As the calendar switches over to 2014, there will be plenty of changes in the Premier League. Matchweek 20 marks the first set of matches in the second half of the season. January 1 also marks the opening of the winter transfer window that will bring some new faces to Premier League clubs. And for those playing ESPN’s Premier Fantasy, Matchweek 20 is the last in Segment One. With some changes due to impact the Bargain Bin coming soon, let’s name a Bargain Bin MVP for the first half of the season before we get to Matchweek 20’s value picks.
Media outlets love doing lists and also love handing out midseason awards. So in true Bargain Bin fashion, the two have been combined for a best use of time. Ballots were submitted by all contributing Bargain Bin employees (read: just me) and an MVP was named from a list of five. All five of these players were once touted here in the Bargain Bin, provided very good fantasy value, and should continue to provide good value for the rest of the 2013-14 season. Here’s hoping you paid attention and nabbed some of these players before their value went through the roof.
5. Yohan Cabaye was mentioned back in the Matchweek 5 edition of the Bargain Bin. Since then, the Newcastle midfielder has scored five goals and picked up two assists while seeing his value reach all the way to £8.1 and is one of the hottest midfielders in the Premier League with three goals in his last four appearances.
4. Jay Rodriguez was suggested back in Matchweek 14 and could have been owned at Bargain Bin pricing as recently as Matchweek 15. Since then, his value has risen all the way to £7.1 thanks to his eight goals and two assists. The striker is currently the seventh-highest fantasy scoring forward and his cost continues to rise.
3. Romelu Lukaku was easily the most hyped player in the Bargain Bin so far this season, and with reason. The striker was sent on loan to Everton and came out with a bang, scoring five goals and picking up an assist in his first five matches. He has since cooled down a bit, but still has nine goals and three assists on the season, good enough to rank him fifth among fantasy forwards. Not a bad value if you followed the advice given in Matchweek 6.
2. Aaron Ramsey was mentioned all the way back in Matchweek 3 as someone who was “seeing an increased role in the attacking scheme for Arsenal this season that really started at the end of last season.” Well that increased role has translated to eight goals and six assists in the first half of the season, making him the fourth-highest fantasy scorer overall. It has been a phenomenal season so far for Ramsey, but as crazy as it sounds, there has actually been a better value play this season.
1. Seamus Coleman is the First-Half Bargain Bin MVP. The Everton defender was mentioned four times in Bargain Bin articles, specifically suggested in Matchweeks 6 and 8, and is now leading all defenders in fantasy points. In fact, his margin is so great over the next closest defender, you could make the argument he is the First-Half MVP of all Premier Fantasy. Currently leading all defenders in goals and clean sheets, his value is sky high, as he is second to only Luis Suarez in fantasy points through 19 weeks of the season. He is the easy choice for MVP.
Matchweek 20 once again fits all 10 matches into one day. It is a festive New Year’s Day that provides good opportunities for players facing traveling teams such as Norwich City and Hull City. May you have a happy and wonderful 2014, filled with joy, clean sheets, and plenty of goals. For cheap options in Matchweek 20, here are this week’s Bargain Bin players:
Simon Mignolet had to deal with two very difficult away matches to end the 2013 calendar year. To start 2014, Mignolet and Liverpool get to return home to face Hull City. Liverpool have won their last six home matches, while allowing just five goals during that span. The Reds have been much better defensively at home than on the road this season: their save percentage is 11 percent better, they allow their opponents to take an average of five fewer shots, and allow two fewer shots on target in their matches at historic Anfield. The visiting Tigers have scored just four goals in their previous six away matches and average just 2.5 shots on target in their trips away from KC Stadium, second lowest in the Premier League. Mignolet has a much better chance at keeping a clean sheet at home, and he and Liverpool will look to rebound from a difficult road trip with a clean sheet against Hull City.
Joel Ward and the Crystal Palace defense have been very stingy since Ian Holloway stepped down as Palace manager. With five clean sheets in their last nine matches, Crystal Palace defenders have provided some surprisingly good fantasy value. On New Year’s Day, they will host a Norwich City squad that has struggled to score on the road all season. The Canaries have failed to score in four of their nine matches away from Carrow Road, and average just 0.6 goals per away match. Crystal Palace defenders have done a very good job at home preventing the opposition from getting off good chances on goal. Opposing teams are accurate with just 30.6 percent of their shots while playing at Selhurst Park. That rate ranks the Eagles defense fifth in the Premier League in that category. Ward will have as good a chance as any defender in the Premier League at getting fantasy value from keeping a clean sheet this Matchweek.
Raheem Sterling has started the last seven matches for Liverpool and has been extremely active for the Reds. With three goals and two assists in the month of December, Sterling has been involved in more Liverpool goals than any teammate not named Suarez. Averaging almost 2.5 shots per match since earning a spot in the Starting XI, Sterling has found a place for himself in the Liverpool attack. Wednesday, he will get to face a Hull City squad that concedes 1.9 goals per away match (fourth worst in the Premier League). The Tigers allow the second most shots in away matches in the Premier League and Sterling should benefit from the porous defense.
Chris Brunt will take to the pitch Wednesday in the top-five for assists in Premier League play. The West Brom midfielder has five assists on the season through just 13 appearances and is establishing himself as a fine distributor for the Baggies. Brunt has also added a goal and is third on the team in shot attempts this season. The New Year’s Day match will give him an opportunity to rack up more fantasy points against a visiting Newcastle United squad. The Magpies have struggled on the road to prevent their opponents from getting good opportunities on goal, allowing the highest accuracy rate. Brunt has proven his ability to create good opportunities for the West Brom attack and should be able to do more of the same against Newcastle.
Saido Berahino currently leads West Bromwich Albion in shot attempts despite seeing limited action this season. Even though he has been in the Baggies' Starting XI just two times, he has come off the bench in another 13 matches. Playing in every December fixture, Berahino has taken 18 shots and is the team leader by a wide margin. We already discussed how Newcastle opponents have been afforded good looks on net, so if Berahino can maintain his pace, he should have plenty of opportunities to add another goal to his 2013-14 stat sheet.
Marouane Chamakh has cooled off a bit since scoring in three consecutive matches to start the month of December. Some of the lack of offense can be attributed to facing top-10 defenses in the two matches he has featured (he missed a match due to a suspension for receiving a fifth yellow card) and failed to score. Norwich City will not pose the same threat defensively for Chamakh on New Year’s Day, as the Canaries allow the second-most goals per away match this season. Chamakh has proven he can do a lot with a little, needing just nine shots to score four goals this season. Norwich City allow almost twenty shots per match on the road, and that should give Chamakh plenty of opportunity to add to his team-lead in goals scored.