FANTASY FOOTBALL EXPERT: Don’t be fooled by City’s double gameweek… Bruno Fernandes IS the go-to captain while Nick Pope provides value for money in goal as a key differential
- Bruno Fernandes has thrived when playing away from home in the league
- He is a safe bet with the captain’s armband against a struggling West Brom side
- Manchester City play twice but Pep Guardiola’s rotation remains a concern
- Nick Pope offers a differential with value for money as Burnley play twice
What happened to ‘Fergie Time’ at Old Trafford?
That was one of the big takeaways from GW23 as Dominic Calvert-Lewin dramatically rescued a point for Everton in a 3-3 draw with Manchester United, poking in with what was the last kick of the game.
It was usually United with the late, late show to steal the headlines – not here. And with Manchester City bullldozing Liverpool at Anfield, there was no way to positively dress up those two dropped points.
Everton struck with the last kick of the game to grab a 3-3 draw with Manchester United
There was no such drama for Manchester City as they bulldozed Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield
So much for my West Ham blind faith, an experiment that backfired and cost me vital league position in mini-leagues.
Michail Antonio failed to return and so a captain of four points really set the tone for a difficult GW23. But, alas, we go again, as we must do.
As always, in this column I’ll be breaking down what we learned from the latest round of games, how best to utilise the free transfer for our squads and the differentials that can make the biggest difference week-to-week.
Biggest takeaways from GW23
Manchester City are Premier League champions-elect.
That was the short version, at least.
Phil Foden was sublime, a magician, a conductor, whatever you want to crown him.
It is this kind of form which will see England manager Gareth Southgate land in a very awkward position when it comes to his squad for the rearranged Euros. Foden has to be in it, but in this form, how can he not make the starting XI?
Phil Foden (middle) put on a clinic in a breathtaking display away against the champions
The dominance that City showed at Anfield makes them clear title favourites – even if Guardiola refuses to indulge such a label.
This GW24 provides them with their game in hand, the trip to Everton which was called off hours before kick-off originally due to a Covid outbreak in City’s first team bubble.
A quick mention for Dean Smith and Aston Villa after their 1-0 win over Arsenal.
What a job the boyhood Villa fan is doing this season and what a clever bit of business it was getting Ollie Watkins in in the summer.
Villa are ninth, pushing for Europe, and make the trip to face Brighton full of confidence.
Ollie Watkins (middle) has proven to be a brilliant piece of summer business for Aston Villa
Harry Kane’s scoring return for Tottenham was a sight to behold for FPL bosses but Leicester defender James Justin’s ACL season-ending injury arrived late as a bitter pill to swallow given his mass ownership, which has now dropped to 23.7 per cent (expect that to keep falling).
Thomas Tuchel remains unbeaten since arriving at Chelsea after a narrow win at Sheffield United and keep an eye on Timo Werner.
The former RB Leipzig striker flopped under the guidance of Frank Lampard but appears reinvigorated under Tuchel.
He has spoken of a new role and while he may not force his way into many FPL managers’ minds between now and May, he could be a tour de force for 2021-22.
Best use of free transfer this week
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) – £9.2m
I know, Guardiola’s rotation. It’s brutal but Jesus represents a clever signing even if he plays in just one of the two games.
The Brazilian is a man in form having scored and earned nine points in each of his last two league starts against Sheffield United and Burnley.
He also found the net in the FA Cup fifth round win at Swansea. He was all smiles, confidence is coursing through him once again.
Gabriel Jesus is beginning to find some form in what has been a tricky season for the Brazilian
To further boost Jesus’ confidence he came off the bench to provide assists against both Aston Villa and Liverpool.
City have coped without an orthodox No 9 for large chunks of the season but a firing Jesus is good news for everyone.
He is not cheap at £9.2m but Jesus’ total of three big chances over the last four gameweeks is bettered only by the four of Callum Wilson – now injured – and Edinson Cavani among strikers.
Jesus’s five shots in the box in that same period of time ranks second to the eight of team-mate Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) for Man City.
Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan are popular City assets for this week but following the crowd won’t close gaps in mini-leagues.
If you need something out-of-the-box, bank on Jesus to rise again.
Three goals in his last four matches is a positive heading into City’s double gameweek
Saturday February 13
Leicester v Liverpool
Crystal Palace v Burnley
Man City v Tottenham
Brighton v Aston Villa
Sunday February 14
Southampton v Wolves
West Brom v Man United
Arsenal v Leeds
Everton v Fulham
Monday February 15
West Ham v Sheffield United
Chelsea v Newcastle
Wednesday February 17
Burnley v Fulham
Everton v Man City
Three differentials that caught my eye
Lucas Digne (Everton) – £6.1m [Selected by 7.3%]
With Carlo Ancelotti confirming Digne is ready to put pen-to-paper on a new contract, things are looking rosy for the full-back.
Less than eight per cent of managers own him, though, making him an interesting differential option.
Two games this week has seen stock in Everton assets soar and while Calvert-Lewin will sit out the Fulham game, Digne is more likely to feature in both.
He is a huge asset for Everton in wide areas and will be expected to be doing plenty of attacking against Fulham, perhaps less so vs City.
Digne has two assists in his last five games which, while not groundbreaking, is solid and he’ll have two opportunities to deliver in GW23.
Nick Pope (Burnley) – £5.5m [Selected by 14.6%]
There are even those considering Pope as a captaincy option and so the least you can do is look at him as a differential.
Pope has averaged 9.9 points per match in the seven games where he has kept a clean sheet.
Burnley are one of four teams playing twice with games against Crystal Palace and Fulham enticing when it comes to Burnley’s back-line.
The England international is the second-best performing goalkeeper in FPL this season behind Villa’s Emi Martinez and so form is on his side.
If you’re feeling bold, give him the armband.
Nick Pope (left) and Lucas Digne (right) have a double gameweek and are proving popular
Nicolas Pepe has two goals in his last four league games and is eyeing revenge vs Leeds next
Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – £7.6m [Selected by 0.8%]
Now hear me out.
This one is a little rogue but buy stock low and trust it will go up in value – that’s the trick, right?
Two goals in his last four league games has clearly not had the desired effect on Pepe’s ownership.
Less than one per cent have made room for the Arsenal man but with a home game against Leeds, who seemingly have a swashbuckling style they will not move away from, he could be in line for a host of chances to record FPL points.
He was sent off – a bad omen – in the reverse game at Elland Road but that should only work as fuel for him to put in a dominant display by way of revenge.
Certainly a more niche selection but with Arsenal expecting to create a number of opportunities at the Emirates, look to Pepe to cause a surprise.
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) – £11.5m
It may be a Manchester City double gameweek but as I have already alluded to, that Guardiola rotation – we have all fallen victim to it – makes any selection something of. a gamble.
What feels far less of a gamble is trusting Fernandes to make his mark on the road against a West Brom side in dire straits right now.
Fernandes is coming up against a side who have conceded 28 goals in their 10 matches under Sam Allardyce.
Despite only playing once this week, Bruno Fernandes (middle) remains a good captain option
Five double digit returns away from home is a good omen and Fernandes finds himself in form having scored twice and provided two assists in his last two league games.
Paul Pogba’s injury means there will be even greater onus on Fernandes to play the role of creator and with West Ham a lock waiting to pick, he could have a blissful Valentines’ Day in the Midlands.
He is now owned by 59.5 per cent of managers and is becoming one of the few must-have assets.
Rolling the dice on a player with two games may seem worth a try but having bet against Fernandes last week in favour of Michail Antonio, I am refusing to be burned again.
Proceed with caution if you look elsewhere.
The Portuguese is a threat on set-pieces and is facing a West Brom side with a leaky defence
Team of the Week (3-5-2)
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