Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ronaldo Ramblings

After two more miserable performances from Ronaldo over the Christmas period, many owners are getting close to dumping Ronaldo and the net transfers for the week are in a small outflow position. I myself was considering dumping him for Gerrard until Gerrard's off the field antics cast doubt over his future for the coming weeks. Three points need raising though before any rash decisions are made:

1. Ronaldo still leads all fantasy players with 6.67 points per game (PPG) which equates to a Points Per Million Spent (PPMS) of 0.457, which is ahead of Deco (o.444) and Fabregas (0.424) among others. If you have captained Ronaldo every week (or even just a few of his 15 point+ performances) then his PPMS will be up with anyone else in the league. It is also important to remember that value for money (ie PPMS) will only carry your team a certain distance and it is actual points (PPG) that really matters.

2. United have two double gameweeks in the next 5 and then have a 3 game run of green rated attacking games (taking us through to gameweek 28). Over this period United have 6 home games as well as road visits to Bolton, WBA, West Ham and Newcastle, all of which are far from top level fixtures. Indeed, only two fixtures in this period are classed as red, and even then both of them are at home (Chelsea and Fulham).

3. Is it really wise to sell Ronaldo now having sat through this barren run and off week? Ashley Young had a similar run of 5 games (gameweek 11 - 15) in which he only notched a single assist, Lampard went 6 games with a solo assist (gameweek 13-18) and Gerrard had just a single assist between weeks 3 and 9. What this shows is that even the best players have poor runs and also that each of the aforementioned three players have rewarded loyal owners with explosions of points over the next 3 or 4 weeks.

My strategy and advice to others is hold Ronaldo for at least the next 5 gameweeks as not having him over 2 double gameweeks is asking for trouble, whether you are leading or chasing the pack. Unless he has drawn a total blank over this period, has been sold or has gotten himself sent off again I would then advise holding him for a further 3 games based on the fixtures. United's final 10 games are not the easiest, featuring just 2 green rated games and so it may be worth moving your team around at that stage for a final push.

A final note of warning though is who you will replace Ronaldo with. I recommend holding at least 2 of Ronaldo, Lampard, Gerrard and Young which means your options are limited in replacing any of them. I, for example, have Ronaldo, Lampard and Young so I can only get Gerrard without having 6 or 7 million sat on my bench. Therefore think hard about a long term strategy in replacing Ronaldo if you decide that this is the best course of action.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Message for All

I've managed to steal some time away from the food, presents and terrible TV to have a few wandering thoughts on this week's football.
The early game on boxing day sees Stoke take on United at the Britannia as United will look to get back on track in the league after their travels to Asia for the World Club Championships. I've brought Ronaldo back for this one after Gerrard did little in his place last week. Look for a full strength United to excel here and use this as a great week to get your first United player before the double gameweeks in 21 and 25. O'Shea is the best value at the moment in Evra's absence though Evra himself looks to be good value when the suspension is over. Fletcher and Carrick remain decent mid-cheap Midfielders and the likes of Berbatov and Rooney become more attractive premium strikers in the double gameweeks.
The second lob-sided game of the day is at the Bridge where Chelsea take on bottom placed West Brom. Chelsea are missing a number of defensive players in this one though should still manage to hold off anything West Brom can throw at them. Attacking wise, the usual suspects remain good options with Anelka and Lampard leading the line once more.
At Fratton Park, Portsmouth will entertain the Hammers in a battle of two underachieving teams. This one has 1-1 written all over it and is not a great game to pick fantasy players from. Defoe and Crouch remain okay options mind as they look most likley to benefit from any goals Pompey do manage.
Tottenham-Fulham sees a Fulham side who have given up 6 goals on the road play a Spurs side that have scored just 7 at home. The book would say this will be 0-0 or decided by a single goal so feel free to plug in the likes of Schwarzer, Paintsil or Corluka. I don't fancy any of the attacking options available in this one.
In form Bolton travel to Anfield to meet a Liverpool close to welcoming back Torres and Skrtel, though both will likely start on the bench at best for now. Bolton's improving attack will struggle to pierce Liverpool's stingy defense who have conceded just 6 in 9 home games this term. I am forced to play Agger this week though most publications suggest that Hyypia will play this one. Ideally stay away from them both and get Arbeloa then trade him in for Skrtel when fit.
A potential goal-fest at Eastlands sees City entertain Hull so it may best to leave your defenders at home for this one. Robinho, if fit, will be a good (if somewhat obvious here) though better value may be found in Shaun Wright Phillips who could be facing an out of position defenders in Ricketts and Dawson's absence. Hull's budget options are all decent plays again this week, led by Geovanni and King.
Middlesbrough-Everton is another tough game to call that could easily be 0-0 or 2-2. Despite Everton's lack of firepower they are always a threat to score from set plays and I wouldn't therefore bet the house on a Boro clean sheet. Likewise, Boro are a sneaky team that can manufacture goals and could spoil a clean sheet from the Blues. I do think Jagielka might be worth a punt mind, based on his excellent 15 bonus points so far this term.
Sunderland-Blackburn sees Big Sam take over his first road game, an area where his Bolton team's were very organised, compact and stingy. Allardyce may well deploy a 4-5-1 which could make McCarthy, Roberts and Santa Cruz risky starts. Big Sam is no miracle worker and Rovers have shipped 19 goals away from Ewood this season so Cisse and Jones are both good buys this week. The in-form and Malbranque and Richardson also look like decent plays again this week.
Despite Newcastle's improved defense I like Zaki to score this week to get his season back on track after his injuries. Wigan's success is often linked to the form of Valencia, which bodes well for Steve Bruce's side. I like the chance of Valencia continuing this good form with an assist or goal this week. Newcastle defenders are still very cheap (particularly Bassong) and despite my inkling that Wigan will win, the Magpies remain a decent play this week.
The big clash of the weekend is Villa-Arsenal which should have goals and isn't a great source of fantasy value for defenders. I can see at least 3 goals in this one with Young, Agbonlahor and Barry all looking set to prosper. For Arsenal, Denilson could be a cheap option as he gets forward in place of Fabregas as well as Van Persie who has been in great form against the big sides this year.

Apologies for the swiftness of the post today, I am hoping to post a bit of a diary tomorrow if I can negotiate the time away from the festivities.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gameweek 18 Injury Update

Not too many new injuries this week, which is lucky considering the need for many us to move United and Wigan players around. Some long term casualties are staring to become fit (Martin Skrtel, Fernando Torres and Eduardo) and these situations should monitored in terms of both buying bargains and your current players losing value as they find their way to the bench.
Without any further delay lets go around the week's games for a quick injury update:

United and Wigan are of course not playing which may lead to some of us having to pay for transfers this week (I just coughed up 4 points myself).
Some potential benefactors of the above injuries are Alex/Ivanovic who will continue to deputise for Carvalho. Agger/Hyypia who will stand in for Skrtel for at least one more week. Steven Gerrard should continue his advanced role against Arsenal likely playing behind Dirk Kuyt in Torres' absence. Bernard Mendy could also be a sneaky pickup as both Dawson and McShane will miss out for Hull which should see the former PSG winger start once again this week.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Player Feature: Martin Skrtel

The Slovakian international is back in training and could be the must have buy this Christmas. We all got excited about Alex and Agger as cheap members of a legaue leading back four but each of them were only ever going to be stop gaps. Skrtel however is a bona fide starter and at 5.6m is incredible value.
With Skrtel in the side, Liverpool conceded 4 goals in 6 games, keeping 3 clean sheets in the process. 3 of these goals came against United and City, two of the better attacks in the league.

Skrtel is tipped to return to the first team on Boxing day at home to Bolton in time to face Stoke, Everton and Wigan as well the aforementioned Wanderers. This run should be good for 3 clean sheets and points a plenty for the big centre back. When he was fit he was averaging 3.83 points per game for a very healthy 0.685 points per million spent. Anyone still clinging to Agger, Alex or Kompany should look to Strkel to solidify their back line in time for the Christmas period, much in the same way Benitez is.

Player Feature: Gabriel Agbonlahor

Traditionally these features should come BEFORE a big scoring week and I can hear the cries of horse, bolted, close, gate already. However, I urge you to consider that last week was not a blip for the speedy Englishman but a sign of things to come over the next 8 weeks.
Agbonlahor has had three monster weeks (1, 9 and 17), scoring 15 or more points in each, but has failed to crack 6 every other week. This can be frustrating for managers who find it hard to captain him, especially considering that at Wigan and home to City are only considered to be medium games in which to play your attackers.
A look ahead though sees 4 green and 4 amber games on the horizon for Villa including @WH, @Hul and WBA in the next four. Villa are back on form (despite their second stringers losing to Hamburg tonight) and I look to them to win 5 or 6 of the next 8, scoring a bagful in the process.

The only downside to Agbonlahor is that he is widely held (23%) though I wouldn't let this stop you from getting him. I think he is a made replacement for Defoe (after the next two games) and could even be a nice option for Anelka if Drogba starts stealing minutes from the Frenchman.

Looking longer term, my strategy is to bring Gabby in soon for Defoe and then switch him for Carew when he returns from injury, freeing up at least 1.1m (or probably more assuming Gabby rises or Carew continues to fall).

Does anyone out there currently own the Villa hit man, or are you considering getting him? Do you think the move is too late after last week's 15 point haul? Let me know what you think

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gerrard plus one

No not an invitation to a christmas party but rather a fantasy conundrum. As I have three Wigan players, a lame duck (Agger) and Ronaldo I need to make two transfers to ensure I can even field a team this week. I am therefore transferring Ronaldo out on the assumption that if I act quickly I can initially lose 0.3m which will be cut to 0.2 as I expect his price to fall by next week and Gerrard's to rise due to all the Ronaldo sellers. I have all but settled on Gerrard as the replacement which, on the assumption that prices don't move, leaves me 0.2 to spend upgrading somewhere else whilst still leaving me with 3.1 to get Ronaldo back next week for the Stoke game.

The question therefore is how to spend that 0.2m. I need to use it on one of my players who are off this week so the choice is Figueroa or Agger (I'm still holding Zaki and Valencia).

Agger (5.9)
This gives me 6.1 which doesn't buy a great deal these days as you cannot touch the big boys apart from Alex or O'Shea, one of whom is not guaranteed a game and one of whom is in Japan. Jagielka was the first name that sprung to mind but Everton play Chelsea who are undefeated on the road and have scored 21 goals in 8 games. My next thought was City who travel to West Brom who are the worst team in the league by some way at this point (yes, even Blackburn). Kompany in his advanced role is my first thought and he definately makes the short list, though City have given up 15 goals on the road and haven't kept an away clean sheet since week 3. I like Villa at the moment and they get a trip to Upton Park to play a West Ham so Cuellar is also an option

Figueroa (4.2)
This gives me 4.4 and also allows me to divest myself of some of my over reliance on a pretty average and unpredictable Wigan side. Having just mentioned Villa above, Luke Young is the obvious choice, although he is not guaranteed a game with Shorey waiting in the wings. I am also sky high on Bassong and at 4m he would allow me use the money saved elsewhere in the future. Newcastle entertain Spurs though which which isn't the easiest game. Bolton are another option and I particularly like O'Brien at 4.2m, especially as they entertain a Pompey side in poor form.

At the moment I am favouring Young or possibly Bassong to replace Figueroa. I prefer Young but if I get Bassong then I would have 6.3 to replace Agger which would allow me to get Clichy in time for Arsenal's good defensive fixture run or even Evra if his value falls 0.1 more due to his suspension.

So, what are your thoughts? Are you guys getting rid of Ronaldo or keeping with the once undroppable fantasy God?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

That's more like it

Finally a staurday afternoon with a decent tally and wouldn't you know it, I had to miss it for the dreaded christmas shopping! Therefore I was not on hand to see Valencia and Young terrorise opposition defenses to give the Juice a decent 52 point haul on Saturday. In absence of my weekly diary and general ramblings, I'll review each game below noting any key trends and scorers and suggesting where future sleepers may lie:

Middlesbrough 1 - 1 Arsenal

Middelesbrough: Turnbull, Huth, Pogatetz, Riggott, McMahon, Arca, Downing, Johnson, Digard, Alliadiere, Tuncay
Arsenal: Almunia, Clichy, Djorou, Gallas, Sagna, Denilson, Fabregas, Diaby, Song, Adebayour, Van Persie.

I think Adebayour has staked a claim for the best premium striker around with his 11th goal in 20 games (in all competitions) and the return of Drogba to potentially limit Anelka's minutes (more on that later). With just one clean sheet since week 9, players are abandoning the Arsenal defense and the likes of Clichy (6.3), Sagna (6.3) and especially Djorou (4.4) are worth monitoring as weekly replacements for the big boys when the matchup suits. Arsenal's defensive woes have affectively turned the big 4 into a big 3 when it comes to defensive stats.

Aston Villa 4 -2 Bolton
Aston Villa: Friedel, Cuellar, Davies, Laursen, L.Young, A.Young, Barry, Petrov, Sidwell, Milner, Agbonlahor
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Samuel, Cahill, O'Brien, Cahill, Muamba, Nolan, McCann, Taylor, Davies, Elmander
Villa haven't looked like the team to threaten the big four in a few games at home this season, but were sensational against Bolton. Young almost justified O'Neill's suggestion that he was as good as the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, and his partnership with Agbonlahor looks unstoppable at times. I tipped Agbonlahor for success this week but wouldn't swallow the 4 point hit and stuck with Defoe (ouch). Villa have tremendous fixtures over the christmas break, including three 'green light' games in the next five. I would reccommend holding at least one of Young, Agbonlahor and Barry though the defense looks less tempting with two red light games in the next four.
As for Bolton, I think that the defense remains a good 'fixture led' play and the whole back four remain worthy subs. Elmander scored again and as mentioned in my 'mid price' strategy last week, he is a potential steal after Bolton have played their tricky run up to week 22.

Liverpool 2 -2 Hull
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Dossena, Alonso, Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Riera, Kuyt
Hull: Myhill, Ricketts, Turner, Zayatte, Mendy, Ashbee, Marney, Barmby, Boateng, Geovanni, King
Not a single recognised fantasy striker in this one for Liverpool, who relied on their premium midfielder Gerrard for goals. Gerrard's 14 point haul will almost certainly tempt some Ronaldo and Lampard owners to ditch their star men who have flattered to deceive of late. Liverpool's next 6 games are all rated medium in terms of attacking options and the Liverpool ace might be a good option for those wishing to ship Ronaldo for his off'week.
The other big news was that Agger again found himself on the bench whoch pretty much signals the end of his worth as a fantasy factor. With Skrtel due back within a month, Agger's lack of first team action suggests his days at Anfield are numbered. If you're pushed for cash Hyypia might be worth a look, though it wouldn't suprise me if Agger plays again at some point.

Man City 0-1 Everton
Man City: Hart, Ball, Dunne, Richards, Zabaleta, Kompany, Wright Phillips, Elano, Ireland, Benjani, Robinho
Everton: Howard, Jagielka, Lescott, Neville, Yobo, Arteta, Osman, Cahill, Pienaar, Castillo, Fellaini
Like their Merseyside rivals, Everton didn't field a single fantasy forward in the game yet still notched a valuable win at Eastlands. The Everton defense scored their 2nd clean sheet in 3 and Jagielka (who also scored his 12th bonus point) is a viable option if you can't afford the big four defenders. Everton do face a pretty tough defensive fixture list over the christmas period so caution should be exercised if considering bringing these guys in.
City on the other hand have started to look fairly ordinary of late, and the loss of form at home is particularly worrying for the likes of fantasy favourites Shaun Wright Phillips, Stephen Ireland and Robinho. Robinho has just 25 points in the last 8 games, and Wright Phillips has just 20 points over the same period. Ireland has been a top performer this season but outside of two stellar performances against Hull and Arsenal, the Irishman has just 12 points in the last 7 games. City's attacking fixture list is fairly attractive in the coming weeks so if you've stuck by these players for the past month it might be worth holding them for a bit longer (particularly is you're sitting on a loss).

Stoke 0-0 Fulham
Stoke: Sorensen, Faye, Wilkinson, Higginbotham, Sonko, Delap, Pugh, Whelan, Faye, Cresswell, Fuller
Fulham: Schwarzer, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Paintsil, Bullard, Davies. Dempsey, Gera, Murphy, Johnson
This game had 0-0 written all over it and it didn't dissapoint. I finally brought Paintsil in this week and he rewarded me with a clean sheet. Fulham have two more green light games coming up and the defense is worth holding. The 6 games after the Chelsea game (week 20) are also pretty good and Fulham may be the best value defense around right now.
Stoke continue to other little fantasy value as Delap's assists have dried up of late. Fuller did score another bonus point making it 4 in 3 and 9 on the season, making him possibly the best sub-6m around.

Sunderland 4-0 West Brom
Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Collins, Nosworthy, Ferdinand, Reid, Richardson, Malbranque, Tainio, Cisse, Jones
West Brom: Carson, Meite, Robinson, Zuiverloon, Olsson, Brunt, Greening, Koren, Valero, Bednar, Moore
This game all but confirmed to me that my proposed mid-price striker strategy will work. I liked both Cisse and Jones for the coming weeks, who both scored in this one (with Jones getting two). Sunderland's next three are all green light attacking games and both remain buy prospects at the moment. Andy Reid also exploded for 16 in this one though I wouldn't go expect similar output on a weekly basis.
West Brom have no fantasy impact now Miller is gone for the season, other than to pick up whoever is playing them each week.

Wigan 3-0 Blackburn
Wigan: Kirkland, Bramble, Figueroa, Melchiot, Scharner, Taylor, Cattermole, Brown, Valencia, Heskey, Zaki
Blackburn: Robinson, Emerton, Ooijer, Nelsen, Samba, Warnock, Dunn, Tugay, Andrews, Derbyshire, Santa Cruz
Wigan's promising team finally delivered with Valencia leading the charge with 17 points. The game also saw Zaki return to action after his absence, though he failed to have a fantasy impact. Wigan's defense again proved good value with Taylor being particularly good value at 4.2 as he lined up in midfield. Wigan have the off week for week 18 though follow that up with 4 decent games so they're probably worth holding on to unless you want to use two transfers to sell and buy them back.
Balckburn, like West Brom above, have no fantasy value at this point.

Tottenham 0-0 Man Utd
Tottenham: Gomes, Corluka, Assou-Ekotto, Dawson, Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas, Lennon, Modric, Zaokora, Pavlyuchenko
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael, Carrick, Fletcher, Park, Ronaldo, Tevez, Berbatov
Spurs defense has seen a major turnaround in the past few weeks and may be worth a look based on their good looking defensive fixture list. Lennon again looked dangerous and is the only attacking option worth looking at right now for Spurs.
United meanwhile have been stuttering a bit of late and Ronaldo looked frustrated once more on his way to an outrageous three bonus points that he didn't deserve. Hopefully the week off at the World Champs will do them good and Ronaldo and co will come back firing on all cylinders. Right now, Ronaldo is clearly not worth 14.7 and if you bought him at this price I would consider selling him for the next couple of weeks.

Portsmouth 0-3 Newcastle
Portsmouth: James, Campbell, Distin, Pamarot, Belhadj, Davies, Hughes, Kranjcar, Mvuemba, Crouch, Defoe
Newcastle: Given. Beye, Enrique, N'Zogbia, Coloccini, Bassong, Guthrie, Butt, Guttierez, Martins, Owens
Inredible result for the Magpies and another sign that Portsmouth are a side in decline under Adams. I for one am done with them and I plan to ship Defoe out having already dumped Traore this week (and finally got a transfer to pay off having brought Paintsil in). Their fixtures aren't terrible but then again Newcastle at home is a borderline green light game and they failed to score and shipped three.
Newcastle on the other hand are a team on the rise and both the defense and key contributors like Owen, Guttierez and Guthrie are potential buys right now. At 8.4 Owen is still overrpriced for me but he is held by just 3% and could be a differentiator in the coming weeks. With back-to-back assists and a man of the match performance against Pompey Guttierez is finally starting to get the fantasy points to match his impressive displays and at 5.9m he might be a decent buy. At 4.8 I love Guthrie and I am looking to move him in for Marney as soon as possible. He has two bonus earning games in the last 3 and has started all of the last 5 games. Newcastle's fixtures are a bit up and down but they have some pretty nice fixtures that would make it worth adding one of the Magpie starters to your chrustmas list.

Chelsea 1-1 West Ham
Chelsea: Cech, Alex, Cole, Bosingwa, Terry, Ballack, Cole, Lampard, Mikel, Deco, Anelka
West Ham: Green, Neill, Upson, Davenport, Ilunga, Noble, Parker, Behrami, Collison, Bellamy, Cole
I had this one as a home clean sheet banker but West Ham and in particular Carlton Cole threatened the Chelsea goal all day. Cole looked strong and powerful and but a doubt in mind as to whether I should keep him or not, especially with replacement in waiting Ishmael Miller done for the year.
Chelsea have struggled at home though looked much better with Drogba, which should trouble Anelka owners a tad. However, the Frenchman scored again and is surely undroppable at this juncture. Lampard had a so-so game and notched an assist to give he a credible 12 points for me as captain.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Weekly Change

As I haven't had much time to mull over my transfer this week, I've simply brought Paintsil in for the in-out Traore to play for the next few weeks (@Sto, Mid, Bla and @WH in the next 6 weeks). I still want a new premium defender for Agger but until Liverpool's fixtures are harder than Chelsea's in coming weeks and so I really want to get another Chelsea defender. However, until Carvalho returns there is no one I can afford who is anymore certain to play than Agger. I'm gonna stick with Agger then until Carvalho is back and fit and ready for a long run in the side which has just one top rated game in the next 8.

I currently have 45% of my cash invested in my midfield, which aside from Young's 15 points last week has been terrible in the past month. Lampard and Ronaldo have failed to notch an assist or goal between them in the past 3 games, and Ronaldo has looked miserable and was playing extremely deep last week, which gave me my first thoughts of ditching him this season. On the bright side I can see Young enjoying a bit more consistency in the upcoming weeks as Villa don't face a top rated defensive side until week 26. Valencia is still a target for me to transfer out and I will look to draw up a shortlist this week. Marney is still a well priced sub.

Finally Zaki is back! I stood to lose 0.6m if I got rid of the Egyptian so I have hung tough and stuck with him. With 6 favourable matchups coming up, I am hoping the big man can repay this faith. When fit I still think he is the best value forward in the game by a distance. Defoe has 2 goals in his last 4 games, though hasn't scored more than 6 points since week 7. Pompey have a nice stretch of games in the next 5 though it gets a bit tougher after this which is when I will move Defoe on to start my three man rotation. Cole is a major flop at the moment and I want to replace him as soon as I can free up some cash. The West Ham striker hasn't found the net since week 7 and has a sickening 9 points since that point.

How do you all feel about your teams? What do you think are the big issues for the busy christmas period?

Gameweek 17 Injuries

Apologies for the lack of updates over the past week, a combination of both computer and biological viruses have set me (and my team) back a few days. So lets get right down to business with the injuries for the coming week:

Aston Villa v Bolton
Liverpool v Hull
Man City v Everton
Middlesbrough v Arsenal
Stoke v FulhamSunderland v West BromTottenham v Man UtdWigan v BlackburnPortsmouth v NewcastleChelsea v West Ham

Friday, December 5, 2008

Week 16 injury status

I am a huge fan of the system implemented in US sports such as the NFL, where players are given official ratings as to how injured they are ranging from probable to questionable to out. Unfortunately we do not enjoy such a system in the Premier League, so I will try and implement one by collating all the varying info available on players and assessing their status accordingly. Note that this list is not exhuastive and will not include (a) long term casualties unless they occurred recently and (b) players will zero fantasy impact (such as Sunderland's third keeper etc. I will try to keep the list updated right through to 11:30 tomorrow when the transfer deadline passes.

Gameweek 16 Status (updated 10:28am Saturday)

Physio Room
Fantasy Football Scout
BBC Sport Suspension List

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mid Priced Strikers

I made reference to this new strategy earlier in the week, which to be honest isn't all that new or clever, just something I wanted to sound out to see what people think of it. The idea is to forget the likes of Torres and Drogba, and even Anelka and Keane. The plan is to get 3 strikers for around 7m each which should then leave sufficient money to get 4 quality defenders and midfielders, allowing a rotation of the front three.
The argument behind this strategy is that these mid range strikers, if selected based on form and fixtures, can all but match the bigger names, which just isn't possible with defenders and to a lesser extent midfielders (where exceptions - Ireland - can be found).

The best candidate so far this season is Amr Zaki, who after missing three games lately still heads this list. His value has fallen to 6.9m which makes it a great time to buy the big Egyptian. Wigan's next 7 games are against opponents who all give up more than a goal a game, and 5 of these give up over 1.5. Zaki trails only Anelka in goals per game and costs 3.3m less. Add in the fact that he has just one less bonus point in 3 fewer games, and is guaranteed to play every minute when fit and you can see where this strategy can pay dividends.

Marlon King is extremely well priced at 6.1m and has been impressive for Hull since his loan move from Wigan. King has notched 9 bonus points, which is 6th among strikers as well as 4 goals. After two tricky ties against Mid and @Liv, Hull then face just one top defense in their next ten games. King has missed only one game this season, starting all 14 others which is a major factor going into the busy Christmas break. Hull's relatively thin squad should also spare him being benched anytime soon.

Djibril Cisse/Kenwyne Jones. I've put these two together as the uncertainty of the Sunderland team makes it hard to choose between them. Keane seemed to favour 4-5-1 away from home, as will early replacement favourite Big Sam. If this is the case, one, or both, of these two become devalued. If, however, they both play they are a dangerous strike force and well worth the 6.9m/7m price tag if the matchup is right. Monitor this situation as a new manager is announced.

Johan Elmander is an emerging force and could be a differentiator over the coming weeks. The Swedish hitman has scored 4 goals in 11 games this season and is going from strength to strength after an injury plagued start to his Premier League career. Elmander's career strike rate is around 1 in 3 so a 12-15 goal season is well within his grasp, which is a great return for a 6.7m striker. Comfort can also be gained from the fact that Gary Megson has shown a willingness to play Elmander and Davies, even way away from home.

Obafemi Martins
is a frustrating player whose talent is clear, but he seems to lack something to make him an elite player. Nevertheless, the Nigerian speedster has 5 goals this season despite rarely being fully fit and has notched 4 in the last 6, including a man of the match brace against Villa. Newcastle face just one opponent who concede less than a goal a game in the next 11 and at 6.9m, Martins could be well placed to notch 4 or 5 goals in that period.

I almost didn't include Ricardo Fuller here as he isn't mid-priced - he is very cheap - but I decided I couldn't hold that against the Jamaican! Fuller has scored an impressive 6 goals and costs a cool 5.6m. My main concern is that Fuller may not play every minute due to Stoke going 4-5-1 in some games. However, Fuller has proven he can score from the bench and has taken over penalty duties in the absence of Liam Lawrence. Stoke's fixtures are pretty tough though and so I would avoid Fuller from the rotation unless you really need to save cash.

Looking slightly higher in the price range leads to three more intriguing prospects who still represent good value and may add a touch of fantasy class to your front line:

Peter Crouch is enjoying his strike force with Defoe, which has yielded 13 goals in the 13 games they have played together, with Crouch scoring 5 of these, along with a further 3 assists. The fact that he is only 0.5m less than Defoe may lead some to suggest the saving is not worth it, but consider that that 0.5m could be the difference between, say, a big four keeper and David James, as well as giving your team a differentiating factor (Defoe 26% v Crouch 6%).

John Carew had a storming start to the season, scoring 5 goals in 11 games and earning 9 bonus points. Since then he has missed all but 10 minutes of the last 4 games with a back injury which may keep him out for between a week and 2 months depending on who you believe. When he returns, providing he is fit, Carew has shown himself to be a top 10 striker for a top 20 price and demands consideration within this strategy.

Finally, Darren Bent has already had an up and down season and its only the start of December, which is reflected in his fantasy price that has fallen from 7.5m to 6.9m and back again. Bent has 7 for the season, 5 of which came in a 5 game run in October/November. Spurs have improved under Redknapp (though the long term effect of the appointment is yet to be seen) and Bent is one of those who have benefited the most. Spurs have decent upcoming fixtures and Bent is a good option to have in your front line. However, the fact he is owned by 16% of owners (and rising) is a turn off for me and for that reason, as the Dragon's may say, I am out.

So what do people think? I know the consensus at the moment is to go big on big four defenders, but many owners do this whilst holding Anelka/Torres/Berbatov and so are forced to hold budget strikers on their bench. Using this strategy I could keep my key pair of midfield stars (Lampard and Ronaldo), add to my defense to include Reina, Arbeloa, Carvalho and Evra and still have room for solid squad players like Geovanni, Ireland, Valencia and Matt Taylor and bargain defenders like Luke Young, Panstil and Gary Cahill.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Back to Basics

After suffering through another miserable fantasy weekend which saw me slip in the standings for the 4th week running and surrender my once solid 120 point lead my work league I have decided to implement two new strategies. The second one to be discussed in a separate article is that I will now be employing a 3-man striking rotation of mid-priced strikers based on match up. The first to be discussed here is that my team selection has gotten too cute and I will now focus on the following key factors when selecting my squad and team lineup:

1. Don't select players who I do not rate as good or better, no matter what they have done in the last couple of weeks. As they say, form is temporary, class is permanent. I've had Carlton Cole, Javier Garrido, Jonas Olsson, Edwin Van Der Sar and Andy Dawson, all of whom I rate no better than average Premiership players (van der Sar once was obviously a class keeper).

2. Don't take avoiding point chasing to a ridiculous degree. Last year I chased points and it got me nowhere fast, this year I swore not to make the same mistake again. However, I was so obsessed with not chasing points that I missed the fact that Anelka, Ireland and Bosingwa were three of the top overall players available and not merely form players.

3. I've said it before but 90 minute men are absolutely essential. Picks like Alex and Agger were too clever and have cost me major points over the past month as they have been benched with no prior warning. I am therefore moving these two guys on and using the money saved from my strikers to upgrade them to Arbeloa and Carvalho, who when fit will play every minute without fail.

4. If a player isn't playing well cut him loose. It's always hard to get rid of players you rate/like because when they score you kick yourself. However, its better to feel bad about lost points for one week than sit through 8 weeks of 2 and 3 point performances (I'm looking at you Valencia!).

Application of the new rules

The new rules basically lead me to have to select a totally new defense.

Alex - out of the team for good when Carvalho returns and apparently behind Ivanovic on the depth chart these days.

Agger - not guaranteed a game, and can be replaced for just 0.4m with Arbeloa who has played in all but one game this season.

Traore - benched by Adams when he took over and has only regained his place due to injuries. The return of Kranjcar and Adams apparent apathy towards the French full back suggests it's time to say goodbye.

Figueroa - I broke rule 1 this week to get Figueroa when all my logic suggested Luke Young: it could me 4 points. Wigan's defense is just inconsistent to rely on, though they still represent good value a bench players.

Olsson - purchased after a clean sheet and goal led me to think Olsson was a steal. WBA have since conceded 20 in 8 games with no clean sheets. With Ronaldo suspended and Zaki injured, suddenly that third bench spot becomes more valuable.

The midfield fairs better under the new rules though all are still not safe.
Ronaldo - despite his sending off on Sunday and the fact he has looked miserable in the last two games, Ronaldo has still scored 8 in 10 without having really played that well. I think he is still a must have player, though his status until week 19 in shaky. He is set to miss the Sunderland (H) game through suspension and then United do not play in week 18 as they are away at the World Club Championships. I will discuss the possibilities of selling Ronaldo to buy him back in a later article.

Lampard - no goals, one assist and one bonus point in four games have left some doubting Lampard as a fantasy force; I am not one of those people. Chelsea get Bolton, West Ham, Everton, WBA and Fulham in the next five and have a point to prove after losing to Arsenal at the weekend. I can see Chelsea scoring at least 10 over this period and Lampard is sure to get a couple of these. Add in a return to bonus town and Lampard will be good for his loyal owners.

Young - the Villa winger is very close to breaking rule 4 but a look at the upcoming fixtures and the desperate state of my defense have convinced me to hold on to him. All Villa's opponents in the next 10 games are conceding more than one a game on average 6 of these are averaging more than 1.5.

Valencia - as noted above, Valencia is a classic rule 4 breaker and after he impressed even when City were poor I am going to stop breaking rule 2 and bring in Stephen Ireland. Aside from Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ireland was head and shoulders ahead of his team mates and was the centre of everything good they did. Aside from a tricky trip to Fulham this week, City's fixtures are pretty good and Ireland should continue his excellent form over the Christmas period.

Marney - far from a points machine, Marney is going to stick around on the basis that he has only missed 40 minutes of football since week 1 and has chipped in with 5 assists in this time. A great bench player and potential rotation candidate, I am pleased with the former Spurs man contribution.

Defoe - Defoe has been very good this season and the only reason I will transfer his out is to save cash and implement my 3 mid-range striker policy. My only regret with Defoe is that I broke rule 2 by not getting him earlier enough.

Zaki - the enigma of the season so far. So good to start the season and a great differentiator. Then everyone got on the bandwagon (almost 40%) and now he is carrying numerous mysterious injuries. If I were to transfer him out, it will cost 0.3m to get him back due to his price rise over the season. The fact he fits into my mid-range striker policy and has sat out for three weeks suggests I should keep the faith for now, but be careful not to break rule 4.

Cole - I broke rules 1 and 4 here and I want rid of Cole as soon as possible. He isn't a horrible player but he's far from class West Ham are a pretty poor team right now. Cole hasn't scored for 8 game weeks and has scored 7 points in that time. The only replacement issue is where to save money so that I can upgrade him to the 7m range.

Are there any rules you follow, or any that you wish you had? How do you see your teams shaping up over the next few weeks?