Thursday, October 30, 2008

Injury Roundup/Week Ahead

Everton v Fulham
No regular first teamers are out for either side. Everton players are a good bet this week with Fulham not travelling too well this year (only 2 goals in 4 games scored). The impressive Fulham defense is less so on the road having failed to keep a clean sheet so far.
One to watch: Tim Cahill

Chelsea v Sunderland
Carvalho is back on the sidelines and could be out for up to three weeks. This makes Alex (5.6) an interesting prospect once more with Sunderland at home this week and decent fixtures after that (@Bla, @WH, New). Ballack and Drogba are also sidelined, though there is a chance Cole could return. If you own him for some reason I'd probably keep him out for one more week.
Craig Gordon is also a doubt though you want to avoid him anyway in what should be a win for the home side.
One to watch: Alex

Man Utd v Hull
Hargreaves and Scholes are still out which means Carrick, Fletcher and Anderson will battle it our for playing time. I wouldn't suggest that any of these guys are great options this week. The United defense is a good, but not great play, with Van der Sar being the best value. Hull players are probably best benched though Geovanni may be worth a punt due to his free kicks and long range shooting.
Hull don't have any significant injuries outside of long term casualty Fagan.
One to watch: Dimitar Berbatov

Middlesbrough v West Ham
Mido, Huth and Hoyte are all major doubts and will likely not figure in the game. The Boro defense isn't a terrible option with Turnbull (4.0), Wheater (5.0) and Taylor (4.5) all looking like decent plays. Tuncay played well last game and may be worth a punt at 6.7, as might Downing at 7.0.
West Ham have no new injuries though long term injuries to Ashton and Noble mean the pair will sit again. Cole will miss out again due to his suspension. I'm pretty down on the Hammers at the moment and I wouldn't strongly recommend any of them at this stage.
One to watch: Stuart Downing

Portsmouth v Wigan
Glen Johnson is a doubt and may be worth swapping for Traore, Campbell or Distin to make sure you don't miss out. Kranjcar is back and could challenge for a place in Adams' side after coming on midweek. When fit, Kranjcar should be a nice option at just 6.1m. Defoe owners should assume that their man will return to the side this week with Adams surely going with two up back home at Fratton Park.
Wigan have no new injury worries but are in pretty poor form. Early studs Valencia and Figueroa have gone a bit quiet of late and may be worth divesting if their form does not improve soon. Zaki is scoreless in two but the lack of comparably priced replacements make him all but undroppable right now.
One to watch: Niko Kranjcar

Stoke v Arsenal
Arsenal will look to bounce back from the dissapointment of midweek and have a full strength side to try and do so. The Arsenal defense has just one clean sheet in six and should not be considered a good buy right now, though if you hold them it may be worth playing them this week. Nasri has picked up a goal, an assist and 2 bonus points since returning from injury and is a great buy at 7.5. Cesc is also due a goal after playing well midweek with no points earned and may be a decent buy at 9.9 if your other premium midfielder is out.
Lawrence remains on the sidelines for Stoke, who have limited fantasy options right now. Delap is a good budget play having notched 4 assists so far this season.
One to watch: Samir Nasri

West Brom v Blackburn
Santa Cruz is a doubt for the week and you'd be better off with Defoe or Agbonlahor among others. As mentioned over at 'Never Captain Nicky Butt' Warnock could be a decent punt option, though Balckburn have just two clean sheets on the season. For those in need of a budget striker, Roman Bednar and Ishmael Miller are viable options though neither are guaranteed of the start.
One to watch: Carlos Villaneuva

Tottenham v Liverpool
Fernando Torres is a major doubt and is too risky to keep 11.9 invested in (Adebayour is probably the best high priced sub). Skrtel is also out and either Agger or Hyypia will deputise though with Benitez at the helm it is hard to guess which so Arbeloa would be a safer pick.
Spurs have no new injuries and are an intriguing source of players for the coming weeks. Modric and Bentley looked much better midweek and may be worth a look if they pick up their form again this week. Bent has quietly scored three in three though is far from guaranteed substantial minutes this week.
One to watch: Robbie Keane

Bolton v Man City
Petrov and Johnson remain out though City have no other new injuries. City have been inconsistent so far though normally play well against Bolton (who doesn't at the moment!). Robinho should be a good play this week, as is Wright-Phillips who has done nothing in his last 5. Bolton have failed to score in 3 home games this season and so the City defense looks like a nice option. I would have been quick to recommend Garrido but having been dropped against Boro he may not be a great option. Richards and Dunne (5.3) are the safer bets though Kompany (5.7) probably has a slightly ceiling as he will likely figure in midfield.
One to watch: Shaun Wright-Phillips

Newcastle v Villa
Owen is still out, as is Nicky Butt. Guttierez is now fully fit and might be worth a flutter if you are looking for someone a bit different. No new injuries for Villa and Martin O'Neill has a full strength side to select from. Ashley Young has played every minute this season and broke his three game slump with an assist and a man of the match midweek. Agbonlahor has 21 points in the past two games and is probably the best 8m range striker for the week. The Villa defense has been fairly dissapointing so far and might be worth monitoring if like 30.3% of players you own Laursen. Laursen has just one goal and though the bonus points have been flowing, should these dry up he becomes overpriced at 6.2m.
One to watch: Ashley Young

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Week 10 Rising Stars

A great night of football tonight, highlighted by the amazing 4-4 North London derby, served up a plethora of fantasy points and raised a number of rising stars

Rising Stars
The Spurs midfielders appear to be getting their act together and could be steals at this point of the season with Jenas (6.8), Modric (6.9), Bentley (7.2) and Lennon (6.7) all notching at least 5 points tonight. The fixture list isn't the best (Liv,@ManC,@Ful) so it might be best to monitor the situation over the coming weeks to see if Spurs really have turned a corner.

Marouane Fellaini has scored 3 in 4 on his way to a very healthy 0.808 PPMS. Everton have a good looking fixture list coming up (Ful, @Wes, Mid) and 'screech' may be worth a shot for those looking for someone to differentiate their team held by 0.3%).

Michael Turner is a player I alluded to in a previous article and the buy rating remains despite Hull's 3-0 beating tonight by Chelsea. They play Man United next week but after that they get Bol, ManC and @Por which is not too bad at all. Hull are the real deal and remind me alot of the Bolton side's that upset the ranks to take a European spot soon after promotion. This is no surprise what with Phil Brown serving under Big Sam in those glory days.

Armand Traore has been a terrific player in the past 5 weeks conceding just one goal and notching an incredible PPMS of 1.378. An added bonus is that two of those clean sheets have come when Portsmouth have conceded late goals after Traore was taken off. Despite over 30,000 transfers in in the past few weeks Traore's value has risen just 0.1m and he is surely due for another rise soon.

Dimitar Berbatov is hardly a sleeper in the traditional sense as his 9.4 price tag demonstrates. However, I do suggest he is overrated and he is finding some form of late. Look for his price to rise this week and for him to notch a couple of goals in upcoming goals against Hull and Stoke. Alot of the big name strikers are in decent form right now (van Persie, Adebayour and Anelka all netted tonight) so it may be hard to get him in, but I don't think those managers who do will regret it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The season so far . . .

So far its been a pretty successful season, having scored 466 points and lying 620th place after gameweek 8. However, having already used my wildcard to get into the Ronaldo sweepstakes, it is vital that I use my transfers wisely over the coming weeks. A quick look at my team in terms of Points per Million Spent makes interesting reading (I have assumed that I will captain Ronaldo every week):

E.Van der Sar

The big Dutchman has been a great acquisition for me, notching 3 clean sheets in the 3 games I've had him. Indeed he's been great value all season notching 4 clean sheets in the 6 full games he's played. I can't see why he is still 5.9m and I am sure he will rise in value in the next couple of weeks. With United facing only one hard game over the next 5 (@Ars) now is as good a time as any to buy Van der Sar.

I'm pleased with Schwarzer's value and only Myhill (4m) has scored more points for the same value. Sorenson and Turnbull are also decent buys but I don't see the need to switch at this point. A genuine strategy developing right now might be own two of these guys and play based on matchup on a week to week basis. This could free up as much as 2m to spend elsewhere (read: Ronaldo).

Laursen has somehow managed to score the 4th best points total amongst defenders, despite keeping just two clean sheets. This makes him great value as the bonus points and occasional goal will continue to keep his points ticking over. If Villa can get it together at the back, Laursen could easily be the best defender come the end of the season. Needless to say, I'm sticking with him for the foreseeable future.


I’ve only had Alex for one week and he notched a clean sheet so no complaints here. However, he is of course a temporary measure until the return of Carvalho, after which point I must look elsewhere. My initial plan was to get Kompany which has backfired as Kompany has increased in price to the point that I can no longer afford him (5.7). This leaves a serious issue which I will dedicate a separate post to in order to garner advice from everyone.


My love for Armand is well documented and I am in constant disbelief he isn’t held by more players (2.9%). Traore plays on one of the league’s better defenses that have conceded just 3 goals in 6 games since he arrived, excluding the six goal disaster against City. This has translated into 25 points, with only 3 coming from non-defensive points. With Armand getting decent minutes in midfield it is just a matter of time before he starts adding to this assist tally which will make him a dangerous player going forward. It goes without saying that I am holding on to Traore for the foreseeable future.


City’s defense has been a disaster of late, conceding 7 in the last three games. Nonetheless Garrido remains a good buy as you won’t get much better for 4.3m (Bolton and Wigan defenders being the best alternatives). For a player who gets forward well and takes the odd free kick Garrido is worth a look if the matchup is right (such as this week at home to Stoke). I’m not looking for replacements here but if a steal appears I would consider moving Garrido.


Olsson has been hit or miss this season, notching scores of 1, 1, 11, 6 and 0. His matchups coming up aren’t great but for the price (4.1) you’re not going to get any better, save for perhaps John Paintsil. Paintsil intrigues me and with matchups over the next 6 weeks looking decent I may bring him in if my transfer isn’t needed elsewhere.


What can I say? He’s scored 28 in 3 games, 14 in the two I’ve had him. Assuming you captain him every week (which I do and will continue to do so) that equates to a 0.993 PPMS which is extremely healthy. He has only scored 3 bonus points which is either (a) concerning or (b) a sign of even better value to come, depending on your perspective. It would take a serious slump or injury for me to abandon Ronaldo and I only hope the remaining 82.3% players don’t get on the bandwagon anytime soon.


Frank has been the model of consistency for me so far this season and is a close second to Zaki as my MVP to date. He has scored 9 or more points in five of eight games this season, including a mind boggling 16 bonus points. With Chelsea’s defense tightening up (and with players returing from injury) Lampard is almost guaranteed 5 points a week (2 appearance points, 1 clean sheet points and 2 bonus points). When you add in the fact he takes most corners, free kicks and penalties, Lampard is still undervalued at 11.3 and should be held by more than 19.9% of owners that already do.

I was really suprised to see Ashley Young near the bottom of the PPMS list as I considered him one of my best purchases. His 38 points is 7th in midfielders but at 8.5m this isn't an amazingly good return. However, a quick look ahead sees games against Wigan, Blackburn, Newcastle and Boro, all of which should see Villa return to a bit of goal scoring form. After this comes Arsenal and United, which may a decent time to look elsewhere for better value players. At the moment though, Young’s set piece taking have persuaded me to stand pat.


I rate Valencia extremely highly and, unfortunately, I can see him at a bigger club than Wigan, even one of the big four, in the future. It’s a shame he got sent off last week having well played well enough to earn 2 bonus points despite the red card. With 2 goals and 2 assists so far this season he is on course for a nice overall performance. The fixture list is up and down over the coming weeks and I am tempted to move Valencia on in order to replace Alex, hoping to get him back in a couple of weeks. The suspension lasts for just one game, after which Wigan travel to Fulham and Portsmouth. They then get Stoke at home, Newcastle away and then Everton and West Brom at home, a stretch I will certainly want Valencia for. What to do with Valencia is the biggest decision facing my team right now.


Marney is a really decent player and is well worth the points he’s scored so far this year (29). He has yet to score, but has 3 assists on the seasonas well as 3 bonus points. I wouldn’t recommend starting Marney but as a bench option he is excellent value, and has a 0.923 PPMS if you bought him at the start of the season. As with Garrido, I am not seeking a replacement but if a cheaper alternative arose I would consider moving Marney on for a healthy profit.


I have been heard suggesting that Berbatov is one of the top three strikers in the league (with Torres and Drogba) and I would stand by the comments today. He appears to be settling in at United, scoring his first premiership goal last weeks to add to the three he now has in Europe. His partnership with the in-form Rooney looks impressive and should yield plenty of goals and points over the coming weeks. His 2 bonus points are equally important as they show that the writers are also noticing Berbatov’s improved form. The net transfer movement on the year for Dimitar is +133 which suggests he should be valued back to 9.5 at any time, with perhaps a further rise up to around 9.8 over the coming weeks (Everton, West Ham, Hull and Stoke all to come in the next 5 weeks). If my defense needed strengthening in the future the Berbatov may need to be sacrificed for say Defoe or Agbonlahor to free up some cash, but until then, the mercurial Bulgarian is staying put.


The undoubted MVP of the season so far, Zaki has been sensational and is now owned by a league leading 34% of all players. I was really fortunate here in that I saw him impress against Chelsea in week 2 and bought him before his mammoth 16 point outing in the demolition of Hull. Zaki has 7 goals and 1 assist in 8 games and has gained 9 bonus points (which should be even higher – he was the best player against Liverpool until the sending off). I think Amr is for real and I can see him scoring 20 goals this year barring injury. He value could increase to somewhere around 7.2 so is still worth a look if you don’t have him yet. It goes without saying that I won’t be selling Zaki anytime soon.


I am not a huge fan of Cole which normally means I would not use him in my fantasy team. However, at 5.7 he is incredibly cheap and has more points than Torres, Anelka, Berbatov, Santa Cruz, Drogba and many more. Cole has 3 goals and an impressive 9 bonus points which is almost unrivalled production for a player in his price bracket (the continually underrated Kevin Davies being a close second). The Hammers face Arsenal and United in the next two weeks which means I will probably have to sit Cole until they go to Boro in week 11. The only real options to replace him with are Zamora (5.4) and Kitson (5.1) unless I do a double transfer, both of which have fairly ticky fixtures themselves in the next two weeks. I will probably keep with Cole for now, monitoring the situation of the lower tier players around him. One real sleeper could be Diego Tristan who I used to rate as one of the best in Europe. If he has just 80% of that talent he could force his way into the West Ham team to play alongside Cole or Bellamy and would be great value at 5.5.

Let me know what you think of my team and what you would do in my situation. Does your team have any dilemmas coming up that you want to talk through?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Penalty Takers

With 8 weeks gone, we now have a decent idea of how the season is going to shake out. One of the things that is becoming clearer is who will take penalties for each team, a good source of points, particularly when defenders and midfielders are given the penalty duties.
Below is a list of the players expected to continue penalty taking duties for their respective teams:

Arsenal - Emmanuel Adebayour
Aston Villa - Gareth Barry
Blackburn - Roque Santa Cruz
Bolton - Kevin Nolan
Chelsea - Frank Lampard
Everton - Mikel Arteta
Fulham - Danny Murphy
Hull - Marlon King
Liverpool - Steven Gerrard
Man City - Robinho
Man Utd - Cristiano Ronaldo
Middlesbrough - Stuart Downing
Newcastle - Michael Own
Portsmouth - Jermaine Defoe
Stoke - Liam Lawrence/Danny Higginbotham
Sunderland - Djibril Cisse
Tottenham - Luka Modric
West Brom - Roman Bednar
West Ham - Craig Bellamy
Wigan - Amr Zaki

A couple of these players are purely speculative due to a lack of penalties for a couple of clubs so far this year.
What is noticeable is that Higginbotham is the only defender to appear on the list, and even he is unlikely to consistently take the pens when Lawrence returns. Of the midfielders, the only cheaper options are Nolan (5.8), Lawrence (5.3) and Murphy (5.4) who are decent if not great options if the match up is right. These cheaper players are worth monitoring, as would anyone else who steals the penalty duties as the season goes on.

Player Feature: Michael Turner

This was certainly one of those surprise moves I did not see coming. Turner is now the second highest scoring defender in the game with an impressive 41 points, just one behind Bosingwa and 7 ahead of Terry who costs almost 3m more. This week has seen his price rise again, up to 4.7m and with 23,000 transfers in already, I would not be surprised if this rises to 4.8m before the weekend.

The question therefore is will this success continue, and if so, for how long. My concern is the fact that he has snagged two goals already which distorts his points total, hiding the fact that Hull have just two clean sheets. This concern would be allayed if Turner could prove that he will be a weekly threat from corners in the way Laursen and Terry have been in past seasons. In the past two seasons Turner scored 5 and 3 goals which is decent but not enough to support a defender who doesn't keep clean sheets. Having not seen a full Hull game this season, it is hard to say if getting the ball to Turner is a definite game plan (as it clearly is with Laursen).

Hull's defense has been decent this year conceding 11 in 8, 5 in which came against Wigan. However, without the clean sheets (which to be fair have now come back to back) this does not translate to many points.

More encouraging are Turner's 8 bonus points, which lead the league along with Laursen. Whilst Villa are considered a decent defensive side, Laursen has only two clean sheets too, suggesting Turner may be even better value. Bonus points, if accrued consistently, can be the lifeblood of any team (ask any Frank Lampard owners).

Overall, I think Turner is well worth a look and is clearly the pick of the sub 5m defenders at this point. However, the next six weeks see Hull travel to West Ham, Man United and Portsmouth, as well as entertaining Chelsea, Bolton and City. All six of these games rate somewhere between very hard and potentially tricky and this alone should be reason enough to possibly hold off Turner for a while. If you have him stashed away at 4.5m then bench him if you can and look forward to the good times to come when Hull play Stoke, Boro and Sunderland in the weeks after the aforementioned games.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Injury Update

First of all, apologies for the lack of posts recently, its been a combination of work and the international break that has stifled my blogging of late.
Before previewing this week's games I thought it might be useful to have a quick look around the league to see who's in and who's out for gameweek 8.

No injuries here of any note, though if for some reason you're one of the 2% of players to own Paul Robinson, you may want to look elsewhere as he is still questionable for this week (@Bolton). His potential replacement, Jason Brown (4.5m) is not particularly good value.

Chelsea are the biggest question mark this week with Terry, Carvalho, Alex and Cole all listed as injured at, and Bosingwa being ruled out of the midweek game against Albania. Carvalho will almost certainly not figure, where as the other four look set to play at this point (all have missed international duty tonight). If you hold them, you are probably safe to start them if you have a decent sub, though I wouldn't recommend buying them at this point. However, after Boro away and Liverpool, Chelsea have a pretty nice run of games so you may want to position yourself accordingly.
Martin Skrtel will miss Liverpool's game this week and could be out until beyond christmas (knee). It is suggested that Daniel Agger (5.9m) will replace Skrtel, though this is somewhat questionable with all the current transfer rumblings. Agger would be a great addition if Benitez picks him and would be a sure fire way to make a bit of cash if you jump on him early.

Deco is still a doubt for this week having not featured for Portugal this week, though is still owned by a surprising 15% of owners. His value has crashed to 9.2m in recent weeks and he could be a nice pickup when he does return (though I'd hold off on this for now).
Deco's team mate Joe Cole
Tim Cahill will miss the next two weeks through suspension which is tough for owners with the lack of talent in his price bracket. A downgrade in price to the likes of Denilson, Valencia or Ireland may be a decent idea for the next couple of weeks.
Scholes and Carrick will definitely miss the visit of West Brom, and Hargreaves looks to be a doubt which could make Anderson (6.0) a steal. Anderson racked up 3 bonus points last week against Blackburn and has impressed when given a chance this season.
Gutierrez (5.9) could potentially return for Newcastle which will be a boost after his promising start to the season. With a decent run of fixtures on the horizon he could be a decent pickup for those looking for someone a bit different.

Ashton is out until the new year and should not be held by anyone right now, though he inexplicably is by 5.5% players. West Ham have added the once prolific Diego Tristan who could be worth monitoring over the coming weeks if he can force his way past the likes of Di Michele, Cole and Bellamy.
Drogba is still out (knee) and Anelka will lead the line in his absence. Anelka has scored 4 goals so far this season though owners have been dumping him in the thousands and his value has fallen to 9.3 which makes him a decent pickup this week against Boro.
Pavlyuchenko is out until the end of the month though I can't see why you would have the so far unimpressive big man anyway.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Market Watch (update)

With this week being the international break, there isn't that much to talk about in fantasy land so I thought I would update my predictions from last week regarding potential price rises. Hopefully I can fare better than the world markets have the past week!

C.Ronaldo 14.2 (+0.1m)
A.Zaki 6.8 (+0.1m)
J.Bosingwa 6.5m (+0.1m)
S.Nasri 7.5m (-)
D.Berbatov 9.4m (-)
V.Kompany 5.7m (+0.1m)
A.Traore 4.5m (-)

M.Arteta 8.1m (+0.1m)
D.Bentley 7.4m (-)
D.Bent 7.0 (-0.1m)

The buy tips were largely successful with 4 tips showing gains and three holding steady (Traore has seen 12,000 transfers in the past two weeks and looks set rise at any point). I think Ronaldo still has plenty of room to run and is one big week (say two goals and 3 bonus points) away from seeing a huge rush to bring him in. I think Zaki and Bosingwa are still well priced and might see another 0.1 - 0.3 gain over the next month.

My selling tips were more varied and (as tipped by SilentJay) I was dead wrong with Arteta. I felt he didn't play that well against Newcastle but again scored, and has now even taken over penalty duties. I am tentatively removing the sell tag for now though with games @Arsenal, United, @Bolton coming up I wouldn't bet on a huge return for the next couple of weeks.

SilentJay made another great point in that Arteta being front and centre on the top scorers list makes him more attractive to other managers and this is something that should definately be considered when looking to make money from player sales.

New tips
Arsenal has a decent stretch of games (Eve, @WH, Tot, @Stoke) coming up and I therefore underline my Nasri buy rating. I also see this stretch as the time Cesc will return to his 10m value - I'm a little suprised he didn't last week after his goal.

United also have a nice little run (WBA, @EVE, WH, Hull) and I therefore hold my Berbatov buy rating. Brown may be worth a look with Neville on the sideline though this should be monitored over the international week. Finally, Rooney's value could well move back to the 11m price he started at, after a couple of decent displays in the past week or so.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Market Watch

I've never really considered capital growth as a legitimate reason to invest in a fantasy player, but with the current credit crunch caused by the arrival of Ronaldo, I decided to take a look at those players whose value may increase over the next few weeks. The latest pundit article suggests a couple of players who may be undervalued at this point (Alex, Keane and Bentley). I agree with Alex and have indeed bought him for my team. However, I am neutral on Keane and downright opposed to the suggestion of Bentley. I've set out some ideas for those players whose value looks set to rise/fall over the next few weeks:

Ronaldo (CRON) is now held by 15.2% of all players but his value has only increased by 0.1. If he has another big week this week you can bet people will be reaching for the wildcard and his value will increase rapidly. Zaki (AZAK) has had by far the biggest gain in all of fantasy football and is now owned by 29% of all players. However, at 6.7m he still represents great value and I could see this figure climbing to more like 37-40%. This should be good for another 0.2m rise. Players are not sold on Berbatov (BERB) at all and he has seen net selling this week. However, with many other big name strikers struggling, a decent week from Dimitar will see many other jump on the bandwagon and I could see moderate gains over the next few weeks. Kompany (KOMP) is playing out of position, featuring in midfield when he is classified as a defender. City have a decent defense which makes Kompany a much better option than say, Gareth Bale, who also plays more advanced than his fantasy status. If City can notch a couple of clean sheet (with Newcastle, Stoke and Bolton coming up) Kompany could easily see a 0.3 rise taking him closer to his rightful price of around 6.0m. Traore (ATRA) is another of those players playing in midfield when classed as a defender and I am amazed more then 2% of owners don't have him. I think it is just a matter of time before people get on board and I could see rises of as much as 0.5m over the next few gameweeks.Selling Bentley (DBEN) and Bent (BENT) is hardly a new idea with their value already falling 0.5m and 0.4m this season. However, Spurs do not look like turning things around right now and Bent will probably lose his place long term to Pavlyuchenko. Bentley has been simply terrible since signing for Spurs and will probably play better at some point this season. However, this will probably be after fantasy players have given up on him, and seeing as he is still held by 12% of players, he still has a long way to fall. Arteta (MART) has been pretty good this year and improved 0.5m in the opening weeks. However, his upcoming strength of schedule is 2.000 and Everton aren't playing well right now. It may be worth selling him for 5 or 6 weeks then buying him back when his price has fallen a couple of hundred thousand.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Week 7 Preview

Teams of the week

Blackburn vs Man Utd
I rarely recommend players on the road as time has told us that even the best are less productive away from home. However, I get the impression United are simmering right now and are ready to explode over the next few weeks. Rovers have conceded 5 in three home games, though did manage a clean sheet last time out against Fulham. Ronaldo is the obvious choice to capitalise here though I also like Berbatov this week after his brace against Aalborg in mid-week. Despite little fan fair, Berbatov has notched 2 assists and 3 bonus points in his 3 games for United and looks good ton continue this form this week.
Blackburn have aso scored just 2 in three home games which makes the United back line a good play. Van der Sar is decent value at 5.9 and I still like Evra at 6.5. The wild card pick could be O'Shea at 5.5, who could deputise in midfield due to injuries to Scholes, Carrick and Hargreaves.
I am hopeful that Anderson will break into the first team and feature regularly at some point but I'm afraid he, along with Giggs and Nani, are too prone to rotation to seriously consider.

Portsmouth v Stoke City
Its no secret that I hold Traore in high regard, going so far as to say he's possibly the best value player in all of fantasy league. Of the other defenders Johnson (5.4), who has already scored once and notched 3 bonus points, looks to be the best pick and is a good play this week. With the excellent Diarra suspended, and Kranjcar and Diop injured, the midfield options are pretty limited and so are probably not worth looking at. Defoe (8.3) and Crouch (7.8) are both decent picks and I wouldn't bet against either getting a goal or two this week.

Everton v Newcastle
Having conceded 8 in three home games I would still not back the Everton defense until they prove they can stop someone. The attacking options do look attractive though with the impressive Arteta (8.0) and Yakubu (8.1) being good selections. A budget, though temporary option, if you are in need in the middle of the park may be Leon Osman (5.9) who looks set to play a more involved role with the suspension of Cahill.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Strength of Schedule

The story so far
A figure often cited in the NFL is a team's strength of schedule, referring to the winning percentage of the team's you are set to face in a given season. This is of course useless for the Premier League as all team face other 19 twice. However, in fantasy league, playing the fixture list is vital and if managed correctly can be a real boost to a team and can even give you 12 or 13 players on your side.

To get a very crude strength of schedule (SOS) for the premier league I attach a value (1,2 or 3) to each team's attack and defense whilst at home and on the road, then average these for a team's fixture list to date. So if you've played two 3-rated teams and two 1-rated teams, your SOS would be 2.00 (8/4). Comparing this with other teams gives an indication on how well your players have really done in the games they've played.

For attackers up to the end of week 6, West Ham and Everton have the lowest SOS (1.33), followed by Fulham (1.40), Chelsea (1.5) and Arsenal (1.5). This suggests that the early success of Carlton Cole and Matt Etherington may be short lived, if the fixtures turn against them in the future weeks. United (2.20) have the highest SOS so far, followed by Spurs (2.17) and a host of team at 2.00. This suggests that the modern returns of Berbatov, Rooney and Tevez could be due to turn based on the return of Ronaldo and an easier set of fixtures.

For defenders to the end of week 6, Stoke and WBA (2.33) have the highest SOS, followed by Chelsea and City (2.17). Boro (1.33) have had the easiest run, followed by Arsenal (1.5) and Liverpool (1.67). This may suggest it is time to divest your Arsenal holdings whilst their stock is still riding high.

Looking ahead
When evaluating future performance I tend to look at the next 8 weeks, as anything beyond this is too clouded by injury, suspension, loss of form etc. Based on this we see that the following teams look like good plays over the coming weeks:

Attacking Options
Arsenal, Chelsea, Boro, and United all have SOS of 1.5 over the next 8 weeks. This is certainly a mouth watering prospect, though isn't really telling us anything we didn't know about getting Arsenal, Chelsea and United players in. Boro are a more intriguing option with decent options in Downing (7.2), Mido (6.5) and Alves (7.5). Downing has been a massive disappointment so far failing to score or notch an assist and missing two penalties to boot. However, home games against Bolton and West Ham and trips to Wigan and Blackburn all present good opportunities to break his duck. Of Alves and Mido I rate Alves higher and I think he could notch two or three goals over this run of fixtures. However at 7.5 he isn't incredibly cheap and better options may be available.

After the first four come Bolton, Newcastle and Sunderland (1.625) who each provide one or two options who won't be widely held. One of my favourite players, Kevin Davies, has quietly notched 3 goals this term and had a PPMS of 0.667. With upcoming games at home to Blackburn and Everton and away at Hull and West Ham, Davies could be good for another couple in the next few weeks.

Defensive Options
Fulham (1.500) have the best upcoming SOS which makes the likes of Schwarzer (4.0) and Paintsil (4.1) attractive options. Fulham have conceded 6 in 5 so far notching one clean sheet against Arsenal in week 2. They face Sunderland, Wigan, Newcastle and Spurs at Craven Cottage and their only 3-rated fixture is Liverpool away in 8 weeks time. Next up are Everton (1.625) followed by Chelsea, United and Portsmouth (1.750). Everton do not look good right now and with their defenders being pretty costly I would stay away for at least a few more weeks. United and Chelsea are always good bets, though a couple of bargains can still be had. Van der Sar (5.9) is a top line keeper whose personal troubles have cause his value to fall. However, you are buying into a defensive unit not an individual keeper so at 0.3 below Cech he represents good value. The other bargain in Alex (5.6) who is filling in for the injured Carvalho, due to be out for a month. Chelsea have conceded one in two when Alex has been playing, and he even notched a bonus point in the 1-1 draw with United. With the added bonus of the odd free kick Alex is one of the best buys right now.
When Carvalho returns you could replace Alex with a Portsmouth player, with Traore (4.5) being the best pick right now. Traore is owned by just 1.7% of players right now which is frankly amazing. Portsmouth have a decent defense (excluding two games against Chelsea and City) and Traore is playing left wing. Pompey have notched two clean sheets since Traore has been in the side, and he added an assist last week to earn a spot in the dream team. To gain some idea of what value Traore represents, just two midfielders (Ashbee and Marney) have played more minutes than him within his price bracket. So as a midfielder he is playing as many minutes on a better team. Add in the fact that he is classed as a defender with the previously discussed SOS and you get the best buy in fantasy football right now.

Wildcard (part II)

As debate rages on in the presidential debate and on Wall Street, the debate within the Pure Juice clubhouse is over - my wildcard has been played. This was partly a move fuelled by desire to shake things up, but more because of the actions of my competitors. With four players already jumping on Ronaldo last week, I simply cannot afford to let my early lead slip away and have to play catch up. Therefore I have moved my team around to accommodate Ronaldo, and to be honest it probably hasn't suffered all that much, though I don't feel its infinitely better.

For those debating on whether to use their wildcard, I would suggest looking at the following points and applying them to your team:

Performance to date
In fantasy football it is highly advantageous to be out in front by mid season when people's teams start to converge and differentiating between your team and your competitors' can become tricky. For example, another 50,000 players have transferred Zaki in this week, pushing his overall ownership to 27% You can bet this will continue to rise if his form continues and could hit the mid to high thirties by Christmas time. This leaves teams with 4 or 5 overlapping players and makes it very hard to knock 20-30 points out of a leader if you trail at this point.
So if you are out in front I would consider using the wildcard as a defensive measure to ensure you stay there for at least a few more weeks. If two or three of the chasing pack have Ronaldo (c) then that lead could be eroded very quickly.

Frequency of competitor changes
If your challengers are those who bide their time with the changes then you can simply weigh up your own options and not worry about losing ground. If however your competitors are very active then chances are at least a few of them will have jumped on Ronaldo and you may have to follow suit or risk being left behind.

High value players held
If you currently hold Torres, Drogba, Lampard, Adebayour or Rooney then you may be able to get Ronaldo without using too many transfers. Indeed I could have shipped out Lampard for Ronaldo with only one other change. This would be a perfect time for Drogba owners to use this strategy, though loyal Torres owners may be loathed to part with their man, who appears to finally be hitting some form. I refused to part with Lampard who I think is the second best fantasy option to own (after Ronaldo) and may even prove better value (considering his 3m lower cost) and instead used the wildcard.

Ronaldo's worth
At this early stage, I think the only reason to use the wildcard (barring a disaster of a start) is to get Ronaldo, therefore we need to look just how valuable he is. A favourite tool of mine is the points per million spent formula, though with just one game this doesn't show a great deal (it is of course 1.000 as he scored 14 points having cost 14m). Continuing this form would still put him behind the likes of Wright Phillips (1.270) and Ireland (1.033), though miles ahead of other big name midfielders Lampard (0.466), Gerrard (0.385) and Fabregas (0.332). This of course assumes that Ronaldo scores 14 points a week which he obviously won't (though he did average a mind blowing 9.3 points per 90 mins last season), though when you consider that most owners will captain him every week, he suddenly only needs 7 points to give you a stellar 1.000 PPMS. This equates to just, say, an assist and two bonus points, two assists or even just a goal. The fact that Ronaldo is a bonus magnet (averaging 1.3 per game last season) makes this total very achievable.

The choice is yours . . .
In short, there really is no obvious answer. The stats show that Ronaldo is certainly valuable, though not to the extent that it is a no brainer. The swinger for me was United's fixture list over the next couple of months. Between now and Christmas they play just one game I rate as a 3 (@Arsenal) and EIGHT games I rate as a 1, not mention a potential double week due to the rearranged Fulham game (more on this another time). That and the fact that he takes the Pens which just seem to keep coming at Old Trafford, no matter what the circumstances. Check the sidebar for the new Pure Juice lineup and let me know what you think of the revamped team.