There’s no rest for the weary, so just like that we’ve got another full slate of games just two days after the weekend. We’re going to be throwing so much content at you in the next week, and especially today and tomorrow with the midweek games, over at Rotoworld that I thought it would be best to cut the introduction short. Instead, we’ll just do our usual recap of some of my recent bargain picks and get straight into an abbreviated version of this week’s picks.
Nine of the 20 Premier League clubs recorded clean sheets over the weekend, including three 0-0 draws, meaning my defensive picks sure held up their end of the bargain. Both Last week’s picks in Robert Huth and Ashley Young recorded clean sheets for Leicester City and Manchester United, respectively.
Meanwhile, Marcos Rojo, Alfie Mawson, Martin Olsson, and Jack Stephens also picked up clean sheets of their own as some of my more successful recent picks. And Hull City winger Kamil Grosicki added two assists in a much-needed victory against struggling West Ham.
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 31. 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.
About a month ago, I recommended picking up Pickford on the basis that he was the only goalkeeper for weeks that re-entered the starting lineup of a Premier League team on a permanent basis following his return from an ankle injury. Despite only one clean sheet since, I am now recommending Pickford on the basis that he has proven himself to be a productive goalkeeper in fantasy leagues and is one of the best bargains you can find at the position. Not to mention, Fantrax owners have been slow to add Pickford—only 34 percent of managers have selected the young goalkeeper.
Since his return, no keeper has recorded more saves than Pickford—23 in the last four matches alone, including nine this past weekend against Watford. Pickford is showing why he is the subject of interest from Manchester City and Everton with a series of supreme solo efforts. But it’s Sunderland’s upcoming run of fixtures that has me most excited about Pickford’s potential. Until Gameweek 37, Sunderland will face Leicester City, Manchester United, West Ham, Middlesbrough, Bournemouth, Hull City and Swansea City. Without a doubt, there are some clean sheets in that pack to go with the saves, and that makes Pickford a long-term pick.
DEF – Danny Simpson (Leicester City)
I’m going to continue riding this Leicester City train (can you believe it? Four Premier League wins in a row. That Shakespeare fella sure has a way with words). Simpson’s reliability at right-back endears him to fantasy managers as the former Manchester United youth player has only missed two Premier League games all season. Even more so, the club’s recent form and tactics has led to Simpson taking on a more attacking role down the right wing, leading to two assists in the Foxes’ 2-0 win against Stoke City on Saturday to move them into 13th place.
The veteran right-back seems to have discovered his form along with the rest of the team, and the good times look to only continue with Sunderland, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Watford in four of the next six Premier League matches, not mention a Champions League showdown with Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals next week. Surely, Simpson will play a major role in the rest of the season, and it doesn’t seem his usually spotty disciplinary record will get him into trouble as he still needs two yellow cards before next weekend to receive an accumulation ban. Simpson is available in more than half of Fantrax leagues, and seems worth a waiver claim.
MID/FWD– Jesus Navas (Manchester City)
This pick carries a bit of risk, but it could turn out to be a really cheeky selection if Pep Guardiola sticks with him. With Bacary Sagna injured, Guardiola opted to play Jesus Navas at right-back over the aging Pablo Zabaleta against Arsenal, and it ended up working wonders. The Spanish speedster has been itching for playing time and he may have found his role a la Antonio Valencia at Manchester United—a winger-turned-fullback with an excellent crossing foot who uses his ridiculous pace to make up for any defensive shortcomings. Against Chelsea and the cunning of Eden Hazard, I don’t see why Guardiola won’t go back to Navas.
The winger created problems with his overlapping runs at the Emirates and was up for consideration for Man of the Match despite being played completely out of position in just his second Premier League appearance since Gameweek 21. Available in nearly 88 percent of Fantrax leagues, Navas is a way to score some unique points if he continues to start down the stretch. For now, we’ll call him a one-week pick. But with two more games this week, that one-week could turn into the rest of the season if he performs like he did against the Gunners.
FWD– Divock Origi (Liverpool)
Here’s another player who hasn’t played as much as he probably deserves, and definitely not as much as one would think. But now it looks like an injury to Sadio Mane (check Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match press conference on Tuesday to make sure Mane is out) will give Origi a chance to show his worth with Liverpool already low on midfielders, meaning we could expect to see Roberto Firmino drop back into attacking midfield alongside Philippe Coutinho. It was Origi who came on for the injured Mane in the Merseyside derby and scored one of the Reds’ three goals in a 3-1 win.
Despite only starting one of the last four Premier League matches, the Belgian international has contributed to a Liverpool goal every 47 minutes that he is on the pitch (one goal and three assist) in the past month. Surely he’ll get his chance this week, not to mention the club still has two more matches in the next five days. Origi is available in nearly half (47 percent) of all Fantrax draft leagues, and the extent of Mane’s injury could very well determine if Origi is just a one-week pick or a rest-of-the-season option at forward. No matter what, we know the potential is there.