FPL Draft: Planning for post-Covid football

Uncertainty arrived in the Premier League with Covid causing fixture postponements and turning the last two Gameweeks into a lottery.

But, on the positive side, we’ve also gained certainty.

We know the current situation will not carry on indefinitely and we know there are Double Gameweeks on the horizon for a number of teams.

What’s more, seven Premier League sides were in action in the EFL Cup, giving us valuable updates ahead of Boxing Day.

Michail Antonio was the biggest name absentee on Wednesday night with manager David Moyes confirming he had contracted Covid. However it looks likely that he will be back in contention for Gameweek 19:

Spurs top the watchlist

Two weeks ago it was the cancellation of Tottenham Hotspur’s Europa Conference League tie that heralded the fixture disruption to come.

But it’s Spurs who now top my watchlist ahead of a kind run of matches.

The Lilywhites are one of two clubs, Burnley being the other, with three games to be rearranged. This most likely means three Double Gameweeks, unless a sneaky Triple Gameweek is thrown into the mix.

Meanwhile Tottenham’s elimination from the ECL, after UEFA handed French side Rennes a 3-0 win, could be a boon to their Premier League aspirations.

Spurs Upcoming Fixtures

Spurs Matches to be Rearranged

Although rated at two in the Fixture Difficulty Ratings (FDR), I feel Crystal Palace will pose a stiffer test than anticipated. Over the last six matches only Manchester City have conceded fewer big chances than the Eagles.

Big Chances Conceded – Last Six Matches

The subsequent trips to Southampton and Watford are much more appealing. Who can forget Son Heung-min’s career-best 24-point haul at St Mary’s last season?

But this being Draft, the leading lights were snapped up at the start of the season. Instead, we have to try and identify the players who, for one reason or another, could be on the up.

Dele Alli had a good game against Liverpool described, perhaps unkindly, by Spurs journalist Alasdair Gold as a “shop window performance”.

If Alli does stay at the club, he could become a great option if he can nail down a position in the side. Whether that’s in a 3-5-2 or as the one behind Kane and Son in a 3-4-1-2. But at the moment there’s one too many ‘ifs’ in that first sentence, even for Draft where you need to take chances and move early.

Tanguy Ndombele is another player available in my Draft league, and I suspect in others too, who has the potential to deliver points if he becomes a regular starter.

But, considering the number of big chances the team have conceded in their last six matches, perhaps a defender would be the wiser move. Their tally of five in that period ranks third among all teams.

For this reason I’m delighted to have Emerson Royal already in my squad. The Brazilian created a chance for Kane at the weekend and has shown his ability to get forward on previous appearances. These two clips highlight his ability to arrive at the far post: one will show up in the stats (clip one), but one won’t (clip two) as the ball just fails to reach him.

LegoMané’s Fixture Predictions

The only downside with Spurs winning their EFL Cup tie is that they now won’t get two fixtures in Gameweek 21. A Double Gameweek 22 would appear likely, however, and with favourable match-ups either side of that round, Antonio Conte’s men look like holds in the medium term.

One of the sides who could benefit from a double in Gameweek 21 is Everton. 

Toffees Sweet Run

The fixtures are very much in their favour, irrespective of that potential double, with an appealing selection of green in the ticker. 

Everton’s Upcoming Fixtures

Dominic Calvert-Lewin is nearing a return to fitness having not played since Gameweek 3. Remarkably, in my Draft league, Glen has held on to him all this time and must be hoping his patience will soon be rewarded.

His team-mates Richarlison and Demarai Gray are both available, however, and surely look good bargains ahead of this kind run. 

But perhaps surprisingly the name who comes out on top in terms of goal threat is Abdoulaye Doucouré. The midfielder leads the way for shots in the box with seven and is joint first for touches in the opposition penalty area (11) over the last six Gameweeks.

Everton’s players – last six Gameweeks

Having watched Everton in recent matches I moved to bring him into my squad for Gameweek 18. Although Gray betters him for total shots, most of his efforts are from distance. I’m gambling that Doucouré’s willingness to get into the box will see him emerge as the better pick.

Rival Makes Cheeky Trade Offer

Interestingly, Doucouré was part of a trade offer I received from my upcoming opponent and the league-leader, Mat.

It’s very rare to receive or offer a trade that feels fair – and Mat’s is no different.

He did include Diogo Jota in his three-player-swap deal and while I would be delighted to have him in my team, I’m wary that his minutes may be affected by the return to fitness of Roberto Firmino. A player I picked up recently.

In addition to requesting Doucouré, Mat asked for Nick Pope and Trent Alexander-Arnold, neither of whom I’m willing to give up. Alexander-Arnold is indispensable to our Fantasy squads and sits second in the player standings behind only Mohamed Salah.

And with Burnley set to benefit from up to three Double Gameweeks, Pope isn’t going anywhere either. In fact, given the difficulty of their upcoming opponents, Pope is the only player I want from Sean Dyche’s side. If he doesn’t keep a clean sheet at least he has saves to bolster his points total.

If further proof was needed that Mat is clearly rattled ahead of our encounter, he also offered Teemu Pukki in exchange for Michail Antonio. Not only does it appear desperate but given that West Ham are about to take on Southampton and Watford as the fixture ticker turns green, it feels a little insulting.

Ultimately, though, the outcome of our match is likely to be somewhat of a lottery, given the continuing presence of the Omicron variant. Hopefully it won’t be too long before normality resumes.

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