Welcome to AM's Players To Watch for Gameweek 17 of the 2019/2020 Premier League season. As long-time readers of my columns will know, the advice in seasons' gone by had revolved around games that would allow you to make unlimited transfers each gameweek, selecting an entirely new 11 players if you so wished. Unfortunately Yahoo Fantasy Premier League is a glorious but distant memory, as is Togga's Perfect XI game which inspired my previous Rotoworld column.
Nowadays I’m mixing things up by generalising the player recommendations given each week. So, whether you're playing Official FPL, FPL/Fantrax Draft, Fantrax Salary Cap, Sky Sports, The Sun, The Telegraph or any number of other the fantasy games available to fans each season, I'll be offering my top picks for the week ahead, mixing "must-haves" with hunch picks and players flying under the radar. Hopefully this will offer something for everyone, whether you're considering captain options, looking to make a transfer or picking up a free agent in draft.
Gameweek 16 was a poor one for my own FPL team with a below average total of 50 points leading to a drop down to 900k in the overall rankings. Ironically the recommendations in this column performed well with Jamie Vardy, Dele Alli, Danny Ings and Mohamed Salah all returning solid fantasy points. Unfortunately I only owned Vardy out of those four names and if it hadn't been for another heroic captain display things would've been even worse. Let's move on to Gameweek 17 ...
Saturday 14 December 2019
Liverpool v Watford
Burnley v Newcastle
Chelsea v Bournemouth
Leicester v Norwich
Sheffield Utd v Aston Villa
Southampton v West Ham
Sunday 15 December 2019
Man Utd v Everton
Wolves v Spurs
Arsenal v Man City
Monday 16 December 2019
Crystal Palace v Brighton
Gameweek 17 brings us another regulation 11:30am GMT Saturday FPL deadline as Liverpool host Watford in the early kick off. As always our main focus will be on players from the teams that look set for comfortable wins, with goals or potential clean sheet points on the cards, and you don't need to look much further than that opening fixture. It's top vs bottom in the Premier League, so you're going to want Liverpool representation. Leicester hosting Norwich, Chelsea at home to Bournemouth and Manchester City at Arsenal are all worth a look, and I like Southampton's chances at home to West Ham. The remaining fixtures should all be tightly contested affairs but we'll look to pick out a player or two to act as a decent differential. With that in mind, here are the guys to keep in your thoughts ahead of the deadline ...
James Ward-Prowse (MF - Southampton v West Ham) - "Young" James Ward-Prowse isn't that young any more. Once one of the brightest prospects in English football the talented midfielder turns 26 in 2020 and yet there's a nagging feeling that he's yet to get close to his full potential, drifting in and out of the starting XI under various Southampton managers due to injuries or lack of form. Things have improved this season with Ward-Prowse starting every match under Ralph Hasenhüttl and showing more consistency, plys he's on a decent run with three goals and an assist in his last four Premier League appearances. West Ham are on a woeful run themselves and so I'm predicting a much-needed home win for the Saints and a star turn from JWP.
Marcus Rashford (FW - Man Utd v Everton) - Follow the form. Marcus Rashford has helped revitalise Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United side in recent weeks, with the Red Devils leaping up in to the Premier League top 5 after the striker spearheaded impressive back-to-back victories over Tottenham and Manchester City. The 22-year old has always been a fantastic finisher but he's becoming a more intelligent team player too and it's clearly helping the team to gel in attacking areas. There are still plenty of issues to solve within the United squad before we can confirm the club has officially turned a corner, but seven goals in eight games for Rashford tells its own story and he can ride this wave of positivity in to Gameweek 17 with Everton visiting Old Trafford.
James Tarkowski (DF - Burnley v Newcastle) - Burnley have been a bit 'Jekyll and Hyde' this season and were hammered at Spurs in Gameweek 17 but Sean Dyche's charges have been a different proposition at Turf Moor. Four of the club's five Premier League wins this season have been in front of their home fans and so a clash with Newcastle will feel like an opportunity for three points to edge further away from the relegation zone. This is a match that could be low scoring which brings clean sheets in to play and Newcastle have struggled against set pieces in general this season, so James Tarkowski's attacking threat suggests he's the defender to go for if you fancy the Clarets to get a result.
Vice-Captain: Sadio Mané (MF - Liverpool v Watford) - We correctly predicted a rest for Sadio Mané in last week's column and got it spot on by recommending Mohamed Salah in his stead. Despite another exciting display from Salah in midweek I'm leaning back towards Mane for the home clash with Watford based on his consistency and general fitness over the course of the campaign so far. Whichever way you go you'll want at least one of these guys in your side for GW17, especially when you discover Liverpool have won their last three Anfield clashes with the Hornets by an aggregate score of 16-0.
Captain: Jamie Vardy (FW - Leicester v Norwich) - For a record-breaking five gameweeks in a row, Jamie Vardy takes the captain armband for my FPL side. Leicester's talisman has scored in eight games in a row, has 13 goals in his last 10 starts, 16 for the season and is topping the FPL point scoring charts across all positions by whopping 20 points over his nearest rival. These are crazy numbers and there's no sign that Vardy has any intention of taking his foot off the gas. Clearly benefitting from international retirement and no European football the striker looks fitter, quicker and sharper than ever before in his career and on current form should put Norwich to the sword on Saturday afternoon.
As an added bonus, here's a starting XI of players that don't feature above but could all have cracking fantasy weeks:
GK: Nick Pope
That's it for Gameweek 17's Players to Watch. Check out the Rotoworld Features page to access a host of fantastic content to get you ready for the weekend. If you have any questions about a specific player or your own fantasy team then feel free to post them in the comments below or hit me on Twitter (@nikarg) and I will get back to you.
Thanks for reading - good luck to all managers this weekend.