Sometimes it’s the case that the sides at the bottom of the Premier League offer us better value at this time of the season than any other. Players that for the large part of the season disappoint find reasons and circumstances to offer us a late surge of fantasy points.
All to play for
It’s the time of the season; we often see surprising results. Like cornered rodents, sides clinging to league survival become aggressive, having nothing left to lose. Think back to Big Sam’s Sunderland and Crystal Palace sides from the last few years. Any team from Brighton on down fits this opportunity.
Facing distracted opposition
With seven weeks left, the players involved in the relegation scrap can find themselves facing players whose clubs are tucked in comfortably at mid table (or better!) positions with little but honor to play for. There are players who still play every game with the same passion as any other, but there seem to be fewer than once before, and I’m not sure honor means as much as it once did. Even if the desire is there, the comfortable opposition may have an eye on the sun bed or fitness for the upcoming World Cup. These sides will start to show themselves (some via rotation!). When we know who is safe and soft, we must look to take advantage by picking the hungry and desperate (and certain to start). Caveat: This year’s World Cup is a double-edged sword that can motivate the uncertain while enervating the injury-prone. YMMV.
One eye on next season
Even at the almost doomed, West Brom expect to see the odd player who suddenly realizes that his position in the league next season (marketability in the summer transfer window) may depend on a hot run of form right now. Expect to see and hear plenty of TV/radio pundits asking the question “where was this effort and performance earlier in the season?” Answer: Left in the dressing room untapped by an inept manager until transfer agents found new ways to motivate them.
With all of that in mind, we do need to remember these players are playing for the lower level sides in the league, so their opportunities will be constrained. Our hope is that we can catch one or two big points hauls rather than consistent weekly returns from our men in the street fighting situations. With many of us looking at playing our second wildcard in FPL and/or looking for a few differentials to close the gaps in our private leagues, those less fancied players may be useful.
The World Cup is just over a couple months away, and the England goalkeeper position is wide open. With Joe Hart’s career still nosediving, the young trio of Butland, Pickford and now Nick Pope all smell a chance at taking that spot.
While the pre-tournament friendlies may guide Gareth Southgate, it may be the end of season league form that decides who starts the opening game. Butland has suffered from injury, and the common thought is that he may be just behind Pickford and Hart at this point. If so it’s not by much, so performing well under late-season spotlight and pressure could change that.
With just one win in the last 17, Southampton has been woeful. And yet, we have often seen an immediate upturn that a new manager can bring, even when that manager woeful himself earlier. Mark Hughes is a very experienced and respected manager and man. We can expect to see his side work much harder until the seasons end.
Clean sheets are going to be a big task, but McCarthy looked very solid in the FA Cup win last week. Many keepers in the modern game struggle with crosses into the box, lacking the confidence to catch the ball, preferring to punch instead. McCarthy commanded his box and seems to have a firm hold on the Saints spot in goal.
A trip to a West Ham side on the rocks is followed by a suspected shot-saving-practice game at Arsenal. He then gets a double week in GW-34 hosting Chelsea and heading to Leicester. In FPL, there are better double game goalkeepers on paper, but Alex is super cheap, a player for those of you who want to spend as little as possible at the keeper position.
Shane Duffy / Lewis Dunk
Many a side have been built from two physical central defenders, and the Duffy/Dunk double act do not mess about. Both are also a danger from set plays and both are a great price in FPL for your wildcard squad.
Patrick van Aanholt
A fantasy favorite, PVA has a couple goals and a clean sheet in his last 3 games. It’s a tough matchup against the ever flowing Liverpool attack next, but then Bournemouth (a) , Brighton (h) Watford (a) Leicester (h) Stoke (a) and West Brom (h) roll out the season. There is no double week, which is a shame, but PVA does have the ability to go big and score a double week score in a single week.
Brighton’s recent form is excellent, with four wins, a loss and a draw in their last six. Gross, who will be a contender for signing of the season, has been at the heart of much Brighton attacking play. With back-to-back games against Leicester and Huddersfield, then a GW-34 double to follow, Gross offers brilliant value over the next 3 weeks.
After a brace against Southampton last time, he must be certain to start Newcastle’s match against Huddersfield. At 4.7m in FPL, he offers a great 5th midfield option. But be warned: He has played the full 90 only once since breaking into the starting 11. Also see Daryll’s recent Spotlight on Kenedy article.
If the Saints are going to pull off a great escape, it will need a spark. Charlie Austin will have say at some point (maybe soon, keep an eye on injury return news), but the man with the talent and fitness (if not form) is currently Gabbiadini. Quite how he found himself outside of the starting XI is a year-long sad story of injury and loss of confidence, but he looked sharp against a physical Wigan side in the FA Cup. Can new-manager Mark Hughes get consistent results? The initial indication is good.
Explosive players are something we want, and Gabbi showed himself capable of multi-goal hauls last year, prior to his injury. His goal in last season’s League Cup Final shows that he can also cope with pressure occasions.
I think Gabbi can exploit a West Ham side who will be at sixes and sevens in defense this week. From there Arsenal always give you a chance, and they may chose to rest players for their European adventure. It’s then double week time, and neither Leicester nor Chelsea look especially watertight. Gabbi is a real under-the-radar differential with potential break big over the remaining weeks.
He can be one of the most frustrating players in fantasy football, but as highlighted above, Palace have a great run of games to end the season. There is no GW-34 double week for FPL, but he is so cheap in Fantrax that he can free up funds elsewhere.
WIll Saints under Mark Hughes enjoy a new-manager bounce? Can Benteke rediscover the scintillating form that has eluded him thus far this season? Are any of you already employing any of the above? Would you suggest anyone else? Let us know in the comments below!