Friday, January 28, 2011

Gameweek 25 Rankings

No league games this weekend but we do have midweek action so I'm putting the rankings up now.

Clean Sheet Rankings
(clean sheets home/away - opponent failed to score home/away)
  1. Man Utd (7 - 5)
  2. Man City (4 - 4)
  3. Liverpool (5 - 4)
  4. Sunderland (7 - 5)
  5. Chelsea (3 - 2)
  6. Arsenal (4 - 3)
  7. Fulham (5 - 2)
  8. Blackburn (5 - 2)
  9. West Brom (1 - 6)
  10. Bolton (2 - 4)
  11. Birmingham (4 - 4)
  12. Blackpool (0 - 6)
  13. Wigan (3 - 2)
  14. Newcastle (3 - 1)
  15. Everton (2 - 2)
  16. Tottenham (0 - 2)
  17. Stoke (2 - 1)
  18. Wolves (1 - 3)
  19. West Ham (0 - 0)
  20. Aston Villa (0 - 0)
Attacking Rankings
  1. Man Utd
  2. Blackpool
  3. Arsenal
  4. Blackburn
  5. Bolton
  6. Man City
  7. West Ham
  8. West Brom
  9. Fulham
  10. Newcastle
  11. Tottenham
  12. Liverpool
  13. Wigan
  14. Chelsea
  15. Wolves
  16. Everton
  17. Sunderland
  18. Stoke
  19. Birmingham
  20. Aston Villa
Captain Stats
It's almost impossible to look past the United pair of Berbatov and Nani this week. United score more goals than anyone at hone while Villa boast the league's leakiest road back line. After his hattrick last week, Berbatov is now averaging a ridiculous 12.11 points per game at home and has 15 goals in 9 games including 4 games of 2 or more goals. A slight knock is that he has two bad games in the last five but if you're looking for upside, no one is better (he has two of the four 20 point games this year). Nani has also been very good at home, adding another good performance against Birmingham to give him 9.0 PPG at Old Trafford. What I like about Nani at home is the way he is contributing points: 6 goals, 6 assists and 14 bonus points. I maintain from last week that Nani is a slightly safer pick but it's really hard to look away from Berbatov right now.

Elsewhere, I think Arsenal are your next best bet with Van Persie looking like he's close to his best. His stats are hard to judge as he has so many appearances with only 20 minutes or so of action. He is more boom/bust so far that the United pair but his 11% ownership is clearly below the pair too. Fabregas is averaging close to 6 points at home and is back to his bonus-magnet best with 14 points in his last 8 starts. With Arsenal's double gameweek on the horizon, if you can only afford either Arsenal or United players, now could be the time to move (though you really need both rather than either).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gameweek 24 Rankings

This could be a big week for our fantasy teams as the double gameweeks start rolling in, new arrivals start playing and the teams start to sort out who are contenders and pretenders. Plenty of owners will be looking to play their wildcards this week so I thought I should get the weekly rankings up as soon as possible which along with the aforementioned double gameweek analysis, should give everyone plenty of food for thought before they plan their final assault on the league table. Along with the standard weekly rankings, I have included the rankings for the next 6 weeks and the remainder of the season.

Clean Sheet Rankings (GW24)
(clean sheets kept and opponents' failed to score in parenthesis)
  1. Man United (6 - 3) and (3 - 0)
  2. Arsenal (3 - 5)
  3. Fulham (4 - 3) and (3 - 1)
  4. Everton (3 - 6)
  5. Blackburn (4 - 5)
  6. Blackpool (0 - 4) and (0 - 3)
  7. Liverpool (2 - 1) and (4 - 4) 
  8. Wigan (3 - 2) and (2 - 5) 
  9. Aston Villa (4 - 3) and (0 - 3)
  10. Wolves (2 - 4)
  11. Man City (4 - 3)
  12. Bolton (2 - 5)
  13. Chelsea (2 - 2)
  14. Newcastle (3 - 2)
  15. Stoke (2 - 2)
  16. Sunderland (4 - 0)
  17. West Ham (0 - 2)
  18. West Brom (0 -2)
  19. Tottenham (0 - 2)
  20. Birmingham (2 - 0) 
Clean Sheet Rankings (Next 6 GWs)
On a predicted goals per game basis, value of double gameweeks excluded

  1. Chelsea
  2. Man City
  3. Arsenal
  4. Man Utd
  5. Fulham
  6. Stoke
  7. Bolton
  8. Sunderland
  9. Blackpool
  10. Everton
  11. Blackburn
  12. Newcastle
  13. Liverpool
  14. Tottenham
  15. Wigan
  16. Birmingham
  17. West Brom
  18. West Ham
  19. Wolves
  20. Aston Villa
Clean Sheet Rankings (remainder of season)
On a predicted goals per game basis, value of double gameweeks excluded

  1. Chelsea
  2. Man City
  3. Arsenal
  4. Man Utd
  5. Sunderland
  6. Fulham
  7. Stoke
  8. Everton
  9. Tottenham
  10. Birmingham
  11. Bolton
  12. Blackburn
  13. Liverpool
  14. Newcastle
  15. Wigan
  16. Blackpool
  17. Wolves
  18. West Brom
  19. West Ham
  20. Aston Villa
Attacking Rankings (GW24)
(opposition clean sheets at home/away in parenthesis)
  1. Man Utd (2) and (0)
  2. Wigan (3) and (0)
  3. Blackburn (0)
  4. Arsenal (3)
  5. Liverpool (2) and (3)
  6. Man City (4)
  7. Blackpool (4) and (3) 
  8. Everton (0)
  9. Aston Villa (4) and (2)
  10. Tottenham (3)
  11. Newcastle (0)
  12. Fulham (2) and (4)
  13. Sunderland (0)
  14. Stoke (4)
  15. Wolves (2)
  16. Chelsea (2)
  17. West Ham (3)
  18. West Brom (4)
  19. Bolton (2)
  20. Birmingham (6)
Attacking Rankings (Next 6 GWs)
On a predicted goals per game basis, value of double gameweeks excluded
  1. Man Utd
  2. Arsenal
  3. Chelsea
  4. Blackpool
  5. Bolton
  6. Newcastle
  7. Blackburn
  8. Man City
  9. Wolves
  10. Stoke
  11. Everton
  12. Fulham
  13. Liverpool
  14. Tottenham
  15. West Brom
  16. West Ham
  17. Aston Villa
  18. Sunderland
  19. Birmingham
  20. Wigan
Attacking Rankings (remainder of season)
On a predicted goals per game basis, value of double gameweeks excluded
  1. Arsenal
  2. Man Utd
  3. Chelsea
  4. Newcastle
  5. Blackpool
  6. Bolton
  7. Man City
  8. Blackburn
  9. Tottenham
  10. Stoke
  11. West Brom
  12. Aston Villa
  13. Everton
  14. Wolves
  15. Sunderland
  16. Liverpool
  17. Fulham
  18. West Ham
  19. Birmingham
  20. Wigan
Captain Stats (GW24)
With Man Utd on a double gameweek I am going to assume the vast majority of managers are going to go with one of their players this week as captain. I will however mention a couple of other players who look well placed to have big weeks too.

It really is a toss up between Berbatov and Nani this week as both are significantly better at home (Berbatov 10.00 PPG / Nani 8.89) than away (Berbatov 3.5 PPG / Nani 4.88) but on average will contribute similar points over the two games. Both face some rotation risk given the short duration in which the two games happen and the looming prospect of the Champions League on the horizon. However, with Park still busy in Qatar and Giggs having played the last two games, Nani looks the less likely to be rested than Berbatov who faces competition from Hernandez and so might just edge this one out as the safer pick. It's strange to think of Rooney as a differentiator but with just a 12% holding he is exactly that. With two goals on the season though I think that number is still too high and while he is prone to break out of his slump at any time, it's way too risky to captain him unless you are in desperate need to make up some points on your opponents and it's make or break time.

If you're interested in United's defense as a double gameweek captain then I think Ferdinand is the best option though Vidic and Evra are good plays of course if you already hold them. I had planned to bring in Rafael who would have been outstanding value but his suspension (which now could be extended to cover both games) puts an end to that talk. If a new right back emerges as odds on favourite to start both games, he will then become excellent value.

Tevez has been outstanding away from home all year (7.78 PPG) and has 2 double digit GWs in the last 5. He's also done well against mid level opposition (6.50 PPG) and looked close to unstoppable last week. Van der Vaart has also been excellent away from home (7.29 PPG) and against mid level teams (8.63 PPG). The game at Newcastle has the potential to be an open high scoring game which could suit Van der Vaart's game. Finally, Fabregas has the best fixture for the week as he welcomes Wigan to the Emirates, but while Fabregas has been good since his return, he has added just 7 points in the last two games which makes you nervous about handing him the armband just yet.

Of the other DGW teams, many might be tempted to roll the dice with Torres but like Rooney above, he has not shown enough for me to put that much faith in him. Fulham's defense is my second favourite after United but that trip to Anfield is tricky and so you're really judging them on the one game at home to Stoke. Not the worst option but some way off United's level.

Suspensions
  • Emile Heskey
  • Marouane Fellaini
  • Steve Gerrard
  • Rafael
  • Cheik Tiote
  • Victor Obinna
  • George Elokobi

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Double Gameweeks

I have touched on the double gameweeks earlier but I think we need more analysis if we are to fully enjoy the fruits of them when playing the transfer window wildcard. Let's look at every team who has one or more double gameweeks coming up, who looks set to benefit and how you can maximise the opportunity:

Arsenal
Who they play and when: GW27 - Wolves and Stoke
Who are the best plays: Arsenal look like a very good play both defensively and offensively. The Wolves fixture alone would likely rank Arsenal as the top defensive pick of the week and the addition of another sub-1 GPG team makes them a great play. They've only kept 3 clean sheets at home so I'm not crazy about paying the big bucks for a Thomas Vermaelen (if fit by then) but I would rate Fabianski as a very good pick and Djorou as sensational value if still in the first team.
As we know, Arsenal are always a good option to score goals and my prediction tools have them scoring 4.7 goals in the two fixtures. I am concerned by the dispersion of Arsenal's goals but there should be enough to make at least Fabregas, Nasri and perhaps van Persie good fantasy options.
What should you do: I have recently put down some thoughts on buying Fabregas over Nasri but with Arsenal's great fixtures and this upcoming double, I think of all teams, Arsenal attackers are the easiest to plan for. Simply buy them as soon as possible and leave them in the team from here on in.


Aston Villa
Who they play and when: GW24 - Man City and @Wigan
Who are the best plays: How the mighty have fallen. Villa's side was once a hot bed of fantasy talent with the likes of Dunne, Collins, Young and Agbonlahor being fantasy studs. This year? Not so much. They have kept four clean sheets at home which is solid but City have been blanked just 3 times away from home and just once since GW3.
Offensively, Villa have no one who can legally be described as a legitimate striker this year, while Young and Downing have been good in the middle. Both present decent differential opportunities though Villa are expected to score just 1.9 goals by my predictions so they don't have a great shot at a lot of points in GW24.
What should you do: Young's penalty duties make him intriguing but at 8.1m it's really tough to pick him ahead of Nasri unless you (a) can have both or (b) are desperate to differentiate. I wouldn't touch this defense given their poor production, the fact they face City at home and haven't kept a clean sheet on the road all year.

Birmingham
Who they play and when: GW27 - Stoke and Newcastle
Who are the best plays: Two of the three defensive fixtures predict out at less than a goal a game conceded for Birmingham and given their four home clean sheets, you have to like Foster and Dann in particular. On the downside, Newcastle have only failed to score twice on the road and Everton only have two home blanks, though Stoke have failed to score four times so the overall chance of a clean sheet looks good.
I don't see any midfielders or forwards having the upside to justify much consideration though if pressed I'd probably look at Jerome or Ferguson given their consistent playing time. A sneaky remaining option would be Robbie Keane if he has completed his transfer by then, making him an intriguing option for just 4.8m.
What should you do: Compared with players who have just one fixture Birmingham are a great option though be careful not to necessarily overreact when comparing them with other double week options like Arsenal, Spurs or Everton.

Blackpool
Who they play and when: GW24 - Sunderland and Man Utd and GW27 - Aston Villa and Tottenham
Who are the best plays: Normally if a team had two home-home gameweeks you would be buying their defensive stock like a 2001 dot-com company but given the fact that Blackpool are yet to record a home blank, I am a bit nervous about jumping on the Seasiders too much. The opposition looks more daunting than it is though (Villa have failed to score 5 times on the road while Sunderland have 4) so I am interested in Crainey and Kingson for this period.
Offensively, Blackpool have a surprising number of fantasy options with Adam being close to must own during this 4 week period. Even when he doesn't score or Blackpool don't win, Adam is liable to pickup bonus points which seems to almost guarantee him 7 or 8 points in a double gameweek. Varney and Campbell make interesting budget forward options if you're going that route, with Campbell clearly the form player at the moment.
What should you do: If you are picking up a budget defender when using your wildcard this week or next then the likes of Crainey or Evatt make interesting options. I am also a big fan of Kingson (or Gilks when fit) as part of a rotation strategy and I feel him is good enough to plug in now and leave in your squad for a long length of time. Offensively I think everyone should own Chaz Adam for this period and while I personally like a few strikers who cost a bit more than Varney and Campbell (Rodallega, Carroll, Elmander etc) I think they make good bench players for now who can start during the double gameweeks.

Fulham
Who they play and when: GW24 - Stoke and @Liverpool
Who are the best plays: Fulham's defense is a reliable option and they're facing two sides struggling for goals this year (though Liverpool are decent at home). Hangeland is a good premium option who is a threat from set pieces (a little pricey for me though), but I really like Hughes here as the best pickup. He doesn't add much other than clean sheets but for 4.8m he has a great shot at a good score in GW27 and their upcoming fixtures are really good making him a good pickup for now and for the medium term.
Fulham have an increasingly fit strike force but none of them can really be relied on for fantasy success. In midfield, Dempsey is obviously the best pick though with just 3 predicted goals for the double gameweek I don't love him here. Simon Davies is a nice budget option who can provide value in a double gameweek and is a differentiator (1.6%).
What should you do: I would be happy playing a Fulham defender here and given their good fixture this week (@Wigan) they make a really solid pickup for anyone using their wildcard in the next two weeks. Dempsey is worth a thought if you're priced out of the Nasri/Nani market but want someone other than the wildly popular Adam and Nolan.

Liverpool
Who they play and when: GW24 - @Wolves and Fulham
Who are the best plays: What to make of this team? They have four home clean sheets at home and Wolves are an average scoring team so perhaps Konchesky has some value here. That said, despite the double gameweek I think other better options remain, and probably for less money.
Offensively, Torres is of course the star and with a 10% holding he is more of a differentiator than the likes of Tevez and Drogba but I am still hesitant to call him up given the fact that last week was his first away goal of the year and he's only topped double digits once.
What should you do: Until this Dalglish situation plays out I advise staying away.

Man United
Who they play and when: GW24 - Birmingham and @Blackpool
Who are the best plays: The home fixture looks good for United's defense but the road trip to Blackpool is tricky on paper. I'm not sure that the double gameweek is good enough to justify picking up an expensive defender this week as they will surely concede away to Spurs. If you're squad is fairly settled though I rate Ferdinand and Rafael as good pickups for next week.
Everyone likely has Nani by now and you could really do with trying to get Berbatov given that he is the only one of the premium three strikers on a double (unless you want to now throw Torres into this group). Rooney is a temptation but I would prefer to have Nani, a defender and Berbatov than Rooney at this point.
What should you do:You really need to have Nani and either Berbatov or Rooney and I would really try and pursue a defender if the cash stretches. United have brilliant fixtures from here on in, with only a couple of games looking really frightening. Anyone using their wildcard this week or next should probably target three United players for their team.

Newcastle
Who they play and when: GW27 - @Blackburn and @Birmingham
Who are the best plays: I'm not totally confident in Newcastle's defense but they've added 3 road clean sheets to date and Blackburn and Birmingham hardly set the world alight in goals scored (Birmingham have the worst home record of all). I like Harper and Simpson as bench options anyway so they make excellent medium term squad players who can be started with confidence this week.
The Magpies offer plenty of attacking options with Carroll and Nolan the obvious and popular picks. I'd love to offer a contrarian view and give some other tips but Gutierrez isn't really contributing much and while he is consistent, Joey Barton generally lacks the attacking positioning to score more than 5 or so points in a game.
What should you do: Carroll is of course a great option when he returns from injury while I am less high on Nolan who has really only had three big games which are hard to predict making him hard to rotate. I would be happy stashing a Simpson or Harper in my squad and would start them in the double. The fixtures until GW27 aren't the best though so you may wish to hold off on this pair and sign them up specifically for these games rather than sitting them until then.

Stoke
Who they play and when: GW27 - @Birmingham and @Arsenal
Who are the best plays: While you like the Birmingham fixture, a trip to the Emirates spells bad news for both the offense and defense, hence negating the double gameweek somewhat. The defense isn't great at the best of times and so I'm not really tempted by the Potters back line right now.
Matt Etherington is always a good option and so as a squad man this double gameweek obviously adds somewhat to his value. Stoke's fixtures aren't bad in the medium term and so he should in your thoughts if playing your wildcard this week.
What should you do: Etherington is worth a look and Kenwyne Jones is a decent hired gun but outside of that I'm not really in on Tony Pulis' men.

Tottenham
Who they play and when: GW27 - @Sunderland and @Blackpool
Who are the best plays: Spurs are pretty average on the road so these fixtures aren't as good as they look. Sunderland are a dominant home team so goals should be hard to come by though Blackpool have been pretty shaky at home to date. Van der Vaart and Bale are obviously great options as always and you would likely be playing them anyway. I find it hard to get behind this forward line right now given the chance for rotation and a general lack of form.
Defensively, Spurs don't look like a great option as they haven't kept a road clean sheet all year.
What should you do: Keep playing (and possibly captaining) Van der Vaart and probably keep Bale around too. Outside of that it's hard to find too much fantasy value in this talented Spurs team.

West Brom
Who they play and when: GW27 - West Ham and Wolves
Who are the best plays: West Brom have one clean sheet all year and that came in GW2 so I'm throwing the defense out right now. Despite cooling down of late I still like Brunt and Odenwingie, especially given their fixtures which suggest the Baggies will score no less than 3.9 goals in the double gameweek.
What should you do: Brunt (5%) and Odenwingie (3%) are good differentiators who are out of favor right now after dips in form. I wouldn't necessarily say jump on them right now as West Brom's fixtures aren't the best before the double gameweek but they should definately warrant some attention if you are playing your wildcard or looking to make a move in GW26 or 27.

Wigan
Who they play and when: GW24 - @Arsenal and Aston Villa
Who are the best plays: Much like Stoke the away trip to Arsenal pretty much makes this a single gameweek for Wigan's defense and therefore I'm not interested except if I already hold someone on the bench (Al Habsi is the most likely candidate). Going forward I like Rodallega quite a lot this week and next and he makes an ideal replacement for anyone still looking for a Carroll replacement. Villa's away defense is a car crash and so he, and N'Zogbia make very interesting - and differentiating - plays next week.
What should you do: I like Rodallega a lot for the next few weeks and might even venture him as my favourite sub-8m striker, until Carroll is fully fit at least. The defense is too unreliable in my eyes, even for bench fodder.

Wolves
Who they play and when: GW27 - @Arsenal and @West Brom
Who are the best plays: To be honest I don't really like a single player from Wolves team that much. Jarvis has had value at points in the year but at 5.1m I can go in a number of different directions and still find players who have better fixtures in the double gameweek. The defense has improbably kept clean sheets against Liverpool and Chelsea which along with his pair of goals give Foley a hint of life but I still feel better options can be found elsewhere.
What should you do: Read why Wolves should stay up over at Back Page Football and pick your fantasy players elsewhere.

All the other teams don't enjoy a double gameweek any time soon but this should not preclude top players like Carlos Tevez from appearing in your short, medium or long term plans. I would think a lot of people will use their extra wildcard next week before the double gameweek, giving them as many doubles a possible, but you need to be careful to load up on people who will give you value beyond the gameweek or you'll be chasing your tail for the remainder of the year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gameweek 23 Rankings

Clean Sheet Rankings
(clean sheets kept - opponents failed to score)
  1. Man City (7 - 4)
  2. Sunderland (7 - 2)
  3. Chelsea (7 - 2)
  4. Birmingham (4 - 5)
  5. Liverpool (4 - 3)
  6. Fulham (3 - 3)
  7. Stoke (3 - 3)
  8. Arsenal (3 - 1)
  9. Tottenham (3 - 2)
  10. Wigan (2 - 4)
  11. Bolton (0 - 3)
  12. West Brom (1 - 5)
  13. Blackpool (5 - 2)
  14. Everton (2 - 1)
  15. Man Utd (2 - 2)
  16. Newcastle (3 - 2)
  17. Aston Villa (0 - 4)
  18. Wolves (1 - 3)
  19. West Ham (3 - 2)
  20. Blackburn (0 - 1)
Attacking Rankings
  1. Man City
  2. Arsenal
  3. Chelsea
  4. Birmingham
  5. Tottenham
  6. Stoke
  7. Sunderland
  8. Blackpool
  9. Fulham
  10. West Brom
  11. Man Utd
  12. Blackburn
  13. Bolton
  14. West Ham
  15. Wigan
  16. Everton
  17. Newcastle
  18. Aston Villa
  19. Liverpool
  20. Wolves
Captain Stats
  • I keep suggesting it could be a statistical anomaly but Van der Vaart continues to crush mid level teams (between 1 and 1.5 GPG conceded) for 9.57 PPG. Given that he is also averaging over 7 PPG at home and 8 PPG over his last 4 games, he remains an excellent option at home this week despite the tricky fixture on paper. 
  • Despite their struggles, Chelsea's fixture is just too damn good to ignore Drogba this week. He is still going at a 6.9 PPG pace at Stamford Bridge while trampling bad teams (over 1.5 GPG conceded) for 7.63 PPG. He isn't exactly on form but he has a sneaky 5.5 PPG over the last four gameweeks including 3 goals in his last 6 games. This is Chelsea's easiest remaining game so if you're not going to captain him now, it might be time to look to Tevez, Berbatov or even the potentially rejuvenated Torres.
  • Like teammate Drogba, Malouda is a solid option this week though his terrible form makes it hard to throw any serious weight behind him. He is still - unbelievably - averaging 7.2 PPG at home and 7 PPG against weak teams and, to be fair, has 16 points in his last two home games. A huge risk but likely a differentiator captain pick.
  • Tevez is having a lot of success against weaker teams (6.5 PPG) but is still struggling to find form at Eastlands (4.6 PPG). His last 6 homes games have resulted in 5 bad games and just one quality start (GW16). Logic says he will rebound at home point but I'm not sure I'd bet my armband as to which week it will come.
  • Fabregas has been very consistent at home/away and against all types of opposition, averaging around 5.5 PPG across the board. He didn't have a good game tonight against Ipswich but he still picked out some lovely passes that on a better night would have been finished. West Ham have the league's second worst home defense which ranks worse than 12 teams' road record. Fabregas has added 26 points in the last 3 games
  • Nani and Berbatov don't have great stats for this week as they face a tricky trip to Spurs who are giving up just 0.82 GPG at home. Both the United pair, particularly Berbatov, have struggled for fantasy points away from home and this might not be the week to captain them.
Suspensions
  • Bacary Sagna
  • Emile Heskey
  • Ashley Young
  • Marouane Fellaini
  • Steven Gerrard
  • Cheik Tiote
  • Jonas Olsson
  • Victor Obinna
  • George Elokobi
    For anyone using their wildcard this week I would urge you to take a quick look at the goalkeeper pair analysis, while an analysis of the upcoming double gameweeks and wildcard strategy will go up soon. As always, thanks for reading and any comments below or @plfantasy are welcome.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Goalkeeper Pairs

    The basic premise behind the goalkeeper rotation strategy is fairly simplistic but for further clarification please see the earlier post here.

    The best pairs for the remainder of the season, ignoring price - to the extent that I only include 'keepers who cost 5m or less (actually 5.2m now Foster's value has gone up) - are as follows:
    1. Gordon / Fabianski (9.3m)
    2. Gordon / Begovic (8.8m)
    3. Gordon / Harper (8.8m)
    4. Gordon / Jaaskelainen (9.1m)
    5. Gordon / Schwarzer (9.3m)
    6. Schwarzer / Fabianski (9.6m)
    7. Gordon / Green (9.3m)
    8. Fabianski / Begovic (9.5m)
    9. Gordon / Foster (9.7m)
    10. Fabianski / Foster (10.0m)
    You might start getting the idea that Gordon is pretty good value using my stats. This to be expected given the fact that Sunderland lead the league in clean sheets with 11, with no other keeper above having more than 7.

    Given the lack of clean sheets this year and the unreliability of most of the defenses in the league, I would understand if some owners wanted to spend as little as possible on their 'keepers. With that in mind, here are the best combinations available for each price:
    • 8.1m - Kingson / Al-Habsi - average goals conceded 1.33
    • 8.2m - Gilks / Al-Habsi - 1.33
    • 8.3m - Kingson / Begovic - 1.01
    • 8.4m - Kingson / Begovic - 1.01
    • 8.5m - Gordon / Kingson - 0.87
    • 8.6m - Gordon / Kingson - 0.87
    • 8.7m - Gordon / Kingson - 0.87
    • 8.8m - Gordon / Begovic - 0.75
    • 8.9m - Gordon / Begovic - 0.75
    • 9.0m - Gordon / Begovic - 0.75
    • 9.1m - Gordon / Begovic - 0.75
    • 9.2m - Gordon / Begovic - 0.75
    • 9.3m - Gordon / Fabianski - 0.67
    • 11.2m - Hart / Begovic - 0.64*
    • 11.4m - Hart / Gordon - 0.51*
    *I have added Joe Hart here for reference, he is too expensive to be part of the normal GK pair analysis.

    In my view the best combo is either Gordon / Kingson or Gordon / Begovic who are a significant upgrade over the next cheapest pair and significantly cheaper than the few options who rank higher (Joe Hart's dominance shows here but not enough to justify the extra 2.5m unless you're really flush with cash).

    Having used my wildcard this week I am going for Gordon / Kingson. I am concerned by Blackpool's lack of home clean sheet but remember that they have only played 8 home games so they have 3 games in hand on some teams in which to improve.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    The Great Fabregas Debate

    It seems that the majority of things I have done wrong this season revolve around Fabregas. I have been on the Fabregas band wagon since his stunning appearances in the U-17 World Championship back in 2003 and this sometimes perhaps clouds my judgment. I am therefore only going to make statements below that are based wholly in fact.

    Arsenal's run in
    By my calculations, Arsenal don't face a single game from here on in where they are expected to score less than one GPG and only two games (@Tot and @Bla) are less than 1.5 GPG. They have 6 games in which they are expected to score at least 2 goals. Compared to the other top teams, we see Arsenal are very well placed:

    Expected games scoring 1.5 GPG or less:
    1. Arsenal 2
    2. Man United 4
    3. Tottenham 8
    4. Chelsea 8
    5. Man City 9
    Expected games scoring 2 GPG or more:
    1. Chelsea 8
    2. Arsenal 7
    3. Man Utd 7
    4. Newcastle 6
    5. Tottenham 2
    6. Man City 1
    When you consider the fact that Chelsea's goal scoring numbers are massively influenced by their insane start to the year, Arsenal look like slam dunk picks to score the most goals from here on in.

    The problem is the Arsenal's goals are very fragmented throughout the team with 13 different players already finding the net this year. If we put aside the forwards for a minute and look at the midfield, I think we can quickly cut out Rosicky, Wilshere, Diaby and probably Walcott as either lacking the minutes or attacking prowess to be regular fantasy contributors. I liked Arshavin at the start of the year and while has has been pretty solid this year, he seems to be being rotated more and more with the return of Van Persie and given his high price I am cutting him too. Song has been very good value this year but for the sake of argument here I am going to exclude him as he is a rotation prospect rather than an every week starter.

    That leaves, of course, Nasri and Fabregas who are the focal point of this piece. I am intrigued by how the two play together and how this will translate to fantasy points for the remainder of the season.

    Positional play
    Let's take three games, one in which Fabregas played without Nasri (Bolton), one in which Nasri played without Fabregas (West Brom) and one in which they played together (Tottenham).

    Samir Nasri

     by Guardian Chalkboards


    Cesc Fabregas

     by Guardian Chalkboards

    Fabregas plays centrally regardless of who else is playing while Nasri is pushed wide to either the right (as seen above) or sometimes to the left when Walcott also plays. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (some of the best fantasy players are wingers) but it does mean you have to be careful which data you are basing your transfer decisions on. Let's look at some numbers:

    Fantasy points per game
    • Nasri playing without Fabregas: Nasri 6.86 PPG
    • Fabregas playing without Nasri: Fabregas 5.33 PPG
    • Both playing: Nasri 4.45 PPG, Fabregas 5.55 PPG
    The one caveat here is that Fabregas has only played 3 games without Nasri so the sample size is a bit small to draw huge conclusions from but I think the Nasri data is fairly reliable and illustrative of what I was trying to convey a few weeks back when I suggested Nasri's value would diminish.

    What drives fantasy points? Well a lot of things, but I like shots as a useful measure for midfielders and it usually illustrates they are in attacking positions, are given license to shoot and are more likely to wrack up bonus points.

    Shots per game
    • Nasri playing without Fabregas: Nasri 4.4 shots per gane
    • Fabregas playing without Nasri: Fabregas 1.7 shots per game
    • Both playing: Nasri 1.9 shots per game, Fabregas 3.0 shots per game
    What's interesting here is that Fabregas gains while Nasri loses shots when the pair play together. This makes sense given Nasri's wide positions but the concern is that Nasri is not getting assists, with or without Fabregas. With Arsenal it's always hard to predict where the assist will come from as they don't tend to use typical attacking moves (like crosses from Baines straight to Cahill's head, or midfielder plays long ball to Crouch's head who knock down for Van der Vaart) but rather always look for the extra pass. Therefore being a 'winger' can hurt someone like Nasri's value as he loses his shots from the centre of the field but doesn't pick up too many extra assists.

    Quality Games
    I define a quality game as one in which a player adds 6 points or more in a game. Let's look at the percentage of quality games each player has notched:
    • Nasri playing without Fabregas: Nasri 57% QG
    • Fabregas playing without Nasri: Fabregas 33% QG
    • Both playing: Nasri 27% QG, Fabregas 55% QG
    As with shots, Fabregas benefits from Nasri's presence, while Nasri is again hurt by Fabregas.

    Conclusions
    If you are trailing in your league or want to make a push up the leader board I think Fabregas (7.8% owned) is the best way to achieve this. There is some downside with his injury concerns and the fact he can sometimes take up deeper position but he has top 5 potential and a low ownership which doesn't apply to anyone else right now.
    Nasri been more immune to rotation than I expected but his form has declined nonetheless. If you want to go all in on Arsenal he still makes a great pickup and owning him and Fabregas would likely guarantee you at least some kind of return from them each week (if you owned them both you would have enjoyed 9 double digit weeks and just 2 bad weeks when they both played). The issue is whether you can afford Nani and Van der Vaart too who I still regard as close to must own.
    I have been premature with Fabregas before but it's time to start taking risks so given his apparent fitness and his good form since returning I think now is the time to bring Cesc back to the fantasy lime light.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Burning Questions

    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.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Trend Spotting

    Goalkeepers

    No one has more quality games (12) than Joe Hart. He does, however, also have 10 bad games. In fact, in 20 of 22 appearances, Hart has scored either 7 or more, or 2 or less points. He is the only keeper to have more quality games than bad games.

    Steve Harper has more quality games and clean sheets (3) as Tim Krul, despite playing 8 games less so far this year.

    Extrapolated over the full season to date, adjusting for schedule, Craig Gordon would be the second best 'keeper in the league (110 aPoints), after Joe Hart (114).

    Having happened just once between GW14 and GW20, four keepers have now recorded back to back quality games in the past two weeks (Hart, Gordon, Fabianksi and Harper).

    Defenders

    Over the past 5 gameweeks, Seamus Coleman has 27 points and a PPMS of 1.350.  Phil Bardsley however is the only man with 3 quality games and has 26 points over the same period. Bardsley also now leads the league in aPoints for defenders with 109.

    Over the past four games Ashley Cole has scored 9 points despite having faced Bolton and Villa at home and Wolves on the road. Teammates Ivanovic and Terry have been rescued by each scoring over in those games. Chelsea now have just one clean sheet in the last 9 games.

    Man United have conceded in the 3 straight games for the second time this year (GW4-6). They've notched back to back clean sheets just once (GW17-19).

    Of the 27 defenders who scored more than once last season, only four - Samba, Nelsen, Huth and Ridgewell - have managed to net more than once this year. This is why I rarely advocate paying for goals when it comes to defenders (technically Bale, who was a defender in last year's game has of course scored more than once).

    Man City and Sunderland now have 11 clean sheets each with only two other teams (Man Utd (8) and Chelsea (9)) over seven. Both teams have a 7-4 home/away split. One team has more road clean sheets than both of these teams: Blackpool.

    West Brom has the longest streak of failing to keep a clean sheet, having conceded in every game since GW2 (their only clean sheet this year). City on the other hand have three straight clean sheets.

    Midfielders

    Nani is currently by far the best player using aPoints as a measure with 172 points, 14 more than teammate Berbatov. Nani has added 38 points in his last 5 games.

    Over the past 5 gameweeks, Van der Vaart leads all players with 32 points despite only playing 4 times. Best value however is Simon Davies whose 1.436 PPMS leads all players who have 3 or more appearances over the past 5 gameweeks.

    James Milner (6%) is owned by 6 times more people than Simon Davies (1%) despite the fact that over the last 7 gameweeks Milner has featured in every game but scored just 12 points.

    Malouda is still owned by an insane 28% of owners despite having contributed exactly one quality game (GW20) since GW10. His PPMS in that time is 0.321.

    In Fabregas' last 7 games he has scored 49 points with 5 quality games and just two duds. The problem however is that these games date back to GW12 thanks to a combination of injuries and postponements. If he can stay healthy Fabregas is probably the second best premium midfielders after Nani.

    Charlie Adam leads all players with 27 bonus points to date, 8 more than any other midfielder and four more than second placed Tevez.

    Forwards

    Not a single one of the forwards I track have managed more than two quality games over the last five gameweeks. Only Drogba and Berbatov have managed two (I don't track all players so I may be missing the odd one).

    In the past 5 gameweeks, four forwards have scored more than 20 points: Berbatov, Drogba, Tevez and Rodallega. With 23 points for just 5.6m Rodallega is clearly the best value. He is owned by just 3% of owners too and deserves serious consideration for Caroll, Elmander and Chamakh owners.

    Chelsea have now failed to score on 6 occasions, more than Wolves and Blackpool. Man United have still only been blanked twice this year and never at home. Next in line are Arsenal, Spurs, Newcastle and, surprisingly, Blackburn.

    Over the past 3 gameweeks, only Man United and Spurs have scored in all three games. Blackburn and Newcastle have the most goals with 6.

    Andy Carroll is still owned by 48% of managers despite being a couple of weeks away from returning from injury. Unless you're sat on a huge profit you need to move on for the short term. Equally, Chamakh (18%) appears to be the odd man out in the Fabregas-Nasri-Van Persie-Chamakh-Arshavin-Walcott lottery and his playing time appears too limited to warrant such a large investment.

    Bolton have scored just 4 goals in the their last 5 games, with Elmander and Davies adding just a goal a piece in that period. This once red hot pair are now droppable and you should investigate other options if you're about to play your wildcard.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Gameweek 22 Rankings

    No time to breathe or dwell on GW 21 (which was fairly successful by recent standards) as the EPL action continues on a short week. The highlight for most will be the double gameweeks for Blackpool and Liverpool, who both also enjoy a double in GW24 (some thoughts on them below).

    Clean Sheet Rankings
    The rank order is based on the normal form adjusted expected goals per game. In parenthesis you can find the number of clean sheets (at home/away) by the listed team and the number of times the oppositon has failed to score (at home/away)
    1. Man Utd (6 - 3)
    2. Blackpool* (1 - 3) and (1 - 4)
    3. Blackburn (4 - 4)
    4. Bolton (2 - 5)
    5. Newcastle (2 - 5)
    6. Aston Villa (4 - 4)
    7. Chelsea (2 - 1)
    8. Fulham (3 - 4)
    9. Tottenham (0 - 2)
    10. Liverpool (2 - 2) and (2 - 0)
    11. Man City (3 - 1)
    12. Everton (3 - 2)
    13. Wolves (1 - 4)
    14. Arsenal (2 - 2)
    15. Sunderland (3 - 2)
    16. West Brom (0 - 2)
    17. Wigan (3 - 2)
    18. Birmingham (2 - 0)
    19. West Ham (0 - 2)
    20. Stoke (2 - 0)
     *double gameweek

    Team Goal Rankings (form adjusted)
    1. Man City
    2. Blackburn
    3. Man Utd
    4. Blackpool*
    5. Tottenham
    6. Chelsea
    7. Arsenal
    8. West Brom
    9. Newcastle
    10. West Ham
    11. Bolton
    12. Liverpool*
    13. Fulham
    14. Birmingham
    15. Everton
    16. Aston Villa
    17. Sunderland
    18. Wigan
    19. Stoke
    20. Wolves 
    Captain Stats
    • I'm sure you're sick of reading this but Dimitar Berbatov at home is money. 11.14 PPG at Old Trafford, including 38 in the last two (7 seven goals, 6 bonus points). Stoke have two road clean sheets (at Blackburn and West Brom) and would appear overmatched against a dominant home team. The favourite to stop Berbatov would be Ferguson if he chooses to rest the Bulgarian hitman.
    • It may be a statistical fluke, but Van der Vaart is consistently crushing mid level teams for 10.0 PPG (4.9 against all other teams). He is as good (7.33 PPG) on the road as he is at home (7.13 PPG) and won't be scared of an Everton side with just one clean sheet in their last 11 games. Having played in all three Christmas games I am bit worried he will be rested but is probably unlikely to come off the bench in that instance so as long as your backup option is set, VdV makes another solid play this week.
    • Carlos Tevez has two good indicators this week having incredibly notched 8.5 PPG on the road as well as hitting mid level teams for 6.89 PPG. I was left frustrated watching him against Blackpool but he did have plenty of chances and a similar game would likely see better returns in the future. In terms of production he hasn't been outstanding against the top sides (1 goal in 4 games vs MnU, Che, Ars and Tot) to date but we know he has the talent and his overall production this season has been very good.
    • With 8.5 PPG at home, Nani is a useful play this week but his injury status makes him very risky. He looks likely to return but this could well be on the bench so the armband looks to be a week too soon for me.
    • Of the Arsenal players, I like Fabregas the most who has been very impressive since his return from injury (again). One goal, 3 assists and 5 bonus points in two games have made owners pay attention and the fact he was rested against Wigan makes him a safe pick this week. City have only one road clean sheet since GW6 and have shipped 11 goals in the last 4 road games. Elsewhere I like Nasri's 7 PPG at home and he too should be relatively safe to start having also missed the Wigan game.
    • I don't know what to make of this Chelsea side and none of them look like captain options this week. Drogba is of course the pick of the bunch but he's averaging just over 4 points on the road and is likely not your best option.
    • Of the double gameweekers I think Chaz Adam is surprisingly the best pick; better than any Liverpool player. Adam's home stats aren't great (4.0 PPG) but with such a small sample size (6 games) it's hard to make too many judgments. Liverpool and Birmingham have four road clean sheets between them while Blackpool have scored in every home game this year (including 2 per game in the last 4). I guess Torres has some appeal but with one road goal in 9 games I am not happy giving him the armband. Liverpool defenders may get some attention but again, Blackpool have scored in every home game while Blackburn have dropped just 2 duck eggs. Liverpool meanwhile just 2 road clean sheets, the last coming in GW10.
    Double gameweeks
    • GW22 - Blackpool and Liverpool
    • GW24 - Aston Villa, Blackpool, Fulham, Liverpool, Man Utd, Wigan
    Liverpool and Blackpool obviously are attractive due their double-double gameweeks with Adam and Varney being my picks from these two teams. Torres, Gerrard and co still look overvalued and I can't place enough faith in their defense to warrant investing right now.

    Elsewhere, obviously Man Utd stick out and if you don't own any now, you might want to consider bringing in a MnU player this week in preparation for the double so you can field at least 2 in GW24. Their fixture this week is also very solid so the tough trip to Spurs next week is offset by the potential spoils. Berbatov is of course the obvious pick while I think Rooney is showing signs (if fit) of being poised for a breakout run of goals. At the back, Rafael was rested last week and makes a nice value option should he recover his place. If that's too risky Ferdinand makes a lot of sense at 6.7m as United's defense is getting back on track. A fit again Nani is of course a solid option once more.

    Suspensions
    • Nikola Kalinic
    • Marouane Fellaini
    • Jermain Defoe
    • Younes Kaboul
    • Gabriel Tamas
    • Charles N'Zogbia
    On a side note, a piece I did on Arsene Wenger's best signings is posted over at backpagefootball and any reads or comments would be greatly appreciated. As always I welcome your comments/questions below and you can follow me @plfantasy. Thanks for reading.

    Saturday, January 1, 2011

    New Year's Resolutions

    2010 has not been the best fantasy year for this humble blogger having lost his mini league on the final day of the season back in May, and then suffered through a miserable 2010/11 season to date. A few resolutions for 2011 are therefore required:
    • I will not make double transfers that cost 4 points. I have done this twice this year and failed both times to even get my 4 points back. The only allowable exception is if a player faces a double gameweek and will start both games.
    • I will not listen to the Telegraph or Guardian's team news ever again to make my lineup decisions. The latest blunder was suggesting that Rooney would sit versus West Brom, one goal and one assist later, it's shaping up to a another week of 'what if'.
    •  I will not use rational thought to pick my team. I will assume that whatever has never happened before is almost certain to happen. Of course by then being predictable, it will itself not then happen. I just went cross eyed.
    • I will play defenders at home and rarely rely on defenders - even from the top teams - away from home. Home sides have 64 clean sheets versus 33 for the road teams. The top 5 defensive teams (Che, MnC, MnU, Ars, Bir) have a ratio of 25:11 for home/away clean sheets.
    • I won't overreact and use my wildcard to try and get players who are showing promise. The core of this game is chasing points, just be sure to be chasing them after one week and not five. Guessing when the likes of Fabregas or Rooney will return is all but impossible.
    • I will never play 5 at the back again
    • I will continue to rely on statistical analysis to help select my fantasy team on the basis there is some order in the world (this one is the most likely to proven foolish by the afternoon of 1st Jan).
    2011 is going to better than 2010. Happy New Year everyone