Well we’ve made it past an exciting Boxing Day (26 goals!) only to find ourselves with another quick turnaround: the start of two matchdays in three days. So let’s get right into it.
Of last week’s picks, Andy Robertson earned the best returns with his clean sheet in Liverpool’s 5-0 victory against Swansea City. But the best returns came from my pre-Christmas premier picks in Marko Arnautovic and Jesse Lingard, who scored two goals each with three and two bonus points respectively.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 21. 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– Mat Ryan (Brighton)
As the season has progressed, I’ve become more impressed with Mat Ryan, who has staved off competition from Tim Krul on a newly promoted team to become one of the surprise performers of the season in goal. The Brighton keeper is fourth in the Premier League with 63 saves and has seven clean sheets this season—as much as Hugo Lloris and Simon Mignolet. And at the moment, only Everton’s Jordan Pickford is in better form than Ryan.
The Australian international has recorded two clean sheets in the last three matches and now has a schedule that will completely open up: Newcastle, Bournemouth, West Brom, Chelsea, Southampton, West Ham, Stoke City and Swansea City are next through the end of February. Owned by just 20 percent of FPL Draft managers, Ryan seems to be an ideal platoon keeper if your mid-level starting keeper has a tough game here and there. In fact, in that case, Ryan may very well become your starting keeper.
DEF- Danilo (Manchester City)
Given his form and Manchester City’s current injury crisis in defense, I’m going to go with Danilo as my premier pick of the week. Benjamin Mendy, Fabian Delph and John Stones each missed Wednesday’s match due to injury while Vincent Kompany left the match with another injury, meaning Danilo is needed more than wanted. Somehow, even before the injuries, Danilo was overlooked at left-back for Delph, but the summer signing from Real Madrid is slowly proving his worth.
The Brazilian scored in last week’s 4-0 win against Bournemouth and earned a clean sheet and two bonus points in Wednesday’s win against Newcastle. Yet because he has only started sparingly, Danilo is taken in only 35 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues. But I think that figure will begin to rise with Danilo and Manchester City’s form. For now, with the transfer window approaching and Pep Guardiola searching for defensive help, let’s call Danilo a short-term pick, but one with serious point potential.
MID- Ashley Young (Manchester United)
I’ve been holding off on picking Ashley Young for a while now, mostly because Jose Mourinho plays him at fullback while he is listed as a midfielder. However, Young has continued to shine this season against all odds, keeping Luke Shaw and Daley Blind, among others, out of the starting lineup to the tune of two goals and five assists—all from a defensive position.
At the very least, Young can be deployed in your team as a fifth midfielder to add some depth to your squad over the coming weeks in case of injury or a tough matchup. After all, he’s second on the team in assists behind Paul Pogba and is a guaranteed United starter available in more than 70 percent of FPL Draft leagues. Just because he is a midfielder playing as a left-back doesn’t mean we should ignore him while he continues to put up numbers, including three bonus points and two assists on Boxing Day against Burnley.
FWD – Chicharito (West Ham)
Like Gabriel Jesus two weeks ago, this is a recommendation advising against a forward rather than for one. In fact, I’m going to take it a bit further: Drop Chicharito entirely. The former Manchester United forward has never been a favorite of new West Ham boss David Moyes, and it has shown lately with only 59 minutes played in his last four Premier League appearances (he missed the previous five matches due to injury and Moyes’ selection.
Unfortunately, despite high expectations, Chicharito has been a major disappointment this season, recording only four goals and one assist. Yet he is still owned in 72 percent of FPL Draft leagues, merely taking up space on the bench. Surely, some of that figure comes down to managers who are no longer actively playing the game, but there are still managers out there, like me last month, who still believe in his value and potential. But there are much better options out there, even as a third striker.