Now that we finally have a chance to breath, it’s best we recalibrate before the most packed stretch of the Premier League season. Starting with Friday’s primetime showdown between Arsenal and Liverpool, there will be four Premier League matchdays in the next 10 days, ending with the first games of the New Year.
As I’ve mentioned in the past couple weeks, the key word is going to be “depth,” due to all of the rotation we can expect with such a crammed fixture list. Below, you’ll find plenty of options to add depth to your squad, but also realize that I mostly try to recommend new options that I haven’t selected yet. If you want my top picks from the last month, see this next paragraph:
Last week’s premier pick in Aaron Cresswell returned a nice differential, recording a clean sheet and two bonus points for upstart West Ham. Meanwhile, my top picks over the last month also put together solid numbers last week: Ben Mee and Andreas Christensen recorded clean sheets, Jonjoe Kenny had an assist, and Jesse Lingard and Dominic Calvert-Lewin each scored a goal.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 19. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column.
All of the stats used in this column come straight from the 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 – Heurelho Gomes (Watford)
Given Watford’s five-match winless streak, especially last weekend’s 4-1 loss to Gomes comes in as an overlooked keeper in most leagues, taken in only 42 percent of our latest FPL Draft sample. But if you have a serious need for a festive period goalkeeper or your keepers don’t have any favorable matchups, it Gomes might be worth a solid look over the next month.
Marco Silva’s side started the season well with three clean sheets in the first four matches, and the upstart manager will surely look to return to that with the upcoming schedule. Through the end of January, the Hornets have Brighton, Leicester City, Swansea City, Manchester City, Southampton, Leicester City and Stoke City. Surely, there are clean sheets in that fixture list, or else the club will find itself at the bottom of the table. Given Silva’s track record, I would expect the clean sheets to come rolling in.
DEF – Kieran Gibbs (West Brom)
Gibbs is an ultimate bargain considering he is selected in only two percent of FPL Draft leagues. The Baggies are known for their defensive prowess; even without Tony Pulis, they have recorded three clean sheets in the last month. Meanwhile, Gibbs has started every Premier League match since Gameweek 5, making him a reliable asset.
At the very least, I would consider Gibbs to be a short-term pick due to the club’s upcoming schedule. Stoke City, Everton, Arsenal, West Ham, Brighton and Everton are up through mid-January. Even under Alan Pardew, the club has held firm defensively, and with those fixtures, Gibbs looks like an appealing option as a fifth defender who can make a positive difference.
DEF- Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham)
Don’t look now, but West Ham has recorded three straight Premier League clean sheets under the guidance of David Moyes, who was brought in to right the ship after Slaven Bilic left the club in the relegation zone. Now, the Hammers find themselves in 15th place, another win away from jumping up into 12th, and it has all been the product of a sturdy defense.
Like Aaron Cresswell, last week’s premier pick, Ogbonna has been at the helm of the defense, starting and playing the full 90 minutes in each of the last nine league matches and has four bonus points in the last three weeks. I would even go as far as to suggest Ogbonna (and Cresswell, even more so) as a long-term pick with only Spurs as an imposing fixture through mid February and a double gameweek in Gameweek 22. Available in more than 95 percent of FPL Draft leagues, Ogbonna is a pure bargain.
MID– Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)
For FPL Draft managers, Arnautovic is my premier pick of the week. Finally, after struggling through minor injuries and inconsistencies throughout his first season in the claret and blue, Arnautovic has started to produce once again, looking like the temperamental, but talented Stoke City playmaker of old—remember that 11-goal, six-assist year in 2015/16?
In the last three matches, the Austrian international has scored his first two goals of the season and looks to be in good form in Moyes’ winger-oriented attack. But now, with Manuel Lanzini due to his two-match ban for diving, Arnautovic will have to prove why the club spent £20 million on him. Arnautovic is available in half of our sample of FPL Draft leagues, but maybe not for long.
FWD – Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
I haven’t been too thrilled about the availability of forwards in recent weeks; we’ve clearly reached the point where we’re just reaching for any scoring forward. Rather than gas up any mediocre options, I’m going to start doing a reverse Bargain Hunter for overvalued players who might be burning a hole in your starting lineup. And the first clear player who needs an advisory next to his name is Gabriel Jesus.
The Manchester City forward is taken in 99.9 percent of our FPL Draft sample, and rightfully so considering he should be taken in every league. However, the Brazilian phenom has struggled of late, going goalless in his last five Premier League matches despite three assists. And after playing 120 minutes against Leicester City on Tuesday in the League Cup, I wouldn’t expect Jesus to see too much, if any, action at all this weekend with Sergio Aguero also providing competition. I would never recommend releasing him, but he should probably be dropped to the bench for the weekend.