Saturday, January 24, 2009

Man United

I started this post saying how the FA Cup weekend offers little guidance as to fantasy tips and only serves as a series of games in which our players get injured. However, I then tuned into the late kick off at Old Trafford in time to see Berbatov look incredibly dangerous and Ronaldo impotent once more. I have previously stated my recommendation to hold two United defenders over the next 5-6 weeks which means I only have room for one of these men in the side.

I, along with many others, have held Ronaldo all season, who despite being the 5th top points scorer, has failed to justify his lofty price tag. My original strategy was to hold him until at least the two double gameweeks pass, but I am now leaning towards Berbatov to capitalise on this scheduling anomaly. Berbatov's cup goal today gives him 4 goals in 5 along with 5 bonus points in his last 4 premier league outings. Ronaldo on the other hand hasn't scored in the league since 15 November.

Berbatov is himself rather pricey at 9.7m, 1.6m more than my most expensive striker - Defoe. However, selling Ronaldo frees up at least 2.6m and that's assuming I go with the next most expensive option (Gerrard). This would allow my defense to be significantly upgraded to include 2 United regulars along with say a Liverpool and Arsenal defender.

One of the issues that will define the next few weeks is who will best rested by the big teams due to the Champions League. Ronaldo has played every league game he has been available for, and has only been rested once in the Champions League when qualification was already assured. Berbatov's place in the side has been less guaranteed, which may actually serve him well going forward as fatigue is unlikely to play a factor. With Rooney unable to stay fit and Tevez not scoring, Berbatov looks like he'll play in the lion's share of games.

How are you guys going to play your United players? Is everyone going with two defenders or do you think their run must end soon? Our you still loyal to Ronaldo? Let me know your thoughts.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gameweek 22 Diary

14:00 The big early story of the day (aside from all the Kaka drama) is that Didier Drogba has been left out of the Chelsea squad. With two weeks remaining in the transfer window, what's the betting the Ivorian won't be wearing blue by the end of January. I'd strongly suggest getting rid of Drogba is anyone stills owns him as even if he stays his first team place is a long from being guaranteed.

14:10 For those who took a gamble on the uber-cheap Johnny Evans, it has been confirmed that he has arrived at the Reebok along with Tevez, though word on their fitness tests is yet to surface.

14:12 Lets go round the grounds and maybe throw a few predictions out there. Six 3pm games today, with Hull-Arsenal following on at 5:30.

Bolton - United. Bolton have been pretty tight at home conceding 11 in 10 tough have only managed 8 goals. When you welcome United in their current form you know are going to need to score and with the Reds shooting for a 10th straight clean sheet, I'm afraid I can only see this one going one way. Bolton did win this 1-0 last year but that was when they had the class of Anelka to score from nothing. I'll take 2-0 to United with goals from Ronaldo and Carrick.

Chelsea - Stoke. Chelsea's defensive woes have been well documented but Stoke have scored just 6 away from the Brittania this season, while Chelsea have 17 goals at home. Stoke may nick one if Chelsea can't handle the set pieces but I'd punt for a clean sheet and a couple of goals for Chelsea. In fact I'll go with 3-0 with goals from Lampard, Anelka and Ballack.

Blackburn - Newcastle. Two somewhat unpredictable sides meet here with the added fire of Big Sam facing the club at which his impressive reputation took a huge knock. Newcastle aren't great away and Blackburn aren't great at home so I can see a close one here with perhaps a draw coming out in the end. 1-1 with goals from Roberts and Guthrie.

Man City - Wigan. City are the team on everyone's tongue at the moment, and let me take the opportunity to say that I think the impact of the Kaka transfer is being overblown and won't see football collapsing around us. Yes its alot of money but was so 30m for Ferdinand, Veron and Rooney in back to back seasons. City aren't running up debt (which is dangerous) and the higher prices will likely only affect them. After all, Bill Gates can afford anything he wants but that doesn't mean we all have to pay $8m for a cheeseburger. Anyway, I digress so onto the game. I really like Wigan's side though it looks like Palacious will miss out after almost agreeing his move to Spurs. City have scored 24 at home though Wigan have been relatively tough away from home. I can see Robinho, fresh from his injury, being too much for Wigan though and City will take this one 2-1 with goals from that man Robinho (2) and Heskey.

Sunderland - Villa. Sunderland have been much better under Sbragia but I see Villa having too much here. Sunderland just don't have the pace to deal with Agbonlahor and Young. 2-0 Villa with goals from Milner and Agbonlahor.

West Brom - Boro. Surely this game has almost zero fantasy impact. Boro have just 8 road goals this season and have shipped 15. West Brom are decent at home and I think they might sneal this one 1-0 with a lone goal for Roman Bednar.

14:29 Team news from the Reebok and Johnny Evans and Tevez have both been passed fit to take the field for United, who go top with three points. O'Shea steps in at left back for Evra, and Ronaldo, Anderson, Fletcher and Carrick make up the midifield. For Bolton, fantasy favourite (and legend) Steinsson returns, as does Cahill which will certainly sure up the Wanderers defense. Ariza Makukula (27) makes his debut after sealing his move just in time from Benfica. The Congoloese big man is 6'3 and had a decent scoring record back at Salamanca though has flattered to deceive at both Sevilla and Benfica in recent years.

14:34 No Laursen for Villa as Cuellar plays centre back alongside Davies. I wasn't aware he was injured so apologies if you've played him this week. That will hurt many players as Laursen is held by around 25% of all managers.

14:39 Chelsea welcome back Carvalho after he was rested against Southend which gives them their first choice back four. Malouda, Kalou and Anelka will provide the attacking flair with Lampard, Ballack and Mikel behind them in midfield.

14:40 Santa Cruz makes the banch for Blackburn but its McCarthy and Roberts to start. Carroll will play alongside Owen upfront for the Magpies.

15:02 John Terry is out for Chelsea after injuring himself in the warm up. Massive blow for Scolari as things go from bad to worse for Chelsea; Alex comes in.

15:03 In what must be record for me this season, I have 8 players all in action at once. I am VERY excited and also a bit nervous, I can feel Ashwin coming for me.

15:06 GOAL First goal of the afternoon goes to West Brom of all teams and its through Chris Brunt. Probably not going to have a massive fantasy impact that one!

15:08 Early chance from Stoke as Chelsea fail to defend the set piece again. At the Hawthorns, Boro almost hit straight back but instead hit the woodwork. Alves should have scored.

15:13 Villa starting to control the game at the Stadium of Light and Young misses by inches, gutted. Meanwhile at the Reebok, United are enjoying decent possession though have yet to create any real chances.

15:14 GOAL Seconds after Young misses its Sunderland who hit straight back and score through Danny Collins. That will make all those Laursen owners feel better, though not us Luke Young owners.

15:27 Not a great deal going on and my excitement for a huge Saturday score has all but drained away. I absolutely need United and Chelsea clean sheets and hopefully some phantom bonus points from Lamps and Ronaldo.

15:36 Good save from Jaaskelainen to deny Ronaldo. That's their best chance so far today.

15:40 Still just 2 goals in 40 minutes and somehow I've managed to lose a clean sheet already (Young). I can't begin to describe my dissapointment. I was hoping for big games from Lampard and Ronaldo today but they seem to have mustered one shot between them. Bring on Kaka.

15:44 Jussi denies Ronaldo again, this time from a free kick. Meanwhile, Young shoots wide at Sunderland. My misery continues.

15:46 Yet another save from Jaaskelainen and the Finn looks like he's heading towards a three pointer here. This time it was Anderson to test the keeper. Bolton will do well to hold on until half time here.

15:48 Half times come around the country and I'm glad to put that 45 minutes behind us. Surely it will get better in the second half.

16:05 If this is a sign of things to come then I think I will move Defoe on, get a cheap replacement and then have a back four and keeper made up of United, Liverpool and Chelsea players. Defense all the way so far today.

16:10 Great save by Given from a McCarthy free kick. Newcastle the better side in the first half so that would have been a bit harsh.

16:12 GOAL City take the lead through Zabaleta who has been playing in midfield today. Good strike by all accounts too. Not much fantasy impact there again though: Zabaleta (0.1%), Collins (0.6%) and Brunt (0.2%) are our goalscorers today.

16:14 City fans' smiles are turned to frowns as Dunne gets his marching orders for kicking out at Amr Zaki. Idiotic reaction from the centre back. Can Wigan capitalise?

16:16 Best chance of the day for Bolton as Davies misses by inches. Are things starting to heat up?

16:16 GOAL 2-0 at the Hawthorns and more misery for Boro. Koren's shot clips off Fortune who looked to be offside. Massive win for the Baggies if he can hang on here. Debut goal for Fortune assuming they give it to him.

16:17 Great ball from Carrick to Ronaldo who crosses to Fletcher who inexplicably goes for the volley rather than head it.

16:18 Penalty to Blackburn, and the commentators suggest it is harsh. Great chance for Rovers to take the lead, probably through McCarthy? Converted for the GOAL. That makes me feel better for benching Bassong.

16:19 GOAL Villa equalise at the Stadium of Light through James Milner, one man I did tip to score this week. Reports suggest it has a suspicion of offside about it.

16:24 GOAL Stoke take the lead at Stamford Bridge! Delap with the goal for the Potters and Chelsea are in disarray.

16:25 GOAL Roberts gets the second for Blackburn, another man tipped for success this week. The bargain Rovers striker looks like a viable option in the absence of Santa Cruz.

16:26 Digard sent off at the Hawthorns for a two footed challenge. Nightmare for Boro.

16:29 Scholes and Giggs on to try and change the game at the Reebok. Not particularly inspiring subs, where has United's depth gone? At the Hawthorns, Robert Koren gets his second and Boro are a disaster. That puts Spurs bottom of the Premier League.

16:32 Red card for Ashley Young! My nightmare continues.

16:35 United throwing everything at Bolton and perhaps leaving themself a bit exposed. Surely the deadlock will be broken here by someone.

16:39 Penalty to Villa. If only Young was still on! Agbonlahor tackled from behind but outside the box.

16:40 GOAL Barry converts the penalty, and that will put Villa above Chelsea and just one point behind United.

16:41 Red card for Nicky Butt at Ewood. I'd avoid Kinnear's post match interview if you don't like bad language.

16:43 Zaki misses an open net from one yard! I think my players are cursed this week.

16:44 GOAL Blackburn 3-0 through Roberts again. Pedersen with the assist. Roberts is on my watch list.

16:45 Bolton so close to stealing it at the Reebok through a chance from Kevin Davies.

16:48 GOAL United steal the game with a goal from Berbatov. Absolutely gutted. That puts United top as things stand.

16:51 GOAL Belletti equalises for Chelsea in the last minute.

16:52 All over at the Reebok and thats a record 10 straight clean sheets for United. Its also all over at Ewood Park. Meanwhile Chelsea throw everything forward in search of a winner.

16:54 Villa go 3rd as its all over at the Stadium of Light. Great result for Martin O'Neil's men. City have also won despite being down to 10 men for a long period of the game.

16:56 GOAL Lampard gets a dramatic winner for Chelsea. An incredible second half of Premier League football. It might be miserable fantasy day but what a great 45 minutes that was. Lampard's shot is deflected of Ballack and I'm praying the Englishman gets that one. Villa lose their 3rd position as Chelsea move back up.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Weekly Transfers

I've decided to spend 4 points this week and bring in Carvalho and O'Shea for Agger and Evra. I hate to give up the 4 points but with two players unlikely to play (Agger) and out (Evra) I need to ring the changes. O'Shea is pretty much guaranteed a game with United suffering through so many defensive injuries and Carvalho is a great play for the next two weeks (Stoke and Boro at home).
After that I plan to move O'Shea out for Skrtel and probably Carvalho for Evra. I will also consider van der Sar for Reina to load up United players as they hit their typical United late season form.

Who are you guys moving in and out this week? Who do you like over the coming weeks? I will be doing my first running diary in a while tomorrow so please log on as we track our teams once more.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

100 million dollar man (at least!)

Surely it can't be true: Kaka playing in Manchester (and not in red). With the initial ridicule at the audacity of the bid fading, it now seems that a bid has been made and Kaka may even consider the move. Kaka rates as one of the top 5 players in the world and for me is second behind Messi. The thought of him playing in the premiership is excellent and my intrigue as to his potential fantasy impact is off the charts.
True, City have been up and down this year but they have still managed to supply the 4th best striker (Robinho) and 6th best midfielder (Ireland). Kaka will surely make a new big four (joining Ronaldo, Lampard and Gerrard as elite midfield assets. Where his price will fall will dictate for me how quickly I pick him up should he make the move to Eastlands. Anything around 9 - 10m makes him an instant buy. At 11m I would probably advise holding off to see how quickly he can adapt to the league. Although, with Chelsea in a bit of a slump and Ronaldo still not firing on all cylinders, I would consider moving Lampard or Ronaldo on if Kaka looks to hit the ground running.

What do you guys think? Will you be on the Kaka bandwagon should be join? Are any other transfers exciting you?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mixed Doubles

We all knew about United's double gameweek this week, but with two games postponed this week four more teams will enjoy double gameweeks over the coming weeks (along with United and Fulham who play their rearranged game from months ago).
Although all double gameweeks carry value, some are clearly more valuable than others. For example, United's week 25 schedule sees them travel to West Ham and entertain Fulham. Whilst Fulham have improved greatly this season United should be able to see off both these opponents and have a great chance to notch two clean sheet and score maybe 3, 4 or even goals.
Blackburn on the other hand will likely face a tougher double as they travel to Fulham and could see United, Arsenal, Liverpool or Everton as their second game (who they face between weeks 26 and 32).
Until the fixture list is reset is isn't worth taking too many gambles now, but what is for sure is that United are a great play in week 25 and Fulham players could be very valuable if they face two double gameweeks in the space of a month.
A quick look at the team sheets give some suggestions at who might capitalise both from this schedule quirk:

Man United
Okay, so there's nothing new here, I've probably considered the entire United team at some point this season. However, some players do look likelier than others to capitalise.
United have eight (yes eight) straight clean sheets during a run which featured Chelsea and Villa alongside some easier opponents. With Bolton, West Brom and Everton on the horizon before the double week I recommend (and will be moving towards) having two United defenders if your budget stretches. Evra presents the best value Vidic has the highest PPMS, though could be hard to fit in at 7.5m. Therefore Evra is probably the best choice as he costs just 6.3m Van der Sar is also a great option at just 5.9m. Ferdinand is an injury risk right now and the right back position is still too uncertain. If Ferdinand is declared unfit, feel free to pounce on the bargain Evans (4.3m) who has played the last three.
Elsewhere, Ronaldo looked dangerous (about time) and is a must captain for the next few weeks for me. With Carrick benched the midfield still doesn't offer too many fantasy options and I still feel Rooney and Berbatov are a touch expensive and could be up for rotation as the Champions League approaches.

Fulham
Mark Schwarzer is currently the best value player in the whole game (1.065 PPMS) and is a legitimate every week starter from now on. The same can probably be said for Paintsil, Hughes, Konchesky and Hangeland. One note of caution here is that Fulham's run in is very tricky and they face no less than 8 red light games in their last 12. My advice would therefore be to add one or two Fulham players to capitalise on their double-double but not to move your squad to three of them. It will be too hard to get rid of them by the time the tough run comes and the clean sheets surely become harder to find.
Elsewhere, Bullard remains good fantasy value, though inconsistency elsewhere have made it hard to pick many of his teammates. Murhpy and Davies are decent rotation options and look set to play 90 mins every week over the coming games. Zamora is very cheap and makes a good bench player in that you know he will at least play. However, his goal tally is poor and he shouldn't be considered as a weekly starter even for those with budget strike forces.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Transfer Window Fantasy Impact

One caveat before I start, you may find similar articles like this around, but rest assured I am not plagiarising, its just that there are limited issues to discuss during bye week. We don't restrict sports writers to one article about the Super Bowl do we!
So, anyway, lets look at the transfers/rumours and assess the fantasy impact we might see from the fallout:

Jermaine Defoe to Tottenham
This one's a done deal and it sees Defoe re-united (again) with Harry Redknapp. I was astounded to read that the little forward notched 64 goals in 177 games whilst at the Lane, especially when considering he was considered third choice behind Keane and Berbatov for most of that time. I am a Defoe owner, and was set to dump him this week until this story started to break. Now I am totally unsure as to what lies in store for Defoe. Spurs have nice attacking fixtures over the next 7 games including 3 green light games. Whether Defoe will play or not depends on any issues with him resigning for the same club within a 12 month period, although it is not anticipated this will affect his ability to play this week at Wigan. Defoe has an excellent record in his debut (is this even a debut?) and is a good play this week. He then faces Pompey in what looks like a lock for him to either score or get injured.
In short, Defoe remains a solid mid range striker but I would not be selling Agbonlahor for him at this point. I would say he represents better than Owen (8.5) and Crouch (8.0M) though. If he hits the ground running, then this streaky striker may be worth a buy in the coming weeks but for now I would hold off unless you already own him.

Wayne Bridge to Man City
I am a big fan of Bridge and always felt he was unfortunate to constantly ride the bench at Chelsea. At 5m he is the cheapest of the first choice back four (Bridge, Richards, Dunne, Zabaleta) assuming he displaces Garrido and Ball who have shared time this season. Anytime a defender is cheaper than his team mates it is a potential bargain, though City's 14th ranked defense is nothing to get too excited about (neither was shipping 3 to lowly Nottm Forrest). Weeks 26 to 31 are a nightmare for City so unless you plan to get Bridge now then dump him in 5 weeks I would hold off until after this period which sees the Blues play Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Villa).

Lassana Diarra to Real Madrid
Obviously
the only impact here is that anyone who owns him should get rid. I would add most Pompey players to that list as the club looks like one in decline following the sale of their two best players.

Andrei Arshavin to Arsenal
For another former Spurs target it looks like it may be their North London rivals who will steal his signature. The Russian said that he "hopes the clubs can come to an agreement" although talk of £20m may scare away Arsenal. Wenger has been pretty active in past windows though, splashing cash on Reyes, Walcott and Adebayour in the past. My concern with Arshavin is how he fits in at Arsenal in that he likely won't displace Van Persie or Adebayour in a forward role and the midfield looks very light with him and one of their suspect defensive players, and even then this would only be until Cesc returns. Of course, his affect on the Arsenal team does not matter to us fantasy players who would love to see plenty of 3-3 draws. However, we may see his attacking hampered by potential defensive duties (see Luka Modric) which could limit his impact. I could see him being valued at around 8m, just ahead of Rosicky and Nasri. There aren't that many great options in this bracket and therefore he is a very high risk/decent reward type of player for those looking for someone a bit different. As with Defoe, if he does make the jump to North London I would give it a couple of weeks before jumping on the bandwagon.

Emile Heskey to Aston Villa/Liverpool
Firstly, I cannot see Heskey back at Anfield in a million years though he would make sense as a replacement for Carew who could be gone for the season. Villa lack that target when Carew is out and Heskey, who will be cheap as his contract runs out soon, could be a decent option. At 6.5m Heskey would be good value for a striker at one of the big 5 clubs, though whether he would get 90 minutes every week would encourage me to rate the likes of Kevin Davies and Marlon King slightly higher. In short, Heskey would be playing on a better team but would lose his 90 minute man status and see his chance of bonus points all but wiped out (try competing with bonus magnets Laursen, Young and Agbonlahor every week).

Roque Santa Cruz to Man City
Santa Cruz was a revelation last year but has been disappointing this term due to poor support play, a loss of form and injury. Whilst City are not fairing well in the league, they are certainly scoring goals (38 in 20, second only to Chelsea). The potential partnership with Robinho looks very tasty and at 8.5 he would represent good value as a mid range option. City's fixtures aren't the best as they face just one green light game in the next 9 though City have shown they can score against anyone at home. I think Santa Cruz's value would rise with this move and as he is owned by just 4.6% players he would initially be a differentiator, and then be a license to print money as other players push his price up to close to 9m.

Denilson to Bolton
This one is close to my heart as one of my old favourites could join my club who are in dire need of some flair. So long as he isn't rated at over 6m I think the Brazilian could be a useful addition to a fantasy team, who's skills and free kicks could earn him the odd goal and bonus point. The question will be his fitness so I would again stay away from this initially though certainly add the former most expensive player to your watch list.

Stuart Downing to Tottenham
I am not a massive fan of Downing and I think his high value is a little bit due to the fact he is a left footed Englishman. Spurs do need a left sided player and Downing is a decent fit, though quite who he will cross to is another question (Defoe isn't well known for his heading ability and Redknapp isn't a huge fan of Pavlyuchenko by all accounts). My concern with Downing is the fact that other English wingers have gone there only to fail to reproduce the form that got them their big move (see Bentley and Lennon). For me there is no way Downing is worth 6.8m even if the move goes through. With the likes of Valencia, Richardson, Malbranque and Matty Taylor all costing less, it seems you will be paying the English premium too, just as Spurs look likely to do.

Matthew Upson to Aston Villa
This one is intriguing as I am not totally sure who Upson will replace. Curtis Davies seems the likely choice though Upson has been known to feature at left back which could threaten Cuellar and Shorey. Villa already have the league's 6th best defense and Upson would upgrade whichever position he played. At 4.9m he is less than Laursen and Cuellar, though more than Shorey and Young. His 10 bonus points this season, along with his two assists would make him a good buy though if this one goes through. West Ham's defense would be severely downgraded and I would divest Green, Neill and co if Upson moves on.

Scott Parker to Man City
Parker is not a big fantasy impact player, though at 4.8m would represent tremendous bench value as a starter in the centre of the second best attack in the league. Parker has a PPMS of 0.555 which isn't too bad and would almost certainly improve in a team that has scored 60% more goals than West Ham. Parker would not be playing an advanced role, though with Kompany holding the fort he would be allowed to advance forward at some point. In short, I like Parker as a player and as a very good sub should be move to City.

Any more transfer news out there? Who are you most hoping changes teams and which teams will be the winners of the window? Let me know what you think