There has been talk on the boards of wildcards but I've decided that with Drogba, Berbatov, Nani, Alex being locks to stay put and the fact I'm happy with Vidic, Odenwingie and Adam, there doesn't seem to be much point wasting my wildcard too soon. Hence I am looking to reload rather than re-build my squad.
The obvious (and likely) choice is to switch Koncheky out for Boateng who I am very high on. I could also bring Boateng in for one of my budget defenders given that I have 2.8m sat in the bank. However, I can't help but be attracted to the return of Fabregas after the international break given the way he dominates games, wins bonus points and, well, does everything. My only realistic option (without wholesale changes) to get Fabregas is to drop Malouda: surely this is a crazy move?
Fabregas v Malouda
Last season Fabregas was simply irresistible. Despite Lampard running away with the scoring title in the end, it was only through injury that Fabregas missed out (he outscored Lampard at 8.8 v 7.9 PPG and at a rate of 0.752 v 0.584 PPMS). As a comparison, Malouda (on tremendous form) is generating 7.7 PPG at a rate of 0.779 so far this season. So, Fabregas generated more points but Malouda was slightly better value. Nothing too controversial there. For reference, on a per minute basis, Fabregas is generating 10.0 PPG this season in his brief cameo role in GW2 -5.
My issue is whether Malouda can continue this rate of scoring (which is still below the level of production Fabregas showed last year). To date Chelsea have played the easiest schedule for attackers while Arsenal have faced the 5th hardest. That would suggest that Chelsea's goal record (23 in 7 games) must regress a bit to the mean while Arsenal will surely play better against weaker opponents and with Fabregas back (16 in 7 games to date). Over the next 8 games the stats show that Chelsea's opponents concede an average of just 1.18 GPG while Arsenal's opponents concede 1.36. My prediction tool suggests that over those 8 games Chelsea will score 2.5 GPG while Arsenal will add 2.25 GPG.
So it seems that Chelsea might shade the Gunners in goals scored but it is closer than it has been so far this season. But who accounts for those goals?
- This year Malouda has scored/assisted 6 of Chelsea's 20 goals when he played (30%).
- Last year Fabregas accounted for 30/66 of the Arsenal goals that were scored when he played (45%).
- Malouda accounted for 21/102 (21%) of the goals Chelsea scored when he played.
A closer look at Malouda
We all know what Fabregas can do. He is for real and a genuine star in this league (in my opinion the best player along with Drogba). The jury on Malouda however is still out to a degree. Now in his fourth season at Stamford Bridge, Malouda is really starting to look like the player Chelsea thought they were getting when they raided Lyon back in 2007 (he also showed glimpses last season). A look at his chalkboard's from the start of this season are somewhat confusing as his involvement in the game does not necessarily tie to his production. His greatest involvement in terms of touches of the ball and completed passes came against City and Stoke and he managed a combined 12 points in the two games. Meanwhile his chalkboards against Arsenal and Blackburn look terrible but he again managed 12 points over the two games.
That production is both good and bad. Good in that he can score and produce fantasy points when not playing that well but bad in that he doesn't dominate games the way Fabregas does and may drift out of form at some point this season. The longest stretch of games Fabregas went last season without scoring was four, Malouda meanwhile had a run of six games (though this only occurred once and he was generally pretty consistent all year). You do feel though that of the pair Malouda is more susceptible to off weeks as Fabregas is often bailed out by over generous bonus judges. Fabregas earned 1.69 bonus points per 90 minutes last season while Malouda managed just 0.78. Consider that Lampard's number was 1.03 and Drogba's was 1.01 and you realize just how much the pundits love Fabregas (only Rooney - remember him? - came close at 1.53).
The biggest factors playing against me dumping Malouda is his current ownership (42%) and the 0.4m I will lose by selling him. Goals for Malouda will crush my team across all leagues if Fabregas takes a while to get back to form thus making it a huge risk not to own him. Also, if FabregasMalouda back, though it's that kind of risk that makes teams champions.
As of now I am leaning towards a double switch (which I usually avoid) of Konchesky and Malouda to Boateng and Fabregas. I am justifying the 4 point hit on the basis that I will captain Fabregas and both players have good fixtures this week. I also would like to free up some cash to bring Arteta in (who I think is about to explode) and might have to move Vidic out for O'Shea to accommodate that move in the future. I see from the poll that the majority of you think Fabregas will outscore Malouda in the near future and I think I agree with that sentiment. This decision will surely take the rest of the week to settle in my head.