Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bonus Point Analysis

I thought it might be useful to do a bit of analysis on how bonus points are awarded with a hope of getting a higher return on these valuable extras available each week.

First then, let's look at the facts so far, through 7 weeks of the new season:
  • 92% of bonus points are awarded to players from the winning side,
  • 51% of bonus points are awarded to players who score a goal during the week,
  • The top 5 strikers account for 36% of all points awarded to forwards. The top 5 midfielders account for just 13% of midfield points,
  • 47% of all bonus points awarded to midfielders have been given to players who cost 6m or less. This figure is only 24% for strikers,
  • Goalkeepers account for just 4% of bonus points awarded and Ben Foster is the only 'keeper to score any points (2) from the big four sides,
  • 32% of all defenders' bonus points have been given to a defender that scored that day,
  • The 'big five' teams (including City) account for 38% of all bonus points awarded; including 44% of all forward points and 41% of midfield points.
  • British and Irish players accounted for 58% of all bonus points awarded.
In some ways these stats just confirm what we thought we knew: players from the big four or five teams score more points. No surprise there. They have the most money and the best players so no wonder they get rewarded with the points each week. However, I think the key point is that if you're picking players from a team that will lose more often than not you are effectively limiting yourself to scoring points in one less category than other managers.

This really brings into question the 'big fish small pond' strategy I have championed in the past, as while players like Murphy (3), Lawrence (0), Hunt (0), Malbranque (0) and Jarvis (0) may well be the driving force behind their teams play, they are not being rewarded in the bonus point category. Now while there are exceptions to be found, such as Cattermole (6) and Dunn (7), it seems that these two are very much the exception rather than the rule.

I have mentioned previously that bonus points awarded to forwards are less deviated than those given to midfielders, and this trend is continuing through week 7. No less than 51 midfielders have been awarded bonus points, while just 29 strikers have been given the weekly nod from the pundits. Furthermore, the top 5 strikers account for a staggering 36% of all forward points, while the top 5 midfielders have scored just 13% of the midfield total. When reading this alongside the fact that 51% of all points are awarded to players that score, it looks to be increasingly likely that the likes of Rooney and Drogba will lead the league in bonus points this year ahead of previous champions Lampard and Gerrard.

The final point about 58% of all points going to British and Irish players confirms something that I have considered true for some time; that the pundits favour the domestic players. This won't stop Drogba getting the points each week but in a head to head contest between, say, Ashley Young and El-Hadj Diouf the points might go to the Englishman based on some underlying bias. I wouldn't let this point overly concern me when picking my team as alot of the best players are foreign and you'd be crazy to limit yourself based on nationality. However, if you are deciding between two closely ranked players such as Ashley Cole and Bosingwa or Milner and Denilson, it might be worth a thought.

As always I look forward to hearing your thoughts so please post below or tweet any comments.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gameweek 7 Wrap-up

Firstly, apologies if anyone used my awful defensive rankings to select their team this week. There were only four clean sheets for the week and none of them were in my top five (though City are yet to play). My captain rankings fared slightly better ranking backing third top scorer Torres, though this was hardly rocket science with his home game to Hull. I am therefore working on new ways to evaluate these predictions to try and do better in the future.

A few trends continue to present themselves this season, as discussed below:

Year of the striker
Without wishing to sound like a broken record, the strategy of picking top scorers paid dividends again this week with Torres (17 points), Van Persie (9), Drogba (6), Berbatov (8) and Keane (21) all having productive weeks. Of strikers valued at over 8m, everyone who played gained at least 6 points apart from Rooney, Defoe and Anelka. Based on matchups only Defoe and Anelka were disappointments here.
Of the midfielders valued at over 8m, only Fabregas (6), Gerrard (7) and Lennon (6) managed to reach the 6 point mark. That left Lampard (2), Arshavin (3), Kuyt (5), Young (3), Cahill (3), Malouda (4) and Valencia (3) with disappointing weeks. Solid performances again from the likes of Benayoun (8), Dunn (9), Huddlestone (8) and Cohen (7) show that bargains can be had at all price brackets in the midfield.
Such is the gulf here, I am seriously considering moving Fabregas on and getting three premium strikers, depending on whether Bent starts to show signs of slowing down.

Clean Sheets
It has seemed on face value that there are less clean sheets this year but the stats actually show a different story, though the conclusion is the same. By this point in the 2008/09 season we had seen 29 clean sheets, 12 of which were kept by the big four sides (41%). So far this year we have 36 clean sheets though only 10 of them are attributable to the big four (28%). This shows that defensive points are even more plentiful than last year and can also be had a lower price. Picking the successful players is becoming harder though with traditional matchup rankings proving a weak analysis tool (Arsenal had the second worse road defense going into Saturday's game but kept a clean sheet against a decent Fulham side). Predictions using past form will of course improve as the season goes on and trends start to emerge but until then I will try and work out new methods of predicting these cheap sources of defensive points.

Bonus Points
Bonus points were split evenly between midfielders (23) and forwards (26) this week with defenders (5) not getting much of a look in. What was noticeable though is who is being rewarded at each position. While players like O'Hara, Boateng, Lee and Reid are being given points in midfield the forwards getting the nod tend to be premium players. 19 of the 26 bonus points awarded to forwards were given to players costing more than 7m, with 11 going to 8m+ players. The top five bonus collectors at the forward position are 5 of the 6 most expensive strikers available. The top five bonus attracting midfielders includes Dunn, Cattermole and Ferguson, all of whom can be had for less than 5.5m. Once you play your way into the minds of the 'pundits' you are often remembered even during off weeks and so expect to see this trend continue for at least the next few weeks and months.

Hope your week went well and don't forget Man City-West Ham tomorrow which promises decent returns for Bellamy, Barry, Wright Phillips and company. Pure Juice have 68 with Shaun Wright to play which is a good return soured somewhat by the success of Torres who was sold in the wildcard shakeup and would surely have been captained this week. My strikeforce contributed 39 points though so no complaints overall. Until next time . . .

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gameweek 7 Diary

Here we go again, for what has the potential to be a great day of Premier League action. Seven 3pm kick offs today, as well as a great London derby (Ful-Ars) at 5.30pm later. Chelsea, Liverpool and United are all in action at 3pm and there is the opportunity for plenty of goals.

Portsmouth are trailing Everton by a Louis Saha goal to nil would around 10 minutes to play. I only managed to catch the last 20 minutes of this one and Portsmouth have actually had the more chances. Sad news is that Steve Pienaar was stretchered off with what looked like a knee injury though having tried to continue for a few minutes, it hopefully isn't too bad. He was replaced by new boy Bilyaletdinov (Bily from now on, please) who has looked lively but failed to create a concrete chance. The assist went to the other new arrival John Heitinga, who started in place of Tony Hibbert at the back. Saha now has 8 goals in his last 11 starts for the Blues and might be useful replacement for Bent owners concerned about the next few games (@MNU, Liv, @Bir, WH, @Tot, Ars).

The team news starts to come in from around the country and its good news for Birmingham and fantasy players alike as Seb Larrson returns from injury to face Bolton. He was Birmingham's best player during their previous stint in the top flight but hasn't really managed to replicate that form this season. Hopefully the former Arsenal man can stay fit and rediscover the form that will make him an interesting option at 5m.

Javier Mascherano misses out for Liverpool which is bad news for Steven Gerrard fans as he will lineup in a deeper position alongside Lucas with Benayoun, Kuyt and Riera ahead of them.

Delight for Pure Juice and 26.9% of other managers as Didier Drogba gets the start at the DW stadium, alongside Anelka. Zhirkov makes the bench and could make his first Premier League appearance in a Chelsea shirt if brought on.

Dissapointing news for Tom Huddlestone owners as he will play at the back alongside Sebastien Bassong, who managed to shake off an injury of his own. Keane keeps his place up fron alongside Defoe despite Crouch's midweek hattrick, while Kranjcar gets his first start of the season for Spurs.

14:54 No less than seven Pure Juice players in action at 3pm today which is the first time that has happened for a long time. I'm particularly nervous for Villa's defense after I decided to keep my Dunne and Collins tandem intact rather than bringing in Sylvain Distin who just notched a clean sheet for Everton.

14: 55 Tuning in to Soccer Saturday which for US fans is a pundit show where a group of ex-professionals watch the action and report back to the wonderful host - Jeff Stelling. For NFL fans he is our Chris Berman and the only guy on the show with any kind of charisma or interesting personality. Paul Merson (ex Arsenal, Villa, Portsmouth) seems to find the dark side of any situation and could make a 4-4 Arsenal-Spurs derby seem like a high school game in the pouring rain.

15:02 BBC reports that England boss Fabio Capello is at St Andrews today to watch Birmingham take on Bolton, presumably to watch Gary Cahill. Cahill was linked this week with Juventus and AC Milan which will seem incredible to those who don't watch him regularly. It is without hyperbole that I would rate him as high as John Terry and he is England's third best centre back right now (and is only 23 years old).

15:03 GOAL First goal of the day goes to Villa and Agbonlahor gets his fourth goal in four games. Dynamite form for the speedy front man who is staking a claim for consideration among the elite forwards.

15:12 GOAL Tamir Cohen on the scoresheet after a flick on from Kevin Davies. That's his third of the season and at 4.5m he is proving to be a great option. Blog poster Craig B mentioned Cohen this week and this is looking like a great pickup. Apologies for anyone who took my Birmingham city clean sheet pick this week.

15:15 GOAL Liverpool take an expected lead at Anfield and its Torres' 31st goal in 34 games at home. Albert Riera got the assist though I'm sure Gerrard and Benayoun fans will be encouraged by the liklihood of more goals to come this afternoon.

15:16 GOAL Hull have equalised! Geovanni pulls Hull all square which is a real shock. Liverpool were an absolute lock for a clean sheet this week and that is a real blow to all of us with Liverpool defenders.

15:19 GOAL Another shocker as Wigan take the lead against Chelsea through Titus Bramble. Three of my clean sheet tips have now conceded so it looks like more research is needed for next week.

15:20 GOAL Penalty won by Defoe and converted by Robbie Keane.That's a bit of a blow to Jermaine Defoe fans, who I thought was the penalty taker for Spurs. Defoe has been credited with the assist though.

15:23 GOAL I might not even make clean sheet predictions next week. Only City's defense remains unbreached of my 5 tips - and that could be to do with them playing on Monday. Chris Samba with the goal for Rovers after pretty awful defending from the Villains.

15:29 GOAL Although my wildcard has worked out to date, I think the decision to drop Fernando Torres might be a killer. He's added his second of the game and there are scramblings in the Pure Juice front office to see how I can afford him with my two transfers next week. The consolation is that Yossi Benayoun picked up that assist.

15:33 GOAL Great finish by Jermaine Jenas who doubles Spurs' advantage. Burnley unfortunate to be down by two having had a Fletcher effort ruled out for a marginal offside decision.

15:45 Its all gone a bit quiet in the league after a frantic half hour of action. Stoke are holding Man United at home while Wigan still lead Chelsea. Big second half coming up for those two sides, with Liverpool sitting pretty at the minute. Birmingham are knocking on the Bolton door and Fahey has rattled the bar. Megson will need to earn his money at half time in order to hold on here.

16:03 GOAL Game over at Anfield as Torres wraps up his hattrick after just 47 minutes. I tipped him pre-season to be the golden boot but lost confidence a little bit causing me to transfer him out with the wildcard. At 11.5m his price will surely explode after this game though with games @Che, @Sun and ManU on the horizon I still think Drogba is the better short term bet. From week 11 on though his fixtures are very useful and Torres will probably be a must own. Again, the consolation is that Benayoun has picked up the assist.

16:08 GOAL I sometimes like to think my nerdy ramblings here have some effect on the sports karma gods and Didier Drogba has responded to my back handed criticism by equalising for Chelsea. I haven't seen the goal but apparently it was a shocker by the normally reliable Chris Kirkland, giving me faith that I made the right choice in bringing Didier in. Yes, I have no life.

16:14 GOAL Penalty to Wigan and Petr Cech is sent off. Rodallega converts and Wigan are back in front. Incredible stuff at the DW Stadium and surely Wigan are the favourites now. Chelsea have come from behind 3 times this season but this one good be a bridge too far. BBC imply that the contact was minimal and Rodallega was perhaps looking for a penalty. We haven't heard the last of this one as it's one thing to upset Celtic but to cross one of the big four seems to be a capital crime and I would not be surprised if the unfortunate ref is demoted by the weekend.

16:19 GOAL Steven Gerrard gets in on the act for Liverpool as he smahes in Liverpool's fourth goal. My clean sheet rankings might be awful but at least my captain tips are doing okay. Insua gets the assist while there is some debate whether it was a cross or a shot. Paul Merson on sky is giving it Gerrard where as BBC suggest it was a cross-gone-wrong. Whatever his intentions, Gerrard is on the scoresheet once more.

16:20 Jermaine Defoe has picked up a hand injury and will be replaced by Peter Crouch at White Hart Lane.

16:21 GOAL United take the lead and its under pressure front man Berbatov who has got it. Stoke have done okay and made this tough for United but the goal was always on the cards. We'll have to see if Pulis's men can hit back. Giggs got the assist for this one.

16:27 RED CARD Vincent Grella sent off for Blackburn and Villa have a chance to push forward for their 5th straight win.

16:31 GOAL Lennon involved for Spurs and he pulls it back for Robbie Keane to get his second of the day. Hopefully Spurs don't relax and Assou Ekotto and co will hold their clean sheet. Burnley have now conceded 12 goals in 4 away games.

16:35 GOAL Hattrick for Keane which marks another incredible day for fantasy strikers. Tom Huddlestone, who is unfortunately sat on the Pure Juice bench with the assist.

16:35 GOAL It's all over at the Brittania Stadium as John O'Shea wraps it up for the Champions. Giggs gets his second assist of the day.

16:42 GOAL Birmingham equalise against Bolton and that has been coming for a while. Kevin Phillips gets his first goal of the season for the Blues.

16:43 GOAL Bolton hit straight back and after Matt Taylor hits the post, new arrival Chung Yong Lee is there to put it in after dummying the entire Birmingham defense. That could be a HUGE goal for Gary Megson.

16:44 GOAL Robbie Keane gets his fourth goal of the game and the 3.1% of owners who have him active will be delighted.

16:46 GOAL Ten men Blackburn look to have stolen the points against Villa after a David Dunn penalty. Meanwhile, Ryan Babel makes it five for Liverpool with the assist going to Dirk Kuyt.

16:49 It looks like Wigan are going to hold on against Chelsea for a historic victory over Chelsea.

16:49 GOAL Liverpool make it 6-0 and my assertion - though not exactly a shock call - that all Liverpool players should be played this week was correct. This time its Albert Riera and Kuyt gets his second assist.

16:52 GOAL Incredible! Paul Scharner scores for Wigan and they will get their first win in 35 attempts over the big four sides. Chelsea will be knocked from the top of the league and Ancelotti will finally have something to think about after a historic start to his Chelsea career.

What a day of action. Join me later for comments on today's action as well as the Arsenal-Fulham game which I'm hoping provides big times points for Fabregas and Van Persie who I have been pushing all week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gameweek 7 Preview

Gameweek 7 fixtures
Portsmouth v Everton

Birmingham v Bolton
Blackburn v Aston Villa
Liverpool v Hull City
Stoke City v Man Utd
Tottenham v Burnley
Wigan v Chelsea
Fulham v Arsenal
Sunderland v Wolves
Man City v West Ham

It could be a great week to have players from the big sides as all top seven sides are strong favourites to win this week. In fantasy terms, Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea have particularly attractive fixtures and should be a good source of points this week. Of the big four sides, Liverpool are by the far the strongest play, with the bookies offering 23-1 odds on a Hull victory. Liverpool have the most home goals this season while the Tigers have the second worst away record. The potential for goals is so strong that it might be worth considering using your transfer solely for the purpose of getting Torres or Gerrard in just for this week.

Captain Rankings
1. Steven Gerrard
2. Fernando Torres
3. Jermaine Defoe

4. Frank Lampard
5. Nicholas Anelka

As noted above, three teams standout this week - Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea - and you can pretty much take your pick of players from these teams to excel. While Gerrard and Torres give you almost guaranteed returns, players
like Kuyt, Johnson and even Benayoun could be shrewd picks for those looking to gain on the opposition. Similarly, their should be goals at White Hart Lane as Spurs welcome Burnley who have surrendered 9 goals in 3 road games this season. Defoe and Lennon are the obvious choices while whoever starts out of Keane and Crouch should also have a chance at providing good value. Finally, at the DW Stadium, Chelsea will look to continue their run of success under Ancelotti and should have too much firepower for Wigan, even if Drogba is rested. Lampard is the obvious choice for success due to his penalties and bonus potential but I also like Anelka to get back in the scoring charts having not netted in September so far.

Clean Sheets Rankings

1. Chelsea

2. Aston Villa
3.
Liverpool
4. Man City
5. Birmingham

I like this week for clean sheets and defenders from all of the above have an excellent chance of netting the 6 points. Chelsea are, in what seems to be trend, the best defensive pick of the week and with the defensive line a bit more settled now, all become good picks.
Villa have kept 3 straight clean sheets and the arrivals of Dunne and Collins have turned that defense around. They travel to a Blackburn side that failed to score in 2 of their 3 homes games this year and are generally struggling for goals (4 in 5 for the season). Villa's side is perfect for playing on the counter attack wit
h the pace of Young and Agbonlahor, which allows them to keep it tight at the back (only 1 conceded on the road this year).
Liverpool could be higher on this list but I am nervous about their Arsenal like tendency to throw away silly goals, though at home they have notched two cleans this year. With Hull likely to setup to defend, Glen Johnson looks particularly valuable in this one.
City's defense has been up and down this year with 3 clean sheets followed by 6 goals shipped in 2 games. However, those goals came against two of the best attacking sides in the league and a struggling West Ham side is a different proposition. I think Hughes will have placed an emphasis on defending this week and this will particularly be keen to avoid conceding more goals from set pieces. I don't expect fireworks going forward b
ut I like City to be tighter at the back than they were last against their home town rivals.
Finally, Birmingham are the budget pick of the week as they welcome a very average Bolton side that have only managed 6 goals this year. Birmingham have conceded a single g
oal in 3 home games (Portsmouth, Stoke and Villa) so Hart and Parnaby look like great value at just 4.1 and 4.0m each.

Injury Headlines
  • Drogba appears to be fit and so long as you have a solid sub I would activate him for the mouth watering trip to Wigan. If you're squad is thread bare then bring in Rooney or Anelka just in case as you don't want to draw a blank for the week.
  • Andrei Arshavin looks set to return for Arsenal though I think he might only make the bench I wouldn't pay the 10.7m just yet. Stick with Cesc for now and then re-evaluate in a week or so when the situation is clearer.
  • Theo Walcott also looks set to return for the Gunners but at 7.8m he is way too pricey considering the uncertainty over his fitness and certainty of minutes. Stay clear of this one until he can prove he can stay fit and string a few games together.
  • Andy Johnson is injured again, this time due to an 'attack' from a Amkar Perm player in the Europe league. Fulham are considering legal action such was the severity of the challenge. It isn't clear how long he is out so sell him if you still have him.
  • Fabio Aurelio played a full 90 minutes in midweek and this could spell the end of Insua's useful fantasy run. Liverpool's defense looks poor this season and after this easy matchup they get @Che, @Sun, ManU, @Ful so I'd sell Insua regardless after this game.
  • The impressive Diniyar Bilyaletdinov looks like he is struggling to shrug off a groin strain and the uncertainty over his place in the side suggests it is too soon to bring him in. Stick with Pienaar for now but consider bringing in the newcomer when/if he is a first team regular.
  • Ben Foster will keep his place between the sticks for United, with Van der Sar confirmed as being 3 weeks away from fitness. Despite his shaky form, the United man is still good value at 5m.
  • Ricardo Fuller is out and Beattie is a doubt for the visit of Man United. Either way, neither are good plays now and should be sold if owned.
  • Bassong should be able to go for Spurs and will likely partner Corluka with Hutton slotting in on the right. This is good news for Huddlestone owners, as the midfielder should be deployed in his traditional role rather than at the back. Spurs are a great pick this week so Bassong owners might want to switch to Assou Ekotto if you have a free transfer to be sure of getting a shot at the clean sheet.
Why not tweet your lineup/transfer questions as I'm sure we're all worrying about similar issues. Don't forget to check back on Saturday afternoon as I'll be doing a running diary of all Saturday's action.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gunning for answers

It seems sometimes that Arsene Wenger's side are polarising in the Premier League despite being, for me, the second most enjoyable side in the world to watch (after European Champions Barcelona). Fans of the other big four sides mock their lack of trophies and others call them underachievers or even cheats. Whatever their merits, they have been in sublime goal scoring form this year (17 goals in 5 games) and their upcoming fixtures look promising. A few questions have been posed over where we should rate Cesc and company and who looks likely to play in the coming weeks, so lets have an in-depth look at their team and what we can expect over the next few weeks.

Who will play in Wenger's best eleven?
It appears that eight spots are pretty much locked down, and will be occupied by the same players barring injury or the occasional rest. These are Almunia (6.0), Clichy (6.3), Gallas (6.6), Vermaelen (6.7) and Sagna (6.3) at the back; Fabregas (10.6) in midfield and Arshavin (10.7) and Van Persie (10.0) in the front three.

The front spot is likely to be occupied by either Eduardo (7.9) or Walcott (7.8) (which would mean shifting Van Persie into the middle). Due to rotation potential I think that as soon as Walcott returns, this pair, along with Bendtner (6.3) become overpriced due to the inability to rely on their appearances. The midfield is even more crowded with Denilson (7.0), Diaby (5.8), Eboue (5.4), Rosicky (6.9), Ramsey (5.0), Song (5.5) and Nasri (7.9) all competing for two places.

All these players except for Walcott, Nasri and Rosicky were available for the 4-1 victory over Portsmouth when Wenger opted for Diaby and Denilson to play alongside Fabregas. I would think that Diaby will be replaced by Rosicky in home games, with Song coming in to add extra defensive bite on the road (as he did in the losses to City and United).

Who do Arsenal play in the next few gameweeks?
In the next 8 weeks Arsenal face trips to Fulham, West Ham, Wolves and Sunderland and have homes game against Blackburn, Birmingham, Tottenham and Chelsea. On a rolling basis over the last 38 games, only Chelsea ranks as a red light defensive game with the other 7 opponents averaging just 1.16 goals per game. Offensively, again it is only Chelsea who rank as a red light opponent (conceding 0.67 GPG) with other opponents conceding 1.74 GPG. Over this period, only Spurs have a better schedule and it is therefore advisable to get at least one Arsenal player in your lineup as soon as possible.

Player Tips
Defense - It simply has to be Thomas Vermaelen who has made a sensational start to his Arsenal career. 3 goals, an assist and 2 bonus points have concealed his lack of clean sheets, the first of which did not come until last week. However, with this schedule one would expect to see at least three or four more in the coming weeks along with another offensive contribution or two. This sort of production should be enough to justify his lofty price tag, especially when you consider the 0.1-0.2m you should make as his price inevitably hits 7m in the next week or so.
It might also be worth tracking Sagna whose chalkboard shows offensive involvement beyond his stats so far this year. While I am not currently a fan of the 6m+ defenders, you can do much worse than Sagna who is available at a cut price due to Arsenal's initial defensive woes.

Midfield - Cesc Fabregas should be considered alongside other premium midfielders, perhaps even in the league of Gerrard and Lampard in terms of value (if not pure points production.) Look at the stats so far this year:
  • Lampard - 12.5m, 40 points, 6.67 PPG, 0.533 PPMS
  • Gerrard - 12.6m, 39 points, 6.5 PPG, 0.516 PPMS
  • Fabregas - 10.6m, 36 points, 9.0 PPG, 0.849 PPMS
  • Kuyt - 9.6m, 36 points, 6.0 PPG, 0.625 PPMS
Fabregas has more goals than Lampard and Gerrard and only one less assist. The only real differentiator is Lampard's bonus total (8 vs 3) but this seems insufficient to justify an extra 2m of expenditure. At last season's rate (which is largely continued this year) Lampard would earn around 50 bonus points to Fabregas' 35 if they both played in all 38 games. That 12 points comes at a PPMS of 0.158 unless Lampard can significantly outperform Fabregas in another area.

Granted, Lampard/Gerrard will likely end the season with more goals than Fabregas but with 3 in the bag already how far can they possibly beat him by? Even conservative estimates would put Cesc at double digits meaning Lampard/Gerrard would need to eclipse the 15 goal mark for the year, which has only been done once in the combined last 6 seasons by the English pair, in order to justify the extra 2m.

With the top strikers proving so much better than everyone else (excluding Defoe and Bent) that extra 2m is absolutely vital and could prove the difference between a John Carew and an Emmanuel Adebayor or a Dimitar Berbatov and a Fernando Torres.

In conclusion, Fabregas sits in a second tier of midfielders (along with Kuyt and possibly Arshavin) that deliver 90c on the dollar to their expensive brothers in the top category. No such plateau exists for strikers. Excluding Defoe and Bent's hot start to the season you basically get what you pay for, and if you want to compete, you better have a couple of top 6 strikers.

Forwards - I touched on the need to spend big on strikers above, and to wrap this piece up I will focus on another underrated player who should be considered alongside the elite at his position - Robin Van Persie. Van Persie had a disappointing season last year, right? Well, no, not really. If he had scored at the rate he did for 38 games he would have scored 17 goals and notched 225 fantasy points. I concede that staying healthy is a big if, but that's the beauty of fantasy league - we don't really care about a whole season, only small blocks - such as the next 8 games. Van Persie has started slow in the scoring column this year with just 1 in 5 but with 4 assists and 7 bonus points, the Dutchman's production has been solid (.640 PPMS). His 23 shots to date are also encouraging, as is his concession that he needs to be more clinical. Penalty duties should also help boost the goal tally a bit this year. Of the big 6 strikers I would back Van Persie to deliver the best value over the next 8 weeks and as the cheapest of the bunch this should allow flexibility elsewhere in your lineup.

As always thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you all as to your views on Arsenal's fortunes for the coming weeks. Please post below or tweet your thoughts.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gameweek 6 Wrapup

Another great weekend of action is in the books, and some interesting conclusions can be drawn:
  1. The big four is still a big four, at least for now. The two big challengers stepped up, and were duly dispatched by their more successful neighbours, with Spurs putting up less of a fight than City. City were unfortunate to lose in the circumstances but overall their defensive frailty, particularly in the air, were exposed and they will struggle to break the big four unless this area is improved. Spurs meanwhile were easily dismissed, and again, despite being unlucky to not get a penalty for a foul on Robbie Keane, they were easily the weaker side on the day.
  2. The big strikers keep on rolling. I feel somewhat vindicated for my controversial decision to drop Lampard in favour of big name strikers, as Drogba, Van Persie, Torres, Rooney and Agbonlahor all finding the net. Of the 8m+ midfielders only Cesc, Kuyt and Ballack scored for their respective sides.
  3. The promoted sides are for real and all three notched solid wins this weekend. While not exactly fantasy goldmines, good players can be found within each, and they offer better value than those from struggling sides such as Bolton and Portsmouth.
Prediction Assessment
My clean sheet predictions were only okay with top ranked Villa and Arsenal delivering the goods while Sunderland and Fulham were very disappointing. My only defense on the horrible Sunderland pick is my caveat that Cattermole didn't play but nevertheless the pick is indefensible.

The captaincy picks fared better with Agbonlahor (2), Drogba (4) and Van Persie (5) all delivering good games. Top pick Gerrard let the side down a little with no goals but still managed to add 6 points in another solid display. The final pick - Cahill - disappointed in Everton's good win over Blackburn and only managed 3 points. Overall I am pleased with these picks and I hope they led to some good decisions for your teams this week.

Market Watch
Thomas Vermaelen - the Arsenal defenders' price is certain to rise this week, and indeed has already risen by 0.1 by Monday morning. I would expect his price to hit 7m within a few weeks based on the favourable matchups his Arsenal team have. I'm not usually a fan of buying defenders based on their attacking ability but Vermaelen is more than just headers and deflections and could genuinely be a star.

Darren Fletcher - United's midfield lacks fantasy firepower and people are dying to bring someone in. Fletcher's two goals are the exception and not a rule so I would advise staying off this bandwagon.

James Milner - Milner's penalty duties got my attention, along with 14,000 other managers. This should lead to a 0.1 price rise this week and he is good value at 6.9m. Villa get Chelsea and City in the next three weeks so I wouldn't dive all over him just yet but he is definitely worth shortlisting.

Wayne Rooney - another goal (6 in 6) and a ridiculous award of 2 bonus points will keep the attention of fantasy owners and his value could rise again this week. The fact that United have to travel to Stoke, Liverpool and Chelsea in the next 6 weeks hurt his value a bit but I reluctantly concede that Rooney in on good form right now and you could do worse than ride the wave while he's hot.

Stay tuned this week for posts on Cesc Fabregas, the promoted sides and more ramblings of an obsessive fantasy addict.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pure Juice rocked as captain Lampard is sold

Manchester (AP) -- The fantasy world was rocked today when the Juice announced there new lineup and Frank Lampard was nowhere to be seen. "I can confirm that with great regret and hesitation Frank Lampard has been sold and will be replaced by Cesc Fabregas", commented manager Glover.

In what was a busy week for the Juice, with no less than 12 changes to the squad, Glover was quick to add that the team will be able to gel quickly and that he expects a big gameweek 6 from all the new players. "A few of the new lads were brought in specifically with the next few weeks in mind and they need to deliver as soon as possible". Glover is in no doubt referring to Villa paid Collins and Dunne who face Portsmouth at home today, where a clean sheet is expected by most pundits.

While his strategy has not been made clear, the likely lineup for gameweek 6 is:
T.Sorensen
A.Cole
J.Collins
R.Dunne
M.Turner
C.Fabregas
S.Wright Phillips
Y.Benayoun
D.Drogba
R.Van Persie (c)
D.Bent

Glover also has options on the bench with T.Huddlestone, B.Assou Ekotto, M.Jarvis and B.Foster all ready for selection should any of the firm team start to struggle.

How these changes will affect the Juice's fortunes is yet to be seen, though it's certain that Glover will not be satisfied with his team's current league position and will do all he can to move up league in the coming weeks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gameweek 6 Preview

Gameweek 6 fixtures

Burnley v Sunderland
Arsenal v Wigan
Aston Villa v Portsmouth
Bolton v Stoke
Hull v Birmingham
West Ham v Liverpool
Man Utd v Man City
Wolves v Fulham
Everton v Blackburn
Chelsea v Tottenham

Sunday serves up a couple of epic derby matchups where as Saturday provides several opportunities for stronger teams to have some fantasy joy over weaker sides. I love Martinez's confidence and commitment to the beautiful game, but Wigan simply do not have the players to keep possession against Arsenal and often the teams who take on Wenger's men with such expectations are often the ones who get shot down. The trip to Burnley also provides a good game to gauge just how good Sunderland can be as Burnley have played well at home this year while Sunderland have managed just one goal on their travels. I also like Villa's chances against Pompey who have yet to gel all their new signings, and Villa should be good for a clean sheet and a few goals in that one.

Clean Sheet Rankings
1. Aston Villa
2. Sunderland
3. Arsenal
4. Fulham
5. Bolton

Not a bad week for clean sheet potential but like gameweek 5, several premium options are playing each other (Manchester derby and Chelsea-Spurs) so the top options are somewhat limited. Villa are my play of the week as they get Pompey at home, and this trend will continue until Portsmouth can prove they can score against anyone. Villa have kept two straight clean sheets and the arrival of Dunne and Collins appears to have been a success. Sunderland have conceded just once on their travels and Burnley only have two goals at home so this one should play out as a tight game. If Cattermole doesn't play I would downgrade this ranking slightly. I like but don't love the next three picks with Arsenal having the potential to score a few but then concede a silly goal and Bolton and Fulham are not in the best of form. That being said, if this was my back 5 I would be expecting 3 clean sheets as a minimum.

Captain Rankings
1. Steven Gerrard
2. Gabriel Agbonlahor
3. Tim Cahill
4. Didier Drogba
5. Robin van Persie

Gerrard is the the logical pick again this week after not disappointing this tip last week with a solid 7 point performance. Gerrard has scored in both away games for Liverpool this year and a trip to West Ham provides a decent chance to make this three in a row.
Agbonlahor gets the matchup of the week against Portsmouth at home and with goals in his last two games I like the speedy striker to make it three in a row.
Cahill is another player who scored last week and I again like his chances of doubling his seasons tally this week. Blackburn have some big men at the back but it seems no one can deal with Cahill's heading ability and with Baines swinging in some gems, the little Aussie has a decent shot of another goal this week.
Drogba doesn't have the best matchup, but he doesn't have the worst either. Spurs have conceded just 2 in 2 on the road this year but don't forget that last year they were very average defensively on their travels and I am not convinced those days are fully behind them. Drogba has 2 in his last 3 against Redknapp's men and I like him again this week, especially after missing out midweek in Europe due to suspension.
Van Persie hasn't started on fire this season but he found the net against City and has a good matchup this week. He should be on free kick and possibly penalty duties and I like him alot this week.
You might be wondering where Lampard is, but the fact he hasn't scored in the last 7 league meetings with Spurs and he isn't shooting as much as one would like these days. I'm sure that me considering dropping him from my squad and this dismissal of his chances will inspire Frank to bag a hattrick though so its probably safer to bet your house on him.

Strength of Schedule

Defenders - Buy
1. Stoke
2. Tottenham
3. Hull
4. Arsenal
5. Aston Villa

Looking ahead for those wishing to make changes the above 5 teams have the best looking schedules in the coming weeks for defenders. I think Stoke and Spurs are both legitimate sources of every week starters and I love Faye (4.6) and Assou Ekotto (5.1) from these sides. Hull players might provide decent bench fodder with Zayatte (3.9) the cheapest option. Arsenal and Villa have struggled a bit to start the year but I like both these teams to become every week plays though Arsenal are potentially a bit overpriced right now. I love James Collins (4.5) for Villa and rate his as one of the top 5 transfer targets in the league right now.

Defenders - Sell
1. West Ham
2. Fulham
3. Blackburn
4. Bolton
5. Sunderland

Strangely enough three of these teams actually have good fixtures this week so it might be worth delaying your sale for one week. However after week 6 all these teams have tough schedules and none of them are sturdy enough at the back to withstand that kind of pressure. Most players from these teams and priced in the 5m range and appear overvalued. If you have anyone for 4.5m, or less such as Michael Turner or Sam Ricketts then they might be worth stashing on the bench but be careful as if your frontline starters don't play, there will be few points to help your team coming off the bench.

Midfield/Attack - Buy
1. Arsenal
2. Everton
3. Tottenham
4. Aston Villa
5. Hull

Arsenal and Everton are someway ahead of the others here with Arsenal facing no red light games until week 14 and Everton free until week 13. Arsenal's team has okay depth for fantasy purposes with Fabregas, Arshavin, Denilson, Diaby, Eduardo and possibly Rosicky providing good value for money. I love Arshavin when he returns from injury and I recommend getting Fabregas now and upgrading when the Russian returns for the modest expense of 0.3m extra. If Diaby keeps his place (which is doubtful with the return of Rosicky) he is great value, though Rosicky himself could be a must own if he plays every week and stays fit (a leap of faith at this point, I know). Everton, Spurs and Villa all provide several attacking options for good value with Lennon, Young and Cahill potentially giving top tier production for a 8m range price. Defoe looks to continue to have success with this schedule while Agbonlahor also looks like a shrewd investment. In terms of budget options, I love Tom Huddlestone and Steve Pienaar's production should improve after a slow start. Hull players make decent bench warmers based on the schedule but the uncertainty up front make it hard to know who will play. Stephen Hunt is probably the safest option and the 5.3 midfielder looks like decent value.

Midfield/Attack - Sell
1. Man City
2. Sunderland
3. West Ham
4. Wolves
5. Blackburn

Before you get too excited and cry hypocrite (I just picked up Shaun Wright Phillips) remember that these rankings are purely based on schedule and do not allow for the strength of an individual side. Would I sell Stephen Ireland and replace him with Matt Taylor? Absolutely not. Would I try and replace him with Fabregas though? Well that's a different story. I am not saying here that City players are a bad pick, more that better value could be found elsewhere. It isn't so easy with Sunderland and Darren Bent has no-one in his price range who can really replace him (except Kenwyne Jones!). I would therefore either stick with it or go in a different direction and get a much stronger striker like Defoe. West Ham, Wolves and Blackburn have few solid fantasy plays and are probably bench men for now. I do still like Jimenez, Jarvis, Keogh and Dunn to name a few but be prepared to stash them on the bench for the next few weeks.

As always I look forward to hearing your thoughts for the week, so please post below or tweet your lineup/captaincy/transfer headaches. And of course, thanks for reading.

Bonus Round

As the debate between expensive strikers and midfielders rages on, I thought I'd look at how bonuses affect this question. To date, midfielders have earned 105 bonus points where as forwards account for 82 (for the record defenders contribute 76 and keepers 13). The big difference is how these points are distributed with the forward's points going to just 22 players, where as 41 midfielders have gained the approval of the pundits to date.

At the top of each bracket, 11 players valued at 8m+ account for 30% of all midfield bonus points but for forwards this is even greater, with 10 8m+ players accounting for 55% of all forward points. This shows how the premium strikers are attracting a greater percentage of the points on offer. Taking the top three premium players at each position shows this in even harsher light:

Lampard, Gerrard and Fabregas - 13 bonus points (12% of midfield total)
Adebayor, Rooney and Drogba - 27 bonus points (33% of forward total)

Looking at the bargains available (sub-6m) shows that these midfielders have gained 53 points (50%) so far, where as cheap strikers account for just 22 points (27%).

The bottom line
Bonus points can be obtained from cheap midfielders where as it seems that you need serious investment to get bonus points from your forwards. This is another mark in favour of paying top-dollar for your forwards then picking up guys like Cattermole or Dunn who have shown they can be three-category contributors for a cheap price.

As always let me know what you think and if you predict this trend continuing into the future. Why not tweet your thoughts to me @plfantasy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wild Wild Week

As a few of you may have gathered from my tweeting and comments over the weekend, I playing my wildcard this weekend, as I am sure a few others are considering doing. Otis posted that it might be fun to run through my thoughts, so here is my old team, followed by the proposed new team:

Expired Juice

Thomas Sorensen
Second among all keepers (playing a game less than many) and first in PPMS (1.585), Sorensen has been this year's Schwarzer and pretty much a must own. Unfortunately most people identified this before the season so we haven't see a meteoric price rise for the former Villa man. He should return from injury this week and he will be staying in the Juice ranks as long as he remains fit.

Ben Foster
Fourth in points among keepers but only 10th in terms of PPMS, I am satisfied if not thrilled with Foster but with Vidic and Ferdinand back from injury the clean sheets should be more frequent for United, and with Van der Sar still a way from returning, and Foster aiming to hold onto the No.1 jersey, I am going to hold onto him for now. The long term strategy is to replace him with either Cudicini (4.5) if he wins the Spurs job full time, or if not another budget option, like Jaaskelainen, whose fixtures sync up very well with Stoke's.

Ashley Cole
The only defender to hold is place in the shakeup, thanks to the stability of his place in the team and his attacking play this year. At 6.5m he is probably the best value of the big four defenders and, at least until Zhirkov is fit, Ancelotti has no real alternative to rotate Cole with (unlike fellow full back Bosingwa who has been benched for Ivanovic on occasion this year). I wanted to keep at least one premium defender though the trend has been to sell defense and buy forwards due to the inconsistency of the 'reliable' defenses like Liverpool, Arsenal and dare I say, even United.

Patrice Evra
This was one of the harder decisions I made as I can't help but feel I am selling high a bit. However, despite the return of Vidic and Ferdinand, United to face City, Chelsea and Liverpool in the next 7 weeks though they are still third in my new defensive rankings. My main concern with Evra is that for 6.7m you only really get clean sheets, as exhibited by his 3 bonus points, 2 assists and 0 goals last (and 3 goose eggs in those categories this year). His chalkboards show he is getting into advanced positions but with no final product to show for his endeavour. I therefore opted to save cash here and invest in proven strikers instead.

Emiliano Insua
Liverpool's defense have underwhelmed this year and I feel much better about moving Insua on than Evra. With the return of Aurelio you must now invest 7m to get a Liverpool full back and only Johnson has adjusted he is worth that kind of investment. With 7 goals conceded against Spurs, Bolton and Villa and Carragher looking like he has a lost a step, I am unconvinced that Benitez's men can return to the defensive form that warrants a sizeable investment of cash.

Aaron Hughes
I wrote that I though Fulham might take a small step back this year but failed to heed my own warning and invested 5m in Hughes. Granted the fixtures have been fairly tough (Che, Ast, Eve) but its the manner of the goals conceded that concerns me. Fulham have fallen from a notch below the big four to just another mid level defence, and that makes 5m too steep of a price to pay. Plenty of solid players can be had for the 4.5m range and the likes of Villa and Spurs offer 5m players who should accrue more points over the season.

Sylvain Distin
I've turned against the Everton defense quicker than Leo Messi ghosting past Danny Shittu. I was hoping that the arrival Distin and Heitinga would turn the Toffees defense around though the performance against Fulham at the weekend did not inspire much hope. Everton surrendered 19 shots to Fulham, though admittedly Heitinga only played 26 minutes in that one. Despite their good looking fixture list, Everton rank last in the updated defensive rankings and I therefore couldn't hold out for them to turn it round any longer. Being valued below his teammates could make Distin worth a look in the future but until Everton can string together some decent performances I'd stay away.

Frank Lampard
I was a bit worried about Frank's production, as highlighted by this brilliant article over at FantasyFootballScout but he still leads all midfielders with 33 points and is third among all players with 7 bonus points. Lampard's only goal was from the spot in week 2 which is troubling but so long as the assists (3 in the last 2 games) continue along with the bonus points I maintain that Lampard is still the man to own (and captain) in the league. Needless to say Frank is going nowhere in this reshuffle.

Dirk Kuyt
Another tough decision as the Dutchman has done well in the four weeks I have owned him. Liverpool's fixtures are okay in the coming weeks but I wanted to upgrade my front line and therefore couldn't carry someone with Kuyt's cost. I am banking on my front men getting 18+ goals each, which means a midfielder would need 15 to match the points total. Kuyt had a great season last year and only managed 12 goals and his 14 bonus points are not worth getting excited about. I am counting on Benayoun to secure a place in the first team to offset to loss of Kuyt.

Ashley Young
Young has done well this year and was close to keeping his place but City's slightly better fixture list and his cheaper value pushed me towards Shaun Wright Phillips. Villa have a disastrous mid-season fixture run but I would certainly consider bringing Young late in the season if needed.

Luis Jimenez
My pre-season favourite has been a bit disappointing and I decided I couldn't carry him on the bench any longer. I will continue to monitor his progress but I think I backed him too soon to slot right into Premier League football. There are a number of good 5m range options - Huddlestone, Koumas, Dunn, Cattermole - which makes Jimenez expendable for now.

Lorik Cana
I love Lorik Cana as a player and I figured he would play a more advanced role with Cattermole holding back but its the former Wigan man who has gotten forward more often (leading to an assist and 6 bonus points). The Sunderland website have given the Albanian three man of the match awards this season, but the 'experts' over at premierleague.com don't agree and have yet to award Cana a single bonus point this season. For that reason I have had to move Cana on but again I will continue to monitor his progress and I'll be back on the bandwagon should he start pressing forward more often.

Fernando Torres
I thought Torres would lead the league in scoring, and to be fair he still might. However at 1.4 more than Adebayor, 1.5 more than van Persie and 0.6 more than Drogba I don't think he'll outscore them enough to justify the extra expense. Arsenal have by far and away the best attacking score for the next 8 games (best goals per game, best strength of schedule) so I've saved the 1.5m and gone for van Persie. I still love Torres and rate him as the best player in the league but that doesn't translate into fantasy value and I needed the cash elsewhere.

Jozy Altidore
He should be the best value striker in the game but a combination of a swine flu scare and international duty have upset him settling into the Hull side. Long term he should be an every week player but with the arrivals of Vennegoor of Hesselink and Ghilas mean there is competition for places and I'm unwilling to hold a player on the bench that isn't playing.

Cameron Jerome
On the shortlist to get back once he's fit as at 4.5 he could give you 6-9 goals and be a steal. However, he can't seem to get fit and so I've moved on to ensure my entire squad is fit and ready to go.

Freshly Squeezed Juice

Thomas Sorensen
Remains with the team. See above

Ben Foster
Remains with the team. See above
Also considered: Carlo Cudicini, Jussi Jaaskelainen

Ashley Cole
Remains with the team. See above

Micah Richards
City's defense is probably more improved than their impressive attack with three clean sheets in the first four games. This was going to be Bridge but with his price rising to 5.6 I have gone for Richards (5.5). A quick look at their chalkboards show that Richards (top) was actually slightly more attacking last week against Arsenal, gaining an assist in the process. Though neither have any to date, I also think that Richards is more bonus prone due to his all action style. City rank first in my new defensive rankings (which allow for both strength of opposition and goals conceded to date) which predict City to keep at least 3 clean sheets in the 7 games after the Manchester derby this weekend.

Also considered: Wayne Bridge, Sylvain Distin

James Collins
Loved this pick before Sunday, now I'm ecstatic about it. Villa kept their second straight clean sheet and Collins added two bonus points on his impressive debut alongside fellow new boy Richard Dunne. At 4.5m, Collins is half a million less than his teammates - a favourite strategy of mine when selecting defenders (see John O'Shea and Johan Djorou last year). Looking very long term Collins will probably lose his place when Curtis Davies returns but seeing as physio room report this to be in the new year, it shouldn't affect one's transfer dealings now. In my new adjusted average calculations (see above) Villa's defense rank fourth behind City, Chelsea and United - none of who carry defenders for anywhere close to 4.5m. Home games to Chelsea and City are to come in weeks 8 and 9 but aside from that the next 10 look pretty generous.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto
Love this pick. A lok at his chalkboard (left) shows the attacking role he played against United and the number of balls he played into the attacking zones. Spurs defense hasn't quite been what it was last season but they only conceded one goal per game in their first four and when the whole defense is fit the clean sheets should start to flow. Assou-Ekotto offers the best value of the Spurs backs, with only the oft-injured and rotated King (5m) being cheaper. After Chelsea this week, the only tester is the trip to the Emirates in week 11, with the rest looking pretty favourable.

Michael Turner
I thought Turner was overpriced to open the season as a Hull defender but now offers great value as a Mackem. Granted, Sunderland have only kept one clean sheet this year, but they have also only conceded 1 goal per game in the last 3. Sunderland's fixtures are up an down over the next 8 weeks but as a bench player Turner gives solid value and provides a goal threat from set pieces (3 goals last year) as an added bonus.

Frank Lampard
Remains with the team. See above

Also considered: Steven Gerrard, Cesc Fabregas

Yossi Benayoun
I jumped on the Benayoun bandwagon so fast that I almost broke an ankle. I rate the Israeli very highly (in fact I think he's Liverpool's third best player) and I could never work out why he didn't play every week. His hattrick this weekend should ensure more playing time in the coming weeks and with Babel and Riera out of favour, this will hopefully carry on into the distant future. If he can play most weeks he offers an uncomparable combination of potential and consistency and will be by far the best sub-8m option available from the big five (perhaps along with Rosicky who I discuss below). This is a gamble but with other options available for similar money (such as Modric) I can easily move Benayoun on if Benitez doesn't see sense.

Shaun Wright Phillips
I was slow to accept the fact that SWP was going to play consistenly for the new look City but now he proven this, his value is undeniable. I think he is in the same bracket as the likes of Young and Kuyt, but is available for several hundred thousand pounds less than each. Ireland isn't in great form at the moment and I have some concerns that when he starts firing the bonus points and assists will dry up a little but even then Wright Phillips will be good value. City's demolition of Arsenal on Saturday - in which SWP was heavily involved - show the potential of the Citizens, who are now equally valued (9-1) to finish in the top four with Arsene Wenger's side. There will be plenty of goals along the way and Wright Phillips style should allow for success away from home on the counter as well as at Eastlands where City are so strong.

Also considered: Aaron Lennon, Ashley Young

David Dunn
This is a late addition to the new look lineup and is subject to change in the next few days. Allardyce has been singing Dunn's praise, and the pundits agree having given him 4 bonus points in the last two games (his first action of the new season). He added a goal to those points this past weekend and with Allardyce suggesting a continued role just off the striker and making comparisons to fantasy legend Steven Gerrard, Dunn is a worthy bench/rotation player in the new side.

Also considered: Steed Malbranque, Thomas Rosicky

Matt Jarvis
Blogger reader NotoriousDre turned me on to Jarvis and I haven't looked back since. His chalkboards (right) show excellent positions in the danger zones as well as plenty of crosses and passes into the six yard box. For 4.5 all you ask is for a 90 minute man who has a chance to contribute in a couple of categories and Jarvis certainly ticks those boxes. Wolves schedule is pretty decent and gels with my first team players well (ie good fixtures when my first teamers have tough games). For a regular start at 4.5m Jarvis is also probably just a goal and man of the match display from a significant price rise.

Also considered: Jamie O'Hara, Jason Koumas, Lee Bowyer

Didier Drogba
This is the business end on where the big change comes. Gone are the bargain basement forwards and in come a dynamic pair that I plan to rotate with Adebayor (who was first choice until his suspension) and Defoe based on schedule. I think Drogba has only hit 80% of his form yet but has still managed four goals and leads the fantasy game is scoring. I love the fact that he is playing alongside Anelka, I love the fact he looks hungry under Ancellotti and I love the fact that he is suspended in Europe and so will be fresh in the league. Chelsea have the fourth best adjusted attacking schedule and games against Wigan, Blakcburn and Wolves have me (and hopefully Drogba) licking my lips. With two man of the match performances to date I feel Drogba probably has the highest bonus point potential of any premium striker, with the presence of Lampard the only downside here. I am a bit skeptical of investing 23.4m in two Chelsea players but even when they play good teams the big players tend to perform and so I'm happy to hitch my wagon to the league title favourites.

Also considered: Emmanuel Adebayor, Fernando Torres

Robin van Persie
This pick is of course dependant on the Dutchman shaking off the knee injury that kept him out of tonight's Champions League game. Assuming he is fit, Van Persie faces the best schedule in the league and should kick on after bagging his first of the season against City on Saturday. The 2 assist are very encouraging and hopefully when Arshavin returns from injury, the Arsenal team can become even more lethal and the goals will flow for Van Persie. Arsenal don't face another big four side until week 14 with only the derby with Spurs (week 11) looking like a tough game, and remember that finished 4-4 this time last year.

Andy Keogh I really want this pick to be Jozy Altidore but Phil Brown doesn't seem to rate the American star as a starter and the arrival of Vennegoor of Hesselink only muddies these waters further. I have therefore gone for Matt Jarvis's teammate Keogh whose 19 shots to date look very promising (Anelka 10, Bent 16 and Berbatov 14). Granted, he has only converted one of these to a goal but the 5 bonus points are also encouraging and like Jarvis above Keogh is a genuine 3 category player who will give solid contributions off the bench when required.

Also considered: Jozy Altidore, James McFadden

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gameweek 5 Wrapup

We were treated to a great weekend of action with 36 goals and big wins for City, United and Liverpool. A huge performance by Yossi Benayoun dominated the fantasy headlines, though Adebayor was also in the limelight for good and bad reasons. As predicted, clean sheets were hard to come by with only 3 on offer all weekend. For me, the weekend confirmed something I have been thinking since the season started, and threw up a new group of players that could play into a new strategy:

Premium Strikers are for real
In previous years the consensus strategy has been to spend big on midfield and plug in mid range or budget strikers, with the likes of Carlton Cole, James Beattie, Kevin Davies etc being popular choices. This year is shaping up very differently. The six most expensive strikers available are all in the top eight at their position, with four in the top five (Defoe being the odd man out). Rooney and Defoe have five goals, Drogba, Adebayor and Bent have four and Torres has three. Only four other players have scored more than once this season and only two of these can be had for less than 8m (Kenwyne Jones and Hugo Rodallega).
Contrast this with the midfield where, although Lampard and Gerrard lead the league, twelve of the next fourteen midfielders can be had for less than 8.2m. I am not advising moving away from Lampard and Gerrard but I do think the best strategy is now to have one of this pair with two premium strikers and then fill in the midfield with mid priced players (discussed below). Defenders are simply not reliable enough at the moment and good value can be had by playing the schedule and loading up with cheap-mid range talent when an easy team comes to town. Consider that United's best defender (Evra) is t14th, Arsenal's best (Gallas) is 30th and Liverpool's best after the impressive (and expensive Johnson) is t14th among defenders this year. Chelsea have been more impressive but with Carvalho and Bosingwa both being rotated this year, and Zhirkov due back at some point to threaten Cole's position even they aren't guaranteed to give value for money.

The arrival of the mid range midfield
Last year I loved plenty of 7m range midfielders, of whom you could afford a couple to lineup alongside studs like Lampard and Gerrard. Until now all these apart from Lennon have had their question marks this season. This week three mid range midfielders either confirmed the legitimacy of their early season success or emerged as new options:

Shaun Wright Phillips (8.1m 6.7%)
I have been sleeping a bit on City this year, but their 4-2 victory over Arsenal proves that they are a fantasy force and it would be wise to get in on their goals if you can. This is easier said than done due to the likely rotation of Tevez, Bellamy, Petrov, Santa Cruz and Robinho though three names - Adebayor, Ireland and Shaun Wright Phillips - stand out as legitimate fantasy stars. I did not think Wright Phillips would play every week for Hughes' side but to date he's played every minute for the Citizens, adding a goal and three assists in the process. I generally prefer players who are involved in the action all the time for their teams (ie Ireland) but Wright Phillips' production is unarguable. City's upcoming fixtures are good but not great but this is offset by the almost certain profit you will make on SWP whose value could rise by 0.1 or 0.2 this week. Three proven wingers stand out in the league - Lennon (7.9), Young (8.3) and SWP (8.1) - and I would not like to pick between them for the season. Young has the best fixtures, Lennon is in the best form while SWP is in the best team. I'd recommend picking all three if it weren't for the two players below . . .


Yossi Benayoun (7.4m 2%)
I rate Benayoun as Liverpool's third best player and I never understand why Benitez insists on playing Riera and Babel ahead of him. His hattrick yesterday might change this and the Israeli playmaker might be given an extended run in the first team. If that is the case then Benayoun is a must buy and his price will rocket this week after his 24 point performance. A look at Benayoun's chalkbaord shows how heavily involved he was down the right flank:

For 7.4m his value cannot be beaten and I even like him if he plays in just two thirds of Liverpool's games for this value. My advice now is to jump on the bandwagon now and reap the immediate rewards (price rise this week) and if he drops back to the bench in a few weeks then Modric should be back from injury and will be a ready made replacement. If he gets an extended run in the first team then Benayoun will be this season's Ireland, so why not get on the bandwagon early? His 7 seven shots cannot be ignored and so I expect Benayoun to reach double figures for the season so long as he can start 25+ games.


Thomas Rosicky (6.9m 0.9%)
The talented Czech playmaker has been cursed by injuries since arriving at the Emirates, to the point where he is largely a forgotten man in the Premier League. However, his performance in just 39 minutes on Saturday should change this and the fact he was given a run out so soon after returning from injury shows how highly he is rated by Wenger. Rosicky contributed a goal and an assist at City, passed the ball well and looked sharp coming off the bench. Normally I would recommend waiting a couple of weeks until he establishes himself in the first team but with Arshavin out with injury I think Rosicky might come straight into the side (replacing Diaby or Bendtner) and his price will almost certainly rise to 7m this week.

Budget defenders
Okay so you might be wondering who exactly I am going to get in defense having recommended you keep Lampard/Gerrard, add a load of 7.5m midfielders and then grab the likes of Drogba and Adebayor. Well, three players stand out here and I think the drop off from the big boys to these players will be alot smaller than the drop off from the aforementioned premium strikers to the mid-range players available:

James Collins (4.5m 1.1%)
Collins slotted straight into the Villa side today and looked very composed grabbing a clean sheet and 2 bonus points in the process. He is at least half a million cheaper than his teammates and he is playing for a side that has notched back to back clean sheets and will have a double gameweek in the future due to their bye in week 2. Dunne (5m) will probably get more attention and may well keep his place in the team when Davies returns, but until then Collins is great value and will free up cash to spend elsewhere.

Michael Turner (4.5m 9%)
Turner is priced like a Hull defender but is playing for a Sunderland team that is pretty good at the back and have been unlucky to only have kept one clean sheet this season. Turner also brings an added threat from set pieces which although I don't recommend paying extra for, if you can get it for 4.5m then take it while you can. Although widely held, I think Turner's value will rise and for whatever reason he is a bit of a bonus magnet, which will continue going forward in this Sunderland team.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto (5.1m 5.3%)
Due to Spurs' favourable upcoming fixtures I was all set to grab Bassong (5.2) who I rate very highly. However, Assou-Ekotto stood out on Saturday against United with his attacking play, and his chalkboard shows that he played seven balls into the danger zone. He has yet to notch an assist this year though did manage a screamer in week one, which is the reason why so many owners currently have him. In the long run I would not be surprised to see Assou Ekotto have Patrice Evra-like numbers as Spurs get their defense fit and the clean sheets start to come. Spurs face the unenviable task of going to Chelsea this week but then get Bur, @Bol, @Por, Sto, @Ars, Sun and Wig, with only the derby at Emirates looking threatening for Redknapp's team.

As a side note, Cudicini played very well against United and with Gomes due back from injury soon, it will be worth checking if the Italian can keep his place, as that schedule plus this defense would make Cudicini great value at 4.5m.

Needless to say I am considering using my wildcard to get some of the aforementioned players with my main concern as to who are the best premium strikers to anchor my revised team. I will post a new entry on this later in the week. How are your teams fairing? Has anyone used their wildcard yet and are they considering it? Why not tweet me or post your thoughts below.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gameweek 5 Preview

There's a change of pace for this week's preview as I feel the game-by-game run-through often just tells you what you already know (Gerrard is a good play against Burnley - no kidding) and doesn't give you what you really want. I will therefore focus on 4 categories to help you make your decisions:
- best clean sheet bet
- captain rankings
- game predictions
- long term strength of schedules (for forward planning).

Let me know what you guy
s think and if any of the features are particular useful or if you could do without them. With that in mind, let the weekly preview begin . . .

Gameweek 5 fixtures

Blackburn v Wolves
Liverpool v Burnley
Man City v Arsenal
Portsmouth v Bolton
Stoke v Chelsea
Sunderland v Hull
Wigan v West Ham
Tottenham v Man Utd
Birmingham v Aston Villa
Fulham v Everton

Clean Sheet Rankings
1. Liverpool
2. Blackburn
3. West Ham
4. Sunderland
5. Bolton

I don't like that many teams this week for clean sheets with Liverpool looking like the only odds on bet. Blackburn-Wolves looks like it has 0-0 written all over it, much like Rovers' stalemate with the Hammers in week 4, who themselves look like they might be involved in a low scoring affair at the DW Stadium. Check the long term strength of schedules below before picking players from these teams though as the fixtures aren't easy enough to warrant burning two transfers on.

Captain Rankings
1. Steven Gerrard
2. Fernando Torres
3. Wayne Rooney
4. Ashley Young
5. Nicholas Anelka

As with clean sheets above, there aren't a great array of captain option this week due to United, Arsenal, City and Spurs going at it in two titan contests. Chelsea's trip to Stoke is also tough which might limit Lampard and Drogba's effectiveness this week. Of the Chelsea players, Anelka's pace could expose the Stoke defense who might deal better with the power of Drogba. I love the pair of Gerrard and Torres this week and the Liverpool captain will hope to round out a great week after his midweek brace against Croatia. United always play Spurs well though did fail to score in the corresponding fixture last season. Rooney has been in hot form of late and I would back him over all non-Liverpool players this week. After a quiet week 1 followed by the bye, Young has been largely overlooked this season but a goal, two assists and three bonus points in the last two games suggest good things to come for Young. I like him to shine in the Midlands derby this week and is a good outside bet for your armband this week.

Game Predictions
Blackburn 1-0 Wolves
Liverpool 3-0 Burnley
Man City 1-2 Arsenal
Portsmouth 0-0 Bolton
Stoke 0-1 Chelsea
Sunderland 1-1 Hull
Wigan 0-1 West Ham
Tottenham 1-2 Man Utd
Birmingham 1-2 Aston Villa
Fulham 2-2 Everton

The two headline games are the clashes at Eastlands and White Hart Lane where two pretenders - City and Spurs - face off against two European football giants. I am backing against them both (just!) and neither game is likely to provide a fantasy windfall for any single player. Adebayor against his old team looks like a tempting bet as does the aforementioned Rooney. I would avoid all defences in these games if possible.
A few games on the flip side look fairly dull which normally means they either (a) end up very dull or (b) surprise everyone and dish out 4 goals or so. Of the four predicted boring games at Blackburn, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Wigan, the most potential probably comes at Wigan where Martinez and Zola both encourage good football from their respective sides.

Strength of Schedule

Defenders - Best
1. Everton
2. Hull
3. Portsmouth
4. Aston Villa
5. Tottenham

Looking forward a few weeks for those wanting to move players on, the key target is Everton defenders, as I wrote about earlier in the week. After this week they get Bla, @Por, Sto, Wol, @Bol, Ast which all look pretty nice. All these games should also be helpful to the Everton forwards who have struggled a bit this year, and with the return of Yakubu, the Nigerian striker and Cahill look like decent pickups. Even with the favourable matchups, Hull and Portsmouth are too weak to consider right now though Villa and Spur are more intriguing. With a decent fixture this week, Villa might be a good source of talent though it isn't crystal clear who will play. Young and Davies look set to miss out with injury which leaves five defenders to fight for four spots. Warnock (4.9) is the assumed choice at left back and might be the best best. The sleeper pick is Collins (4.5) who is very cheap and showed midweek that he can even add the odd goal. The more likely partnership in the middle is Dunne and Cuellar though so perhaps Collins is too risky for now.
As for Spurs, after next weeks trip to Chelsea the fixtures look pretty great with only the derby trip to the Emirate looking scary until mid season. Bassong (5.2)is struggling for fitness now but should be healthy by the time you would to bring him in for week 7. Asou Ekotto (5.1) and Corluka (5.4) are also worth consideration for this favourable run of games.

Defenders - Worst
1. Fulham
2. Bolton
3. West Ham
4. Blackburn
5. Chelsea

The middle three teams enjoy good fixtures this week though any production is likely to go downhill soon so unless I would not advise bringing these boys in unless you can spare another transfer to move them on soon. Despite the fixtures Chelsea defenders will always carry some value, and although some tricky opponents lie in wait (Spurs, Liverpool and United), they all come at home so I wouldn't run away from in form players like Ashley Cole just yet.
Fulham worry me a bit and I've been thinking about the future of Aaron Hughes (4.9) in my team all week. They have conceded four in the last 2 games but both were quality opponents - Villa and Chelsea - so its harsh to abandon them just yet. The fixture don't get really nasty until week 7 so I advise given the Cottagers two more weeks to prove their worth after which you might want to move them on anyway (Ars, @WH, Hul, @MNC, Liv). Note though that from week 12 on Fulham have great fixtures and a double week so if you can afford the luxury it might be worth holding out until then through the aforementioned sticky patch.
Midfield/Forwards - Best
1. Everton
2. Portsmouth
3. Arsenal
4. Hull
5. Birmingham

I mentioned Everton and Portsmouth above, so lets focus on the other three teams here. Hull and Birmingham lack top level talent but I rate both Altidore (5.0) and Jerome (4.5) very highly, though Jerome's injury status rules him out of fantasy consideration. If Phil Brown would just play Altidore, I am sure he can be a 12-15 goal a season player but until he gets regular minutes he is a major risk. As for Arsenal, the player I liked best to benefit from this run of games was Arshavin, but he now looks likely to miss a couple of games. Fabregas played with and scored for Spain in midweek and looks to be gaining full fitness ready for this favourable schedule. I therefore expect Lampard/Gerrard like production over the next 2 months and with Chelsea's tough fixture list some Lampard owners (including myself) might want to look at Cesc as a way of freeing up some cash for the next few gameweeks. Van Persie's (10.0) value has been hurt somewhat by the 4-3-3 as he is yet to find the net despite Arsenal scoring 11 in the first 3 games. He has added 3 assists though and I think he can generate big time points in the coming weeks and would rank him ahead of similarly priced players such as Adebayor, Anelka and Drogba in that period.

Midfield/Forward - Worst
1. West Ham
2. Sunderland
3. Stoke
4. Man City
5. Fulham

These rankings are a blow for mid range striker believers as Bent, Cole, Jones and Beattie all appear to be risky bets in the coming weeks. West Ham's schedule is particularly brutal with trips to City, Stoke and Sunderland compounded by the visits of Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton and Fulham - all at least solid team. These rankings wouldn't scare me off the likes of Jimenez, Malbranque, Lawrence or Murphy as you are better having the central point of a team against a tough opponent that an average player on a weak team playing Portsmouth. I am scared off with City a bit though and any plans I had to bring Adebayor in have been shelved for now. Ireland owners might consider upgrading to Fabregas or switching to a Young or Lennon and using your cash elsewhere.

I hope you found the above useful in picking your team for the week/making transfers and please post any comments or suggestions below. Also, for those on Twitter, why not tweet your lineup decisions to @plfantasy and I'll post them with answers here before Saturday's deadline.