Well then, now that it seems like the title race is over we can send all our focus on the race for Champions League; and of course, your fantasy Premier League team. The matchday that precedes a week-long break, either for the FA Cup or an international break, always seems to come right when we get back into the swing of things in our leagues, but don’t worry: As long as you have Gabriel Jesus and/or Romelu Lukaku you’ll be alright.
But seriously, how about that Gabriel Jesus? Last week, I nearly omitted him from my bargain picks because I wasn’t sure if he would continue to see playing time, let alone start over Sergio Aguero. Aguero’s future is now being (prematurely) questioned in the media, Gabriel Jesus looks like the next Marcus Rashford and Fantrax owners have flocked to the Brazilian, who is now selected in 88 percent of leagues—all of this for a kid who’s two starts into his Premier League career.
Gabriel Jesus was the clear star of my last week in bargain picks with his two goals against Swansea City, including a stoppage-time winner; but we also say Willy Caballero hold his starting spot over Claudio Bravo, which could prove to be a significant selection if you need keeper help. Meanwhile, recent picks Mark Noble and Ashley Barnes each scored while Ryan Fraser continued to rack up assists for Bournemouth.
We’ve filled up most of our Fantrax draft leagues, but it’s never too late to join or start up your own league with Fantrax. You can find them all here under “Rotoworld Draft League”. If they are all filled up, let us know on Twitter and we’ll add more leagues. For obvious reasons, we’re capping leagues at 10 users in order to encourage a higher level of competition. And if you’re bored of the attacking-based FPL.com or Perfect XI formats, our salary cap league on Fantrax (Rotoworld Salary Cap) mirrors the old Yahoo format that includes advanced statistics and defensive metrics. It’s not for the casual FPL.com player, and that’s why we love it.
Without further delay, here are the bargains for Week 25. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column.
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.
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 Picks (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 the FPL.com game or draft leagues with limited waiver claims.
GK – Darren Randolph (West Ham)
West Ham’s fortunes have turned around in the New Year, and the club has added some major signings despite losing star player Dimitri Payet. What was once a major weakness, the club’s defense has turned into a strength in recent weeks—outside of a 4-0 loss to Manchester City, who always seems to have the Hammers figured out. Buoyed by the arrival of Jose Fonte, West Ham benefitted from more stability along the back-line with Cheikhou Kouyate also returning from international duty at the African Cup of Nations.
All of this trickles down to Darren Randolph in goal. The Hammers have won six of their last nine Premier League matches, and they have conceded only three goals in those six wins. Through April, their schedule looks extremely favorable until April with just a home match against Chelsea as a major obstacle: West Brom, Watford, Chelsea, Bournemouth, Leicester City, Hull City. Owned by just 27.2 percent of Fantrax managers, Randolph looks like an excellent choice in goal and long-term pick who can be your No. 1 for the remainder of the season.
DEF – Martin Olsson (Swansea City)
Olsson has been a starter in Swansea City’s defense since the moment he arrived in a winter move from Norwich City, forcing Premier League regular Neil Taylor out of the team and into the Championship with Aston Villa. But for a back-line that looks overwhelmed in the top flight, it makes sense to sign a left-back who has six full seasons of Premier League experience under his belt. Frankly, they know what Olsson can do and we know that he’ll add a few assists down the left wing as the Swedish international likes to join in on the attack.
It’s difficult to recommend a defender from one the Premier League’s shakiest defenses, but new manager Paul Clement has turned things around with three Premier League wins in his last five—and the Swans nearly stole points from Manchester City last weekend before a Gabriel Jesus stoppage-time goal devastated visitors. But with Leicester, Chelsea, Burnley, Hull City, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough due up, it looks like the progress will continue. Olsson will surely be a major part of it, and he’s available in 96 percent of leagues.
DEF/MID – Andrea Ranocchia (Hull City)
Speaking of new managers and shocking turnarounds, let’s not forget Hull City. I’m not quite sure I’ve ever seen such a daunting list of four consecutive fixtures (Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal); and yet the Tigers held both United and Liverpool scoreless, including a 2-0 win against Liverpool last weekend. Those brutal fixtures will end this weekend against the Gunners, and then the schedule will ease up immensely with only one match against a top six side between Week 26 and the final week of the season.
Two weeks ago, I selected Eldin Jakupovic as my bargain pick in goal despite such a daunting schedule. I’d love to cite some obscure stat that led me to such a bold conclusion, but he was the only new starting keeper for weeks in the Premier League. However, now that we have seen the Hull defense under Marco Silva, I am fully behind Ranocchia as a short-term defensive option. The Inter Milan loanee started last week and earned a clean sheet after Michael Dawson missed out with a late injury, and the veteran defender is still available in nearly 90 percent of leagues.
MID – James Morrison (West Brom)
I have often found myself coming back to Morrison in recent seasons, because when he discovers a good run of form he puts up quality numbers. Well, once again, it seems to be that time. The Scottish international has become a trusted starter in recent months under Tony Pulis, and it’s no coincidence that each of his five goals this season have come when he starts. And in his last five Premier League starts, Morrison has scored three goals, including both of the Baggies’ last two league goals.
Although, as always with a Pulis midfield, I wouldn’t trust Morrison’s run to last too long with a manager known for changing things up when it comes to his attack. But if Morrison continues driving the West Brom attack, he could go from a short-term selection to more of a long-term option. Regardless, for now he’s worth it with a month of favorable fixtures ahead, not to mention he’s taken in only 23 percent of Fantrax draft leagues.
FWD– M’Baye Niang (Watford)
We know two things about Watford’s most exciting signing: His attacking talent is sublime, but he also has major attitude and behavioral issues. But in two starts since arriving from AC Milan on loan, Niang has shown why he is considered one of the top young talents in Europe. The 22-year-old put his full talents on show in the Hornets’ stunning 2-1 upset of Arsenal at the Emirates in midweek last week, and then ran the show in a win against Burnley over the weekend with a goal and assist.
All of a sudden, with Niang, this Watford attack seems to have some spice, and the club finds itself in the midst of a four-match unbeaten streak. Niang is known for rising to the big occasions, which means this weekend against Manchester United could prove to be a special one. Fantrax managers have taken notice of his talent: Ownership of the forward has increased 50 percent in the past week alone. Niang is still available in 55 percent of leagues, but he may not be so available for long if he continues like this. Just watch out if things start to go bad.