Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gameweek 24 Preview

Firstly, an apology for the lack of preview last week. Work commitments along with the short game left me caught short. Hopefully everyone was aware of United and City's absence and planned accordingly while picking a captain become somewhat trickier with the likes of Rooney and Tevez absent.

The headline game of week 24 will of course be the clash at the Emirates between Arsenal and United, which is probably the biggest game of the season so far. Fantasy wise I don't love the game with these games tending to have a couple of goals and a lack of clean sheets (the only clean sheets in this fixture since 2002 have been the 0-0 in 2005/06). Four more teams have double gameweeks with the highlight of course being league leaders Chelsea who have a pair of road games against two of the weaker sides in the division (though both have actually been decent at home). Double gameweeks are going to play a massive part of the remainder of the season with no less than 14 scheduled over the next 7 gameweeks.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Fulham (double)
  2. Chelsea (double)
  3. Man City
  4. Sunderland
  5. Birmingham
  6. Tottenham
  7. Hull (double)
  8. West Ham
  9. Liverpool
  10. Burnley
  11. Aston Villa
  12. Arsenal
  13. Wigan
  14. Everton
  15. Stoke
  16. Wolves
  17. Portsmouth (double)
  18. Man Utd
  19. Blackburn
  20. Bolton
Fulham's defensive fixtures this week aren't far off the equivalent of United's double gameweek in week 22 that lead to huge returns from the likes of Rooney and Valencia. Fulham have conceded just 6 goals at home this season and welcome two opponents (Villa and Portsmouth) this week, one of whom is average away from home (1.2 GPG) and one who aspires to be average (0.5 GPG). The strength of these fixtures, along with their favourable upcoming fixtures make Fulham defenders a must buy this week, and I would even consider paying 4 points to bring someone in if your other options aren't good.

Captain Picks

  1. Frank Lampard
  2. Nicolas Anelka
  3. Didier Drogba
  4. Steven Gerrard
  5. Carlos Tevez
  6. Wayne Rooney
  7. Cesc Fabregas
  8. Florent Malouda
  9. Stephen Hunt
  10. Bobby Zamora
With United and Arsenal players looking less appealing than normal I would either back my Chelsea players on a double gameweek or roll the dice with someone like Stephen Hunt who also plays twice. For midfielders who can contribute in several ways, it's hard to go wrong captaining a player on a double gameweek as you give you a great chance to get double digits from your leader. Drogba is due to be back after Cote D'Ivoire early departure from the ACN but stay tuned this week for the latest on this as there is a good chance he could wind up on the bench for at least the Burnley game.

Stay tuned to plfantasy during the week for all the latest injury news and why not post your transfer and lineup issues below

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gameweek 23

Apologies for the lack of a preview this week. The short week crept up on me and work commitments prevented me turning around a decent preview in time. Normal service will be resumed for next week which is a standard Saturday deadline. Double gameweeks for Chelsea, Fulham, Hull and Portsmouth are the headlines.

Stay tuned for the preview to be posted shortly. Thanks for your patience

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Differentiation

dif·fer·en·ti·a·tion (n)
1. The act, process, or result of differentiating
2. The process of computing a derivative.
3. The process by which cells or tissues undergo a change toward a more specialized form or function, especially during embryonic development.

I hope you all captained Rooney or Fabregas this week! I'm pleased to say this pair were my top 2 captain picks for the week though judging from most of the mini leagues I am in, they were also everyone else's pick. Pure Juice scored 128 points this week and lost ground in the main competition thanks to the double game-weeks of Arsenal and United.

The week served to underline the fact that most teams now have an overlap of at least 4 or 5 players with 7 players owned by 30% of more of all managers. Consider that a number of managers at the bottom of the league have probably not kept up to date and you realise that in reality over half of all your competitors probably most own these players:
  1. Rooney (44%)
  2. Sorensen (44%)
  3. Dunne (41%)
  4. Fabregas (34%)
  5. Bent (34%)
  6. Milner (33%)
  7. Defoe (30%)
Thus starts the age old issue of differentiation. It is important to strike a balance between differentiating your team while continuing to hold the top players who will continue to perform for the rest of the season. There is a reason that nearly half of all owners have Rooney and the fact he is widely held should not rule out you continuing to own him too.

Below are three players from each position who I like in the second half of the season and are owned by less than 10% of owners. I have given bias towards those players with good schedules in the next 8 weeks or so rather than those with a good finish to the season.

Defenders
  1. Michael Dawson (5m 3%) - Tottenham's defense has been in great form but none of their defenders are owned by 10% of players and Dawson is owned by just 3%. Dawson has caught the eye of the judges too, being awarded 5 points over the past few weeks as a nice bonus to his 5 clean sheets in the past 6 games. Over the next 10 weeks , Spurs' opponents average just 1.15 goals per game and four opponents average less than 0.8. For those holding budget United players (Brown, Evans) soon to be obsolete, Spurs would be a great train to jump on before it becomes a bandwagon.
  2. Martin Skrtel (5.6m 2%)- Liverpool have played a kind of 5-3-2 lately with Skrtel playing in either the back line or pushing into a holding role in a 4-1-3-2. I think that even when the back line is fully fit Skrtel should continue to play (ahead of Kyrgiakos) and Liverpool's fixtures are very solid aside from back to back trips to Eastlands and the Emirates. People are off the Liverpool defense this year but they have only conceded once in the last 4 games and might be slowly turning things round. If they do then you better be there first as owners will flock to big names like Carragher and (when fit) Johnson if Liverpool's defense starts to play consistently.
  3. Scott Dann (4.1m 3%) - Fantasy owners still aren't giving Birmingham enough respect and while many managers own Hart (27%) not many have their back line. I like Dann as a solid bench player who can be played as well as Hart if the fixture is right to give you the edge. In the next 9 weeks Birmingham face just one scary game (@Che next week) and deserve strong consideration for starting berths in weeks 24, 25, 28, 29 and 30).
Midfielders
  1. Charles N'Z0gbia (5.6m 8%) - I have been on N'Zogbia for some time now and he continues to impress me and the bonus judges (15 bonus points since week 10). Wigan have decent fixtures and are starting to score more goals under Martinez's system so I like N'Zogbia to continue his good form for the foreseeable future. He would be a useful replacement for Hunt, Diaby and Dempsey who are too widely owned now.
  2. Luka Modric (7.2m 4%) - At the start of the season, Modric was one of the hottest fantasy players to own given his decent price tag and the fact that when he plays he is often central to most good things Spurs do. After injuries, the excellent form of Lennon and the arrival of Kranjcar, Modric has been forgotten somewhat and is now owned by less than 5% of owners (some of whom probably still have him since week 1 having neglected to change their team). Spurs have some good looking fixtures and are playing fairly well at the moment, though not scoring as many as they'd like. They are clearly missing Lennon but Modric should be able to fill that void and having played 180 minutes this week Modric has proven he is fit and ready to make a difference.
  3. Steve Pienaar (6.3m 5%) - Pienaar is in great form and will start to be noticed by fantasy managers very soon. Everton's fixtures are tough which turns me off somewhat but the imminent return of Arteta from injury and Yakubu from Africa should improve the potency of an improving Everton side who Pienaar is now an integral part of.
Forwards
  1. Ivan Klasnic (6m 1%) - Klasnic has become somewhat of a cult hero in Bolton thanks to his miraculous recovery from two kidney transplants along with his top performances this year. In the 7 games Klasnic has played for an hour, he has scored 6 goals and although he is a rotation risk when Bolton go away from home and switch to a 4-5-1 he should see plenty of action under the more attack minded Owen Coyle.
  2. Louis Saha (7m 6%) - Like Pienaar above, Saha will benefit from the return of Cahill and Everton should continue to improve as the season goes on. I like Saha to continue to score and he could touch 20 goals when all is said and done (currently 11). He is a consistent scorer who can score against the big boys (Ars, Che, Tot and MNC already this year) and you can easily plug him in the side and forget about it provided he can avoid the injuries that have plagued his career to date.
  3. Dimitar Berbatov (9.4m 1%) - This will be a controversial pick and to be honest it is probably a move for those in 20th rather than 2nd place. Nevertheless the polarizing Bulgarian has 7 goals for the season despite missing time due to injury in weeks 12-14. He is a rotation risk, though with Owen far from proving himself so far, Ferguson may be forced to play Berbatov and Rooney in most games for the rest of the season. I also think Tevez's success will push Ferguson to try and prove that he made the right decision in opting for Berbatov over the Argentinian. At 9.4m he is a huge risk but even those players currently unavailable like Drogba and Torres are widely owned and if you need to get back into your title race then it will take a bold move and as we have seen from his Spurs days, when Berbatov plays and plays well, he can be unplayable.
Why not post your own ideas as differentiators below or @plfantasy. As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Once in a Blue Moon


Football (or soccer if you'd prefer) is not generally considered to be a game of momentum. While a team can build an element of sustained pressure, the counter attack and long ball are equally viable options and can be used to devastating effect. Contrast this to, say, American Football or Rugby where teams drive and battle for field position and you will see my point.

That being said, one couldn't help but notice a potentially significant shift in momentum last night in Manchester, not in a single game, but in an entire sport. It is of course hyperbole to suggest that City will surpass local rivals United in this or future seasons but last night's game evidenced that, at least, this could happen. The state of the two clubs finances could not be much different with City owner Sheikh Mansour continuing to plow millions into the Blue side of the city while the Red side face the prospect of their owners making a cash withdrawal.

The case is perfectly illustrated by the Tevez saga, after the Argentinian bagged both goals in City's 2-1 win tonight. The natural argument raging across the forums is Tevez v Berbatov but with Ronaldo gone and no other big name arrivals in the summer the real argument in Tevez v Owen (United's replacement for Tevez in the summer). One has to feel that in days gone by, if Ferguson wanted to Tevez this summer the board would have paid up the £25m to maintain at least 3 legs of United's deadly foursome from last year's successful campaign. But no, Ferguson - at least in hindsight - was forced to choose Berbatov over Tevez and whether this was right or not it is a decision that he is not used to taking. Mancini on the other hand is unlikely to have to make such choices and while the transfer activity has been slow so far, one feels City will be able to bring in at least one more difference maker before we reach February.

City currently lie 5th, level on points with Spurs and well placed to capture a Champions League spot. This, along with potential success in the Carling Cup and perhaps the FA Cup too could give Mancini an even sturdier platform from where to launch transfer raids across Europe and we could see City's squad reformed once again before turning their attention to the top of the league next year.

Even if the the unthinkable happened and City challenged and indeed won a title in the next couple of years, this would not in itself be all that significant for United's legacy. The Reds have won 11 of the 17 Premier League titles along with 2 Champions League crowns and domestic cup success, far eclipsing the accomplishments of old rivals Liverpool and new challengers like the once free spending Chelsea. Note however, the achievements of the clubs below:

Club A: 12 league titles, 9 FA Cups
Club B: 1 league title (1955), 3 FA Cups

Club C: 18 league titles, 11 FA Cups
Club D: 2 league titles (last in 1968), 4 FA Cups

Clubs A and B are Arsenal and Chelsea before Roman Abramovich took control of the club in 2003 while clubs C and D are United and City at present day. Since the takeover Chelsea have added two league titles, two FA cups and reached the Champions League final while Arsenal have a single FA Cup and won the league in the year Abramovich bought Chelsea (before his spending kicked in). The task at hand for Chelsea was not quite as large as that facing City but consider that Arsenal's finances have been solid in this period even if not on the level's on their West London rivals. If United are forced into a position where purchases are made on the cheap then they could be joining one of their other old rivals - Liverpool - at the wrong end of the top 4.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Gameweek 22 Wrap Up (Part I)

A strange weekend of football really which had goals (see Chelsea) as well clean sheets (9 in all). The average points scored were a healthy 48, especially when you consider that United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool all play again before the gameweek is up. I was pleased with my captain picks as my top four scored 12, 11, 8 and 5 points respectively while 4 of my top 5 defenses all managed a clean sheet. Chelsea's defense let me down but they more than made up for it with their 7 goals and big games from Anelka, Lampard, Ballack and Cole (who only played 45 minutes).

I am starting to get really concerned with differentiating my team as goals from Rooney (45% owned), Fabregas (32%) and Cole (15%) did little to help me catch/pull away from the opposition. However, with Torres, Drogba and Gerrard all unavailable the premium options are limited. Hopefully we will get at least a couple of impact players in the transfer window, but not resting on this assumption, I will post some ideas over the coming week regarding players who have been overlooked to date.

There are still three more games to come this gameweek with two tomorrow night and one on Saturday so there are still plenty of points to be had this week. After that we are treated to a midweek gameweek starting January 26 so if you plan on waiting until after the weekend's FA cup matches before making your transfers (advisable) then ensure you are able to act in time before Tuesday's 7:30 deadline.

With the spare few days I hope to post regarding the aforementioned differentiator problem along with some thoughts on the value of defenders and the upcoming strength of schedules.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gameweek 22 Preview

Last week made waves in the fantasy league for all the wrong reasons. One team in my mini league scored zero as his only two starting players were Phil Neville (2 points) and captain Darren Fletcher (-2). Those with Tevez will have fared better, especially if they captained him, though points elsewhere were hard to find. While embarrassing to score down in the 20s, chances are you only lost a few points on your competitors. This week is more important. Playing double gameweeks well (or poorly) can make or break your league and with four of the best fantasy squads around playing twice, there could be some very large scores around this week.

Man United, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Bolton and Hull all play twice and some fantasy value can be had from each of these squads

* For United I think Rooney and Valencia are incredibly good starts this week and are close to being the pick at each of their respective positions. Defensively, United are hard to judge but I am confident Brown will play and becomes a great option. Evra is a great player and may even justify some captain consideration.

* Arsenal give us the best midfielder of the week - Fabregas - who could return to the heights of weeks 8-12 with a double digit performance. The back line is also a good play though Bolton have been in good home form so I wouldn't rush to pickup 2 Arsenal defenders unless you already own them. For Traore owners, Clichy looks like he might return but Wenger says he does not wish to rush him so stay tuned.

* Torres picked up a knock tonight in the cup but the early signs are that he'll be good to go and is of course a great play. The defense is a useful play and with decent fixtures ahead they might be a decent buy low option.

* Lennon is expected to miss the Liverpool game so becomes too risky despite the double gameweek. I like Modric alot, and although I had suggested delaying his purchase until the fixtures got better, the double gameweek means he is a buy prospect now. The defense is an okay play and worth a look as the fixtures start to open up soon defensively.

*Bolton and Hull provide good depth players who will at least give you 4 points if they play. Hunt and Taylor are the obvious candidates while both defenses should be avoided.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Man United (0.4 and 0.4)
  2. Arsenal (1.1 and 0.9)
  3. Chelsea (0.4)
  4. Tottenham (0.4 and 2.3)
  5. Aston Villa (0.4)
  6. Liverpool (1.4 and 1.0)
  7. Blackburn (0.8)
  8. Stoke (0.8)
  9. Birmingham (1.1)
  10. Wolves (1.1)
  11. Portsmouth (1.2)
  12. Man City (1.3)
  13. Fulham (1.3)
  14. Everton (1.5)
  15. Wigan (1.8)
  16. West Ham (1.8)
  17. Bolton (3.1 and 3.6)
  18. Sunderland (3.1)
  19. Hull (4.3 and 4.0)
  20. Burnley (4.7)
The top 6 teams are all really good plays and I would be aiming to try and get 4 defenders from this group this week if you can. Be careful though with United players as remember they, along with City Hull and Stoke, have no game in week 23.

Captain Rankings
  1. Rooney
  2. Fabregas
  3. Valencia
  4. Arshavin
  5. Torres*
  6. Defoe
  7. Gerrard*
  8. Eduardo
  9. Modric
  10. Evra
*Check injury status

I am currently riding high after last week's Tevez tip so I am bound to crash and burn with the picks this week. In truth, their isn't too much to pick between the top 4 and I wouldn't argue if you liked any of them more than the other. Check back later in the week on Torres and Gerrard's injury status but if they go, then they're excellent plays this week. My only issue with Rooney is the chance of squad rotation due to the League Cup semi finals also being played but I am still confident he will give top returns this week.

Post your thoughts and questions below or @plfantasy to discuss your transfers and lineup questions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Double Down

It's time for the ice to hit the fan. Two more games have been added to this week's schedule to give six teams a double gameweek including the fantasy filled squads of Arsenal, United and Spurs.
Here's the fixtures along with the average goals conceded by the opposition:
  1. Man United: Burnley (3.10), Hull (2.60)
  2. Arsenal: Bolton (2.10), @Bolton (1.88)
  3. Tottenham: Hull (2.60), @Liverpool (1.10)
  4. Liverpool: @Stoke (1.20), Tottenham (1.40)
  5. Bolton: @Arsenal (1.40), Arsenal (0.90)
  6. Hull: @Tottenham (0.80), @Man United (0.80)
United and Arsenal are clearly great plays while Liverpool and Spurs remain very solid options. I like Liverpool longer term due to their good fixtures from weeks 23-30 so Torres and co might be good buy low options.

Defensively, United look by far the best play though again Arsenal and Liverpool are solid plays. The fixtures are averaging goals scored by the opposition are below:
  1. Man United: Burnley (0.80), Hull (0.70)
  2. Arsenal: Bolton (1.60), @Bolton (1.25)
  3. Liverpool: @Stoke (1.40), Tottenham (1.60)
  4. Tottenham: Hull (0.70), @Liverpool (2.60)
  5. Hull: @Tottenham (2.60), @Man United (2.40)
  6. Bolton: @Arsenal (2.30), Arsenal (3.00)
United are a tough team to pick due to the uncertainty of their back line, though physio room suggest that only O'Shea and Ferdinand remain out. The BBC also suggest that Vidic will definitely miss the Burnley game though his status for the Hull match is less certain. That should pave the way for Evra, Brown and probably Rafael to get the two starts although Jonny Evans could potentially cause issues. I think Brown is a fairly safe pickup though Evra is the only real guarantee again this week. I'm a bit skeptical of Arsenal's ability to cope without Song protecting their back line (see Saturday's result) but nevertheless Bolton are not a great scoring side. They have however scored 8 goals in their last 3 home games and I would not be banking on two clean sheets from Wenger's men.

The full weekly preview will be up soon but bear these double gameweeks in mind when making your transfers. As always, please post your thoughts below or @plfantasy and thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

African Cup of Nations

One thousand nine hundred and ninety nine. This is not the result of a new fantasy formula devised to help you pick your team this week: it is the distance between Cabinda, Angola and Cape Town. I don't often depart from fantasy talk on here but I feel that the recent attacks in Angola need further comment.

The events in the troubled Cabinda region are tragic and of course raise issues about the current African Cup of Nations tournament, particularly why the Togolese team were traveling by bus through the disputed territory. However, the parallels drawn between this event and the World Cup in South Afrcia are at best mis-guided and at worst, ignorant.

"Once again, the world of sport has been dragged into the news spotlight with tragic consequences. And, with the World Cup looming on the horizon, it could not have come at a worse time for the continent of Africa" (ESPN)

""I am appalled. This throws a question mark against next summer's World Cup. You simply cannot put the safety of players, officials and fans at the slightest risk. That is totally unacceptable" (Phil Brown in The Sun)

I fail to see how these events affect South Africa anymore than a crisis in Bosnia would affect the London Olympics. Bosnia is within 1,000 miles of London but I'm sure no-one would assume that all European countries have the same issues. So why do we refer to Africa as if it's issues can be applied across all it's countries? With over 1 billion people, 53 countries, over 2,000 languages and 5 time zones Africa is probably the most diverse continent on earth and cannot be easily summarised by scholars such as Phil Brown.

The attacks have been reported by focusing on just two issues: (1) the security of the British based players and (2) the affect on the World Cup in South Africa. I think we would all do well to remember that the bus driver was killed and that while mistakes have clearly been made, we cannot simply dismiss the incident as an 'African problem'. Recalling the British players is all well and good but that is a typical response by the Western powers to an African issue - retreat. The people of Angola do not have such a luxury and perhaps we should address the issue rather than just protecting those lucky enough to brought into our consciousness.

I hope that the tournament can go ahead without further issues and that the critics of African football will be silenced. It seems that playing in the troubled Chabinda region may have been a mistake, but not one that should condemn an entire continent.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Postponement Chaos

Rule number one of fantasy football is to field a full side of 11 players every week and preferably have at least one sub ready to step in in case of a last minute injury. This week is going to be the exception to the rule. With four games off:
  • Liverpool v Spurs
  • Fulham v Portsmouth
  • Sunderland v Bolton, and
  • Burnley v Stoke
many managers are going to be struggling to pick a side this week. The key here is not to overreact. Do not throw 4 point transfer fees around just to field a team this week and don't transfer out players with good future prospects just because they are off this week. Also remember that if you own a player whose value has significantly risen (eg Fabregas) then you will lose money if you sell him with the intention of buying him back.

If I make two transfers, as I was considering anyway, I will be able to play 10 men and I'm happy with that. If you think you can manage in GW23, City and United players might be worth the 4 point hit as you will get back the extra game in week 22. Don't go crazy though or you will be left short handed again in GW23.

As always, post your thoughts below or @plfantasy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gameweek 21 Preview

The Christmas period was tough for many managers (me included) who suffered through unexpected injuries and then the disruption to the fixture list. This will also be the first gameweek without the departed African players thus testing many managers' squads further. The defensive fixtures aren't too bad this week and with the frigid weather not going anywhere one may expect a few defensive struggles this week and playing 5 at the back might be worth considering.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Fulham - BUY
  2. Burnley - HOLD
  3. Man Utd - BUY
  4. Arsenal - HOLD
  5. Man City - BUY
  6. Aston Villa - HOLD
  7. Chelsea - HOLD
  8. Birmingham - HOLD/SELL
  9. Sunderland - SELL
  10. Wigan - HOLD
  11. West Ham - HOLD
  12. Liverpool - HOLD
  13. Stoke - HOLD
  14. Portsmouth - SELL
  15. Hull - SELL
  16. Bolton - SELL
  17. Wolves - SELL
  18. Tottenham - BUY
  19. Blackburn - SELL
  20. Everton - SELL
Defensive fixtures don't get much better than Fulham at home to Portsmouth to the point where if you're squad is thin, Fulham defenders might even warrant some captaincy consideration. Of the more established sides, Arsenal, City and United all look good value for the week with both Manchester sides being buy prospects for the foreseeable future.

Captain Picks
  1. Carlos Tevez
  2. Darren Bent
  3. Andrei Arshavin
  4. Shaun Wright Phillips
  5. Fernando Torres
  6. Nicolas Anelka
  7. Frank Lampard
  8. Steve Gerrard
  9. Wayne Rooney
  10. Eduardo
Of the big 6 sides, only City and Arsenal have really good fixtures on paper (1.6 GPG+) and Arsenal are somewhat lacking the players to take advantage of the fixture. That leaves City as the team of the week and I like Tevez, Wright Phillips and Bellamy to all provide a great chance of solid returns. Chelsea's trip to Hull isn't a walk in the park and without Essien and Drogba and I am reluctant to back Ancelotti's men until I see how they cope. Despite his excellent form I have downgraded Rooney due to the tough trip to St Andrews but if you are looking for a replacement for Drogba he remains an excellent choice (though remember he has no game in week 23). Rounding out the top 10 is a player (Eduardo) who has a chance to give good value over the coming weeks, though be careful of Arsenal's fixtures in weeks 23-25 (@Ast, MNU, @Che).

Transfer Targets
  • Nicolas Anelka - though I am not totally convinced that Chelsea can be as effective without Drogba and Essien, Anelka is a proven scorer who will be the top man in a high powered offense. None of Chelsea's fixtures over the next month or two frighten me and you could happily plug the Frenchman in safely for the foreseeable future. I don't see him having huge games but he should be good for a goal every other game.
  • David Dunn - Dunn's untimely injury halted the momentum he was gaining but on a positive note his ownership is down to 3% and he'll cost you just 5.4m. Blackburn's fixtures look very good and I like Dunn ahead of most, if not all, sub-6m midfielders.
  • Chris Eagles - still owned by just 2% of players, Eagles has amassed 13 bonus points in the last 7 games, more than other midfielder - including Fabregas. He is still priced at 5m and while Burnley's fixtures aren't great, Eagles has contributed against City, Arsenal and Villa showing he can perform in this league.
Hopefully the league will see some new arrivals shortly that will generate some Arshavin like returns for the second half of the season. Until then, why not post your transfer or lineup questions below or tweet them @plfantasy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Don't skip a week

Due to the snow along with domestic and European cup competitions the Premier League fixture list has been disrupted of late. I'm sure many of us were burned by the cancellation of tonight's Arsenal-Bolton fixture (I had four players set to play) but as Fantasy Football Scout said, we need to dust the snow off and get back to work. Unhelpfully, premierleague.com still lists the fixtures as they were but a quick search around the Internet has shed some light on this mess.

Below is a quick summary of who is playing well which can be used in conjunction with the strength of schedules to help you make your transfer decisions:

Gameweek 21 - all 20 teams play once

Gameweek 22 - all 20 teams play once

Gameweek 23 - Man Utd, Man City, Hull and Stoke all have no game due to the league cup semi final between City and United. For some reason the corresponding Villa-Blackburn fixture has been arranged around the league fixtures so they are still safe plays. Note though that both teams' fixture lists are looking congested and rotation/fatigue are a threat to all players involved.

Gameweek 24 - all 20 teams are back in action

Unscheduled games - Arsenal, City, Everton, Wigan and Bolton (2) all have games in hand and will have double gameweeks in the future to exploit. Further information to come when these are fixed. Hopefully the Arsenal-Bolton is rearranged soon but I would not expect this before this week's transfer deadline.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christmas Conclusions

Welcome back to the blog everyone - its been a fun few days off for me spent in (somewhat) sunny Florida featuring too much time spent in Disney lines and not enough time watching sports. Luckily the wonders of the internet has allowed me to catchup and I'm ready to try and summarise the past couple of gameweeks and the key events from the holiday period. I am also conscious that the transfer window is now open so I'll do a piece on who we can expect to see coming to the EPL and the fantasy impact they may have.

Gameweek 19
No less than 8 clean sheets in week 19 and I'm pleased to say that my 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th ranked teams all managed to keep the opposition at bay. Birmingham's clean sheet will have surprised some but McLeish's men are for real and the whole back line should be considered every week starters at this point in the season (this was buoyed by the fact that Roger Johnson did not miss time due to injury). My favourite player for the week - Torres - disappointed against Wolves, managing just 4 shots and not really being involved throughout. I still like Torres alot though and rate him as my top rated forward for the next few weeks. My second ranked player - Fabregas - looked to be a terrible pick as he didn't manage to start the game but his 27 minute cameo was sublime and probably underlined his claim as being the most valuable player for any team in the league right now. 2 goals, only 2 misplaced passes and (of course) 3 bonus points rewarded Fabregas owners who had stuck with him through his injury issues. Needless to say, I still love Cesc going forward.
City played well under new boss Mancini and their defense could be worth monitoring, particularly if the likes of Ciellini or Cordoba come in to bolster the unit. Tevez also looks to be more lethal under the new regime and he is worthy of consideration for those needing a Drogba replacement and short on cash. Rooney, my 5th ranked player, has another good game and is right next to Torres in my rankings right now. It is my intention to pair this duo for the foreseeable future which should all but guarantee contributions in the goals and bonus columns each week.

Gameweek 20
The headliners for week 20 were supposed to be the double gameweek teams - Arsenal, Fulham, Bolton and Stoke - though the second games do not come until the 5th and 6th of January so it is unclear whether players from these sides will give big rewards. Rooney, Torres and Drogba all managed to find the back of the net while the high priced midfielders were less successful and were bailed out by overly generous bonus points. City managed their first back-to-back clean sheets since weeks 2 and 3 which again suggests this unit is worth consideration in the near future. Liverpool also managed their 2nd straight clean sheet (their 4th in the last 7) and are slowly turning into a legitimate fantasy option once more. Spurs have now kept 4 straight clean sheets and should be considered a must play defense when the fixture is right (the fact that Bassong is not going to Africa is a major plus).
Arsenal appear to be coping better without Van Persie at the moment but the unpredictability of their scorers (Ramsey, Nasri, Eduardo and Song) make it hard to pick anyone outside of Fabregas, Arshavin and possibly Diaby. United are also starting to really roll with Valencia and Rooney once again looking sharp. I like this pair alot over the coming weeks.

Injuries, Suspensions and the African Cup of Nations (ACN)

Defenders
  • Glen Johnson will be out for at least a month with a knee injury. Even if you are sitting on a 0.1m gain I would advise selling the English right back and re-using your cash on more valuable players right now.
  • Song, Toure and Pantsil have now departed for the ACN while Assou Ekotto will now miss out due to injury. All these players need to be sold as they could miss up to a month of Premier League action.
  • Bridge and Lescott are both missing for City which gives Mancini his first real issue of his new tenure considering Toure is also missing. I would expect Kompany to drop back into the back line Garrido (4.1m) could be worth a thought as a bargain fill in at left back.
  • United's defensive woes are starting to ease and Evans, Ferdinand and O'Shea are all due back early in the new year. Rafael and Brown still offer short term value while Evra gives the best opportunity to guarantee returns from this improving unit.
  • Clichy and Gibbs both appear short of fitness and so Traore should get a couple more games until Clichy can return. He remains good value at home to an Everton side struggling for goals.
Midfielders
  • Wenger suggests that Fabregas might play this week against Everton after resting tomorrow against West Ham in the Cup. Stay tuned for later updates but I'm feeling good about the Arsenal captain's future.
  • Aaron Lennon looks set to miss most of January with a groin strain although some reports suggest it could be just 2 weeks. I like Spurs' fixtures for late January and beyond and might therefore stick with Lennon if your bench is deep enough. If not then the likes of Valencia and Milner become the natural replacements.
  • Dunn looks like he is finally fit and barring any setbacks in the Cup or in training he should be okay to feature in gameweek 21.
Forwards
  • Drogba and Adebayor have now of course departed for warmer climates in Angola and will need replacing. Drogba's Cote D'Ivoire are one of the tournament favourites so I would expect him to miss the longer period of the two.
  • Anelka looks like he will feature in the FA Cup and should therefore be good to lead Chelsea's line in Drogba's absence. Although he may have more of a focal role, I don't think Anelka will tear it up and I would still favour Torres and Rooney by some distance.
  • Long term casualties Cole and Van Persie remain sidelined indefinitely.
Well it's good to be back on the fantasy trail and I will hopefully have plenty of time of the coming weeks to talk injuries, strategy and of course the transfer window. I hope your holidays were enjoyable for yourselves, your families and of course, your fantasy teams.