Picks of the Christmas Weeks –  Must haves for Gameweek 18, 19 and 20

Last updated on December 21st, 2023

Who should be your priority players for the next 3 Gameweek, position by position

Written by Keiran Trotter (@fpl_del)

This will be my 16th Article of the Season. I missed GW11 as I was away on holiday but other than that, there has been a Pick of the Week every week since gameweek 2. With that in mind, I’m going to cut myself some slack and enjoy a Christmas off. The next 3 gameweeks have so little time between them, there’s barely time to scoff a mince, let alone analyse the improvement in Sheffield United and (potentially) Nottingham Forest under new Managers. So here we go with a bumper edition that is effectively the must haves for the next 3 gameweeks 

Week 17 Review

There’s so much to get my teeth into rolling 3 gameweeks into 1 article so I’m not going to get too bogged down in what has already happened. Gameweek 17 was so completely marred by what happened at Bournemouth and with the decision to replay that game now, I lost 2 of my 4 picks in Sensei and Solanke (not that is the slight bit of a concern to me nor should be to anyone else for that matter). I also lost my Keeper pick (Sanchez) to injury, though I spotted it before the deadline and defaulted to Ederson who outdid his usual 1 pointer and got 0! I also picked Son who blanked so probably best we move on!


So looking at expected goals, goals scored and big chances created, I currently rank the 5 least potent teams in the league as follows:

  1. Sheffield United
  2. Burnley
  3. Luton
  4. Nottingham Forest
  5. Wolves

On the flipside of that, my rankings for best defences in the league, looking at goals conceded, expected goals conceded and big chances conceded, are as follows:

  1. Arsenal
  2. Everton
  3. Bournemouth
  4. Liverpool
  5. Aston Villa

Safe to say that second list is not as I would have expedited it 6 gameweeks ago 😀

So when trying to find the clean sheets in the next 3 gameweeks we’re looking for combinations of teams from list 2 playing teams from list 1, ideally at home. 

Below is the fixture ticker for the next three weeks and there is a clear standout option, with most of the teams with good defences facing some challenging fixtures.

With Villa facing 2 of the 3 least potent teams at home in the next 3 gameweeks it makes Emiliano Martinez (£5.1m) the ideal choice for my goalkeeping pick of the week. Villa are in great form and there is no reason why that shouldn’t continue over Christmas. Newcastle also have good fixtures but haven’t been as good as Villa defensively recently.


Villa aside, the fixtures are so well balanced over the next 3 weeks, we should continue to stick to our formula of selecting defenders most likely to have an attacking return. The top 5 defenders for expected goal involvement over the last 8 gameweeks are as follows:

  1. Pedro Porro (£5.5m) – 3.64
  2. Trent Alexander- Arnold (£8.2m) – 3.36
  3. Kieran Trippier (£6.9m) – 2.56
  4. Harry Toffolo (£4.4m) – 2.03
  5. Luca Digne (4.7m) – 1.83

Based on what we’ve just highlighted about Villa’s run over Christmas, Digne jumps out but he lost his place to Alex Moreno (£5.0m) last week so it would be hard to pick either of those. Pau Torres (£4.7m) and Matty Cash (£4.7m) have featured in this article before but Torres is struggling with an injury and Cash has only just come back into the side after missing 3 and a half games.

Having noted that Newcastle face 2 of the least potent teams in the next 3 it is hard to look past Trippier. He hasn’t been as good recently as he was gameweeks 6-14 but Newcastle should turn the corner now they can focus on the League. With Spurs and Liverpool facing some tough fixtures, Trippier is the obvious choice for my defender pick of the festive period. I would fully expect a Villa defender to outscore him over the next 3 gameweeks if you can predict the one that will start all 3 games. Especially given we are well and truly in the rotation season not just the season of goodwill.


The top 6 (5 available) midfielders for xGI over the last 8 gameweeks are as follows:

Cole Palmer (£5.6m) – 6.08

Mo Salah (£13.2m) – 5.85

Heung-Min Son (£9.7m) – 4.75

Bryan Mbeumo (£6.9m) – 4.5

Bukayo Saka (£9.0m) – 4.34

Phil Foden (£7.6) – 3.82

Cole Palmer and Salah lead the way with 4 goals, 3 for Son and Foden. Mohammed Kudus (£6.7m) also has 4 goals from a relatively low xG of 1.58 so he clearly needs to be on the radar now too. Bernardo Silva (£6.4m) leads the way with 7 big chances created, Saka follows with 6 and Dejan Kulusevski (£7.2m) continues his upturn in form with 5 big chances created.

Chelsea have relatively kind fixtures over the festive period with Wolves and Luton away and Palace at home. Palmer is somewhat reliant on Chelsea penalties for his goals (non-penalty xG is only 2.02) and may be considered for rotation given his age and the return of fit again Nkunku, but at his price, he’s a great squad enabler still even after 6 price rises.

I think Liverpool have slightly easier fixtures than Spurs but neither have easy runs with Liverpool facing Arsenal and Newcastle and Spurs facing Everton, Brighton and Bournemouth. It’s the Burnley fixture that gives Salah the edge over Son as that could easily be a haul for him.

With City not playing in gameweek 18, none of their assets are a consideration so Saka is the only other player from the above list to consider and with Arsenal playing Liverpool, West Ham and Fulham I don’t think those fixtures are as kind as Liverpool’s or Chelsea’s. Saka also hasn’t had a big haul (more than 8 points) since gameweek 6 so his returns have tended to be singular.

I’m going to go with my gut and choose Palmer as my midfield pick for the next 3 gameweeks. There is a slight concern over rotation but he’s been integral to Chelsea playing well this season and anybody could get rotated at this time of year, so he’s my boy this week.

Forwards (minus Haaland)

This feels like a pretty straightforward call for this period, especially given Haaland and Alvarez are missing a fixture. Excluding Haaland and Alvarez, the top 5 forwards for expected goal involvement over the last 8 gameweeks are:

  1. Nicolas Jackson (£6.9m) – 6.37
  2. Dom Solanke (£6.8m) – 5.54
  3. Ollie Watkins (£8.7m) – 5.54
  4. Darwin Nunez (7.5m) – 4.72
  5. Dom Calvert-Lewin (5.8m) – 3.87

Bournemouth, Chelsea and Villa all have decent fixture runs over Christmas so it’s a shootout between Watkins, Solanke and Jackson for me. Nunez played a full game against West Ham mid-week with others rested so I’m expecting some rotation for him. The same with Jackson, I think with Nkunku coming back, unless he starts firing soon (only 1 goal in his last 4, 2 in 7 since his hat-trick vs Spurs) his place is going to be up for grabs.

Solanke and Watkins are about as rotation proof as it gets (16 and 17 appearances each so far) and I just can’t ignore those 2 home games against Sheffield United and Bournemouth, so for me, it’s Ollie Watkins who gets the nod as Forward pick of the festive period.

Picks of the Week

Emiliano Martinez (Villa GK £5.2m)

Kieran Trippier (Newcastle DF £6.9m)

Cole Palmer (Chelsea MF £5.6m)

Ollie Watkins (Villa FW £8.7m)

Have a great Christmas and New Year and see you all in 2024 for more picks of the week.

Mark De Carvalho
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