We’ve made it through the first international break and now have to recalibrate. Sometimes we need a good international break to let us see our FPL options with more clarity instead of getting caught up in the beginning-of-the-season hype (I, for one, am stubbornly sticking to the tried and tested line that quick-start unknowns like Teemu Pukki and Mason Mount will burn out as the season winds on).
Meanwhile, in Gameweek 4 we just another weekend where only three clean sheets were recorded. Apparently I still haven’t learned the lesson by picking two defenders this week, but that trend fights the norm. It’s been such a strange season that Leicester City and Crystal Palace have even decided to move into the top four and give us all a good shock. Of my last week’s picks, Daniel James continued to produce for Manchester United with a goal and a bonus point.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 5. 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 – Aaron Ramsdale (Bournemouth)
I’ve never really seen such a disparity in quality talent and those available on the waiver wire this early in the season, and no position better represents that than goalkeeper. Obviously in an eight-team FPL Draft league, 16 keepers are going to be taken and most of them are going to be starting keepers (although if you have the starter from top teams like Liverpool and Manchester City I always recommend having the backup as your number two.) But somehow across the board in FPL Draft, managers have determined who those 16 keepers are as only four starting keepers are available in more than half of FPL Draft leagues, according to our latest sample.
One of those starters is Bournemouth’s Aaron Ramsdale, who impressed manager Eddie Howe so much this preseason that he forced veteran Asmir Begovic to seek a loan to Azerbaijan giants Qarabag. The 21-year-old has started every game this season but has yet to record his first clean sheet; however, I expect that to come within the next couple of weeks. The Cherries have two games at home in the next few weeks with Everton, Southampton and West Ham up before the end of September. Surely Howe’s focus after the international break is going to be on locking down the defense after a couple of lapses. And with Ramsdale available in 95 percent of leagues, there’s a No. 2 keeper available for you on the waiver wire.
DEF – Jan Vertonghen (Spurs)
Coming off of an international break and with the burgeoning and proven talent mostly taken, it was fairly difficult to find the right players to recommend this week. But Jan Vertonghen was always top of the list—I was just waiting until he was back from injury and fully a part of the Spurs setup. Finally, in a 2-2 draw in the North London derby against Arsenal in Gameweek 4, Vertonghen saw his first playing time of the season just in time for Mauricio Pochettino’s injury-plagued side. It’s been a suboptimal start to the season for Pochetiino with only five points from four games, including a three-match winless streak, but look for that to change right away.
With all of these injuries, Spurs are beginning to understand the fortunes they had last season on the training table despite not buying anyone. Now problems with injuries and depth have contributed to this start. But Spurs have a much lighter schedule on this side of the first international break with Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Southampton, Brighton and Watford in the next five weeks, and I anticipate the turnaround will start with the defense. But with a quality defender like Vertonghen back, this might be your last real chance to pick up the Belgian international in FPL Draft as he’s still available in 46 percent of leagues.
DEF – Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton)
It’s been such a bizarre year for Premier League defenses so far, and that reflects in the table and the FPL charts. Only two defenders (Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil Van Dijk) from the vaunted “top-six” powers are present in the current FPL top-10 defenders. No. 4 on that list in Jannik Vestergaard, the six-foot-six giant at the center of the Southampton defense. After starting the season with back-to-back one-point results, the Danish international has put together 20 points in the last two games with two man-of-the-match performances.
In Gameweek 3, Vestergaard helped Saints to their first win of the season with a clean sheet and followed that up with the equalizer against Manchester United to steal a point despite playing the final 20 minutes down a man. Yet Vestergaard is available in 95 percent of FPL Draft leagues, making him one of the biggest bargains around. To make matters more convincing, Saints will face Sheffield United and Bournemouth in the next two weeks. Even as a fifth defender, Vestergaard looks like a solid addition that can strengthen most FPL defenses.
FWD – Joelinton (Newcastle United)
The only position that comes close to the scarcity in starting quality at goalkeeper is forward, where the options are already waning. That’s why I’ve selected a young forward who’s just a month into his first Premier League season. Joelitnon arrived at Newcastle with a ton of pressure to succeed immediately as a club-recording signing and the lone forward leading the line of a team with a lot of history, frustrated fans and expectations to finish in the bottom three. The Brazilian international arrived from Hoffenheim in a £44 million move this summer and scored his first Premier League goal in a massive 1-0 win on the road against Tottenham.
But Joelinton might not have much more time left on his honeymoon period with Newcastle fans and will be counted on to produce amid all of the club’s injuries. It doesn’t help that the Magpies must face Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in three of the next five games, but the move for Joelinton is more out of haste than necessity at the moment. As a bona fide starting forward, Joelinton is a rare find on the waiver wire considering he is available in 44 percent of FPL Draft leagues. For that reason, if you are willing to ride out the next month of fixtures and have an open No. 3 striker spot you want to fill, the potential reward is worth the risk at the beginning.