A host of top Premier League stars are walking the GW19 suspension tightrope
As we reach the mid-point of the 2017/18 English Premier League season, fantasy managers are beginning to be hit hard by a combination of injuries and the threat of rotation posed by a heavy festive fixture list.
This problem could escalate as we move into the second half of the season, though, with the accumulation of cautions set to take their toll before the yellow card amnesty kicks in at the start of the New Year.
Watford currently have 3 players suspended, joining the likes of Christian Benteke on the GW19 sidelines, while West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini has been hit with a retrospective 2-match ban for diving. Chelsea’s Álvaro Morata picked up his 5th caution of the season for celebrating the winning goal in the Blues’ Carabao Cup quarter-final tie with Bournemouth, ruling him out of Saturday’s trip to Goodison Park, while there are a number of high profile Premier League stars that have accumulated 4 cautions already, meaning that their participation in the Boxing Day fixtures and beyond is far from assured. These include the like of Spurs’ Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen, Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez and Granit Xhaka and Manchester United’s Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo and Ander Herrera.
Seasonal Fantasy Premier League managers have every right to be concerned if they own a number of these players in their current squads, so they will clearly be keeping a close eye on the performance of the men in the middle during GW19 proceedings.
These get under way on Friday evening, when Arsenal entertain Liverpool at the Emirates. It seems unlikely that either side will manage to secure a clean sheet and this assumption is backed up by our GW19 goal projections.
There is just a single point separating the 2 sides in the table but Liverpool ran out easy 4-0 winners in the reverse fixture in September, thanks partly to an inspirational display from Mo Salah who earned a WhoScored rating of 8.8 for his efforts, so it will be fascinating to see what sort of special plans Arsene Wenger has for the Egyptian international on Friday.
Youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles has occupied the left-back berth in each of the Gunners’ last 2 league games but Wenger will surely be tempted to start Sead ‘The Tank’ Kolašinac here, in his efforts to contain the Premier League’s top scorer. Nacho Monreal is another option and he could also move over to left-back if Wenger persists with a back four.
It should make for a cracking start to the Christmas programme and Martin Atkinson, who has dished out 4 red cards in 12 appearances this season, will be the man in charge.