I feel like anyone who is writing a Premier League article or column this week must have Leicester City mentioned in the first sentence. How can you not? When was the last time we saw something quite like this, if ever?
Hopefully you took my advice last week in avoiding the Leicester City firesale due to the club’s heavy festive schedule, especially considering how Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy continued to show why they are the hottest names in the game this season.
Mahrez looks eerily similar to the star he displaced on Monday night, while Eden Hazard looks more like Mahrez on the Le Havre reserve team from years back. However, in regards to Leicester City, it would be best to stay away from that defense. With Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City up next, a clean sheet looks highly unlikely for any team let alone one that took 10 weeks to record one.
As for last week’s picks, the defensive side of things was strong with two clean sheets, but Fabio Borini and Marko Arnautovic were disappointments in Week 16. But continue to stick with Adrian, Jonny Evans and Erik Pieters defensively as defense usually rules through the holiday period.
Well, without much more delay, here are the bargains of Week 17. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column.
One Week Buys (OWB) - 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.
Short-term Buys (STB) - 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 Fantasy Premier League format as long as you are comfortable with possibly needing to transfer them out in a few weeks.
Long-term Buys (LTB) - 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 the FPL.com game.
GK – Artur Boruc (Bournemouth)
Cheap goalkeepers are going to be a tough pick this week, but Boruc looks like your best shout for some short-term points. If anything, he’s a two-week pick, but most likely just a one-week buy for those of you who are just looking for a quick fix while Southampton’s Maarten Stekelenburg is injured or you don’t trust Petr Cech or Joe Hart this weekend. Boruc is fighting a minor injury himself, but with West Brom and Crystal Palace coming up in the next two weeks, he’s an inexpensive, low-risk pick available in most leagues and valued at just £4.5 in Fantasy Premier League. But in all honesty, it’s not worth a transfer if you have a healthy option on board.
DEF – Pape Souare (Crystal Palace)
Crystal Palace has a really favorable schedule until the New Year and most won’t take advantage of it (this pairs well with last week’s Wayne Hennessey pick in goal). Palace picked up a clean sheet last week with an impressive defensive display against Southampton at home and the upcoming schedule of Stoke City, Bournemouth and Swansea City looks very promising considering the bookends are two of the three least-scoring teams in the league. Souare is a good short-term way to break into the Palace defense with a reliable starter. The left-back has attacking tendencies that bode well for fantasy managers while he is available in more than 70 percent of Fantrax leagues with a £4.5 price-tag in FPL.
DEF – Phillip Wollscheid (Stoke City)
The Stoke City bandwagon continues to grow as the club has recorded five clean sheets in its last six Premier League matches. Wollscheid is the most affordable way into the defense in FPL at just 4.4 (taken in just 40 percent of Fantrax leagues) and has started every match since the end of September. He’s a solid short-term buy with Crystal Palace and Manchester United at home in the next two weeks and West Brom and Norwich also scheduled during the festive period. After Manchester United and Arsenal, no team has conceded fewer goals this season than Stoke City (although no one has scored fewer goals either). Anyway, it’s good to have a Potters defender in your team at this time of year, especially when the nights only grow colder and rainier in Stoke.
MID – Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
Fellaini is similar to teammate Ander Herrera in just about every way outside of physical appearance in terms of production. Often overlooked and idle on the bench, the midfielder always seems to produce when given the chance. Well, here comes another chance. With Bastian Schweinsteiger suspended and Morgan Schneiderlin overcoming a minor injury, Fellaini stepped up to score an equalizer against Bournemouth last weekend. And with Wayne Rooney out and United struggling to score—six goals in its last seven—Fellaini is primed to take on a more attacking role and is extremely dangerous off set pieces and corners. If you have the space/budget, Fellaini is available for £6.2 in FPL and is worth a look in draft leagues as a one-week buy (and especially in weekly salary cap leagues).
FWD – Enner Valencia (West Ham) 5.8 23.9
This pick is designated more for draft leagues and weekly salary cap leagues—available in more than 75 percent of Fantrax leagues—than the limited-transfer, FPL-style leagues. With the Hammers desperate for some goals (three goals in their last six league matches), Slaven Bilic will surely turn to a now-healthy Enner Valencia to pick up the slack as Maruo Zarate and Andy Carroll just have not been cutting it as their styles are more dependent on talented wingers providing the service. With Victor Moses and Manuel Lanzini both out injured, Valencia provides some pace on the flank and creativity in the box as a roaming forward. And with Swansea City, Aston Villa and Southampton up next, Valencia won’t have to face off against the toughest opposition, making him a proactive short-term buy for the upcoming weeks.
FPL SELL OF THE WEEK:
Manchester United attackers
It seems to going without saying, but you’d be surprised to see how many FPL managers still have Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney in their teams. The supposed backbone of the Manchester United attack has combined for just one goal and one assist in the last seven Premier League matches since Week 10, which came way back in the middle of October. If you are a United fan and/or don’t want to abandon the club entirely, a short-term option like Fellaini is the best way to go. But it is just not worth it to waste so much money on big names that fail to produce, some advice the Red Devils themselves should heed.