Fantasy football is all about anticipating player trends and making the most out of emerging opportunities when it comes to the form book and fixture list.
Selecting strikers just before they hit a purple patch, making a player captain in the week that his performances begin to peak, and identifying the inefficiencies in the game that can be twisted to your advantage as manager are essential for anyone seeking consistent successes.
With the Saturday batch of Week 9 Premier League games out of the way, it's time to analyse who came good on the first day of the weekend and which players dropped hints that they may be about to produce some big numbers in the weeks ahead.
Below are five fantasy football picks from Saturday's games that, for a variety of reasons, could offer fantasy football players a tidy bonus in the run up to Christmas and beyond.
All prices and stats according to fantasy.premierleague.com.
Marko Arnautovic: £5.5m, 19 Points, Selected by 0.3 Percent
Wrongly classified as a midfielder by the official Premier League fantasy game, Arnautovic may turn out to be a powerful secret weapon for managers willing to give him a shot in their teams.
Following on in the footsteps of Michu and Clint Dempsey, who themselves played as nominal midfielders in fantasy football seasons gone by, the Stoke City forward found the net against Manchester United at Old Trafford and could offer plenty more goals in the coming weeks.
Mark Hughes' side are yet to click, but the signs are there that Stoke are beginning to find their feet, meaning that Arnautovic may soon find himself enjoying more games, greater service and a more prolific points tally.
With very few in the fantasy world selecting the Austrian in their squads, managers would do well to pounce on this potential goldmine of midfield goals before word of his incorrect categorisation gets out to all and sundry.
Serge Gnabry: £4.5m, 18 Points, Selected by 0.2 Percent
Mikel Arteta was sent off against Crystal Palace after Mathieu Flamini was subbed very early on due to injury, meaning that Arsenal will have to remodel their midfield pairing for their next match against Liverpool.
One option for Arsene Wenger is to plug the gap with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, with Tomas Rosicky taking up position in the Welshman's attacking midfield slot.
However, Arsenal's manager has long reacted to player shortages and injury by throwing an exciting talent into the deep end, and Gnabry—who is highly rated by the Gunners—could get the call to deputise in the absence of Arteta or Flamini.
With a vital clash against United also looming in Week 11, the young German could yet find himself conscripted into action against the reigning champions, much like how Wenger blooded Francis Coquelin in the infamous 8-2 thrashing back in 2011.
A humiliating repeat looks unlikely with Arsenal in the ascendancy this season while United have flattered to deceive, but that doesn't mean Gnabry won't be asked to play a part in that game or, more pertinently, the next fixture in Week 10 against Liverpool.
With 18 points for just £4.5 million and only 0.2 percent of managers selecting the midfielder in their squads, Gnabry arguably already presents one of the best up-and-coming bargains on the fantasy football scene.
Get him while he's hot!
Tim Howard: £5.5m, 46 Points, Selected by 3.2 Percent
The American shot stopper has been included in the official Barclays Premier League fantasy football game's Dream Team of the weekend so far, having scored 11 points through his penalty saving heroics, a clean sheet and the high number of saves made in Everton's 2-0 win over Aston Villa.
Roberto Martinez's team are looking evermore convincing in the league, and even with a tricky run of games ahead—home against Tottenham Hotspur, followed by a trip to Crystal Palace and then the home leg of this year's Liverpool derby double—these fixtures offer plenty of point-scoring potential as well as carrying the risk of Howard shipping goals galore.
A gambling fantasy manager may decide that the rewards outweigh the dangers, with the usually consistent and reliable goalkeeper in good form on the evidence of his outing on Saturday.
His return is already more than decent, having bagged his early backers 46 points from a relatively cheap investment of £5.5 million, although latecomers will still be able to enjoy an edge over their opponents, with only 3.2 percent of the player base including the USA keeper in their squads.
Shinji Kagawa: £7.3m, 3 Points, Selected by 0.3 Percent
What did Kagawa do this weekend to deserve a spot on this list? He was allowed to complete 90 minutes of football for a David Moyes managed United side, that's what.
Even more telling was that his manager kept faith in his inclusion even when Stoke appeared to be well on their way to a crushing away win to silence the fans at Old Trafford.
Rather than subbing the Japanese playmaker, however, Moyes kept him on the field, possibly due to his strong showing against Real Sociedad in midweek.
Should Kagawa continue to enjoy plenty of game time, his influence upon United's season—and his resulting fantasy football points—will only grow.
He does present perhaps the biggest risk of the five players highlighted in this article, with a huge dollop of conjecture driving his recommendation, but should the former Dortmund goalscoring midfielder find his form in front of goal, those bold enough to bring him into their squads will be greatly rewarded.
At £7.3 million Kagawa is far from free, regardless of what his German Twitter fans' hashtags suggest, but should he become a mainstay of a resurgent United team, his price tag will soon appear justified.
Saido Berahino: £4.5m, 13 Points, Selected by 0.2 Percent
Finally, we come to a player who didn't even appear for his team on Saturday, but his absence is the foundation for why he is included here.
Berahino has been one of the standout young talents of the season so far, and with West Bromwich Albion suffering a 4-1 defeat against Liverpool on the first day of Week 9's fixtures, Steve Clarke may decide that the prodigious striker may provide some positivity to counter his side's bruised morale in Week 10.
Having scored against Arsenal and United so far this year, the emerging striker shouldn't have too much trouble finding the goal if he's involved in West Brom's next game against Crystal Palace, while his giant-killing antics stand him in good stead for the clashes that follow against Chelsea and Villa.
Like Gnabry, the young forward is already paying his way with a return of 13 points from just £4.5 million, so including him in your squads as a wild card wouldn't be a bad decision, but he could potentially be something far more than an element of chaotic chance should he get lucky in the next three games.
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