This article is part of our FPL Barometer series.
Matchweeks 20 and 21 kept up this season's theme of parity, as each of the top four clubs dropped points in at least one of their matches, while clubs like West Brom, Norwich and Aston Villa captured points against opposition in the top half of the table. A total of 56 goals were scored in these 20 fixtures, but they were not distributed in the manner one would expect, as Sunderland led the way with seven tallies, while undermanned West Ham and struggling Chelsea managed five a piece. With few team matchups as obvious as they might appear on the surface, individual form seems to be increasingly important when assessing potential fantasy Premier League selections for a given week. This week's rising players are all currently buoyed by excellent recent form, while the falling players could find their fantasy value suffering due to the emergence of others.
Valencia has been limited to just eight starts in all competitions this season because of injury problems, but he has now started each of the last four matches, and he opened his season goal-scoring account with a brace Tuesday versus Bournemouth. Teammate Andy Carroll left the match with a hamstring injury and is expected to miss up to six weeks, leaving Valencia as West Ham's clear-cut forward option, as Diafra Sakho is recovering from a long-term injury of his own. The Hammers will take on a vulnerable Newcastle side this weekend, making Valencia an intriguing high-upside selection.
Firmino has struggled for consistency this season after his big-money move from Hoffenheim over the summer, but he came through with his best performance of the season Wednesday versus Arsenal, scoring a pair of goals en route to Man of the Match honors. The Liverpool lineup has fluctuated since Jurgen Klopp was appointed manager, but the Brazilian has now started 11 of the last 12 matches and has been given the opportunity to operate as the central member of the front three, at the expense of Christian Benteke. The Reds will play host this weekend to a Manchester United backline that just conceded three goals to lowly Newcastle, adding to Firmino's appeal as he tries to capitalize on the opportunity he has been given.
It is admittedly difficult to endorse any Sunderland player, but the Black Cats have played better of late and have quietly crept into the top half of the league in goals scored. Defoe is largely to thank for that, as he has netted five goals in the last two matches after Wednesday's hat-trick versus Swansea. This weekend's matchup versus Tottenham isn't ideal, but Defoe is red hot at the moment, and it wouldn't at all be surprising to see the poacher bag a goal versus his former club.
Mata was yanked from Saturday's FA Cup match versus Sheffield United after just 60 minutes due to lackluster effort, and he saw just 15 minutes in the subsequent Premier League match versus Newcastle on Tuesday. The Spaniard has just one assist in the last 12 matches, and his play hardly warrants a consistent role from week to week. Mata has regressed into a time share of sorts involving Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera and Memphis Depay, which significantly damages his value in season-long formats and limits him to a matchup play in daily games.
Pelle returned from a three-week spell on the sidelines Wednesday against Watford, but he could find it difficult to reclaim the role of lead striker due to Shane Long's performance during his absence. Long has three goals in four league matches since Pelle was injured, including the winner in the aforementioned triumph over the Hornets. It is hard to imagine Pelle riding the pine for an extended period of time now that he is fully fit, but his return to the starting lineup may not be as automatic as was initially thought.
Eriksen was steadily productive throughout much of the first half of the season, but he has slowed down of late, with just one assist in the last eight league matches. The 23-year-old is no longer the lead dog in the Tottenham midfield due to the emergence of Dele Alli and Erik Lamela's revival, and he has been pushed into a slightly deeper role as a distributor as a result. This weekend's match versus Sunderland could see Spurs run rampant in the attack, but Eriksen is no longer guaranteed to play a significant role due to the depth they possess in the attack.