What can we say? Picking the right players is obviously the most important part of being a fantasy manager, but easier said than done right? As we have crossed the threshold into the second half of the season, your player picks become a bit more important as you look to solidify your top spot or mount your title challenge in your private leagues. Let's take a look at the potential bargain players, each of which I feel have the best price with regards to match up/potential for Week 21.
Maarten Stekelenburg - Fantrax: 4.996mil / BPL: 5.0mil
Southampton simply hasn't had the season one might have expected from their previous strong finishes in the Premier League. Watford has proven not to be a push over by any means, but given the Saints are at home and Stekelenburg's price is right, one could be hard pressed to find a more budget keeper for the match up. On their day, the Saints can be compact at the back and thrilling going forward. Watford trailed off in their last match against Man City, failing to notch a goal from their potent strike force of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney. Time will tell if Watford have the mental strength let alone squad depth to sustain their lofty position as we enter the second half of the season. For me the match up and price are right as a potential bargain pick.
Lukasz Fabianski - Fantrax: 5.897mil / BPL: 4.7mil
Swansea City are just 2pts from the drop zone and are facing a must win match against an equally struggling Sunderland. Without a new manager, the Swans have been up and down since Gary Monk was relieved of his position. However the Swans have shown more flashes of decent defending than their forth coming opponent, leading me to favor Fabianski over Costel Pantilimon who is actually cheaper. When it comes to these type of matches where either side might conceivably have a chance to steal the match, I always favor the home side.
Wayne Hennessey - Fantrax: 6.552mil / BPL: 4.1mil
A bit more expensive than the former bargain keepers but my top budget choice for Week 21 given price and match up. Aston Villa are looking nearly set for the drop and have had real trouble finding the back of the net. Will a recovery be on to survive? Unlikely in my eyes. The Crystal Palace keeper took a shelling in their last 3-0 defeat to at the hands of Chelsea, but lowering his price in the process. The Eagles have a great opportunity to bounce back from such a defeat and are easily favorites away to Aston Villa.
Leighton Baines - Fantrax: 3.030mil / BPL: 6.1mil
The most obvious worst kept bargain secret in many formats (not really in the Official game though), the Everton left back has returned from an injury lay off and will be looking to re-establish himself into the starting 11. Away to Man City is no small task, but Everton have traditionally been a bit of a bogey team for the Sky Blue. Although the match up is not ideal, Baines has always been the set piece and PK taker for Everton when healthy. At his current price, a CS is not needed for value to be returned. He always seems to get a free kick goal some where during the regular season, don't be the manager who misses out.
Patrick McNair - Fantrax: 1.065mil / BPL: 4.7mil
This pick will have to wait for team news closer to the deadline but Man United lost Phil Jones to injury against the Swans last game week. We know Van Gaal has used the youngster periodically this season and may be inclined to trust him enough to fill in for Jones. It was however, Darmian who replaced Jones at half time, but one expects the Italian to assume the full back role rather than playing as a CB. McNair was introduced for Ashley Young on the 78th min who came off with a knock. Van Gaal has used a back 4 of Young, Blind, Smalling and Darmian before, but seeing as all fore-mentioned players are not considered bargains, one must keep an eye on McNair, especially if Ashley Young is ruled out. Sad because Phil Jones was looking the better bargain pick at just 2.785mil before his latest injury.
Cuco Martina - Fantrax: 2.867mil / BPL: 4.1mil
A serious goal of the season candidate with his wonder strike against Arsenal on Boxing Day. Cuco Martina as started every match since that win and looks a real bargain if he can get as involved in the attack as his early play suggests. Like the analysis given to Stekelenburg above, the Saints have been particularly frustrating this season with their up and down results. But given the home match up and price, the Dutch fullback seems prime for a starting place in any fantasy side.
John Obi Mikel - Fantrax: 1.000mil / BPL: 4.2mil
Not the attacking threat you want like some of the bigger guns, but Mikel was solid in the central defensive pivot with Cesc Fabregas during Chelsea's 3-0 destruction of Crystal Palace last match. The Blues caretaker manager for his second spell, Gus Hiddink, may very well name a similar side when West Bromwich Albion come to Stamford Bridge. With very little work needed to return value, Mikel is the definition of a bargain pick which allows you to field the much more expensive elite midfielders or strikers. You just hope he avoids a needless yellow card.
Ibrahim Afellay - Fantrax: 1.720mil / BPL: 5.1mil
Zero goals and zero assists so far this season doesn't stir much excitement for fantasy managers looking for big points week in week out. However, Afellay has started that past 3 matches as the focal point of the midfield attack, behind the striker. Mark Hughes has transformed Stoke City from the Pulis model into a much more thrilling side as Shaqiri, Arnautovic, and Bojan buzz around opposing defenses. The former PSV midfielder has the experience, he just needs a spark to get himself onto the score sheet. The Potters look good value for the win against Norwich City, and you can't ask for a much better price for a starting attacking midfielder. Selecting Afellay affords the same bonus as Mikel above, but with the potential of being closer to goal and thus getting more involved in the mix.
Mile Jedinak - Fantrax: 1.392mil / BPL: 4.6mil
Was is really so long ago that Mile Jedinak was one of the most expensive midfielders in the fantasy format? Racking up insane phantom points with passes intercepted, tackles won, and the odd penalty kick goal. Crazy how times change, but the Australian International has started the previous 2 matches for the Eagles. This by no means guarantees he will start against Aston Villa, especially if Alan Pardew wishes to change his side from the disappointing loss to Chelsea last match. Watch team news though and hope the Jedinak of old comes out of the fantasy woodwork.
Frazier Campbell - Fantrax: 1.000mil / BPL: 5.4mil
Continuing with the Crystal Palace theme, it is hard not to like some of their budget options that have a real chance of playing against the worst team in the league. With Dwight Gayle ruled out, Connor Wickham rated 50/50, the striker slot is open for one of Campbell or Chamakh (remember him?). Since Campbell got the nod in a very difficult encounter with Chelsea, Alan Pardew might feel the need to keep the faith against Aston Villa. Either way, the chance is there for the taking and the price is absolutely right.
Joselu - Fantrax: 1.638mil / BPL: 5.5mil
Bojan Krkic has the starling spot but Joselu has been putting in a good shift when replacing the former Barca man in the last few matches. Don't forget he came on as a substitute and scored the tying goal in Stoke's wild 4-3 victory over Everton. More of a hunch pick to grab a late goal against Norwich City, but one to also watch in case Mark Hughes decides to rotate.
Andy Carroll - Fantrax: 5.569mil / BPL: 6.4mil
Slaven Bilic has challenged Andy Carroll to keep his nose to grind stone and push himself to keep his progression moving forward. The former Newcastle and Liverpool striker has notched a goal in each of West Ham's two previous matches. Although his price might be getting a bit inflated for the true bargain hunter, it is still low enough compared to the elite strikers to warrent some thought. Bournemouth have been resurgent of late, but West Ham have also been impressive this season, punching above their weight. With Dimitri Payet coming back into the fold, the odds Carroll gets a few more crosses to attack are looking better each match. Certainly a player pick that might not be immediate on the mass fantasy manager radar.
As always good luck deciding your team for Week 21!