Alistair Bruce-Ball

Mohamed Salah has done it again.

A 15-point haul in the Merseyside derby takes him to a frankly ludicrous 146 points already this season and you can make that 292 points if you’ve had him as your captain from gameweek one.

The problem is more than 4.5m Fantasy Premier League managers gave him the armband this week, so you’re not going to be gaining any ground on your rivals there – because we’re all doing the same thing.

Now you may have been able to beat the Salah system at some point in gameweeks 10 to 13 because he only managed single-figure scores, so if you’d gone with Cristiano Ronaldo against Tottenham for example, or Jamie Vardy against Watford, then you’ll have come out on top. But it’s an almost impossible game to get that right every week. More often than not, you won’t.

And if you’ve taken the gamble with Vardy or Diogo Jota as your captain this week, then you’ve already lost that bet, although at the time of writing we wait to see what Tottenham’s Son Heung-min and Harry Kane can produce against Brentford.

In fact, it’s quite easy to captain Salah and still get red arrows in a gameweek if you don’t get the other picks right around him.

As always with Fantasy Premier League, it’s about trying to balance the template team – those players that most managers have that you really can’t do without – with your differential selections to give you the best chance of success.

A typical template squad at the moment would look something like this:

Goalkeepers: Robert Sanchez, Ben Foster

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joao Cancelo, Reece James, Antonio Rudiger, Tino Livramento

Midfielders: Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Raphinha, Conor Gallagher, Emile Smith Rowe

Forwards: Michail Antonio, Ivan Toney, Emmanuel Dennis

Players such as Ruben Dias, Shane Duffy, Son, Said Benrahma, Vardy and Ronaldo could equally be in there as well because all have ownership of more than 20%.

Have a look at how many of those names you have got in your squad and see if you can replace three or four of them with players who are less than 5% owned – but who you think could go well over the next five or six gameweeks.

I put this question to Statman Dave and Chris Sutton on the Fantasy 606 podcast this week and they came up with the following names for you – Andy Robertson, Matt Targett, Ilkay Gundogan, Jarrod Bowen, Maxwel Cornet, Ollie Watkins and Christian Benteke.

They also suggested chucking the names of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford in there once we’ve had a look at life under Ralf Rangnick at Manchester United.

Dave was suggesting to Chris that maybe he should look at the Alexander-Arnold and Robertson double-up in his defence – one truly template, one definitely differential. Robertson has really stepped up his output in the past couple of gameweeks with 19 points in the wins against Southampton and Everton. Expensive, yes, but there aren’t too many managers out there who have both in their squads.

Matt Targett and Ollie Watkins have both started well under Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa and they look to have a decent run of fixtures up to the new year. Watkins could certainly be a good replacement for Raul Jimenez if you’re looking to offload him, with Wolves facing Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in three of their next four games.

Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins (right) celebrates scoring against Manchester City
Ollie Watkins scored Aston Villa’s goal in their 2-1 defeat by Manchester City on Wednesday, meaning the England striker has scored two goals in three games since Steven Gerrard took charge at Villa Park

Jarrod Bowen didn’t shine for West Ham in gameweek 14 but is still in the top 10 midfielders for points scored this season and would probably also get the nod to play up front if Michail Antonio gets injured or needs a rest.

Dave hit us with the stat that Cornet has scored with half of his shots in a dazzling start to his Premier League career with Burnley – five goals from 10 attempts – and although Benteke isn’t anything like as ruthless as that, he’s had the most shots in the box out of any player in the past six gameweeks.

I went for Gundogan as my differential in gameweek 14 only to see him miss out on Manchester City’s trip to Villa Park – but he gets into so many excellent scoring positions and I wouldn’t want to be without a City attacker over the next six or seven gameweeks, despite the obvious rotation risks.

There are seven more gameweeks until Salah is scheduled to head off to represent Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations, at which point the game will get a bit of a shake-up. Have a long-term plan in place to replace him and in the meantime enjoy one of the Premier League’s great goalscorers in the form of his life.

Alistair Bruce-Ball presents the Fantasy 606 podcast alongside former Premier League winner Chris Sutton and Statman Dave. The latest episode previewing gameweek 15 is available on the BBC Sounds app.

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