Now that we are entering into the FA Cup quarterfinals stage, that means no more FA Cup breaks—just double gameweeks and international breaks, once again. Regardless, the break may have given critical breaks to big point-getters like Kevin De Bruyne, Marcos Alonso, Antonio Valencia and Sergio Agüero among others.
My last week of picks, though it may seem a while ago, turned out to be one of my best on 2018 so far. Alfie Mawson came up huge for Swansea City with a clean sheet and one bonus point while Chicharito scored a goal and earned a bonus point as he continued his roll as West Ham’s latest catalyst.
Meanwhile, recent midfield picks like Luka Milivojevic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic each scored goals for their respective sides while Aaron Cresswell was one of the stars of the week with an assist, a clean sheet and two bonus points for West Ham.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 28. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column.
All of the stats used in this column come straight from the 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- Martin Dubravka (Newcastle)
We have a new goalkeeper in the Premier League, and by new I mean new in every single way. The unknown Dubravka arrived on loan from Sparta Prague in the winter transfer window and earned his first Premier League start against Manchester United of all teams, which turned out to be a debut to remember with a clean sheet and a 1-0 win in front of the home supporters.
A win like that can only mean more playing time for the 29-year-old Slovakian international, although the Magpies’ upcoming schedule isn’t the best to take on from a defensive perspective. But if you’re looking for a new backup keeper, keep your eye on Dubravka in the upcoming weeks. If he continues to start and perform, he could make for a solid backup.
DEF- Cuco Martina (Everton)
Despite coming in as a Ronald Koeman favorite, Martina has been a staple of Sam Allardyce’s squad, playing the full 90 minutes in every match since Gameweek 14. Since the requisite long-term injury to Leighton Baines in late-November (Baines has returned to training but still seems some way off from a return), Martina has filled in wonderfully with five clean sheets, turning a potential weakness in the Everton lineup into a non-worry with his consistency.
While the Toffees have not secured a clean sheet since Gameweek 20, the club’s upcoming schedule of Watford, Burnley, Brighton and Stoke City looks to have some shutouts in them. An added bonus is the fact that the Curacao international has recorded an assist in each of the last two games. Available in 97 percent of FPL Draft leagues in our latest sample, Martina looks like a pure short-term bargain with lots of injuries to defenders across the league.
DEF – Eric Bailly (Manchester United)
I may be jumping the gun a bit here, but when Eric Bailly is taken in only 64 percent of FPL Draft leagues, you have to take him. The 23-year-old has been missing since mid-November when a knee injury required a minor surgery. But the Ivory Coast international returned over the weekend in an FA Cup win against Huddersfield Town, signaling his return to José Mourinho’s first team.
There are a couple of injuries to the United defense with Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Daley Blind all fighting off problems, so Bailly could very well start against Chelsea this weekend. But it’s best to be patient with the center-back as he works back into full fitness. However, his impact is clear as United has lost only one league game with Bailly in the starting lineup (to Chelsea), making him a clear long-term pick if available.
MID – Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)
Well, he’s back. After a couple of stints at Everton, a loan at AC Milan and a period of success at Barcelona earlier this year, Gerard Deulofeu has found his way back to the Premier League with a loan move to Watford in the winter transfer window. The Spanish international, possibly hoping to earn more playing time and force his way into Spain’s World Cup plans, has already started each of his first three games at Watford, starring in the club’s shock 4-1 win over Chelsea.
Deulofeu announced his return to England with a man-of-the-match performance against the reigning champions with a goal, assist and three bonus points. Overall, 18 points in three games so far makes for a pretty good average. Despite a excess of wingers and attacking midfielders at the club, Deulofeu looks to be new manager Javi Gracia’s favorite at the position. That has also caught on in FPL Draft leagues, where Deulofeu is already taken in 40 percent of leagues, so you might have to choose now whether you want the short-term pick.
FWD – Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
It’s a shame that I have feature Rashford in a space that recommends dropping him. After all, who doesn’t want to see a young player succeed in the age when seeing young players at a top club is rare? Rashford needs time in the starting lineup to continue to develop, just not your fantasy lineup. But with Alexis Sánchez recently added to a squad that already features Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku, things look dreary for the young phenom.
Rashford is owned in 88 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues, yet the forward has not started in the last six Premier League matches. Even worse, Rashford has not scored a goal since Gameweek 16 against Manchester City. While Rashford already has a career high in assists and is closing on a career high in goals, he’s not worth a spot in your starting lineup; and, if there are better options available in free agency, you might want to think about dropping him entirely.