We’ve made it to the final stretch of the hectic festive period, so with another two-day break between games, I wish you all a happy new year
Of last week’s picks, Liverpool defender Joe Gomez recorded another clean sheet. Meanwhile, recent bargains like Dominic Calvert-Lewin (two goals, three bonus) all starred as forwards Danny Ings (goal, three bonus) while Ismaila Sarr and Kelechi Iheanacho each scored.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 21. 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 – Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham)
After far too long, Lukasz Fabianski has finally returned to fitness, just in time for Manuel Pellegrini’s final game as West Ham manager. The Polish international missed the three months due to a thigh injury he suffered in Gameweek 7 which ended up requiring surgery. The injury came at the height of the club’s six-match Premier League unbeaten streak as the Hammers had recorded three straight clean sheets. In the three months since, West Ham only recorded two clean sheets and have now dropped all the way to 17th place, just one point above the relegation zone.
But there is hope on the horizon with Fabianski’s return, a change in management and a serviceable upcoming schedule with Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Everton due up next. Before his injury, Fabianski was the league’s top goalkeeper in terms of FPL points as he so often is. The best part is that the former Arsenal keeper is taken in only 40 percent of our most recent sample of FPL draft leagues, mostly due to his inactivity since the end of September. But I would make Fabianski a top priority, considering he is one of the top goalkeepers in the league and is a must-have long-term pick.
DEF – Christian Kabasele (Watford)
With three gameweeks in the course of a week, it was always going to be slim pickings relative to most weeks; however, this Watford defense deserves a solid look. Despite their terrible start to the season, new manager Nigel Pearson, their third of the season, looks to have brought Watford up to speed (especially in defense where the club has three clean sheets in the last five games) as they now sit only three points from leaving the relegation zone. And with a favorable schedule over the next month (Wolves, Bournemouth, Spurs, Aston Villa, Everton, Brighton), more clean sheets could very well be on the horizon.
Meanwhile, Christian Kabasele has been at the very heart of that turnaround in defense. The Belgian international has recorded 26 FPL points in the last five games, which includes the three clean sheets, an assist and two bonus points (the last two coming in a shocking 2-0 win over Manchester United in Gameweek 18. If you’re looking for a short-term addition to fill the last place on your bench, Kabasele could be that guy. But you don’t have to rush as he’s virtually untaken in FPL Draft leagues. Just know that you’re getting a reliable defender on a team that’s on the up.
MID – Adama Traoré (Wolves)
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been waiting on the rise of this former Barcelona academy product, so I can’t be the only one who’s pleased to see this season go so well for Traore. It’s hard to believe the Spaniard is only 23 years old, but he seems to have finally found himself despite all of the competition at Wolves this season. After Raúl Jiménez, Traore is Wolves’ top scorer this season with four goals to go with his four assists, which was most recently on display in a thrilling comeback win over Manchester City on Friday where he recorded a goal, assist and three bonus points to give him a whopping 13 against the defending champs.
In fact, the winger has recorded three of his four goals this season against Manchester City, perhaps as part of some personal vendetta against former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola. And with Watford, Newcastle and Southampton up next, now looks like a good time to bet big on Traore. The only problem is that Traore is massively popular in FPL Draft leagues, but maybe you’re in the third of leagues where he is still available. If so, you’ll have a solid STP who really looks like more on a long-term option. If Traore can string together a consistent run of games, you’ll be sitting pretty in your draft league.
MID – Pablo Fornals (West Ham)
I don’t think anyone expected Pablo Fornals to have as big of an impact on West Ham as he has in the last month. The 23-year-old Spaniard took some time to live up to expectations after arriving in a £24 million move from Villarreal this summer, but his struggles seem to be well behind him. Since become a regular starter, Fornals has recorded all of his three assists and one goal in the last six Premier League matches. His best performance came against Leicester City on Saturday where he scored his first Premier League goal as man of the match in a losing effort.
My only concern is that the departure of Manuel Pellegrini, of whom he has become a personal favorite, might impact the system that has allowed him to be one of the few successful West Ham players this season, but Fornals has clearly established himself at the Olympic Stadium. Games against Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Everton will buy whoever becomes the new manager in east London some time to maneuver but Fornals will be right at the center of West Ham’s attack after contributing to four of the club’s last five Premier League goals. Taken in only eight percent of FPL Draft leagues, Fornals is a legitimate STP with an exciting future ahead of him.