After a week off from Premier League action, we’re about to jump right back in with three gameweeks starting within a week. For you Liverpool owners, that’s four games in 10 days with Bayern Munich, so be aware of some rotation issues. And for Manchester City and Everton owners, there’s no game in Week 27 due to the League Cup final this weekend.
Of last week’s picks, only Laurent Koscielny returned anything significant with a bonus point as Arsenal blew a clean sheet in the final minute of the match. However, my recent picks like Sol Bamba (goal), Chris Wood (two goals, three bonus points) and Fernando Llorente (assist) all put together a solid Gameweek 26.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 27. 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 – Ben Hamer (Huddersfield Town)
You have to remember that this late into the season, it becomes extremely difficult to find new starting goalkeepers who aren’t taken by more than 70 percent of draft leagues. But injuries and omissions give us new blood every once in a while, and Ben Hamer is the latest goalkeeper to get a starting nod. Usual starter Jonas Lossl missed the 2-1 loss to Arsenal last weekend due to illness, but has returned to training, so it might be worth waiting to see who gets the nod this weekend.
Hamer originally won the starting job this season and played the first three games before and injury saw him give up the starting spot for the remainder of the year. It’s not lost on me that I’m recommending a keeper for the worst team in the Premier League this season—Hamer recorded as many saves (11) in those first three games as Huddersfield Town has points this season. But the Terriers now have a new coach and a very favorable schedule for the next seven games with Newcastle, Wolves and Brighton up next. If you need a backup keeper, consider the Huddersfield starter, whoever it may be.
DEF – Phil Jones (Manchester United)
Since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it’s no secret that Manchester United has returned to legendary form, at least in the Premier League (for the time being). But Phil Jones has flown under the radar amid all the excitement, and he’s seen new life in the center of Manchester United’s defense. The England international has started five of the last six United matches, recording three clean sheets and an assist to account for 27 points in those five starts.
The highlight came in an 11-point performance in a 3-0 win against Fulham in Gameweek 26. The upcoming schedule won’t be too kind to the Red Devils with Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and a trip to Paris Saint-Germain in Champions League in the month ahead, but there are enough reasons (Crystal Palace, Southamtpton, Watford) to go with Jones in your team as a fourth or fifth defender. He’s available in nearly 70 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues, so get to it.
MID – Michail Antonio (West Ham)
I’ve been a big Michail Antonio fan since his debut season in the Premier League when he recorded eight goals and seven assists basically as a defender when the wing-back took fantasy circles by storm in 2015/16. After a nearly identical 2016/17 with nine goals and eight assists, the winger fell off, succumbing to injuries and inconsistent form. But Antonio has enjoyed a run of 10 starts in the last 12 league matches where he recorded three goals and three assists.
Sure, it’s naïve to think he’ll return to the same form he once had, but the consistent run of starts along with a few quality performances is promising for a player with plenty of promise. And with 15 points in his last two starts combined, things are looking up for him and West Ham with a schedule that features Fulham, Manchester City, Newcastle, Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and Everton through the end of March. And he’s available in 63 percent of FPL Draft leagues, in case you need a fifth midfielder.
FWD – Ashley Barnes (Burnley)
While one of my recent Burnley forward picks in Chris Wood has recorded five goals in his last seven league matches, Ashley Barnes has helped fuel a Burnley fire that has scored six goals in its last three games. In each of those games, Barnes has scored a goal to give him three in three, which was part of an 11-point showing in a 3-1 win over Brighton last weekend where he had a goal, assist and two bonus points. Who would’ve thought that we’d be looking for ways to tap into the Burnley attack?
While Wood probably remains your most promising option, Barnes is another consistent performer who is just two goals away from his Premier League career high of nine. And Barnes is taken in only 36 percent of our recent sample of FPL Draft leagues while Wood has 32 percent ownership. The Clarets have Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Wolves, Bournemouth and Cardiff City due up in the next two months, so there should be plenty of goals to come.