This is when things get fun for Premier League fans, and scary for fantasy Premier League managers. Three Gameweeks, seven days. That only means one thing for certain: lots of infuriating, unpredictable managerial decisions. That’s why this may prove to be the most important bargain columns of the season so far.
With all the substitutions, rested players and short recovery periods, this is the most maddening time of the year. After vice-captaining a player who goes off for a hat-trick, there are very few worse feelings in Fantasy Premier League than running out of active substitutes on the bench.
I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen to you in these next two Gameweeks with these picks below, but first, let’s briefly review last week. Pape Souare earned the clean sheet, Philipp Wollscheid didn’t, but both are still good short-term buys with even more potential.
Marouane Fellaini and Enner Valencia each saw playing time, but neither proved to do much of anything. Meanwhile, Anthony Martial (finally) scored with a Wayne Rooney assist, clearly responding to me calling them out last week. Still, I’d stay away from selecting Manchester United attackers until they earn their price.
Well, without much more delay, here are the bargains of Week 18 and 19. 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 – Hugo Lloris (Spurs)
Spurs have been a solid defensive team all season. Only Manchester United has given up less than Spurs’ 14 goals in 17 games this season. And their upcoming schedule (Norwich and Watford) will make you want to have a piece of that Tottenham defense, whether it’s Lloris or someone else. Although Lloris probably is not be available in your draft league, he’s a great addition for FPL.com and weekly salary cap leagues for the long-term, considering Spurs don’t face a Champions League team until February.
DEF – Alan Hutton (Aston Villa)
It’s a bit difficult to pick any Aston Villa player at all, but picking Hutton will make sure you don’t have an idle bench player—he’s played 90 minutes in every game since Week 6. And with Aston Villa’s light festive schedule and desperation for points, he could collect some clean sheet points as well. In FPL.com he’s just £4.2, and he’s taken in just 17.8 percent of Fantrax draft leagues. I actually like him as a long-term buy in any league format since he’s so cheap, considering the upcoming schedule (West Ham, Norwich, Sunderland, Palace, Leicester, West Brom, West Ham, Norwich).
DEF – Adam Smith (Bournemouth)
This may be one of the best short-term bargains out there. Bournemouth seem to have found a playmaker on its hands, pairing up well with Matt Ritchie down the right wing. Smith is priced at just £4.0 in FPL.com and is available in nearly 90 percent of Fantrax leagues. The right-back has only just become a weekly starter, but has two goals in the last month. The Cherries are nearly through the toughest part of their schedule, before it opens up completely in the New Year. For such a cheap price, Smith provides some cover off the bench and an attacking edge to go with it.
MID – Stephane Sessegnon (West Brom)
These next two options are both West Brom picks, and I think it would be beneficial to have one or the other, depending on your team’s setup. But following the red card for violent conduct to James McClean, a spot has opened up along the wing for the next three matches and Sessegnon has worked back into Tony Pulis’ good graces. The winger started every match from Week 9 to 15 before missing Week 16 with a hamstring injury. But he returned last week as a second-half sub at half-time following McClean’s dismissal. Sessegnon isn’t a great pick for salary cap leagues with limited transfers for FPL.com since those should be considered as more precious, but he could be a nice short-term addition for draft leagues and weeklies.
FWD – Saido Berahino (West Brom)
This time, I really did save the best for last. I’m really excited about Berahino because I think this will be him at his best. Since Salomon Rondon picked up a three-match red card ban, Pulis will feel the pressure to play his disgruntled prodigy. Berahino will be itching for goals with the January transfer window coming up, when he will likely leave. But a solid run of three goal-scoring starts with raise his value and status in the transfer mill while West Brom seem desperate for some firepower to end its four-match winless streak. If he’s somehow available in your draft league, add him immediately. In any other format, maybe wait until after the Week 18 games to make sure he starts and scores to add him, but I’m already gearing up for this pick.
FPL SELL OF THE WEEK:
Selling Jamie Vardy
This might be a bit confusing, but bear with me. I’m selling the notion to sell Jamie Vardy. FPL managers might be a bit afraid due to that yellow symbol next to Vardy’s name after picking up a minor hamstring injury against Everton. Unless Claudio Ranieri rules him out for longer than a week or two, here’s why you should keep Vardy. Outside of the fact that he is the Premier League’s leading goalscorer, selling him now would make it extremely difficult to get him back in the near future. He’s currently priced at £7.7, but it’s likely you signed him while in the £6-£7 range (he started as a £6.0), meaning you’ll have to drop another expensive player to bring him back. And, if he plays this week, he’ll face Liverpool, who has given up seven goals in the last three games.