preview – Gameweek 11

Written by @niallhawthorne

This week we’ve seen the majority of world leaders descend on Glasgow to have a chat about, well, saving the planet.

David Attenborough scolded them all like children, and in fairness, he’s allowed. 

Boris and Biden decided to have a snooze while climate experts were trying to inform them of just how far up shit creek we are without a paddle (Answer: Pretty far up, and it wasn’t a sh*t creek before the Tories allowed their mates to pump raw sewage into it)

Greta Thunberg stood outside and called them all bad names. 

COP26? Should be COPONTOYOURSELVES26. 

Onto GW11! 

Defender: James Chilwell / Ben Reece, Chelsea

I’ll be honest, you should have either/or/both in your team this weekend as Chelsea host Burnley at Stamford Bridge. 

Seven clean sheets for Chelsea and only three goals conceded all season. Both were rested in midweek so should be certain to start. 

How to choose between them? Well James is owned by a few % less and is slightly cheaper. So, him, probably. 

Midfielder: Emile Smith-Rowe, Arsenal

Regular readers will recall that I tipped ESR as an outsider tip a few weeks ago, stating that he was in the last-chance saloon in my squad. He then blanked, but I spared him and kept him. 

Of course, I benched him for the next week when he hauled, put him in for two more weeks, when he blanked, benched him again when he hauled, and I have finally decided to start him every week. 

ESR is now showing consistency and this week Arsenal welcome Watford, who conversely are showing incredible inconsistency so far under Ranieri. Concede five, then score five, then lose 1-0 at home. Who knows what will show up at The Emirates? 

I’m backing Smith-Rowe to continue his current form which has seen him score three and assist two in his last five starts.  

Forward: Jamie Vardy, Leicester City

After a shocking run of form that has seen Vardy pick up just two points in GW’s 9 & 10, Leicester City now travel to play struggling Leeds United, who just about squeaked past Norwich City. 

For those worried about a potential European hangover after the Foxes play in the Europa League this week, know this: In three FPL fixtures following a Europa League game, Vardy has scored 8 points, 8 points and…err…1 point, but he was injured at half-time in that one. 

Leeds have one clean sheet all season, and even conceded to Norwich. I rest my case. 

Captain: Mo Salah, Liverpool

Yeah, he’s just ridiculous, isn’t he?

Ten games. Six double-digit hauls. Ten goals. Seven assists. Sixteen bonus points. Outrageous. 

Granted, he’s off the back of a DISASTER last weekend with just an assist, but we must keep the faith. 

It’s away to West Ham this week. He’s had fun at the London Stadium in recent seasons. In four away games at West Ham for Liverpool, Salah has five goals and an assist. In eight games in total against West Ham for Liverpool, Salah has nine goals and two assists.

In summary: Salah always hammers the Hammers. 

Outsider: Leandro Trossard, Brighton & Hove Albion

How about an out of position midfielder playing up front in an improving, attractive, attacking side, owned by less than 2% and costing just £6.4m. 

Oh, and he has two goals, an assist and five BPS this season. 

Ladies and Gents, I present to you Leandro Trossard. 

Your move…

5 Tips To Avoid FPL Burnout

5 Tips To Avoid FPL Burnout

Written by Ash @FPLHints

Burnout isn’t something you usually associate with a game of fantasy. If anything, the former and the latter are a contradiction of terms. But even in the world of fantasy football you can have supposed ‘bad days’ for numerous reasons and even quit forever.

In my experience you are more prone to burnout if you are addicted to something or if you no longer find it fun. I should know as I have suffered from it at times to the point where I have said that I would ‘semi-retire’ from FPL (whatever the heck that means) or thought of packing it in altogether.  Of course, one day I will quit FPL but I would want to do so on a high or at the end of an organic journey, not because I was fed up or hated the game.

I have been playing FPL since 2007 and have been a fully-fledged FPL addict since 2010. By addict I mean taking the game more seriously in comparison to a so-called casual manager. You would naturally think I would get better and better with this approach, right? 

Wrong

My overall rank actually got progressively worse the more I wrote about FPL and funnily enough when I finally took a break from creating FPL content I had my best every finish (Top 5K) in 9 years. Coincidence? Probably not if I’m being honest.

Naturally there is a correlation between a decline in my fortunes, being unlucky and not enjoying the game as much as I used to.  I certainly don’t find FPL as fun as I used to. For instance Giroud’s red card, when I happened to captain him on Boxing Day 2014, was a watershed moment and in many ways took a fair bit of time to recover from.  It was the point from which I stopped playing FPL with a risk-inclined mind-set to adopting a heavily risk-averse approach.

(ED. Funny as **** from a neutral, non-Giroud owning perspective though)

Aside from my own experiences, there are plenty of FPL accounts and websites that used to be popular which no longer exist, no doubt in small part due to burnout.

However, with everything in life, we need context. Less than 3 million managers played FPL when I finished 110th in the world, yet since then millions more play the game and every season it becomes even more difficult to finish in the coveted Top 10k. Probability would dictate that experienced managers’ overall ranks will go down due to the increase in managers. I think it’s a bonus in itself if my overall rank improves substantially from the previous season in which less managers played the game. I’m not ashamed to say that overall rank matters a lot to me in FPL. With that said, there’s no way I’m going to finish 110th ever again in FPL.

That’s enough of me banging on about my team.  I wanted to share my experiences as I do at times suffer from FPL burnout. With this in mind, here are my 5 tips to allay burnout in the weird and unpredictable world of FPL:

 1. Be sure to set realistic goals

You’re not going to hit every one of your FPL goals for a given season. And in this day and age you may not even come close to winning any of your mini-leagues. You need to be practical in what you’re looking to achieve. This is all the more true if you regard yourself as a non-casual FPL manager. 

None of us are experts in the true sense of the word and we’re all prone to suffering from a below par season or bad run of form here and there. An achievable aim could be winning a small mini-league or aiming to finish in the top 1% of the overall rankings.  I’m glad I have been able to achieve the latter on multiple occasions and to be frank this is one of my motivations at the start of each season.

2. Try alternative games to FPL

Without overloading myself, I’ve had the good fortune of playing multiple fantasy football and predictor games on the side when also playing FPL.  Those games tend to be smaller and different to FPL.  There have been weeks in which I haven’t done well in FPL, but done well in the alternative games. They serve their duty as a good release from the intensity of FPL A good example of this is Perfect Picks.

It’s played by hundreds of people rather than millions. It’s a multi-sport prediction game with an easy to navigate interface. I’ve found it simple to play and managed to become their World Number One at the end of last season which only served to boost my ego and to some extent complemented my anticipation skills.

3. KISS

Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.

You may be prone to burnout if you plan heavily in advance but then fail to achieve your goals with the desired amount of fantasy points or overall rank. You also don’t need to overcomplicate things by signing up to dozens of random subscription services or get lost inside a monochrome sea of spreadsheets. Is it really worth consuming too much content? Of course not.  Have some sort of strategy but be prepared for unexpected events in FPL. Plan within reason and be aware of potential pitfalls.

Be flexible in your approach and consume knowledge from trustworthy sources but never overload yourself with heaps of content. Also, avoid getting lost in groupthink. You are in charge of your FPL team.  Ultimately do what you deem is best and not what an FPL Twitter account is ranting on about as their opinion isn’t a single source of truth.

4. Take a break if you need to

I became addicted to FPL as I found it fun. It should be a window into the world of fantasy and escapism – away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  If you’re not finding it fun take a break immediately. If you’re really fed up of FPL and are only playing it as your online and offline mates are playing it, STOP.

There’s no harm in saying no. I took a sabbatical for two seasons (albeit to dedicate more time to other pursuits) and would gladly take another sabbatical. In fact, I found my more recent break from content creation to be very beneficial and it freed up time for me to concentrate on far more important things. If you can’t recharge your FPL batteries during the off-season take more time out and do what is best.

5. Focus on your mental and physical health

In some ways this may link to the previous point but without you necessarily putting a halt to playing FPL. Don’t let those pesky red arrows get you down. They don’t mean much at all in the wider context of things. You may see countless FPL managers sharing ridiculously high scores on your social media timelines and it may make it appear to you that you did terrible in comparison. But don’t let that echo chamber fool you. Hardly anyone is going to share their fantasy football failures so the better scores will always be more inflated in comparison and more so when you actually see the actual average for the week. 

Use your time wisely. If your health permits, consider exercising rather than sitting aimlessly waiting for the game to update or watching a pointless football match on TV. You can achieve so much more with your fitness if you invest time properly than worrying about a make-believe game that you can’t control. 

Finally, remember that for every bad Gameweek there’s a good Gameweek. For every Giroud red card, there’s Aguero scoring 5 goals. Dealing with reality should trump fantasy, always. You catch my drift? Of course, you do. Now go on and be the change you wish to see!

Ash, is the Chief Editor of FPLHINTS Magazine. He has been creating FPL content on multiple platforms since 2011. He probably couldn’t beat Ryan in a race but did beat him in FPL last season.

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Fantasy Football Preview: Liverpool, Burnley and Fulham for GW31?

We’re firmly into the home straight of the 2020/21 FPL season now and it’s a sprint to the finish to see who can get that magical Top 10k / 5k / 1k spot that will be bragged about over pints for years to come.

This is where the wheat gets cut from the chaff, where the brave take chances and where you can make yourself a legend.

Are you ready? Well, are you?

Onto GW31!

Written by the quite excellent – Mr @NiallHawthorne

 

Defender: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool     

Possibly the most talked about defender in the English game right now, we need to separate ourselves from the hyperbole and the hysteria, to focus on his numbers.

Right now, his numbers are good. Three clean sheets in his last five games, maximum bonus points on all three occasions and an assist thrown in for good measure.

This week he faces a home game against Aston Villa, and while it’s true to say that Liverpool haven’t won at Anfield in over 98 years or so, Villa are not the same team with Jack Grealish, and there is a doubt around his availability for this game. Even with Grealish back, the return of Fabinho as a defensive midfielder has protected the inexperienced CB pairing behind him.

While they were exposed once more against Real Madrid in midweek, Aston Villa are not Real Madrid, with all due respect.

If TAA is out of your budget however, I wouldn’t put you off looking at Kabak or Phillips for the clean sheet potential.

 

Midfielder: Matheus Pereira, West Bromwich Albion

Fresh from mauling the much-vaunted Thomas Tuchel last weekend, Big Sam Allardyce will now pit his wits against Ralph Hassenhutl.

Matheus Pereira was astonishing at Stamford Bridge with two goals and two assists netting him an astonishing 21 points, and there’s reason to believe he can continue this form against a Southampton side who should be safe with a 10 point barrier between them and the drop zone.

The Saints have the second worst defensive record in the division however (ironically second to their opponents this week), so I expect goals in this fixture. My hunch is that Pereira will be among them.

 

Forward: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham    

When you’re hot, you’re hot and right now Mitro is red hot.

If you haven’t been following the gazillions of international matches during the recent international break you may have missed the fact that Mitrovic was banging them in from all angles for his country. He brought that confidence and form back to the Premier League by putting Fulham ahead against Aston Villa in GW30. While that itself turned out to be nothing more than a consolation for the Cottagers, it will have kept up Mitro’s dander, and this week he faces a Friday Night Lights outing at home to the defensively wobbly Wolves.

Captain: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur   

Just the seventh double digit haul of the season for Harry Kane as he now leads the race for this seasons golden boot.

At this stage of the season you are searching for those players with motivation, and looking to avoid those who like to mentally don their flip-flops in April and head for the metaphorical beach of their mind weeks before the curtain falls on the season.

One of those previous six double digit hauls for Kane this season was at Old Trafford, where Spurs walloped United. Kane has Maguire’s number. He knows it. Harry knows it. Jose knows it.

Now, you know it.

 

Outsider: Matej Vydra, Burnley    

This tip is partly motivated by form and partly motivated by ‘Who plays Newcastle next?’.

Vydra has two goals and an assist in his last four and is getting regular starts alongside Chris Wood. He is owned by just 1.1% and costs £4.8m.

Burnley also are motivated as they look to AVENGE their defeat at St. James’s Park in GW4.

If I’m right, it’ll be misery around South S.H.I.E.L.D.S as we all shout HAIL VYDRA!

Your move….

Gameweek 29 Preview: Bunch of Blankers

Hey!

Hey you!

Yes, I’m talking to you. Don’t skip past this bit and head straight to the ‘Forward’ tip seeking the next Kelechi Iheanacho hat-trick hero, I’m talking to you, like I do every week.

I may have picked up close to 100 new followers on Twitter thanks to my quite frankly outrageous tipping of Iheanacho in GW28 but how many Purple Monkey Dishwasher replies did I get? About five. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, you’re proving my point.

Shame on you all. If you think my FPL tips are good, you should read the life tips I put in here most weeks. You might learn something useful that you can use outside of the Fantasy Football realm.

You’ve stopped reading already, haven’t you? Yeah….

Onto BGW29!

Written by Mr. @NiallHawthorne

Defender: Aaron Cresswell, West Ham United

With just four matches and eight teams to choose from this week, the selection of the top scoring defender in the game is a no-brainer, right?

Someone should ask Gareth Southgate that very same question as he quite inexplicably left young Cresswell out of his latest England squad. Clearly ten clean sheets and ten assists this season is just not good enough. I trust Southgate’s squad picking skills about as much as I trust his penalty taking skills.

Midfielder: Adam Lallana, Brighton & Hove Albion

I’ll tell you what I’ve learned in recent times – if you’re English and have a job in the Premier League, you get a far smoother ride from the media than those not English. Take Graham Potter for example, who, according to media pieces I’ve seen this week, is an amazing manager with an incredible philosophy, despite having Brighton hovering around the drop-zone after just 6 wins in 28 attempts.

This dovetails nicely with the arguments in recent years that English managers don’t get a fair go in the Premier League, and if trusted they’d be just as good as those not from England. Well the bottom six in the Premier League are all managed by Englishmen. Well, they were until Chris Wilder got sacked for having one of the worst Premier League records in a season, ever. A crying shame, by all accounts. Honestly!

One Englishman I do fancy to do the business for us this weekend is Adam Lallana who seems to have some modicum of fitness at last after completing consecutive 90 minutes for just the second time this season. A home game against Newcastle United awaits in a real relegation six-pointer at the AMEX. Whoever wins this one will deserve all the credit.

Boom and indeed Tish.

Forward: Michail Antonio, West Ham United

A very bold decision made by Michail Antonio this week, as he appears to have pledged his international allegiance to Jamaica rather than England.

The only reason this is noteworthy is that he’s now not like Harry Kane who can commit life-threatening tackles with impunity every week. Instead he’s now technically a ‘foreign’ striker and could be defined as a diving, cheating horrid git starting at 3.01pm this Sunday, March 21st.

Not that anyone cares in the FPL world as we don’t care if you’re from Blighty, Bulgaria or the moon, if you’re hauling. After recent goals against Spurs and City, I see no reason why Antonio won’t net against Arsenal.

Captain: Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur

Before you mock and jeer, I have two words in my defence: Kelechi Iheanacho (last time, maybe…)

The thing with Gareth Bale is, he’s spent about three years not being a footballer, so it takes a bit of time to get back into the swing of things, rather than the swing of a golf club.

GW26 – 19 points. Bale is back baby!

GW26 – 2-point blank. Hah! He loves golf more than goals!

GW27 – 14 points. Could it be? Is it really him?

GW28 – 1 point. Hauled off before the hour. Useless. He’s a busted flush!

Or, and hear me out here, he could be building back up his fitness and relearning what it is to be a relentless FPL point-scoring machine, which he used to be. So BGW29 is against Villa on Sunday night, and another double-digit haul is coming.

Outsider: Dwight Gayle, Newcastle United

The emergence of Dwight Gayle each football season can be synchronised with the emergence of the Spring season. The birds are chirping, the grass is growing again, and Dwight Gayle starts to fancy it once more.

Your move….

Fantasy Football: Liverpool, Leeds and WBA

I hope everybody had a peaceful and joyous Christmas, except Sam Allardyce.

Written by Niall Hawthorne.

Onto GW16!

Defender: Charlie Taylor, Burnley

Burnley only tend to concede large amounts of goals when they feel they are the inferior team. They shipped three against Chelsea, five against Manchester City and three against, err, Newcastle United.

Apart from that they’re a solid defensive FPL option having conceded just three goals in seven league games (excluding the City game).

In short what I’m saying is Burnley are like Nelson Muntz. They can pick on the smaller kids, but can get their ass whomped by Jimbo Jones.

This week they face Sheffield United, aka Martin Prince. HaHa!

Cheer up Charlie, this is your golden ticket to a clean sheet!

Midfielder: Sadio Mane, Liverpool

On the third day of Christmas, Sadio gave to you nine FPL points thanks to his goal and bonus points against West Bromwich Albion.

This followed his nine FPL points before Christmas which ended his ‘drought’. We are truly living in biblical times, eh?

Form is temporary and class is permanent. Sadio Mane will always be class, and he likes playing at St James’s Park where he will be on the sixth day of Christmas. Instead of six geese-a-laying, I predict he’ll deliver at least 6 points-a-playing.

Forward: Patrick Bamford, Leeds United

I know that most people would be expecting to see the name of Harry Kane here as they face Fulham at home, but Fulham are undefeated in four with only two conceded. Spurs may face a harder game than most anticipate.

So, I’m plumping for Patrick Bamford against the Baggies, who have just come away from Anfield with a point. However, that’s the third game where West Brom have taken points against one of the ‘Big 6’ and after each of the previous two games, they got spanked. After a point against Chelsea, Southampton mullered ‘em. After a point against Man City, Villa mullered ‘em.

Plus, I really really want to see Big Sam’s face as Marcelo Bielsa’s tactics rip his side to shreds while he sits on a bucket and ‘posh boy’ Bamford runs amok.

Captain: Jamie Vardy, Leicester City

Brendan Rodgers takes his side to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace, who have hilariously forgotten how to defend, and have now lost their best defender to injury in Gary Cahill.

That’s ten goals shipped in the last two matches and Leicester City possess one of the best away records in the division with six wins from seven trips on the road.

Vardy himself has a frankly ridiculous nine goals and three assists in those seven away matches. It’s almost like Premier League teams don’t realise that Vardy is most dangerous when the other side have the ball and lose it suddenly…

A Vardy Xmas/New Year Party is very much on the cards.

Outsider: Karlan Grant, West Bromwich Albion

Having said all the above, we live in Brexit times, and some good old fashioned British Bulldog Spirit from Sam Allardyce may well put a hole in Bielsa’s bucket.

Grant was a willing front runner at Anfield and perhaps should have scored in the second half, so the not-quite-watertight Leeds defence may get breached.

He’s owned by 0.0% of FPL players right now. You know what my record is like tipping players owned by nobody.

Your move….

Written by Niall Hawthorne.

Drop Niall a follow on twitter. Good thing about Twitter – you can always unfollow again later!

Niall Hawthorne has a strange view on most things.

Check out his blog for proof rantsofarebel.wordpress.com

Liverpool, United, Villa and a load of Red Flags

Written by @NiallHawthorne

We’re in the run up to Christmas and the ‘happiest time of the year’. You might say I’ve gone a bit early, but I’m only talking about it. I know loads of people who have gone the whole hog and put up the tree.

In any case, it may be a bit of a challenge for this Christmas to be considered the happiest time of the year. Can you be happy when deciding whether or not you’ll see Mum/Dad/Granny/Grandad for Christmas dinner and then calculating the odds of them catching COVID?

If only the vaccine had come through a couple of months earlier we could all have had one from Santa Claus to allow us to really celebrate Christmas properly, except for those who don’t believe. In vaccines, obviously,

Tesco are telling us that there’s no naughty list this year. Every Lidl helps, right? Meanwhile every other marketing guru is hellbent on making us cry our eyes out after every advert, at the end of the most harrowing year of all our lives. How about a laugh or two, eh? Why couldn’t we have slapstick moments with Ant & Dec falling over a Christmas tree or Tom & Jerry giving each other gifts that they then use to wallop each other with?

Leave my heartstrings alone please, they’ve been plucked, strummed and ripped this year.

Even FPL has turned on us in our hour of need, as I open up my team to see that my team has erected it’s Christmas decorations early. There’s red, yellow, orange and white all over my squad thanks to COVID, tendons, ligaments and hamstrings.

All my tips this week are subject to a caveat – I have no idea who will be fit or able to tog out this weekend.

All I can do is recommend that you dive deep into the Twitter account and website of @BenDinnery because if he doesn’t know, nobody does.

Onto GW9!

Defender: Alex Nicolao Telles, Manchester United

Yes, I’m tipping a player who hasn’t played a minute of action in FPL this season, but I have my reasons!

He isn’t reported as being injured, sick or AWOL, which is a distinct advantage this week. His direct competitor for a place in defence has twanged his hammy. He’s facing an opponent that has scored one goal in their last five games, and have more than a couple of their forward/attacking players in doubt.

You can pick Telles and watch him in action at 8pm on Saturday night or it’s Strictly Come Dancing. It’s your choice. You should know however that even Strictly is suffering. They’re so short of judges that Anton Du Beke got called into action last weekend.

It’s carnage out there ladies and gents. Absolute carnage.

Midfielder: Diogo Jota, Liverpool

It would be easier to predict the weekly lottery numbers, or the next insane thing to be tweeted by former President Trump (that feels very nice to type) than it would be to predict the defensive players picked by Liverpool and Leicester City this Sunday night.

Both are, in the words of Leo Tolstoy, up shit creek without a paddle.

Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold all out. Fabinho, Robertson, Williams all doubtful.

Soyuncu, Amartey out. Schmeichel, Pereira, Castagna, Fofana all doubtful.

There’ll be goals at Anfield this weekend, I’m certain of it, and with Mo Salah out with the ‘rona there’s a sure fire starting spot for a man who was muscling in on the fabled front-three in any case.

If you were offered the chance to take a regular starter in the Liverpool attack for under £7m and 10% ownership, would you turn it down?

Well, would you?

Forward: Jamie Vardy, Leicester City

Eight goals this season already for Vardy, and seven of them have come away from home. This week, as mentioned just above, he faces a patchwork Liverpool defence that were hardly covering themselves in glory this season anyway.

When you consider he steamrollered over Manchester City’s defence for a hat-trick, what could he do here?

You know how Liverpool have gone 63 games at home without defeat? Well if you potentially take Salah, Henderson, Thiago, Fabinho, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Gomez and Robertson out of their team, that run could come to an end. It could be James Milner at CB. It really, really could.

Captain: Jack Grealish, Aston Villa

I will admit that I have a pretty strongly defined hump with Jack Grealish. The GAA-playing, Irish-shirt-wearing midfield dynamo chose to play for England, and now he’s the next coming of Gazza.

However FPL is all about being cold-blooded and calculated, and the boy Grealish is the real deal. Indeed, his recent displays for Villa have not reminded me of a young Paul Gascoigne, they’ve reminded me of an older Steven Gerrard (calm down, I’m not saying he’s as good or better, I’m just saying he reminds me of him). The Gerrard who linked with Torres and scored over 20 goals a season, that Gerrard.

Put this Grealish in that kind of team, and who knows what he could achieve? He’s doing a pretty good job with Villa right now, and I expect them to swat aside Brighton this weekend with Grealish the star of the show.

Outsider: Richarlison de Andrade, Everton

Returning after his three game ban for trying to amputate Thiago’s leg during the Merseyside derby, it’s fair to say that Everton have missed their frontman. Dominic Calvert Lewin has ‘only’ had a goal and assist during those three games, whereas he had seven goals in five games with Richarlison alongside him.

Everton travel to Craven Cottage to face Fulham in what looks like being the most watched Premier League game of the weekend, because it’s on the BBC on Sunday morning.

Fulham are rotten and the return of Richarlison, with under 4% ownership, gives you a chance to truly makes this a Sunday morning of worship. Or it could ‘Marr’ the day for you altogether.

I’ll get my coat.

http://twitter.com/niallhawthorne

Gameweek 5: Spurs, Sheffield United and WBA make the Preview

I think it’s fair to say that we are living through unprecedented times.

In fact, I can’t remember back to a time when things were precedented. I often find myself wondering how historians will view the times we are currently experiencing. How will they view the decisions made by our leaders and ourselves?

I have no doubt that one of the things that will confuse the bejaysus out of them is the decision to proceed with international football during a global pandemic….

The logic behind sending footballers out of their club ‘bubble’ around the globe to play international games that are as important as my opinion on Masterchef Australia (No Poh! No!), leading to an inevitable surge in positive COVID-19 cases which are then brought back into the club ‘bubble’, therefore possibly bursting the bubble of professional football happening at all….

Yeah, onto GW5!

Defender: George Baldock, Sheffield United

I’m not saying that The Blades have had a ropey start to the season, but right now Richard Osman has them written down as an answer on his desk. Yep, they’re pointless.

This weekend they face the only team below them in the table, as Fulham come calling. While The Cottagers racked up three goals at Elland Road in GW2, they’ve been firing blanks elsewhere.

I’ve had to ignore the fact that George’s surname references a very niche fetish, and focus instead on the fact that he has a knack of adding goals and assists to his clean sheet hauls. He’s already notched an assist this season, and he’s due a clean sheet.

Midfielder: Matheus Pereira, West Bromwich Albion

West Brom welcome Burnley to my gaff this weekend, so I may open the curtains to watch them in the garden.

Pereira has started the season strongly with a goal and a brace of assists thus far, and he faces Sean Dyche’s men who have conceded SEVEN goals in their two away games. SEVEN! Imagine conceding that many goals in two away games! What eejits!

Oh….

Forward: Neal Maupay, Brighton And Hove Albion

Here’s a player who is smashing it while flying under the radar of many.

Four goals and an assist already this season, adding to his ten-goal haul last season. He travels to Selhurst Park as The Seagulls take on The Eagles.

Based on knowledge of ornithology alone you’d fancy the Eagles, but have you seen how rowdy the Seagulls have become in recent years? They’d have your fish supper out of your hand and slap you across the face with their wing if you don’t have your wits about you.

Neal Maupay is a French seagull. Just imagine the attitude…

Captain: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

I’ve seen plenty of stats during this interminably daft international break about West Ham United and how sound defensively they have been. Their xGA is tiny, apparently. Their xGF is decent. Their xGEEKS is as yet unknown.

My fantasy football methodology is far more straightforward. Old Moyesey has self-isolated and rid himself of his COVIDness, so he’s back on the touchline and The Hammers are going to hell in a handcart once more.

Harry Kane will profit handsomely

Outsider: Rhian Brewster, Sheffield United

Whether you’re one of those (like me) who has had Rhian tucked up safely on the corner of your bench since the season started, or you’ve taken the plunge once you saw him move to Bramall Lane, welcome to the beginning of the ‘£4.5m Bloody Hell He’s A Bargain At That Price’ adventure.

The kid is a talent, and his first big chance is against at home to a team that has a habit of conceding three goals in every game.

All aboard!

Written by @NiallHawthorne

Written by Niall Hawthorne.

Drop Niall a follow on twitter. Good thing about Twitter – you can always unfollow again later!

Niall Hawthorne has a strange view on most things.

Check out his blog for proof rantsofarebel.wordpress.com.

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