Man United, Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal stars begin to shine at last
This season has so far belonged to the underdogs: to Leicester and Watford; to Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Odion Ighalo.
But the first ESPN FC Premier Fantasy gameweek of 2016 suggested the old guard, and some traditionally heavy hitters, are finally ready to flex their muscles.
Some of this might have been down to a third match in eight days -- a situation that will always favour those with deeper squads -- but with all of the "Big Four" of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Man United winning, there are strong signs that normal service might finally be resuming.
Important note: All managers will need to reselect their squads based on the new values for the next Premier League game week, which begins Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Bournemouth keeper Artur Boruc (£5.2m) bagged 12 points from a clean sheet and a penalty save as the Cherries new-found defensive solidity continued. This was their second shut-out in three festive fixtures. They had managed just two in 17 previous attempts.
Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny (£6.7m) was recalled for the Newcastle match and promptly scored the only goal. Add in a clean sheet and the Frenchman earned an excellent 15 points.
ENTER NOW: ESPN FC Premier League fantasy
- Q&A: Time to select your Premier League fantasy squad
- Sign up for our game and challenge your friends
- Join the Fantasy Football Scout league
- How to play the game -- fantasy rules in full
- FAQ: All your game questions answered
- Transfers: Check out the latest Premier League moves
- Fantasy HQ: Email us with your issues
Chelsea are starting to look like defending champions at last and Oscar (£6.7m) caught the eye with a goal and an assist in the 3-0 win at Crystal Palace. The Brazilian is one of many thriving under Guus Hiddink as the Blues made it back-to-back clean sheets for only the second time this season.
Jermain Defoe (£6.4m) grabbed the limelight in the Black Cats massive 3-1 win over Aston Villa.
The Sunderland man's first brace of the season meant an 11-point haul, which made him the highest scoring forward of the gameweek.
Perhaps ensuring any striker you own should be captain when Villa are the opponents could be your ESPN FC Premier Fantasy new year's resolution.
Chelsea are now unbeaten in four matches and are starting to find some form at both ends of the pitch, with eight goals scored and just three conceded in that run.
Against Palace, Hiddink benched Pedro (£8.5m) and Nemanja Matic (£6.2m) for Cesc Fabregas (£8.1m) and Diego Costa (£9.1m), allowing Eden Hazard (£8.9m) to return to midfield.
Costa, in particular, was in fine form -- he now has three goals and an assist from his last two starts -- while Willian (£7.0m) continues to deliver the goods whoever is in charge, with a goal and four assists since mid-December.
Swansea's stand-in boss Alan Curtis is making full use of his squad, with seven changes for the trip to Old Trafford. Key early season performers Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.1m) and Andre Ayew (£7.5m) among them.
Rumours continue to suggest that benched-again Jonjo Shelvey (£6.6m) is on the move, and the midfielder has seen just 74 minutes of action in the last seven matches. With the Christmas schedule now done and dusted, we should finally discover what Curtis considers his starting XI.
Another keen Christmas rotator was Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Against Newcastle, Matthieu Flamini,(£5.3m), Nacho Monreal (£6.8m) and Koscielny all returned, making it clear that Wenger views Calum Chambers (£5.2m), Gabriel (£6.5m) and Kieran Gibbs (£5.1m) as squad men, not starters.
THE NUMBERS GAME
Segment 2 of ESPN FC Premier Fantasy will be with us next gameweek, so you will have unlimited transfers to make from Thursday before GW21 begins.
This makes the return to form of three big hitters particularly timely.
Sergio Aguero (£9.5m) has had a stop-start and injury-hit season to date, but he's now fit and scoring at just the right time. Costa was the poster boy for Stamford Bridge discontent under Mourinho -- and now a shining example of Hiddink happiness.
And Wayne Rooney (£9.0m) reminded everyone of his class with a sublime winner -- his first goal in the league since mid-October -- as a measure of optimism returned to Old Trafford.
All three are starting to show us why they have been such firm fantasy favourites.
Rooney has had 14 goals attempts over the past four gameweeks -- among players with just one goal in that time frame, only Philippe Coutinho has had more shots -- and with eight attempts in the area, the England man looks primed to deliver great points returns sooner rather than later.
Aguero has had 10 attempts, nine inside the area, despite only featuring in three matches. The Argentine is looking sharp and hungry and City have a good run into early February, with Everton and Palace at home and West Ham and Sunderland away.
Costa is bang in form. Over the last four gameweeks, only Ighalo has scored more than his three goals - and that was from one match more.
The Spaniard has also chipped in with an assist and all his key attacking stats bar shot accuracy are well up compared to his averages for the season as a whole.