We look to the waiver wire and free agent pool each week to highlight some under-the-radar players who could be a short-term or even long-term solution for your Fantrax EPL fantasy teams. Our Sleepers XI provides fantasy managers with a full squad of differential picks, and some high upside options to plug in if they are in the starting lineup. Don't sleep on these underappreciated gems as you put together your roster for Gameweek 19!
We'll be focusing on players that will bring us not only attacking returns or clean sheets, but also those players that score Ghost Points in the sophisticated and statistics based Fantrax Scoring System!
Fantasy EPL Gameweek 19 Sleepers XI
For this article, we use the % rostered from Fantrax. Our only rule is that each player we highlight is required to be rostered in 60% of leagues or less at the time of writing. Therefore there's a good chance some of these players will be free agents in your Fantrax Draft League! As always, we'll take form, fixtures, projected points, and a healthy dose of intuition into account to make our selections. Additionally, I've included the rostership percentage from the "Big 3" -- the twenty 12-team divisions that comprise the ultra-competitive DraftPL Community League and International Genie League, as well as the eight equally competitive 10-team divisions in the Discord Super League -- to provide some additional context for who is likely to be available and where you might want to follow the wisdom of the crowd.
Despite a severe underperformance in midfield (only 9 points from the 4 players selected), the Gameweek 18 Sleepers XI squad still performed above average with a score of 72.75 points. Emerson Royal (15.75), Timothy Castagne (13.25), Jean-Philippe Mateta (11.5) and Lyle Foster (11) led the way with double-digit returns. That haul brings the season total up to 1215.75 points, ever so slightly increasing the weekly average to 67.5. There's no rest for the wicked, with the next round of matches set to begin on Tuesday. As such, this week's rationale will be somewhat abbreviated to make sure you have time to read and make adjustments before the deadline.
The Sleepers XI table below includes a full team of Starters, as well as 5 Reserves -- high-upside players with some question marks around whether or not they'll start in Gameweek 19. Keep an eye out when lineups drop and pick them up if you see them starting and need to fill a spot on your roster. Read on below for the rationale behind each of the Starter selections.
Wes Foderingham (G, Sheffield United v. Luton)
If Gameweek 18 taught us anything, it's that this isn't Paul Heckingbottom's Sheffield United anymore. Chris Wilder has come in and added some much-needed sharpness to this Blades side, and they'll look at the weekend's fixture against Luton as a huge opportunity to put some points on the board as they attempt to escape the relegation zone. Foderingham, to his credit, has been one of the few Blades worth rostering for most of the first half of this campaign. His shot-stopping ability means he's often able to offset the negative points from conceding and frequently faces enough shots to put up decent to good fantasy scores. With the improved performances he may end up facing fewer shots, but that also comes with an increased potential for clean sheets. Luton haven't been the best travelers this season, so a rare shutout could be a possibility.
Marcos Senesi (D, Bournemouth v. Fulham)
Bournemouth are on an incredible run of form at the moment and have shot up the table to 12th place, level on points with Chelsea and Wolves. Senesi has been one of the key players across that run, and has come through with a massive points haul so far in December. Not only is the Argentine center back helping his team to earn more clean sheets, he's also been a major factor in the attack from set pieces. He scored against Crystal Palace and Manchester United, then turned provider against Nottingham Forest last time out, recording an assist and 3 key passes. It doesn't seem like this type of production should be sustainable, but it's hard to bet against a player and a team in this type of form.
Nathan Collins (D, Brentford v. Wolves)
Now that Brentford's blank gameweek is out of the way, there will likely be a handful of decent to good fantasy assets available for you to pick up. The best of the bunch like Pinnock and the soon-to-return Toney won't have been dropped, but someone like Collins may have. The former Wolves and Burnley center back has arguably been a better real-life performer for the Bees than he has for fantasy purposes, but a run of three consecutive double-digit scores in the lead-up to the November international break showcases his potential. Wolves have been a far better side at Molineux than on their travels. Thomas Frank will likely view this as an opportunity to play 4-at-the-back, a scenario that typically yields more opportunities for the center backs to pick up ghost points from aerial duels than when they share the workload among three central defenders.
Neco Williams (D, Nottingham Forest @ Newcastle)
It may seem strange to see a recommendation for a defender facing Newcastle in a match at St. James' Park, and you could be forgiven for fading Forest players in this match given recent results. That said, Williams just put in one of the best ghosting performances of the season in the 3-2 defeat to Bournemouth in GW18, delivering 13.75 points despite being on the pitch for all three goals scored against his side. The Welsh wingback has started three straight matches in the absence of Serge Aurier and has performed well in each of them. With his Ivorian teammate still sidelined, Williams has another opportunity to convince new manager Nuno Espirito Santo that he deserves the role long-term. In the short-term, it's hard to argue against his points production and it could be a sign of things to come as wingbacks were especially valuable fantasy assets when Nuno was in charge at Wolves.
Rayan Ait-Nouri (D, Wolves @ Brentford)
Speaking of Wolves and wingbacks, Ait-Nouri returned to the starting lineup against Chelsea after an ankle injury and didn't look like he'd skipped a beat. He was a bit fortunate to be subbed off before Christopher Nkunku scored in stoppage time, so take his 12.25 points with a grain of salt. Still, there's plenty of potential to buy into if you take a look through his recent starts, particularly the match against Tottenham last month where he managed 4 key passes and 5 successful dribbles. If he can add the end-product to his game, RAN will be a fantasy stud. Until then, he's not a bad option to take a punt on if you're looking for upside potential. Just know that his floor is pretty low if he's not playing at his best.
Alex Scott (M, Bournemouth v. Fulham)
With the tight turnaround between games, rotation is almost certainly going to come into play either this gameweek or next (potentially both), so there will likely be some surprise starters and some surprise omissions from starting lineups. Scott isn't currently predicted to start, likely due to match fitness on his return from a lengthy injury layoff. That said, he came off the bench to replace Lewis Cook, who picked up an injury of his own in the match against Nottingham Forest. Scott was taken off before full time, which suggests he wasn't quite ready to go more than 45 minutes. Alternatively, it could be that Andoni Iraola wanted to preserve him for the match against Fulham. You'll definitely be taking a risk by picking him up if you need a starter this week, but it's worth mentioning that Scott dominated set pieces when he broke into the Cherries lineup the first time around, so there's potential for him to be a long-term hold if you have the space on your roster to accommodate another sub appearance this week.
Christian Norgaard (M, Brentford v. Wolves)
Another Brentford player that may have been reluctantly dropped prior to their blank gameweek, Norgaard is one of those Steady Eddie type fantasy players that's good to have on your roster this time of year. The Danish central midfielder is a nailed-on starter for Thomas Frank and is generally good for 5-10 points, with the occasional attacking return to keep him just above streamer level in most leagues. In leagues where midfielders are hard to come by, Norgaard is a great safety net to fall back on if your more volatile or rotation-prone players miss out. If you're trying to make up ground, though, you'd be better served looking for a player that offers a higher points ceiling.
Gustavo Hamer (M, Sheffield United v. Luton)
After starting every match since his arrival from Coventry City, Hamer was surprisingly left out of the starting lineup for the match against Aston Villa. Whether it was just a much-needed rest or an indication of him losing his spot in the starting lineup is up for debate, but the Brazilian did make a very strong case for his reinstatement to the first eleven by providing the assist for Cameron Archer's late goal that nearly earned the Blades a shock victory. Hamer has taken more than half of his team's set pieces this season, which is a key source of his points. Hamer had moved into droppable territory after a string of poor scores in October and November, but he's got the potential to break out of streamer territory if he maintains or increases his share of dead ball situations. It's worth monitoring the split between him and Oli Norwood this week if both are in the starting lineup, as it will offer some clues into Chris Wilder's thinking moving forward.
Ryan Gravenberch (M, Liverpool @ Burnley)
Rotation is a very strong likelihood in the Liverpool engine room after their all-action contest against Arsenal over the weekend. Gravenberch was a substitute in the top-of-the-table clash after suffering from DOMS in the match against Manchester United in GW17. Following some much-needed rest in the Europa League and the majority of the match against the Gunners, the Dutch midfielder could be in line to return to the starting lineup at Turf Moor. He's shown glimpses of his fantasy potential so far (8 points against Everton, 10.5 against Luton and 7 against United, all in less than 90 minutes), but he's so far failed to replicate his form from the Europa League where he's scored twice and assisted once in just five matches. He could take advantage of the fact that Burnley have allowed nearly 10 points to opposition midfielders in front of their home fans this season. He also may be a candidate for an early substitution if he's not fully recovered, so factor in the minutes risk when deciding whether to pick him up.
Chiedoze Ogbene (F, Luton @ Sheffield United)
Luton have performed admirably through their challenging fixture run that saw them face Arsenal, Man City, Bournemouth and Newcastle in consecutive matches. Ogbene has only played a small part over this run due to an injury, so it's possible that Rob Jones sticks with what has worked well in recent weeks and keeps the Irish winger confined to a role as an impact sub. That said, Andros Townsend could probably use a rest and Jacob Brown played the full 90 in the draining match against the Magpies. Prior to his injury, Ogbene had been a mainstay in the starting lineup and scored well, pretty consistently delivering scores in the 7-10 point range. He's another selection that's not projected to start at the moment, but he'll definitely be pushing for inclusion and could help break down an improved Sheffield United defensive unit.
Chris Wood (F, Nottingham Forest @ Newcastle)
I'll be the first to admit that I'd rather play Reserve forwards Sinisterra and Madueke in their respective matches if they're in the starting lineup this gameweek, but if you're looking for a bit more certainty and don't want to play the waiting game, Wood should get the nod to start again in the early kickoff against Newcastle on Tuesday. The New Zealander came through with a goal and assist on the way to 31 points against Bournemouth, his second 30+ pointer of the season. Newcastle's backline should be far more difficult to breach in front of the Geordie faithful, but Wood is a player who tends to pick up points over the course of a match and should be able to offer a solid floor to build from. If he can get on the scoresheet again, all the better.
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