A pattern has emerged with Bargain Hunter picks so far this season. The good news is, I appear to have a knack for picking really good prospects that are in the budget range in price or have low ownership. The bad news is, many seem to pay off a week later than advertised.
Two weeks ago, Bojan delivered after backing him the week prior, and this week, Robbie Brady came good on his potential. I had suggested before that Martin Olsson would reclaim the left back berth, which would push Brady further up the pitch and enhance his already-solid value and this past weekend, that vision materialized. Now that he has done the business, his ownership is on a fast rise and his price in salary leagues took a big jump up.
My two West Brom calls last week were a mixed bag, or should I say mixed Baggies, but the negative outcome of the two was something entirely unforeseen. Gareth McAuley, who I allowed to grace the cover of last week's Bargain Hunter with a proper photo, suffered a calf injury before the Monday Night match and even if we were given 24 hour notice on the possibility of him missing out, there was hardly anything an owner could do, even in leagues that allow adding and dropping after the gameweek begins, because the West Brom match was the Monday night affair.
I did get it right with Saido Berahino however. Quite happy about it too, as he was my FPL transfer in this week, ignoring the kneejerk move that saw seemingly every other manager in the world bring in Anthony Martial. Time will tell if Berahino was the better choice, but the fixtures are so strong for the Baggies, it felt like I should at least get a fair return on a 6.2m investment. Some forwards simply have the knack for getting in the right place to score, and though a Tony Pulis-led side are historically below average in attacking returns, it is moments like the one in which Berahino scored last night that will keep the goals flowing. The kid's got pace. Given a well-weighted pass or accurate cross, he can split center backs with ease.
I am still waiting to pick a decent captain option in FPL this season. Perhaps it is the most frustrating storyline to my fantasy season. I am in one of those stubborn ruts where I pick a big name captain with good fixtures, usually Aguero, and I keep getting burned. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results. Well, imagine the level of insanity obtained when I inevitably take the armband off Aguero the week he gets a trick. Straightjacket please...
Couple that with losses in both of my draft leagues and I am left with a fantasy migraine. Still, 5-2 in each league, and each league is comprised of other fantasy pundits in the industry, so I still have reason to be happy, if not, proud. That, and as mentioned before, I am a Spurs fan. When you get a result like that for your reality team, it completely erases any depression that may come from my fantasy teams.
Right. So let us dive in to Week 8 as the calendar flips to October...
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A reminder again of what I look for in my bargains and how I differentiate their value...
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 FPL 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 considerable FAAB for. Great for any format, but especially valuable in the FPL.com game.
GK - Wayne Hennessey (CPL) - I will likely need to preface this with each column so bear with me - the keeper position isn't the easiest place to find bargains every week. So while I am backing Hennessey, it is with the caveat that potential owners must understand his place is by no means guaranteed. But, after getting a run out in the Capitol One Cup last week, he was named again to Alan Pardew's side against Watford and promptly returned a clean sheet. Those that saw the match would have to say he didn't exactly have to stand on his head to get the job done, but even keepers without much to do can score you some points. i wouldn't burn a transfer on him in FPL because of the uncertainty of his long term prospects, but if you happen to be playing your wildcard this week, you are in luck. His price just dropped to 3.9m. In salary leagues, I think he can be counted on as a OWB, which may turn into a two week rental as Palace play both at home against the two "Wests", Brom and Ham. He is virtually unowned in draft leagues, but if you are an Alex McCarthy owner, you may as well make the swap for the next two weeks unless there is a nicer option.
DEF -Patrick van Aanholt (SUN) - So, are you ready for the first "one week too soon" call of this edition of the Bargain Hunter? Good. May I present Mr. van Aanholt. It has been a miserable start to the left back's season, as it has been for the entire club in terms of results, but results simply do not stay the same forever and my hunch is that the kind run of fixtures coming up for the Black Cats will provide them with a bit of luck. Everyone wants a defender that can score from attacking as well as defending, and when van Aanholt is right, he has proven to be a solid buy. Hence why he commanded a 5.0m price tag in FPL at the beginning of the season. Well, now he's down to 4.7m and his ownership in draft leagues has dipped below the 50% mark. I can sit here every week and back a player who is already in form but, when you are playing the bargain game, sometimes the trick is to grab them before they pop. I feel especially that way about defenders. Check out Sunderland's schedule over their next eight and compare it to how tough they had it in the first seven weeks. I like him as a STB in draft and salary leagues, while waiting for one good return before investing in FPL. Im going with the predicition that over the next eight, two clean sheets and two assists for this one.
DEF - Antonio Valencia (MUN) - Let me begin by saying that Valencia is currently carrying a knock and did not train today ahead of United's Champions League tilt tomorrow. However, he is being considered at 75% chance to play for the coming gameweek and even if he fails to feature in midweek action, I think the prospects warrant mention here. We have all seen how lucrative Manchester United have been defensively in fantasy so far this season, which became even more apparent at the end of Saturday's matches. Sixteen clubs were in action, and they were the only one to keep a clean sheet. With Marcos Rojo now out long term along with Luke Shaw, the best looking back line in my view would have Darmian at left back, Valencia on the right, with Daley Blind partnering Chris Smalling in the middle, until Phil Jones gets fully fit. If that comes to pass, we may be seeing Valencia for a significant stretch. We are talking about a prospect that carried fantasy relevance in the past as a midfielder. He can rack up assists with the best of the full backs out there. Assuming there is reason to be optimistic by Friday's van Gaal presser, you should be thinking of him as a STB with LTB potential in all formats.
MID - Erik Lamela (TOT) - You didn't think I would pass up the chance to back a Spurs player after the result they just had, did you? Things can change in a hurry for a Premier League player and, while it seemed he could be on the verge of getting frozen out by Mauricio Pochettino, he turned in arguably his best performance since arriving to White Hart Lane. Seemingly never quite knowing what to do when on the ball in the past, he showed much more poise and quick decision-making than previously witnessed. The goal against Manchester City can only reinforce this new found confidence and with Christain Eriksen and Heung-min Son comprising the attacking midfield three, we are seeing a much more dangerous, fluid attack from Tottenham. His ownership has dipped below 60% in draft leagues so there is a decent chance he could be sitting out there for free on the waiver wire. Given his pedigree and new found form, I would spend a few FAAB dollars/pounds for the chance to get him in draft leagues. Spurs do not have the easiest slate ahead of them, but seeing what they did to City, I am throwing fixtures out the window and getting bullish on Lamela as a STB for the time being.
MID - James Ward-Prowse (SOU) - Guranteed playing time can be a bit tricky for U21 players in the Premier League, and Ward-Prowse is no exception. However, the kid has started four league matches on the trot and with an assist picked up over the weekend, it is time for fantasy managers to react accordingly. Ward-Prowse is going to be on the end of many a dead ball and it was his corner kick that earned him the assist against the Swans. Maybe there is a reason Ronald Koeman wouldn't want to use him in the upcoming match at Stamford Bridge, but that is the only reason to fear Chelsea as an opponent in fantasy right now. The bigger threat could be the imminent return of Jordy Clasie, who Koeman rates highly, that ends the current run of starts for JWP. Still, reason to have faith, because the kid has another admirable quality - versatility. He can play all over the midfield, with perhaps wide left the only spot where his experience is lacking, meaning if Clasie closes one door, another may open. Given the positive display against Swansea, I expect him to keep his place and view him as a LTB that may miss the occasional start.
FWD - Glenn Murray (BOU) - It is unfortunate when bargains arise from a player suffering a long term injury, but now that we know how severe the injury to Callum Wilson is, it is time to start making alternative plans. Murray did well for himself last season for Palace, especially in the second half of it, and now that Wilson is out, one has to assume Murray will be leading the line most weeks. Given his experience and success, it isn't too much to imagine him finding it at Bournemouth, seeing as how the attack has been so heavily dependent on the striker's role. Adding to his prospects, as was mentioned earlier with Hennessey, are two immediate home games. Why not give him a shot then as a STB to see how he fares in those two weeks, and perhaps you may find yourself thinking LTB from then on. With only 25% ownership in draft leagues, you should be set to get him if you need forward help.
So that is what I have to offer at this stage of the week, as we approach Week 8. Be sure to follow me on Twitter, @FuzzyWarbles, as I will update during the week any other prospects that may emerge or to alert you of prospects I have already promoted, who for one reason or another, suddenly have lost their appeal. European competition can affect the fantasy landscape during the midweek, so much can change between now and your next deadline.
Good luck to you all, my fellow hunters. May your arrows be green.