January is a critical time for fantasy football managers. The winter wildcard season is in full swing, offering an opportunity to revitalise the performance of flagging teams or entrench the position at the top for those who have got it right so far. We face challenging questions across the pitch in deciding who to pin our hopes on for the second half of the season.
At the back, will Southampton continue to yield the returns that have propelled Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne near the top of the defender rankings? What is the best route into the Chelsea defence? Can Tony Pulis bring the clean sheets to West Brom as he did at Crystal Palace? In midfield, which premium options should be excluded from Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Theo Walcott, and others? And up front, can the cut-price strikers such as Charlie Austin, Danny Ings and Saido Berahino continue to match the returns of their more expensive counterparts?
For those that get the answers to these questions right, mini-league glory, office bragging rights, maybe even the ultimate prize could be yours. Get it wrong and be prepared for the despair that only the red arrow can bring.
GW 22: Independent Scout Picks
Turning our attentions to the immediate challenge of Gameweek 22, we nail our colours to the mast with a team selection brimming with promise.
In Adrian and Carl Jenkinson we are doubling-down on West Ham's defence, which offers the stand-out clean-sheet opportunity of the week against a lack-lustre Hull attack. Liverpool have shown improvements at the back with two clean sheets in three, and are a good bet for a shut-out against a Villa side that has not scored in over 400 minutes of football. The final defensive gamble is on Tottenham to repel a Sunderland team struggling to make an impression on the road. In Jenkinson, Alberto Moreno and Kyle Walker we have chosen defenders that offer attacking flair in addition to clean sheet potential. This week we are happy to swerve a Chelsea defence facing an expansive Swansea side, and Southampton, whose injuries to Toby Alderweireld, Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin may allow Newcastle to breach their backline, especially if the Magpies can find the fluidity shown at Stamford Bridge last week.
In midfield, Di Maria can shine against a leaky Hoops defence, with added threat expected from his higher central role and returning fitness. Hazard and Sanchez are almost essential in current form. And we hope Nacir Chadli can repeat his last performance at the Lane, which yielded 15 points in an irresistible double-act with Harry Kane.
Our strike force is centred around the returning Sergio Aguero. If the City-Arsenal fixture is anything like last year's 6-3 encounter, there will be points aplenty, and for that reason we are willing to give Kun the armband. We expect Kane to be among the points against Sunderland and Ings can continue his fine scoring run against Pardew's more adventurous Palace side.
Have we got the captain choice right? Let us know in the comments below.
For those looking for an accelerated route up the rankings, below are three players with point-scoring potential and an ownership of less than 1 per cent at the time of writing.
Eljero Elia, Southampton, £5.5m, 0.0% ownership: Elia shone in patches against United last week, and will surely have a more fruitful afternoon against a Newcastle defence that has conceded 10 goals in their last 4 games.
Yaya Sanogo, Crystal Palace, £4.8m, 0.7% ownership: Alan Pardew's first purchase may feature on Saturday and has shown in pre-season that he can score a goal despite disappointing in the league for Arsenal.
Chris Baird, West Brom, £3.9m, 0.9% ownership: Baird seems to have found his way into Pulis's starting eleven, returning eight points last week in the Baggies 1-0 win over Hull. With the Pulis system taking shape, more clean sheets are expected.Reuse content