Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gameweek 31 Preview

It's vital to keep your mind with this week and not get too carried away with tuning your team up for the upcoming double gameweeks in GW33 and beyond. No matter how many doubles you have in the future, if getting them involves playing short handed in the run up, you totally negate any value you might gain.

Having said that, the two highlighted DGWs lie with Arsenal and Chelsea who both enjoy a nice run of fixtures leading into the double. Arsenal in particular look to be the best investment this week though it is tough to read their injury situation with any certainty as the promising return of Fabregas and Walcott has been limited with Wenger stating he "has not decided if they will start the game". With Van Persie also facing a late fitness the Arsenal stars look to be risky plays this week though with by the far the best fixture they might just be worth the gamble. With Denilson sidelined I would think Fabregas is the most likely to return though I think I prefer Lampard over the next 3 or 4 gameweeks. My advice would be to bring in a role player like Nasri and go with Van Persie if your current front man is an injury doubt (like Tevez).

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Man City
  2. Arsenal
  3. Newcastle
  4. Birmingham
  5. Chelsea
  6. Everton
  7. Bolton
  8. Fulham
  9. Stoke
  10. West Brom
  11. Tottenham
  12. Man Utd
  13. Sunderland
  14. West Ham
  15. Liverpool
  16. Blackpool
  17. Wigan
  18. Aston Villa
  19. Wolves
  20. Blackburn
Attacking Rankings
  1. Arsenal
  2. Everton
  3. Tottenham
  4. Man Utd
  5. Man City
  6. West Brom
  7. Fulham
  8. Liverpool
  9. West Ham
  10. Chelsea
  11. Blackpool
  12. Aston Villa
  13. Wolves
  14. Newcastle
  15. Wigan
  16. Bolton
  17. Blackburn
  18. Birmingham
  19. Stoke
  20. Sunderland
Captain Stats
Arsenal players are clearly the most attractive here with their predicted 3.5 goals leading the pack this week. The injury doubts make it hard to pick too many captain options and you might consider someone like Nasri who has been solid on his return from injury (3.7 PPG, 2 assists in 3 games). Of the bigger names I think Fabregas is most likely to start though with potential penalty and free kick duties, Van Persie probably has the higher upside. The Dutchman has been sensational in the second half of the season (9.00 PPG, 11 goals in 8 games) and if fit is the pick for the remainder of the year. The Arsenal defense is a little tricky to forecast and without the budget Djorou it's hard to get too excited about this unit (especially with Almunia between the pipes).

Chelsea don't have the ideal fixture this week (at Stoke is the sixth hardest game you can have in terms of average goals conceded) but they are starting to show some form both up front (17 goals in the last 8 including 7 in the last 3) and at the back (4 clean sheets in the last 8 games including 2 in the last 4). No one has been better over that period than Lampard who has 6.67 PPG in the second half including 47 in the last 6 games. Given his low ownership (7%), penalty duties and solid fixtures, Lampard is my main transfer target for this week and is my number one rated midfielder from now through GW35. Interestingly he has actually performed better away from home of late with a 7.2 PPG average away from Stamford Bridge.

The theoretically sensational pairing of Drogba and Torres looks too pricey right now having really struggled to gel together and I would pass on both. If you are desperate to ditch Tevez and are scared of Van Persie's injury I would favour Torres here based on his ownership (7%) but I wouldn't be thrilled to own him right now.

There was once a time when the Chelsea defense was so good that the likes of Cole and Terry deserved captain consideration every week. I'm not suggesting they're there yet but Luiz clearly looks like a good capture and with a couple of goals to his name already, he seems to be one of the more offensively promising defenders around. Captain status this week is a stretch but he is my number one defensive target and at 6.3m looks like a potential steal yet to be fully exploited (6%).

Tim Cahill has the fixture but lacks the form or fitness and Everton lack the talent elsewhere on their roster to justify consideration here.

For Spurs, Van der Vaart appears to be fit enough to consider owning but it might be a bit early to hand him the arm band just yet. Teammate Bale is banged up and cannot be considered here at the moment.

United's trip to Upton Park is trickier than it looks (two straight clean sheets) though the Hammers can still be leaky and United should have some joy. Rooney and Nani are obviously the first thoughts and both have shown excellent form of late (Nani 7.3 PPG, Rooney 7.4 PPG over the past 8 GWs). Nani's struggles on the road (5.2 PPG vs 9.75 PPG at Old Trafford) suggest that perhaps Rooney is the better pick here though do check who your opponents look to captain this week if you are leading your league (Nani is more likely the pick with 42% ownership). The presence of Hernandez makes Berbatov un-captainable and possibly un-ownable right now.

Suspensions
Gael Givet
DJ Campbell
Paul Scholes
Jonny Evans
Cheik Tiote

Every move you make now needs to be made with an eye on the remainder on the season so I thought it might be useful to highlight the strength of schedules for the final run in:

Strength of Schedule remaining (defensive)
(in order of total predicted goals conceded, games conceding less than a goal in parenthesis)
  1. Chelsea (7)
  2. Man City (5)
  3. Sunderland (5)
  4. Man Utd (4)
  5. Arsenal (3)
  6. Fulham (4)
  7. Liverpool (4)
  8. Bolton (3)
  9. Stoke (2)
  10. Tottenham (3)
  11. Birmingham (4)
  12. Aston Villa (4)
  13. Blackburn (3)
  14. Everton (1)
  15. Newcastle (1)
  16. Wolves (0)
  17. Wigan (0)
  18. West Ham (0)
  19. West Brom (0)
  20. Blackpool (0)
Strength of schedule remaining (attacking)
(in order of total predicted goals scored, predicted games scoring over 1.5 goals in parenthesis)

  1. Arsenal (7)
  2. Man Utd (6)
  3. Chelsea (6)
  4. Newcastle (4)
  5. Everton (3)
  6. Man City (4)
  7. Blackpool (4)
  8. Tottenham (4)
  9. West Ham (3)
  10. West Brom (2)
  11. Liverpool (3)
  12. Wolves (2)
  13. Bolton (2)
  14. Aston Villa (4)
  15. Blackburn (1)
  16. Stoke (2)
  17. Fulham (2)
  18. Sunderland (2)
  19. Wigan (1)
  20. Birmingham (0)
As always I welcome comments/questions below or over on Twitter @plfantasy. Thanks for reading.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    Double Gameweek Analysis

    The re-scheduled games are now settled and the final season run in is mapped out. Eight DGWs remain with GW33 looking like the last chance to make serious ground on your competitors as five teams have a blank while three teams enjoy the double. Obviously DGW candidates are going to be highly rated each week but which of the remaining doubles have the highest upside for defenders and attacking players?

    Defensive Rankings
    1. Chelsea GW33: @West Brom, Birmingham
    2. Arsenal GW33: Liverpool, @Tottenham
    3. Wolves GW34: Fulham, @Stoke
    4. Stoke GW34: @Aston Villa, Wolves
    5. Fulham GW34: @Wolves, Bolton
    6. Man City GW36: @Everton, Tottenham
    7. Tottenham GW36: Blackpool, @Man City
    8. Birmingham GW33: Sunderland, @Chelsea 
    9. Bolton GW34: Arsenal, @Fulham
    Attacking Rankings
    1. Chelsea GW33: @West Brom, Birmingham
    2. Man City GW36: @Everton, Tottenham
    3. Arsenal GW33: Liverpool, @Tottenham
    4. Tottenham GW36: Blackpool, @Man City
    5. Stoke GW34: @Aston Villa, Wolves
    6. Bolton GW34: Arsenal, @Fulham
    7. Fulham GW34: @Wolves, Bolton
    8. Wolves GW34: Fulham, @Stoke
    9. Birmingham GW33: Sunderland, @Chelsea
    Arsenal and Chelsea are obviously the immediate priority here with both looking to benefit at both ends of the field and give us plenty of fantasy options. For those chasing leaders in mini leagues it might be time to go make or break and get 3 players from each of these teams over the next two weeks in preparation for the doubles.

    Two form candidates immediately present themselves as must owns (Van Persie and Lampard), and after a scare on international duty it looks like Van Persie will be fit and good to go. With 9.0 PPG and 6.67 PPG respectively, they rank among the best second half performers and neither have outrageously large ownerships (Lampard's is particularly attractive at just 7.5%). With Fabregas and Walcott potentially returning this week, we should have a full contingent of players to select from and with the defense looking good but not great, I would lean towards offensive players for my Gunner picks.

    Chelsea's defense has improved since Luiz's arrival and at 6.2m he represents a very nice discount over his pricier colleagues Cole and Terry. With a pair of goals he has proven himself to be a good goal threat already and is probably my top pick defender for the remainder of the year (or at least through GW35). It's a shame to waste so much talent but even with a double gameweek it's tough to get too excited about the horrifically out of form Drogba and Torres.

    Both Chelsea are Arsenal enjoy good fixtures before their DGWs so feel free to invest heavily now to maximise your holdings by GW33. Of the two, Arsenal look the best option this week so if you are only going to use one transfer this week, I'd go Arsenal. Stay tuned for the weekly rankings which will be posted shortly, including some advice on which players can now be ditched for the season.

      Thursday, March 17, 2011

      Gameweek 30 Rankings

      This is the hardest time of year for fantasy league as big scores in mini leagues look insurmountable and most teams become fairly homogeneous with 5 or 6 'must have' players forming the back bones of most successful sides. Add in a growing injury list, suspensions and rotation for European games and it becomes increasingly hard and frustrating to field a side you are truly happy with.

      However, 9 games is almost a quarter of the season so it's way too late to give up just yet. Instead, you need to re-evaluate a few things and dig even deeper to find those differentiators.

      Before we get into the weekly rankings, let's get some perspective on the form teams. Below are the goals per game since the halfway point of the season:
      1. Arsenal (2.1)
      2. Chelsea (1.9)
      3. Man Utd (1.9)
      4. West Ham (1.8)
      5. Man City (1.8)
      6. Everton (1.7)
      7. Aston Villa (1.6)
      8. Newcastle (1.5)
      9. Tottenham (1.5)
      10. Wolves (1.4)
      11. Liverpool (1.4)
      12. Fulham (1.4)
      13. Blackpool (1.4)
      14. Blackburn (1.3)
      15. Wigan (1.2)
      16. West Brom (1.2)
      17. Bolton (1.1)
      18. Sunderland (1.1)
      19. Stoke (1.0)
      20. Birmingham (0.9)
      The top three teams tell a familiar story but in fourth place, West Ham look to be the biggest standout here. 10 weeks ago I would have said that no one in this team justified fantasy consideration (with Parker the only one in consideration) but suddenly the arrival of Ba and the return to fitness of pre-season favourite Hitzelsperger have not only given us new options but also rejuvenated the form of Parker and Carlton Cole. The game this week (at Spurs) throws some cold water on this enthusiasm but still the Hammers deserve to be much more widely held than they are (only Parker is over 3%) and anyone still holding Bolton or non-Adam Blackpool assets should consider this move as soon as possible.

      No team has more clean sheets than Arsenal (7) since week 19 while previous reliable units like Man Utd (3), Birmingham (2) and Sunderland (3) have been less valuable. Along with Arsenal, Fulham and Man City have been dominant at home, adding four clean sheets a piece leading to bargain defenders like Djorou (1.607) and Hughes (0.854) to rank among the best value defenders in aPPMS. Clean sheets in general don't seem to be getting easier to come by though we are seeing somewhat of a greater concentration towards the top end units (Arsenal, Chelsea, City and Spurs make up four of the top five teams). It may be worth shifting a couple of extra million into your back line to invest in these units.

      Looking to individuals, it's a few old friends who have had the most success but fantasy managers have generally been slow to jump back on board. Van Persie (11%), Fabregas (7%), Rooney (17%) and Lampard (7%) have all been very good since the half week point but only Rooney is getting serious fantasy attention (and even he is still owned by half as many people as his slumping teammate Berbatov). Of course Fabregas is now injured and out of contention but the other three (along with the consistently brilliant Tevez and Nani) are the best premium options right now. Malouda (22%), Arshavin (10%), Gerrard (7%), Drogba (18%), Torres (7%) and even Berbatov (32%) owners might want to make some moves very soon (Berbatov is the trickiest decision as you must balance his great fixtures with the increasing likelihood of rotation).

      So where to go from here? Well, I will be posting a list of sleeper picks for the remainder of the season shortly, while also tweaking the weekly rankings to place more emphasis on the results during the second half of the season.With that in mind, here are the picks for this week:

      Clean Sheet Rankings
      (Clean sheets kept - opponents failed to score)
      1. Man Utd (7 - 4)
      2. Aston Villa (5 - 6)
      3. Tottenham (4 - 6)
      4. Stoke (4 - 4)
      5. Sunderland (7 - 4)
      6. Blackburn (6 - 6)
      7. Chelsea (8 - 4)
      8. Everton (4 - 5)
      9. Fulham (3 - 2)
      10. Arsenal (4 - 2)
      11. Birmingham (3 - 4)
      12. Newcastle (5 - 3)
      13. Man City (4 - 2)
      14. Wigan (2 - 4)
      15. Liverpool (4 - 2)
      16. Blackpool (5 - 4)
      17. West Ham (0 - 3)
      18. Wolves (1 - 3)
      19. West Brom (1 - 2)
      20. Bolton (0 - 0)
      Attacking Rankings
      (Expected goals scored)
      1. Arsenal (2.36)
      2. Tottenham (2.21)
      3. Man Utd (2.03)
      4. Blackburn (2.01)
      5. Aston Villa (1.79)
      6. Chelsea (1.53)
      7. Birmingham (1.48)
      8. Sunderland (1.33)
      9. Everton (1.30)
      10. West Brom (1.29)
      11. West Ham (1.27)
      12. Wigan (1.27)
      13. Fulham (1.15)
      14. Man City (1.12)
      15. Wolves (1.07)
      16. Liverpool (1.03)
      17. Blackpool (1.03)
      18. Newcastle (0.96)
      19. Stoke (0.90)
      20. Bolton (0.88)
      Captain Stats
      It's hard to look beyond the pair of Arsenal and Man Utd this week as both teams enter the week in decent goal scoring form and get a decent fixture to capitalise on.

      Man Utd
      Readers will know that I generally don't love the United midfield from a fantasy perspective and the captain picks normally start and end with Nani. Despite being upset at Carragher, Nani returned to action in midweek and one would think he should play against Bolton this week (though the timely return of Valencia does through a small shadow of doubt over Nani's guaranteed place). Given that GiggsPPG) and against teams conceding 1.5 goals or more (7.17 PPG) he looks like a great play this week.

      It seems Berbatov is too risky to captain right now given the rotation risk and while Hernandez is in as good form as anyone, he too looks too risky to captain (though I think his success when playing now makes him ownable). That, of course, leaves Rooney as the remaining option, though you are far from scraping the barrel if you look to him for the armband this week. In the second half of the season Rooney ranks second among all players in points with 71 (Van Persie has 72) and has added five quality games with four of these turning into double digit performances. He doesn't have the home/road splits that teammate Nani shows (Rooney is averaging 6.18 PPG at home) but he's scored 6 in 8 against Bolton while wearing a United shirt while Bolton have somewhat struggled against the top line strikers this year (Drogba, Torres, Anelka, Tevez and Bent have all netted against them).

      At this point in the season, ownership percentage should play a role in how you pick your captain with Nani (43%) being the more defensive pick over Rooney (17%) if you are protecting a lead. Of this pair I actually like Rooney a bit more but always be mindful of the managers you are competing with before taking an unnecessary risk.

      United defenders make good budget options this week as the injuries to Ferdinand, Vidic, O'Shea and Rafael mean Smalling, Brown and Fabio look all but assured to provide low cost access to a top team (whether or not this is a top defensive unit without Vidic and Ferdinand is however up for debate). That said, I am not willing to hand the armband to a defender on an injury depleted team given that none of these players (or Evra) give a good chance of offensive points.

      Arsenal
      This is a great fixture for the Gunners but their, ahem, arsenal is a bit depleted so they may struggle to capitalise. Fabregas and Walcott would have made nice captain picks here but in their absence it looks like Van Persie and Nasri are the best (and only) options here. As noted above Van Persie is the form player in the league during the second half of the season and appears to be the safest pick who also enjoys huge upside (four double digit games in his last six). Van Persie has actually been better away from home (6.83 PPG) than at the Emirates (5.33 PPG) and he is crushing teams who concede 1.5 GPG or more for 7.6 PPG. Nasri has returned from his injury in good form adding 5 bonus points in two games and deserves ownership consideration once again. That said, he hasn't reached double digits since GW16 and has only registered one quality game in that time frame. Own? Yes. Captain? Not yet.

      Others
      Lampard and Tevez have the form but I am always reluctant to captain players in these top of the table clashes which can often be nervy affairs with goals coming from unlikely sources.I wouldn't necessarily sell Tevez to get Rooney for the week but given you must surely own either Nani, Rooney or Van Persie I'd look elsewhere this week.

      I'm not ready to welcome Bale back into the captain frame just yet and Defoe doesn't have the form to warrant ownership never mind captaincy right now. 

      Hopefully the postings are back on track now and will be more plentiful as we begin the end of season run in. Be sure to check back later in the week then for the final quarter sleeper picks and of course, you can follow the latest fantasy happenings over at @plfantasy.

      Thursday, March 3, 2011

      Gameweek 29 Rankings

      Clean Sheet Rankings
      Clean sheets kept at home/away - opponents failed to score home/away
      1. Man City (8 - 6)
      2. Arsenal (6 - 5)
      3. Birmingham (5 - 7)
      4. Bolton (4 - 5)
      5. West Ham (3 - 7)
      6. Fulham (7 - 3)
      7. Liverpool (6 - 3)
      8. Chelsea (4 - 0)
      9. Newcastle (3 - 4)
      10. Stoke (2 - 3)
      11. Wolves (3 - 2)
      12. West Brom (0 - 5)
      13. Man Utd (4 - 1)
      14. Tottenham (1 - 2)
      15. Wigan (3 - 3)
      16. Blackpool (0 - 6)
      17. Everton (2 - 2)
      18. Sunderland (4 - 2)
      19. Blackburn (0 - 3)
      20. Aston Villa (0 - 3)
      Attacking Rankings
      Predicted goals scored in parenthesis
      1. Arsenal (2.48)
      2. Chelsea (2.25)
      3. Man City (1.78)
      4. West Ham (1.66)
      5. Bolton (1.60)
      6. Man Utd (1.57)
      7. Fulham (1.56)
      8. Everton (1.48)
      9. Birmingham (1.46)
      10. Tottenham (1.42)
      11. Aston Villa (1.37)
      12. Liverpool (1.15)
      13. Blackburn (1.14)
      14. Blackpool (1.10)
      15. Newcastle (1.10)
      16. Wolves (1.04)
      17. Stoke (1.00)
      18. Sunderland (0.95)
      19. West Brom (0.95)
      20. Wigan (0.88)
      Captain Stats
      Arsenal's injury problems came at a bad time for fantasy players as many held them through their off week in order to capitalise on their upcoming games but now Van Persie, Walcott and Fabregas will miss this week's game with the former pair out for even longer than that. Despite topping the predicted scoring charts this week then, it is tough to find too many Gunners worthy of the arm band.

      Carlos Tevez - This is where most players will settle this week and on fixture alone they aren't far wrong. Tevez started very slowly at home but he has added 2 big games in his last 3 at Eastlands (5 goals in 3 games) and is as good form as any of the big name strikers right now (perhaps just behind Rooney).

      Mario Balotelli - 2 goals in a week for Balotelli might act as a reminder for Mancini that Super Mario is still around though he is of course a risky proposition to captain. If you need to take a risk though his ceiling is sky high and in the 8 games he has played an hour or more he has 6 goals including 4 in his last two games (both at home).

      Wayne Rooney - The in form striker in the league right now, Rooney has 5 goals in his last 5 games and is close to the form he has struggled to show since a year ago. Having fallen apart down the stretch last year due to injury (and a subsequent rushed return) it would be some form of consolation for Rooney if he could finish strong this year. Based on fixtures I see Rooney as the best long term replacement for Van Persie too.

      Dimitar Berbatov - Given his history of being benched against the best teams, I can't back Berbatov this week.

      Nani - The fixture isn't great and Nani has struggled away from home but he remains the best midfield option in the game and so deserves some attention. His last two road games have given him 18 points though and he has 4 goals in the last 7 overall. Not the slam dunk he has been of late but still right up there despite the tricky game.

      Marouane Chamakh - Appeared to have fallen off the face of the earth of late with just 35 minutes in the 8 games since Arsenal squad got fit but now they have injuries again, he could be back in the fantasy lime light. He was on the scoresheet last night against Leyton Orient and should be locked in for a start this week. When starting he added 4 goals in 7 home games so he is at least worth a thought if you have Van Persie and cannot stretch to one of the pricier options above.

      Didier Drogba - I'm not sure what's wrong with him but the arrival or Torres hasn't helped and Drogba is not own-able never mind captain-able right now.

      Suspensions
      Chaz Adam
      Nemanja Vidic
      DJ Campbell
      Ryan Nelsen
      Jean Makoun