This weekend will start another 30-game, three gameweek in one week sequence with Boxing Day already next week, so do I even have to continue to harp on squad depth and rotation anymore? If your fantasy team hasn’t been tested yet it will surely get on your nerves this week.
Of last week’s picks, only Diogo Jota put up any significant returns with an assist in a 2-0 win over Bournemouth. But some of my recent picks really came to play: Xherdan Shaqiri recorded two goals and three bonus points, Robert Snodgrass scored and got three bonus points, and both Salomon Rondon and Solly March earned a bonus point for their goals.
Wishing you all good luck during the festive period and happy holidays from all of us at Rotoworld. Get ready to hear a lot from us in the coming week with all of the fixtures lined up.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 18. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL)— I would love to include your thoughts here in this column next week and throughout the season. If you don’t want your name mentioned, just let me know; otherwise, I’ll be sure to give your Twitter handle a shout-out.
All of the stats used in this column come straight from the good folks at Fantasy Premier League on a weekly basis. Our friends at FPL.com take the data from a thousand private leagues, all of which consist of eight teams, in order to minimize the impact of data from public leagues where autopick drafting is more prevalent.
Of course, it’s just a sample size, so it’s not hard and fast; but it should give us a good idea of the tendencies of FPL Draft leagues and managers. Remember, the waivers deadline is a full 24 hours before the first game of the week, and the lowest-placed team in your league gets the first pick.
One-week Pick (OWP) - When a regular is suspended for a match, ineligible to face his parent club as a loanee, or his fill-in looks to deputize for only a week while the regular nurses a minor injury, this is where to find some replacements. They should only be looked at when you really need help at a position that week alone, and not looked at as long term plays. Best for salary cap leagues with unlimited transactions, not so much for draft leagues.
Short-term Pick (STP) - When a regular faces a multi-game suspension, an injury layoff lasting 2-5 weeks, international commitment, etc., this is where you look for players that can offer more beyond one week but do have a limited shelf life in most cases. Worth using a waiver claim or spending a bit more of your free agent budget (FAAB) than the One Week Buys. Can be useful in salary-cap format as long as you are comfortable with possibly needing to transfer them out in a few weeks.
Long-term Pick (LTP) - When a regular is either facing a month or more out or has lost his spot seemingly to someone better, these are the players that emerge as potential long-term investments and are therefore the most valuable of the group and worth paying up. Great for any format, but especially valuable in draft leagues with limited waiver claims.
GK – Vicente Guaita (Crystal Palace)
Well, well, well. After a good month or so, we finally have a new keeper to promote in this column, which is either a testament to more players staying healthy or a statement on the lack of depth at the position in the Premier League. Regardless, Wayne Hennessey was a late scratch this weekend due to what could turn out to be costly back spasms. Vicente Guaita got his first Premier League start since arriving this summer from Valencia and is now in contention to take the starting role away from Hennessey for good. And this isn’t just my opinion, manager Roy Hodgson confirmed that he has no idea who to pick this weekend.
That’s because Guaita proved to be instrumental in a hard-fought 1-0 win against Leicester City this weekend to pull them three points clear of the bottom three and with a clean sheet to boot. But the most impressive moment came when the summer signing made a phenomenal one-handed reaction save on what looked to be a sure Jamie Vardy equalizer in the last 15 minutes of the game. However, even if Guaita wins the No. 1 role, he’ll have quite a test with Manchester City waiting on Saturday. But the schedule mellows afterward, and Guaita could be a viable short-term option. Sit back this weekend and see if he has earned the job.
DEF – Declan Rice (West Ham)
A few weeks ago I said with certainty that despite the drubbing at the hands of Manchester City, December will be West Ham’s month. After four straight Premier League wins, I hope they have your attention, because we’re only halfway through what looks to be a bountiful month for Manuel Pellegrini. I’ve already recommended Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass, Chicharito and Fabián Balbuena, and now it’s time to mention Declan Rice, the club’s most in-form defender.
In fact, the Irish national is a defensive midfielder who’s listed as a defender, much like Arthur Masuaku is a defender listed as a winger, but Rice gets all of the defensive points, which includes two clean sheets during the aforementioned four-game winning streak. Rice has started and played the full 90 minutes in every game since Gameweek 5, and now the Hammers schedule will get even better with Watford, Southampton, Burnley, and Brighton through Gameweek 21. You can also look to his teammate Issa Diop, but make sure you pick up a West Ham player or two for the festive period.
MID – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal)
I’m never one to hide my appreciation for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and what he does on and off the ball, so Sunday’s spectacle of a performance made me quite a happy Bargain Hunter. That’s because Mkhitaryan is right on the edge of what constitutes a bargain with the Armenian international taken in 58 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues. I don’t usually jump at a player who has just one major performance in the recent past, but Mkhitaryan’s of a different quality than the usual bargain pick, and that wasn’t just any one gameweek.
Mkhitaryan scored both of Arsenal’s goals in a 3-2 loss to Southampton on Sunday, the only player would really looked to be engaged for the Gunners. But more critical is that the attacking midfielder got a full 90 minutes under a manager who has not given him a full run of games to truly show what he can do despite Mesut Ozil’s absence leaving a hole for a creative playmaker. But sure, the attack was running on full steam with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette last month, but not that they have cooled Unai Emery will need all the attacking firepower he can muster in the busy hectic period. And just imagine Mkhitaryan in full swing as your fifth midfielder. That’s a long-term pickup worth the risk, and if not, just bench him like Emery.
MID – Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)
Hey remember this guy? He only happens to be one of the biggest Fantasy Premier League surprises of last season with a stunning seven-goal, four-assist year for Watford as an unknown central midfielder. Well most people assumed it was a fluke and he couldn’t possibly duplicate such a run, and that has been a shrewd prediction for FPL owners, until now. Doucoure already has surpassed his assist total from last season and now the goals are starting to come in with both of his tallies coming in the last three weeks.
In these last three weeks Doucoure has two goals and an assist and it shouldn’t be taken as a coincidence that the club has scored six goals during that span, where Doucoure has recorded 21 fantasy points. But like Mkhitaryan, this may be your last shot at him this season with the midfielder available in 43 percent of FPL Draft leagues, a figure that is sure to dwindle this week and throughout December. But with a favorable festive fixture list (West Ham, Chelsea, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Burnley) Doucoure may very well set a few more career highs.