As we’re approaching the end of the first quarter of the season, one look at the FPL Dream Team will reflect how strange of a season it’s been. The top half of the team reveals the usual suspects like Sergio Agüero, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mo Salah and Sadio Mané. But then the defensive portion reveals a different outlook entirely with Rui Patrício, Ricardo Pereira and John Lundstram. Strange, yes, but unexpected? Not really when it comes to FPL.
Last week’s picks had a fairly quite Week 9, but some of my recent picks, especially defenders, put together solid weeks. Nathan Ake (two bonus points), Dean Henderson (bonus point), and Fikayo Tomori all recorded clean sheets while Chris Wood scored and Matty James recorded an assist and bonus point.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 10. 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.
DEF – Matt Targett (Aston Villa)
It was a rough start to the season for clean sheets and defenders and it shows in the points leaderboard, where an unknown defender from Sheffield United named John Lundstram leads all FPL defenders in points. And with a lack of clean sheets and standout performances, no defender is even in the top 15 in FPL points across the league. Meanwhile, traditional cleans sheet collectors like Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs have recorded seven clean sheets between the four of them. That means we have to get creative with our defensive picks and try to find way to earn some dividends, which leads us to the unheralded Matt Targett from Aston Villa.
The former Southampton fullback just returned last month to make his Premier League debut for Aston Villa and has gotten off to a rollicking start with 24 points from three games, which includes a goal, clean sheet, an assist and five bonus points. While the sample size isn’t great, only Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is averaging more FPL points per game that Targett as Villa have yet to lose with Targett in the starting lineup. Taken in just 2.6 percent of FPL Draft leagues, I would add Targett to your watchlist but wait to grab him for the next two weeks since Villa plays Manchester City and Liverpool in the next two matches.
DEF – John Stones (Manchester City)
Along with Sheffield United, Manchester City as a team lead the Premier League with four clean sheets. But the club has been incredibly unfortunate with injuries in defense with Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko currently out and Benjamin Mendy and John Stones only just returning. Pep Guardiola has been so desperate that he’s even paired two central midfielders in Rodrigo and Fernandinho at center-back in the club’s two games this week. But Stones recently returned to fitness and played most of the club’s Champions League 5-1 win over Atalanta after coming in as an early sub for the injured Rodrigo.
With Stones back from a muscle injury that has kept him out of six matches this season, Guardiola gets some much-needed depth in defense and we get a relatively available starting defender from the best defensive side in the league. In our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues, Stones is still available in about 40 percent of leagues, but I cannot see that figure staying stagnant beyond this week. And with Aston Villa and Southampton on the immediate schedule, there’s a solid chance of some clean sheet points with Stones even acting as a fourth or fifth defender (considering Guardiola’s maddening rotational tendencies) in your team—talk about an embarrassment of riches.
MID – Harvey Barnes (Leicester City)
While Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and even Youri Tielemans garner most of the praise in Leicester City’s attack, there’s been one unheralded wizard behind the curtain pulling strings in recent weeks. Harvey Barnes has been fighting to break into Brendan Rodgers lineup this season and has often been employed as a winger recently. But the 21-year-old is starting to find his groove and, in just eight appearances, has already equaled his total of one goal and three assists from 1,001 minutes last season. His most convincing performance came over the weekend where Barnes assisted on both of the club’s goals in a 2-1 win over Burnley to give him three assists in three weeks, leading to praise from Rodgers and fans across the Premier League.
Since Barnes has mostly been overshadowed this season, his ownership reflects that at a rate of just three percent in FPL Draft leagues. But by the looks of Leicester City’s upcoming schedule, I’m looking at any way to break into this attack with a slate that reads as follows: Southampton, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Brighton, Everton, Watford, Aston Villa and Norwich until mid-December. After all, this is a third-place team that is fourth in the league in goals scored with one of the most favorable schedules you can imagine for the next two months. Keep an eye on Barnes, and try to find other ways into this team.
FWD – Danny Ings (Southampton)
There is no one in the Premier League hotter than Southampton forward Danny Ings at the moment. The former Liverpool striker has seen his career interrupted by countless injuries but now he’s well on his way to the best season in his Premier League career, drawing comparisons to his debut 2014/15 season where he recorded 11 goals and four assists. Ings has now scored in three straight Premier League matches against Spurs, Chelsea and Wolves while also earning seven bonus points in that span.
While he’s not available in every league, this is absolutely your last chance to grab him if you’re a part of the 25 percent of leagues where Ings is still on the waiver wire. With forwards always in such high demand, finding Ings available in your league would be a hidden treasure that everyone will look to plunder as the striker has scored every one of the club’s last three goals. So it’s worth a look to see if Ings is still on the waiver wire; it could be your lucky day with a long-term, in-form forward ripe for the picking.