11 January 2019
Santa only delivered 4pts from four Christmas fixtures for the Hammers, after a string of four pre-festive season wins had raised hopes sky high. But it’s always a bit like that with West Ham. No sooner had the return of Andy Carroll has got fans licking their lips, when talk turned to Arnie heading to China. The clutch of mid-table teams below the Top Six and above the Bottom Seven are separated by just 5pts, giving West Ham the chance for a memorable season. They will need to improve against teams above them – just 5pts and one win have come v the Top Half so far. But Arsenal are in their worst form of the season with just two wins in their last six.
Hot Shot – Aubameyang (ARS) is only bettered in FPL terms by Salah and Hazard.
Midfield General – Anderson (WH) has the look of an Arsenal player. The floor’s yours Felipe…
Case for the Defence – Can’t see a sheet for either here, so Mustafi or Bellerin (ARS) would be my pick (if fit).
Brighton head into this with the better form. No, really… Liverpool have lost their last two (all comps). Okay, one was a nip and tuck affair at Man City and the other a patched-up team of lambs against Wolves. But that doesn’t detract from the host’s tidy spell – and they are decent at home. Only the Top Six have been better this season. It’s four defeats from four against the really big boys (Top Four) so far though. And Liverpool have been merciless on the road against subordinates – seven from seven v those outside the Top Four. Won’t be a lot in it. 1-0 was enough at Anfield and will do again here.
Hot Shot – Firmino (LIV) hasn’t been full of goals, but has hit four in two.
Midfield General – And if he isn’t the difference, Salah (LIV) will be.
Case for the Defence – Robertson (LIV) edges van Dijk on assist potential.
You had to feel sorry for Sean Dyche getting drawn away to Man City in the FA Cup, but it is about how his season has been going (they are away to United three days later. Ooof!). Still he can concentrate on the league. Staying in it, that is. Much needed back to back wins (at home to West Ham and the six-pointer at bottom club Huddersfield) have improved their chances. And another win here at the expense of second-bottom Fulham will put a bit of daylight between them. Leaving it a straight fight between four, possible five for the last relegation place. Maybe make or break for Fulham.
Hot Shot – Wood (BUR) has rediscovered his touch in front of goal with three in three.
Midfield General – Gudmundson (BUR) is probably the pick of a very lame bunch, but needs to pass a late test.
Case for the Defence – Heaton (BUR) might be a £4.8 bargain this weekend though.
Cardiff were many people’s favourite for at least one of the three relegation places but have started to creep in the right direction due to two factors: their home form and results against teams in and around them. Which means today’s visitors will be most welcome. Before predictable losses to Tottenham and Man United, the three previous home matches yielded maximum points. 12pts of their 18pts have come from teams in the Bottom Six and they even took a point from the away fixture – one of just three times they have avoided defeat on the road. It’s eight losses on the spin for Huddersfield. Another here and the fat lady will be clearing her throat.
Hot Shot – Say what now…?
Midfield General – Camarasa (CAR) has the measure of the Bottom Six so might be worth £4.6m this weekend.
Case for the Defence – But Etheridge (CAR) is the standout pick. Alisson is the only keeper higher in the FPL rankings.
After a horrible first half of the season, Palace are finally starting to look like the team that finished bang in the middle of the Premier League table in 2017/18. Hmm, maybe they don’t start playing until Christmas. Their festive form was up there with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea – and could have been better had it not been for two blanks at home to Cardiff and Chelsea. But they are not quite on dry land yet. Watford are at the opposite end of the mid-table scrum, but only 7pts north of Palace. The Hornets rallied over Christmas too, taking 8pts from five matches – compared to 2pts from the previous six. Anyone’s guess, this.
Hot Shot – Ayew’s (CP) goals are more like flying pigs than London buses, but two have arrived at once.
Midfield General – If it’s a penalty Milivojevic is your man. If it’s a worldie, Townsend will be taking the bow (both CP).
Case for the Defence – van Aanholt (CP) has racked up more points that Tripper (TOT). Fancy.
Leicester are another team that finally got their act together over Christmas, winning three of their four matches. The double over Chelsea and Man City was an unlikely as the home defeat to Cardiff and puts them top of the Best of the Rest table. That position only looks about as certain as manager Claude Puel’s though. So with Liverpool, Man United and Spurs to face inside ten days coming up, this looks as good a chance to add points as they will get for a while. Southampton have steadied the ship but are still in the Bottom Three. Their last two away trips will encourage them though. This looks a tougher task than winning at Huddersfield, but easier than their draw at Chelsea.
Hot Shot – Not a vintage Vardy (LEI) season, but the best on show here.
Midfield General – More end product required, but Maddison (LEI) is a star.
Case for the Defence – A goal at City and assist at Everton makes Pereira (LEI) the pick.
Chelsea’s success this month could have a major bearing on their fortunes for the rest of the season. Success in the transfer market, that is. They are desperately short up top – a fact that has cost them 5pts in the last two home matches alone (despite topping 70% possession and six shots on target v both Leicester and Southampton). One goal may well be enough to see off Newcastle, who themselves have only managed two in their last five matches. They are still to muster a point from their eight matches against the Top Seven, but have only lost one of their last five on their travels. This is unlikely to make great viewing for the Saturday teatime watchers.
Hot Shot – Chelsea are so light up top, Rondon (NEW) gets the 9 shirt here.
Midfield General – It’s a good job they’ve got Hazard (CHE). For now.
Case for the Defence – Alonso (CHE) has gone ten without an assist. Could be due one.
Bottom club Huddersfield aside, these have been the worst two teams in the top flight over the last six matches. It was all look rosy for Everton before December. Then five wins in seven gave way to one win in eight – a 5-0 Boxing Day demolition of Burnley, but even that now looks like a blip. Limp 0-1 defeats to Brighton and Leicester have got the Goodison faithful thinking about the bad old days. The target of winning the Premier League in their fancy new ground might lift the mood – but only if they beat Bournemouth. Visiting fans will be hoping that new boy Solanke hits the ground running when he returns from injury in February and that his arrival isn’t pre-empting the departure of Callum Wilson.
Hot Shot – Wilson (BOU) is only behind Kane and Aubameyang in the FPL striking stakes.
Midfield General – Bargain of the season Fraser (BOU) holds the key for Bournemouth.
Case for the Defence – But Digne (EVE) gets the gig at the back based on sheet and assist potential.
Losing five matches by this stage of the season should have scuppered any chances of winning the league. It has Man United’s – even the Top Four looks ambitious now. But Spurs are just 2pts behind Man City. The difference is drawn matches. United have had five but Tottenham don’t bother with them. The defeat at home to Wolves can probably be put down to Christmas, seeing as it is the only blemish in a seven match run boasting a 21-6 aggregate score. This match will be a useful indicator as to how good (or otherwise) United actually are with Ole in charge. A repeat of the 0-3 Old Trafford humbling will only make them want Pochettino even more.
Hot Shot – Can’t knock Kane (TOT) but Rashford (MU) is cooking on gas – and £5.3m cheaper!
Midfield General – Pogba (MU) if fit, Son (TOT) and Martial (MU) can all make a case.
Case for the Defence – Tripper (TOT) has dipped a bit but the best on show.
All eyes are on City as they round the turn for home in second spot. How they adapt to being the chasers could be as big a factor as Liverpool’s ability to front run. It’s a nice month on paper – Huddersfield, Burton, Burnley and Newcastle after Wolves – so they’re forwards should have their eye in nicely for the Arsenal/ Chelsea double header next month. If they don’t take them off the ball, that is. Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea have done so recently against Wolves and come unstuck. It’s already been a triumphant season, so every game is a free hit from here on in. Total football all the way and a real test of City’s power of concentration.
Hot Shot – Hard not to pick Jesus (MC) after his four in midweek…. But can he edge Aguero out?!
Midfield General – But Sane (MC) has been the man in recent weeks. Hauled off in preparation in midweek.
Case for the Defence – Doherty (WOL) only played a few minutes and the duel with Sane will be key.