Sunday, July 25, 2010

Scanning the radar: Forwards

Having covered midfielders in an earlier post, I now turn my attention to forwards flying under the radar. Given that there are less to choose from (each team will only field one or two on a regular basis meaning that the pool of talent is only around 30 players) it is harder to find a player 'under the radar' so I will more focus on undervalued talent, even if the player is already well known to fantasy players.

I think the offerings are pretty thin and the best strategy might be to employ the big names up top again and search for the value elsewhere. Nevertheless there are a couple of names that have caught my eye:

Under the radar

Nikola Kalinic
Okay, 2 goals and 55 points aren't getting your pulse racing but he did manage 5 goals in 2010 in 18 games (all in competitions) and generally looked to be settling into the league quite well. Blackburn don't have too many other options up front - indeed they have reportedly even considered a desperation bid for Heskey - and so Kalinic is all but guaranteed plenty of minutes in front a decent midfield that features Dunn and Gamst Pedersen.

It's well documented that Slavan Bilic hailed Kalinic as the "future of Croatian football" which is looking a stretch at this point but he's only 22 and will cost you just 5.5m in the EPL game. That makes him a useful match up play, while also acting as a differentiator (0.4% owned which I believe is his Mum, Dad and favourite Aunt).

Emmanuel Adebayor
As with some of my midfield picks, Adebayor is not exactly a hidden gem given the fact he cost 25m just 12 months ago but he is still held by just 2.5% of managers. I know there are currently reports of him leaving for Italy and the probable arrival of Mario Balotelli, but if he stays I think he plays 30 games and cracks 16+ league goals. As he showed in glimpses last year, he is a natural goalscorer when on form, and with Silva and Toure bolstering the midfield I like Ade to excel and improve on last year's decent haul of 14 league goals.
He isn't cheap at 9.5m, so he is a risky pickup, but I would rank him 4th among strikers (Torres, Drogba, Rooney) and I think his value deserves to be closer to theirs at 11m than the 9m range along with Defoe, Bent and Berbatov.

Just off the radar

Robbie Keane
First things first, Keane has little or no value while still at Spurs, hence he is currently 'off radar'. However, a move to a team like Villa would make Keane an absolute steal at 5.5m and make him one of the better bargains in the whole game. We can all agree that Keane had a miserable last year right? Well, not if you look at his stats. His points per minute give him 5.24 PPG which at his current value would be an incredible 0.952 PPMS, and that is assuming he only does what he did last year in just 13 games worth of minutes. If at Villa or even Newcastle, Keane is right up there to make my opening day roster.

Nikola Zigic
The uncertainty around Zigic is different than with Keane, as he is almost certain to play at Birmingham given he is one of their main signings this off season. My concern is whether or not Zigic can hack it in the EPL. Labelled another 'skillful big man' my concern is that he may be a bit too brittle to play every week and might lack to pace and drive to score regularly in the EPL. There haven't been too many successful big men of late - Carew and to an extent Davies were the picks last season - and so I want to see how Zigic is deployed before I invest. That said at 6m he has potential and is definately worth monitoring in the opening couple of weeks.

Roque Santa Cruz
Much like Robbie Keane, Santa Cruz's value depends on him leaving his current club. Also like Keane, Santa Cruz has been rumoured to be a target of Martin O'Neil at Villa Park as well as possibly linking up with former manager Mark Hughes at Craven Cottage. Fulham looks like a useful fit to me as pairing him with Zamora would give them a pretty versatile and powerful front pair. At 7m he needs to not only get a move away from City but also secure a starting place in his new team, but anytime a player who scored 182 points just 2 seasons ago might be available for 7m, you need to at least monitor him.
I'm afraid that's it on the forward front, not too many sleepers in my eyes this year. I have a further post due shortly which should give further consdieration as to how best use your money and choose yours studs this season. Thanks for reading and please post your thoughts or comments below or @plfantasy.

Scanning the radar: Midfielders

Welcome back everyone. I hope the World Cup kept you all busy over the summer but not so much as to fatigue you for the grueling Premier League season, which is now just three weeks away. The off season has been pretty quiet, and the big money deals normally seen straight after a World Cup have not really materialised as yet. This could complicate matters as last minute transfers may cause you to rethink your team but I think history has shown that arrivals from other leagues often struggle to hit the ground running so unless an undisputed star like Ribery, Higuain etc makes there where to the EPL, you will probably want to hold off anyway.

Without further delay, I have prepared two list of 'sleepers': those who I think will perform above expectations for the upcoming season, and those who don't quite warrant consideration yet but might if one or two things go there way. I have tried to stick to my statistical basis for the predictions but some are also based on a bit of a 'feeling' and so carry a bit more risk.

Under the radar

Theo Walcott (7m)
I can't honestly believe I am typing these words as I have been a major downer on Walcott's career to date, going so far last season as to call him Wenger's second worst ever signing after the disastrous Francis Jeffers deal (who incidentally may be back to bite me too as he looks to secure a deal at newly promoted Blackpool). Anyway, if Walcott can stay fit and keep a spot in the team his fantasy production is useful given the pundits love for Englishmen and his pace allowing him to catch the eye. At last season's production levels he would notch 7 goals, 5 assists, 12 bonus points and 155 points if he were to play 30 games this year. That would have placed him 6th among midfielders in last year's final stats. He isn't a lock to produce and I would want a decent bench player to reduce the risk of rotation but he definitely deserves some attention.

Charlie Adam (5.0m)
Adam managed 16 league goals last season and impressed many pundits following his arrival from Rangers, where to be fair he had enjoyed some success back in 2007. Still only 24, it is not unreasonable to suggest that Adam is still maturing and might be one of the select few who manage to transfer lower league form into EPL success. For 5.0m Adam will give you penalties, free kicks and a guaranteed play every week which as fantasy veterans know, is not to be taken lightly at this point of a uncertain season.

Lee Chung-Yong (5.5m)
There isn't much I don't love about Lee and although I obviously want him to stay at the Reebok, a move to Liverpool would put his value through the roof. Lee had a great World Cup to follow up his fine first season in England and stretching his numbers over a 30 game season would see him add 4 goals, 7 assists and 118 points. Those numbers are conservative given that he has had a full year to settle in to England along with the arrival of the once prolific Martin Petrov (see below) to relieve some pressure in Owen Coyle's side. At 5.5m there is little downside here and if he can catch the eye of the pundits he could enjoy a real breakout season.

David Silva (9.0m)
Okay it's hard to class a £25m signing as under the radar but Silva is currently held but just 3% of managers, likely due to a combination of his recent arrival and manager's distrust of new arrivals. Indeed, I preached caution above when it comes to new arrivals. However, Silva fits into that category of players who will simply excel wherever they play. At 9m you are backing Silva to outscore the likes of Kuyt, Milner and Valencia but I don't see that being a problem for the World Cup winner. City should be one of the higher scoring team this year and they absolutely need to qualify for the Champions League so should be going all out for Mancini or he could face the boot by Christmas. When the season draws to a close I would not be surprised to see Silva up with Lampard and fellow Spaniard Fabregas among the season's top points scorers.

Jonas Gutierrez (5.0m)
Gutierrez caught my eye during his time in the Premier League with Newcastle and I was surprised he stuck around in the Championship with them last year. After a so-so World Cup playing at right back under Maradona's somewhat unorthodox system, Gutierrez should resume his place on the wings for the Magpies and at 5m I like his upside. He should be able to contribute in all categories though he managed just 4 goals last term and 0 in 30 games in the EPL last time so his upside is probably somewhere around Steve Pienaar last year.

Sanli Tuncay (5.5m)
I liked Tuncay after his move to Stoke last season and many would consider that trust to be misplaced after failing to impress last year. However, I feel those criticisms are misplaced and Tuncay actually produced when he was able to get on the field. Expanding his stats over a full season in which he played in just 30 games, he would have added 8 goals, 4 assists, 23 bonus points on his way to 161 total points (more points than Steve Gerrard). I know not much can be gained from pre-season games against Newcastle Town but Tuncay's hatttick can't have hurt his grasp on a first team place in Pulis's side. At 5.5m he is great value and I like his to contribute to a team all season in a mid-price midfielder rotation role.

Thomas Hitzelsperger (5.5m)
I've always been a fan of 'The Hammer' and it seems he is back to old tricks after rifling in a free kick for the Hammers on Friday. He should play every week, contribute goals and assists and may even threaten the bonus category in a West Ham team that lacks too many players to catch the eye. Carlton Cole - who also played with Hitzelsperger at Villa - is already impressed and sounds like his ready to pay the mere 5.5m to get him in his team this year. Expect to hear the words "trademark strike" several times this year.

Just off the radar

Yaya Youre (5.5m)
Toure's fantasy success really depends on the role Mancini has in mind for the former Barcelona man. If he plays him alongside De Jong he should be able to get forward sufficiently to give some fantasy value at 5.5m along the lines of a Bowyer or Diaby from last season. If however, he is the anchor man then much like other talented defensive midfielders like Mascherano and Palacious, he will struggle to make a fantasy impact. At £28m though, he is at least assured to play pretty much every week.

Martin Petrov (6.0m)
It wasn't long ago that Petrov was shining in a so-so City side, turning heads with his direct style and powerful shooting on his way to an impressive fantasy total of 153 points. The arrival of stars like David Silva has rendered him surplus to requirements and he has been wisely picked up by Owen Coyle (to my delight). At 6m he isn't an absolute steal and does carry some risk (his knees have been unreliable to say the least) but if he can prove his fitness in the off season and continue his good form then he deserves at least a thought to make your opening day squad.

Solomon Kalou (7.5m)
Kalou is not 'off radar' in the sense that we haven't heard off him, more that we aren't picking him: his current ownership is just 1.3%. If you extrapolate Kalou's numbers over a season (playing a modest 30 games) then he would contribute 14 goals, 11 assists and 209 points, despite failing to catch the eye of the bonus pundits. Obviously the arrival of Benayoun hurts his value a touch, but with Drogba's fitness uncertain, Anelka should shift into a forward position giving Kalou at least a few weeks to prove his worth. Kalou's second half displays were as good as anyone last year and at 7.5m his value has a long way to go if he starts off this season in similar form.

Stay tuned for further posts on the forwards and defenders I like for the upcoming season, though they may not be up until the 1st August as I head back to China from Hong Kong, where my Twitter and Blogger access is blocked. As always thanks for reading and please comment below or @plfantasy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Status Update

I am currently in China on vacation and it seems that they are not too keen on Blogspot or Twitter hence the lack of updates over the past 10 days. Fear not though, I have prepared my list of favourite players for the season which I will post shortly, as well as a preview of the best schedules for the start of the new season.

Thanks for sticking with the blog those of you who were here last year, and I hope any new readers will like what they read and stick with us throughout the season. As always thanks for reading and check back soon for some season preview posts.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Premier League 2010/11 game launches

After an unexpected hiatus from fantasy nonsense over the past couple of weeks, I am back today as the premier league launches the rules and player list for the new season. Before we get to the players later, a quick review of the rules changes and some thoughts on revised strategies are below:

1. Saved transfers carry over multiple Gameweeks
This isn't quite what it looks like as you can still only ever have two transfers in a non-wildcard week but it does allow you to save the 'double' for a week where you need it most due to injuries or to take advantage of a double gameweek.
I don't see this having a huge impact on who we buy each week as you are generally signing players for more than the odd week, but it does give better flexibility when it comes to taking advantage of double gameweeks which can only be a good thing.

2. An extra wildcard for the January transfer window
In the past couple of seasons I have been forced to use my wildcard within the first 6 weeks of the season due to picking too many high risk/reward players who ended up not getting sufficient minutes or started the season in a slump. I was all set to change my approach this season but this extra wildcard gives us a safety net and has presented a new strategy.
My current thinking (which will doubtless change either by choice or because my team sucks) is to split the season into approximately three, using the two wildcards around GWs 13 and 26. This should allow your team to keep up to date and avoid some of the mistakes I made last year that ultimately cost me my mini league on the last day of the season.

3. Lose 2 points for an own goal
No major impact here, except that when you lose your clean sheet bonus along with a 2 point slap in the face you will be even more depressed. Perhaps downgrade Richard Dunne a little due to him being somewhat partial to the odd knee or arsed clanger into his own net.

I'll be back shortly with some lessons of last season as well as the first look at the player list for the new season.