The much anticipated “Double Gameweek 31” has finally arrived. While not all teams will feature twice, fantasy factories like Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United will all have two matches count towards this week’s fantasy total. While it is enticing to have double the odds of fantasy production, don’t be fooled to think that two matches for these teams will automatically translate to superior production. While SAS have two fantastic matchups to light up the scoreboard, others certainly come with their fair share of question marks.
For instance, who will be starting at striker for Manchester City? And whoever that is, can you count on them? A quick fun fact about Sergio Aguero, who may be out for both City matchups this gameweek: when he is on the pitch, Manchester City average 3.1 goals per match. When he sits, that number falls all the way down to 1.7. Their goal total basically gets cut in half when he sits. Remember this not only for the strikers filling in for Aguero, but also the midfielders like Yaya Toure and David Silva.
The Manchester City questions don’t just end on the attack. Vincent Kompany will be forced to sit out the first match of the gameweek against Fulham after picking up a professional red card last weekend. Of the two matches, this is the clean sheet opportunity. The second match is the Manchester Derby that typically features more goals than saves and is not the best value for a defender.
Arsenal are another team that will have two games but both come with hesitation. Their first match of the week is a trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea. Only two teams have been stingier at home than Chelsea, which does not bode well for Arsenal’s attacking players. Other than the points they get from being on the pitch, you may have to wait until their matchup with Swansea City to get much return. And even then, can you seriously rely on any of them to be a top option? A good line to consider for fantasy strikers is whether or not they are involved in at least 40 percent of their team's goals. Players like Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Loic Remy, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Romelu Lukaku all find themselves above the 40 percent line and should be considered reliable. Arsenal's Olivier Giroud sits below the line, along with players like Wilfried Bony and Jay Rodriguez. From a reliability standpoint, it makes it tough to justify Giroud falling in the top-five for cost. Combine that with the fact that you’re really only banking on one game's worth of performance and it may be better to consider some cheaper options that could provide more value.
With all this in mind, here are the Bargain Bin players for Gameweek 31.
Tim Howard will get two opportunities at clean sheets, and both have a high probability of happening. The first match comes at home against Swansea City. The Swans average less than one goal per away match and rank 19th out of the 20 Premier League teams in shot accuracy on the road. The low number of shots on target should make for an easy day for Howard. In their second match of the week, Howard and Everton will travel to St. James’ Park to take on Newcastle. This will likely be a Newcastle side that will also be without Remy, their starting striker this season. In the six matches the Magpies have played without him, they have scored zero goals. The combination of the two matches gives Howard a great opportunity to rack up the fantasy points.
Glen Johnson has returned to the Liverpool lineup just in time to feature during their double gameweek. He returned at the end of February from an ankle injury that forced him to miss four matches for the Reds, and has promptly helped the backline keep two clean sheet in their last three matches. In fact, Johnson has been a steadying force in the Liverpool defense. In matches he has played, Liverpool have kept a clean sheet 35 percent of the time. That number drops to 11 percent in matches when Johnson is forced to be an observer. Liverpool’s two matches this gameweek come against Cardiff and Sunderland, who rank 19th and 17th, respectively, in goals scored this season. The best chance Liverpool has to allowing a goal comes from their own players (I'm looking at you, Martin Skrtel!).
Aleksander Kolarov is a bit of a stretch seeing as he has only started 15 matches this season. However, with Manchester City being down a defender due to the Kompany suspension, Kolarov is an option to get the start. And that start will come at home against lowly Fulham. Against top-10 home defenses, Fulham have failed to score in five out of the eight matches they have played. In addition, no team has allowed opposing defenders to score more goals than Fulham (10) and no defender likes to take more shots than Kolarov. Even with the weak matchup against Manchester United later in the week, Kolarov has the potential to score enough against Fulham to make him worthwhile.
Gareth Barry looks to be fine ahead of Saturday’s match against Swansea City. Currently ranked second on Everton with four assists, Barry has become a great facilitator of the Everton attack. In addition, he has netted two goals despite only putting four shots on target. Matchups against Swansea City and Newcastle should provide Barry and Everton plenty of opportunities to score. Both teams will be without regulars in their back line, which should open it up a bit for the Everton attack.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may seem a bet perplexing after the discussion about Arsenal above. He is a bit of a reach since he has only started four matches for the Gunners this season. However, in those four matches, Oxlade-Chamberlain has totaled two goals and two assists. With the long list of injured Arsenal midfielders, Chamberlain has a good chance to see himself in the Starting XI for both matches in Gameweek 31. The first match against Chelsea is not very attractive, but the home match against Swansea City could provide Chamberlain an opportunity to pick up valuable fantasy points.
Andy Carroll has once again returned to the West Ham lineup. He started the season by missing time with a foot injury and missed additional time after picking up a red card. He has returned for the last two West Ham matches and has already chipped in a goal. In fact, we talked earlier about the 40 percent threshold for reliable attackers, and Carroll actually has been a part of 66 percent of his team’s goals in matches he has played. Sure, that number may be inflated a little due to a small sample size, but he has been around 40 percent in previous seasons and he does play a major role in the West Ham attack. Is the 66 percent sustainable? Probably not, but 40 percent is very realistic. And with home matches against Manchester United and Hull City, Carroll has a good opportunity to add to his scoring totals.
Nikica Jelavic falls right at 38 percent, just like Giroud, but he can be owned at a fraction of the cost. In addition, Jelavic will have better matchups this gameweek. First up is West Bromwich Albion, which rank 16th in away goals allowed this season. In fact, the Baggies have allowed an average of 2.4 goals in their last five road games. After the West Brom match is a trip to Boleyn Ground to take on the Hammers. Despite being on the road, Jelavic should have another good opportunity to score against a West Ham squad that ranks 16th in goals allowed in home matches. In their last five home matches, West Ham have surrendered an average of two goals.