In this weekly series, each player has been assigned a 'Buy', "Hold' or 'Sell' status. These don't necessarily reflect what I would do, more what I believe to be reasonable action at this time:Ashley Cole 15 points
- Buy - the player can be purchased immediately taking consideration of his playing time, fixtures, injury status etc. This status does not necessarily mean you should buy him now as it depends who else you own, only that it is reasonable to do so
- Hold, and monitor - if you own the player you're not in a rush to ditch him but there's sufficient risk here to justify potential buyers holding off.
- Sell - the player has too many risks and should either be sold or not purchased. This does not mean he might not have value in the future, just not right now.
Cole took his goal very well this week but it was probably another factor which boosted his value more: John Terry being benched. With that, along with the ominous presence of Azpilcueta on the bench, Cole looks like he is clearly the best combination of cost/value/upside in this backline and I don't see much reason to keep Ivanovic over Cole. With his first goal in a couple of years I wouldn't really buy into Cole for much offensive upside (other than his natural ability to offend) but Chelsea are clearly one of the better defensive units around and it's a nice bonus to get the safest option for the lowest price.
Rickie Lambert 13
After catching up with the Southampton highlights, I was ready to fan the flames of the inevitable stampede to snag the Saint's hitman, but a closer look at the stats have caused me to pause a touch. Before adding too many caveats, let me first say that Lambert is a good investment and I think he has the potential to replicate the kind of success Grant Holt enjoyed last season. I'll also add that Southampton have faced a very tricky schedule so Lambert's stats may well improve over the coming weeks. But, with that in mind, his underlying stats to date just aren't that great. Good, but not great. He has managed 11 shots in 380 minutes (7 on target, 4 goals) which is fine, but unless you believe he's a truly elite finisher or will get enough penalties to supplement his open play goal tally, there's reason to believe his current strike rate is unsustainable. The question of course is how much, as even if he has just two goals in five that would still put him on course for ~12 goals, which feels about right.
One point which does boost his value is his assist potential with his 11 chances created ranking third in the league. With Ramirez stepping into the team and the likes of Puncheon and Lallana really starting to find their feet, there's reason for optimism that more of those chances will be converted in the future and thus Lambert's assist numbers should be ahead of some of his peers.
I like Lambert quite a lot but at least some caution does need to be exercised here as he isn't the guaranteed 15 goal forward some are suggesting. After this week's trip to Everton the fixtures look fairly good for the Saints and at 6.1m it would be easier to bench Lambert for the odd game compared to pricier peers like Berbatov or Ba. If you can remember that you're buying an excellent third forward or a decent second front man he's a great pickup, but just be careful about expecting top-10 returns for your 6.0m.
Status: Buy, ideally after this week's trip to Everton.
Marouane Fellaini 12
When players in Fellaini's price range emerge as potentially elite options, we generally need acres of wet blankets to calm people's overreaction (*cough* Michu *cough*) but in Fellaini's case he has very much been worth all the praise and fantasy points to date. Through five games he simply leads all midfielders in total shots while also placing in the top-10 on chances created. With Everton's upcoming games looking extremely promising it's very hard to not draw the conclusion that we all need to be making strong efforts to grab Fellaini, Pienaar or Baines as soon as possible (ideally two of that pair). Let's not get crazy and start paying 8 points to make that happen but with Southampton visiting this week, it's tough to see where your transfer will be better used this week.
Status: Strong buy
Leighton Baines 11
We're not doing too much dousing here as Baines is another good buy candidate. Regular readers will know that I am generally reluctant to pay a huge premium for defenders' attacking skills but Baines has two key advantages over some of the offensive options we've seen overvalued in the past. Firstly, his attacking numbers are backed up by both historic success and great underlying numbers for this season. Too often managers will overvalue a Robert Huth type after he scores a couple of goals, ignoring the fact that they were his only two shots on target over a 10 game period. Second, and for me, more importantly, Baines has a potentially elite defense to accompany his goals/assists thus giving him the complete package which gives him a shot at (a) matching the players from the traditionally elite defenses like City and United and (b) sufficiently eclipsing the midrange options to justify the extra cost. If Distin was guaranteed minutes I might still prefer him and 1.7m cash but given that you really need to spend 6.1m to guarantee access to this unit, I can see one being able to justify the extra 1.1m needed to upgrade to Baines.
Status: Buy, though don't assume he's a must own if you're not overly flush with cash
Joleon Lescott 11
This is one of the classic situations where a defenders' scoring potential can be vastly overrated and caution must be exercised. Lescott has a good history of scoring goals in prior seasons, including of course his amazing 8 goal campaign in 2007/08. Managers therefore have the narrative all setup that Lescott is a great threat from set pieces and thus can easily justify his 6.4m price tag. Not so fast. His goal this week came on his only shot for the entire season to date, suggesting that a goal explosion is not exactly likely at this stage. At 6.4m he still arguably represents the best combination of security and price in the City back line and is thus ownable, but I wouldn't advise adding much of a premium for offensive potential here.
Status: Hold, and consider buying based on City's fixtures
Now that Phil Jones is out for an extended period, Rafael looks like he has the right back spot locked up for the foreseeable future and thus remains excellent value, even if United's defensive progress has been slower than expected. Given that he's the cheapest of the United regulars, Rafael is ownable anyway, but his offensive ability (6 shots, 3 on target) only sweetens the deal.
Status: Hold, unless you believe United can turn around their defense during the next tricky five game stretch without Vidic.
Steve Gerrard 9
Of the classic fantasy pair of Lampard and Gerrard, managers seem to have stuck with Lampard more (5% ownership vs 3%) despite the stats and eyeball test suggesting the opposite. Lampard is finished as a fantasy asset and will likely never have a prolonged stretch of games where he delivers significant fantasy returns, never mind delivers value for his lofty price tag. Gerrard, on the other hand, might still have something left to give. His 9.4m price tag is a concern and will likely prohibit most managers from considering him at the moment but his 13 shots, 2 on target with 1 goal are virtually identical to Hazard (13-3-1) while he's also added 13 chances created to Hazard's 11. Hazard fans will point out that the Belgian's stats came in 60 fewer minutes but that situation arose purely due to Hazard being subbed so it's not as though you would have been able to bring a sub in to compensate for the lost time.
With four goals in five games, this isn't a Liverpool side you are thrilled to invest in, but if you have any faith at all in Rodgers' ability as a manager, you have to at least pause at the prospect of getting Stoke, Reading, Newcastle and Wigan at home over the course of a six gameweek period (GW7-12).
Status: Hold, but monitor closely if you have concerns over your elite midfielders and want to differentiate your team
Romelu Lukaku 9
We highlighted Lukaku in last week's moneyball post and the Belgian front man did the series a favour by netting in his first start for the Baggies. This doesn't mean that the article was right, in the same way that a lack of returns wouldn't have meant it was wrong, but it's nice to see Lukaku get on the scoresheet early to increase his chances of holding down a first team place. His underlying stats for the week were mediocre and the goal was somewhat fortuitous as McCarthy in the Reading goal was clearly unsighted, but still, Lukaku enjoyed 12 touches in the opponent's box and looks well placed to capitalise on the upcoming fixture list which is generally promising.
Status: Hold, to see if he holds his place in away games
Steve Fletcher 9
One of the hardest types of player to write about are ones who you like a lot, but who are getting so much hype that you end up sounding like you hate them. Michu is the classic example this year, as after tipping him in the preseason, I've spent the last month warning people to not get carried away. I fear Fletcher might be heading down the same path. He's a really good finisher and I concede that we shouldn't necessarily be regressing his shot totals to the league average but five shots, four on target and four goals is obviously not a sustainable return. The good news is that there is plenty of room (and realistic potential) for Sunderland to improve as a team, which would likely result in more total chances for Fletcher and thus a lower conversion rate could still allow for plenty of goalscoring success. I'm not crazy about the next four games so I would personally suggest holding off on Fletcher if you haven't already signed him to see if Sunderland can show some signs of improvement in the chances created department.
Victor Anichebe 9
Anichebe's shot totals have been astounding so far this season with a 12.8 minutes per chance ratio (compare this to a 20 m/c for the majority of the elite forwards last season). The issue of course is sustained playing time as Mirallas has also been extremely impressive himself while the incumbent Jelavic made a substitute appearance in Tuesday night's League Cup fixture. If we were to get serious evidence that Anichebe might play long term, he would be extremely intriguing but I don't see that as being a likely scenario right now.
Demba Ba 9
No one seems to be talking about Ba yet he's owned by 20% of managers and has quietly racked up 34 fantasy points and four goals despite Newcastle not having the easiest of fixtures to open the season. His underlying stats remain very good and after scoring a couple off the bench against Everton and following that up with a goal this week (sweetly taken I might add), it looks like his days riding the pine are surely greatly reduced. Of the next 11 games, none of the fixtures look terrifying as the better teams have to travel to St James' Park with perhaps the exception of Sunderland and Stoke (sorry Liverpool fans). Ba's at the top end of that useful midrange group of forwards but that's with good reason given his proven history, good surrounding cast and underlying numbers. Throw in a solid fixture list and you've got yourself a nice little package.
Gareth Bale 8
Bale is a bit like Ba, in that no one is really talking about him but with 13% ownership, he's hardly a differentiator. Looking at his shot totals, chances created and touches, Bale brings the second best package for all midfielders, trailing only Cazorla whose underlying stats have been simply sensational. His brief deployment at left back is a slight concern but given the way the team struggled in that system and then turned it around when he was pushed back upfield, I don't see him being stuck there too often. Indeed, having now seen the game I am slightly less bullish about Kyle Naughton as Vertonghen could surely do a job there in the short-medium term. Spurs' fixtures for the next seven weeks look either great or terrible with Bale and company having to face City (A), United (A), Arsenal (A) and Chelsea (H) over that period, while also getting Villa (H), Wigan (H) and Southampton (A). Given the fixtures, now probably isn't the time to buy Bale, but if you hold him, I don't see any reason to panic, though as always with your elite players, you should at least be scouting around for alternatives.
Damien Duff 8
I don't have a particularly strong opinion on Duff either way, as while his goals:shots ration looks a touch high, he is getting into good positions consistently, while also bringing decent assist potential. It wouldn't make much sense to bring in a Fulham player this week to face City but after that, five of the next six look pretty favourable and thus Duff becomes ownable. This isn't an exciting pickup and you can almost certainly find better upside elsewhere but Duff provides good stability and guaranteed playing time and those are two assets which shouldn't be totally discounted.
Status: Hold for one week, then consider how his profile fits your teams needs before buying
Hatem Ben Arfa 8
I'm a big fan of Ben Arfa's and I believe he can lead all midfielders outside of that elite 9.0m+ group for the season, but I have some lingering doubts if that will be enough to justify his 7.9m price tag. That's 0.8m more than Fellaini, 1.2m more than Pienaar and 1.7m more than Nolan to name a few, and without great underlying stats I'm not sure he will get there. As mentioned for Ba above, Newcastle's fixtures are promising and if I was going to 'overpay' slightly for someone it would be a player like Ben Arfa whose upside is undeniable, but some caution should be exercised before assuming he is much better than his cheaper peers.
Status: Hold, with a buy consideration if you can afford it and aren't convinced by the cheaper Everton pair
Hugo Rodallega 8
Rodallega was impressive in his early Wigan days and has started to replicate them at Fulham, with some really very good shot totals to date this year. However, with Berbatov surely locked into this starting eleven virtually every week, Rodallega is scrapping with Petric and Ruiz for minutes and I'm not therefore sure he'll get enough to justify ownership.
Jermaine Defoe 8
Defoe is starting to become a problem as while I keep maintaining he will lose he job, he continues to play and take shots at an alarmingly good rate, giving him four goals on the year already. Adebayor missed the game this week a hamstring strain but he should be fit soon, but with Spurs winning the last two games, scoring five in the process, I'm now starting to back down on my assumption he will eventually recapture that starting spot. I try and stay away from making such calls as I have no more idea what Villas-Boas thinks than anyone else, however, when you consider the lengths Spurs went to to bring Adebayor to White Hart Lane on a permanent basis, it would seem odd to suggest they were already happy with their incumbent options (if they were looking for depth they surely could have found it with much less hassle than the Adebayor saga). Spurs fixtures are a mixed bag over the coning weeks so if you don't already own Defoe I don't see him as a viable buy candidate. If you already own him, you should probably target a GW10 disposal date given the fixtures and job security after then.
Dimitar Berbatov 8
Not too much to add here. Berbatov is for real with excellent underlying stats to backup his early season success. The upcoming games are pretty good and the fact that Fulham showed they can score and win on the road is big boost to Berbatov's value as you feel better about starting him virtually every week.
Kevin Nolan 7
Nolan ranks tied for 3rd among all midfielders in total shots and has a good conversion rate in hitting the target. If you don't see Nolan much you might think this is hyperbole, but for me he is one of the best finishers in the entire league and his understanding of where to be in the box and then his ability to shoot from all angles may literally be unmatched at his position. The schedule to date has been fairly soft, but it doesn't really get too hard for another seven weeks or so and thus there is still plenty of value to be squeezed from Nolan. One point we do have to note though is that with 5 chances created and no really elite forwards ahead of him, Nolan's assist potential is somewhat limited so for 6.2m you're really getting a one category player. Given his price tag and security, that's okay but if West Ham start to struggle to create chances or Nolan stops taking shots, this is a hot streak that could cool off quickly so be prepared to act when necessary.
Status: Buy, but note that other options exist for a similar price/return
Santi Cazorla 7
With 20 chances created, he has 33% more than any other player, while his 19 shots trail only Fellaini (8 on target leads all midfielders). Arsenal's fixtures are solid for the most part and I see a team who are getting noticeably better with strength and depth at several positions, with Cazorla in the middle of it all. The game against Southampton raised some questions as to whether he will get too many hockey assists but I don't have too many concerns there and still rate Santi as simply the best midfielder around.
Status: Strong buy
Bobby Zamora 7
Long term reader, Gummi, asked after the weekend's game what I thought of Zamora and my initial uniformed reaction was that I didn't have too much to say. I was turned off to the whole QPR team thanks to their constant rotation and unimpressive performances early in the season and hadn't really gone back to look at their stats. Honestly, I hadn't even realised that Zamora had three goals for the season but looking at the undelrying stats I am still unenthused. With seven total shots and just four on target, not to mention a consistent threat of rotation with Cisse lurking on the bench, I don't see Zamora as being a player to take a risk on, particularly given his price tag. For the money I would be much more inclined to look at a player like Lukaku who brings huge upside, while Lambert, Di Santo and Vaz Te all have better underlying stats (much better in Lambert's case) for less cash. If QPR start playing a bit better, Zamora definitely has the chance to be a viable option but for now I just don't see enough here to warrant ownership.