If I have learned one thing about my bargain picks this season, it is this: bargains work best in defense. Whenever I recap the previous week’s picks at the start of my column, it turns out that at least one of my 2-3 defensive picks records a clean sheet every week.
So, 2016 proved to start the same way that 2015 ended for this column, favoring the defensive side of things.
Picking any Leicester City defender seems to be a no-no this season, but the club’s recent defensive form and upcoming fixture list spelled out a conservative gameplan. Last week, I suggested picking up Kasper Schmeichel, who recorded his second-straight clean sheet during a run in which he has only conceded four goals in his last eight.
Move on to Ryan Bennett, another member of a usually porous defense. Bennett represents one of the best bargains in the league when you weigh pricing, availability and playing time. As part of the starting back-line, Bennett also earned his second straight clean sheet with a 1-0 win against Southampton.
But my attacking picks in Erik Lamela and Rudy Gestede fell flat once again, proving that the best forward options in Fantasy Premier League are the ones we can’t call a bargain.
Well, without much more delay, here are the bargains for Week 21. 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)
Boruc was an absolute monster last weekend. In FPL.com, only Laurent Koscielny scored more points than Boruc. Yes, Boruc, a goalkeeper. That’s because the former Southampton man put together his second clean sheet in three matches and saved a penalty attempt that frustrated fantasy managers everywhere since it was Riyad Mahrez who saw the points slip right off his laces. Despite all that, what I really like about picking Boruc is his upcoming schedule. West Ham, Norwich, Sunderland and Crystal Palace have all struggled to score over the past month, which favors a tidy Bournemouth defense and Boruc, who is available at £4.5 in FPL.com and in more than 80 percent of Fantrax draft leagues, in any league format as a short-term buy.
DEF – Angel Rangel (Swansea City)
Rangel has always been an excellent bargain, price-wise at £4.1 in FPL.com, but now he is starting to see consistent game-time too—and he’s taken in just 13.4 percent of Fantrax leagues. Rangel has started each of the last five Premier League matches, during which Swansea has recorded three of its five clean sheets in league action this season. New manager Alan Curtis has put an emphasis on a packed defensive half and counter-attacking, which is what Garry Monk rode to success last season. Sunderland is up next, followed by Watford, Everton, West Brom and Crystal Palace. For now, I would go week-to-week with him to make sure he continues to start, making Rangel a good option in weekly pick and salary-cap leagues.
DEF – James Tomkins (West Ham)
This West Ham defense continues to shine with four clean sheets in the club’s past six Premier League matches. And despite an excess of in-form center-backs, Tomkins continues to start and succeed after moving to full-back. Slaven Bilic has replaced Carl Jenkinson in the lineup with Tomkins, who has started each of the past six matches at full-back. Meanwhile, West Ham continued its defensive form by posting a clean sheet against Wolves in the FA Cup on Saturday. With that in mind and Bournemouth and Newcastle up next, Tomkins looks to be a great short-term bargain who is available is most leagues and valued at just £5.0 in FPL.com.
MID – Tom Carroll (Spurs)
Carroll is purely a one-week buy, best used in your weekly DraftKings setup, and I’ll have to admit he is a bit of a risk. The young midfielder has started three of the last five league games for Spurs after a series of injuries in midfield to Mousa Dembele and Ryan Mason. In that span, Carroll scored against Norwich City and has looked like an attacking threat in tandem with Dele Alli, another Spurs youngster who has surprised us all. But for the week at hand against Leicester City, I expect Carroll to be involved and net a few points as well.
FWD – Salomon Rondon (West Brom)
What a spell it has been for the West Brom attack. I won’t go on another Tony Pulis rant for not starting Saido Berahino, mostly because we know exactly who will be leading the charge now. Rondon has returned from his three-match ban for that late-match headbutt against Bournemouth that drew an instant red card, but now the Venezuelan will surely take his place atop the formation. Last week, Stephane Sessegnon (a former bargain buy a couple weeks back) scored the first goal from an attacking Baggies player since Week 15, but now Rondon will be up to the task of making sure that drought doesn’t happen again. A good long-term buy in any league format, Rondon’s three league goals and assured playing time are worth taking a shot.
FPL SELL OF THE WEEK:
Ross Barkley (Everton)
This one is a really tough call. Similar to some fantasy players like Sergio Aguero, Eden Hazard, etc, I always get the feeling that dropping an over-priced player now will result in him coming back with a massive week just to spite you personally for transferring out. But gut feelings and playing favorites is the No. 1 way to lose at this game. Rather, we should look at the stat sheet and at the player’s current form. Gone are the days of Everton’s ridiculous scoring form (November saw them score 14 goals in four games). Now, the Toffees are back to a normal pace, eight goals in the last six games. Meanwhile, Barkley has not scored a goal in the last six games and looks a bit fatigued. With three assists in the last six, I don’t think he warrants his price-tag with Manchester City and Chelsea up next.