It goes without saying how beneficial this February winter break will be for Premier League players, especially the clubs competing in Europe, but it makes things pretty difficult for us fantasy managers. There are only four games this weekend before the remaining six next weekend, but it still constitutes one gameweek, which may present a new set of problems.
Of last week’s picks, Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had a massive week with 15 points thanks to a penalty save and a clean sheet against Manchester City. Meanwhile, recent picks like Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu and Mason Holgate each recorded an assist while Antonio Rüdiger shined with two goals and three bonus points.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 26. 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 – Willy Caballero (Chelsea)
I couldn’t have imagined a scenario at the start of the season where Willy Caballero was included in this space unless by injury, but here we are. Amid reports of a rift between Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and goalkeeper Kepa, Lampard chose to bench the Spanish international in favor of his 38-year-old mentor, who is just three years Lampard’s junior. While Caballero was far from superb in the club’s 2-2 draw with Leicester City, reports suggest that Lampard has asked the club to sell Kepa in the summer and that Caballero could be the No. 1 keeper for the time being.
While such reports should be taken with a grain of salt, the fact that Caballero was chosen to start over Kepa and could do so for the near future should be enough to put him on your radar, especially if you have a top-tier keeper like Alisson, Ederson or David De Gea and want a backup from a top-four team that holds some risk but also a potential reward. Caballero is somehow taken in 10 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues, probably by Chelsea fans who picked both Kepa and Caballero to ensure their access to the club’s starter throughout the year. For now, keep an eye on him, but he could become a solid pickup off the waiver wire for the short term.
DEF – Héctor Bellerín (Arsenal)
I’ve had this player on my season injury watchlist as a potential X-factor upon his return from long-term injury. The Spanish international was off to a fabulous start last season with five assists before suffering a broken leg around this time last year. The club proceeded to bring him back too early this season while various setbacks and a general lack of match action have kept him out of the lineup. But Bellerin seems to have found his form and fitness under new manager Mikel Arteta and has impressed mightily in his last two starts on the road.
Bellerin is coming off back-to-back eight-point performances for his goal and bonus point against Chelsea and clean sheet and two bonus points in a scoreless draw with Burnley over the weekend. Now the schedule will really begin to open up for Arsenal with Newcastle, Everton, West Ham, Brighton, Southampton, Norwich City and Wolves next up in succession through mid-April. If the Gunners want to make any sort of push for a place in Europe next year, this is their grand chance, and I expect Arteta and co. to take advantage of it. That makes Bellerin a long-term pick in my eyes who is available in 63 percent of leagues, but won’t be so available for much longer.
DEF – Ben Mee (Burnley)
Each of last week’s defensive picks received some randomly planned time off last week. so I thought it might be smart to recommend one of the most reliable defenders in the Premier League, but just watch as Sean Dyche inexplicably decides to give him a rest too. Along with his center-back partner James Tarkowski,Ben Mee is one of only 10 outfield players to play every minute of every Premier League game this season (random fact: James Ward-Prowse and Declan Rice are the only midfielders to do so). And after not missing a single minute of last season, the Burnley captain has now gone nearly two years without missing a minute in the top flight.
Better yet, Mee finds himself in excellent form with Burnley recording two straight clean sheets against Manchester United and Arsenal along with a shock win over Leicester City to move them up into 11th place. The former Manchester City product had himself a phenomenal game against Manchester United in Gameweek 24 with an assist, clean sheet and bonus point to give him assists in back-to-back weeks. While Mee isn’t the most popular defender on the market—he’s taken in just 18 percent of FPL Draft leagues—he brings consistency and form to any FPL team with Southampton, Bournemouth and Newcastle due up in February.
MID – Robert Snodgrass (West Ham)
West Ham have struggled mightily lately by going winless in their last five Premier League matches but it’s not without some bright spots. Despite blowing a two-goal lead at home to Brighton over the weekend in a draw that kept them in the relegation zone, the club would have been buried if not for the play of Robert Snodgrass. The former Hull City winger pieced together one of the best performances of his career by contributing to each of the club’s three goals with a brace and an assist. The massive haul gave him an 18-point total for the gameweek, the highest in the league. Moreover, this season has seen the Scottish international show all the promise of past seasons before they were ended by long-term injuries.
With five goals and four assists, Snodgrass is just two goals short of his Premier League career high. While the club may come to regret not performing better in the softer part of its schedule in recent weeks as they face a relegation fight with a tough schedule ahead, the Hammers will surely rely on Snodgrass to drive them forward in attack as the winger is arguably more critical to the club’s success than any other individual on the roster. Taken in just 15 percent of FPL Draft leagues, Snodgrass has great value as an STP and potentially a long-term player who is showing his resilient spirit with quite the comeback season.