Friday, March 30, 2012

Gameweek 31 Captain Data



It's a really tough choice this week and your final decision is ultimately going to come down whether you want to play the man (Van Persie or Rooney) or the fixture (Balotelli, Bale, Adebayor, Dempsey etc). One of my off season projects is going to be to look back over the past few seasons to try and pin down which of these factors is more important, but until then we need to just use common sense. I would venture (though I'd be open to opposing opinions) that at the top end of the spectrum, the player is more important, regardless of who they are playing. Within reason then, you would captain Van Persie against virtually any opponent rather than a very good, but not world class player like Dempsey against a weaker one. This won't always hold up of course, but I think that's the way I'm leaning, at least when Van Persie/Rooney's fixture is still pretty promising.

[It isn't important here, but at the mid-low end of the price range I would generally rather have the player with the easier fixture than the better performances to date, so long at the two were somewhat comparable. I might, for instance, in a one week vacuum prefer Matt Jarvis at home to Bolton rather than Sigurdsson on the road at Spurs, despite the Icelandic midfielder's heroics so far].

With that in mind then, we're probably left with the same old duo of Rooney and Van Persie. On paper Rooney enjoys the slightly better fixture with Blackburn surrendering 27 goals at home to QPR's 24. However, if you place more stock in recent form, you will see that Blackburn have reduced their home GPG conceded from 2.1 over the first 7 home games to 1.5 over the last 8, while QPR's numbers are trending in the wrong direction, going from 1.4 over the first 7 to 1.8 over the last 8. I'm not sure there's enough here to suggest that Blackburn are now a much better defence than QPR, but it's probably enough to essentially make the strength of the fixture this week a tie.

Van Persie has the edge in terms of his performances on the road, though his last 5 games haven't quite been as spectacular as we had grown accustomed (5-13-2-2-6-2). Rooney has enjoyed a nice run over the last games but overall has fairly similar numbers to Van Persie over a comparable period. (5-8-12-2-2-7). Members at Fantasy Football Scout will also note that the pair are neck-and-neck in the ICT Index, which incorporates all elements which generally lead to fantasy success.

Van Persie is more likely to get a portion of any Arsenal goals scored (50% vs Rooney's 46%) though that too is a close race. I would venture that United are probably more likely to score more than Arsenal based on their better road attack (2.3 GPG vs 1.8 for Arsenal) along with their recent performances at Wolves, Tottenham and Chelsea, so Rooney probably gives you more chances of success. So again, we face a choice: do you want a bigger piece of a smaller pie or a smaller piece of a bigger pie? (Anyone else getting hungry now?)

If you've made it this far (well done), you are probably going to be mad that I am now going to totally sit on the fence and suggest this one is just too close to call. I think Van Persie has a higher upside and has delivered elite form on a more consistent basis this year, but Rooney plays on the stronger side who generate a lot of chances against all opponents and generally avoid the kind of off-days which have cursed Arsenal over the past few seasons. There isn't a hint of either player being rested, though in that category I'd say Van Persie has the slight edge given the quality behind Rooney (Hernandez, Welbeck, Berbatov) ready to come in for the odd game.

I will be handing Van Persie the armband once again but it's an incredibly close call, and to honest, one you shouldn't agonize over. Both are excellent plays this week and whatever happens, the decision to captain either will be a good choice.

As a final note, a couple of you may be wondering where the likes of Cisse and Pogrebnyak are in the above listings. My spreadsheet has a minimum number of minutes needed to qualify for captain consideration  and neither player has yet met the mark. For reference, if they were included, Pogrebnyak would be the first choice player for the week with a 100 rating, while Cisse would come in with a very impressive 94, tied with Van Persie (whose number would be depressed by Pog's presence).

I considered reducing the requirements to allow these two players in, but the fact that Pogrebnyak would then be number one overall, confirms my hesitancy to include them. He's had a fine start to his Fulham career but I just don't see this form as being sustainable, given that he has scored on every single shot he's had on target. The best players in the world don't touch a goal every two shots so after the sample size increases you're going to see his production decline. Granted, that may not be in the next week but I'd prefer to avoid the perverse scenario where people quickly check the rankings and think I like these guys over the Van Persies of the world, hence their exclusion from the rankings until we understand their sustainable returns a bit more.

I've been a bit slow (at best) with responding to questions these past few weeks, but post them below or @plfantasy and I will get a reader questions post knocked out tonight, hopefully before the east coasters go to bed, and before the GMTers wake up in the morning. Thanks for your loyalty while the service has been down a bit, my task for the next year is to find a job whose busy period is outside the football season!

Gameweek 31 Preview Data


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gameweek 30 Lineup Lessons

Arsenal
Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Song, Walcott, Rosicky, Gervinho, van Persie.
Subs: Fabianski, Andre Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Djourou, Chamakh, Benayoun.

You get the feeling that several Arsenal players are going to be key contributors down the stretch with Arteta, Rosicky, Song and Oxlade-Chamberlain all at least making cases for consideration alongside the long fancied Walcott and Van Persie. On a personal note I am kicking myself, having planned to pickup Walcott this week several weeks ago for Dempsey, but then getting greedy and ditching Murphy for the in-form Valencia. Chalk it down to another late-night Friday transfer mistake.

Arsenal's fixtures are good, rather than great, with a couple of their home games coming against good sides (City and Chelsea) and thus limiting their upside somewhat. What you like about Arsenal though is that when they're good they can compete and score against anyone (unlike, say, Fulham, who tend to perform great at home, poorly away and often struggle against the top sides) meaning the likes of Walcott can be owned and deployed basically every week if you're so inclined.

Walcott, Arteta, Rosicky and Song all rank in top-20 among midfielders using FFS's ICT index over the past few gameweeks and each bring some promise for the remainder of the season. Walcott clearly has the most upside of the group, and should be considered alongside the other elite midfielders for the rest of the season. Arteta has really come on in the past few weeks though with significant attempts on goal and key passes made. At 7.9m he's a little touch to accommodate, especially with the form of Valencia, but he represents a differentiation option with a high floor and decent ceiling. Of the cheaper options, I was ready to suggest Song as a budget option based on his solid assist numbers, but his lack of key passes suggests that this production may not be sustainable. It would therefore seem that a rejuvenated Rosicky may be the better option, unless of course you feel that Oxlade-Chamberlain will play enough minutes to warrant consideration.

Aston Villa
Given, Hutton, Collins, Cuellar, Warnock, Petrov, Herd, Albrighton, Ireland, Heskey, Agbonlahor.
Subs: Guzan, Bannan, Weimann, Lichaj, Baker, Gardner, Carruthers.

I was somewhat interested in Villa as a defensive unit, thanks to the potential rotation with Sunderland. Without wishing to overreact to one game, Villa looked awful this week, making that rotation option less appealing. They still have some promising games remaining (Sto, Sun and @Nor) so I wouldn't necessarily abandon the likes of Warnock just yet, but they are probably 5th defender options at this point. Going forward the side looks even less promising these days, and I don't see any value here whatsoever.

Blackburn
Robinson, Lowe, Dann, Hanley, Martin Olsson, Formica, Nzonzi, Pedersen, Marcus Olsson, Hoilett, Yakubu
Subs: Bunn, Dunn, Modeste, Petrovic, Orr, Goodwillie, Vukcevic.

I've said before that this team has no value but with Hoilett and Yakubu now back up top, I'd back track on that a bit. The pair make nice backup options for anyone holding Chelsea assets and thus retain some value, but not enough for me to consider starting them on a weekly basis. Outside of this pair though I don't see anything here worth monitoring.

Bolton
Bogdan, Steinsson, Wheater, Ream, Ricketts, M Davies, Reo-Coker, Pratley, Miyaichi, Ngog, Petrov
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Alonso, Eagles, Knight, K Davies, Klasnic, Sordell.

Please don't be one of the inevitable handful of managers buying up Wheater anytime soon. Bolton aren't a good defence and no one on the back line should be relied upon, even as a rotation option. Miyaichi is an intriguing option, and he's impressed on the stat sheet and to the eye. Bolton have some solid fixtures on the horizon, including Fulham, Swansea and West Brom at home, and given his price tag (4.9m) Miyaichi is cheap enough to stash on the bench for the trickier games. Throw in the fact that Bolton will also get a double gameweek when the Spurs game is rearranged and you can definitely see value in the scarcely held (1%) Miyaichi. Despite the positives, I don't see much value in the rest of this side, at least not with the clinical Klasnic resigned to the bench.

Chelsea
Cech, Bosingwa, Cahill, Terry, Cole, Essien, Lampard, Ramires, Mata, Sturridge, Drogba
Subs: Turnbull, Luiz, Torres, Mikel, Malouda, Meireles, Kalou.

I want to rate this team as they provide several potentially great options held by substantially less managers than their counterparts. Let's not give up on Di Matteo's ability to inject something extra into this side just yet given the tough games they have faced, but time is running out and the results will need to be speedy if they are to impact this year's fantasy game. We're not going to get to a point now where you feel laying out double digit money for any of these boys, likely ruling Torres, Lampard and Drogba out of contention for good. Some like Mata more than I do (in fantasy that is, I like him very much as a real player), but I worry about his goal potential given his generally low shot totals (just 9 in the last 6 games, with only 3 hitting the target). He does offer some differentiation from the standard Silva and Bales of the world and he will deserve more attention during his double gameweek but until then he still looks overpriced.

The defence has looked solid under Di Matteo, making Cahill a nice option for the remainder of the year. At 5.4m he is cheap enough to bench during their off week and he even brings a bit of a threat going forward. The rest of the group look overpriced and I don't see any reason to own them over Cahill and I wouldn't want to double down on this unit.

Everton
Howard, Hibbert, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Osman, Gibson, Cahill, Neville, Pienaar, Jelavic.
Subs: Mucha, Heitinga, Stracqualursi, McFadden, Gueye, Fellaini, Anichebe.

A good win at Swansea this week, but I still fail to see too much value here. I tipped Hibbert, who was promptly benched for two clean sheets and while he's back in the team now, he is far from a lock in this side with Heitinga and Neville a threat to steal minutes at right back. With just a couple of shots so far for Everton, I'm not on the Jelavic bandwagon just yet, nor any of his other offensively minded teammates.

Fulham
Schwarzer, S Kelly, Riise, Hangeland, Hughes, Duff, Diarra, Frei, Dempsey, Pogrebnyak, Dembele
Subs: Stockdale, Senderos, Briggs, Murphy, Etuhu, Ruiz, Trotta

Perhaps a touch unfortunate to leave Old Trafford empty handed, Fulham gave a good account of themselves in their hardest remaining game of the season. The fixtures setup quite nicely to enjoy the next two, or possibly three, games before the off-week, at which point you will want to have backup assets in place (presuming you want to hold onto the Fulham players in anticipation of their double gameweek). Despite the upcoming games, I think Murphy owners have to move on if they haven't already as he has somewhat strangely fallen out of favor. I don't see much value in the rest of the midfield outside of Dempsey so the front options are once again down to two (Dempsey and Pogrebnyak). I say two, though personally I wouldn't be all over Pogrebnyak despite his early success. He's scored with every single shot on target this year - a rate that even the best strikers can't maintain. There's a strong argument that he will get more chances over the next two weeks to justify ownership, though I'm less confident his success after that.

This defence remains a decent option, and they've played fairly well of late aside from the surprising 3-0 defeat at the hands of Swansea. As has been the case all season though, picking the cheaper options has been a crap shoot, leaving you with one of the pricier options in Riise/Hangeland or throwing Schwarzer between the sticks.

Liverpool
Reina, Flanagan, Carragher, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Henderson, Gerrard, Spearing, Downing, Kuyt, Suarez
Subs: Doni, Aurelio, Carroll, Coates, Sterling, Shelvey, Eccleston.

There isn't too much to like about Dalglish's side right now, with an increasingly vocal crowd suggesting he might be the reason why. With a couple of road games followed by the off week, it's going to be tough to hold onto Suarez though you do have to consider that he still leads all forwards in shots over the past 6 gameweeks and can score even when his team aren't playing inspiring stuff. His 21% ownership doesn't make him a differentiation option as such, but I'd venture that a fairly large chunk of those owners are the inactive ones, which the leaders tending to favour Rooney, Van Persie and then Ba, Aguero or then Suarez. I wouldn't suggest he's up with that elite duo but if your budget can stretch he remains an option, and one who many will be bailing on.

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

City's decline is obviously well documented, though I can't say I am at the panic stage just yet. I'd still be more than happy to own Silva, Aguero (when fit), Dzeko or the back line. The fixtures look promising and Aguero and Kompany look set to return to the first team, obviously adding strength at either end of the field. I'm still on board here, though it's obviously going to be tough to fir Aguero in with Rooney and Van Persie in irrepressible form.

Man Utd
De Gea, Evra, Evans, R Ferdinand, Rafael, Giggs, Carrick, A Young, Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck
Subs: Amos, P Jones, Smalling, Scholes, Cleverley, Berbatov, Hernandez

Probably a bit closer than they hoped, but another solid win nonetheless. With Nani sidelined this lineup looks fairly settled, though he could return this week throwing Young's place into question. You have to think that Valencia is a fixture in the side right now and still represents the best value in the middle, even if I'd still suggest that Nani's weekly upside is higher. I see no reason to pick anyone in the defence other than Evans who seems locked into the lineup and has even given some offensive production of late.

Norwich
Ruddy, Martin, Ward, Whitbread, Lappin, Elliott Bennett, Howson, Fox, Hoolahan, Holt, Jackson.
Subs: Steer, Johnson, Morison, Crofts, Surman, Wilbraham, Naughton.

Holt continues to enjoy success and unlike some of the other budget forwards, he has the underlying numbers to suggest he should be able to keep it going. His shots on goal rival the likes of Ba, Odemwingie and Adebayor over the past 6 gameweeks, making him a reliable spot starter. One word of caution would be the upcoming fixture list which doesn't offer many great looking games but he's an option for those not wanting to play three up top every week. Aside from Holt I don't see too much promise here.

QPR
Kenny, Young, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Taiwo, Taarabt, Derry, Diakite, Mackie, Zamora, Cisse
Subs: Cerny, Hill, Gabbidon, Bothroyd, Buzsaky, Barton, Wright-Phillips.

What a disastrous season this has been for QPR. It looked so promising with the new arrivals but they've either failed to make an impression or failed to simply stay on the field. Barton was the most consistent performer in this side and he now finds himself out of the side. I simply cannot see any value here at all.

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

Stoke remain an unsexy side but they provide a number of decent options and should not be ignored. Since Begovic returned to the side they have surrendered just three goals in five games despite playing Chelsea, City and Spurs over that time. With Shawcross and Huth coming at a bit of a premium, Begovic (and his high save totals) is probably the best way to access this unit and Vorm owners may want to look his way given the way the fixtures align quite well. Going forward I like Etherington and Crouch's relatively high floors, though neither provide the kind of excitement to gain you too much ground at this late stage of the season.

Sunderland
Mignolet, O'Shea, Kyrgiakos, Turner, Bridge, Gardner, Vaughan, Colback, McClean, Bendtner, Sessegnon
Subs: Gordon, Campbell, Wickham, Kilgallon, Ji, Meyler, Elmohamady.

Martin O'Neil really is going a great job here, with the back four compromising three players who would likely not be first choice if everyone was fit. This damages their defensive potential somewhat so I'm slightly down on the prospects of Bardsley (who returned in the Cup midweek) and co compared to a few weeks back, but they remain useful nonetheless. Sessegnon returned with a bang this week though before piling on that bandwagon, just be mindful of the upcoming games (@MnC, Tot, @Eve). McClean on the other hand is cheap enough to stash on your bench and he remains one of the better 5th midfielder around.

Swansea
Vorm, Rangel, Caulker, Williams, Taylor, Sinclair, Britton, Allen, Sigurdsson, Routledge, Graham.
Subs: Tremmel, Tate, Monk, McEachran, Lita, Moore, Gower.

Swansea have lost some of the consistency we saw early in the season, but they remain a solid source of fantasy options, particularly at the back. The lineup is fairly settled and the same options we've discussed at length before remain viable.

Tottenham
Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto, Modric, Sandro, Parker, Bale, Van der Vaart, Adebayor
Subs: Cudicini, Saha, Defoe, Kranjcar, Rose, Livermore, Nelsen.

It's clear that Spurs have totally collapsed because Redknapp wants the England job, right? Nothing to do with the fact that their last five road games have been City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea? The next three games see them Swansea and Norwich at home, with another tough away trip sandwiched in the middle, but I see this as the perfect time to hop back on board the Bale bandwagon, who's seen some sales over the past few gameweeks. I'd be hesitant to double up given the off-week in GW34, but I would consider saving a transfer to bring in Ade or Van der Vaart when the double gameweek is finalised. The back line looks settled and should also provide good value. A lot to like here.

Wigan
Al Habsi, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa, Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour, Moses, Maloney, Di Santo
Subs: Kirkland, Thomas, Crusat, Ben Watson, Gomez, Sammon, Stam.

Well they're fighting, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our old friend Moses, who has added a goal or assist in five of the last eight games. He remains a viable 5th midfielder though I wouldn't be overly excited about playing him in a given week and you'd obviously prefer Sigurdsson who is still held by less than 5% of managers. I don't see anything else of note here, though after his cool finish this week, it is amusing to note that Gary Caldwell has as many, or more, goals than Fernando Torres, Antonio Valencia, Luka Modric and Andy Carroll.

Wolves
Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Bassong, Ward, Kightly, Edwards, Jonsson, Jarvis, Fletcher, Doyle.
Subs: De Vries, Ebanks-Blake, Berra, Milijas, Foley, Price, Gorman.

I don't think I'll ever understand the decision to let McCarthy go, and it looks like one Wolves will have to contemplate in the Championship next season. Admittedly this side weren't great all season but they at least showed flashes when all their attacking options were healthy. With perhaps the exception of Fletcher who continues to post good shot totals, there is really nothing to like here at all based on the underlying stats. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gameweek 30 Captain Rankings



P90 Points scored per 90 minutes at home/away based on this week's opponents QG%Percentage of games played where the player scored 6 or more points xPct The percentage of his team's goals a player has accounted for, multiplied by the expected goals for this weekRating Based on the player's rankings in the other three categories.

After a couple of down weeks in these parts thanks to less interesting commitments, we're finally back with a proper captain preview. In truth, you probably don't need any advice these days though. I expected a toss up between Van Persie and Rooney though the data favors the Arsenal man quite strongly.

It's tough to argue really, given that Van Persie is averaging more points per game and has notched more quality games while facing a team with an equally mediocre defence as Rooney. Oh, and he has 7 goals and 4 assists over the past 6 gameweeks.

Playing devils advocate, Rooney is of course in pretty sensational form himself, adding 7 goals of his own over his past 6 gameweeks. According to ESPN, Van Persie has added 24 shots, 13 on target over those past 6 gameweeks compared to Rooney's 25-18 so there is at least some hope there than Rooney could enjoy the edge in any given week. You could also factor in that over the past 5 home starts, Rooney has added an astonishing 36-17 shots including 6 converted into goals.

Other than the shot data, the odds say to go with Van Persie, though it wouldn't be surprising for Rooney to have a big game of his own. The problem for me is that Rooney carries just a large of a following (34%) as Van Persie (38%) so you aren't really gaining any differentiation bonus by going for the United man as your skipper. For that reason, Van Persie will get my armband this week.

If you're desperately in need of a differentiation option then you could do worse than a couple of undervalued midfielders in red hot form. Valencia is still held by just 5% of managers but has been as good as anyone over his past 6-8 games, while Sigurdsson (held by just 3% of managers) has been equally as impressive, with three double digit games over the past 6 gameweeks. I'd be thrilled to own either for this week and probably the remainder of the season, but it would be extremely difficult to captain either of them ahead of Van Persie, despite the desire to differentiate. The upside is clearly there but consider that Sigurdsson has 4 games with 3 points or less in just 9 games, while Van Persie has just 6 in the last 22 games. Valencia has a higher ceiling than the Swansea playmaker, but he too carries significant risk, not even being guaranteed to start the game if Nani is fit once again.

This looks like one of those weeks where your big decision is how to use your free transfer rather than who to captain. Don't overthink this guys, Van Persie and Rooney are just too good to ignore.

For a few transfer ideas, I penned a somewhat lengthy piece on rotation options over at Fantasy Football Scout, so check that out if you have a spare couple of minutes (okay maybe more than a couple). Thanks for your patience while the updates have been a bit slow, they should be more plentiful and timely for the remainder of the year.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gameweek 30 Preview


P90 Points scored per 90 minutes at home/away based on this week's opponents QG%Percentage of games played where the player scored 6 or more points xPct The percentage of his team's goals a player has accounted for, multiplied by the expected goals for this weekRating Based on the player's rankings in the other three categories. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gameweek 29 Preview



P90 Points scored per 90 minutes at home/away based on this week's opponents QG% Percentage of games played where the player scored 6 or more points xPct The percentage of his team's goals a player has accounted for, multiplied by the expected goals for this week Rating Based on the player's rankings in the other three categories.



P90 Points scored per 90 minutes at home/away based on this week's opponents QG% Percentage of games played where the player scored 6 or more points xPct The percentage of his team's goals a player has accounted for, multiplied by the expected goals for this week Rating Based on the player's rankings in the other three categories.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Gameweek 28 Captain Data



P90 Points scored per 90 minutes at home/away based on this week's opponents QG% Percentage of games played where the player scored 6 or more points xPct The percentage of his team's goals a player has accounted for, multiplied by the expected goals for this week Rating Based on the player's rankings in the other three categories.

Many will be considering specifically bringing Suarez in for this week and his double gameweek deserves a bit of attention here.

His xPct mark of 0.710 is solid and is based on Liverpool being forecast to score just over a couple of goals and Suarez accounting for around of third of their goals when he plays. However, we probably have a tendency to overvalue double gameweeks and I'd suggest there's a fairly strong argument to be made for Arsenal scoring as many or more against Newcastle than Liverpool will in two games (neither of which is particularly easy).

The reason Suarez finds himself so far down the list is because the rating is also based on production to date, an area where Suarez is obviously not in the elite class so far this year. Potential? Yes. Undoubted skill? Of course. Tonnes of baggage and patchy form? Unfortunately, also yes.


Throw in the fact that his shot totals have really taken a beating of late (6 total shots and 3 on target in the last 4 gameweeks) and you get to a point where a Suarez pick is really based on potential and a bit of educated conjecture. Would I be surprised if he has a decent week? Of course not. But there's a non zero chance that he simply picks up 3 or 4 points and fades into anonymity once again. Consider that Suarez has more games (11) where he failed to top 3 points, than Van Persie (10) despite Van Persie playing 5 more games than Suarez.

On the positive side, what the above ranking does not factor into account, at least not to a level it perhaps should, is that Suarez (and the other elite Liverpool players) is close to a guaranteed 4 appearance points and has a double chance at bonus points, so his floor is probably higher than anyone this week.Consider, for example, that if he plays 180 minutes and notches just a loan assist, that will still be good for 7 points (plus bonus) which would probably match a goal scoring week for Van Persie et al. Avoiding 2 pointers should be a consideration for your captain (or -1 pointers in Ba's case last week) and Suarez clearly has an advantage in this area.

I'd be more than happy owning Suarez for the week - indeed, I may make that move myself - but I see captaining him as overly risky given Van Persie's home fixture. With Arsenal out of Europe there is little reason for the Dutchman to rest, especially given that they then have 9 days until the next game, and so he looks like the clear captain pick for this week again.

If you don't own Van Persie (shame!) then Rooney would be the next obvious candidate. I am ignoring Lampard for a second, as I don't believe he's worth long term investment, though he's obviously a great play this week. Aguero owners might want to think about grabbing Rooney for the next 3 weeks as City's fixtures look tough and a fit again Dzeko, Balotelli and even Tevez look like an ominous group to threaten Kun's minutes. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gameweek 28 Preview



Note that Liverpool and Everton get the double gameweek this week, so they have two listings in the clean sheet rankings. The attacking rankings show the total goals forecast over both games. Captain data and player preview to follow tomorrow.

CS Clean sheets kept at home/away based on this week's fixture Opp FTS Number of times this week's opponent has failed to score at home/away GPG Conceded Predicted goals conceded this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season Opp CS Clean sheets kept at home/away by a team's opponent GPG Scored Predicted goals scored this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gameweek 27 Lineup Lessons

Arsenal
Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Song, Walcott, Rosicky, Benayoun, van Persie
Subs: Fabianski, Diaby, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jenkinson, Gervinho, Chamakh, Miquel.

This should be a team on your radar given that they are in the enviable position (for non-Arsenal fans anyway) of still having something to play for, favorable fixtures and no other cup distractions. Gibbs has returned to give a cheaper option at the back, and while this is far from an elite defense, there may be some value to be squeezed out of these fixtures for the young left back.

In midfield I like Walcott as a differential semi-elite midfield for the remainder of the year, and he could be one of a handful of top players likely to play all the available minutes from here on in. The price is a bit higher than you'd like but with remainder of the group seemingly unable to stay on the field with any consistency, I'd suggest he may be worth the premium. There are no more superlatives to describe Van Persie's season and despite his wide ownership, it looks all but impossible to drop him for the rest of the season, barring injury.

Aston Villa
Given, Hutton, Collins, Cuellar, Warnock, Petrov, Herd, Albrighton, Ireland, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor. 
Subs: Guzan, Heskey, Bannan, Weimann, Lichaj, Baker, Gardner.

Villa aren't a great defensive side but they do bring one element that is very useful in fantasy circles: predictability. Their clean sheets have come against Fulham, Wolves, Wigan (x2), Swansea and Stoke, with only Fulham being a great achievement there. The good news is that this suggests they can get the job done when expected to, which will be the case in upcoming fixtures against Fulham (H), Bolton (H) and Stoke (H) in the next 6 gameweeks. The unit still needs to be rotated rather than started every week but at ~5.0m the likes of Warnock and Hutton should deliver nice squad value if you can afford it.

With Bent out, there is essentially nothing to like going forward, as Agbonlahor has been comatose since the Halloween decorations came down and N'Zogbia seems to switch between promising asset and bench fodder on a weekly basis. Pass.

Blackburn
Robinson, Orr, Dann, Hanley, Martin Olsson, Petrovic, Nzonzi, Pedersen, Formica, Hoilett, Yakubu. 
Subs: Bunn, Dunn, Modeste, Marcus Olsson, Goodwillie, Vukcevic, Henley.

Can I just pass on this whole team? It seems that Yakubu's goal every shot wasn't all that sustainable after all . . who knew. Oh right, we all did. As if this team wasn't bad enough, they now have added a third Olsson which means I needed to redo my spreadsheet for all Martin Olsson's previous gameweeks. Just give it up already, Kean.

Bolton
Bogdan, Steinsson, Knight, Wheater, Ricketts, M Davies, Reo-Coker, Ream, Pratley, Miyaichi, Ngog
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Robinson, Muamba, Eagles, Petrov, Klasnic, Sordell

I hate to throw the Wanderers under the bus too, but there's not much to like here either. If this was September I'd be tracking Miyaichi very carefully but despite his promising start, I'm not sure he's going to have enough time to settle in the team and contribute sufficient points to warrant anything more than a spot starter. On the bright side, the next three home games are somewhat promising (QPR, Blackburn and Fulham) so I guess he makes more sense than some budget mids but there's a distinct Championship feel to this side's current composition, and that's not something you want to bring into your fantasy team.

Chelsea
Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Sturridge, Drogba, Mata
Subs: Turnbull, Romeu, Torres, Mikel, Malouda, Meireles, Hutchinson

I don't put too much stock into the sudden reversal of form we see just because a new manager arrives, especially when that new manager was sacked by West Brom a year ago. Still, with such an abundance of talent, we need to at least monitor this side, especially given that Terry's injury now makes the back line look more settled. Bosingwa's return could muddy those waters again, but you'd be surprised if Cahill isn't around for good, thus representing good - but by no means outstanding - value. With City, Arsenal and Liverpool to come on the road as well as Spurs at home, Cahill is probably only a rotation option at this point and should be viewed alongside the Gibbs and Warnocks of the world, rather than as an alternative to the elite group of defenders.

Going forward the talent still stands out here, though I'd need to see more before I'm willing to invest, despite the obvious differential opportunities. Despite the aforementioned fixture list, only GW29 looks like a no-go for the mids and forwards so the likes of Mata and Sturridge will still be in play, with the latter looking particularly attractive given his price tag, and thus the ability to spot start him in Chelsea's favorable games which include Stoke, Wigan, Newcastle, QPR and Blackburn at home.

Everton
Howard, Hibbert, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Drenthe, Fellaini, Neville, Pienaar, Cahill, Stracqualursi. 
Subs: Mucha, Jagielka, Jelavic, Gueye, Barkley, Osman, Coleman.

I'm trying to stay loyal to my Northern roots, but there sure are some uninspiring fantasy squads in the North West this season. That said, I do like defense a lot for pretty much the remainder of the season and Hibbert represents outstanding value at just 4.6m. Good luck to anyone who thinks Baines can generate enough points to justify the extra 3.2m over his teammate (he currently averages 0.4 points per 90 minutes more). I want to put Drenthe on here but until he starts a couple of games back-to-back he's too pricey to have pickup 16 minutes of action.

Fulham
Schwarzer, Hughes, Senderos, Hangeland, JA Riise, Duff, Murphy, Dembele, Dempsey, Johnson, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Stockdale, Orlando Sa, Diarra, Etuhu, Frei, Davies, Halliche.

If they'd had Pogrebnyak all season and if one of their cheaper defenders had held down a place in the team all year, Fulham would probably be my fantasy team of the year. As it is, you're still stuck with the choice between cheap and unpredictable (Senderos / Hughes / Kelly) or expensive but solid (Riise / Hangeland) at the back. My default position is to lean towards Hughes who is generally first choice at one position, though even he has seen some rotation this year. The fixtures are a touch up and down to justify investment in the pricier players for me, but I would take a long look at the cut price Schwarzer and Hughes, especially if you need to make a move this week or next.

Dempsey is chewing through his 5th straight 100 point season and is well on pace to smash last year's impressive 168 point mark. Still one of the more underrated players in the league, he has genuinely improved some part of his game every season, carving out a niche in the league as a truly talented finisher playing in midfield. Now his value has been bid up to the mid-nines he is less appealing of course and his owners should maybe start thinking about their next move, after the Swansea and Norwich home fixtures are in the rear view mirror. Murphy just continues to tick along with another 100 point season and great reliability for a strong fourth midfielder.

Pogrebnyak probably deserves a post of his own given how quickly he's produced since arriving in the transfer window, though a huge word of caution needs to be issued in that he has hit the target 5 times so far for Fulham, scoring all five times. However accomplished his is, I can guarantee he will not continue that rate in the future so if he doesn't start getting more chances, expect the production to dramatically slow down very soon.

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

Starting with this week's double gameweek I love this defense and Jose Enrique once again looks like he might be worth holding despite his swelled ownership numbers. The forecast data has Liverpool's worst defensive display as a 1.35 GPG with no game standing out as one where the Reds don't at least have a chance at a clean sheet. Yes, you'd like their form to be more consistent but given the fixtures and the settled nature of the his back line, you can't ask for much more at this stage of the season.

Luis Suarez has played four less games than Aguero, but yet has still registered three more shots than the Argentinian. He has however been outscored 16 to 6. It seems Suarez is destined to be an outlier in the 'goals per shots' rankings, likely attributable as much to the nature of the shots he takes as to luck.With the double gameweek he makes the most sense of any Liverpool player this week though I can't say I'm overly enthusiastic about his prospects. If you were thinking of ditching an Aguero or Adebayor anyway, it makes sense to make Suarez your stop gab, but their upcoming opponents are fairly tough defensively and I wouldn't necessarily want to bet on Suarez for the remainder of the year. The rest of the side looks fairly settled but still uninspiring.

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

An incredibly frustrating week on a personal level, as I own six City players in one league or another but only Yaya got to play in this one. Going forward I guess the silver lining is that Aguero and Silva now have had their rest and should slot back into the side sooner rather than later. Richards' continued struggles makes this back line somewhat hard to pick from, as Clichy and Kolarov are also subject to rotation themselves. Lescott looks fairly secure though and is probably safe enough to warrant saving the 0.4m over Kompany.

Man Utd
De Gea, Jones, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Scholes, Young, Rooney, Welbeck. 
Subs: Amos, Anderson, Giggs, Park, Hernandez, Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva.

With the exception of Giggs dropping in and out of the side, this looks like a fairly settled first team squad. Evans remains an outstanding purchase at the back and I cannot understand why his ownership is so low. Smalling is on his way back to fitness but I can't remember the last time he was chosen ahead of Evans, who is a reliable and experienced head in this back line. More likely would be Smalling slotting in at right back with Jones moving into midfield once again. Either way I love Evans for the remainder of the season.

Offensively, Young will be back on many managers' radar after his big game but he has been incredibly inconsistent, generating over half his points from two fixtures (GW3 and 27). Given that he is owned by 10% of managers and Nani is now down to 17%, I'd take Nani until Young can string a couple of decent performances together.

Newcastle
Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, R Taylor, Cabaye, Tiote, Gutierrez, Ba, Cisse. 
Subs: Elliot, Guthrie, Ben Arfa, Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi, Obertan, Perch.

This defense is not playing well at the moment, and deserves to be a rotation option at best. Simpson and Williamson are sufficiently cheap that this remains a possibility but I'd be moving R Taylor if you still hold him as even with a midfield role, it looks unlikely he will generate enough points to justify his price tag and high ownership. Ba and Cisse are clearly a promising duo up top but they've registered just 8 shots on target between them in the last four games, compared to, say, Balotelli who registered 7 in his last two games on his own. Only Norwich (H) in GW29 looks like a great fixture in the next 5 so Ba owners might want to consider looking elsewhere, or at least be sure to hold other players to rotate in when Ba's fixtures look the hardest.

Norwich
Ruddy, Martin, Ward, Whitbread, Naughton, Pilkington, Howson, Johnson, Elliott Bennett, Surman, Holt
Subs: Steer, Morison, Jackson, Hoolahan, Fox, Wilbraham, Ryan Bennett.

Holt has emerged as the better option than Morison over the past month and given that he leads all forwards in shots over the last four games, he should be able to continue to have some joy, particularly given Norwich's promising fixtures for the next five weeks. The same somewhat applies to Pilkington and Surman who continue to produce decent underlying stats, with Pilkington looking the more impressive and probably worth the extra investment at this stage. Still, he is only a decent 4th or good 5th midfielder on a consistent basis.

QPR
Kenny, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Hill, Traore, Derry, Barton, Wright-Phillips, Buzsaky, Taarabt, Zamora. 
Subs: Cerny, Gabbidon, Bothroyd, Mackie, Young, Smith, Taiwo

Taarabt is generating excellent underlying stats once again, but we've heard this story before. His high shot totals scream out of someone who should find the back of the net soon, but without watching his games more closely I wouldn't like to say this isn't just a case of shooting on sight. The fixture list doesn't look too promising and this team isn't playing inspired stuff right now, but if you're getting desperate, Taarabt still represents a pretty significant upside given his price tag and low ownership numbers.

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

Excitement about their back to back clean sheets should be extinguished by the next three fixtures (Chelsea (A), Spurs (A) and City (H)) making this unit a sell unless you can stash them as your third sub for the next month. Not much else to like here and this is a stay away team for at least 3 weeks.

Sunderland
Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson, Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner
Subs: Gordon, Bridge, Campbell, Kilgallon, Colback, Vaughan, Meyler.

Sunderland's rave reviews have been tempered somewhat by the last three fixtures, but in fairness they didn't look overly promising on paper so I'm not ready to write this unit off based on the recent games. The next three fixtures look very promising and with Bardsley fit once again the back line should remain settled. Sessegnon's absence is a huge blow and probably rules out owning any non-defenders from this side, other than the budget McClean who continues to impress on the wings.

Swansea
Vorm, Taylor, Williams, Caulker, Rangel, Britton, Allen, Sigurdsson, Dyer, Sinclair, Graham
Subs: Tremmel, Tate, Routledge, Monk, McEachran, Moore, Gower.

Swansea continue to represent a consistently cheap source of fantasy points, with Sigurdsson currently the pick of the bunch. His underlying stats and abundant set piece duties speak to someone who should be able to continue his success for the remainder of the season. That said, the next four games look particularly tough so I might suggest some caution before piling on the bandwagon if you haven't already jumped on. Even with tricky fixtures, that front four looks like a decent rotation group but be careful not to expect fireworks against the best sides.

Tottenham
Friedel, Walker, King, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Livermore, Sandro, Modric, Adebayor, Saha. 
Subs: Cudicini, Giovani, Defoe, Dawson, Kranjcar, Rose, Nelsen.

Van der Vaart's fitness continues to be unclear with the official site once again suggesting he has a 75% chance this week. He and Bale are both said to be fit for tomorrow's FA cup fixture so if they come through that unscathed, you can probably pencil Bale in for an immediate return and expect Van der Vaart to follow shortly thereafter (on the basis that his absence is less pressing with Saha ready to fill in). You have to like Spurs' fixtures for pretty much the remainder of the season pushing Adebayor and Bale towards the top of the elite pile once again. Aside from the trip to Chelsea, the defensive fixtures also look fairly good making Walker and Assou Ekotto a formidable pair to own. For what it's worth I would lean towards Walker based on his lower ownership though Assou Ekotto does continue to enjoy slightly better offensive stats.

West Brom
Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Andrews, Mulumbu, Morrison, Odemwingie, Fortune, Thomas
Subs: Fulop, Long, Brunt, Dorrans, Shorey, Tamas, Cox

Odemwingie is obviously the headliner here but I'd exercise some caution before getting too excited as his 5 goals from 8 on target over the past 6 weeks is clearly not sustainable or indicative of a player likely to score at such a great rate going forward. I don't really like the fixtures with four road trips coming up, though he would of course be a great start in the two home games (Newcastle and Blackburn). He's certainly ownable but I wouldn't put him in the same class as Ba/Dzeko/Balotelli and I may still even side with Sturridge ahead of him.

Wigan
Al Habsi, Alcaraz, Boyce, Caldwell, Figueroa, Gomez, McArthur, McCarthy, Beausejour, Sammon, Di Santo
Subs: Kirkland, Crusat, Ben Watson, Moses, Rodallega, Diame, Stam.

Keep moving folks, nothing to see here. With Moses benched there's a real possibility this team goes the whole season without a single player reaching the 100 point mark.

Wolves
Hennessey, Zubar, Stearman, Berra, Ward, Kightly, Foley, Henry, O'Hara, Jarvis, Doyle.
Subs: De Vries, Fletcher, Hunt, Johnson, Milijas, Bassong, Jonsson.

I don't see much value here until Fletcher returns as the midfield points tend to split between Jarvis, O'Hara and co while the defense is just a train wreck (19 goals in the last 6). 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Gameweek 27 Captain Rankings


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Doubling Down

As I'm sure everyone is aware, we have a couple of double gameweeks on the horizon, along with some gameweeks in which teams currently have no fixture. The affected teams are:

Arsenal - No game in GW29
Everton - DGW28 (Tot, @Liv), No game in GW29
Liverpool - DGW28 (@Sun, Eve)
Stoke - No game in GW29
Tottenham - No game in GW29


Double Gameweeks
Starting with the double gameweeks, the message is one of restraint. Both Merseyside clubs have a tough fixture list in GW28 while Everton's situation is further complicated by their lack of fixture in GW29. Everton have been in decent form of late, particularly at the back making Distin and possibly Hibbert interesting plays, though I'd suggest you'd want to be picking them up with a freebie rather than paying for them as neither fixture looks particularly attractive. That said, the fixtures after the off week in GW29 look good and they will of course get another DGW in the future to make up for that week off. If Hibbert gets back into the side he looks great value while Distin or Heitinga should present decent value if you are looking for a change at the back.

Many will be tempted to jump on Baines but unless you have cash literally lying around, it's really hard to recommend him, no what his ceiling in a given week. Playing the odds you'd still prefer Jose Enrique for the medium term, though I see the logic in rolling the dice with Baines (6%) if you are desperate to make up some ground as his upside is still probably higher than all other defenders.

Liverpool's defensive fixtures are pretty favourable thus making the aforementioned Jose Enrique a very promising addition. Six clean sheets over the last 11 games highlight a good defensive strengthening so far in the second half and with Johnson back and Agger on the mend, they should be full strength soon and look well placed to capitalize on the fixtures coming there way. 

The attacking options on Merseyside are really limited, and they might start and end with Luis Suarez. In truth you are still really paying for his name and his obvious potential, though his underlying shot data remains strong so he still clearly has the skill and opportunity to be useful contributor. He's not exactly a differentiator (17%) though given his suspension, it's likely that the majority of those owners are the ones not paying attention so he probably would gain you some ground over your competitors if you were to grab him over an Aguero or Rooney. Would you take Suarez in two tough games over Rooney in one against West Brom? Probably, but it's pretty close. Aguero and Adebayor however face tricky trips to Everton and Swansea so there is some merit to making a move there. I wouldn't personally move Aguero for a one game gain, but with Adebayor set to miss out on a fixture in GW29 that move makes a lot of sense.


No Games
The approach for your Arsenal players is really pretty simple. Keep Van Persie and ditch everyone else. I understand the appeal of the Ox and I've been behind picking up Walcott in the past couple of weeks but too many other good options exist in their price bracket to have them sit in GW29. If your squad is particularly deep I suppose you could hold Ox or Ramsey based on the fact a DGW is coming on the horizon but Walcott is just too pricey to have him sit when you have plenty of time to make a move.

If you hold Van Persie with minimal profit then it makes some sense to move him as 2 freebies is still probably worth it to maximize 13m of cash. That said, no one has a stand out fixture in GW29 so it isn't clear who you'd bring in for him. Ba will likely be the captain pick for the week but there's a pretty good chance you own him as well as Van Persie and he isn't a like-for-like replacement. It'll be tough but as of now, my approach would be to hold tight for Van Persie and dream of the upcoming unscheduled DGW.

With Man Utd on the slate this week and a tough trip to Everton lined up for GW28, it makes sense to ditch your Spurs players, providing you aren't sat on a huge profit and would want to buy them back immediately. The run in after GW31 looks extremely promising though so if your team needs a huge makeoever, you will want to consider whether you can simply wait on your Spurs players until the fixtures clear up.

Walters has been a sell candidate for as long as I remember, so needless to say he shouldn't be held through Stoke's off week. The same goes for the rest of this dubious crew given Stoke's fixture either side of the off week (@Che and MnC) so the best play seems to be to hold Shawcross and co for this week against Norwich and then move on for the foreseeable future.

I'd say you can't hold more than one 9m+ player through more than the odd week of poor or zero returns so for me that means you need to focus on moving your Spurs players out with immediate effect (unless your profit is just too big to lose). Given the fixture this week (Bol), Silva is the obvious candidate to replace Bale but assuming you already own him, I would look to Mata, Dempsey and to a lesser extent Nani (you don't love the fixture this week against Spurs for either side). Adebayor can be replaced by one of the star forwards or if money is an issue Dzeko, Ba, Sturridge are all in play. Ba is obviously the safest pick but Sturridge intrigues me given the fixtures and is worth a look given his much lower ownership (10%).

I hope the worst of my other commitments are behind me now so full service should be returned to the blog from now until the end of the year. Thanks for sticking around!

Gameweek 27 Preview


CS Clean sheets kept at home/away based on this week's fixture Opp FTS Number of times this week's opponent has failed to score at home/away GPG Conceded Predicted goals conceded this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season Opp CS Clean sheets kept at home/away by a team's opponent GPG Scored Predicted goals scored this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season