This article is part of our FPL Roundup series.
Gameweek 17 of the Premier League season started with a result that's become commonplace, as Chelsea won Saturday thanks to a clean sheet against London rivals Crystal Palace. While another 1-0 victory for the Blues shouldn't surprise anyone given their recent form, it's still absolutely incredible how consistent manager Antonio Conte's men have been since stumbling out of the gates. To that point, Saturday's win marked Chelsea's 11th consecutive, leaving the Italian boss just two wins shy of tying the Premiership record.
Even more impressively, Chelsea's searing hot form only started after they went three matches without a win – a sour patch that was punctuated by a 3-0 battering at Arsenal. After that defeat, Conte switched to his preferred three-man defensive setup, which has quite clearly made all the difference. Along their 11-game transformation into first-place bullies, the Blues have remarkably conceded just two goals. With nine clean sheets over that span, Chelsea's defensive options have become mainstays atop fantasy rankings, and rightfully so. As it stands, three of the four top-scoring defenders in the Premiership's fantasy game are all Blues teammates (Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill and Marcos Alonso), and another Chelsea player (David Luiz) gives the club four of the top nine defenders when sorted by fantasy points per match. Furthermore, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has at least eight fantasy points more than any other player at his position.
Conte's shift in formation has turned Chelsea's backline brigade into fantasy stars, but a familiar unsung hero's role in helping his new team toward the title cannot be overlooked. Seemingly capable of covering every blade of grass, N'Golo Kante did the dirty work that fueled Leicester City's miracle championship campaign last term. While sharing the same last-name pronunciation is another matter, it's no coincidence that Kante has been a perfect fit in Conte's system at Chelsea. With emphasis on relentless pressing, Kante has picked up where he left off at Leicester, playing all 1,530 possible minutes in the Premier League this season, while leading Chelsea in tackles, interceptions and passes completed. Those totals have made him most impactful in daily fantasy formats, but the reality is Kante's midfield industry proves just as important as the goal-scoring exploits of teammates Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.
While Chelsea have produced a bevy of fantasy standouts in defense, one of their starlets is emerging as the real deal while plying his trade elsewhere in England.
On loan at Bournemouth, 21-year-old Nathan Ake has relished the recent opportunity he's been handed by up-and-coming manager Eddie Howe. Although he proved capable at left back and in a defensive midfield role at Watford last season, Ake has been deployed in central defense in Bournemouth's last six games, and has grabbed his chance with open arms.
Not only has Ake put together a pair of clean sheets, but his goal-scoring record should make Bournemouth's attackers blush, as Sunday's score against Southampton gave him three already. With averages of 7.0 clearances, 2.0 tackles and 1.6 aerial wins per game to boot, Ake's overall game makes him a fast-rising fantasy commodity. In fact, among all defenders, only Chelsea's Marcos Alonso sports a better fantasy-point average than Ake's 5.3. The best part of Ake's success, though, is that his £4.4m price should be affordable to any owner.
Although he'll have to sit out the Cherries' Boxing Day meeting with his parent club and face Arsenal in Gameweek 20, Ake's other upcoming matchups against Swansea, Hull, Watford and Crystal Palace all appear favorable for his climb to continue.
Don't look now, but the big man in Manchester is back at his best, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic's brace at West Brom on Saturday continued his recent tear.
After those two goals, which on the road against a Tony Pulis-directed defense is no easy haul, Ibrahimovic now boasts seven scores in his last six Premiership appearances. Although that stretch has seen the Swede vault into second among top fantasy forwards, owners can be forgiven if they didn't foresee Ibrahimovic's turn in form coming. That's because prior to his current streak, the 35-year-old had gone six straight games without a goal.
Although Ibrahimovic has long been considered one of Europe's deadliest strikers, he appears to be running hot and cold in his first half-season in England. Fortunately for fantasy owners, he's hitting his stride once again ahead of the packed holiday schedule, which could see him quickly accumulate a plethora of points, despite the inevitable squad rotations to come.
That expectation is almost guaranteed when looking at Ibrahimovic's upcoming opponents, which is a laundry list of leaky backlines: Sunderland (H), Middlesbrough (H), West Ham (A), Liverpool (H), Stoke (A), Hull (H), Leicester (A) and Watford (H). With fruitful fixtures for the foreseeable future, Ibrahimovic could soon become fantasy's top forward, particularly with occasional rests ensuring he avoids another slump. To top it off, his current price (£11.2m) is cheaper than it was to start this season (£11.5m), potentially making him a holiday-season steal.