Here we are at the quickest turnaround of the year with just 15 hours between the end of one gameweek and the start of another, so I’m going to keep this intro extremely brief.
Of my recent picks, Djibril SidIbe starred again with an assist, clean sheet, and three bonus points while Everton teammate Dominic Calvert-Lewin recorded a goal and bonus point himself. Meanwhile, Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish and Sheffield United defender George Baldock each recorded assists.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 20. 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 – Tom Heaton (Aston Villa)
As we know all too well by now, starting goalkeepers become increasingly hard to find as the seasons moves along, and this year is no exception. There are currently only four starting keepers below the 50 percent ownership mark in FPL Draft—Hugo Lloris and Lukasz Fabianski look to be some premium additions once they return from lengthy injuries. Heaton is one of the few keepers currently sitting below the majority threshold as the former Burnley man is available in around 56 percent of draft leagues, but even he may cross the 50 percent mark in the short term, which is part of the reason why I list him here ahead of the weekend.
Heaton had himself a Boxing Day to remember in Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Norwich City, which gave the club a massive boost over their relegation rivals as they currently sit one point removed from leaving the bottom three. Not only did Heaton record a clean sheet, but his five saves (he is currently fourth in the Premier League with 65 saves) and three bonus points saw him earn 10 FPL points. With a fairly light schedule coming up in the next two months that includes Watford twice, Burnley, Brighton, Bournemouth, Southampton and Sheffield United, Heaton looks like an optimal STP to back up your keeper of choice and even sub in during an unfavorable matchup. As I said earlier though, he may not be this widely available for much longer.
DEF – Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
I’ve been a big fan of Joe Gomez for quite some time, and I still can’t see how Dejan Lovren is preferred to him as the first center-back off the bench, but in recent weeks we’ve been able to see Gomez at his best. The Liverpool youngster has started and played the full 90 minutes in each of the last three games and the club has recorded a clean sheet in all three, including a 4-0 statement win over Leicester City yesterday. And while I’m wary of recommending a potential OWP, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said that the club will be without Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren for at least two more games and possible more into the new year due to injury.
So, as a short-term pick, Gomez looks like a solid addition to any team, especially if you are lacking a defender from the title favorites. With games against Wolves and Southampton in the next few days, Gomez is sure to get another crack at a clean sheet or two, and his availability in 56 percent of our most recent sample of FPL Draft leagues suggests that most managers would rather not use their waiver claims on Gomez for the short-term. But that short-term has turned into more than a month with Matip out and a few weeks rather than a few days for Lovren, so having Gomez in your defense as a starting defender still looks like a shrewd move. Who knows, he may have made an impression on Klopp and could even keep his starting role.
DEF – Adam Webster (Brighton)
With Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, Brighton sure have their fair share of defenders with a knack for goal with the club known for their set-piece prowess. But now you can add Adam Webster to the list following his third goal of the season in a 2-1 loss to Tottenham on Boxing Day. The versatile defender broke the club transfer record when he signed for £20 million this summer from Bristol City and has proved to be money well spent for the Seagulls along with Neal Maupay. His goal and three bonus points gave him 10 points despite the losing effort to Spurs, and now Brighton’s schedule will open up as they look to separate themselves from the relegation zone with only a two-point gap.
Up next for the Seagulls are home matches against Bournemouth and Chelsea before games against Everton, Aston Villa, Bournemouth again, West Ham, Watford, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and Wolves. Such a favorable schedule lasts all the way through the beginning of March, and warrants a defender pick. If you prefer to wait and add Webster to your watchlist, you can also do that without the fear of losing out on him—the 24-year-old is taken in only two percent of our most recent sample of draft leagues. However, it can’t hurt to have a defender on your bench with a penchant for scoring goals and a favorable schedule with the chance at multiple clean sheets.
FWD – Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace)
I may have recommended Jordan Ayew once already this season, but this is probably, possibly, your last chance to snap up the Crystal Palace striker. It’s still more unlikely than not that Ayew is available in your FPL Draft league with the Ghanaian international available in only 35 percent of leagues, but you won’t have that good of a chance to sign him for the rest of the season. This is especially true after Ayew contributed to both Palace goals with an assist and goal (worthy of a couple replays and a goal of the year nod) to earn him three bonus points and 12 points in total against West Ham.
Only Watford have scored less goals than Crystal Palace, but Ayew is the club’s top goalscorer with five on the season as he nears his career high of seven. More importantly, Ayew has only missed one game this season, making him a reliable option off your FPL Draft bench, which isn’t always the case as a third forward. Unless your first three or four picks were forwards, I can’t imagine the majority of FPL Draft teams having a better third forward than Ayew, so to see him still available in a third of leagues means that a long-term pick sits under the radar with a favorable schedule ahead against notable leaky defenses like Southampton, Norwich City and Arsenal.