20 Teams: 20 Players looks at the best fantasy football options from each team, each week. From the must starts to the best of a bad bunch, here are this week’s picks for Gameweek 8 of the 2016/17 season.
Arsenal (Swansea H)
Alexis Sanchez: The return to action following the international break will prove an acid test for Arsenal’s title credentials this season. The Gunners have put together a string of impressive displays this season, having lost only one game in all competitions – a 4-3 defeat to Liverpool on the opening day of the season.
It will be interesting to see how their starman Sanchez fares after a flight back from South America. The Chilean has an impressive five goals and four assists in eight starts as a lone striker across all competitions. Against a Swansea in turmoil it could be another big day out.
Bournemouth (Hull H)
Josh King: The Cherries have been quietly effective in their approach this season. The acquisition of Wilshere has galvanised this ball-playing side, but most impressive has been their division of labour. The likes of Callum Wilson, Junior Stanislas and Adam Smith have chipped in with goals, but perhaps Josh King has been most impressive. The ex-United man now has two goals in five starts from midfield positions and is starting to shoulder more responsibility. One to watch.
Burnley (Southampton A)
Michael Keane: The youngster has been reaping the plaudits in recent weeks and it’s with good cause. Burnley have frustrated many of the top teams defensively and were desperately unlucky in Gameweek 7 to lose out to Arsenal by a goal to nil in stoppage time. Michael Keane has been central to their backline and could thwart a Saints team that’s been scoring the bare minimum to get by. Not only a defensive marshall, Keane packs an aerial threat from set-pieces.
Chelsea (Leicester City H)
Diego Costa: The Premier League’s top scorer with six goals and fresh off a goal-capped display for Spain over the international break. Is there really any other option?
Crystal Palace (West Ham United H)
Christian Benteke: The Belgian foiled Everton and likewise showed up his international colleague – Romelu Lukaku – in the process. Palace snatched a 1-1 draw at Goodison thanks to a truly remarkable hanging header from the centre-forward. It’s plain to see that Benteke is relishing his role as the focal point of this Eagles team, as he’s claimed three goals already – all stemming from his aerial prowess. It’s a natural fit and West Ham, boasting one of the worst defensive records in the league this season, could be next in the firing line.
Everton (Manchester City A)
Yannick Bolasie: The winger has had some frustrating periods under Ronald Koeman but is a serious talent when on song. There also appears to be shoots of promise in his understanding with Romelu Lukaku and now with Bacary Sagna ruled out of the Gameweek 8 clash with Manchester City, a Bolasie-Zabaleta duel could be a fruitful mismatch.
Hull City (Bournemouth A)
Curtis Davies: The centre-half has been one of the Tigers’ best defensive performers this season and actually leads the Premier League for blocked attempts on goal with 17 in total. Coming off the back of three heavy defeats to Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, Mike Phelan and Hull will view Bournemouth as an opportunity to gain ground. Curtis Davies is key to those hopes.
Leicester City (Chelsea A)
Islam Slimani: The Foxes’ have a tough task ahead of them in Gameweek 7 in keeping the rampant Diego Costa at bay. But one man who could make the difference at the other end is Islam Slimani. The Algerian international has three goals in his last four games in all competitions and likewise boasts one of the best goal conversion rates in the league, with two from just five attempts. With Chelsea experiencing defensive disarray, Slimani and the Foxes can capitalise.
Liverpool (Manchester United H)
James Milner: Liverpool’s midfield worker-cum-left-back has been one of their most impressive performers of the season so far. Milner has four goals from four penalties and an assist so far this season and has likewise been adding a solidity that had been missing whenever Alberto Moreno took up the position.
Manchester City (Everton H)
Kevin De Bruyne: The Belgian has been one of City’s key men this term and could make a return to action when Guardiola’s men host Everton in Gameweek 8. With two goals and four assists on top of a chance created every 26 minutes on average in 2016/17, a fully fit De Bruyne would be a welcome addition to any side.
Manchester United (Liverpool A)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: The man has had more goal attempts than any other striker this season with 38 in total yet has been shown to be somewhat wasteful with just the four Premier League goals scored thus far. However you get the sense that the Swede’s goal drought – three domestic games – can’t go on too much longer. Having the taste for the big occasion, you wouldn’t bet against a telling contribution against Liverpool this coming weekend.
Middlesbrough (Watford H)
Alvaro Negredo: Aitor Karanka’s Boro desperately need to get some points on the board having endured a five game winless streak. Alvaro Negredo remains their most likely source of goals, but a win against Watford in Gameweek 8 will be no easy feat.
Southampton (Burnley H)
Virgil van Dijk: The upcoming clash between Southampton and Burnley has the air of a tight affair. Both clubs have been among the lowest scoring with five and seven respectively while the Saints boast the third best defence in the league thus far – with six goals conceded. Virgil van Dijk has been a major part of that solidity and has the ability to make a difference at the other end to boot.
Stoke City (Sunderland H)
Xherdan Shaqiri: The Swiss international stands as Stoke’s primary creative threat and their most likely saviour to steer them back on the right trajectory. A fixture at home to Sunderland may prove the ideal starting place.
Sunderland (Stoke City A)
Jordan Pickford: Coming to his team’s rescue on no less than 31 occasions this season, no player made more saves than young Jordan Pickford. Can he go one better and keep a clean sheet against Stoke? Given Stoke’s status as the lowest scoring side in the league – just five goals put past opposition goalkeepers – you feel there’s no better opportunity for the Sunderland man.
Swansea City (Arsenal A)
Fernando Llorente: With Francesco Guidolin gone and Bob Bradley in, there’s a time for new beginnings in South Wales. So no one will want to put their middling Premier League form on the right path more than Fernando Llorente. Despite ranking third for touches in the opposition penalty area – 55 – the Spaniard has only managed one goal from 14 attempts. Can he set it right away to Arsenal?
Tottenham Hotspur (West Bromwich Albion A)
Toby Alderweireld: The heart of the finest defence in the league, this Belgian has not only presided over four clean sheets and has seen just three goals conceded on his watch. You suspect that against West Brom, this defensive record will be enhanced further.
Watford (Middlesbrough H)
Troy Deeney: The Watford captain has replaced last year’s success story, Odion Ighalo, as the Hornets’ chief goal-getter. Clocking three already this season and testing the goalkeeper in Gameweek 7 no less than four times, Deeney stands as the obvious fantasy pick among the Watford squad.
West Bromwich Albion (Tottenham Hotspur H)
Nacer Chadli: The ex-Spurs man returns to his old stomping ground this weekend and does so in fine form. Chadli has no less than three goals and two assists in just four Premier League matches for the Baggies. Breaking through the impressive backline at White Hart Lane will prove the sternest test so far for the Belgian. But what opposition player knows them better?
West Ham United (Crystal Palace A)
Dmitri Payet: We’ve had a couple of false dawns with Dmitri Payet this season, but last time out the Frenchman looked back to his best and capped his performance with a fine goal. Expect all positive West Ham play to flow through him come Saturday.