Friday, October 21, 2011

Gameweek 9 Preview (abbreviated)

The weekly preview is cut short for this week and the next couple as I'm heading to Egypt for a couple of weeks. I'll try and get as much access as possible but updates may be a bit limited:


The New Boys

With 8 weeks gone, all three promoted sides find themselves in solid mid-table positions and in the past few weeks, each has started to provide the fantasy options we thought they might. As was shown this week, it's vital to have a reliable bench filled with players who bring guaranteed minutes along with some fantasy upside and the promoted sides can be a great source for such players. There remain a few question marks over some of the players below, but we can at least get a decent grasp on who should be targeted or avoided right now:

Norwich City


Despite their low price, and the fact that the back line now looks settled with De Laet on the bench, Norwich have failed to register a single clean sheet to date, despite playing a decent schedule at home (Stoke, West Brom, Sunderland and Swansea). Their 11 goals conceded isn't too bad (T11th) and suggests that they will at least register some clean sheets this year, however, I'm not sure we can wait on this to happen at the moment. With 4 shots (2 on target) to his name, R Martin has shown a decent goal threat while Naughton's 6 and Tierney's 5 key passes suggest assists might be on the horizon at some point. At 4.0m that probably makes Tierney the pick of this back line though I can't say I'm particularly tempted by any of them.

The midfield has been very settled lately and has emerged as a decent source of budget options. Pilkington's 3 goals over the last 4 gameweeks appear to have gone unnoticed (1% owned) while Johnson (16 points over last 4 GW) and Fox (14 points over last 4 GW) have also been useful bench players. Another option in Hoolahan actually leads the team in key passes (15) with Fox (12) being the only other contributor of note. Pilkington has registered just 5 shots on goal, which suggests his goal scoring rate will decline over the season, though Johnson could see some better production if he start hitting the target more (14 shots, 3 on target). Finally, Fox's corner duties are a nice addition to his fantasy package. No one players here looks like they are likely to contribute consistently across all categories and so I would lean towards the cheaper options in Fox (4.4m) and Johnson (4.5m) as my bench player.

Steve Morison appears to have made the forward spot his own and has some good numbers to show for it so far this year. He's managed to contribute a goal, two assist and three bonus points in just 5 starts and his 15 total shots (5 on target) are higher than the likes of Agbonlahor (13) and Adebayor (12) despite playing less minutes than both. With Best finding himself at risk of rotation and Andy Johnson yet to secure a regular spot in the first team, Morison (along with Danny Graham who we'll get to later) looks like the best sub 5.5m option around and could be argued to be as good as anyone available for 6.0m or less.

Player pool candidates: Tierney, Fox, Johnson, Pilkington, Morison
My pick: Fox

Queens Park Rangers

I don't think there's much argument that QPR have the most talent among the promoted sides, having added proven Premier League options like Barton, Young and Wright Phillips to a squad that already looked serviceable. The defense has been consistently good so far, with just the one (major) blemish in GW7. At home they've conceded 3 in 4 and have emerged as a good rotation option. It's also pretty simply to see who will play here with the three new signings (Young, Ferdinand and Traore) lining up alongside Gabbidon/Hall. With no-one particularly standing out offensively, I liked Gabbidon here given his lower price tag but until he is back and healthy I'd go with Ferdinand who is the next cheapest pick. I think there's plenty of value here and QPR should be one of the better teams to provide sub-5.0m options this year.

This midfield looks very talented on paper but no-one has really kicked on to produce anything more than average production. Faurlin is clearly the best value pick to date and given his solid underlying numbers (18 key passes, 8 shots) he remains a good bench option who brings limited upside and guaranteed minutes. Taarabt, Barton and Wright Phillips still provide the upside, though it's tough to know who to chase here. I've spoken at length about Taarabt's underlying numbers before but it's worth repeating that his 18 shots (7 on target) place him second among midfielders and 7th among all players. Add in his 17 key passes (7th among midfielders) and his set piece duties and it becomes baffling how he has failed to register a single goal or assist this year. While I think Barton's outburst about Taarbat was a bit harsh and unprofessional, it can't really hurt his production, so from our perspective it was probably a good thing. As for Barton, I don't see him as hitting the heights of last year, given the lack of set pieces and lower scoring potential of this team compared to Newcastle. As for Wright Phillips, he appears to be the 2010 rather the 2008 model with the dubious addition of collecting yellow cards supplementing his faltering game. There's certainly potential here but Barton and Wright Phillips are a bit pricey for their current situation while Faurlin' upside is probably limited. For that reason, I am sticking with the unimaginative position and backing Taarabt to come good here.

Up top there is basically no value as while Bothroyd seems to be favoured to play each week, he's failed to contribute a single point this year, other than those awarded for simply showing up. He has added 11 shots this year which suggests he is at least getting into some decent positions but even at 5.6m he looks overpriced and you'd be better off with the target men from the other promoted sides discussed above and below.

Player pool candidates: Kenny, Ferdinand, Taarabt, Faurlin, Barton
My pick: Taarabt

Swansea City

Going into the season I thought that QPR had the strongest squad, but that the duo of Sinclair and Graham were the most promising of the promoted players (yes, even ahead of Taarabt). After 4 gameweeks this looked foolish but then Sinclair hit the back of the net and Graham returned to the first team to add his own goals, and suddenly the Premier League first timers look like a good source of budget talent. Defensively, Swansea have emerged with some of the most pronounced home/road splits I've ever seen with 4 clean sheets at home and 12 goals (3 GPG) conceded away. Vorm is of course old news, but he deserves the attention he has received and is close to a must own player for anyone looking to employ a rotation strategy. Rangel has played well so far this year but his underlying numbers are only okay (3 key passes, 4 shots, 0 on target) and he's only managed a single bonus point in offensive points. For that reason, I'd go with Neil Taylor and save the extra 0.4m if you want to double down on this defense (assuming you have Vorm already).

Sinclair has been an excellent goal threat this year adding 17 shots (4th among midfielders) to go with his penalty duties. His advanced deployment means that his assist potential is down (4 key passes all year) but you are essentially getting a 4th forward for just 6.0m who brings goal threat numbers to rival anyone in the league outside of the elite group of strikers. The majority of Sinclair's points have come at home but his penalty duties should allow him to have some success at any time and he makes a good budget option who you feel comfortable starting pretty much every week. Dyer has the highest ownership among the midfield group but he's only really had the one big gameweek and his underlying numbers are starting to look underwhelming (8 key passes, 5 shots, 2 on target). He's still worth a spot on the bench given his low price tag and the lack of alternatives in that price bracket, though I think he's more of an emergency starter rather than a solid rotation option. Elsewhere, Britton isn't doing a whole lot of anything in the attacking third while Gower (9 key passes), Agustien (9 key passes) and Dobbie (10 shots) have some promising numbers but a lack of guaranteed minutes. Until something shifts here permanently, each look overpriced compared to Dyer or the other options on other teams in the lowest price bracket.

Up top the story starts and ends with Danny Graham, who has shown why he has highly rated coming into the season over the past couple of gameweeks. His 15 shots - including 8 on target - both rank 8th among forwards with only Di Santo and Morison coming close to Graham's low price tag. There isn't much to distinguish between that trio and it probably comes down to chasing the hot hand and playing the fixtures. Norwich probably have the slight edge there, but I'm happy holding onto Graham for now, especially if other areas of your squad need work.

Player pool candidates: Vorm, Taylor, Sinclair, Dyer, Graham
My pick: Graham and Vorm

Hopefully the above has given everyone a few things to think about for the promoted sides, who can be key in differentiating your teams from others, given that most don't know who to target until it is too late. On a side note, I am away on vacation for the next two gameweeks, so while I hope to get the stats updated, other posts will likely be few and far between for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 8

Arsenal
Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Song, Arteta, Rosicky, Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho
Subs: Fabianski, Park, Andre Santos, Djourou, Arshavin, Frimpong, Benayoun.

I'm not sure of the value of this team yet, but at least we have a good handle on who will play each week. The only tricky positions appear to be left back and the rotation of Rosicky/Walcott/Arshavin and hence this group should be avoided. Everyone else looks fairly settled in the side and Van Persie gave us a nice reminder this week of how high his ceiling is. He shouldn't be ignored in the Rooney/Aguero sweepstakes (even if a certain blogger did caution against captaining him this week . . . oops).

Aston Villa
Given, Hutton, Dunne, Clark, Warnock, Delph, Petrov, Ireland, Heskey, Agbonlahor, Bent
Subs: Guzan, N'Zogbia, Albrighton, Cuellar, Bannan, Weimann, Herd.

Heskey returns to the side at the expense of Bannan, who had shown some promising form during his spell in the side. His value is of course quickly diminished and he drops out of the player pool. A quiet day for Agbonlahor and Bent though this might be the toughest fixture in the league right now. Better days will come for that pair.

Blackburn
Robinson, Salgado, Samba, Dann, Givet, Lowe, Petrovic, Nzonzi, Olsson, Hoilett, Roberts
Subs: Bunn, Formica, Rochina, Yakubu, Goodwillie, Vukcevic, Hanley

Rovers have good depth up front, though that might speak to a lack of quality options more than anything. Hoilett remains the lone bright spot in the side and the only player in the current player pool.

Bolton
Jaaskelainen, Boyata, Cahill, Wheater, Robinson, Eagles, Reo-Coker, Pratley, Petrov, K Davies, Ngog
Subs: Bogdan, Sanli, Gardner, Knight, M Davies, Klasnic, Kakuta

The back line looks a bit messy with Boyata stealing minutes at two positions and Knight now looking to be out of favour. The good news is that none of them justify ownership so you don't need to worry about it. K Davies was better here and should be back in the side to stay. That said, the fixtures ahead aren't great and so he is borderline at best.

Chelsea
Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Ramires, Sturridge, Drogba, Mata
Subs: Turnbull, Romeu, Malouda, Meireles, Lukaku, Alex, Anelka

The papers reported Luiz as being 'rested' here though it isn't fully clear if he is indeed first choice over Ivanovic. With Bosingwa being cheaper, more reliable and more attacking, there seems little reason to own anyone else in this back line for the foreseeable future. I struggled with whether to put Ramires in the player pool but decided that the underlying stats weren't quite good enough and too many of his points had come in a single game. With another strong performance this week and signs that Chelsea have righted their ship, I think he now deserves more attention, even if I remain skeptical as to how attacking he will be. Meireles had looked good over the past few weeks but his benching here confirms that he remains risky at over 7m. Sturridge is a risk too but when he plays, he scores and he makes a nice short term option in Torres' absence. However, Torres will only miss one more league game and so Sturridge owners must be aware that any guarantee of minutes will be short lived.

Everton
Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Coleman, Fellaini, Rodwell, Osman, Cahill, Saha
Subs: Mucha, Heitinga, Bilyaletdinov, Drenthe, Stracqualursi, Neville, Vellios

With the odd exception this team picks itself, though where the value lies is not so clear. There just don't seem to be too many goals in this side and hence value for our teams. Time to look elsewhere.

Fulham
Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise, Dembele, Murphy, Sidwell, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora.
Subs: Etheridge, Kelly, Orlando Sa, Kasami, Duff, Etuhu, Briggs

As expected, Aaron Hughes slotted straight back into the side and looks like the best priced defender on this team. So far Fulham have been inconsistent but they still hold some value defensively going forward.

Liverpool
Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Kuyt, Lucas, Adam, Downing, Gerrard, Suarez
Subs: Doni, Agger, Carroll, Henderson, Spearing, Bellamy, Robinson

Most media outlets seemed to suggest Adam would miss out here on Gerrard's return but it always seemed clear to me that it would be Henderson. I am however surprised that Liverpool went to a 4-5-1 with Carroll dropping to the bench, though that could be a symptom of the opponent rather than a long term shift in strategy. If Gerrard is deployed in that role just off a front man, he could quickly return to the kind of fantasy form which made him so valuable when he held a similar role alongside Torres. At 11.0m you're going to have to be certain he's returned to an elite level (which we aren't yet) but he's well and truly back on the radar.

Man City
Hart, Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Clichy, De Jong, Barry, Milner, Johnson, Toure Yaya, Balotelli.
Subs: Pantilimon, Dzeko, Kolarov, Nasri, Hargreaves, Silva, Toure

We all suffered this week with Dzeko, Nasri and Silva joining Aguero on the sidelines, but on the bright side, they should all play going forward now they've gotten their rest out of the way. I am bit concerned that City coped so well in their absence, which might suggest more rotation is due in the future, but you can't really afford to be without at least one attacking player from this talented side, so you just need to ensure your bench can cope when they are rotated. On a positive note, there is no sign that Kolo Toure's return from suspension will cause a rotation mess along the back line.

Man Utd
De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Young, Jones, Fletcher, Park, Giggs, Welbeck
Subs: Lindegaard, Anderson, Rooney, Hernandez, Carrick, Nani, Valencia

More surprises here as Rooney, Hernandez and Nani were all pencilled in to start this one. I wasn't blown away to see Nani dropped (given his lack of defensive discipline) but I would have predicted Valencia would take his place rather than Park or Giggs. It looks like this was simply an attempt to get players in the side who have experience playing in the often-rough derby and I would expect normal service to be resumed for the fantasy stars next week. It was pleasing to see Jones get some minutes in the centre of midfield: another string to his bow, thus guaranteeing him minutes this year. The lack of rotation for Young would appear to give him a couple of notches up on Nani which is something to consider if you're deciding between that pair.

Newcastle
Krul, Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, R Taylor, Obertan, Cabaye, Tiote, Gutierrez, Best, Ba.
Subs: Elliot, Santon, Ben Arfa, Lovenkrands, Gosling, Marveaux, Shola Ameobi

The biggest stories here are the players lurking on the bench with Santon, Ben Arfa and Ameobi all threatening to force their way into the team in the near future. R Taylor and Best are my biggest concerns and I would be hesitant to sign either of these players at the moment (though I wouldn't be selling just yet either). Watch this space closely as Newcastle provide a number of good budget options but they will won't do you any good riding their, and your, bench.

Norwich
Ruddy, Naughton, R Martin, Barnett, Tierney, Bennett, Pilkington, Fox, Johnson, Hoolahan, Morison
Subs: Rudd, Crofts, Holt, Jackson, Surman, Wilbraham, De Laet

We're starting to see some stability here and thus some fantasy value. Pilkington had his second big game in 4 weeks, while Johnson and Fox have each enjoyed a couple of 5 point games in the past few gameweeks. With good fixtures on the horizon, I like this group to provide good bench options and I propose a separate post on the promoted teams to take stock of where they are after 8 weeks of the new season.

QPR
Kenny, Young, Ferdinand, Hall, Traore, Derry, Faurlin, Wright-Phillips, Barton, Mackie, Helguson.
Subs: Murphy, Orr, Taarabt, Bothroyd, Buzsaky, Smith, Puncheon

Taarabt sitting this one out was a big surprise and gives us cause for concern. His underlying stats have been excellent all year but these haven't translated into fantasy success yet and his benching here will only serve to further frustrate his owners. I'm not ready to take him out of the player pool but I am starting to consider looking elsewhere, especially given QPR's tricky run of games over the next month or so.

Stoke
Begovic, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Upson, Wilson, Pennant, Delap, Whelan, Etherington, Walters, Crouch
Subs: Sorensen, Huth, Jones, Diao, Whitehead, Shotton, Jerome

Woodgate missed out and Huth found himself on the bench, suggesting that perhaps Shawcross is worth the extra investment. I still like Woodgate over the season though and his lack of European fixtures makes him more likely to play regularly in the league than Upson.

Sunderland
Mignolet, O'Shea, Turner, Brown, Richardson, Elmohamady, Vaughan, Colback, Cattermole, Larsson, Sessegnon
Subs: Westwood, Gardner, Wickham, Ji, Meyler, McClean, Laing

This teams looks pretty settled, though somewhat short of talent with Bendtner only missing out thanks to his ineligibility against his employers. Sessegnon continues to enjoy the benefit of playing up front despite being classed as a midfielder, though he hasn't been able to convert this into fantasy success yet this year.

Swansea
Vorm, Rangel, Monk, Williams, Taylor, Dyer, Allen, Routledge, Britton, Sinclair, Graham
Subs: Tremmel, Dobbie, Lita, Moore, Gower, Richards, Moras

Pre season favorites Graham and Sinclair are now showing the kind of form we were excited about and both make solid rotation options at the moment. This side has some rotation each week but the key players look fairly settled so there's nothing to worry about here.

Tottenham
Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto, Livermore, Parker, Modric, Bale, Van der Vaart, Adebayor
Subs: Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Giovani, Defoe, Bassong, Rose, Townsend

We appear to be ready to conclude that the most used team will feature a 4-4-1-1 making Van der Vaart  a valuable differentiator from other premium midfielders. Adebayor also looks like a valuable pickup and remains above Defoe on the depth chart. The back line is also pretty settled, though I'm not sure how valuable the unit is right now.

West Brom
Foster, Reid, Olsson, McAuley, Jones, Brunt, Mulumbu, Scharner, Thomas, Long, Tchoyi
Subs: Fulop, Morrison, Dorrans, Shorey, Odemwingie, Dawson, Cox

I don't really understand what is happening with this team as, for me, Odemwingie is the best player in the squad, yet he again found himself on the bench. Perhaps his goal will ensure he starts next week, though until we see sustained minutes and production, he is officially out of contention. The previously ever-present Shorey was also benched here, though I am not jumping to conclusions on that move just yet. If he misses out again though, he too will find himself in the fantasy wilderness going forward.

Wigan
Al Habsi, Gohouri, Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Watson, McCarthy, Diame, Jones, Di Santo, Moses.
Subs: Pollitt, Crusat, Maloney, McArthur, Sammon, Rodallega, Figueroa

Figueroa found himself on the bench here and given the way Wigan continue to defend, I'm not sure anyone outside of Al-Habsi (who brings good save numbers) should be owned from this back line. The front men continue to show promise but no end product, though Watson did at least contribute an assist. I'm keeping Moses in the pool for now, but he very close to dropping out and needs to turn shots and key passes into points soon.

Wolverhampton
Hennessey, Stearman, Berra, Johnson, Ward, Jarvis, Milijas, O'Hara, Henry, Hammill, Doyle
Subs: De Vries, Craddock, Ebanks-Blake, Hunt, Vokes, Zubar, Guedioura.

Hunt was benched again here and seems to be the odd man out in a talented midfield unit. Given his solid but limited upside he doesn't warrant consideration at the moment. Fletcher is now set to be out for up to a month and of course needs to be sold.

Player pool movements:
In: K Davies, Ramires, Gerrard
Out: Bannan, Cahill, Osman, Odemwingie, Figueroa, Hunt, Fletcher

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gameweek 8 Preview


The defensive options look good this week with 4 of the better home defenses getting promising visits from teams who have struggled at times on the road. City are obviously the headliner and anyone who doesn't already have their quota of City players should strongly consider bringing in another defender for this week. Granted, you could draw a blank in next week's Manchester derby, but after that the fixtures look very good and Richards, Kompany and co could well find themselves atop the defensive listings by the time we roll into mid-November.

Offensively we have some unfamiliar names atop the standings (along with the ever present City) though it'll be a brave manager who throws anyone from that group into the below captain rankings for the week.


Captain Picks
It's a tough week to hand out the armband as no one really stands out as having the holy trinity of high upside, easy fixture and guaranteed minutes. We therefore fall into the classic argument of whether you back a player or his fixture.

City are the most promising elite team for the week though with Aguero out, the captain picks are cut down to the midfield pair of Nasri and Silva along with Dzeko who looks all but guaranteed to start the game. Dzeko has only had one bad game so far this year (GW6 vs Everton) - giving him a pass for not scoring with just 3 minutes of work last week - and probably comes with higher upside than either of the midfield duo. Of that pair, I am sticking with Silva, one has only had one poor game himself (GW3). There is of course the option of captaining a defender given the good fixture for the week and the fact that City are yet to concede at home. I struggle to make that move over the other elite City options myself but if you're money is invested with United and Liverpool players, you could do a lot worse than giving Kompany or Richards the armband this week.

The Liverpool-United game hurts the value of everyone involved as those games tend to be close affairs, often decided by just the odd goal. You wouldn't bet against Rooney getting on the scoresheet against anyone at the moment, but his upside is certainly lower than it has been recently. I would not consider Suarez, A Young or Nani for the captaincy this week.

Looking to the capital, I don't love Spurs trip to Newcastle which could just as easily peter out into a 1-0 loss as a 4-3 stormer. Van der Vaart started the season slowly but has scored in back to back games and is developing into one of the best differentiating elite options still available. Adebayor has of course played well too but the injury doubt for the week makes me hesitant to put him in the captain bracket. If you pay little attention to strength of schedule then Van der Vaart makes sense but I would rank him below all the elite City options again this week.

Arsenal at home to Sunderland would have made Van Persie, Fabregas and Nasri great captain options just a few weeks ago but with the midfield pair's departure, it's hard to be crazy about anyone in this side at the moment. Van Persie's upside matches anyone this week but with four 2-pointers already to his name, the downside is significant too. I feel it's too early to start making these kind of risky plays, but if you feel the need to differentiate, Van Persie (7% owned) is a nice option.

Moving onto those with the best fixtures, I don't see anyone from the promoted sides who has delivered consistently enough to warrant captain consideration. I'd love to tell you that Taarabt is that man or that Sinclair is locked in right now, but I just can't justify anyone of these teams as anything more than good squad men. Feel free of course to rotate them all into your side this week though. Demba Ba is finally showing the form he flashed with West Ham last year and gets another nice game this week to continue his form. I like him more than anyone on the promoted sides but I'd still be surprised if he was your best bet this week. Don't get too cute, guys.

As always, please post comments/questions below or @plfantasy and I will try and get them answered before the gameweek deadline.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

League Links: Gameweek 8

Alex McLeish wants Alan Hutton to return to the form he once showed at Rangers and will presumably play him every week to give him the chance to do so. At 5.0m Hutton is the joint-cheapest member of a so-so Villa back line and if we assured he will play, his attacking upside might push him ahead of Warnock in the player pool. I'm still a bit concerned by the depth the team have at right back but Hutton is getting closer to registering on the radar.

Kevin Davies admitted he deserved to be dropped by Owen Coyle (debatable, but it's the right thing to say) and he says he is re-focused to win his spot back. Long term, Davies will start. Granted he hasn't been in great form but he is so important to what Bolton do, and to be honest, is one of the few true Premier League quality players in this side. That said, until he regains his place and his form, he doesn't even register in the player pool (you can't imagine how hard that is to say for me).

The Liverpool Echo seem to have come to the same conclusion, that Jordan Henderson will be the man to miss out with Gerrard's return and he becomes unownable for the foreseeable future. As for Gerrard, it isn't clear how fit he is or how he will be deployed, but such is his upside, he at least deserves checking back on each week when he's fit.

Mancini described Balotelli as his weapon in the Champions League, which will be pleasing to Dzeko and Aguero owners. While it won't be so simple as playing two different sides, giving Balotelli preference in Europe reduces (but doesn't eliminate) the rotation risk for the widely owned City pair.

Alex Ferguson paid tribute to Valencia's versatility which is probably bad news for him but good news for Nani and A Young owners. Both will face rotation at some point for Valencia but with Ferguson suggesting he can play centrally as well as right back (where he filled in last week), the number of minutes he vultures from the elite pair might be reducing.

The MEN reckon that Tom Cleverly's absence was the chief cause for United's form slowing after a torrid start to the year. At just 5.4m, Cleverly becomes very good value as an every week starter as while he is upside is not elite, he will always score points in that position, as we've seen from Anderson so far this year. When fit, he definitely deserves to be monitored.

Hatem Ben Arfa is back in training after injury and a brief leave of absence following a family illness. His talent level is undeniable and at 5.4m he has an intriguing price tag to be differentiator over the coming weeks. He isn't ownable just yet, but he might deserve a place on our radar very soon.

Steve Bruce suggested that S.Korean signing Dong-Won Ji will get a chance to play at some point, but emphasised that it probably won't be in the immediate future. At 4.9m he would potentially represent decent value but we're some way off that point just yet.

Peter Odemwingie will not need surgery but Hodgson concluded that his injury concerns may be the source of his lacking confidence. There isn't a great deal of talent in that ~7.0m range for forwards (Agbonlahor is the obvious exception) so if you still own the Nigerian it might be time to cut ties and ramp up to the likes of Adebayor or downgrade to the Ba-Zamora, Fletcher range.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The draining pool of talent

Depth is universally seen as a virtue. We all like to be well informed to avoid being 'shallow'. Managers praise the depth of their teams, and, well, no one wants to take a dive into a paddling pool. The same is true in fantasy - the deeper the pool of talent, the more options we have, and the more opportunities there are to differentiate our teams.

With the international break giving us time to catch our collective breath, I thought it might be useful to look at the current pool of talent, and assess how it looks after 7 weeks. The below are the players who I feel should register on our radars. I'm not saying they all represent great investments right now, just that, as things stand, they could hold some value in the short-medium term.

A couple of points to clarify before we start. Anyone suffering from a long term injury (even if close to returning) is excluded. You can't be caught picking up injured players too early and so the likes of Glen Johnson or Steve Gerrard have not been considered. Also, a lack of an appearance here does not mean you can't play your way back into contention at a later point. You'll note that no Chelsea strikers appear on this list, while the once great Arsenal have a distinctly poor representation. These teams/players could rebound but right now they are carrying elite price tags without the necessary production/upside/guarantee of minutes needed to generate fantasy value.

With those points in mind, here are the players I currently feel justify monitoring on a weekly basis. Those players highlighted in blue are players who I feel justify weekly consideration for the captain's armband (ignoring double gameweeks for now).

Arsenal - Ramsey, Arteta, Van Persie
Aston Villa - Given, Warnock, Bannan, Agbonlahor, Bent
Blackburn - Hoilett
Bolton - Petrov
Chelsea - Bosingwa, Lampard, Mata, Sturridge
Everton - Jagielka, Osman, Cahill
Fulham - Schwarzer, Baird, Riise, Murphy, Dempsey, Zamora, Johnson
Liverpool - Enrique, Adam, Suarez
Man City - Kompany, Richards, Clichy, Silva, Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko
Man Utd - Jones, Evra, Evans, Nani, A Young, Anderson, Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck
Newcastle - Krul, S Taylor, Simpson, Gutierrez, Cabaye, Best, Ba
Norwich - Ruddy, Barnett
QPR - Kenny, A Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Barton, Taarabt, Wright Phillips, Faurlin
Stoke - Begovic, Shawcross, Woodgate, Walters, Etherington
Sunderland - Mignolet, Brown, Larsson, Bendtner
Swansea - Vorm, Williams, Rangel, N Taylor, Sinclair, Dyer, Graham
Tottenham - Assou-Ekotto, Van der Vaart, Bale, Adebayor
West Brom - Shorey, McAuley, Brunt, Odemwingie, Long
Wigan - Al-Habsi, Figueroa, Watson, Moses, Di Santo
Wolves - Hennessey, Ward, Berra, Jarvis, Hunt, O'Hara, Fletcher, Doyle

99 players isn't too bad, and we're already in a better situation than Jay-Z (zing!). That said, there are plenty of the above group who you wouldn't be thrilled to own at the moment and are clinging on to fantasy relevance by the slimmest of margins (or in some cases, write bias, ahem, Victor Moses, ahem). I will track this list each week and you will be able to find the latest player pool by clicking on the new tab at the top of the page. If there's anyone you feel deserves recognition, post ideas below or @plfantasy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 7

Arsenal
Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Song, Gibbs, Ramsey, Arteta, Coquelin, Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho.
Subs: Fabianski, Park, Andre Santos, Arshavin, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Benayoun.

Not too much of interest here as while this Arsenal side performed better than in some previous games, they are still a side priced to perform on an elite level but failing to do so with any consistency. Santos was rotated once again and should not be considered an option at the moment. I suppose Jenkinson could have some limited value if he secures the right back spot following Sagna's injury but with 3 clean sheets (against Newcastle, Swansea and Bolton) to their name, I don't see this unit as particularly valuable.

Aston Villa
Given, Hutton, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Petrov, Ireland, Bannan, Delph, Agbonlahor, Bent.
Subs: Guzan, N'Zogbia, Albrighton, Heskey, Clark, Weimann, Herd.

N'Zogbia's miserable start to his Villa career continued as he was benched here. We've said it for a couple of weeks but his deeper placement and loss of some set piece duties really hurts his value and better options can be found in his price bracket. The availability, but non-starting of Heskey is encouraging given that this should keep Agbonlahor and Bent up front in a more conventional 4-4-2, under which Agbonlahor seems to have flourished.

Blackburn
Robinson, Lowe, Samba, Dann, Givet, Petrovic, Nzonzi, Pedersen, Goodwillie, Yakubu, Hoilett.
Subs: Bunn, Formica, Slew, Rochina, Vukcevic, Roberts, Hanley.

Nothing to see here folks, keep moving.

Bolton
Bogdan, Steinsson, Cahill, Boyata, Robinson, Petrov, Pratley, Reo-Coker, Gardner, Ngog, K Davies.
Subs: Lainton, Muamba, Eagles, Sanli, Knight, M Davies, Vela.

It pains me to say it, but Bolton are a disaster at the moment. Granted, they've played a very tough fixture list and I'm sure things will get better but the team's confidence is shot and they will take a few weeks to bounce back from yet another crushing defeat. Not that they look ownable anyway, but for future reference Robinson looks like the only sure thing alongside Cahill as both Knight and Steinsson have been rotated for Boyata in the past couple of games.

Chelsea
Cech, Bosingwa, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Meireles, Lampard, Mata, Drogba, Sturridge.
Subs: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Romeu, Mikel, Malouda, Lukaku, Anelka.

You figured Luiz was going to get a game at some point, though while it's surprising to me, I would still imagine that Ivanovic slides back into the side next week. Bosingwa is probably due a week off at some point but I still like him as the first choice here. The midfield and front lines are a mess with Lampard and Sturridge having big weeks, yet still be uncertain to feature every week. You'd imagine Lampard will play most games though I'm not sure he can deliver sufficient value these days to repay the required investment.

Everton
Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Coleman, Fellaini, Rodwell, Osman, Cahill, Saha.
Subs: Mucha, Bilyaletdinov, Drenthe, Stracqualursi, Neville, Barkley, Vellios.

Saha got his place back in the side though with Everton drawing a blank it didn't seem to do much good. I'm struggling to find value in this side.

Fulham
Schwarzer, Grygera, Baird, Hangeland, Riise, Dempsey, Sidwell, Murphy, Dembele, Zamora, Johnson.
Subs: Etheridge, Kelly, Orlando Sa, Ruiz, Senderos, Duff, Etuhu.

I'm having a really tough time getting a handle on this team. After failing to score against Villa, Wolves and West Brom, they then put two past a very good City defense and dropped six on an improving QPR back line. The defense have managed back-to-back clean sheets but the only reliable members appear to Hangeland and Riise, both of whom come at a steep price. Grygera (the newest arrival) has played two in a row and could be shaping up to be a decent investment, but for me, the best course of action is to wait and see what happens when Hughes (4.7m) returns to the side. Senderos is finished as a fantasy asset.

Liverpool
Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Kuyt, Lucas, Adam, Downing, Suarez, Carroll.
Subs: Doni, Gerrard, Henderson, Coates, Spearing, Flanagan, Bellamy.

Henderson dropping out of the side seems to pave the way for Gerrard's return and his owners should look to move on. I would guess that a straight swap for Kuyt is on the horizon.

Man City
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Milner, Toure Yaya, Silva, Johnson, Aguero, Balotelli.
Subs: Pantilimon, Dzeko, Savic, Barry, Nasri, Clichy, De Jong.

A strange move from Mancini here, dropping Richards, Clichy, Barry, Nasri and Dzeko in one go, though it appeared to work and it should set us up for a period of stability in the coming weeks as the majority of those names return to the first team. I'm a bit worried that Silva, Aguero and possibly Kompany will be next on the rotation board but it's nothing that would scare me off ownership. Aguero tweeted that he will hook up with the National team this week, so providing he doesn't suffer a set back, he should be back in Blue after the international break.

Man Utd
Lindegaard, Valencia, Jones, Evans, Evra, Park, Fletcher, Anderson, Nani, Rooney, Hernandez.
Subs: De Gea, Ferdinand, Owen, Berbatov, Giggs, Carrick, Welbeck.

I'm not overly excited about the De Gea move and I anticipate he will return to the starting lineup next week. Lindegaard would of course become a hot property if he were to somehow hold onto the #1 shirt. Smalling was injured here, forcing Valencia into an emergency role at right back, though the talk is that he will be fit for the next game, ensuring competition for Jones to own that right back spot (I still like Jones in the long run). Rooney was obviously a surprise start here and you have to wonder if he will be rested at some point in the future, presuming he doesn't get any respite with international duty this week. Regardless, he remains one of, if not the, best options around. Ashley Young was a late scratch but looks to be in contention for England and should return by the next gameweek.

Newcastle
Krul, Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, R Taylor, Obertan, Cabaye, Tiote, Gutierrez, Best, Ba.
Subs: Elliot, Santon, Guthrie, Ben Arfa, Lovenkrands, Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi.

No starting place for Santon yet, though it isn't clear if he is being worked back slowly or is genuinely a bench player at this point. Until we know for sure, it makes picking up Simpson or R Taylor too risky, and given Newcastle's fixtures are only okay, I'd probably look elsewhere in the short term. It's a similar story for Ben Arfa, who has yet to prove his fitness, but will presumably start when fit.

Norwich
Ruddy, Naughton, R Martin, Barnett, Tierney, Bennett, Hoolahan, Fox, Pilkington, Morison, Johnson.
Subs: Rudd, Drury, Crofts, Holt, Jackson, Surman, C Martin.

Holt seems to have totally fallen out of favour and should not be owned anymore. The backline looks fairly settled and I'm not sure De Laet will get back in there anytime soon. The 9% who jumped on him after GW1 might want to move on.

QPR
Kenny, Orr, Hall, Ferdinand, Young, Derry, Wright-Phillips, Faurlin, Taarabt, Barton, Bothroyd.
Subs: Murphy, Campbell, Mackie, Buzsaky, Perone, Smith, Helguson.

A good settled side here with the only changes forced due to injury (Gabbidon) and suspension (Traore). This week's destruction is obviously a blow but I still think this team holds decent rotation value and the likes of Ferdinand and a healthy Gabbidon remain ownable.

Stoke
Begovic, Wilson, Shawcross, Delap, Woodgate, Whelan, Pennant, Whitehead, Wilkinson, Walters, Crouch.
Subs: Sorensen, Huth, Sidibe, Upson, Shotton, Arismendi, Jerome.

I'm not sure what happened with Huth here, though he was better off away from what was a very poor display from Stoke. One would imagine he will return next game.

Sunderland
Mignolet, O'Shea, Brown, Turner, Richardson, Elmohamady, Gardner, Cattermole, Larsson, Sessegnon, Bendtner.
Subs: Westwood, Colback, Ji, Meyler, McClean, Cook, Laing.

No surprises here and this squad looks wafer thin making the starters' minutes (if not production) guaranteed.

Swansea
Vorm, Williams, Taylor, Monk, Rangel, Sinclair, Dyer, Routledge, Allen, Gower, Graham.
Subs: Tremmel, Dobbie, Lita, Moore, Bessone, Richards, Lucas.

Graham took his starting spot back from Lita and rewarded his manager with his first goal of the season. I'm not sure I'm back on board just yet (more to come on that in the upcoming stat analysis to take advantage of the week off) but at least he's playing again and could be great value for just 4.8m.

Tottenham
Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto, Van der Vaart, Parker, Modric, Bale, Adebayor, Defoe.
Subs: Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Giovani, Bassong, Corluka, Livermore, Sandro.

We still don't have a categoric answer as to how Redknapp will fit his front 7 into 6 positions (Lennon is injured) but my guess would be that this team is his first choice and most selected when everyone is fit. Van der Vaart might be a sneaky differentiator over the coming weeks. Walker seems to have taken over from Corluka permanently now and his goal will only serve to solidify that position.

West Brom
Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey, Brunt, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Morrison, Odemwingie, Long.
Subs: Fulop, Tchoyi, Thomas, Jones, Tamas, Cox, Scharner.

So BruntGate is over, and the midfielder finally added his first non-appearance points since GW1. You'd imagine he's back for good now and worth considering once again. Gareth McAuley got another start, and if you like anything about this team defensively then he could be worth a look given his price tag and apparent starting gig.

Wigan
Al Habsi, Stam, Caldwell, Figueroa, Van Aanholt, Moses, McCarthy, Boyce, Watson, Diame, Di Santo.
Subs: Kirkland, Maloney, Gomez, McArthur, Sammon, Jones, Lopez.

Not much to add here. Wigan keep rotating a handful of midfielders but the players highlighted as having potential value (Watson, Moses, Di Santa) remain untouched.

Wolverhampton
Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Hunt, Henry, O'Hara, Jarvis, Doyle, Fletcher.
Subs: De Vries, Edwards, Vokes, Hammill, Zubar, Doherty, Guedioura.

Finally Wolves line up with all their best players, though with poor returns, one of the trio of talented midfielders (O'Hara, Jarvis and Hunt) or Fletcher could well find themselves on the bench once again. If you are convinced Fletcher is here to stay (I'm not there yet) then he represents good value given his consistent ability to find the back of the net.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gameweek 7 Reader Questions

K_Lock - What do you think about Adebayor as captain? 
Grounderz - Chris, any thoughts on Adebayor and Agbonlahor? I've got one more spot for either one of them in the team but I don't know who to buy. 

I am very much on board the Adebayor bandwagon, having been a big fan of his work at Arsenal and City (I must also admit to having a bit of a chuckle at his frankly ridiculous goal celebration against Arsenal - who doesn't love a pantomime villain?). He ranks second in the league with 2.3 shots on target per game, trailing only the red-hot Rooney. He's racked up huge PPI numbers in his 3 appearances suggesting that when he scores, the bonus points will be soon to follow. Spurs scored 1 goal in the 2 games before he arrived but have added 8 in 3 since Adebayor has been starting (we are looking at very small samples here though so don't get overly excited by that one). When it comes to captaining players though, I am extremely cautious and honestly a big boring. Does Adebayor have the potential to score 3 on his way to a 16 point game? Absolutely. However, he also carries a greater risk of dropping a 2 point game than the likes of Aguero or (a healthy) Rooney and thats' what I am keen to avoid. Who knows what to make of this Arsenal defense who have looked serviceable at times, but when they've been bad they've been horrific. There is certainly logic in giving Adebayor the armband but for me it's too soon to brand him as a reliable, every week stud and thus I would still rank him behind the United and City elite.

As for Agbonlahor, I was intrigued by his low price in the pre-season but I am concerned with his positioning. He's a pretty good finisher but he just isn't getting enough shots on goal to keep up his scoring record and I'd still be surprised if he reached the teens for the year. If there's any way to save money elsewhere, I think Adebayor is a big upgrade.

Breeze - I noticed that Gareth McAuley made a first start for WBA, with a clean sheet and 3 bonus points. Is he expected to be a regular starter? With an easy(ish) run of games and a 4m price tag surely he could be considered a useful addition to your squad. 

Any time you get a 4.0m starter there is potential for value but I will need to see McAuley establish his place in the side on a permanent basis before I'm ready to consider him. I'm not particularly close to the West Brom team but there is some depth and the potential for rotation. Worth monitoring but it's too early for me to buy in just yet.

Gummi - I would love your take on the Given/Vorm combo for the near-future and rest of the season.

Given and Vorm's fixtures mesh very well according to the data. I like Vorm a lot but I'm not ready to make him the focal point of my GK-combo just yet, so I like the idea of a having a reliable keeper like Given on a generally solid team like Villa to fall back on, should Swansea hit a rough patch later in the year.

RLB - I'm surprised you didn't mention Bannan as a midfield bargain! 

I probably should have thrown Bannan in the article this week, but he missed the cut based on a lack of minutes played. I like him in the short term quite a lot but as Steve points out, he will lose those penalty duties on Bent's return, hurting his value a bit. I like him, but I'd rank him below Moses and Dyer in the long term.

Pat Vivat - any idea on who are going to play Forward for MUTD this weekend?? 

Everyone seems to think Rooney will play but I still have my reservations. If he doesn't, you have to think Welbeck gets the nod to accompany Hernandez up front. If you don't already own any of them though, I'd stay away from the United front line this week. High reward but equally high risk. It's too early to be chasing points so hard.

Chemikilis - Where do you get these stats, particularly the first two [shots on goal and pass percentage]. I've had trouble trying to source shots on target stats for this season 

The raw data is from a mixture of ESPN, Opta and the PremierLeague.com.

Tycho - Anyone venture an opinion on Ramires vs Mata? Ramires is vastly cheaper and has played 90 mins in all games so far while Mata have played anything from 28 to 75 mins and has poorer returns so far. I never hear Ramires name mentioned and I know your big on Mata.

I'm not buying Ramires at all yet. He's taking plenty of shots (13) but his passing totals are dissapointing and thus his assist potential is limited. Those box-to-box midfielders always tend to struggle to provide consistent fantasy returns as their positioning is often dictated by the opposition and with how well a game is going. As for Mata, I was very high on him when he arrived but I agree his progress has stalled a bit over the past couple of gameweeks. I think he is a notch or two below the likes of Silva, Nani and Young and thus it becomes tough to fit him into your side. Chelsea have a good looking run of games coming up and Mata provides a nice differentiating option for those looking to take a small chance.

Mel FantasyOnTheGo - With Rooney's injury, is RVP essential this weekend against Spurs away? 

I like Aguero more for this week but if you're looking for a three week replacement, Van Persie makes it very close. Arsenal have been frustrating this year though, and with Tevez out of the picture for a while, Aguero looks to have a winning combination of certainty and upside.

@SyncJS - if you have to pick one player out of Petrov/Murphy/Walters/Barton, who do you think would be a more consistent player?

For consistency I think you have to go with Murphy, as discussed here. He can contribute in every category and his set piece duties ensure he never goes too long without having a decent game. I like M Petrov too this year, whose looked much better than last season despite Bolton playing a brutal run of games.