We’re now one week into the busy December slate, but with a total of seven Premier League gameweeks before the New Year, there’s quite a long way to go this month. That means depth is going to be of critical importance with Premier League managers, especially those in the top five, expected to rely heavily on player rotation to get through the month.
Of my picks last week, only Stuart Armstrong earned any points outside of the usual, although Armstrong was the player I was most concerned with. Surely his ownership will begin to skyrocket after more than doubling last week. Meanwhile, recent picks like Matt Doherty, James Maddison (bonus point), Callum Wilson and Felipe Anderson (two bonus points) all scored goals.
I received an inquiry regarding one of my former picks in Liverpool midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri. Now that Sadio Mane and others are fully healthy, Shaqiri’s playing time looks like it will dwindle. And with squad depth at a premium this month, you can really only afford one non-starter. However, with Jurgen Klopp expected to rotate, Shaqiri could very well continue to start and play significant minutes on a team with serious attacking potential.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 15. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL)— I would love to include your thoughts here in this column next week and throughout the season. If you don’t want your name mentioned, just let me know; otherwise, I’ll be sure to give your Twitter handle a shout-out.
All of the stats used in this column come straight from the good folks at Fantasy 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 – Juan Foyth (Spurs)
Both of my defender picks from this week come from the cream of the crop and are sure to get plenty of minutes in the upcoming busy schedule: It’s up to you who fits into your squad better. Of the two Foyth has seen more consistent time in recent weeks and is the club’s most in-form defender due to his 15-point performance against Crystal Palace in Gameweek 12 where he recorded a clean sheet, a goal and three bonus points. With Davinson Sánchez still out and Jan Vertonghen suspended for the next game, Foyth will only continue to start for Mauricio Pochettino.
After arriving this summer from Estudiantes as a relative unknown, Foyth got his first look at the Premier League last month and has not looked back since, playing the full 90 minutes in every match since. And now that Tottenham have gotten past a daunting fixture list that featured back-to-back matches with Chelsea and Arsenal bookending a must-win Champions League match, the festive schedule looks favorably upon Spurs: Southampton, Leicester City, Burnley, Everton, Bournemouth, Watford, Cardiff City. Available in about 80 percent of FPL Draft leagues, Foyth looks like a festive period steal.
DEF – Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)
Liverpool has the opposite problem of Tottenham: too many defenders fighting for the same two spots. And with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s recent form, there’s really just one spot worth fighting over. But Jurgen Klopp is a strong proponent of rotation and finally has the depth to do it in defense. He’s already begun to employ it with Lovren starting four of the last seven Premier League matches, recording three clean sheets and 26 points in that time for a stalwart Liverpool defense.
But with eight games in December, including next week’s must-win Champions League showdown with Napoli to decide their knockout phase fate, Lovren is sure to get plenty of playing time. The defender is taken in 51 percent of FPL Draft leagues and is more of a risk than Foyth, but has the potential to return more points with the Liverpool defense. If you have a fifth spot open on your bench, Lovren would be an excellent addition with the Reds set to take on Burnley, Bournemouth, Manchester United, Wolves and Newcastle by Boxing Day.
MID – Solly March (Brighton)
Last season, Pascal Gross seemed to pull all the strings for Brighton while Glenn Murray kept the team up for another year in the Premier League. But with Gross injured this season, manager Chris Hughton has turned to a new weapon in Solly March as the midfielder has taken up the slack left by the injured Gross who only just recently returned. But March has silently been one of the most productive players in the Premier League in the last month with four assists in the past four matches for Brighton, including setting up both goals in a 2-1 win over Huddersfield Town this weekend.
Only four players in the Premier League have more assists than March’s five this season, yet March’s name has hardly been heard, which is evident in both his FPL Draft and FPL.com ownership hovering just below one percent. That being said, you can afford to hold off on March and watch to see if he can continue to put up similar numbers with Crystal Palace and Burnley up next before a brutal festive schedule that features Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United.
FWD – Chicharito (West Ham)
Maybe, just maybe this is the resurgence from Javier Hernández that we’ve all been waiting for. The former Manchester United forward has scored three goals in the last four weeks after a couple of minor injury problems and a fight to make an impression on new manager Manuel Pellegrini. But this past weekend against Newcastle, Chicharito was at his very best with a 13-point effort with two goals as Man of the Match up in the northeast.
Moreover, I’m banking on the forward due to the crowded schedule. His lack of playing time means he’s fresh, an overload of games means the oft-injured Marko Arnautovic will need some rest, and the schedule looks incredibly favorable to the Hammers: Cardiff City, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Watford, Southampton, Burnley and Brighton all through New Year’s. Chicharito is my first recommended forward in weeks—it’s been that kind of year for forwards—and an in-form striker available in 70 percent of FPL Draft leagues is hard to come by.