December is here, and we’re heading into a vital part of the 18/19 FPL season. Fixtures begin to pile up around this time of the year, forcing managers into rotating their sides – even the league’s top stars aren’t exempt from this. Matches will be coming around every few days, so it’s important to have a strong bench.

Anyway, GW14 is in the books. A number of bandwagons continue to pick up steam, while one appears to be less of a bandwagon and more of a rocket into the FPL stratosphere. No, not Morata. What are the key stats? Are these bandwagons worth hopping on? Let’s have a look.

Gameweek 14: Key Stats

FPL Points: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (16)

Total Shots: Salomon Rondon (7)
Zaha had 6 shots, 3 players had 5 shots: van Aanholt, McArthur and Neves.

Shots in the Box: Gabriel Jesus, Salomon Rondon, Chicharito, Wilfried Zaha, James McArthur (4)
9 players had 3 shots in the box, including Aubameyang, Mane, van Aanholt and Duffy.

Shots on Target: Wilfried Zaha, Heung-Min Son, Pedro, Calum Chambers (3)
14 players had 2 shots on target, including Mustafi, Kane, Giroud, Hazard and Lukaku.

Attempted Assists: Andros Townsend (6)
2 players had 5 attempted assists: Kolasinac and Meyer.

Aguero’s Replacements: Aubameyang vs Kane

Today was one of the oddest experiences in the past few years of playing FPL. I brought in a player midway through GW14, with them yet to actually play, for him to score a 16-point haul. That player was Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, scoring 2, creating 1 more and grabbing all 3 bonus points.

The North London Derby was a bit of an audition for Kane and Aubameyang, seeing as Aguero didn’t feature in Man City’s 3-1 win against Bournemouth. He was ruled out due to a slight knock, as initially brought forward by FPL community favourite, Jamie Jackson:

Pep has also since come out and said that they want to be careful with Aguero, avoiding any risks.

Gabriel Jesus is back from a recent injury, and Sterling has played up front for City in the past, giving them rotational options.

A large number of people were looking to ship Aguero for Kane after this gameweek, with Spurs playing Southampton at home in GW15. Kane scored a hat-trick in the same fixture last season.

That being said, the pendulum has swung in Aubameyang’s favour after the North London Derby. Kane had just 2 touches in the box, with his goal coming from the penalty spot.

Kane Touchmap vs Arsenal

Credit: WhoScored

Aubameyang is now the top scorer in the league with 10 goals. Though there are a few worries facing him, such as his position (often placed out on the left wing) and the threat of him starting from the bench, he really looks like a superb option for the winter fixtures.

Arsenal play Man United away next, who looked awful against a struggling Southampton side. They started with Matic and McTominay in a back three. If Nathon Redmond and an actual Football Manager regen can look the part against them, I’m sure Aubameyang will fare just fine. After that, Arsenal play the likes of Huddersfield, Burnley, Southampton and Fulham within the next month.

Arsenal Fixtures December 2018

Kane’s no slouch either when it comes to a potential Aguero replacement. Spurs’ fixtures are outstanding, with Kane being a captaincy option in the majority of matches throughout December:

Spurs Fixtures December 2018

One thing that turned me away from Kane would be the upcoming game against Barcelona. That is an absolute must-win if they want to go through in their Champions League group. The fixtures surrounding that are Leicester – a side that has done well defensively as of late – and Burnley. Spurs tend to look a bit tired after intense Champions League games. Could there be a chance of a slight rest for Kane around this time?

In terms of more direct comparisons between the two, here’s a general overview:

Kane vs Aubameyang - FPL Stats

Credit: Fantasy Football Fix 

Kane has had far more shots, with Aubameyang only having 13 shots on target so far this season, scoring 10 goals. You could potentially see Auba’s form as somewhat unsustainable, with his goals coming from a relatively low number of shots. The two are fairly close in terms of Expected Goals – Auba has 5.84 NPxG (non-penalty expected goals), while Kane has 6.56.

I’ve opted for Aubameyang due to his fantastic record against lesser sides. Also, I’ll be captaining Salah in GW15, with Liverpool playing Burnley – comfortably the worst team in the league in terms of defensive numbers as of late. I don’t want to spend that extra 1m+ on a player who I don’t necessarily want to captain ahead of Salah/Sterling in the next few weeks.

Also, even as a big fan of stats and models such as expected goals… If you’ve got one of the best goalscorers in world football finding a rich vein of form, going into a run of easy fixtures – get him.

There’s a chance that I’ll have both for GW17 – if you’re finding it too hard to choose, this is a bloody good option as well. Many outstanding options are emerging in midfield, potentially seeing moves away from the likes of Hazard and Salah in the long term.

Man City’s Midfield

I wanted to use “midfield minefield” but I’ve used that, like, 10 times already in previous gameweek reviews.

Man City are good. Like, really good. I know that’s the insight you came here for – you’re welcome. Anyway, with Aguero becoming slightly less of an option, the focus has moved towards their midfield.

This week, it was Sterling who was the main FPL breadwinner, scoring and bagging 9 points in the process during City’s 3-1 win against Bournemouth, compared to Sane’s 5 and David Silva’s 1, with him starting from the bench.

Raheem Sterling (11.5m) is the top scorer in the game now with 104 points – the first player to break the triple-digit barrier. He has continued his somewhat undervalued form from last season, where he scored 18 goals and registered 17 assists, returning with 229 FPL points. That’s insane, but was overshadowed by Mo Salah’s record-breaking season. He currently has 8 goals and 7 assists in roughly 1,000 minutes of football.

Leroy Sane (9.3m) has also become a key part of many managers’ thoughts going into the festive fixtures. With Mendy’s injury, he’ll be key for City, providing width on the left-hand side. He’s also been just as explosive as Sterling, also bagging big double-digit hauls twice in the last 4 games.

David Silva‘s (8.7m) recent goalscoring form has been impressive, too. He’s not as explosive as his more expensive teammates, scoring in 3 consecutive games before being rested against Bournemouth.

He’s also continued to be one of the chief creative forces in the league, with 5.34 Expected Assists – second only behind Ryan Fraser. The underperformance here is odd, with him only claiming 2 assists so far – you’d expect him to have far more.

FPL Expected Assists

The one common issue with these players is the heightened rotation risk, as we saw with David Silva this week.

That being said, it’s intersting to note that Sterling actually played the majority of fixtures during this period last season. Granted, they didn’t have Mahrez, but Bernardo Silva – currently playing in absense of De Bruyne – would crop up on the right-hand side at times instead.

Sterling Christmas 2017

Personally? I’d go for two of them. I currently have Sterling and will be bringing in Sane following the Chelsea match in GW16. They’re all just too damn good.

In terms of just picking one, Sane is actually the standout for me, even though I splashed out the big bucks on Sterling. He has 5 goals and 7 assists in just 682 minutes of football – a staggering rate of returns. He has the potential to provide similar to returns to Sterling, at nearly 2m cheaper.

In the past 4 gameweeks, both Sterling and Sane have had 10 shots each, as well as 9 attempted assists each. They’ve also had 5 shots on target each, as well as 2 big chances created a piece.

Sane actually edges Sterling in terms of shots per game with 3.3, compared to Sterling’s 2.5.

Sterling vs Sane FPL Stats

…this just turned into a Sane vs Sterling comparison. Sorry, David. His underlying stats are rather impressive, tying into the previous mention of his expected assists.

He’s close to the others in terms of shots on target, and not too far off in terms of general shots over the past 4 gameweeks, even with him being rested this week.

Silva vs Sane vs Sterling

Silva has 93 completed final third passes – far more than the other two. He also has 22 penalty area actions, which is essentially where the ball is played into the box. This could indicate that, especially with Sane’s direct runs in behind, he’s more likely to play the pass that assists the assist – a hockey assist, if you’re into that kinda thing.

Festive Bench Fodder

As mentioned earlier, it’s likely that key players are going to be rested here and there. The likes of Sterling, Salah and Aubemeyang may well miss a game or two, or will at least see reduced minutes. Especially the Man City players. Bloody Pep.

So, it’s key to ensure that you’ve at least got a playing bench. But which players are posing the best options coming off the bench? Here are some standout options if you have non-playing bench fodder.

Víctor Camarasa – 4.6m

Past 4 Gameweeks:

Shots: 10
Shots in the Box: 3
Attempted Assists: 7
FPL Points: 7
Minutes Played: 355

The underlying stats aren’t half bad, but he’s currently on 4 yellow cards. Could be a handy option following that suspension.

Christopher Schindler – 4.3m

We won’t look at individual stats for this one. Schindler makes the list due to Huddersfield’s improved defensive form. I picked them out as a target, along with Cardiff, in gameweek 6 due to their defensive frailties – this has changed a fair bit.

Since the start of October, Huddersfield have had the 3rd lowest Expected Goals Against, with 6.82. They’ve also conceded just 8 goals in 7 games, keeping 2 clean sheets in the past 4 games.

Expected Goals Against November 2018

Credit: Understat

Fabián Balbuena – 4.4m

Another defensive option, Balbuena offers a way into a West Ham side which has the most favourable fixture run of any side during the festive period.

West Ham Fixtures December 2018

They actually managed to keep a clean sheet this week, at long last. The form says he shouldn’t be one of the first names on the team sheet, but the fixtures make him a playable asset, and a cheap one at that.

All Aboard the Anderson Express?

One potential bandwagon that’s gaining some steam would be that of West Ham’s Felipe Anderson (7.0m).

He scored in West Ham’s 3-0 win against Newcastle, bagging 10 points – making it 34 points in the last 4 games for the mercurial Brazilian. This was also his third double-digit return for the season, claiming 9 bonus points so far – joint-fourth of all midfielders so far this season.

The underlying stats aren’t half bad for him, racking up 10 shots and 7 attempted assists in those 4 gameweeks. He’s been linking very well with Arnautovic, who’s a popular FPL asset that’s been having recent issues with injuries.

Moving away from Arnie and going towards Anderson could be an option. Arnie could see more limited minutes during the next month considering his knee issues and the upcoming fixture congestion.

I’d also talk up the fixtures, but we can see them above, underneath the Balbuena section. They’re bloody good, aren’t they? He’s really finding his feet after a slow start, and is providing somewhat consistent attacking returns. West Ham are also opting for a much more counter-attacking oriented approach, suiting Anderson down to the ground with his ridiculous pace on the break.

He ticks all the boxes, basically. Cheap price, low ownership (<10%), outstanding fixtures, excellent form. He’s absolutely worth considering if you’re in the market for a mid-priced midfielder.

Burnley.

They’re fucking shite, like.

In their 2-0 loss away at Crystal Palace, they conceded 29 shots, attempting only 4 shots of their own. They’re becoming a primary target when it comes to bringing in or captaining players who are playing against them.

Further elaborating on the “they’re fucking shite, like” remark – here are some stats.

Burnley have conceded 21.4 shots per game – comfortably the worst in the league, with Brighton coming next with 16.9 shots conceded per game. Their xGA (expected goals against) sits at 29.66, the highest number of expected goals against in the league, according to Understat’s model.

They’ve conceded 17 goals in their last 6 games. Newcastle managed to score twice against them.

What are their upcoming fixtures? Liverpool (H), Brighton (H), Spurs (A), Arsenal (A), Everton (H). Going back to the Aubameyang and Kane chat, having both of them solely for gameweeks 17 + 18 would be a bloody lovely idea.

Burnley’s form has also kept Salah in my team, as he’ll be my captain for GW15.

A final word, from a Burnley supporter:

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