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Five talking points ahead of Gameweek 21 as FPL returns following FA Cup break

Nathan Ake back in Chelsea training (Image via Twitter/@NathanAke)
Nathan Ake back in Chelsea training (Image via Twitter/@NathanAke)

Fantasy Premier League makes its much-awaited return following a weekend of FA Cup action.

Here are five of the biggest talking points ahead of Gameweek 21:

Head-Ake for owners of Chelsea players

Antonio Conte's surprising recall of Nathan Ake (£4.4m) to the Blues ranks has created an unfortunate situation for those managers who already own three Chelsea assets. If you are among those FPL bosses, your next transfer has to involve transferring a Chelsea player out of your team.

The likelihood is that the Dutch defender will act as back-up to the established back three of Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.6m), Gary Cahill (£6.4m) and David Luiz (£6.2m), while Conte has also stated that Ake could come into contention for a wing-back role in the Italian's favoured 3-4-3 set up:

Owners of Marcos Alonso (£6.5m) might be getting a little itchy, then, considering that his 21-year-old teammate is also left-footed. A recent report in the Evening Standard claims that Ake's recall was in part down to an ongoing Alonso injury which has seen the Spaniard struggling due to a leg muscle strain.

However, a concrete statement on any such injury from the Chelsea manager would be required before managers think of selling the current first-choice Alonso, considering Chelsea's immediate schedule [Leicester City (a), Hull City (h)].

A Hazardous asset

A particularly pertinent question for those holding four Chelsea players but relevant to all Eden Hazard (£10.4m) owners is whether the Belgium star is worth keeping amid a run of inconsistent FPL form. Since a 19-point haul at home to Everton in GW11, which convinced over 330,000 managers to acquire the attacker, Hazard has returned just one double-figure haul; a 10-point performance (again at home) to Bournemouth in GW18, courtesy of a penalty.

A goal away to Manchester City in GW14 means Hazard has scored just twice since his sweet display against the Toffees. Of the Belgian's five double-figure scores this season, just one has come away from home, while of nine blanks (a gameweek without a goal or assist) just three were at Stamford Bridge.

For such an expensive asset, Hazard's form away from home in FPL terms is worrying. There is no question the 26-year-old looks much more like his 2014/15 self under Conte and while he is certainly heavily involved in Chelsea's attacking play, his fantasy returns are cause for concern.

Another away blank against Leicester could see the FPL tide turn fully against Hazard, though Chelsea's GW22 home tie against Hull means his legion (34%) of owners will be slow to transfer the midfielder out. With clashes against Liverpool (a) and Arsenal (h) following the Tigers match, Hazard will need to quickly convince investors that he is worthy of a place in their 15-man squads. 

Dele counter

One player that can easily replace Hazard is his London counterpart Dele Alli (£8.5m). The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder easily tops the transfers in column for GW21, having amassed nearly 355,000 new owners since recording his third brace in three games against Chelsea in GW20. With seven goals in Spurs' last four games, the England midfielder is the form player in the Premier League.

For those without a Tottenham player in their team, Alli (who will rise in price before Saturday's 11.30am deadline) is the simple choice ahead of a decent run of fixtures [West Brom (h), Man City (a), Sunderland (a), Middlesbrough (h), Liverpool (a), Stoke City (h)]. Christian Eriksen (£8.6m) kept his tally ticking over as he assisted both of Alli's headers in Spurs' 2-0 win against the Blues, though Harry Kane (£10.9m) failed to register returns following a 16-point haul against Watford on New Year's Day.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic (£11.6m), Diego Costa (£10.7m) and the returned-from-suspension Sergio Aguero (£12.8m) all vying for our affections in the premium striker bracket, Kane owners may have an itchy trigger finger considering the form of Alli and Eriksen. However, those who sold him before the Watford game will testify to the fact that getting rid of the England striker can hit you where it hurts.

12 (Ya)yard spot

Speaking of Aguero, one interesting takeaway from the FA Cup action is that the Argentine forward seems to have fallen behind Yaya Toure (£7.3m) in the Man City penalty-taking hierarchy. A 5-0 hammering of West Ham United last Friday saw the Ivorian open the scoring from the penalty spot, despite Aguero being present on the pitch.

With Fernandinho missing the next three gameweeks through suspension and Ilkay Gundogan ruled out for the season, Toure currently looks a certain starter under Pep Guardiola. Raheem Sterling (£7.7m) is another contender in the mid-price midfield range, with 31 points in City's last five fixtures. The Sky Blues travel to Everton and play Spurs at the Etihad in tough GW21 and GW22 ties, however, before a home fixture against Swansea in GW24 is sandwiched by trips to West Ham and Bournemouth.

Payet's final West Ham strike?

Owned by 8.7% of managers, Dimitri Payet (£9.1m) has become an FPL must-sell this morning after Slaven Bilic revealed that the Frenchman no longer wants to play for the London club

While the talented attacker could potentially end up at another Premier League club, Bilic bullishly stated that the Hammers have no intention of selling their prize asset.

The France international has effectively become a £9m+ black hole for FPL managers. With so many midfield options to choose from at his price point, holding the soon-to-fall-in-price Payet is a waste of time and money for owners.

The 29-year-old midfielder's refusal to play could have a knock-on effect for owners of Andy Carroll (£6.2m) and Michail Antonio (£6.8m), considering the amount of chances Payet serves up as the Irons' chief creator; his FPL assist total of 8 is five ahead of next-best Winston Reid (£5.1m), who has laid on three goals for the lacklustre Hammers.

West Ham certainly have points potential as they play Crystal Palace at home this gameweek before a trip to Middlesbrough but three losses in their last three fixtures (all competitions) coupled with the Payet news means Irons assets could be toxic at this point in the season.

However, if Bilic can tighten up a side that has conceded 35 goals in 20 matches, Darren Randolph (£4.4m) could prove a valuable goalkeeper option while the aforementioned Reid has two goals to go with his three assists so far.