This article is part of our FPL Barometer series.
With the latest international break in the books, the Barclays Premier League season now enters what is annually its most grueling stretch. From the latter half of November through early January, English clubs will play eight league matches in addition to any domestic and European cup competitions they are still alive in. It can be extremely beneficial for those in season-long formats to target players with favorable schedules during this hectic period, but managers must also be aware that even regular players will be hard-pressed to play every match, with little time to recover in between. Despite the added emphasis on squad rotation in the days ahead, some inclusions in this week's list have taken a back seat due to recent struggles combined with the emergences of teammates, and have seen their fantasy value decline as a result.
Ayoze might've begun the season with a pair of appearances off the bench for Newcastle, but he has now started every league match since mid-September and has three goals and two assists in his last six, after his match-winning strike versus Bournemouth in Matchweek 12. The Spaniard has become a regular contributor for the Magpies and can still be had at a minimal price. With a matchup against up-tempo Leicester City in store this weekend, the young forward is primed for another strong showing.
Lingard has taken enormous strides in recent weeks, as he has contributed a goal and an assist in two November appearances, including his first Premier League start, which came against West Brom in Matchweek 12. The 22-year-old winger has earned a larger role with his strong recent performance, catching the eye of England manager Roy Hodgson in the process. Lingard is a strong candidate to remain in the lineup when the schedule gets busy, and he should be an extremely affordable option in nearly every FPL format.
Lukaku has scored in bunches this season, and he appears to be in the midst of another hot stretch, with two goals and two assists in his last two matches. His inclusion this week, however, has just as much to do with Everton's extremely favorable upcoming schedule. The Toffees will face four of the bottom six teams in the standings over the next six weeks, with the other two matches coming at home to attacking-oriented sides Leicester City and Crystal Palace. Lukaku will be one of the more expensive forward options in most formats, but he looks to be a good bet to provide strong returns.
Diouf enjoyed an 11-goal debut season for Stoke last year and started with three goals in his first six matches this time around. After his hot start, however, the Senegalese striker's season was derailed by the unfortunate death of his mother, which resulted in a three-week absence in October. Diouf returned to Premier League play in Matchweek 12 with an eight-minute cameo against Chelsea, but the Potters' brutal upcoming schedule makes him a risky fantasy option as he attempts to regain his form. Stoke will square off with a team outside the top nine just once between now and January, further limiting the fantasy appeal of any member of what is already the feeblest attack in the league.
Naismith grabbed the attention of FPL owners earlier this season when he recorded a hat trick against Chelsea (off the bench, no less), but he has struggled to produce since that day in early September. The Scot was substituted at the half during Everton's last Premier League match and has become more of a peripheral figure for the Toffees because of the reemergence of Arouna Kone, who seems a natural complement Romelu Lukaku. With Kevin Mirallas publicly making his case for more playing time, plus Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley entrenched in the attacking midfield roles, Naismith's path to regular playing time is blocked at the moment.
Zarate made noise earlier in the season with crucial goals against Chelsea and Arsenal, but his playing time and production have waned over the last two matchweeks, as fellow striker Andy Carroll has returned to the starting lineup. The Argentine should still see some playing time off the bench because of injuries to Dimitri Payet (ankle) and Enner Valencia (ankle), but Carroll and Diafra Sakho appear to be the preferred strike partnership for the Hammers at the moment, severely limiting Zarate's upside.