One Week Punts for GW15

Gameweek 16 is the last opportunity for patient FPL managers to deploy their first wildcard. With many of these managers using the wildcard to tailor their squad to make the most out of BGW18 and DGW19, GW15 presents an opportunity to take a punt or two on high risk, high reward players that can easily be removed on wildcard immediately. In this article, I will look at 5 FPL assets that I think could score well in GW15, but are perhaps not desirable as long-term picks.

DEF – Benjamin Mendy (£5.9m) vs NEW

If, and it’s a big if, Mendy starts against Newcastle at the Etihad on Boxing Day, I fancy him to score well. The Frenchman has had his start to the season hampered by injury thus far, managing just 6 starts in the first 14 gameweeks. However, he has demonstrated that when he is on the pitch, he can still provide that attacking spark that we became so accustomed to seeing early in the 2018/2019 season. At the start of that season, Mendy was a staple of our FPL teams, with his marauding runs down the left wing leading to 6 attacking returns that campaign.

Although he has struggled to hit those heights since, I think Mendy is still capable of offering something to FPL managers, especially when there is minimal risk attached as a one week punt. He notched a 14 point haul at home to Burnley in GW10, recording a goal, clean sheet and two bonus points in an impressive 5-0 win for City. I expect Newcastle to set up in a similar way to Burnley (in a low block) and be on the end of a similar result.

Pep Guardiola seems to favour Mendy against teams that will defend deep at the Etihad, perhaps due to the attacking threat he can provide down the left flank. Guardiola has been reluctant to play Mendy in trickier away fixtures, but has trusted him to start City’s last 3 home league games, which were all against teams that were expected to defend in a low block. For that reason, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mendy got the nod to face Newcastle. You would expect a City defence that has conceded just 1 goal in their last 5 games to notch another clean sheet against a toothless Magpies outfit, and with his undoubted attacking threat, I think Mendy will do well in GW15.

DEF – Joel Matip (£5.4m) vs WBA

Matip has also had his injury problems in the last 12 months, but completed 90 minutes last time out at Crystal Palace and recorded 9 points courtesy of an assist and a clean sheet. On another day he could have had more, but bonus points evaded him because of the plethora of attacking returns that were recorded by his team-mates in Liverpool’s brilliant 0-7 win at Selhurst Park.

Liverpool have been without their first-choice defence for most of the season, but a centre-back pairing of Matip and Fabinho looks solid on paper, and saw the Reds to their 3rd clean sheet in 6 games last weekend. Coincidentally, the shut-out at Palace was the 9th game in a row where Liverpool have conceded 1 goal or less. This tells us that they are returning to similar defensive solidity that won them the league last season, even without Virgil Van Dijk. You would expect another clean sheet at home to West Brom in GW15, with the Baggies making the daunting trip to Anfield having recorded just 4 big chances in their last 6 games (the lowest in the league).

That means that Liverpool defenders will be hot property in FPL this week, but with premium full-backs Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold both priced at £7.2, it might be more practical for managers to instead look at Matip, who is almost £2.0 cheaper (priced at £5.4m). The Cameroon centre-back is almost certain to start in a slightly depleted Liverpool defence having had over a week since since his last game. He also offers attacking threat of his own, primarily from set pieces, having notched 2 goal attempts against Palace to go with his assist, and a goal against Wolves in GW11 that saw him score 14 points. I don’t expect Matip to keep pace with the full-backs in terms of FPL points in the coming weeks or even just in GW15, but he is a suitable cheaper alternative and a good option in his own right. I also wouldn’t be put off if you already own a Liverpool defender. All the numbers point to a Liverpool clean sheet in GW15, so the double up is likely to be very profitable.

MID – Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m) vs NEW

This pick might raise a few eyebrows, but hear me out. Although Mahrez is the 4th most transferred out player this week and doesn’t have an attacking return since his hat-trick in GW10, I think his fortunes could change against Newcastle.

Firstly, he is likely to start having been benched in City’s last two league games. Secondly, his lack of points in recent weeks don’t tell the full story. Mahrez missed a massive chance in the Manchester Derby in GW12, which is likely to have contributed to him being taken off on 65 minutes at Old Trafford. Then, the Algerian missed another decent chance in the latter stages of his cameo at Southampton in GW14, blazing over the bar wastefully after making half a yard for himself in trademark fashion.

Newcastle’s defence is depleted by the absence of captain Jamaal Lascelles, who is still feeling the long-term effects of coronavirus. They clearly missed him in their last away match against Leeds, where they conceded 25 shots and 5 goals on a humiliating evening for Steve Bruce’s men. I’m predicting a similar outcome at the Etihad, and if Mahrez gets a start, he could make his sellers pay for getting rid before such a mouth-watering fixture.

The City winger has had 4 big chances in his last 6 games, which actually ranks him joint second amongst midfielders. He has also created 14 chances during this time, 4 of which have been big chance, yet he doesn’t have a single assist to show for it. These stats are pretty impressive when you consider that Mahrez has only started 4 of the last 6 games.

This is the definition of a one week punt. If he starts and scores well you look like a maverick. If he is benched and gets a 1 pointer, you can simply get rid of him on wildcard. It’s a no-lose situation.

Gylfi Sigurdsson (£6.8m) vs Shu

A month ago, you would have been considered crazy for suggesting that Gylfi Sigurdsson could be an FPL option. However, the Icelandic midfielder has been rolling back the years recently, with 21 points in the last 3 gameweeks.

Sigurdsson is back in his favourite role as an attacking midfielder under Carlo Ancelotti and is starting to show glimpses of the form that saw him become both an FPL favourite and one of the best midfielders in the league at Swansea. It’s no secret that he hasn’t often hit those heights at Goodison Park, but he seems to have won his managers trust and has heavily contributed to a trio of fantastic wins for Everton.

Ever since he came to the Premier League, Sigurdsson has had a reputation for being a set-piece specialist. He demonstrated his quality from dead ball situations with his assist for Yerry Mina in Everton’s 2-1 win against Arsenal in GW14, and more assists could be on the horizon against a Sheffield United team who have conceded the most attempts from set pieces out of any team in the league this season (68). He is also on penalties, and showed his composure from the spot with his goal against Chelsea in GW12.

I expect Everton to continue their fine form against the Blades, who haven’t kept a clean sheet all season and are rooted to the foot of the table. A nailed Sigurdsson, who will take all set pieces against a side who struggle to defend them, and is on pens, sounds very appealing as a one week punt.

Roberto Firmino (£9.2m) vs WBA

We have now reached the period of the season where Roberto Firmino comes to life. “Bobby” followed up his crucial winner against Tottenham in GW13 with a scintillating Man of The Match performance in Liverpool’s trouncing of Crystal Palace in GW14, recording an impressive 16 pointer, with 3 bonus points to go with his 2 goals and 1 assist.

Firmino has built up a reputation amongst the FPL Community for being an asset that always promises so much but delivers so little. Often his unselfish work means that his team-mates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane steal the show in terms of FPL points, but Liverpool’s number 9 is a brilliant attacker in his own right and has been known to go on a prolonged goalscoring run as soon as he returns to form, as he has in the last couple of weeks.

Liverpool will fancy their chances of handing out another pounding to West Brom, following their rampant win against Crystal Palace. Although the Midlands club held Manchester City to a surprise draw at the Etihad in GW13, the stats show that it was an anomaly, rather than a sign that they have fixed the defensive problems that have plagued them so far on their return to the Premier League. The Baggies have conceded 18 big chances in their last 6 games, conceding 41 shots on target in the same period, with an xGC (expected goals conceded) of almost 13. All of these numbers point to a goal-fest at Anfield as Liverpool look to consolidate their position at the top of the Premier League.

Again, whilst FPL managers might turn their nose up at him as a long-term or even a medium-term pick, if you can easily attain Firmino for GW15 and have the luxury of wildcarding him out in GW16, I would strongly consider him. He seems to be bang in form, playing in a Liverpool side that has looked imperious in recent weeks and faces one of the league’s worst defences at home. The stars are aligning for the man who is often discarded to force himself into the FPL conversation.

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