Now that we’ve made it through the final international break of the calendar year, we can look forward to uninhibited Premier League and FA Cup play through the end of March. It’s also a good time to start preparing ourselves for the long winter haul and the festive period with the Boxing Day matches just five weeks away, and I think these picks reflect that.
Of my Gameweek 12 picks, Ben Foster proved to be the most successful as the Watford goalkeeper recorded five saves, a clean sheet and two bonus points, while Dwight McNeil recorded an assist for Burnley. Here are some of my recent picks that also stood out last week: Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori (clean sheet, three bonus points), Chris Wood and Danny Ings (goal), Daryl Janmaat (clean sheet, bonus).
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 13. 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 – Orjan Nyland (Aston Villa)
Every time we see a goalkeeper injury, it opens up a space for a bargain keeper available on the waiver wire. But Aston Villa sustained two goalkeeper injuries in the week of the 2-1 loss to Wolves before the international break, first with Tom Heaton suffering a calf injury and then with Jed Steer leaving the match just seven minutes in with a calf injury that will rule him out for two to three months. Those injuries made way for the Premier League debut of Orjan Nyland, who now looks to be the interim starter until the return of Heaton. And if Nyland’s word is to be taken as truth, the Norwegian international said Heaton is expected to miss two to three weeks.
With that being said, before making any move for a goalkeeper it’s best to check with the club’s prematch press conference later this week to check on the status of Heaton. The same goes for Manchester City, where Claudio Bravo could be a formidable pickup off the waiver wire if Ederson is ruled out (update: Ederson has participated in training this week.) But if Nyland is the No. 1 option for Villa, the upcoming home match against Newcastle presents a chance at a clean sheet for Aston Villa. But once again, a move for Nyland is only dependent on your need for a backup keeper in the short-term.
DEF – James Tarkowski (Burnley)
Burnley have had quite the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde season: At home the Clarets have excelled, on the road they have struggled mightily. But the Clarets still sit in 10th place with some cushion between them and the bottom three. All four of the club’s wins, which also accounts for all of the club’s clean sheets, have come at home, including a 3-0 win over West Ham heading into the international break to snap a three-game losing streak. In that match, James Tarkowski proved to be the star with an assist, a clean sheet and three bonus points to account for 12 FPL points. Given the club’s upcoming schedule, especially their home slate over the festive period, Tarkowski looks like he could be an excellent addition as a platoon defender.
First off, Tarkowski has not missed a minute of a match this season, making him a solid platoon consideration due to his consistency. He’s also taken in only 22 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues. And more importantly, through the next month and a half, Tarkowski and Burnley will face Watford this weekend with a serious chance at securing their first away win while their home matches until New Year’s Day include Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Newcastle, Manchester United and Aston Villa. As a fifth defender, Tarkowski looks like a safe pick for the near future, which is sure to present plenty of rotation and injuries that will make a consistent defender like him a critical asset.
MID – Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
This may seem like a risk, and it is, but this is one of the biggest low-risk, high-reward moves you can make this season. A player with the caliber of Mesut Ozil is rarely available on the waiver wire—the problem is Ozil has not displayed that caliber in some time, nor has he been given the playing time under manager Unai Emery. But now Ozil has found himself back in the Spaniard’s good graces, starting each of the club’s last three games in which he was eligible and recording an assist in the League Cup against Arsenal. With Ozil now back in the starting lineup, I think it’s worth the risk to sign the German international in FPL Draft.
I don’t expect Ozil to ever return to the form that saw him record six goals and 19 assists in the 2015/16 season. But having a weapon like Ozil as your fifth midfielder in an FPL Draft team could pay massive dividends. It seems like a good idea to wait until Ozil starts producing, but I fear that he won’t be available at his current ownership of 43 percent for much longer before he is no longer on the waiver wire in the majority of FPL Draft leagues. With the festive period coming up, there will be plenty of opportunities for Ozil to shine, and the chance of him doing so is much higher than any other midfielder you can pick up at the moment. If the experiment fails, you can just drop him like any other fifth midfielder. But if it succeeds, you have a dangerous weapon that could lead to a season-changing climb up your league table.
FWD – Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)
For some reason, possibly due to his end-of-season form last year and an injury to Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu was a hot pick to start this season, despite being a winger upgraded to forward. I was reluctant to move for him and my intuition proved to be right as it took 11 weeks for Deulofeu to score his first Premier League goal of the year amid Watford’s horrendous start to the season that left them as relegation favorites. But the club has begun to turn things around under Quique Sanchez Flores. First defensively with three clean sheets and only two goals conceded in the last five matches; and now, with the club’s first win and a climb out of last place.
But it was Deulofeu who proved to be the main contributor to the club’s first win of the year, one that Flores and company will be hoping can turn the season around. Deulofeu scored and assisted (and earned three bonus points), contributing to both of Watford’s goals in a 2-0 win over now bottom-of-the-table Norwich City. With Deulofeu now scoring in two straight Premier League matches and Burnley, Southampton, Leicester City and Crystal Palace on the upcoming schedule, now looks to be as good a time as ever to sign Deulofeu. Starting forwards are difficult to find on the waiver wire and Deulofeu is available in 57 percent of FPL Draft leagues, a figure that will surely cross the 60 percent mark this week. It may be now or never to add Deulofeu.