And now we can breath, at least for a little bit. The festive period is not over yet, but at least there’s a break until after Christmas. Let’s hope there’s a couple of gifts in this column that will help you along; meanwhile, I’m personally hoping for some kind of New Year’s resolution for my team.
It’s never too early to start thinking about the African Cup of Nations, where major players such as Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez, Eric Bailly, Andre Ayew, Wilfried Zaha and others are set to miss a month of action in the New Year. It’s not necessarily time to start making moves, but definitely start to plan out your strategy.
My picks turned out just alright last week. Manchester United’s Phil Jones recorded a clean sheet and Kasper Schmeichel returned for Leicester City while Yaya Toure put in a great performance despite not recording a goal or assist. And recent Bargain Hunter pick Alvaro Negredo scored another double while Matteo Darmian also recorded a clean sheet.
We’ve filled up most of our Fantrax draft leagues, but it’s never too late to join or start up your own league with Fantrax. You can find them all here under “Rotoworld Draft League”. If they are all filled up, let us know on Twitter and we’ll add more leagues. For obvious reasons, we’re capping leagues at 10 users in order to encourage a higher level of competition. And if you’re bored of the attacking-based FPL.com or Perfect XI formats, our salary cap league on Fantrax (Rotoworld Salary Cap) mirrors the old Yahoo format that includes advanced statistics and defensive metrics. It’s not for the casual FPL.com player, and that’s why we love it.
Without further delay, here are the bargains for Week 18. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column.
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.
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 Picks (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 the FPL.com game or draft leagues with limited waiver claims.
GK – Joel Robles (Everton)
Here’s one to keep an eye on. Early reports suggest Maarten Stekelenburg is set to miss out on the club’s Boxing Day match with Leicester City after sustaining a knock on Monday that saw him leave the Merseyside derby in the 64th minute following a collision with teammate Leighton Baines. If these reports hold true, then it will be up to Joel Robles told hold down the fort in the Everton goal.
Prior to Monday’s second-half substitution, the Spanish goalkeeper had only made one Premier League appearance this season: a Week 10 win against West Ham that saw him earn a clean sheet in Stekelenburg’s absence. Being a backup keeper, Robles is owned in only 6.5 percent of Fantrax draft leagues, which means he will be widely available for this week against a Jamie Vardy-less Leicester City. Wait on the injury news and see who the starter will be. Robles could simply be a one-week pick, but he wouldn’t be a bad option to have in goal.
DEF – Antonio Barragan (Middlesbrough)
Barragan has flown under the radar for quite some time considering he is a very reliable starting defender, having started and played the full 90 minutes in 16 of the club’s 17 Premier League matches this season. It’s to the point where there is no doubt who is starting at right-back under Aitor Karanka, and it should come as a surprise if he is ever subbed off. As a bonus, Middlesbrough has picked up two clean sheets in the past four matches and now has a favorable schedule ahead.
I consider Barragan a long-term pick with Middlesbrough’s upcoming schedule, which pits the club against Burnley, Manchester United, Leicester City, Watford, West Ham and West Brom at the end of January, before starting another favorable fixture list after a trip to Tottenham. After Saturday’s 3-0 win against Swansea City, the Teessiders look to have regained their form (and found their scoring touch) at just the right time heading into the holidays. Available in 55 percent of draft leagues, I would heavily consider a move for Barragan (or any starting Middlesbrough defender).
DEF – Martin Kelly (Crystal Palace)
There is a lot of pressure on Alan Pardew to turn Crystal Palace’s season around, but, luckily for him, the schedule opens up very nicely for the club starting with a Boxing Day trip to Watford. And after a New Year’s Day outing at the Emirates against Arsenal, it looks like there will be plenty of opportunities for clean sheets in the coming months. Swansea City, West Ham, Everton, Bournemouth, Sunderland, Stoke City. The list goes on and on in this fashion all the way until March after having a rough go in the past few months.
And here, for you, might be one of the lowest owned players you could see in this space. Kelly is owned in just 2.3 percent of Fantrax draft leagues, which makes sense considering Crystal Palace at one point had a six-game losing streak this season. However, the Eagles put together a promising performance in a 1-0 loss to league-leading Chelsea on Saturday and should have some hope when they take a glance at the schedule. With James Tomkins due back in a month and Pape Souare out indefinitely, Kelly will be a critical part of the club’s defense, having started all but one league match since Souare’s car accident.
MID – Mark Noble (West Ham)
Mark Noble is one of those players that seems to pop up in the Bargain Hunter column every year. It helps when you take all of your club’s penalties, which is reason enough to consider adding a player to your fantasy team (just look at James Milner, a midfielder operating at left-back with five Premier League goals to his name). Noble has just two this season, but both have come in the last two matches, which will surely draw other fantasy managers to the West Ham captain.
Noble is still available in 48 percent of Fantrax draft leagues and looks to be a short-term pick at the very least—he could really be a long-term pick considering he has started every Premier League match this season outside of the match he was suspended due to card accumulation. In addition to taking penalties, he has an excellent record as an accurate passer and tackler and has a good chance of earning more points over the next few matches starting with a struggling Swansea City on Boxing Day.
FWD/MID – Jay Rodriguez (Southampton)
Southampton manager Claude Puel, and fantasy managers alike, may have found their replacement forward for Charlie Austin in Jay Rodriguez. The former Burnley forward was excellent over the weekend in a 3-1 win against Bournemouth, where he scored two goals to lead Southampton to its third win in the past five Premier League matches. Surely after such a performance, the starting spot atop Puel’s 4-3-3 is his to lose over the festive period.
The real beauty of this pick is that Rodriguez could slot in as a midfielder as well as at forward in the Fantrax system, depending on your need. And while we can’t expect a repeat of his stunning 15-goal output from the 2013/14 season, Rodriguez looks to be a shrewd short-term pickup with the potential to be a long-term option this season now that he has his starting chance.