Starting on Saturday we’re going to be witness to 30 Premier League matches in the course of nine days featuring premium matchups like the Merseyside and Manchester derbies; it’s almost as if Santa is bringing us an early Christmas gift to hold us over until the real festivities begin.
Of last week’s picks, James Tarkowski was the clear star with 17 FPL points for his goal, assist and clean sheet as he also earned three bonus points. Meanwhile, my recent picks like Tim Krul (clean sheet, seven saves, three bonus points), Dele Alli (assist) and Lys Mousset and Danny Ings (goal, bonus) put together some quality performances.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 14. 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)
There are only five starting keepers who are currently below the 50 percent ownership mark in FPL Draft, making your chances of acquiring a backup on the waiver wire pretty slim. But at 46 percent, Guaita is one of them; and, of the bunch, he’s your best shot at securing clean sheets over the festive period. Since arriving at Crystal Palace last season, the Spaniard has been a welcome addition and a favorite of Roy Hodgson, displacing Wayne Hennessey as the club’s starting keeper after securing seven clean sheets in half a season last year. And now that Crystal Palace have made it through the toughest stretch of the season (Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester City, Chelsea and Liverpool), there will now be plenty of chances to make up the time.
After going winless during that brutal five-game stretch, where the club dropped from the top 10 into 13th, Palace have a fortunate schedule during the hectic festive period. I wouldn’t let the string of losses deter you because up next Palace have Burnley, Bournemouth, Watford, Brighton, Newcastle, West Ham, Southampton and Norwich City through New Year’s Day. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Palace make a serious push up the table and even into the top seven if they are able to regain their early-season form, and that makes Guaita an excellent backup as a solid STP with long-term potential.
DEF – Serge Aurier (Spurs)
This pick didn’t work so great the first time around, but with José Mourinho at the helm at Spurs, I couldn’t be more excited about Aurier. In Gameweek 6, I recommended Aurier only to see him sent off for two yellow cards in the opening 30 minutes in a 2-1 win over Southampton. With Aurier, there is always that slight risk, but his talent outweighs the risk, especially given Mourinho’s golden touch in defense. (While I may not like him from a football perspective, I will follow that man into the abyss when it comes to FPL defense.) After a five-match winless streak and the chaos surrounding Mauricio Pochettino’s dismissal, Mourinho righted the ship with a win over West Ham to push the club back into the top 10 with just two points separating them and fifth place.
The upcoming schedule for Spurs is nothing too intimidating with only Mourinho’s return to Manchester United and a match against rival Chelsea as formidable fixtures over the festive period scattered among games against Bournemouth, Burnley, Wolves, Brighton, Norwich City and Southampton. I can see plenty of clean sheet points in that stretch, and then there’s the fact that Aurier has already recorded a Premier League career high of three assists this season. The schedule, the arrival of Mourinho and the attacking tendencies of Aurier makes him a long-term pick in my book still available in 54 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft Leagues.
DEF – George Baldock (Sheffield United)
Usually, the FPL powers-that-be make things as difficult as possible for us heading into the season in terms of price or position designations, but this year we are lucky to have found a loophole. Somehow, Sheffield United’s defense has slipped through the cracks as one look at the FPL.com format shows the Blades have six starting defenders. No one really expected a newly promoted side to be sitting in sixth place heading into the last week of defender, nor could anyone predict that the leading FPL scorer among defenders would be a central defensive midfielder who in the original FPL.com started the season priced at £4.0. But here we are, and the forecast looks even sunnier for Sheffield United.
Through Boxing Day, the Blades upcoming schedule is as follows: Wolves, Newcastle, Norwich City, Aston Villa, Brighton, Watford. I would recommend a top defender from nearly any team with that schedule, let alone one that currently sits in sixth place with the third-best defense in the league (only Leicester City and Liverpool have conceded fewer goals than Sheffield United). You can’t go wrong with any of the club’s six defensive starters in FPL, especially as an STP that could be a fourth or fifth defender, but George Baldock looks like your best shot as he’s still available in 40 percent of FPL Draft leagues.
MID – Robert Snodgrass (West Ham)
I couldn’t be happier to recommend this pick. It’s been a long journey for Robert Snodgrass with two Premier League seasons basically wiped out due to long-term injuries. Even this season, the Scottish international has struggled with staying fit, but now Snodgrass has worked his way back and into the first team as the club’s main playmaker in recent weeks. Since returning from a calf injury, Snodgrass has recorded two goals, one assist and two bonus points in the last four games, giving us visions of his prolific Hull City days that made him an under-the-radar FPL favorite.
The only problem with West Ham is they haven’t been able to win a league match since September—remember that 2-0 win over Manchester United that we thought would drive them into competing for European qualification? Well, West Ham currently sit in 17th place just three points above the relegation zone. It hasn’t been for a lack of goals, and Snodgrass has only boosted their chances. Taken in just six percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues, you can sit back and monitor his progress or add him as a short-term pickup who can be your last midfielder off the bench. Either way, keep an eye on Snodgrass.