Sunday, February 28, 2010

First Take


Its nice to have a gameweek wrapped up by early evening on a Sunday to get some thoughts down on the week's action without it dragging into Tuesday and Wednesday. In truth it was a pretty average fantasy weekend, with far more drama in reality than for us fantasy managers. With horror tackles, cup heroics, multiple red cards and handshake snubs. However, big games from fantasy favourites like Lampard, Tevez, Fabregas and Torres gave some managers some joy, as did clean sheets from consistent bargain defenses like Birmingham and Fulham.

Clean sheets were at a bit of a premium again this week though the consistent units of Birmingham and Fulham once again delivered. Bolton and Sunderland aren't widely held and the absence of star units like United and Villa hurt many teams' defense this week.

Blue Moon Rising
I wasn't expecting big returns from City players (I didn't rank any in my captain picks) and I was shocked to see Bellamy, Tevez and Barry all have big games. While 4-1 flattered City a bit, they were good value for the victory and Chelsea look terrible at the back. Hilario rightly got the blame for the first goal but Chelsea were generally poor and are missing Cole, Cech and a stable Terry badly. While I'm not ready to write the unit off just yet (Por, Bla and WH to come in the next three games) you have to wonder how good of value they represent over say Fulham or Birmingham whose players come at a considerable discount.

Perfect Storm
I was delighted to see El Nino back for Liverpool this week and mark his return with a goal in their win over Blackburn. I have mentioned several times that I rate Torres as one of the top 3 players in the league and its great to have him back as a fantasy option, especially given Drogba's off week in gameweek 29. Torres now has 13 goals in 17 league appearances (a rate of 0.90 GPG) and has amassed 6.97 PPG. Compare this with Rooney who is also averaging a 0.90 GPG and 7.81 PPG and you realise that Torres has been extremely good when fit. With @Wig, Por and Sun to come in the next 4 weeks I think Torres is the ideal replacement if you need to move Drogba on, and should be considered an elite differentiator given his comparatively low ownership (17%).

Looking ahead There are only 8 games this week, and that includes double gameweeks for Bolton and Burnley. That means plenty of teams will be scrambling to field a starting XI and plenty will reach for the 4 point transfers. If you cannot field a full XI then paying 4 points for someone like Kevin Davies, Zat Knight or Steve Fletcher is a sound decision as barring a rare-benching they will pick up 4 performance points so you break even with anything else deemed to be profit. Both teams have a couple of decent gameweeks after this one too so you will have time to move them on again without being stuck playing them against quality opposition. I will write a quick post on who I would sell/keep of the teams not playing this week to follow this one tomorrow.

The transfer targets for the week will undoubtedly be Arsenal players as the near perfect storm of third best home scorers against the worst road defense happens with the arrival of Burnley at the Emirates. I of course like Fabregas but Bendtner also impressed this week showing a toughness that I was often lacking in the past. I have championed the top strikers all season so I have no room for him but if you are employing your cash elsewhere then for 6m you could do alot worse this week.

Stay tuned later in the week as I try and formulate a plan to deal with the fixture carnage of week 29 as well as the usual weekly preview later in the week. As always, why not tweet or post your lineup/transfer questions below.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gameweek 28 Preview

Firstly an apology for the lack of posts this week, real world has taken over and I've struggled to even manage my own time nevermind a fantasy football team. But fear not, help is here and the forum for gameweek 28 is officially open.
Last week's transfers/captain really picked themselves as we all flocked to United players to capitalise on their double gameweek. For this we were rewarded with big games from Rooney and Valencia as well as clean sheets all round on Tuesday night. This week however is a different story.

With only 8 games in play, no United or Villa players and some big name absences like Adebayor (suspended), Arshavin (injured), Gallas (injured, Lennon (injured), Diaby (injured) and Cech (injured) it is going to be a struggle for many to pick a team. Knowing that I needed to start making up points as soon as possible, I sold my soul to the devil last week and while my three United boys did me proud (53 points between them) I am now left with 5 players set to take no part in EPL action this week.

Who to sell
Rooney is in must own territory now and have met or even surpassed the great Cristiano Ronaldo in fanatsy play in the past few months. That said, if you were on the bandwagon relatively late and you aren't sitting on a huge cash gain then it might be an idea to drop him this week and use your cash elsewhere knowing that 40%+ of players are going to have 12m sat on their bench this week. It is almost inconceivable that his price falls so you should be able to get him back without losing too much cash. The obvious replacement is Drogba but he is out himself in week 29 so would be purely a one week fix. I therefore like Torres, provided he can prove himself fit for Friday's appetising game with Blackburn (H). He didn't start today against Unirea and wasn't needed off the bench so I would fancy him to start on contribute on the weekend against Allardyce's team. As for the United defense, their upcoming fixtures are generous so Evra owners might want to stand pat. If you own one of the fringe players (like Wes Brown) now might be time to cut loose as after their bye week they should have a fully fit squad to choose from which will limit the minutes of Brown, Neville, Rafael et al.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Liverpool
  2. Chelsea
  3. Burnley
  4. Birmingham
  5. Tottenham
  6. Sunderland
  7. Arsenal
  8. Fulham
  9. Bolton
  10. Wigan
  11. Stoke
  12. Wolves
  13. Portsmouth
  14. Everton
  15. Blackburn
  16. Man City
Captain Rankings
  1. Fernando Torres
  2. Didier Drogba
  3. Frank Lampard
  4. Steve Gerrard
  5. Darren Bent
  6. Cesc Fabregas
  7. Peter Crouch
Sorry for the brief preview this week - normal service should resume next week.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gameweek 27 Preview

The dust hasn't yet settled on gameweek 26 - indeed it isn't over yet - but it's never too early to look ahead to next week particularly with a couple of key factors for next week's games. Firstly, United have a double gameweek and Rooney is a must own/must captain player. Given that he is already so widely held you risk losing ground on pretty much all your opponents if you don't sign the in-form Englishman. His value has risen sharply over the past 6 weeks but its likely it could move another blip or two this week as more and more owners jump on the Ronaldo-like bandwagon. I have made my transfer uncharacteristically early to avoid losing cash in delaying this inevitable move (the risk is that he gets injured midweek against Milan).

A second key factor driving this week's transfer rush is the injury to Ashley Cole, that could rule him out for the season though perhaps not the World Cup. Cole was widely held in the fantasy game (14%) and these owners will now all jump ship, likely using one of two options. Many will simply turn to another Chelsea defender with bargain Ivanovic looking likely to benefit given the risk associated with Terry (on holiday in Dubai) and Carvalho (rotation risk). The other option, given his double gameweek, will be to jump on Evra - United's most reliable and dynamic defender. I expect his price therefore to rise this week, which is again why I acted quickly to make this change. A final choice that perhaps might not be as popular would be to bring in the rather expensive Yuri Zhirkov. The Russian hasn't made much of an impact this season but he has plenty of attacking flare and should start most games in Cole's absence. Owned by just (0.3%) of managers makes him a great differentiator and I don't think Chelsea as a unit will suffer greatly by the addition of Zhirkov along the backline. If you are operating on tight margins then I would advice taking this risk or chance losing out on the players you desire.

Only two teams have a double gameweek this week (Man United and West Ham) which is about as settled as you're going to get with more fixture carnage caused by the draws in yesterday's FA Cup. This of course makes United players unevenly valuable and the natural instinct will be to ensure you can field 3 United men this week. However, the caveat is that United do not play in week 28 (along with Hull, Aston Villa and West Ham) and so your bench must be strong or you must factor in a 4 point hit before you bring anybody in this week. I think it is worth it given that both Everton at home and West Ham away rank in the bottom half in goals conceded and considering the frankly outrageously good form of Wayne Rooney. If you don't own a United defender I would probably not buy two, but I think you can safely bring one for the week and rest/sell him next week for an overall gain to your team.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Man United
  2. Aston Villa
  3. Fulham
  4. Chelsea
  5. West Ham
  6. Portsmouth
  7. Blackburn
  8. Arsenal
  9. Man City
  10. Tottenham
  11. Stoke
  12. Wigan
  13. Birmingham
  14. Wolves
  15. Everton
  16. Bolton
  17. Liverpool
  18. Hull
  19. Burnley
  20. Sunderland
Captain Rankings
  1. Wayne Rooney
  2. Didier Drogba
  3. Cesc Fabregas
  4. Antonio Valencia
  5. James Milner
  6. Patrice Evra
  7. Gabby Agbonlahor
  8. Eduardo
  9. Carlton Cole
  10. Frank Lampard
There can be only one captain for me this week, whether you are trying to differentiate or are riding high in your own league. Rooney against two decent but far from concrete defenses is too tempting and given that 40%+ of the league will be captaining him, if you get this decision wrong you could lose 15-20 points on everyone else. If you don't have and cannot afford Rooney then I think Drogba's form justifies the armband despite Wolves away being a trickier game than you might think (1.32 GPG conceded). After that its the usual suspects, though I like Valencia (the best of the other United options) more than usual this week given his double fixture.

As always, please post your transfer and lineup questions below or @plfantasy

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gameweek 26 Preview

After another disappointing 41 point week, I have finally pulled the trigger and made a risky play - I am putting my faith in the Mancini's frustratingly inconsistent City side. I have brought in Adebayor to play alongside Tevez in time for their double gameweek this week. I can then add N'Zogbia, Sorensen and Huth to this pair to give me 5 double gameweeks. Do I really trust this City side? No. However, as another Rooney goal hit the back of the net with me not owning him, it was time to make a move before it is too late. United have a double gameweek of their own next week and so Rooney will be a must, so I'm hoping to gain some ground this week on those who can't/won't sell him by hitching my cart to the Adebayor bandwagon.

Clean sheets were fairly easy to come by last week with no less than 8 teams keeping the opposition at bay. Six of these ranked in my top 10 and four of my top six were able to keep a clean sheet. Playing the numbers, only Fulham (15th) and Villa (14th) were surprises based on my rankings. I also feel somewhat pleased with my captain rankings as many top line players struggled to hit the big scores this week. Rooney (1st) , of course, delivered once again while Drogba (4th) was even better than I thought he would be. Adebayor (8th), Lampard (7th), Evra (6th) and Gerrard (2nd) would all have delivered double digits if handed the arm band while only Anelka, Bent and Tevez failed to register any extra points. This week's rankings will be slightly skewed by the double gameweeks but without too many premium players in action, you will face the tough choice between a good player in two games and a premium player in one game.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Stoke
  2. Wigan
  3. Fulham
  4. Man City
  5. Blackburn
  6. Tottenham
  7. Arsenal
  8. Aston Villa
  9. Chelsea
  10. Man United
  11. Portsmouth
  12. Bolton
  13. Birmingham
  14. West Ham
  15. Wolves
  16. Everton
  17. Sunderland
  18. Hull
  19. Liverpool
  20. Burnley
Stoke, Wigan and City all look like good defensive bets on their double gameweek as all three units have been okay in parts this year and get at least one opponent who rank towards the bottom of the scoring charts. The bigger name teams are not so good plays with the top two teams travelling to Goodison and Villa Park in what will likely prove to be tough games. In fact, if either United or Chelsea keep a clean sheet, I think that would be a good sign that both have really got their defensive units back on track and would become must own players going into the final few weeks of the season.

Captain Rankings
  1. Emmanuel Adebayor
  2. Carlos Tevez
  3. Didier Drogba
  4. Wayne Rooney
  5. Frank Lampard
  6. Cesc Fabregas
  7. Andrei Arshavin
  8. Ryan Shawcross
  9. Hugo Rodallega
  10. Charles N'Zogbia
As you can see I am going all out on City this week based on the 2.1 GPG Bolton are shipping away from the Reebok along with the fact that their best defender Gary Cahill is now out for the season. Their other game at Stoke is not as appealing (1.08 GPG) but regardless Adebayor and Tevez are both in good form and with Rooney facing his toughest game for a while, I like the Blue side of Manchester to reign supreme this week. Of the other double gameweekers I like the Wigan pair of N'Zogbia and Rodallega to continue their good fantasy form, while Shawcross is a legitimate quadruple threat, earning points from goals, assists, bonus points and clean sheets this year.

With four games tomorrow evening the deadline is 19:30 GMT on Tuesday evening so don't forget to get your transfers in before then. Until then why not post your thoughts, comments and transfer/lineup issues below or @plfantasy.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gameweek 25 Preview

Another average week in the books for Pure Juice and I'm strongly considering drastic action. I'm out of the cup now and find myself 38 points adrift in my work league. I have Hart, Sorensen, Fabregas, Milner, Bent and Tevez who are all owned by at least 28% of all managers. None of these players have had much joy in the past few weeks and I particularly frustrated by Milner, Sorensen and even Bent's form. Add this to the fact that Valencia's place in the United team might be in jeopardy and suddenly my team looks weak. I think Fabregas is too good to drop while Tevez gets a double gameweek in week 26. The others are all on the block and I am looking to move to players held by 10% of managers or less over the coming weeks, ready for the late season push. For that reason I will be featuring players' ownership every time I mention them from now on.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Man United
  2. Birmingham
  3. Stoke
  4. Tottenham
  5. Burnley
  6. Liverpool
  7. Sunderland
  8. Chelsea
  9. Wolves
  10. Bolton
  11. Man City
  12. West Ham
  13. Hull
  14. Aston Villa
  15. Fulham
  16. Blackburn
  17. Arsenal
  18. Portsmouth
  19. Everton
  20. Wigan
Man United are a great pick this week and I like Wes Brown (2%) as the safest and cheapest way to get access to this solid unit. Differentiating is less important for defenses as you a buying a unit more than a player but due to rotation issues, United are generally underheld and only Evra (26%) is owned by more than 5% of players. I therefore rate Brown as a buy for the week as with Ferdinand suspended for another couple of games and Vidic still injured, he should be safe for another couple of weeks. Birmingham defenders are underheld but Hart (28%) is a starter for many teams and will surely be started by most of them this week. Still, Dann (3%) and Ridgwell (3%) remain very good, cheap options and with good fixtures ahead you could do alot worse than rolling the dice with two Birmingham defenders over the next few weeks.

Despite their reliability this year, the Villa defense will make it hard for you to gain ground on your opponents due to Dunne's (41%) ownership. With a schedule that includes @Tot, MNU, Bur, Bye it might be worth ditching them now before re-signing them for the double gameweek in week 30. Everton have 3 straight clean sheets but they now face @Liv, Che, MNU, @Tot so I wouldn't jump on that bandwagon if you haven't yet.

Captain Rankings
  1. Wayne Rooney (43%)
  2. Steven Gerrard (16%)
  3. Carlos Tevez (29%)
  4. Didier Drogba (20%)
  5. Darren Bent (32%)
  6. Patrice Evra (26%)
  7. Frank Lampard (28%)
  8. Emmanuel Adebayor (3%)
  9. Cesc Fabregas (35%)
  10. Nicolas Anelka (12%)
I'm finding it really hard to recommend many captains this week, nevermind those held by less than 10% of owners. I really like Adebayor as a player than could outperform his ownership and with the double gameweek coming up as well as a good fixture this week (@Hul) now might be a good time to buy. Despite my concerns over Bent, Sunderland have the best fixture of the week (Wigan surrender 2.82 GPG on the road) and so he is a great option this week. Rooney's fixture is actually harder than you'd think (1.40 GPG) but he is in such good from its hard to look elsewhere. Arsenal's struggles last week along with another tough game this week mean that Fabregas finds himself the lowest he has been in the rankings for some time.

Differentiators
I don't like these players enough to warrant captaining them, but they might be worth a look if you are looking for someone a bit different this week. In no particular order:
  1. Cameron Jerome (5%)
  2. Sanli Tuncay (0.2%)
  3. Nani (5%)
  4. Danny Murphy (5%)
  5. David N'Gog (1%)
  6. Kevin Davies (2%)
  7. Peter Crouch (6%)
  8. Sotirios Kyrgiakos (1%)
  9. Chris Eagles (2%)
  10. Wes Brown (2%)
As always, stay tuned tomorrow and before deadline time @plfantasy for the latest injury news. Until then why not post your rotation and transfer questions below.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Window Shopping

Fear not, this is not another sports story trying to glorify what was, in reality, a pretty boring transfer window. I do, however, have a couple of players who I am interested in who might be worth a thought as differentiators as the season goes into its final stages.

Amr Zaki (5m)
Last year Zaki was a big reason for many teams' early season success and he enjoyed a period of must own status on his way to 10 goals in his first 16 games. However, the Egyptain big man couldn't deal with the British winter and fell out with Steve Bruce who said that "I can honestly say that in all my time in football I have never worked with someone as unprofessional". Well, lucky for us we don't have to manage our players on a daily basis so Zaki becomes an intriguing prospect. He has alot to prove and the final 10 games of the season will serve as an audition for a future return to the big leagues. While I don't think he can replicate the form of last year, I do think he might be able to contribute to a successful fantasy side and for 5m and no one owning him, he could prove to be a very cheap differentiator for anyone brave enough to roll the dice. My issue is that I really want to spend big up front (Rooney, Drogba and one more) so its tough to squeeze him in. If however, you'd prefer to splash your cash on the likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Fabregas then Zaki could be a very useful squad player. It's also worth considering that if Zaki starts to score, managers will sense a return to last year's heights and will jump all over him causing a sharp rise in his price.

Eidur Gudjohnsen (6m)
My all time favorite Bolton player returns to the Premier League but unfortunately his status as a first team regular is uncertain. In the game he has been classified as a midfielder which does give potential value given he is probably Spurs' 3rd pick to play up front (with the departure of Keane) but Crouch and Defoe will play most weeks and Eidur could be limited to mop up duty. The midfield (where Gudjohnsen can be equally well deployed) also looks crowded with Jenas, Huddlestone, Palacios and Kranjcar all competing for two central spots. I therefore - with some regret - find it hard to fully recommend Gudjohnsen but I will be tracking his progress and if he breaks into the first team then at 6m he looks very good value.

Jack Wilshere (4.3m)
If you need a bargain midfielder then the Arsenal prospect Wilshere might be your best bet. Bolton have a few decent midfield options but Owen Coyle is a fan of Arsenal's system and I think he will be keen to add another passer to his side. Wilshere has excellent skill and pace and should be able to contribute some assists and the odd goal, which would be a great value for such a cheap player. I'm not saying you want to rely on him every week but if you want to load up elsewhere, Wilshere might free up enough cash to let you get a Drogba instead of an Anelka or a Milner instead of a Wright Phillips.

Landon Donovan (6m)
Donovan has had a few games to settle in now and so far its so good for the American international. A goal, an assist and 2 bonus points from 4 games that included Arsenal, City and a tricky trip to Wigan is a very good return for a budget forward like Donovan. I'm a bit concerned about squad rotation with the return of Yakubu but I think Donovan should feature enough to justify fantasy consideration and is a good potential differentiator.

Asmir Begovic (4m)
Sorensen owners beware. Stoke pursued David James pretty hard and then landed his backup Asmir Begovic. Considering they already had a decent backup in Simonsen we could read into this move that Pulis expects to start Begovic at some point. If that happens then he becomes the obvious replacement for Sorensen, which would actually be a bonus as we keep our access to the solid Stoke defense and save 0.5m in the process. Sorensen has been a loyal servant for many teams this year but if there's money to be saved, he has to go.

Check back tomorrow for the weekly preview including captain and defensive rankings along with the latest injury news. As always, thanks for reading and why not post your comments below or @plfantasy.