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EPL Bargain Bin: Week 16 Value Players

Chris Mosinski

Chris Mosinski

Fantasy sports connoisseur and expert soccer prognosticator.

Position scarcity is a term heard regularly in discussions about building a fantasy sports teams. In head-to-head formats, it refers to a low number of players at a certain position that separate themselves from the majority of players that play a similar role. The thought process is that there are only a certain number of players that are worth owning at a certain position and once they are no longer available, you will be at a disadvantage if you do not have any on your roster.

But what about salary cap leagues where you can have any player you want on your roster regardless of the fact that another team already does? Does position scarcity exist in these leagues as well? It most certainly does, but in a different way than normally discussed. In a salary cap league, owners are forced to budget their funds in order to field a full roster of players to contribute to their fantasy team. A decision needs to be made on which players to use the funds in order to maximize fantasy scoring.

In salary cap leagues, it is presumed that the better a player is, the more money he will cost. In ESPN’s Premier Fantasy, this theory holds true. The average salary of players ranked one through five in fantasy points at a specific position is higher than the next five ranked players. The same holds true as you continue down the rankings for a given position. The question then becomes, on which position is it best to spend your money? In Premier Fantasy you could spend your money on the players that typically score the goals (forwards and midfielders) or the players that do their best to prevent them (defenders and goalkeepers). On which of these two categories should you spend the most money? Do you pay for goals or do you pay to prevent them? This is the position scarcity that owners deal with in Premier Fantasy.

Based upon fantasy scoring from this season, the answer would be to spend it on goals. The difference between the highest-scoring forward and the tenth-highest-scoring forwards works out to be 2.2 points per week. For midfielders, the number is even higher at 2.7 points per week, and defenders and goalkeepers both have a difference of 1.5 points per week. Since you start more than one of each position, purchasing expensive defenders and skimping on offense could cost your fantasy team around 10 points per week. There is a clear benefit to owning the best goal scorers in the Premier League.

Since owning just one Luiz Suarez, Robin van Persie, or Sergio Aguero can take up 10 percent of your cap space, you will need to own some budget players that can produce at a high level as well.

That's where this week's Bargain Bin players can be found.

Goalkeeper

Jussi Jaaskelainen
is second in the Premier League this season with seven clean sheets. He has been a “boom-or-bust” type player this season in West Ham’s home matches. In seven home ties, Jaaskelainen has kept a clean sheet three times and allowed three goals another three times. The clean sheets have come against teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table and Jaaskelainen’s struggles were against teams that find themselves in the top-five. Saturday, West Ham will host last place Sunderland. The Black Cats have struggled to score goals this season and average just 0.3 goals per away match. Additionally, their 19 percent shot accuracy ranks worst in the Premier League. Jaaskelainen should not be challenged much by the visiting Sunderland attack and that should give him a great opportunity to move into a tie for the league-lead in clean sheets.

Defenders
Sylvain Distin
is the unheralded member of the Everton defense. The Toffees boast four members ranking in the top-10 fantasy points for defenders in ESPN’s Premier Fantasy. Distin currently ranks as the sixth highest scoring defender even though he does not seem to get the same recognition the rest of Everton’s defenders receive. Though he won’t provide much for the Everton attack, he gets the same credit as everyone else for helping keep a clean sheet. This week should be just like all the others (Everton lead the league with eight clean sheets) when they host Fulham. The Cottagers have averaged an abysmal 0.7 goals per away match and manage to average under two shots on target during those games. The Everton defense should be up to the challenge and will be looking to keep their ninth clean sheet on the season.

Midfielders
Tom Huddlestone
has famously been holding off a haircut until he scores his next goal. It looked to end last week, but his goal was taken away and changed to an own goal against the defense. However, this week will provide him with a great opportunity to score and lose his long locks. Huddlestone and Hull City will host Stoke City on Saturday and the matchup could not be any better. The Potters are allowing over two goals per away match this season and rank in the bottom half of every major defensive statistical category while on the road. As the team leader in shots, Huddlestone will be itching to end his goal drought and will have plenty of chances this weekend to do so. The other nice thing about Huddlestone this week is that even if he is unable to score, he should pick up some value from Hull City keeping a clean sheet. The Tigers have allowed the second fewest goals in home ties this season while the Potters have been kept scoreless in three of their seven away trips.

Mohamed Diame is another midfielder that could provide fantasy value offensively and defensively this weekend. West Ham will host Sunderland on Sunday and we have already discussed the possibility of the Hammers being able to keep a clean sheet. In addition, the Black Cats are allowing two goals per game in their road trips. Diame leads the team in shots and stats suggest that he has been relatively unlucky to have scored just one goal this season. Sunderland’s goalkeepers rank 17th in save percentage and Diame should have multiple chances in net against a poor defense.

Forwards
Yoan Gouffran
has scored in each of Newcastle’s previous three home matches. Saturday, Newcastle will play host to a Southampton squad that will be traveling without their No. 1 goalkeeper. In the two matches Paulo Gazzaniga has started in Artur Boruc’s (hand) place, he has made saves on just 40 percent of his opponents’ shots on target. To give you an idea of just how bad that is, the league average for save percentage is just over 69 percent. Gazzaniga has been almost 30 percent worse than the average goalkeeper in his two starts this season. To make matters better for Gouffran, the once stout Southampton defense is starting to show holes in their armor. They are allowing more shots on target than earlier in the season and now have a goalkeeper that is struggling to stop those shots. Gouffran should be able to put a few shots on target, as he has been Newcastle’s most accurate shooter this season and will look to score in a fourth straight home match.

Gary Hooper has taken advantage of Ricky van Wolfswinkel missing action due to injury. Since getting his first start on October 19, Hooper has led the team with three goals, while also being second on the team in shots and shots on target. He scored all three of those goals in Norwich City’s last five matches, as he begins to feel more comfortable in the Canary attack. This Sunday, Norwich City host Swansea City and there promises to be plenty of fireworks. The last six matches between these two sides have averaged four total goals scored and this weekend should be no different. Norwich will look to score multiple goals for a second straight week and it would be a good bet for Hooper to be involved at some point.

Frazier Campbell and Cardiff City will play host to a struggling West Brom squad on Saturday. The Baggies have allowed eight goals in their last three away matches and have allowed 15 goals in their last seven matches overall. Campbell continues to lead Cardiff City in goals scored with three and is hoping his play will earn him a spot on England’s World Cup squad. Certainly he will be looking to strengthen his case and prove himself a viable scoring option, as opportunities to score will not be better than the one he will have this weekend.