After 19 games, we’re officially halfway through the Premier League season. The games will continue to come hot and fast over the next week, as will the Rotoworld content, so let’s get right into it starting with the Boxing Day games.
Last week, Marko Arnautovic, my premier pick of the week, came through with a goal in the sixth minute for West Ham. Meanwhile, some of my recent picks continued to contribute: Charlie Austin scored a goal, Marc Albrighton notched an assist, Jonjoe Kenny recorded a clean sheet and Rob Elliot received two bonus points for his game-changing effort that included a penalty save.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 20. 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.
DEF- Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
It might seem a bit odd to recommend a Liverpool defender after that abysmal defensive performance against Arsenal that resulted in one of the most entertaining games of the season, but that match reeked of a freak accident. In fact, in the two months before that second-half collapse, Liverpool was one of the most consistent defenses in the league: five clean sheets and only three goals conceded from the previous nine matches.
Robertson has been a major part of that turnaround since the injury to Alberto Moreno, who remains out. The former Hull City defender has played the full 90 minutes in each of the last five league matches, recording three clean sheets and an assist. The Reds upcoming schedule is promising; Swansea City, Leicester City, and Burnley are all up next before the Manchester City match. Taken in only 14.5 percent of our latest FPL Draft sample, Robertson looks like a steady short-term pick as long as the Arsenal collapse remains an anomaly.
MID- Juan Mata (Manchester United)
Juan Mata and Jose Mourinho have always had a contentious relationship, but Mata often ends up earning back the latter’s trust through his gritty performances, like in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Leicester City. The former Chelsea star was formidable in his man-of-the-match performance, scoring both of the club’s goals including a beautifully taken free-kick that looked to be the match-winner until the final seconds.
Mata has weaved in and out of Mourinho’s favor but has excelled in the last three Premier League games, all starts, recording two goals and two assists, contributing to four of the club’s last five league goals. In FPL Draft, Mata is taken in two-thirds of leagues; but if yours is one of the 33 percent where he is still available, his current form warrants a waiver claim. With Mata or recent pick Jesse Lingard, you can’t go wrong if you need a short-term midfielder.
MID– Manuel Lanzini (West Ham)
Last week, I recommended Lanzini’s teammate Marko Arnautovic ahead of the Newcastle match and the Austrian came through with another goal. Now, with Lanzini back from a two-match suspension for diving, I expect both wingers to take off during the festive period. But in Lanzini’s case, it’s imperative to act now as he is only available in 44 percent of our sample of FPL draft leagues.
Before his ban, Lanzini was in excellent form, especially in his last match against Stoke City where the Argentine assisted on each of the club’s three goals and recorded three bonus points for a 15-point performance. Lanzini seems like a must-have in Week 22, when the Hammers have a double gameweek. If he’s available in your FPL Draft league, Lanzini looks like a long-term pick.
FWD – Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield Town)
The Huddersfield forward has helped the club out of its scoring slump in recent weeks, contributing to five of the club’s six goals over the last three games with three goals, two assists and five bonus points to show for it. His standout performance came in a 4-1 win against Watford where the Belgian international recorded a goal and two assists in Week 28.
I’m hesitant to recommend Depoitre as more than a week-by-week pick, but at the moment he is the club’s most in-form attacker. If you have a need for a third forward and want to take a risk, Huddersfield’s favorable schedule and Depoitre’s form is enough to convince as he is available in nearly 80 percent of FPL Draft leagues.