As we approach the final third of the season, a few issues stand out that should play a major part when settling on your final wildcard lineup:
Where will Arsenal's goals come from?
Whatever the doomsday merchants say, Arsenal are an elite scoring team, currently ranked second in goals scored (39) and have a league leading 20 goals away from home. From a fantasy point of view though it's hard to know where a steady flow of fantasy points is going to come. I received criticism for suggesting Nasri might not be the answer to all our woes and while his minutes have been solid (he was dropped against Wigan) in the last 5 games he's added just 15 points to his total.
Five players have four or more goals for Arsenal, and that doesn't even include van Persie or Fabregas. It seems that Chamakh is the odd man out in the front five, having been dropped for three of the last four games. Arshavin also seems to be out of favour and behind Walcott on the depth chart. With van Persie out of form I think the choice is between Nasri and Fabregas and I believe you really do need one of them given Arsenal's fixtures and goal scoring ability. A further analysis of this pair will be uploaded soon.
Can Chelsea's defense bounce back?
In terms of goals conceded over the course of the season, Chelsea's defense is still joint best in the league (16 conceded) and they've still conceded just 7 goals at home. However, as anyone who is paying attention has noticed, this is not currently the Chelsea side we have grown to rely on and they've managed just one clean sheet since GW13. Terry, Ivanovic and Cole will set you back 7m plus while the right back position is too clouded to be reliable. We might therefore be at the point where Chelsea defenders are not tenable in your fantasy team until they can prove otherwise. Terry and Ivanovic have been bailed out by goals over the past few weeks but Cole has 26 points over the past 12 games for a PPMS of 0.264 (for those scoring at home that isn't good).
Does the Sunderland defense justify doubling up?
The Sunderland defense has been a revelation this year with El-Mohamady, Bardsley and Onuoha all ranked in the top 8 defenders. The sum of the goalkeepers (Gordon and Mignolet - 94 points) would rank them second behind only Joe Hart. Given that Bardsley, Elmo and Gordon can be had for 5m or less, is it time to double up on Mackems? If you're making a move for the rest of the season then I think the answer is yes. The short/medium term schedule is only solid but if you look ahead to GW30 onwards they play 6 games against teams who have failed to score 4 or more times (at home/away). I think the prime strategy is to play Bardsley/Elmo every week and then grab Gordon as part of keeper rotation to avoid having to double up on Sunderland players when they play trickier fixtures (they're good but I would still drop them at the Emirates in GW29 for example.
Will any of the big time midfielders finish the season strong?
There was once a Holy Trinity - Ronaldo Lampard and Gerrard - who thoroughly dominated fantasy leagues the world over and were an essential part of everyone's strategy. Now Ronaldo is in Spain, Gerrard has only 2 more points than substitute Adam Johnson and Lampard is 6th in points among midfielders on his own team. Instead we have seen the rise of the mid-ranger with Nani, Van der Vaart and Cahill leading the league in total points and consistent production. I have seen some signs of recovery from Lampard since his return and despite adding just a lone goal, he has played some great balls into the box which haven't been finished by a floundering front line. That said, at 12.6m he is just too much more than Van der Vaart, Nasri and Nani to ever justify that lofty fee.
The only argument I can find for employing Lampard or Fabregas is that these once 'must have' players can now be considered to be differetiators. Given the failure of the big name strikers too (see below) money is not a huge problem this year so you can probably throw PPMS out of the window for a couple of players and simply chase points. In that mindset Lampard, and for me particularly Fabregas, may have some value still.
Will any of the big time forwards finish the season strong?
I was very high on Drogba this year and while Drogba justified that hype in the early going, he suffered through a terrible patch in GW8-15 with no goals though he has been slightly better of late. Tevez has been maddening all year with 5 double digit games but 9 games of 2 points or less. Unlike the midfield though I have faith in this pair and think Rooney and van Persie will also have something to day before the season is done. As mentioned above, Arsenal have very favorable fixtures and so an in-form van Persie would be great but I am unwilling to recommend buying him now and waiting another month for him to find his feet. With that in mind, I think Tevez is the best placed to have success but has the hardest fixtures with Drogba occupying the middle ground of being in okay form and having okay fixtures. I will try and rank these forwards for the rest of the season in the next few days.
I hope that's answered more questions that it's raised. I will be back shortly with actual data rankings for projections for the final third of the season and hence who to target with your wildcard.