While we await the end of this gameweek with Liverpool still to play on Thursday before a quick weekend turnaround, we still have a gameday to prepare for. Headline fixtures like Leicester City-Chelsea and Spurs-Manchester City will own the weekend, but there are plenty of smaller battles that could make ripples this weekend. Present in this week’s column are two premium selections balanced out by two up-and-coming starlets born after the year 2000.
Of my recent picks, Troy Deeney (goal, three bonus points) and Chris Wood (goal, assist, three bonus) were the clear stars of Gameweek 24. Jack Stephens, Gerard Deulofeu and Kelechi Iheanacho also came up with a handful of assists as they remain in form.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 25. 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 – Hugo Lloris (Spurs)
It’s not often that you can add one of the top players at his position more than halfway through the season, but Hugo Lloris blessed us with his return to action in a 2-1 win over Norwich City last week. The French international has been out since Gameweek 8 when he dislocated his elbow in the opening minutes. While Paulo Gazzaniga was a solid fill-in, there’s no replacing the impact that Lloris has on this side, especially now with the defensive-minded José Mourinho at the helm. While it might take some time for him to get comfortable, there’s no denying that there’s a premium pick available on the waiver wire.
Spurs have only managed three clean sheets in Lloris’ absence, which also saw the departure of Mauricio Pochettino due to the club’s poor form, but fixtures against Aston Villa, Wolves, Burnley and West Ham in the next two months provide plenty of chances to redeem themselves. While it’s impossible to meet past season’s clean sheet totals, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lloris and co. hit double figures with the remaining fixtures as Mourinho solidifies his defensive tactics with a top-four spot still well within reach (Spurs are currently six points behind fourth-place Chelsea). Regardless, Lloris is a must-have in any squad as a long-term pick available in 60 percent of FPL Draft leagues.
DEF – Brandon Williams (Manchester United)
There’s a new kid on the scene in Manchester and he goes by the name of Brandon Williams. The left-back is looking to become the latest in a long list of esteemed Manchester United academy products (the Red Devils have played more than 4,000 consecutive games with an academy graduate in the squad) and is well on his way with his impressive showing this season. According to Sky Sports, the 19-year-old has been a part of seven of the club’s 13 clean sheets in all competitions this season despite playing in less than half of the club’s matches.
But now Williams looks to have solidified his grasp on the first-choice left-back position over Luke Shaw with the club so confident in his abilities that they even let Ashley Young leave for Inter Milan in the winter transfer window. Williams has quickly become a favorite of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, especially after his 10-point performance against Norwich City where he recorded a clean sheet and an assist for drawing a penalty. The left-back is already taken in 10 percent of our most recent sample of FPL Draft leagues, a figure that will steadily rise every week, and upcoming fixtures against Wolves, Watford and Everton make him a viable STP with the potential to be a standout defender for United by the end of the season.
DEF – Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
It’s no secret that this season Manchester City have felt the fatigue and pressure of winning back-to-back Premier League titles, but it’s their defense that has shown the biggest cracks. Pep Guardiola’s side is well off pace of the 20 clean sheets they recorded last season as injuries have taken their toll on the City backline. But things are starting to look a lot bright with the return of Aymeric Laporte from long-term injury. The Frenchman had not played since Gameweek 4 when he suffered a knee injury that kept him out for nearly five months. But Laporte returns just in time for the club’s toughest stretch.
In the next two months, Manchester City must face Tottenham, Leicester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool and square off with Manchester United in the League Cup and two fixtures against Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16, which makes the return of the club’s best defender all the more important. There will surely be clean sheets mixed into the chaos for Laporte as Guardiola looks to rein in City’s porous defense. But any time you can get a defender of Laporte’s quality on the waiver wire, you find a way to get this long-term pick into your team; that is, if you’re part of the third on leagues where he’s still available.
FWD – Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal)
We often take the biggest risks in FPL with forwards, and this week’s pick is no exception. Gabriel Martinelli has burst onto the scene in recent weeks since the arrival of Mikel Arteta and has taken advantage of every chance he’s received thanks to an injury to Alexandre Lacazette. In fact, Martinelli is part of a promising contingent of Arsenal youth players (Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah) who have scored for the Gunners in the past couple of games. At just 18 years-old, Martinelli has been heralded as Brazil’s next star forward with Ronaldinho even comparing the Arsenal striker to Ronaldo. Only time will tell, but so far Martinelli is off to a great start.
The Brazilian has scored in each of the last two games, including on the biggest stage of his career in an inspiring draw with Chelsea where Arsenal played down a man for more than an hour. But Martinelli is starting to come up on FPL managers’ radar with the forward already taken in 14 percent of FPL Draft leagues heading into Week 24. Yet he remains a pretty big risk with his playing time uncertain now that Lacazette is back from injury. Surely, Martinelli will still get his fair share of chances after impressing Arteta, but it remains up to how deep your squad is whether Martinelli is a good option to have as a third striker. For the moment, he’s a one-week pick, but I can’t wait to see what the future holds.