While we usually take the international break to rest and unwind, a significant Premier League superstars have been afflicted by the injury bug meaning there’s more anxiety than usual heading into the gameweek. Kevin De Bruyne, David De Gea, Mohamed Salah and Joel Matip are just a handful of the big names who come into the week as doubts.
It was another successful week of bargain hunting before the break with Sheffield United keeper Dean Henderson recording a clean sheet and Anwar El Ghazi recording two assists for Aston Villa. Meanwhile recent picks like Neal Maupay (goal, bonus point), Lewis Dunk (assist, clean sheet, two bonus) and Jordan Ayew (goal, three bonus) all showed up for Week 8.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 9. 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 – Paulo Gazzaniga (Spurs)
It’s not often that you can pick up the starting keeper of a Champions League team off of the waiver wire, but now we have a unicorn readily available in Paulo Gazzaniga. Early on in the 3-0 loss to Brighton before the international break, starting keeper Hugo Lloris left the game with a dislocated elbow and has been ruled out until at least January as the club also re-signed Michel Vorm, who became a free agent after his contract at the club ran out this year. But now it’s Gazzaniga’s turn, and the Argentine looks like a long-term pick for at least the next 10 matches.
Currently sitting in ninth place, Tottenham have looked nothing like the team that made the Champions League final last season, but there’s a growing urgency within the club to turn things around, especially on the part of Mauricio Pochettino. And Saturday’s match against last-place Watford represents the perfect starting point to turn things around. And with Everton, Sheffield United, West Ham and Bournemouth due up in four of the next five weeks after Watford, I’m betting on Gazzaniga to record a couple of clean sheets in the next few weeks as a widely available keeper taken in just two percent of FPL Draft leagues.
DEF – Willy Boly (Wolves)
After a tough start to the season that saw them go the first six games without securing a win, Wolves have now won two in a row with two straight clean sheets. The biggest result came in a shocking 2-0 away win at Manchester City before the international break, which may seem to slow the club’s momentum until you see their upcoming schedule. Southampton, Newcastle, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Sheffield United, West Ham and Brighton are next up through mid-December, meaning that having a Wolves defender looks like a prudent move.
While Matt Doherty is the most popular (and most unavailable) Wolves defender, it’s not such a bad compromise to make a move for a consistent defender like Willy Boly. The center-back scored four goals last season and has already record three clean sheets, an assist and seven bonus points this season for Wolves this year. Boly is taken in 58 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues and looks like a solid long-term option to add to your defense, especially as a third or fourth defender. If he is also unavailable in your league, the ever-reliable Conor Coady has yet to miss a minute of Premier League action in more than a year.
DEF – Jetro Willems (Newcastle)
If you’re looking for more of a high-risk, high-reward proposition in defense, meaning you’re basically in the market for a fifth defender, Jetro Willems has been a promising addition for Newcastle this season. The Dutch international has been a key contributor to the Magpies’ attack since arriving on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt with a goal and assist at left-back in a lethargic Steve Bruce system where no one has contributed more goals than Willems. Despite their struggles, a defender who contributes in attack like Willems could come in handy in an FPL setting with a favorable schedule like Newcastle’s in the next two months.
After a trip to Chelsea this weekend, Newcastle have plenty of opportunities to make a move up the table with Wolves, West Ham, Bournemouth and Aston Villa in the next four matches. Then after hosting Manchester City, another favorable slate opens up with Sheffield United, Southampton, Burnley and Crystal Palace leading up to Boxing Day. Combine that with Willems attacking prowess and you could have a steal just sitting on the waiver wire, taken in less than one percent of FPL Draft leagues. If you have the fifth spot open in defense, evaluate your options but keep an eye on Willems in the near future.
MID – Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace)
I’m always shocked to see Milivojevic ignored year after year. On a surface level, I understand given he’s a central midfielder at a club that typically has to fight off relegation every year, but he’s also the club captain who takes penalties. Just look at the last two seasons and you’ll see that Milivojevic is the club’s leading scorer with 22 goals, almost all of which have come from the penalty spot. And yet Milivojevic is still available in a majority of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues, taken in only 49 percent.
Last year, the Serbian international played in every minute of the Premier League season, but didn’t hit his stride until the second half. The one knock against Milivojevic is his aggressiveness and subsequent yellow card tally, but the Palace captain just served his one-match ban for yellow card accumulation and is now set to return to face Manchester City this weekend. But your chance to add Milivojevic, a player with two straight double-digit goal seasons, dwindles with every week and every penalty chance for Palace. Even as a fifth midfielder, you’ll have a serious goal threat in your side, and that can be critical down the stretch.