Fantasy Premier League: Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling - Liverpool's SAS reunited

And five other take-aways from Gameweek 23

It was hard to see where the points were going to come from on Saturday morning, with some of the most popular players sidelined through injuries and bans. Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas, and Gylfi Sigurdsson all sat on the sidelines (soon to be joined by the most popular defender, Ryan Bertrand). As it transpired, the absence of these fantasy stalwarts cleared the stage for the unveiling of a host of new talent. Hector Bellerin, Patrick Van Aanholt, Massadio Haidara, Anthony Reveillere, Jonathan Walters, and Jonjo Shelvey all registered double-digit returns giving FPL managers a lot to ponder in the final week of the winter wildcard window. We look at some of these players and other take-aways from last week’s action below...

1) The return of SAS: Last year’s Liverpool attack was fantasy football gold. With managers investing in Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, and Luis Suarez, the points flowed in abundance. It is perhaps no coincidence that with Sturridge and Sterling reunited, Liverpool finally regained the menace and swagger that terrorised defences last year. Tough fixtures lie ahead but at their best the Reds can score freely against anyone. And at 11.1m, Sturridge perfectly fills a Costa-shaped hole in our budget.

2) Too many choices at the Emirates: The current Arsenal side is a sumptuous smorgasbord of fantasy football temptations. Right through the team, from David Ospina to Olivier Giroud, there is incredible value to be found. Sunday’s Gunners scored almost 100 points between them as goals and assists came from all areas of the pitch. With Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck soon to return, the obvious risk for all offensive players is reduced gametime as competition for places reaches a season-high. How will Sanchez’s talents be best accommodated in the new-look attack? Will a newly muscular Mesut Ozil secure a central role? Can Arsene find room for Welbeck and Jack Wilshere in his team? Next Saturday’s north London derby should provide at least some of the answers.

3) Kane strikes again: In an increasingly uncertain fantasy game, where illustrious strikers such as Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney and Diego Costa wreak havoc with the nerves of impatient FPL managers, Harry Kane at £6.0m continues to quietly deliver the goods. The 21 year old has scored five goals in the last four games and now sits in almost 40% of teams. For the 60% of managers that are trying to carve a different path, it may be time to think again.

4) Sunderland packed with value: There was much to admire from the Black Cats on Saturday: Jermain Defoe scored the archetypal poacher’s goal; young full-backs Patrick Van Aanholt and Anthony Réveillere bagged clean sheets and assists; and Conor Wickham showed flashes of the form that made him a fantasy legend at the end of last season. With the next three home games against QPR, West Brom and Aston Villa there are points aplenty to be mined from this improving Sunderland side.

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Jermain Defoe could become one of the great January signings

 

5) New Kurt on the block: Kurt Zouma appears to have displaced Gary Cahill at the heart of the Chelsea defence, with Jose Mourinho trusting the Frenchman with a start in arguably their most crucial fixture of the season so far. With gun-shy Villa away next, followed by Everton and Burnley at home, there could be points galore for the young man if he continues to get the minutes. At £4.6m he is looking hard to resist.

6) All change up top for the Potters: In a Bojan-less Stoke city side, Jonathan Walters emerged as the sole striker, preferred by Mark Hughes in the central role to Peter Crouch. Ably assisted by the inventive Stephen Ireland, Walters scored a perfect hat-trick. Now on seven goals this season, he is proving top value at £5.2m, and playing out of position only adds to his appeal. With Newcastle, Aston Villa and Hull in their next four matches, Walters will have plenty of opportunities to add to his tally.

Independent Scout Pick review:

 

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In summary, it was a solid week that could have been so much more. The big gamble on Arsenal landed, but we lost a third of our stake as Sanchez failed to even make the bench. Our vice-captain, Giroud, stepped up manfully to deliver a 20 point haul and Ospina returned defensive dividends. The rest of our backline capitulated woefully. Bertrand was the chief culprit, adding a red card to the defensive disappointment of conceding to a late, long-range strike. Another late goal at Old Trafford robbed us of further clean sheet points, and Stoke completed the misery with a sloppy gift for Nico Kranjcar. The predicted dominance for the home team materialised at St Mary’s, but a lack of creativity and abject finishing cost Southampton, and our fantasy team, dearly. Eden Hazard, Angel Di Maria, and Jermain Defoe provided some consolation with 19 points between them..

Differentials: Our low-ownership picks from the Emirates delivered handsomely with Bellerin and Walcott notching 12 and 8 points respectively. Papiss Cisse earned a solitary point in an eight minute cameo on return from the African Cup of Nations.

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