We’ve now reached December, which means it’s somewhat acceptable to start putting up festive decorations. No judgement will be passed, however, if you simply ignore such nonsense for another few weeks and save yourself the hassle of unravelling lights which are inextricably tangled thanks to your lazy efforts putting them away in January.
December also means an absolute glut of Premier League action, as television schedules dictate that the festive season must run for what feels like four months rather than just over four weeks.
Rather than simply picking out individual players like usual, we’ve put together some key points for consideration over the coming month that should go some way to helping you climb the overall rankings…
1. Remember to play
So simple, yet it needs saying. Gameweeks 15-21 (seven of ‘em) run over a period of 31 days. If you’ve been struggling this season, you should be able to improve your overall ranking simply by remembering to log in and shuffle your team before each gameweek.
What’s important here is that you’re vigilant to the deadlines. It always catches people out when the Premier League throw in a Friday night fixture throughout the season, with the result that deadlines are missed.
Keep a note (better still, set some reminders; tattoo them on yourself even) of the following and ensure you check in before each gameweek to set your team. It’s a given that your rivals will miss some of these:
GW15 deadline: Tuesday 4th December (18:45 GMT)
GW16 deadline: Saturday 8th December (11:30 GMT)
GW17 deadline: Saturday 15th December (11:30 GMT)
GW18 deadline: Friday 21st December (19:00 GMT)
GW19 deadline: Wednesday 26th December (11:30 GMT)
GW20 deadline: Saturday 29th December (14:00 GMT)
GW21 deadline: Tuesday 1st January (11:30 GMT)
2. Use your wildcard
At the start of each season, fantasy managers are gloriously blessed with a wildcard – the first of two in a campaign. How/when you use this is largely up to you, but there’s a critical rule that shouldn’t be ignored.
The first wildcard must be used prior to Gameweek 20, so if you haven’t already used it so far this season, ensure that you do before 14:00 on Saturday 29th December.
Essentially it’s a use-it-or-lose-it scenario here, so while many managers may have used this in the opening weeks of the season to avoid a potential train wreck, there are plenty out there who so far haven’t.
The second wildcard of the season will be available from GW21 onwards. It’s worth keeping in mind that as the season moves into the latter stages, there will likely be a number of double gameweeks – so it’s great to have that second wildcard in hand for this part of the year.
Note: The wildcard is technically defined as a ‘chip’, meaning that you can’t use it in conjunction with any of the ‘free hit’, ‘triple captain’ or ‘bench boost’ equivalents on a single gameweek.
3. Frisk the festive fixtures
With seven fixtures for each club coming in the next month, there is a LOT of football to be played. The fixture gods have no doubt already had a laugh at some clubs with multiple tough match-ups interrupting second helpings of turkey (or whatever Hector Bellerin eats these days).
There are a number of clubs that look to have more favourable fixtures list than most. The official website keep a helpful fixture tracker available for you to review – see here for more information.
In order to compile their assessment of fixture difficulty, the Premier League look at a “set of formulas process key Opta data variables, along with each team’s home and away form (past six matches), to generate a rank for the perceived difficulty of each gameweek opponent”. Nerds.
This sounds like a fairly coherent method and provides food for thought (presumably tubs of Quality Street right now).
Using a calculator, an abacus and a multitude of fingers and toes, we’ve totalled their projections to show the fixture difficulty projections across all seven gameweeks. Obviously this is based on individual perception, but it’s useful in identifying potential moves across this time period.
4. Eye the favourable
West Ham, for example, have come out of this looking good and someone like Felipe Anderson (MF, £7.0m) should be on your radar. Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini was dealt a number of injury blows this season, with the likes of Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko unavailable to him. Anderson, the summer recruit from Lazio, has stepped up and is looking a must-have when you consider his current form and favourable fixtures over the coming weeks.
Spurs also have an easier run for GW15-21. With the North London derby mercifully behind them, December throws up a number of kinder tussles. There’s a huge Champions League match in Barcelona on the horizon, but it’s hard to look past a recently resurgent Christian Eriksen or Harry “even if I only get one touch I might score” Kane.
Southampton really weren’t dealt a good hand. So in addition to paying off Mark Hughes following his dismissal this week, they also have Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea to contend with this month. At this point in time they might even welcome back Harry Redknapp after he’s finished munching on insects. Sound the Big Sam klaxon! Prayers for Saints at this difficult time.
It should be noted that although we are looking at a seven-gameweek period, there are a number of favourable groupings of fixtures highlighted in the table above. Following their upcoming trip to Old Trafford, Arsenal meet Huddersfield, Southampton and Burnley, meaning the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) could easily add to his 10 league goals.
Elsewhere, Chelsea have a neat-looking group of fixtures across the New Year with Crystal Palace Palace and Southampton in succession, meaning Eden Hazard creeps up the ranking as a potential captain pick.
5. Use your squad
We’ve all been there with that one useless player who sits on your fantasy bench because he’s cheap; who has less chance of getting minutes than you in your 5-a-side glory days.
This really isn’t the time for dud subs. There will doubtlessly be rotation with less time between games, and while some clubs simply don’t have the luxury of rotating key assets depending on the opposition, plenty do.
Try to keep a squad of players who have greater chance of starting, meaning that when the inevitable happens (looking at you Sergio Aguero, GW14), you at least have a couple of points coming off the bench to salvage something.
Again, it’s that time of year where simply keeping an eye on when the individual gameweeks start can help finally catapult you ahead of your flukey mate Dave* [insert own nemesis here], who despite not logging in since August is still 14 points ahead in your mini-league. Bore off Dave.
FantasyYIRMA started in 2012 focused primarily on news and previews for Fantasy Premier League. Following consecutive fantasy coverage across 243 gameweeks, they’re confident they could have been well on their way to becoming a qualified astronaut had the time been spent more productively.