Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Week 11 Break

Apologies to all readers but I am not going to be able to write a preview this week due to work commitments. Normal service will resume after the weekend with hopefully more time to discuss and review all the fantasy news from around the league.
- Chris -

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gameweek 10 Preview

Apologies for the lateness of the post this week, its been really tough to free time to write it so I'm afraid its a bit condensed. Hopefully be back to normal in a week or two.

Gameweek 10 Fixtures

Wolves v Aston Villa

Birmingham v Sunderland

Burnley v Wigan

Hull City v Portsmouth

Tottenham v Stoke City

Chelsea v Blackburn

Bolton v Everton

Liverpool v Man Utd

Man City v Fulham

West Ham v Arsenal


Two very appealing fantasy fixtures see Chelsea entertain Blackburn (3.67 GPG conceded) and Arsenal travelling to a struggling West Ham team (2.33 GPG conceded). A couple of clean sheet plays also look good with Spurs welcoming Stoke (0.50 GPG scored) and City getting Fulham (1.00 GPG scored).

Clean Sheet Rankings
1. Chelsea
2. Aston Villa
3. Tottenham
4. Man City
5. Sunderland

You have to love Chelsea this week in every facet of their game as they welcome a Blackburn side averaging just a goal a game on the road this season. Villa are statistically an ever stronger pick as they average just 1.00 GPG conceded on the road while Wolves have managed just 0.75 GPG at home. The pair of Collins and Dunne that have garnered much fantasy attention over the past few weeks should continue their successful run this week. Spurs and City are a couple of solid home picks against weeker opposition that have struggled to score this season away from home (Stoke 0.50 GPG and Fulham 1.00 GPG). Fulham are also coming off a big Europa League game against Roma and could be open for a let down against Hughes' men. Finally, Sunderland on the road doesn't scream great pay but Birmingham have managed just 2 goals in 4 home games this year while Sunderland's defense has been solid if not spectacular (6 goals in 4 games).

Captain Rankings
1. Didier Drogba
2. Cesc Fabregas
3. Frank Lampard
4. Robin Van Persie
5. Robbie Keane

I'm going to keep backing the Arsenal duo of Fabregas and Van Persie until they prove me wrong but this week they are topped by Drogba based on his favourable matchup. The Ivorian has 5 in his last 5 league games and 7 in 9 for the season and is rested having been suspended for the midweek Champions League fixture. Based on matchup I like the man I have criticised this year - Frank Lampard - to find the back of the net though I still don't condone him as a must own fantasy option. A home gain is too tempting this week and I could see a goal or even a brace for the English midfielder. Finally, I like Robbie Keane to step up in Jermaine Defoe's absence and have a big game against Stoke.

Again, apologies for the lateness and brief nature of this review. I promise full service including more weekly posts will be resumed as soon as possible. Until then, please continue to post below or tweet me any transfer or lineup issues.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 9 Differentiators

The Juice scored a solid 53 points this week, hindered somewhat by the Benitez-like blunder of benching not just James Collins (10 points) but also Michael Turner (6), instead favouring Cole (0) and Assou Ekotto (1) at the back. A look down my local league showed a sight familiar from last year, but unexpected at this early juncture: consistency. Now this can mean one of two things:
  • either everyone is suddenly making great individual decisions each week, or
  • teams are starting to merge and its becoming harder to differentiate yourself.
I think we can safely say that option A is the likely truth. Up front, Drogba (32%), Bent (31%) and Torres (30%) have all cracked the 30% ownership barrier along with Fabregas (31%) and Sorensen (42%). Gerrard (28%) could well be there on return from injury while the likes of Shawcross (27%) Lennon (26%) are also knocking on the door. Injuries to Rooney, Torres and Gerrard along with the continuing struggles of Lampard could well see ownership of Drogba and Fabregas top 35% in the coming weeks.

So where does this all leave us? In a word: differentiation. Cheering for Darren Bent goals and Thomas Sorensen clean sheets, while nice to pad your box score will likely do little to gain on your opponents each week. Instead it'll be the assist from David Dunn (4%), goal from Kenwyne Jones (4%) or clean sheet from Alex Song (2%) to make or break the next portion of your season.

How aggressively you pursue differentiators depends on how much ground you have to make up. In short, if you are riding high in the league then it makes sense to stick with what you are doing and maybe pick up the odd quirky player to avoid your team going stagnant. If you are trailing though, the time to act is now. You need players who will chip away at that deficit from day one and sticking with the proven players and searching for transfer targets by points scored already is unlikely to achieve this.

Below are my favourite transfer targets, all of which are currently held by less than 5% owners:

Kevin Prince Boateng (5m 0.5%)
I very nearly ran a separate feature on Boateng such is my enthusiasm for this pickup. His chalkboard from this week against his former club Spurs were frightening in terms of balls played into the danger zone and more impressively shots on goal. In 5 games for Portsmouth he already has two goals, an assist and perhaps most encouragingly, 5 bonus points. Portsmouth have just 5 goals this year (none from strikers) but they have looked better of late and were unlucky in the end not to get a point on Saturday against Spurs. There should be plenty of bonus points to go around with no stars to take them all and with all 5 of his points coming in losses, Boateng has shown he can contribute even when finishing on the losing side. At 5m Boateng tops my buy list and I will be bringing him in myself this week. Portsmouth's fixtures could be better but when picking a bench player the schedule is only important when you plan to play him so if his good games matchup well with your starters' tough ones then this buy makes alot of sense.

David Dunn (5.5m 3.6%)
I have liked Dunn for a while and almost brought him in a while back when I used my wildcard. Allardyce has been singing Dunn's praises of late and he has been playing up front alongside the impressive Di Santo (see below). 4 goals and 9 bonus points in just 6 games is an incredible return and his 6.5 PPG is ahead of Lampard (5.6) and Gerrard (5.9). After weeks 10 and 11 Blackburn's fixtures are very favourable and Dunn looks set to be the main beneficiary in this period.

Kevin Doyle (5.4m 2.9%)
I really like Doyle and his performances this year have been solid to say the least (3 goals in his last 4). I would be higher on him apart from the fact I fully support having three premium strikers, so its hard to find a place for a solid but unspectacular player like Doyle. If however, you are dead set on keeping an expensive midfield or defense then Doyle could be the man to slot in up front. Wolves fixtures are bad for the next four weeks but then open up for the foreseeable future, at which point Doyle is a buy.

Kevin Davies (6.7m 3.5%)
Davies is quietly having a very nice season and with 42 points is currently 9th among strikers. He only has 2 goals but his 4 assists and 8 bonus points are very promising. Davies will play every week and is often given bonus points due to his effort and dedication when Bolton are involved in scrappy games (which is often the case). I think Davies is on the edge of being the third part of a premium forward line which can be started every week without rotation. The next three games are a bit tough but then like Wolves above, the fixtures open up and Davies should be clear to enjoy some consistent production. His 'tough' style and criticism from so-called experts make Davies an unsexy pick and he is a good solid way to gain ground on your opponents.

Franco Di Santo (5.2m 0.3%)
Like Doyle above, I am not sold on having strikers on the bench but if you want to play a 4-4-2 then Di Santo is an intriguing prospect to save some cash. He has looked very impressive in his short time at Blackburn, particularly against Burnley this week. Allarydyce has suggested that Di Santo will continue to play for now and he is a good option in the short term to bring off your bench.

Emmanuel Adebayor (10.1m 7.6%)
Although held by more than 5% of people, I would be remiss if I did not include him here. He is potentially a top 5 striker but is held by significantly less owners than the other top players at his position. City have good fixtures over the coming weeks and I like Adebayor as a great replacement for Torres and Rooney if they can't prove their fitness and will look to him myself when Drogba departs for warmer African climates.

Gameweek 9 Wrap-up

Another interesting week is in the books, which seemed to follow the recent trends of striker goals and a clear scarcity of clean sheets. Drogba, Van Persie and Bent (sort of) all managed to find the back of the net, while the fortunes of the other big strikers were much worse with Torres and Rooney missing through injury, and Defoe being sent off against former club Portsmouth (having scored earlier in the day). Only Sunderland and Fulham managed clean sheets despite good prospects for the likes of Arsenal, Everton and United. It is becoming clear that until one of the big five or six sides can sustain a run of clean sheets the best strategy is to load up on mid price/cheap defenders and play them based on matchup.

Transfer Watch
Defoe owners will likely want to move early in the week as the Spurs striker is set to miss the next two gameweeks after his suspension. His price has already fallen in the past couple of weeks due to a run of three games without a goal. At the time of writing 27,000 net transfers out have already occurred and one would expect Defoe to fall to 8.7m before the week is done. Spurs' fixtures are okay when he returns so it isn't a no brainer to sell him but it would be tough to have 8.8m ride the bench for the next two weeks.

Steve Gerrard
limped out of tonight's Champions league loss to Lyon with what appears to be a recurrence of his groin injury. If I haven't said it enough before, Gerrard is a major sell right now, especially in light of Torres' injury, Liverpool's terrible form and Sunday's opposition (MNU).

Richard Dunne and James Collins both found the net this week as well as earning bonus points which should give rise to a flurry of transfer activity. I have tipped this paid in the past (especially Collins) but beware, Villa's sees them travel three times in the next four weeks before a later run of trips to MNU, Sun and Ars. Ride the wave while you can but consider selling high on this pair in a week or two.

Cesc Fabregas's value increased by an astonishing 0.3m last week and is already up by another 0.1m this week. Gerrard's injury could accelerate this and I would not be surprised to see 11.2m by the weekend. Needless to say I still rate him as a buy, having scored again tonight.

I'm just running through the schedule strengths for the next few weeks and will post them asap. Hope your weeks went okay and as always continue to post your transfer thoughts and tips.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Last minute news

Apologies for not getting this out sooner. I hope no bad decisions were based on a lack of decent information. Injury roundup from around the league:

Gerrard and Torres are both confirmed to be out (Football 365). For weekly replacements I still like the Arsenal pair of Fabregas and Van Persie. I also really like Adebayor's matchup against Wigan and he is a long term buy so might be a good fir for Torres owners.

Rooney is confirmed as being out (Football365). With his upcoming fixtures, Rooney is a sell rather than bench player and as with Torres I'd go with Van Persie or Adebayor to replace him.

Van der Sar is definitely back which spells the end of Ben Foster (Football365). I considered replacements earlier in the week here.

Michael Ballack will miss the Villa game after a tackle from teammate Yuri Zhirkov while on international duty (BBC). Is there anyone I tipped this week and haven't cursed!

Eduardo is out for the Gunners (BBC)

Lescott, Toure, Bellamy and De Jong all have knocks though reports suggest they could play (BBC)

None of these really effect my clean sheet picks though obviously Rooney is out of my captaincy picks.

Suspensions
Jamie O'Hara (ineligible)
Scott Parker
Kieran Richardson

Player Profile: Michael Ballack

A few fantasy owners (including me) have grown increasingly frustrated by the 8m midfield talent on offer, namely Wright-Phillips, Young, Cahill and Benayoun. Aside from Lennon (who himself is out of form a bit) no players in this price bracket have been consistent with huge weeks (Benayoun week 5) followed by several weeks of mediocre production.

Another option, held by just 5% of owners, is Michael Ballack (8.0) who traditionally has been an inconsistent fantasy performer during his time at Chelsea due to rotation and injury. This year though, Ballack has missed just one game (week 7) and has contributed 36 points in the other 7 games. His three goals are encouraging while his lack of assists (zero) does concern me a bit.

I like Ballack to score 10 goals for the season, adding a couple of assists and bonus points along the way. This kind of production isn't outstanding for a 8m midfielder but so long as he is playing every week he should average out at about 6 points, which is better than many of his fellow 8m players right now.

Chelsea's fixtures are very up and down over the coming weeks with a tough trip to Villa this week followed by tricky ties in weeks 12 (MNU), 14(@Ars) and 15(@MNC). That being said, in Chelsea's two toughest games this year (Tot, Liv) Ballack has averaged 5.5 points so we should not be totally put off by these tough games.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Week 9 Preview

I'm jumping the gun a bit here as I'm sure the inevitable international injury bug will bite someone midweek but I wanted to give everyone a jump on the upcoming week as we look to come out strong from our week off. Four of the big five teams have good looking fixtures and with double gameweeks on the horizon, the next few weeks could be very important.

Gameweek 9 Fixtures
Aston Villa v Chelsea
Arsenal v Birmingham

Everton v Wolves

Man Utd v Bolton

Portsmouth v Tottenham

Stoke City v West Ham

Sunderland v Liverpool

Blackburn v Burnley

Wigan v Man City

Fulham v Hull City


United are the pick of the week as they welcome a Bolton side that have not won at Old Trafford in their last 6 attempts, conceding 18 goals in those losses. Historically, Rooney has done pretty well against Bolton and I like him this week should he bounce back from the calf strain that kept him out for England. The United defense also looks like strong selection to coincide with the probable return of Edwin van der Sar. Arsenal also like a solid play this week though Alex McCleish's side have only conceded 5 goals in 4 away games and their compact style could frustrate the Gunners. I still like Arsenal to win and Birmingham's 3 road goals suggest a clean sheet is on the cards, but I do not expect a 4 or 5 goal whitewash as we have seen in other games at the Emirates this year. The best fixture on paper comes at Villa Park as the Villains welcome Chelsea though in fantasy terms the game looks like it could disappoint as both sides would probably take a draw and there should be only the odd or two to go around.

Clean Sheet Rankings
1. Arsenal
2. Blackburn
3. Stoke
4. Fulham
5. Man United

I like the defensive matchups this week with the above 5 and even a couple of other teams (City and Spurs) having a decent shot at the clean sheet. On stats alone Blackburn are the best matchup having conceded just 1 goal a game at home this year as they welcome local rivals Burnley who have yet to notch an away goal this season. However, it is Arsenal that I like the best this week due to the likely gameplan Birmingham will employ (11 men, staff, fans, team bus behind the ball). The only way I see Arsenal conceding is either from a set piece or from a mental lapse after being in a comfortable lead. Stoke (1 GPG conceded) and Fulham (1.33 GPG) have been solid at home this year and will fancy their chances against West Ham and Hull respectively. Finally, the stats don't necessarily point to a clean sheet for United as they have been only okay at home (1.50 GPG conceded) while Bolton have been surprisingly good on the road (1.67 GPG scored). However, when you consider that Bolton's road trips have been to Hull, Portsmouth and Birmingham you realise that those stats might be misleading. United need to get their defense in order as soon as possible after shaky displays against City and Sunderland and only one clean sheet in the last 5 games. With Van der Sar expected to return I expect that to happen though I advise against bringing fresh United players in due to their fixtures in weeks 10 and 12 (@Liv, @Che).

Captain rankings
1. Cesc Fabregas
2. Robin Van Persie
3. Wayne Rooney
4. Tim Cahill
5. Aaron Lennon

I'm sticking with the hot Arsenal boys this week as they welcome a stubborn but ultimately overmatched Birmingham team. The Gunners have scored a frightening 14 goals in 3 home games and while I don't foresee another 4 or 5 goal drubbing, I do see them getting another 3 goals which should lead to decent production from Fabregas and Van Persie. Arsenal have no really troubling games until week 16 with Chelsea at home the only concern. This pair are therefore not just great plays this week but remain buy options ahead of the likes to Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney (after this week). Rooney looks like a good play this week before his schedule gets tough so I'd certainly hold him but would not be buying at this stage. Cahill has just one goal this year but has been getting chances and I like him against Wolves who have conceded a few goals from set pieces this year. At 8.2m Cahill is a good pickup and is in a range with the likes of Lennon, Ballack and Benayoun which allows you some flexibility in the future. Currently held by 6.4% of owners I really like Cahill going forward until week 16 when he goes to Chelsea before his bye in week 17. Finally, Aaron Lennon is my non-stud of the week pick largely due to his trip to Fratton Park. His form has fallen a bit of late but with Defoe back and Keane in good form I like Lennon to bounce back and give the Portsmouth full backs plenty of trouble this week.

Stay tuned in the week for a couple of transfer tips and player features aloing with all the injury news for the weekend.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Around the League

Welcome back fantasy fans, I hope everyone didn't suffer through the bye week too much (I hate Saturday afternoon at 3pm when there are no Premier League games). Nothing good can come of these international games and the best outcome is that no-one gets injured. A few players of note have not been so lucky though most look likely to avoid missing out this week:

Fernando Torres
Spain coach Del Bosque: "I told him (Benitez) that we will treat Torres as if he was at Liverpool. If the boy is well and wants to play, he will play against Bosnia. And if he has any problem, he will not play. It's that simple."Liverpool play three fairly tricky games through week 11 so it might be worth employing your 11.5m elsewhere. Adebayor and Van Persie have the best fixtures of the big five strikers in the next 6 games, with Liverpool being by far the worst.

Steve Gerrard

The Liverpool captain is said to be close to fitness for Wednesday's games against Belarus so barring any further setbacks, we should see him on the field against Sunderland. Regardless, the fixture issues above and my general dislike for the expensive midfielders this year makes Gerrard replaceable in my eyes.

Wayne Rooney
Rooney withdrew from the England squad but F365 report that it was purely precautionary. Rooney is a great play against Bolton this week though the fixtures after that aren't great and as with Torres I would consider a switch to Adebayor or Van Persie using the extra cash for a few weeks until United's fixture list improves.

Michael Ballack
Similar story to Gerrard here and the big German midfielder looks fine. Having been a rotation nightmare last year, Ballack has been sneakily consistent this year and deserves fantasy consideration having notched just 3 points less than the widely popular Lennon despite playing 190 minutes less.

Kolo Toure, Joleon Lescott and Nigel De Jong
All these boys look to be fit for Mark Hughes and should all have a chance to feature this week at Wigan which is the best fixture for the big 5 sides on the weekend.

Double Gameweeks

A few double gameweeks are
confirmed now which might influence your transfers:

Week 11
Villa: Everton (A) and West Ham (A)
West Ham: Sunderland (A) and Villa (H)

Neither pair of games is particularly great though for a good side like Villa it is obviously advantageous to have them. I would consider these in my medium term strategy but I would not burn 4 points to bring in extra men for these games.

Week 13
Hull: West Ham (H) and Everton (H)
Everton: Man U (A) and Hull (A)
Fulham: Birmingham (A) and Blackburn (H)
Blackburn: Bolton (A) and Fulham (A)

Hull's pair of fixtures are great as West Ham (3 goals in 4 games) and Everton (2 goals in 3 games) have both struggled on the road. However, with just one clean sheet this year and only 4 goals in 4 home games this year it is tough to recommend many of their players. Steve Hunt (5.2m) is the obvious pick and is a nice bench option to bring in to start for the week. I'd love to pick Altidore but he hasn't proven he can establish himself in the first team yet. Fulham's defensive fixtures look excellent and are follow by a decent pair (Bolton (H) and Sunderland (H)) in the next two weeks. Schwarzer is a nice pickup for those looking for a short term replacement for Foster while at 4.7 Aaron Hughes looks the best value on the back line.

Week 17
Everton, Fulham, Hull and Stoke have no game this week.

Week 9 preview is on its way: it's great to have an interrupted run of games for the next few weeks with no more pesky international weeks.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Foster no hope

With Van der Sar's return to the reserves tonight, and Foster's continued struggle between the posts for the first team, it is likely that the English World Cup hopeful will see the end of his extended run and be replaced for gameweek 9 after the international break. At 5m he has provided decent fantasy value over the past 8 weeks and is currently held by 8% of fantasy managers. We are not seeing a massive amount of selling yet so there is no rush to act, but his owners will want to move him on assuming Van der Sar proves his fitness as 5m is too much for a 'keeper to warm your bench. The question is therefore who to get to replace him. I am not a fan of expensive keepers as 'save' points are the great equaliser that makes 'keepers from lower teams almost as valuable as the big boys. Add to that the strong performances of Birmingham, Burnley (at home) and Stoke this year and bargains can clearly be found.

Last season 11 'keepers were within 36 points of each and were lead by the cheapest of them all - Mark Schwarzer. This season has started in a similar vein with 15 'keepers separated by just 14 points and the top 4 including three 'keepers available for 4.1m or 4.2m. I outlined previously that I am an advocate of the 'keeper rotation strategy which calls for picking two players whose schedules compliment each other. This allows for favourable matchups to be played and avoids 4m sitting on your bench and never being used (as is the case if you spend 6m on, say, Petr Cech).

I will therefore suggest my favourite 'pairs' of players which will hopefully involve Foster owners making just one transfer (as they will likely hold one of the other players). I have only considered players available for less than 5m so Foster owners can pick them up straight away regardless of their monetary position. Based on who you already own, I would therefore recommend:

Thomas Sorensen
No less than 39.8% of owners currently hold Thomas Sorensen and with good reason. He leads all fantasy goalkeepers with 36 points and is second only to Vito Mannone in PPMS (1.098) after leading all players in that category last season. I will get to Mannone later but seeing as his sample size is just three games we can basically say that Sorensen has presented the best value so far this season.
Sorensen owners will want to grab a keeper who fulfils two key attributes: playing on a good defense and having good fixtures when Sorensen does not. If for example Sorensen gets Portsmouth at home (0.5 GPG) then there is little value in the fact that Myhill welcomes West Ham (0.75 GPG) as you will still play Sorensen anyway. The key games over the next 10 weeks for Sorensen owners are therefore weeks 10 (@Tot), 15 (@Ars) and 17 (no game). In these weeks Bolton have by far the best fixtures (Eve, @Wol, WH) with opponents averaging just 0.72 GPG in those three weeks. Sunderland (0.94 GPG) and Birmingham (1.00 GPG) also provide nice synergy with Sorensen. Of those three teams, Birmingham has the strongest defense and with two opponents (Sun and Bla) coming to St Andrews where they are very strong (0.75 GPG conceded) I think Joe Hart makes the most sense here. Needless to say, if you own Joe Hart then Thomas Sorensen makes sense in exactly the same way.

Brian Jensen
With 11% of owners holding Jensen he is the third most selected budget 'keeper behind the aforementioned Sorensen and Hart. Burnley's fixtures on paper look good but I would only be willing to play 'the beast' at home and so we are looking for a complimentary 'keeper with good fixtures when Burnley go away from Turf Moor. This rules Sorensen out due to his off week in week 17 which coincides with Burnley's game against free scoring Arsenal. Hart is also out as trips to Arsenal and Liverpool coincide with Burnley's trips to Blackburn and City. The best option is somewhat ironic in that it is Blackburn - Burnley's great rival - that provides him. Paul Robinson has been much maligned over the past couple of years but as fantasy 'keeper he has some value, highlighted by his 5 point haul this week despite conceding 6 to Arsenal. Robinson is a good shot stopper and should rack up the save points while his opponents in the four games we want to bench Jensen average just 0.375 GPG.

Short Term Solutions
A few budget keepers have risen to prominence in recent weeks due to injuries to their team's original number (indeed that's how Foster got his gig). I am of course talking about Mannone and Cudicini, who have both performed well since inheriting the gloves due to injuries to Almunia and Gomes. Arsenal didn't keep a clean sheet with Almunia between the sticks but have kept 2 in the 3 games with Mannone and could have kept one at the weekend, having conceded two freaky goals (one of which was probably Mannone's fault). Wenger has indicated that Mannone is the long term answer but Almunia is due to return in gameweek 9 rendering Mannone worthless in fantasy terms for time being. Cudicini is a different story as Gomes has returned from injury but Cudicini has kept his place. He only has one clean sheet in 7 appearances and Spurs defense has looked a bit shaky but 5 of the next 6 games look good and for 4.5m Cudicini can provide good value. Redknapp has suggested that the job is Cudicini's to lose for now so he might be a useful stop gap for those looking to ditch Foster and tho aren't convinced by any of the options above.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Gameweek 8 Wrap-up

Plenty of goals this week with only one clean sheet going into Monday's clash at Villa Park. The game of the weekend came at the Emirates with Arsenal hitting 6 against Blackburn, who themselves looked useful in the first half. Fabregas was incredible (getting a goal, 4 assists and 3 bonus points) and that performance should end any doubt there was over my ranking of him in line with - if not ahead 0f - Gerrard and Lampard this season. With Van Persie able to contribute goals, assists and bonus points, he also showed his fantasy class and that he can rightfully be considered alongside the top tier of strikers in the Premier League.

Prediction assessment
My predictions were pretty mixed the clean sheet rankings being rendered useless by the fact that only two teams kept one, one of which was Portsmouth on the road which not many would have predicted. The other was Chelsea which I did get - much to criticism of a few readers - which really wasn't all that surprising. Chelsea are very tight at home and have still only surrendered one goal in six games in all competitions. Ancelotti played a very narrow team including Deco and Ballack in place of wide men like Malouda, Kalou or Cole. Liverpool failed to capitalise on that and Chelsea dominated the middle of the park and stopped Gerrard running the game. Arsenal's fixtures look better over the next few weeks but I would rank Chelsea as the best team defense right now, way ahead to United and Liverpool at this point.

My captaincy rankings were decent with Fabregas, Van Persie all contributing good or great games while Rooney and Lennon disappointed. Rooney was embarrassing against Sunderland and his petulant and childish behaviour should concern fantasy managers who paid 11m+ for his services. In his career he has been streaky when it comes to goals and the international weekend might be a welcome break. Note that United travel to both Liverpool and Chelsea in the next 3 weeks so it might be worth looking at moving Rooney after week 9's visit of Bolton (who Rooney normally does well against).

On the horizon
Defensively, City have pretty good looking fixtures with only three troubling fixtures (@Liv, Che and @Tot) between now and week 21. Richards was my pick there but with Zabaleta starting the last two I think Bridge becomes the best pickup at Eastlands. Zabaleta himself is 5m so might be worth a punt but I could see Richards back in fold at some point so I'd go with Bridge who should play every week barring injury. Aside from the week 11 trip to the Emirates I also like Spurs avoid the coming weeks, despite conceding two to Bolton this week. At 5.1m I think Assou Ekotto remains the best pick here, though if you jump on him quick you should be able to make a quick buck on Corluka (5.3) who will no doubt get the attention of other owners following his goal this week.

I love City's attacking fixtures with home games to Hull (week 14) and Burnley (week 12) looking particularly tasty. After his return tonight against Villa I think Adebayor is a buy and - along with Van Persie - is the pick of the premium strikers over the next 6 weeks. Ireland was benched tonight against Villa and is no longer worthy of fantasy consideration while Wright Phillips form concerns me (I sold him) and I think better options can be found. Everton also have good attacking fixtures and I like Louis Saha as a midprice option for those looking to differentiate themselves from Darren Bent. Blog poster dhs_media_ssharp has been singing the praises of Bilyaletdinov (6.5) and the chalkboard of his first league start shows why. Plenty of balls played into the danger zone, including corners which he is very accomplished with. Not a total steal at 6.5 but there is a gap in talent at that price range and with the upcoming fixtures I like the young Russian to contribute some fantasy points soon.

Market Watch
These tips are purely based on the ability to make cash rather than how much I like an individual player based on his schedule and all other factors

Buy

Thomas Vermaelen should hit 7m after his goal this weekend and I think he is fairly priced based on his superior outfield skills. I do not normally pick defenders based on the goalscoring but Vermaelen has shown he isn't simply a 'head the odd corner in' type of centre back. Defensively Arsenal's fixtures aren't amazing but good enough to consider Vermaelen, who should still give a small price rise if you move quickly.

Cesc Fabregas
has already risen to 10.8 but I could see this hitting 10.9 or even 11.0 by the time the international break is over. Even a that price he is still considerably less than Gerrard and Lampard and provides better value. Still a buy option in my eyes.

Darren Bent
has 5 in his last 4 and the goal at Old Trafford shows he can do it against the big boys too. Back to back bonus awards are also welcome and I would set a long term projection of 8m for Bent as managers continue to move over to putting their money in strikers.

Sell
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have net transfers out of fifteen and ten thousand and Lampard's price has fallen to 12.4m. The man himself insists the goals will come but until he hits the net from open play in the league I would follow this trend and move your cash into premium strikers before the pair's prices fall further.

As noted above, Wayne Rooney was poor this week and with a tough schedule to come some owners could switch to Drogba, Torres or Adebayor causing the England striker's value to fall a bit.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday Roundup

Pretty quiet fantasy day today despite 15 goals being scored in 5 games. Goalscorers like Yebda (0.0%), Vennegoor of Hesselink (0.3%) and Fletcher (0.5%) ensured that most teams will have failed to score too many points, as will the fact that the only clean sheet was kept by Portsmouth, on the road! The only fantasy star to register a goal for the week was the impressive Darren Bent who was also credited with a man of the match award of 3 points. Having missed out through the first 6 games, Bent now seems to have got the pundits attention having notched back-to-back clean sheets, despite the fact that Cana or Cattermole were widely praised as the dominate players in the fixture. This added scoring category makes Bent even better and the fact he went to Old Trafford and scored makes him not only a guaranteed every week play, but also a captain candidate if the matchup looks good.

The biggest game in fantasy terms was Sunderland's surprise draw at Old Trafford which reaffirms my high regards for Steve Bruce's side. I am also further convinced that United hold very little fantasy value right now as the majority of their team is either overvalued or at risk of rotation. Having assumed Giggs would keep his place in the side and that either of Carrick and Anderson might be rested, I was shocked that all three missed out, and worse for fantasy owners, Carrick and Anderson came on and contributed nothing thus sentencing their managers to a 1 point haul. Of the United midfield I think only Fletcher warrants consideration, and even he is at risk of rotation due to Ferguson's hesitance to drop the Scottish terrier in midweek European ties. Up front, Berbatov has shown some signs of life but is grossly overvalued at 9.5m while Rooney's display of petulance and sulking today show why he isn't - and never will be - in Torres' class in both reality and fantasy terms.
The real surprise though is United's frailty at the back, which was underlined again today. With just three clean sheets this season (Birmingham, Wigan and Stoke) United defenders are not worth 6.7m+ as similar points hauls can be found from Villa (4.5m+), City (5.5m+) and Stoke (4.5m+) players. Foster is still okay value at 5.1m but there is no way he keeps his place when van der Dar returns and with Liverpool and Chelsea on the horizon it might be worth shopping for his replacement sooner rather than later.

Hopefully tomorrow will bring more fantasy excitement and I am relying on Arsenal - Song, Cesc and Van Persie (c) - to rescue me after a poor Saturday on which just 13 points were scored.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pure Juice Shakeup

02 October 2009 (Manchester) -- Pure Juice manager Chris Glover is no stranger to controversy having ditched club captain Lampard back in week 5 and shockwaves have rocked Juice again with news that both Shaun Wright Phillips and Richard Dunne have both been sold and replaced by in-form winger Aaron Lennon and Arsenal defender/midfielder Alex Song.

"I feel like both lads give us something different and will help us in the long run to rack up a higher points haul", said Glover. "I was concerned with having Dunne and Collins from Villa and we really thought it was time to ride the Arsenal fixture list while the going is good".

There's no arguing about the Lennon pickup, though some pundits are suggesting that Song is not guaranteed first team football at the Emirates and therefore looks like a risk for the Juice boss:

"I think with Denilson out Song is a good prospect and we are sure he can do a job for us in the coming weeks".

Glover's decision to stick by his Chelsea defender Ashley Cole (and back him for a clean sheet this week) caused some controversy amongst the media and Glover will be sure to suffer a backlash should Cole struggle on Sunday.

Around the League

Lampard not worried by Blues' form (Football365) - Lampard isn't worried by his team's form, but fantasy owners should be worried by Frank's. Only one goal this season is a worrying total for a 12.5m player, though 4 assists in 7 games is a nice return. The great asset for midfielders though is that they earn more points per goal than strikers so assists and bonuses are unlikely to get it done and justify his lofty price. I am far from ready to write Lampard off who is still the man-to-beat as the best in fantasy, but at least for now, I will continue to say he is overpriced based on his form and Chelsea's fixtures which are up and down for the next few weeks.

Walcott back in Gunners mix (Football365) - Walcott and Bendtner are back though Eduardo is out for Wenger's men. I would imagine Bendtner will remain on the bench while Walcott has a chance to start in the front 3 alongside Van Persie and Arshavin. This brings into doubt the fantasy future of Rosicky and I would avoid both players until the situation clears up.

Keane eyes top four finish (Football365) - Keane is in hot form and with Defoe out with a hand injury, the Irishman will play again this week at Bolton, likely alongside Peter Crouch. Keane is the natural replacement for Defoe owners who cannot raise sufficient funds to bring in Van Persie or Anelka, and want to cash in on Spurs' good looking fixture list.

Fergie faces midfield headache (Sky Sports) - Ferguson has hailed the performances of Anderson and Carrick in midweek suggesting the pair will retain their places this week. Oh wait, actually, he has also praised Scholes and Fletcher meaning that pair will play. Confused? The United midfield is a fantasy minefield and despite the form of Giggs I would only recommend Fletcher at this point based on his low price tag. At 7.1m and 6.9m Giggs and Carrick are just too expensive to have on your bench and look overpriced until a steadier lineup emerges.

Ade handed suspended ban (Sky Sports) - Good news for fantasy fans as one of the best value strikers returns this week after his 3 game ban. Monday's game at Villa is tough so I would give him that one to get back up to speed then bring him in the week after when 5 of the next 6 games look great. I still like Van Persie alot but Adebayor might jump Drogba in my striker value rankings based on the Ivorian tough fixtures in weeks 12-15. Coincidentally, Torres' fixtures improve from week 12 onwards so a good strategy (and one I will probably employ) would be to free up enough cash by week 12 and then bring in El Nino for Drogba.

Denilson injury rocks Arsenal as midfielder is ruled out for two months (Daily Mail) - While losing Denilson is not good news for Arsenal, it might be decent news for fantasy owners who are on board with Alex Song, a player I have liked for a while. Song was excellent against Olympiakos midweek and with Denilson out he should play every week from now on. Being classed as a defender gives him access to clean sheets (which Arsenal have a decent shot at in the next few weeks) while playing in midfield obviously gets him a bit further forward (though don't expect too many goals and assists). For 5.5, he is great value and I am well and truly on board in light of the Denilson injury.

Stay tuned throughout the day and up until deadline time tomorrow for any breaking news, or check out Twitter for the latest updates.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gameweek 8 Preview

The dust has settled from the Champions League which brings to a close a mixed midweek for English sides. Liverpool were undone by a very impressive Fiorentina side while United's win was tainted by an injury to Michael Owen, though if any fantasy manager is sticking by the former England star at 7.9m, they need more help than I can provide in the next few paragraphs. Arsenal looked okay despite leaving it late to see off Olympiakos on Tueday, while Chelsea continued a poor weak with a mundane display against minnows Apoel. With all those distractions behind us its time to focus on the fantasy week ahead, and where better to start than at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea entertain Liverpool in the fixture of the week.

Gameweek 7 Fixtures
Bolton v Tottenham
Burnley v Birmingham
Hull City v Wigan
Wolves v Portsmouth
Man Utd v Sunderland
Arsenal v Blackburn
Everton v Stoke City
West Ham v Fulham
Chelsea v Liverpool
Aston Villa v Man City

The fixture of the week is undoubtedly the game at Stamford Bridge though the real fantasy points could be had at Old Trafford and Arsenal where the two football giants face sides that have struggled somewhat on the road this year. Liverpool looked very poor in Florence midweek and Martin Skrtel has not settled in at the back alongside an underachieving Jamie Carragher which has caused Liverpool to leak goals this year (10 in 7 games so far). I therefore really like Drogba and Anelka (who scored on Wednesday) this week, with Anelka usually good for a goal his former clubs (just ask Arsenal). With Torres in such hot form I am not thrilled about playing Cole or any of his defensive teammates this week, but unless you can transfer them out for United or Arsenal players they are still worth playing unless you have incredible depth. Mascherano should be fit for the game, which could thrust Gerrard into a more advanced position meaning Auerlio will miss out, unless he replaces Insua at left back. The other risk would be the inclusion of Babic or Riera ahead of Benayoun but I am going to stick with the Israeli and hope Benitez does too.

I am a huge fan of Steve Bruce and his Sunderland side but on the road this year they have only picked up 3 points in 3 games despite only face Bolton, Stoke and Burnley. Man United are a different proposition altogether and I love Rooney this week to get his 7th and maybe even his 8th or 9th League goals of the season. Carrick's midweek goal could allow him to keep his place in the team, though I would expect Darren Fletcher back with perhaps Anderson missing out. Fletcher (5.6m) is great value in the middle, while Giggs' (7.1) continuing form means we must give him some attention. I am not convinced the Welshman will start though having played 90 minutes on Wednesday so that is a risky pick for me.

Arsenal look like the other good source of fantasy points this week and I am still firmly behind Van Persie (10.1) after his goals last weekend and on Tuesday night. Fabregas is in excellent form in my eyes (and Wenger's) and I love him to score this week having been unlucky to miss out in midweek. With just one goal on the road this year, Blackburn are struggling for goals and the likes of Vermaelen and Clichy look to be a good play this week. Equally, Song (who is classed as a midfielder) was excellent against Olympiakos and I think he should hold his place in the lineup, providing good value for his owners.

Captain Rankings
1. Robin Van Persie
2. Wayne Rooney
3. Didier Drogba
4. Cesc Fabregas
5. Aaron Lennon

Arsenal have the best matchup and therefore have two players in the list this week. Van Persie and Fabregas are both in excellent form and I like them both to score or contribute heavily this week. Drogba is rested from midweek and showed against Wigan that he can score when the team is misfiring and I think he gives Liverpool huge matchup problems for the week ahead. As noted above I love Rooney this week and he in only number two because of Sunderland's superior defensive record on the road (1.33 GPG) compared to Blackburn (2.5 GPG). The wildcard pick of the week isn't much of a wildcard with his excellent performances so far this year but at 8.1m Lennon still provides tremendous value for money. Spurs have scored well on the road this year (2.33 GPG) while Bolton have conceded a few (1.66 GPG). J'Lloyd Samuel does not have the quality to contain the tricky winger and with Defoe, Keane and Crouch all firing this season the assists and possibly goals should continue to flow for Lennon.

Clean Sheet Rankings
1. Arsenal
2. Everton
3.Man United
4. Burnley
5. Chelsea

I love Arsenal this week on both sides of the ball and having conceded just one goal at the Emirates this year I expect a clean sheet against a Blackburn side that has scored just one goal on their travels. Despite his rapid price rise I think Vermaelen (6.8) is still decent value due to his ability to score goals in ways other than traditional centre backs. Clichy (6.3) has been in poor form this year and I like him to bounce back over the coming weeks and I think he is decent value at his current value. As noted above, Song (5.5) is playing in midfield but is classed as a centre back and he could be outstanding value if he keeps his place in Wenger's side.
Stoke have struggled on the road again this year while Everton are improving and I like Moyes' men to win this one fairly comfortably. Baines (6.3) due to his penalty duties and Distin (5.0) are the value picks here and both are great plays this week.
United's defense are looking better of late and should be able to contain Sunderland despite the impressive duo of Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent. Vidic hasn't looked as good as last year but I think they'll get back on track with a comfortable 2 or 3 nil victory here. On a side note, Foster has been confirmed as the starter for that one.
Burnley and Chelsea round out the last and both might be surprise picks. Burnley have only conceded 1 goal at home this year and Birmingham have scored just twice on the road. I expect a very tight game here and would not be surprised by a 0-0. Chelsea meanwhile welcome a Liverpool side featuring the best striker in England, if not the world in Fernando Torres. However, Liverpool are not in the best form and despite scoring 7 on the road I am not convinced by them just yet. Chelsea have been very tight at home (one goal in three games) and I expect a close encounter in this one, with Chelsea able to shade it.

I will follow this up with an injury post but I wanted to get the rankings out there early in case anyone needs help with transfers. Why not post or tweet your lineup/transfer questions and I'll give any advice I can.