November 25 (the early morning of it, for us in this part of the world) will be the start of a busy period for Premier League teams, with each of them playing at least 10 matches in 41 days. It is worse for the teams involved in Europe (Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Everton) as they have two more Champions/Europa League matchdays to go, not forgetting that some also have League Cup commitment.
For fantasy football managers, I feel that during this stage of the season, it’s far too risky to make your transfers early in any gameweek just to avoid price fluctuations. Injuries are likely to start coming hard and fast, and rotation will play a large role until New Year. Furthermore, while the smaller teams are likely to retain the same starting line-ups, the bigger teams will look to make full use of their squads. So, let’s take a look at the current top seven teams and how their rotation potential might stack up.
We’re all familiar with Pep Guardiola’s shenanigans by now, with the Sergio Aguero/Gabriel Jesus guessing game frustrating everyone to no end. However, with the fixture congestion to come, I suspect even David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, who both have been seemingly immune from rotation, will end up being benched at some point. Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, and even Bernardo Silva will also have to fight it out. If I had to pick two out of the lot, De Bruyne and Sane would probably be the safer picks.
Romelu Lukaku holders rejoiced when they saw Paul Pogba in the Red Devils starting line-up on Saturday, only to be alarmed after realising that the bench included Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Now that the Swede is back, one does wonder whether Lukaku’s ownership will start to erode. As for Pogba, he currently tops the charts for most transfers in, already passing 200k, and he is not a bad option to have if you just want to have a sure starter. Last season saw Jose Mourinho start the Frenchman in almost every Premier League match and it should very well be the case this time around, fitness permitting, of course.
With Michy Batshuayi out for at least the next five matches with injury, Alvaro Morata is arguably rotation-free, adding more satisfaction to those who moved for him last week. The midfield is a lot more unpredictable though, with Pedro, Willian, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard all vying for two spots in front of N’Golo Kante and Tiémoué Bakayoko/Danny Drinkwater. Is Hazard a risk-free option? Well, after Liverpool, the Blues arguably have the easiest run of fixtures, making it relatively safer for Antonio Conte to bench him if the Belgium international needs to be rested.
December is going to be a huge test for the North London side. Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli are the top three attacking player picks for Spurs, but Alli has been out of form, scoring only one goal in his last eight games, and Son Heung-min has been more involved of late. What I find puzzling the most is the shortage of game time for Fernando Llorente, who didn’t even start when Kane was out. As for the England striker, his lack of fitness was a huge issue in the loss against Arsenal last weekend, so it’s in Spurs’ best interests to ensure he stays fit. I can’t see Mauricio Pochettino benching him in the Premier League, so it will only be in the Champions League ties especially after securing qualification to the next round.
Liverpool have an abundance of attacking players that could potentially be rotated. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, and the returning Adam Lallana are all set to play their part. Mane, while currently fit, appears to be a bit more fragile, so he might not be risked starting every match. I feel that with Salah in such good form, Jurgen Klopp will avoid benching him, but will consider hauling him off early in matches if victory is virtually assured. Daniel Sturridge is out of favour as a starter, but the Liverpool boss has indicated he still has a role to play.
In contrast with the rest of the teams above, I can’t see Arsenal rotating their squad at all for the Premier League matches. As such, I expect to see Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil starting every match right up till New Year. Following on from my article last week
, is Sanchez really back though? This weekend will be a good indicator, as Arsenal face a strong Burnley defence that has kept three clean sheets in their last three wins and conceded only nine goals throughout the league season so far.