With the FA Cup now in play, we’ve got ourselves another rapid-fire week with two gameweeks starting within three days of each other (including that Liverpool double gameweek next week). Also, here’s a friendly reminder to keep an eye on the transfer window with new arrivals and departures coming in fast as we approach the deadline.
Regarding last week’s picks, Djibril SidIbe recorded a clean sheet for Everton as Carlo Ancelotti looks to turn things around at Goodison Park. Meanwhile, my recent picks like George Baldock, Antonio Rüdiger and Joe Gomez also recorded clean sheets, while Danny Ings scored and John Fleck recorded an assist.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 23. 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.
GK – Mark Travers (Bournemouth)
Surely this will go down as one of my least appealing picks of the season, but there’s a reason to the madness. Starting Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale sustained a hamstring injury in training last week while former backup Asmir Begovic has only just joined AC Milan on loan, making Mark Travers the official backup. Ramsdale is listed as a week-to-week doubt, so make sure to double check before adding Travers, but one look at the Cherries’ upcoming schedule will make you consider having a piece of Bournemouth’s defense in your team as well.
The Cherries have seen their fall from grace come fast this season. Since their inspiring away win at Chelsea in Gameweek 17, Bournemouth has not won a single league match as they have dropped all the way to 19th place. But with Norwich City, Brighton, Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Burnley up next, manager Eddie Howe will target the next month especially as a chance to turn around the club’s fortunes. Surely there are a couple of clean sheets in these next five matches, so, for the time being, consider Travers a one-week-pick while Ramsdale recovers. And if Ramsdale returns in the next two games, consider a move for him to have as a platoon keeper.
DEF – Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal)
Now that Mikel Arteta has settled in a bit at the helm of Arsenal, I think it’s time to revisit some of the club’s undervalued talent. The first thing Arteta has tried to sort is the club’s defense, which already looks miles ahead of where they were under Unai Emery. The club has recorded three clean sheets in the last six matches in all competitions (those two league clean sheets since Gameweek 18 were as many as the club had in the 17 games leading up to that point). This new emphasis on locking down things at the back, combined with the upcoming fixture list, is enough to convince me to bet on Arsenal’s revamped defense.
Outside of next Tuesday’s trip to Stamford Bridge, the Gunners have a pretty favorable schedule in the next month with Sheffield United, Burnley, Newcastle and Everton before Arteta’s return to the Etihad. With all of this in play, I’m recommending one of Arsenal’s more reliable defenders in terms of minutes played as Ainsley Maitland-Niles has not missed a single minute of Premier League action since Arteta’s arrival. The 22-year-old academy product is widely available in 75 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues and looks like a safe OWP with the chance to become a long-term option if Arsenal starts to lock down some clean sheets.
MID – Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford)
All aboard the Watford bandwagon! Just a warning, this is the part of today’s programme where we turn all our attention to Watford players. Since the arrival of Nigel Pearson (the third manager is the charm, apparently), the Hornets have turned everything around with a five-match unbeaten streak, 13 points from their last 15, to climb from last place to looking down at the relegation zone from the outside. More than half of the club’s 20 goals on the season have come in the last five games, and that’s why I think it’s imperative to find a way to break into this attack. Luckily for us, there are two options this week.
Just in the past three weeks, we’ve seen Pearson unlock the Abdoulaye Doucouré of old, the one who recorded 12 goals and 11 assists in the last two seasons combined. The Frenchman has recorded two goals and two assists in the last three games with his best performance of the season coming in the weekend’s 3-0 away win over Bournemouth where he notched a goal, assist and three bonus points. If his last couple of weeks are a sign of what’s to come, Doucoure is a clear LTP that is heavily undervalued in FPL Draft, taken in just 21 percent of our most recent sample of leagues. I know that Doucoure will be at the top of my waiver claims this week, and I’d advise you to do the same.
FWD – Troy Deeney (Watford)
Last week, I prefaced the fact that Troy Deeney will soon find himself in this place soon enough, so here we are. After missing much of the season due to knee surgery, Deeney has now found his groove and shaken off the rust. The Watford captain has scored four goals in his last five league matches for Watford to go with his five bonus points in that time, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down; in fact, Deeney may just be getting started. But FPL Draft managers have started to take notice, and that’s why it’s crucial to act this week if it’s not already too late.
In just one week, Deeney jumped from 55 percent ownership up to 66 percent, and he’ll surely break 70 percent by the next gameweek after scoring over the weekend. As long as he stays healthy, Deeney is a clear long-term pick, especially as a third forward that can provide your squad with depth at a position that isn’t easy to fill with three bona fide starting scorers. His next test will come against Tottenham this weekend, but then the schedule opens up some with Aston Villa, Everton and Brighton. Barring injury, this will probably be your last chance to add Deeney before he’s taken across the board, so act quick.