We are down to the final nine gameweeks of the season—no more international breaks, very little Champions League distractions (the fact that Leicester City is the only English team left is irony at its finest) and just one more cup weekend. With just six actual weeks left in the season, the focus is clearly on the Premier League and the final stretch.
It’s always imperative to check the injury and team news coming out of an international break before making your selections. Just during the last week, we’ve seen Seamus Coleman ruled out for the season while Mesut Ozil, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini, Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne all sustained injuries. Not to mention, there will be plenty of players returning from trans-Atlantic flights.
Of my Gameweek 29 picks, only Wayne Hennessey produced with some clean sheet points in goal for Crystal Palace. But some of my recent picks put together a couple of solid performances: Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford earned a clean sheet, Bournemouth forward Joshua King added to a scintillating month with an assist and Antonio Valencia scored for Manchester United.
We’ve filled up most of our Fantrax draft leagues, but it’s never too late to join or start up your own league with Fantrax. You can find them all here under “Rotoworld Draft League”. If they are all filled up, let us know on Twitter and we’ll add more leagues. For obvious reasons, we’re capping leagues at 10 users in order to encourage a higher level of competition. And if you’re bored of the attacking-based FPL.com or Perfect XI formats, our salary cap league on Fantrax (Rotoworld Salary Cap) mirrors the old Yahoo format that includes advanced statistics and defensive metrics. It’s not for the casual FPL.com player, and that’s why we love it.
Without further delay, here are the bargains for Gameweek 30. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column.
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.
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 Picks (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 the FPL.com game or draft leagues with limited waiver claims.
It may sound like a broken record, but free-agent goalkeepers are hard to come by, especially the later it gets in the season. So if you are happy with your current goalkeeping situation, there’s no reason to look elsewhere. But if there’s a difficult stretch coming up or an injury, Caballero could be an excellent pickup for the final run-in of the season. Sure the next week is a bit daunting with away fixtures against Arsenal and Chelsea in the next two matches, but those are two teams that have also struggled to score in recent weeks.
But let’s look at the stats: Since Caballero has come into the starting lineup in Gameweek 23, Manchester City has recorded four clean sheets in six matches, which is exactly how many the club put together in the 22 matches prior. During that six-match stretch, the Sky Blues have only concede two goals with Caballero between the posts despite very few changes in the back-line. The sudden change may have come from a shift in tactics by Pep Guardiola, but it’s no coincidence that it all started when Caballero got in goal. And the good news is he is available in more than half of all Fantrax leagues (57 percent) and is a sure long-term pick through the end of the season.
DEF – Robert Huth (Leicester City)
I know that everyone is looking for a Seamus Coleman replacement, but I don’t even think Everton manager Ronald Koeman knows what to do yet. I’m not going to guess and mislead you; I’d rather say I don’t know than take the risk. But what I do know is that Ramiro Funes Mori, Mason Holgate and Phil Jagielka are fighting for two spots along the back-line with the left side set with Leighton Baines and Ashley Williams. So, I’m going to wait until next week to find you’re bargain at Goodison Park. Instead, let’s go with a more certain pick, like Robert Huth from Leicester City.
Like almost everyone at Leicester City this season, Huth has plenty of experience in the Premier League and has seriously underperformed in the club’s title defense this season. But all of a sudden, the Foxes are on a three-match Premier League winning streak after taking down Liverpool, Hull City and West Ham, while also advancing to the quarterfinals of Champions League with a win against Sevilla. Huth, meanwhile, has started every match but two this season and also has a goal and an assist in his last two matches. He’s available in 45 percent of Fantrax draft leagues and worthy of a long-term selection.
MID/DEF – Ashley Young (Manchester United)
I have to make up for my last Manchester United pick after recommending Marcos Rojo last week when he wasn’t even in the starting lineup. However, if I could choose any Manchester United defender this weeks as a bargain buy, I would go with Rojo again due to injuries to Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. But Ashley Young is another Manchester United defender to watch. In Fantrax leagues, he can be played either as a midfielder or as a defender, but I would only consider him as a defender for the sake of potential clean sheet points—he doesn’t do enough in attack to be worthwhile in midfield.
The former Aston Villa star has started each of the last two games for Manchester United, including the club’s FA Cup quarterfinal loss to Chelsea and seems to have found a place in Jose Mourinho’s defense. In the club’s Gameweek 29 win against Middlesbrough, Young even picked up an assist at left-back with his tendency for overlapping runs down the wing. The Red Devils have an excellent fixture list ahead of them—West Brom, Everton, Sunderland—and Young could be the go-to option for the run-in. Like I said earlier, Rojo is still the better option, but Young, taken by just four percent of Fantrax leagues, isn’t a bad choice either.
MID– James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
The Southampton attack has been in good form in recent weeks with 16 goals in the last six Premier League matches, and James Ward-Prowse looks like the best bargain to break into that setup. During that stretch the 22-year-old has recorded two goals and an assist—on the season he has a career-high three goals and four assists. And most recently, in a 2-1 loss to Spurs in Gameweek 29, he scored the club’s lone goal as the Saints fell just short of a comeback.
Ward-Prowse’s standout month didn’t go unnoticed either as England manager Gareth Southgate gave the versatile midfielder his first call-up into the senior national team for this past week’s international break. Now Ward-Prowse will look to use that as momentum heading into the final weeks of the season with games against Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and West Brom all within a week of each other, starting Saturday. Selected by just 45 percent of leagues, Ward-Prowse is a quality pickup through the end of the season, especially with two matches in hand.
FWD– Oumar Niasse (Hull City)
Hull City has some serious attacking issues to overcome if the club hopes to avoid relegation this season—the club currently sits three points from leaving the bottom three. While injuries have mostly hit the club’s defense, it the attack that has struggled mightily in recent weeks. Since Gameweek 22, the Tigers have scored only six goals through eight Premier League matches, and Oumar Niasse has scored half of that total. The on-loan forward wasn’t able to play last week against Everton due to loan rules that restrict players from facing their parent clubs, but you can be sure he will play a part in the upcoming weekend against a depleted and leaky West Ham defense.
Niasse hasn’t seen too many starting opportunities under new manager Marco Silva, but he put together his most impressive outing in his last appearance. The former Lokomotiv striker scored two goals in 28 minutes to lead the Tigers past relegation rival Swansea City in a 2-1 victory, and has surely earned a start because of it. Niasse is available in more than two-thirds of Fantrax leagues, and by the looks of things, he will be sorely needed in the upcoming month-and-a-half.