This article is part of our FPL Barometer series.
Now roughly halfway through the Premier League season, it has become clear that this is no ordinary year, and no club is guaranteed to grab three points on a weekly basis. High-scoring Leicester City continues to top the table, while Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea are at or near the bottom half, while Manchester United hasn't won in over a month. These struggling sides are likely to make changes at some point if the misery continues, and the jam-packed holiday period could be just the time to give other squad players a shot at expanded roles. This week's Barometer focuses on several of the bigger clubs, and how their form is mirrored by notable players gaining or losing value.
Walcott won the starting striker role from an out-of-form Olivier Giroud earlier this season, but he was then forced to miss an extended period after injuring his calf in the League Cup. The 26-year-old returned earlier this month and has started the last three matches in the wide role vacated by the injured Alexis Sanchez, culminating in a Man of the Match performance against Manchester City on Monday that included this superb finish:
The speedy Walcott poses an extreme threat from the flank, and he has found plenty of room to run onto flicks from Giroud and long balls from the in-form Mesut Ozil. With the recent news that Alexis suffered a setback in his recovery that will keep him out until mid-January, Walcott is poised for an extended run in the first XI, with favorable matchups versus Southampton, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Sunderland on the horizon.
Okazaki has struggled to find consistent playing time with league-leading Leicester this season, but his recent performances have his fantasy value on the rise. The Japanese international started and played 90 minutes versus Everton on Saturday for the first time since Matchweek 1, scoring the game-winning goal and earning Man of the Match honors in the process. Okazaki would present undeniable upside if given regular run alongside attacking mavens Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, and he could be in line for an even larger role if the latter is unable to recover from a knock in time for the Boxing Day match versus struggling Liverpool.
Ivanovic endured a miserable start to the season after serving as an elite FPL defender for the last few years, but he has looked much more like the player we have come to know since returning from injury last month. In the last six matches, the Serbian has contributed to three clean sheets, put in an average of four crosses and even found the net for the first time this season against Sunderland last week. Chelsea's form is bound to improve after their poor start cost Jose Mourinho his job, and Ivanovic's value should continue to climb, beginning with the Boxing Day match versus Watford.
After flashing at the start to his first season as a Liverpool player, Benteke has hit an ugly rough patch, as he has failed to score a league goal since October and even found himself on the bench to begin last weekend's shock 3-0 defeat to Watford. The Belgian has clearly fallen out of favor as new manager Jurgen Klopp searches for some sort of spark from his front three, and only time will tell if he is given another shot to lead the line. There could be goals aplenty in the Boxing Day match versus Leicester City, but Benteke is no lock to see enough playing time to make an impact.
Those hoping that Sterling had finally hit his stride after racking up two goals and an assist versus Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League have been sorely disappointed, as he was substituted at the half of the ensuing match against Swansea City and had little impact in 45 minutes off the bench versus Arsenal on Monday. The winger could be pressed for playing time now that City has their full complement of attackers available, and he will likely need to make the most of the minutes he is given before he returns to the starting lineup for good. That being said, the upcoming match versus Sunderland could provide the 21-year-old with the chance to get back on track.
David de Gea
De Gea has fallen victim to shoddy play by an injury-riddled backline of late, as the Red Devils have not won in their last six matches and are coming off back-to-back defeats to Bournemouth and Sunderland. A costly mistake that allowed the Cherries to score directly from a corner in Matchweek 16 illustrated that the Spaniard's confidence is low, and a timid showing versus Norwich did little to help the matter. Factor in Manchester United's inability to score goals of late, and de Gea isn't even a safe bet to earn a victory at Stoke City this week.