If we’ve learned one thing about sports in the last couple of days, it’s that we have no idea what the near future will hold. With Serie A and La Liga now suspended, the time may come for a stoppage in Premier League play as well. But until then, we’ll push on with the FPL season.
Of last week’s picks, Marcos Alonso returned with six points thanks to a Chelsea clean sheet. Meanwhile, Harvey Barnes owned my list of recent picks with two goals, an assist and three bonus points for a 19-point total. Roman Saiiss and Conor Coady each recorded clean sheets for Wolves while Bruno Fernandes recorded another assist.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 30. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
It was only a matter of time before Willy Caballero’s sluggish performances outweighed Frank Lampard’s apparent distaste for Kepa’s attitude, and that time officially came over the weekend in a 4-0 thrashing of Everton. After being benched for four games by Lampard, Kepa made his return to the Chelsea starting lineup in time to earn a clean sheet, the club’s first since Gameweek 22. But Kepa’s return could not have come at a better time for FPL Draft managers looking for a new keeper, given the club’s favorable schedule to end the season.
With Manchester United giving the Blues a push for the final Champions League spot, Chelsea will face Aston Villa, West Ham, Watford, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Norwich City in their next six games. One look at that schedule so convince anyone to add some Chelsea defenders to their side while it’s also worth looking at Kepa, who saw his ownership figures drop from 92 percent to 65 percent in the last month. The chance to add a starting keeper of a top-four side to your FPL Draft team should not be easily dismissed, especially with this upcoming slate of games.
Every time that we think we’ve seen the end of Luke Shaw, be it due to injury or form, the former Southampton starlet finds a way to adapt and keep his Manchester United career alive. He survived multiple season-ending injuries, a José Mourinho vendetta and now a change in position from his native left-back. In recent weeks Shaw, who is available in 55 percent of FPL Draft leagues, has been deployed as a left center-back as part of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s recent switch to a back three and the results have been promising (and potentially even season-altering with United now making a push for the top four as they hound Chelsea).
What was once a massive liability for the club earlier this season has turned into an unforeseen strength with United recorded four clean sheets in their last five Premier League matches, despite also having to deal with FA Cup and Europa League responsibilities that would seem to take a toll on the club’s depth. In those five games, Shaw has recorded 26 FPL points as the Red Devils have shot into fifth. And one look at United’s schedule to end the season will have you jumping at Shaw for the long term: Spurs, Brighton, Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Southampton, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Leicester and Sheffield.
Luke Shaw isn’t the only pick in this week’s column that would have surprised me at the start of the season. Enter Gary Cahill, who pivoted quickly from his declining career at Chelsea with a move across London this summer. The former England center-half has played a massive part in Crystal Palace’s recent surge up the table in the last month—11th-place Palace are currently closer in points to a Champions League berth than they are to the relegation zone. In the last three weeks, Crystal Palace have secured three straight clean sheets with 1-0 wins over Newcastle, Brighton and Watford.
Those three wins seem to have secured Palace of another season in the Premier League with two months to go as Palace sit on the cusp of that 40-point safety target, but there are surely more to come given this defensive form. For the remainder of the season, starting against Bournemouth this weekend, Palace also have solid clean sheet opportunities against Burnley, Aston Villa, Wolves and Spurs at home. So whether it’s Cahill or Scott Dann or Joel Ward (or if you’re lucky, the golden goose that is Patrick Van Aanholt), you can’t go wrong as long as you have a Palace defender waiting in the wings.
At such a critical junction in the season, I think this next pick could be a gamechanger for any FPL Draft team. With Tammy Abraham out for at least the next three weeks with an ankle injury, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has turned to the ever-reliable Olivier Giroud to start at forward for the meantime and Giroud has shown that he wants to make this a permanent deal. In his last three starts, Giroud has been an attacking force to be reckoned with, recording two goals, an assist and three bonus points including his man of the match performance in a 2-1 win against Tottenham in Gameweek 27.
After receiving virtually no playing time in the top flight this season—prior to Gameweek 27, Giroud had not started a Premier League match since the second week of the season—the Frenchman has now established himself as a key cog in a Chelsea attack that has recorded eight goals in the three games since the shutout loss at home to Manchester United. But to get Giroud, you’ll have to act this week with the former Arsenal man still available in 60 percent of FPL Draft leagues, a figure that will surely rise into territory that will make him nearly impossible to add after this weekend. For now he’s a short-term pick, but this STP could very well provide you with the boost to put you over the top.