Gameweek 24 promises to be an interesting set of matches for fantasy owners. Injuries to fantasy regulars like Sergio Aguero, Romelu Lukaku, and Aaron Ramsey are forcing fantasy owners to search for replacements until their players are able to return to full health. Don’t be fooled by high values next to players’ names this week. Just because a player costs more, it does not necessarily mean he would be a good play as a replacement this week.
Low-cost options can return just as high fantasy value at fractions of the cost. In addition, don’t forget the added benefit you can get from selling your bargain player back after his value inflates thanks to the good fantasy production (don’t underestimate the value of extra cap space you gain from selling a player that has increased in value). Last week alone saw players like Adam Johnson, Jason Puncheon, and Adrian lead their positions in fantasy scoring, all at a lower cost than the “bigger names”. With the rash of injuries hitting teams and the short turnaround this week, the same could hold true for Gameweek 24. Here are the Bargain Bin players for this weekend that could fit your needs and help you succeed.
David Marshall has struggled recently for Cardiff City, but much of his poor form can be related to his teammates and his opponents. In the last seven matches, Marshall and his teammates have allowed 18 goals and multiple scores in each of those games. However, five of those matches came against teams in the top half of the table. In addition, Cardiff City have allowed an average of 6.4 shots on target during the seven-game stretch. There have been five matches this season in which Cardiff defenders have allowed three or fewer shots on target. In those five matches, Marshall has allowed a total of two goals and has kept four clean sheets. Odds are in Marshall’s favor when he sees a lower number of shots, and with Norwich City coming to town, that may be the case this weekend. On the road this season, the Canaries average just over three shots on target per match. Marshall should benefit from not being forced to make a high number of saves this weekend and is in a good position to keep a clean sheet.
Steven Caulker will be one of the Cardiff City defenders tasked with keeping the net clean. The Bluebirds’ defender has played the full 90 minutes in all of Cardiff City’s Premier League matches this season and should do the same against Norwich City. In addition, Caulker leads all Cardiff City defenders with 16 shots and has been known to put pressure on the opponent's goal in matches played at Cardiff City Stadium.
Bacary Sagna and Arsenal have been riding a wave of fine defensive form in 2014. In fact, it extends into December of 2013, as they have allowed just four goals in their last seven matches. The last time Arsenal allowed a goal at the Emirates was December 8 against Everton. Crystal Palace are not Everton (even without Lukaku), and they will bring the league's lowest road goal scoring attack to town when they face Arsenal. Coming off a draw which saw them allow two goals, Arsenal will be ready to protect the net at home. Sagna should have a great chance to keep a clean sheet against the visiting Eagles.
Ross Barkley returned to the pitch from a broken toe for the mid-week tie against Liverpool. While the outcome was not up to standards for Toffee fans, it is important to note Barkley’s involvement in the Everton attack upon his return. Barkley paced the team with five shot attempts and looked every bit of the player that was leading the team in shots and had produced three goals prior to the injury. Everton can score at home, and they should have a good chance to continue their fine form at Goodison Park when Aston Villa come to town Saturday. TheToffees have scored multiple goals in five of the last six meetings between the two squads, and Barkley will look to extend that statistic another match. With Lukaku missing out, Everton will look for other players to step up and fill the role of finisher. Barkley should have every chance to prove capable of the task and will look to exploit an Aston Villa squad that has allowed multiple goals in five of their last six road matches this season.
Hatem Ben Arfa returned to Newcastle’s starting XI thanks to the departure of star midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain. Ben Arfa has started 11 matches this season for Newcastle, so the role is not all that new to him. What will be new is the responsibility placed upon him with Cabaye gone. Ben Arfa has never been shy to take shots, and he proved that Tuesday. The Newcastle midfielder fired five shots during the match and trailed only striker Loic Remy for the team lead. Saturday, Ben Arfa will face a Sunderland squad that has regressed a little defensively since keeping three consecutive clean sheets during the holiday period. Sunderland allow an average of over five shots on target in their away matches this season. A stat like that is important because Ben Arfa has managed to score in all but one of the matches in which he has put multiple shots on target, and he should have a good opportunity to do just that Saturday.
Steve Sidwell has quietly been flying under the radar this season. The Fulham midfielder actually leads his team in goals thanks to a very impressive conversion rate. Saturday, Sidwell and Fulham host a Southampton squad that has not been as stingy recently as they were earlier in the year. Injuries have hurt the Saints’ defense, as they are allowing more shots and goals per match than they were through the first quarter of the season. In addition, Sidwell has been impressive at Craven Cottage the past couple of matches. He has scored in three of the last four Fulham home games and has recorded shots on goal in each of them. Expect him to continue putting shots on goal at home, and with his fine conversion rate, he should be in line to pick up a score.
Jonjo Shelvey has been a jack-of-all-trades for Swansea City this season. The Swans midfielder has used his skill and creativity to score four goals and assist on another three. He’s built good chemistry with teammate Wilfried Bony as he continues to pressure opposing defenses with his attack. The injury concerns surrounding Shelvey appear to be eased with his one-goal and five-shot performance earlier in the week against Fulham. Saturday, Swansea will travel to West Ham United. The Hammers' strategy against Chelsea earlier in the week was more than likely tailored so they could escape Stamford Bridge with a point. You shouldn’t expect the same Saturday, as both teams will be looking to take three points while playing a pretty open style. It is also important to note that West Ham have allowed three goals in each of their previous three home ties. Shelvey continues to pressure the opponent’s goalkeeper, as he has attempted 12 shots in his last three matches. With the ability to pick up fantasy value in different ways, Shelvey makes for an interesting play this weekend.
Andy Carroll saw his minutes increase once again, as he was named to West Ham’s starting XI for their midweek match against Chelsea. We already discussed that the style of play should be considerably different Saturday compared to their match at Stamford Bridge, and Carroll should certainly benefit. In limited action, the West Ham striker has already picked up an assist and will be chomping at the bit to pick up his first goal of the season after returning from his foot injury. Swansea City have not kept a road clean sheet in Premier League play since September and they will have their hands full keeping Carroll from finding the back of the net.