The four Premier League players to have in your Fantasy team for the rest of the season

With just three months of football remaining, every single Fantasy Premier League manager will be reviewing their teams and be aiming to make the most out of the outstanding features they have, whether that’s the wildcard option, the bench boost, the free hit or even the triple captain selection.

Unsurprisingly, the Premier League has been really unpredictable this season, as majority of the teams in the league and a lot of the well-known players from the top-six sides have been inconsistent. However, with 11 league fixtures left and the European Championship to take place this summer, a large number of individuals will be working their socks off to reach this grand stage.

Not only that, given the return of the prestigious Champions League as well as the Europa League football, all Fantasy Premier League managers will be doubting any important decision they make and they will not be totally sure of what results to expect or predict in the upcoming fixtures.

With no further ado, here are the four perfect Premier League players to have in your team…

Goalkeeper – Alisson

Having the best defensive record in the league, conceding 15 goals in 26 league games, there’s no doubts at all that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are miles ahead of the rest of the teams in the country and are potentially on their way to ending the season undefeated. On that note, having Alisson Becker in your team is a no brainer, who is on 10 clean sheets along with Nick Pope, despite playing nine games fewer than the Burnley shot stopper due to the calf injury he picked up back in August.

The 27-year-old Brazilian international is now being recognised as the best goalkeeper in the league and one of the best in Europe, as he continues to put in the hard work between the goalposts along with helping the side through his ability to play as a ball-playing individual. With Liverpool’s fixtures looking straightforward, barring the games away to Arsenal and Manchester City, there should be no huge problems in seeing Alisson to carry on achieving the consistent clean sheets, who is only valued at £6.2m.

Defender – John Lundstram

A lot of FPL managers would have found out by now about the advantage and benefits of having John Lundstram in their team, someone who is a central-midfielder but is actually seen as a defender on the Fantasy Football app and website. The main positives are when Sheffield United keep a clean sheet or when Lundstram himself bags a goal, as he is able to go onto gaining a few extra bonus points, which is why he has accomplished over 100 points and is expected to gain more and more.

Although he has been benched by Chris Wilder over the last couple of weeks for the Blades’ record signing in Sander Berge, he is expected to be brought back into the line-up soon rather than later, as the side are continuing to push for a spot in next season’s Europa League and will want to finish the campaign on a high note. With the side having the second best defensive record in the league, along with Lundstram being the club’s third best player in terms of direct goal contributions, it would surely be an easy and simple decision of bringing him into your backline for a figure of just £5.0m.

Midfielder – James Maddison

For sure, his form over the last two months has not been brilliant, but with the likes of Norwich, Aston Villa and Watford coming up for Leicester City, it would be more than ideal to keep or bring James Maddison into your fantasy football team. The English playmaker has managed to produce 68 key passes so far this season, with only three other players in the league outdoing him in this area.

With the Euros coming up this summer, Maddison will hope that his performances throughout the season as well as what he produces in the final few months will be enough to persuade Gareth Southgate to select him in the squad, as he will have a number of players to choose from due to the rise of Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi and many other individuals. Back onto Maddison, for a value of £7.4m, he is bound to come in with the goals and assists for the Foxes, as they actually have an easy run of games before they face Spurs and Man Utd towards the end of the campaign.

Striker – Tammy Abraham

In his first full season as a regular starter for Chelsea, Tammy Abraham has shown up with the much needed goods, as he has notched 13 goals and three assists in 25 league appearances. Given the ongoing injury he has had from the start of this year, he has not been able to perform the same way as he was once doing and it has prevented him from playing at his best, but with the recent winter break and some further time off, he is now fully back at 100% and is ready to score the crucial goals once again.

It’s not easy to choose the ideal striker in your fantasy football team, but for a team that’s quite attacking-minded as Chelsea are and with Abraham always starting ahead of the likes of Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud, he will always seem like the most suitable option as he aims to end the season on 20 league goals and over. Chelsea’s remaining fixtures from now till the end of the season does not seem difficult at all, barring Liverpool and Man City, the rest look like straightforward victories if they can be dominant and ruthless on both sides of the pitch.

Razor sharp Blades Sheffield United and their long term project

In talking about Sheffield United’s rise in the Premier League we need to mention three key names, club owner, Abdullah bin Musad bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud Galaz, chairman Musa’ad bin Khalid bin Musa’ad bin Abdulrahman Al Saud and manager Chris Wilder.

It has been a building process that has been going on with the club since the early 2010s and as we start a new decade all of that hard work and investment is bearing its fruits.

This season Sheffield United have got promoted to the Premier League and many media pundits and ex-players who had been involved within the game for years were expecting United to struggle. They used the same old cliche that if the club finished 17th this season it would be seen as a success because it would be survival. But United have been better, much better than that.

Let’s firstly talk about Chris Wilder’s influence on the team. Wilder was recruited in 2016 and didn’t start so well at the club, but then they had a fantastic run there on in and got 100 points as they got promoted from League one. But despite Wilder being financially restricted in his early years with the club there were two things in his and the clubs favour.

The first was that Wilder had played over 100 games for the Blades and was a life long fan. Having a professional manager and one who is a fan in charge of your club is a huge plus. The second was signing forward Billy Sharp. Sharp is a long time United fan too and that just means that there is so much extra passion for the job you are doing, you are no longer playing for a club, in some ways this is what your life is all boiling down too.

Sharp in his 2nd stint with the club has not let his manager down either. He has scored 89 goals from 180 games, scoring 23 in the Championship last season. Whilst the striker has struggled somewhat to adjust to the Premier League as he only has 2 league goals so far he has also had niggling injuries and played just over half of his clubs games.

But with the right owners and Wilder in charge the club just have a fantastic winning mentality. Media pundits have called the team a boa constrictor. In that they let the opposition have the ball early on and then take a grip of the game and do not let up, and let’s face it they have been very impressive this season. So impressive that there is talk they could finish 4th and claim the final Champions League place for next season, imagine that?

For now they are in 5th place and have won their last two games in a row. They would need to find a little more consistency of course as they have still lost 7 games this season.

Wilder, who has got the team promoted twice in three seasons was rewarded with a new 4 year extension contract and rightly so, just how far the Blades could go is only limited it seems by their dreams.

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Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Sheffield United 2-1 Bournemouth

There were only 3 games played at the weekend in the Premier League because of the winter break and a storm which was fierce enough to call off the Manchester City and West Ham match. The pick of them ended up being in Sheffield, where Sheffield United going for a European place were taking on Bournemouth who are flirting with the bottom three.

Sheffield United came out 2-1 winners in a lively game that became very nervous for the hosts given that they were the favourites to win. The home side also known as the Blades went back up to 5th place and are only 2 points behind 4th place Chelsea. The victory has given Chris Wilder’s team a belief that not only could they finish in a Europa League position which would be an incredible achievement but also that they could have a chance to stun everyone and qualify for the Champions League. Of course despite such a great win we have to remember that Chelsea and Tottenham do have a game in hand of the Blades.But still there is nothing wrong with dreaming.

As for the game it got off to the worst possible start for the home side when Callum Wilson scored his 7th goal of the season to open up the game after just 13 minutes. The first half looked like Bournemouth would go in in the lead, but Billy Sharp equalised for the home side during injury time and that was certainly a psychological changing point for Bournemouth.

The home side had enjoyed 59% possession in the first half and whilst Bournemouth had managed to score it was telling that their goal was their only shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

In the second half though a United take over of the game didn’t exactly happen and in fairness to Bournemouth it was a very equal second period. With six minutes remaining it seemed like the game was destined to end in a draw, but John Lundstram latched onto a Lys Mossett pass and was able to convert sending the home fans wild with jubilation. It was Lundstram’s 4th goal of the season and possibly his most important.

It’s been widely excepted this season that United under Wilder have a game plan which is to suffocate play and really chase down the balls, and even though the club sometimes start games slowly it has been impressive how they stamp their authority on matches. The Blades will now have an 11 day break and their next game will be at home again against Brighton who are in 15th position and surely they will be favourites to win that game also as they have Chelsea clearly in their sights, the Blues have a tough fixture against Manchester United.

As for Bournemouth they will play Burnley next and Eddie Howe’s team are in real trouble in 16th place and just 2 points above the bottom three. It’s all to play for.

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Are Manchester City feeling the brunt of VAR?

With the Premier League having 2 games in the matter of a few days Manchester City, the champions could well be aggrieved about some of the decisions that have not gone their way. VAR has struck again and whilst the technology is getting decisions correct, there does seem to be fine margins and a lack of consistency.

This past weekend City made heavy weather at home once again to Crystal Palace. Palace had infamously beaten them 3-2 last season at the Etihad and with a little under 20 minutes to play on Saturday Palace were again winning this time it was 1-0 and whilst City dominated the game it looked as if they were going to have one of their frustrating days in front of the goal. And then there was a penalty….

The referee Graham Scott had no problem pointing to the spot and City looked saved. The incident occurred when Jairo Riedelwald in defence for Palace had handled the ball. Now this wasn’t an intentional hand ball and the ball had ricocheted from his own body- in other words there was nothing he could do. Common sense would have said no penalty. The referee who obviously saw it in real time said penalty. But when the decision went to VAR it was overturned and the decision was no penalty.

However rarely has VAR used common sense to when looking at decisions. It has gone straight for the rule book. So if  players knee is offside then VAR would go along with that, the same with handballs. There have been many examples of players handling the ball and goals being disallowed. West Ham’s last minute equaliser against Sheffield United. The ball came off of Declan Rice the Hammers player, he never meant it and there was no malice, but VAR ruled no goal, he had handled the ball.

And so when VAR did make the right decision in the City-Palace game it felt off. Where did the rule book go? All of a sudden City’s hopes were resting in what some one thought about said incident, and they thought no penalty. Another referee in the room could well have said penalty. So we come down now to a massive lack of consistency for all involved. City to their credit didn’t let the decision affect them and did score 2 goals through Sergio Aguero, but Palace scored again to add a sting to the tail as the match finished 2-2 and City slipped further behind league leaders Liverpool.

But the controversy did not stop there for Pep Guardiola’s team. In midweek City had to play Sheffield United. Again a must win game even if the title looks doomed for them. This time City were awarded a penalty, and no one was about to change their decision. The problem was in the actual penalty itself. Dean Henderson the Sheffield United goalkeeper was clearly off his line when Gabriel Jesus struck the ball and this looks like the only reason he saved it.

At the end of the day City won the game 1-0, had it finished 0-0 this story could well have exploded costing City another two points. The rules clearly state that the penalty would have to have been retaken. There was no intervention from VAR and the keeper was a long way off his line and prepared.

The problem is not really with VAR itself but the people who are using the technology. They are making the same old tired mistakes that officials were making without VAR, there is simply a total lack of consistency. It’s caught even the champions out and the worry is that it could play a vital role in the pressurised environment of the relegation battle.

Another batch of Premier League games, some great ones, good goals, incidents but five months into the new season and VAR is still the talking point. That’s fine as an after thought, but it is the main talking point, and surely no one who is in love with the game wants that?

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Even in defeat by Manchester City, Sheffield United showed why they belong in the Premier League

In the end, Manchester City’s quality shone through. Moments before Sergio Aguero tapped home the winning goal from Kevin De Bruyne’s low delivery, Sheffield United had a similar chance of their own. Enda Stevens fired the ball across the box from the left, but Oli McBurnie was unable to add the finishing touch. This was a reminder that football is a game of fine margins.

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Without Aubameyang Arsenal look like a very ordinary team

When Paul Tierney produced the red card which sent off Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last weekend, Arsenal hearts would have sunk. The former Borussia Dortmund player has been far and away the most influential figure at the club in what has become a difficult couple of seasons for the Gunners.

When Aubameyang plays he usually scores and when he scores Arsenal usually walk away with points.

The challenge was a red card indeed, a foot above the players ankle and there is little doubt that Tierney gave the correct decision. With it being a straight red card it means that Aubameyang will miss 3 games in a row for the club. That starts this weekend when Arsenal take on Sheffield United at home. Aubameyang will also miss the game away to Chelsea at the end of the month and the 4th FA Cup tie at Bournemouth.

Aubameyang has been on so many occasions Arsenal’s one bright light, a genuine star for a club that used to have 11 on the pitch. This season he has scored 14 goals just under 50% of all of Arsenal’s league goals. He is on course to beat his personal league best of 22 goals which he recorded last season and in all competitions he has 57 goals from 91 appearances. A great return.

One could wonder where Arsenal would be in the league without the player and without his goals? Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe have not cut it in terms of goals and it’s fair to say without Aubameyang’s contribution Arsenal could well have 10 points less. If this was the case then the Gunners would be in the bottom three.

Mikel Arteta the Arsenal manager was right to say that his players need to step up in reference of Aubameyang missing. The former Arsenal player said: “Players have to step up. You know, when one of your big players is not there, they have to take responsibility. I’m sure when they’re not playing, they want a chance and they talk. It’s time to talk on the pitch, not outside. You come on there, you make the impact that he made and you sure me that you are as good as him or even better. You have the chance.

These were strong and direct words from Arteta who will surely be feeling the pressure after 1 win in his four games in charge of the Gunners, he went on to say. “It’s a big shame and a big loss for us, because as well we know Auba’s intention when he plays. But unfortunately he mistimed the tackle, he made a decision and we have to accept it. Auba has been around, he was very sad after the game. He was disappointed that he left the team with 10 men. It’s an action that is completely accidental in my opinion.”

How will Arsenal fare without the deadly striker? Could it yet be a blessing in disguise as the team are forced to make tactical changes, or will the misery for the club this season deepen? This weekend when they play Sheffield United at the Emirates will reveal that answer.

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What a season for Chris Wilder’s Blades

I don’t think I was alone in thinking that Sheffield United would struggle in their first season back in the Premier League (PL). I believed The Blades were set to endure a very tough relegation battle, ultimately ending with the Steel City side dropping back to the Championship. How wrong I was.

Chris Wilder’s side has been the surprise package of the 2019/20 campaign to-date. Not even the most optimistic Blades fan would have dared to believe this team could be as high as sixth in the table at this stage.

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After West Ham are denied a point are there serious issues with VAR, handball and offside?

VAR has been the main focus point in the Premier League this season and often made controversial choices. The newest one denied West Ham what looked like a last minute equaliser against Sheffield United. But VAR stepped in and denied the goal based on the fact that there had been a handball in the goal’s build up.

The new technology was right, there had been a handball. It was slight and it certainly wasn’t intentional, not in a Thierry Henry way when the French legend deliberately used his hand to control the ball in a World Cup play off with Ireland over a decade ago. This was different, there was no intention, no malice just the pace of the ball, the way it bobbled and the way the player in a natural position had received it. And yet a goal that looked pretty perfect did not exist and West Ham lost the game, incidentally David Moyes’ first loss as Hammers manager.

West Ham’s Declan Rice was the player at fault as he handled the ball and he had this to say to local sports channel Sky Sports after the controversial moment: “We are fuming all the lads are livid. This is a tough place to come, credit to them they ground it out. We created some chances and missed some chances. The goal at the end was a tough one to take because a point on the road would have been good for us.

Rice continued: “ I’ve just watched it back. He has knocked the ball into my hand. If you are running with your arms like that with the rules as they are now it is handball but it is not intentional. It is a kick in the teeth. I think it is the thoughts of every Premier League player, not just me, pretty much every one doesn’t want to have VAR in the game.There have been so many decisions this season that have been absolutely crazy. They were celebrating VAR like it was a goal and football should not be like that. I can’t get over it, he knocked it into my hand. It is not intentional handball. I was buzzing. I ran 20 metres up the pitch, slipped the ball in for Snodgrass.”

It is very understandable to feel Rice’s frustrations and it has happened countless times when VAR has stepped in whether it is a handball clearly not intentional or an offside. The offside’s this season have been almost comical where most of the time a goal has been chalked off because a players knee, nose or little finger has been officially offside. Surely this is not cheating or the attacking player having an advantage? They would in fact have to be incredibly ingenious to place a nose just in front of the defender all the while keeping tags on where the ball is and where the next pass will be coming from.

So is VAR to blame for the chaos? Well in truth the root of the problem are out of date and new laws. The hand ball situation is a farce, it ruined last years Champions League final for example. All VAR is essentially doing is going with the rules, but it is being too precise. That may sound odd but true football fans or at least the ones following for decades will understand there have always been errors, but those errors have led to goals and not a lack of. It seems ingrained in football fans DNA that the way of the game wasn’t to pause it and then take 3 minutes to decide if a goal is a goal. And like Rice said is it normal to cheer like a goal has been scored when a VAR decision has gone against the opposition?

It does feel that VAR should be taking some responsibility, after all that final decision is coming down to another referee, who is not seeing the issue at hand. If pressure is being applied to have these decisions within the new rules at a 100% return then the rules need to be amended. The bottom line is did that player seek to cheat to get an advantage?

The rules are the rules but they can still be overturned by VAR’s decision, a clear and obvious error and all that. For now that point lost could well come back to haunt West Ham who could be in a relegation battle within a few weeks.

For now this case needs to be filed under c for common sense, let’s hope the powers that be use it fully.

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Chris Wilder’s admission that he will make 11 changes in Sheffield United’s FA Cup game makes no sense at all

You’d have to go back 95 years to the last time Sheffield United won a major trophy and that will certainly tick over to 96 this season. Whilst the Blades are not fore runners to win trophies the manager Chris Wilder has come out with a comment that seems to go against football, as he will rest all 11 regulars for their upcoming FA Cup match at the weekend.

To sympathise with Wilder one can look at the fact that his team have had to play Manchester City and then Liverpool. That is two of the toughest games in Europe right now and both games were away from home. They inevitably lost both but could hold their heads up high and did not get slaughtered and played some good football, even creating a few chances for themselves. But defeats are defeats and United have taken a knock back as a result.

At the same time Sheffield United have actually had a superb first half of the season for them. Newly promoted from the Championship they have flirted with the top six for a majority of their time and keep their form up and they should have no problems in finishing in the top half of the league.

But after he saw his side lose 2-0 at Anfield to the champions-elect Liverpool, the Blades manager had this to say: “I will be making 11 changes, I wasn’t going to and I apologise for changing my mind but we’ve just had two back-to-back defeats and looking at the lads tonight it occurred to me that the Manchester City game may have taken more out of us than I thought. I was a little bit drained after that performance, to be honest. We never laid a glove on Liverpool, we were well beaten technically and tactically and, but for our goalkeeper, we might have lost by four or five.”

The best finish, one would expect is that Sheffield United will try to slot into Europa League place in the Premier League. But this is a period when the going does indeed get tough and other teams namely Tottenham, Manchester United and Wolves are going to have to step up their game and United could well have a solid season but have nothing to show for it except survival and some decent results. Whilst there is nothing wrong with that why would you basically give up the FA Cup before you have even started?

Of course the Blades will start as the massive odds on favourites to beat non league AFC Fylde. But can one presume that their bench and some reserves will have the quality to win? Of course it makes sense for Wilder to make some changes, but 11, really? In United’s case playing a non league team and being at home could make sense to rest some players, but we are seeing it time and again from clubs even when they reach the latter stages of a cup competition, giving up that competition so they can finish 10th in the Premier League just seems to make very little sense.

Sure there is the financial aspect to placings in the league but so many clubs have gone generations without a trophy, surely a fan would be happy to give up a place or two if it meant a good cup run? United has a very decent team this season and in the cup anything can happen. Make these changes and that phrase could come back to haunt Wilder’s decision.

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Sheffield Utd 3-3 Man Utd: The points are shared out between both sides in a six-goal thriller

The main focus of gameweek 13 was the huge clash between Man City and Chelsea, two sides who are looking to catch up to the Liverpool, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a difficult trip and a crucial match away to Sheffield United. Chris Wilder’s men have been on fine form since being promoted to the Premier League and have prove themselves to the top teams, which cannot be said about the other new boys in Aston Villa and Norwich City, who are badly struggling.

Focusing on the game as a whole, the hosts without a doubt outplayed and dominated the visitors, in terms of chances created, shots completed and where most of the possession was played on the pitch. The Blades were magnificent and untouchable in the first half, importantly taken the lead through John Fleck whilst playing comfortably with the ball and with a really good level of tempo.

They managed to continue with that straight after the half-time break, in terms of winning the ball in the right areas and pressuring the opposition time and time again through their movement and intelligence. This is how they doubled their lead, as they were able to force Andreas Pereira to lose the ball in the central area with his team-mates high up the pitch, allowing John Fleck to find Lys Mousset on the quick counter attack, who perfectly placed his shot into the corner of the net.

Meanwhile for the Red Devils, they were all over the place for 70 minutes of the match, unconvincing defensively, completely anonymous in midfield and the front three were slouching around in the opponent’s half with nothing to feed from or work with. Even in the first half alone, they only completed one shot on goal, showing how they lacked the required desire and urgency.

However, after Solskjaer made a tweak to the system in the second half, the team were able to have more time and space on the ball whilst having the numbers to get into the final third of the pitch. From the 70th minute till the 80th minute, the attacking-minded and ruthless United side showed up, as United pulled out three well-worked goals from nowhere, with them coming from Brandon Williams, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, three players that came from the academy.

With just a couple of minutes to go, the neutral supporters of the Premier League got what they wanted for a special Sunday evening, as the substitute, Oliver McBurnie, saw his shot to be too powerful for David De Gea and went into the back of the net, leaving the points to be shared out by both teams. In the end, Sheffield United sit comfortably and proudly in sixth-place, whilst Manchester United find themselves in ninth position, nine points away from the top four spots.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

The Red Devils do not have the foundation for a top four finish

Majority of the Old Trafford faithful would have felt that the chances of finishing in the top four would have been very slim a month or so ago, and now they would be thinking to themselves if the side are capable of finishing in the top half of the table. This is what happens when a squad is lacking the required depth and quality, something that the board and Ed Woodward have failed to repair.

Because of this unfortunate situation, the side have been forced to rely on the youngsters time and time again whilst there are not that many experienced players within the midfield and forward department to look up to. With there being no project and system put into place on and off the pitch, United are forced to work on individual quality and counter-attacking football, leaving them with a huge amount of uncertainty on if they can win games consistency and be successful at all.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is starting to show that the job is too big for him

If we are being brutally honest, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been sacked by now if he wasn’t a former Manchester United player that is seen as likeable person by the club and its loyal supporters. For sure, he understands the club’s style of play and the history of the football club, but he hasn’t shown the intelligence and the tactical flexibility that he is made to manage one of the biggest clubs in the world, on top of the fact that he failed to be successful at Cardiff City and Molde previously.

With the likes of Marcelino, Mauricio Pochettino and Max Allegri available and seeking for a new club, the pressure is definitely on Solskjaer to start picking up the much needed performances or results, as the board and Ed Woodward will not be able to bare another season without Champions League football. If things do not end well with this campaign, it may be ideal for the 46-year-old Norwegian to step down from the job, in order to save his reputation as a legend of the club.

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United continue to outdo everyone’s expectations

Sheffield United are proving to be one of the best surprises of the Premier League so far this season, as they have been able to show their quality on both sides of the pitch whilst playing in a unique system under manager Chris Wilder that involves the use of overlapping centre-backs. Within this style of play, the team are able to attack effectively and are in full control on and off the ball.

The Blades have been really successful against the big boys, having beaten Arsenal at home whilst taking one point each from the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and now Manchester United, with their only defeat being an unfortunate one against Liverpool. If both Chris Wilder and Sheffield United are able to keep this up, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them finishing in the top half of the table, something they would have never dreamt of at the start of the Premier League campaign.