Celebrating the New Year, Week 20’s Best XI produced three goals, to go with three clean sheets, but four yellow cards made the festivities a bit sloppy.
In goal, Wojciech Szczesny secured his ninth clean sheet of the season, while also making two saves in Arsenal’s win over Cardiff City.
Defensively, Vincent Kompany and Manchester City’s leaky away defense continued, as they conceded twice at Swansea City, while Kompany also was shown a yellow card. However, his defensive comrades fared much better, as Laurent Koscielny earned clean sheet points for his part in holding Cardiff City scoreless, and Leighton Baines scored a 92nd minute penalty kick to clinch a 1-1 draw at Stoke City.
In the heart of the park, Theo Walcott scored in second-half stoppage time to secure Arsenal’s 2-0 win. But unfortunately, the winger’s season was ended last Saturday after he suffered a torn ACL during the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph over Tottenham. We wish Walcott a speedy recovery.
The remaining midfielders failed to produce, as Yohan Cabaye led his team with four shots (two on target), but was unable to break the West Brom defense, Steven Gerrard disappointingly only featured as a second-half substitute in his return from a hamstring injury, and Samir Nasri played 70 minutes and received a yellow card versus Swansea.
At striker, Romelu Lukaku attempted just two shots (one on goal) before being substituted in the 81st minute of Everton’s draw, while Wayne Rooney earned a yellow card as Manchester United lost yet again at Old Trafford. Thankfully, Captain Luis Suarez scored in Liverpool’s win over Hull City, but a yellow card also marred his performance.
Now that the ultra-hectic holiday schedule has passed, Premiership sides will be coming off some added rest this gameweek, which should make for more regular squad selections. The only mid-week action to consider is two League Cup matches held on Tuesday and Wednesday: Manchester United at Sunderland and West Ham at Manchester City, respectively.
All 20 teams are on the schedule in Week 21, with some of the expectedly more competitive matches falling at the bottom of the table. Fixtures like Cardiff City versus West Ham and Fulham against Sunderland could rearrange the relegation picture.
Conversely, five of the league’s top six teams face favorable matchups where nearly 20 points separate the competing teams, with Manchester City at Newcastle being the only exception.
Finally, Swansea City will look for their second win in as many weeks at Old Trafford, as the Swans bounced Manchester United from the FA Cup last Saturday and travel to the ground for a league game this Saturday.
With that being said, let’s examine some of this gameweek’s potential fantasy heroes.
Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal) – Sporting a clean sheet in three of his last four league games, Szczesny travels to Villa Park to take on an Aston Villa side that currently ranks last in the Premiership with just seven goals through 10 home games. Along with that, the Villains rank second-last in possession this season at 42.4 percent, which should allow Szczesny’s side to dominate the ball even more than usual, thus limiting the keeper’s action and increasing his clean sheet odds.
Seamus Coleman (Everton) – Normally defenders are selected with a clean sheet in mind, and while Norwich City has scored less than one goal per game on the road this season, Everton’s defense will definitely be without starter Phil Jagielka (hamstring), likely without partner Sylvain Distin (hamstring), and possibly without Leighton Baines (back) as well. As such, Coleman’s selection comes with his offensive contribution (five goals, one assist) at the forefront and his clean sheet possibility serving as supplementary value. His goal and assist versus the Canaries in Week 1 further his value this gameweek.
Vlad Chiriches (Tottenham) – After joining Tottenham from Steaua Bucharest of his native Romania, Chiriches has come on lately as a mainstay in the middle of Spurs’ defense. He kept a clean sheet in his last home game and will look to duplicate that success when Tottenham welcome Crystal Palace, the league’s lowest scoring team, this weekend.
Ashley Cole (Chelsea) – The long-serving Chelsea left-back saw his place taken by youngster Cesar Azpilicueta recently, but with teammate Branislav Ivanovic (knee) out, Azpilicueta figures to switch sides to his natural right-back position, with Cole moving into the starting lineup for the Blues’ game at Hull City. Although the Tigers are resilient at home, expect manager Jose Mourinho to deploy a cautiously defensive setup, which could help Chelsea secure their fourth clean sheet in five league showings.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Cole’s teammate, Hazard leads Chelsea with eight goals and five assists so far this season, which has made him a consistent starter in spite of the Blues’ crowded stable of attacking midfielders. Sure, Hull City are tied for the league-lead in home goals allowed (six), but Chelsea have been held scoreless just once (at Arsenal) in the past two months, and Hazard has two goals and an assist in his last three games.
Santi Cazorla (Arsenal) – Following a haul of 12 goals and 11 assists in his debut Premier League season last year, Cazorla has floated below the radar this season and his production of just one goal and two assists through 14 appearances warrants such. However, the recent injury to Theo Walcott could hand Cazorla the added attacking touches he needs to make a second-half surge this term. The Spaniard only trails Arsenal’s leading goal-scorer Olivier Giroud with 2.6 shots attempted per game this season, so after scoring in the FA Cup last weekend, Cazorla could make a similar impact at struggling Aston Villa on Monday.
Clint Dempsey (Fulham) – Back in the Premiership on a two-month loan spell, Dempsey returns with hopes of saving Fulham from relegation. The American midfielder played a full-90 for the Cottagers in the FA Cup last weekend and should be trotted out once again for Saturday’s crucial game with Sunderland. With Fulham scoring at least twice in their last three games at Craven Cottage, Dempsey could remind Fulham’s supporters of his talents on an important stage this weekend.
David Silva (Manchester City) – While City’s defense may not travel well, the Citizens have proven they can score no matter where they’re forced to play, evidenced by a league-best 57 goals to date. Sunday pits them at Newcastle, who Silva scored against in August and had a goal and an assist against in two games last season. Also, until striker Sergio Aguero (calf) returns, Silva figures to play in City’s highly utilized No. 10 role, boosting his fantasy prospects.
Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham) – Reborn under new Spurs manager Tim Sherwood, Adebayor has tallied four goals and an assist over his last six contests across all competitions. This weekend, the striker will be part of a contrast of styles, as Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace is expected to be very organized defensively, while Sherwood insists on attacking play. Palace could frustrate Spurs, but Adebayor has the type of stature and mobility to make an impact, in what could be Tottenham’s fourth win in five games.
Romelu Lukaku (C) (Everton) – Six of Lukaku’s nine league goals this season have come at Goodison Park, where Everton will play Norwich City this weekend. Along with that, the Canaries have allowed the second-most goals this season and have injury concerns regarding center-backs Michael Turner (hamstring) and Sebastien Bassong (knock). With those considerations, Lukaku earns this week’s captain selection.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) – Stoke City, Suarez’s opponent this weekend, has been its usually stout self at the Brittania Stadium this season. However, with strike partner Daniel Sturridge (ankle) possibly returning and club captain Steven Gerrard (hamstring) expected to start, the Potters will have much more than just Suarez on their mind Sunday. A reserve opposing center-back and goalkeeper also boost Suarez’s chances of scoring at Stoke this weekend.
Coleman – Chiriches – Cole
Hazard – Cazorla – Dempsey – Silva
Adebayor – Lukaku (C) - Suarez