With another short run-up to the matchday, I’m going to get right into things with at least another four quality columns coming your way from us at Rotoworld before Saturday. Just one piece of advice regarding rotation over the next few weeks: depth is key.
Of my picks last week, only Adrian earned a significant return with his clean sheet and bonus point against Arsenal as he looks to cement his starting spot over Joe Hart. Meanwhile, Wilfried Zaha recorded an assist and Everton defender Jonjoe Kenny recorded a clean sheet.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 18. 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.
DEF – Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield Town)
Unfortunately, there are no long-term, must-have options, or at least ones that I haven’t already suggested recently; rather, there are mostly short-term options who could add some depth to your squad during the festive period. I’ve been following Schindler for some time, and now that the club’s schedule has taken a turn for the better, a Huddersfield defender looks like a very underrated option.
The Terriers’ defensive fortunes took a crazy turn; after starting the season with three straight clean sheets, they have conceded the second-most goals in the Premier League. But up next, Watford, Southampton, Stoke City, Burnley, Leicester City, West Ham and Stoke City are all on the slate until mid-January. Schindler has been one of Huddersfield’s most reliable defenders, starting every match but one while recording five clean sheets, two assists and nine bonus points. And it looks like more clean sheets will be on the way if David Wagner hopes to turn things around.
DEF- Aaron Cresswell (West Ham)
No one outside of a delusional West Ham fan could have predicted four points from a brutal scheduling outlier that featured Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal all within 10 days. But David Moyes seems to have turned things around for relegation-threatened West Ham with a surprise win against Chelsea and a scoreless draw with Arsenal this week. And now the Hammers’ schedule opens right up with Stoke City, Newcastle, Bournemouth and then a double gameweek against West Brom and Spurs.
Cresswell has been one of the biggest pieces of the club’s resurgence, shifting between his usual left-back role and a roaming center-back as part of a back three that held Chelsea and Arsenal scoreless while also forcing Manchester City to rely on a late match-winner. While Cresswell shouldn’t be expected to be the attacking force he once was, he still takes left-footed free kicks and records the occasional assist, like he did against City. And even better, Cresswell is taken in only 14.3 percent of our sample of FPL draft leagues—he’s as close to a long-term pick that you can have at this point this season.
MID– Scott Arfield (Burnley)
Arfield has taken on Robbie Brady’s responsibilities since the Irish international was ruled out with a season-ending injury last month, and Burnley hasn’t missed a beat—even jumping into fourth place for a day this week. Arfield has contributed to both of the club’s goals in two 1-0 victories this week against Watford and Stoke City, recording the winner against Watford and providing a late assist for Ashley Barnes’ match-winner in midweek.
Arfield is free in almost every FPL Draft league, meaning you can easily afford to wait and monitor his progress. There are plenty of better options mentioned here in previous weeks like Wilfried Zaha, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marc Albrighton. Still, Arfield has the experience and potential to become a force on the wing for Burnley, and he’s worth keeping an eye on in the next month.
FWD – Dwight Gayle (Newcastle)
While there are other options at forward, Gayle looks to be trending up after finally getting a run of starts at the top of the Newcastle formation after leading the club in goals in the Championship last season. For one reason or another, Rafa Benitez has started Gayle sporadically this year until the last month, where he has started six of the last seven league matches and scored all three of his goals this season.
The former Crystal Palace product, who scored a career high seven goals in 2013/14, has two goals, an assist and three bonus points in his last three matches, contributing 75 percent of the club’s output during that period. Throughout his sporadic EPL career, Gayle has performed better the more he plays, so chances are he continues to shine during the festive period. Available in more than 60 percent of leagues, you can afford to watch and wait to see if this short-term pick’s run of form continues.