Sunday, August 30, 2009

Play Profile: Emmanuel Adebayor

Is Adebayor ready to join the ranks of the fantasy elite? Is he worthy of not just a roster spot but also the captain's armband? Let's take a look at the facts . . .

Today's goal at Portsmouth maintained Adebayor's 100% strike record for the season and thrust him forward in the argument for the league's best fantasy striker. I have said previously that this is going to be the year of the big name striker and for the first time in memory, you might want to invest upwards of 20m on front men rather than defenders and midfielders from the big four (or six as the case might now be). Five top strikers are starting to distance themselves this year, namely Torres, Rooney, Drogba, Defoe and Adebayor. In terms of value (points per million spent) Adebayor (.867) is currently top of this list ahead of Drogba (.816), Defoe (.811), Rooney (.746) and Torres (.554). Lets look at how his future production compares with his fellow strikers:

The five strikers noted above have all scored either four (Defoe and Rooney) or three goals (Adebayor, Drogba and Torres) so far this year. They have all played 4 games except Adebayor who has only played 3. Based on last year's defensive records, Adebayor has had the easiest schedule to date (1.41 goals per game) with Torres facing the toughest (1.29 GPG). Defoe and Rooney also bring some extra value here due to their penalty taking duties. I think there is a possibility of all five strikers reaching 20 goals this year and the difference between them may come in the other scoring categories.

The key difference between Adebayor and Drogba comes in the assist category, of which Drogba has 3 and Adebayor has none. This trend is likely to continue all season as Adebayor is the focal point of a 4-3-3 system where as Drogba has a partner (Anelka) to square to for valuable assists. A look at their week 4 chalkboards shows the situation nicely (Adebayor: left, Drogba: right)

While Drogba is being played into the channels to then cross for Anelka or pull back for Lampard, Adebayor is holding up the ball a bit deeper to then play in runners such as Wright Phillips and Ireland who will then cross to someone else for the goals. Adebayor's assists will therefore be limited all year long unless Robinho or Tevez are pushed alongside him into a more natural partnership role. Rooney, Defoe and to a lesser extent Torres are also affected by this and so Adebayor only really loses ground to Drogba here.

Bonus points
I would have crowned Rooney king of the bonus points (9 in 4 games). but with Ade's 3 points today, he now has 8 in just 3 games. Points when a player gets a hattrick or dominates a game are one thing, but the key is those that are given in games when no-one really excels. Ronaldo and Lampard were the kings of these phantom points last year and Rooney appears to have taken Ronaldo's crown. Whether or not Adebayor can be added to the list is yet to be seen, but for now he is certainly as good as anyone in this category. Drogba and Torres suffer the most here as they is competing with Lampard and Gerrard though Defoe's 4 points are also a bit worrying.

Upcoming schedule
No massive differences here with each player facing a number of easy and tough games. After the next two weeks (Arsenal, @Man United) City's fixtures looks great until weeks 13-15 when they face Liverpool and Chelsea. Rooney faces the toughest schedule as trips to Spurs, Stoke, Liverpool and Chelsea look unlikely to give him too much joy.

Overall I think that Adebayor is a great pick for the upcoming season and he has proven that he will be legitimate star for City this year. The question is when to bring him in as the next two games look tough but his price looks set to rise immanently as he has net transfers in of 20,000 in week 4 and another 6,000 already in week 5. I plan to start the cogs in motion (freeing up cash) to get the Ciy hitman and wouldn't hesitate to advise the same for anyone who has faith that the former Arsenal man can continue to repay City for the hefty transfer fee they paid for him.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gameweek 4 Diary

14:40 I haven't been able to tune into the Chelsea game today but having just checked the scored I am absolutely delighted. Two assists from Lampard (who will surely add bonus points later) as well as a goal-clean sheet combo from Ashley Cole have given the Juice a great start to the weekend. The other goals were scored by Anelka and Ballack with Malouda the man to miss out in the midfield rotation this week.

14:45 All over at Stamford Bridge and that's a great result for Ancelotti, Chelsea and most importantly Pure Juice. Well done boys.

14:50 New arrivals Huth and Tuncay are both on the bench this week for Stoke as Shawcross has been passed fit. The assumption is that Wilkinson will be the man to miss out going forward but this situation is worth following. Huth has been added to the game at 4.5m which looks like a good price for a defender is a unit that is excellent at home, and whose height should make him a threat from set pieces. Perhaps more interesting is that Tuncay has been listed as a midfielder and at 6m could be a decent price. Hopefully he will come on today so we can see what kind of position he will play but considering Fuller, Beattie and Kitson have yet to score in the league this year, it wouldn't be a stretch to think he might get some games up front.

15:03 GOAL Geovanni opens his league account for the season after a great assist from Hunt. Stephen Hunt (5m) is looking like a genuine fantasy threat with two goals and an assist to his name already this year. There are a good selection of midfielders available for 5-6m and a developing strategy might be to hold two premium talents and then rotate 2 of 3 guys available at 5m.

15:15 Quiet start elsewhere on a day in which I was struggling to pick too many clean sheets. Slow starts for Spurs and Liverpool who are both expected to win handsomely today. Stoke-Sunderland looks more likely to be a 0-0 but hopefully things pickup in the next few minutes.

15:25 Bolton sitting back at home with one man up front. Expect a one or two nil away victory here. When sides are so unambitious at home its often just a matter of time before the away side gets through. I hope I don't jinx things but I am very happy to have Insua in my team right now.

15:30 Both Sky Sports and BBC suggest that Luka Modric is 'running the show' at White Hart Lane' so it will be interesting to see if he can get any fantasy points. I mentioned that this is a week to see if Modric can be a real fantasy contributor and so far the answer is an unfortunate no.

15:34 GOAL Bolton take the lead and I totally jinxed the Reds. Bolton's first real attack of the game results in a goal for Kevin Davies, his first of the season. Liverpool's inability to contribute suggest to me that they are should not considered alongside Chelsea and United until they can put this run of awful form behind them. As for Davies (a blog favourite) its great to see him on the scoresheet as he is one of the last 'old school' forwards around these days. At 7m he is probably overpriced but he can get on a streak and is a decent plug in if the fixture is right. Elmander is credited with the assist.

15:41 GOAL Goal from an unlikely source as Dave Kitson manages to do something he couldn't all last year: score a Premier League goal. Although not worth fantasy consideration, the goal does have wider implications as in form strikers will limit the amount of time Tuncay - a potential buy - plays up front. No assist given for the goal.

15:42 GOAL Equaliser for Liverpool at the Reebok and Glen Johnson has got another, suggesting he could be the best 'premier' defender right now. Liverpool's inability to keep clean sheets worries me though and I won't pick defenders based on the goalscoring record. Last year no defender scored more than 4 goals where as United had 24 clean sheets. His forward play does lend itself to assist though and if Liverpool can get their defense on track, the former Hammer looks like better value than the likes of Vidic and Terry. No assist was given for the goal.

16:03 GOAL Just as Hull took the lead after 3 minutes in the first half, Wolves hit right back at the start of the second. The goal has come from Stearmon to put McCarthy's men on level terms.

16:04 Nightmare scenario for Spurs as both King and Modric come up limping from early challenges in the second half. King has gone off while Modric will try and continue. This could answer my question as to whether to hold onto Modric or not.

16:05 Bolton score against the run of play again, this time through Tamir Cohen. After stating my confidence in Insua this week I am starting to doubt the Liverpool defense more and more as the day goes on. Davies gets the assist to give him a very nice day indeed. Meanwhile Modric has had to be taken off and that might be the incentive I need to move the playmaker on for the next few weeks.

16:13 SENT OFF Sean Davis sent off for Bolton which gives Liverpool a glimmer of hope to save this game. Sky Sports suggest it was a touch unfair and that Lucas was asking for the card which is a shame, especially in light of the midweek controversy. Liverpool almost hit right back as Gerrard thunders a shot against the bar.

16:15 GOAL Liverpool are level and its the Pure Juice combo or Kuyt to Torres which has caused me to scare the girlfriend with an over the top fist pump. I was about to suggest betting on Liverpool to win this one but I fancy the odds aren't that great anymore.

16:25 US fans will be pleased to see blog favourite Jozy Altidore on at Molineux and will hope he can have the kind of impact he had last week at Bolton. Not sure how Brown can possibly rate Caleb Folan ahead of the former Villareal player though if this continues I will have to look elsewhere for my budget striker.

16:29 GOAL Second half substitute Peter Crouch opens his account for the season nodding in a Tom Huddlestone cross. That goal was always on the cards and its only a shame that Modric had limped off and so could not be involved. Keane's early season form has limited Crouch's appearances but as the season goes on I can see Defoe-Crouch being the first choice partnership for Redknapp.

16:31 Liverpool want a penalty after a Gerrard shot strikes a Bolton arm but Wiley is having none of it. Liverpool had plenty of late wins last year and you feel another is coming here which could give the Reds the lift they need to get their title challenge back on track.

16:33 GOAL To borrow a quote from Chris Kamara - unbelievable. Lee Bowyer has equalised for Birmingham which shatters the hearts of many fantasy players who will have banked on a clean sheet in this one.

16:35 Team news from Old Trafford is that Berbatov will start on the bench with Giggs playing off the lone striker Rooney. Bit of a surprise that and the ultimate mark of respect for Wenger's side. Its Evra, Vidic, Brown and O'Shea at the back as Jonny Evans and Neville miss out. Arsenal look to be 4-4-2 with Eduardo dropped to the bench with Arshavin and Van Persie backed up by a solid lineup of Song, Diaby, Denilson and Eboue. Not sure if there is enough craft there but they certainly look ready for a battle.

16:42 GOAL As predicted Steve Gerrard looks to have got the winner at the Reebok, smashing a long shot into the top corner of the net. If ever there was a way to make easy money it was backing Liverpool at 2-1 down today. BBC suggest the assist belongs to Torres but I will confirm when the Premier League site starts working.

16:42 Tuncay is on for Fuller at Stoke but won't get enough time for us to see what his role will be this year. Keep watching him in the next few weeks.

16:45 Torres did indeed get the assist for Gerrard's winner which could give him double figures if the 'experts' give him any bonus points.

16:50 Stoke grab their third clean sheet of the season and are yet to concede at home. They have only suffered one defeat in 2009 at the Brittania.

16:52 GOAL Late late goal at White Hart Lane and its that man Aaron Lennon who has done it again as if to well and truly end the Modric-Lennon debate. The final whistle goes and Lennon's goal did indeed prove to be the winner. Liverpool have also won thanks to goals from Torres, Gerrard and Johnson.

Great afternoon of action so far with the best game yet to come. Check back during the United-Arsenal game and then later tonight for all the fantasy analysis of today's events.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Transfer Market

A few interesting transfers have gone through in the past day or so and so lets have a quick look at the potential fantasy impact:

Sanli Tuncay
Tuncay was okay last year for Boro (7 goals, 4 assists) and looks like a decent capture for Stoke who are lacking firepower up front. He is a bit of a poor man's Tevez though, and like the Argentinian is a better real life player than fantasy asset. If added for 6m he could provide value but I think 7m is more likely and hence he would be overpriced.

Sylvain Distin
Distin has moved from a very poor defensive side to one that is underachieving but has potential to improve with his arrival. At 4.9m Distin looks like good value and is significantly cheaper than teammates Baines (6.3), Jagielka (5.9) and Yobo (5.9). Everton have a great fixture list and don't play a red light game until week 13 when they go to Old Trafford. Distin therefore looks like a great buy and could get off to a good start this week with a decent fixture against Wigan.

Robert Huth
I'm not sure how Huth fits in the Stoke lineup, with my guess being that Faye slides to right back to make way for the German international. The Stoke defense are a good unit, and Huth is an experienced centre back who will certainly improved Stoke's depth. If the price is right then his heading ability from corners make him as attractive as Faye and Higginbotham but probably a touch below Shawcross.

Richard Dunne
Villa desperately need help at the back though at 5m Dunne is no better value than Beye (5) and Shorey (4.9). Until this unit can prove it can rediscover the form it showed when Laursen was around, better value can be found elsewhere.

Stephen Warnock
Like Dunne above, Warnock's value is limited by Villa's poor defense. If the paid can improve them then Warnock's attacking ability and free kicks/corners make him decent value at 4.9m though as noted above, I would wait until we see how much better this experienced pair make the Villains.

Pascal Chimbonda
I am not convinced Chimbonda will be an every week starter, though if he is then 4.4m looks like decent value. Blackburn haven't been great this year though so watch this space and see how they develop over the coming weeks.

Tommy Smith
Smith is a proven Championship goal scorer who gets another chance in the Premier League having struggled with Watford in 2006/07 with just 1 goal in 33 games. Even if his price is 5m the likes of Altidore and Jerome provide better value so I cannot see Smith being worth consideration at this time.

Kevin Prince Boateng
I don't know a great deal about Boateng and the fact he isn't even listed on the premier league game show how far down the Spurs depth chart he was. He's worth looking at over the coming weeks but not worth a flyer just yet.

Michael Brown
Even at 4.5m Brown carries little fantasy value as high tackles and late shoulder barges don't attract too many points in the fantasy league.

Jamie O'Hara
As with Boateng above I haven't seen enough of O'Hara to recommend buying him though at 4.5m he could be worth a look in this weekend's game with City.

Alessandro Diamanti
Diamanti scored 18 in 37 last season for Serie B Livorno and if the price is right (5.5 or less0 he might be worth monitoring providing he can settle in quickly. With few other fit options up front to partner Cole, Diamanti might get his chance sooner rather than later.

Paul McShane
Hull's defense is poor and the addition of McShane isn't likely to turn things around. Stay away for now.

Stay tuned for more transfer news and all the fantasy fallout.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gameweek 4 Defensive Rankings

One area I have neglected a bit this season is to help to answer one of the key questions we face each week: who looks like a better play this week between player A and player B. With forwards and midfielders this is hard to do as intangibles such as form and fitness play a huge role and I therefore find it better to pick offensive players based on a 3-8 week period rather than for a one off game. Defenders however rise and fall with their unit and matchup plays a huge factor in determining who is best to play. It is also important to consider where the game is being played as I'm sure we'd all consider Stoke at the Brittania a tough matchup but are we all aware that they conceded the most goals of any non-relegated side on the road last year. Equally, Spurs ranked 1st in home defense last year but 18th when away from the Lane.

I have therefore compiled a list which I will update each week of the best plays for this week only. I do not advise buying players on this basis unless you are totally happy with the rest of your squad as the following rankings places no emphasis on the upcoming fixtures a team faces after this week (eg. a team still would get a good rank if they play Birmingham at home this week followed by trips to United, Chelsea and Arsenal).

Without further ado then, here are the defensive rankings for week 4, with a few words of explanation where a team is lower than expected (such as the loss of a major player to injury).

1. Chelsea (Burnley H)
2. Tottenham (Birmingham H)
3. Stoke (Sunderland H)
4. Aston Villa (Fulham H)
5. Liverpool (@Bolton)
6. Man City (@Portsmouth)*
7. Fulham (@Aston Villa)
8. West Ham (@Blackburn)
9. Blackburn (West Ham H)
10. Man United (Arsenal H)
11. Everton (Wigan H)*
12. Hull (@Wolves)
13. Portsmouth (Man City)
14. Wolves (Hull)
15. Sunderland (@Stoke)
16. Birmingham (@Tottenham)
17. Bolton (Liverpool H)
18. Wigan (@Everton)
19. Arsenal (@Man United)
20. Burnley (@Chelsea)

*The ratings are based on a rolling defensive record including this season and last and so adjustments have been made to City and Everton's position. City have upgraded their defense significantly and have already equalled the number of away clean sheets they notched last season (1). This combined with Portsmouth poor form means they are upgraded for the week. Everton have suffered the opposite fate (with Lescott being the linking factor) and are downgraded accordingly.

As the ratings illustrate, home field advantage is a major contributor to clean sheets as illustrated by last year's results where 144 home teams kept clean sheets compared to 100 teams on the road. While this illustrates that good teams can get clean sheets on the road (the big four contributed 37 of the 100) it is sometimes better to back a decent team at home than a good team on the road and not just blindly stick by your high priced investments. no matter how hard it is to bench a 6.5m defender (see Clichy, Gallas and co this week).

I hope these rankings will prove useful and I will continue to monitor their effectiveness to see if they are leading us to make smart decisions. As always thanks for reading (and posting) and you can follow updates to the blog and other fantasy news on Twitter.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gameweek 4 Preview

The headline game this week if of course the clash of the titans at Old Trafford on Saturday evening and it is there that we start the preview for next week's games:

Man Utd v Arsenal
Arsene Wenger has been criticised for many things in his Arsenal career, one of which has been his side's inability to win the big games. However, a look at the stats though show that Arsenal have taken more points from United than any other team since Ferguson too over at Old Trafford. Before last week's 5-0 lashing of Wigan one might have fancied Wenger's men for this one too but with United get men back from fitness, its looking increasingly tough for the wiley French man. Vidic returned on Saturday to help United to their second clean sheet of the season, though first choice partner Ferdinand is still a couple of weeks away. Evra will continue at right back and has been a great choice so far this year, currently 5th among all defenders. His chalkboard from week 3 (right) looks more like that of a winger than a left back and this kind of forward play will surely see him get in the assists and goals categories soon. The United midfield has been rotated regularly this season and is therefore too unreliable to rely on for fantasy production. I expectd big things of Carrick this year, but he too was dropped last week after missing a penalty against Burnley which Ferguson claimed cost his side the game. Rooney, with three goals to his name, is second in the league in scoring and has proven me wrong as a legitimate top 5 striker who can repay his lofty price tag. Look our for a feature later in the week on just how high I rate him among his peers.

This game comes at an unfortunate time for Arsenal who are in sublime form and looking more like the invincibles of 03-04 than last year's underwhelming side. I think this Arsenal team is much better in reality than in fantasy terms with Arshavin, Denilson and Eduardo being better players than they are fantasy producers. For evidence of this, look at Denilson incredible passing performance against Portsmouth this week (left). The Arsenal defense has been average this year, without keeping a clean sheet though goals from Vermaelen and Gallas have overshadowed this underachievement. They are not a good play again here and if you have them I would advise selling them as next weeks trip to City promises few returns again. Up front, the Arsenal forwards have managed just one goal so far, despite the Gunners notching 10 goals in 2 games. Van Persie has 3 assists though and his 8 shots last week against Portsmouth show his desire to score and not just provide. At 10m he is still decent value and despite the tough fixture you should keep him in your team this week. The same can be said for Fabregas who is enjoying a good start to the season though be sure to check his injury status to make sure he can shake off the hamstring injury that will cause him to miss the Celtic game.

Chelsea v Burnley
Not much strategy needed here: play all your Blues, rest those Clarets. Burnley have made a good start to their maiden Premier League campaign, including of course the incredible defeat of United, and two clean sheets in their last two games. However, they struggled on their travels to Stoke and Ancelotti's ruthless unit are in good form right now. Chelsea managed 16 shots away to Fulham (who had the 6th best home defense last year) which does not bode well for Owen Coyle's side. Lampard, Anelka and Drogba are obviosuly key plays this week, and mid level players like Essien also look to be good value. The Chelsea defense is also the safest play for the week with Cole, Terry, Carvlho and Bosingwa looking to be a fairly settled back four right now.
Burnley's defenders have been excellent sleeper picks this year but its time to move them back to the bench as a couple of goals or more could be shipped in this one. They may be legitimate options in the future, but at least for this week, the Cinderella story team should not be invited to the ball.

Blackburn v West Ham
Blackburn have dissapointed me so far this season, especially the defense who I rated as a sleeper pick. To be fair, City at home and Sunderland are far from easy games and not many sides will pick up clean sheets in either of these fixtures when the season is done. New arrival Kalinic had 4 shots against Sunderland in 77 minutes of action and Allardyce is backing the Croatian to succeed. At 6.4m he is worth a look if you cannot stretch to Bent/Jones/Cole range. I like Pedersen (6.5) to start to shine in this side and this was affirmed by his goal in midweek against Gillingham. Pedersen puts an incredible number of balls into the box and with Kalinic joining McCarthy, Roberts and Di Santo, he should have some decent targets to put the ball in the net. With Nelsen back on the sidelines, and Warnock seemingly on his way to Villa, the Rovers defense looks a bit thin and should not be considered an every week starter team right now.
West Ham have been pretty good this year so far and were a touch unlucky to lose to Spurs at the weekend after threatening their goal with 19 shots in the game. The stars have been Noble and Cole, while blog favourite Jimenez has also contributed well (though check his injury status as he picked up a minor knock on Sunday). I like this trio in the long run and each are decent buys right now due to West Ham's good looking fixture list.

Bolton v Liverpool
This is a huge game for Liverpool as any more dropped points this early really could mean the end of their title challenge. Big games need big players and so Gerrard and Torres are great plays this week with Gerrard my tip to score in this one after his mistake on Monday against Villa in giving away a penalty. With no goals so far, Bolton's attack is expectedly weak and so Liverpool's defense looks like a good play also. Skrtel made a somewhat surprise return to the team on Monday and so the back four looks pretty stable with Johnson, Carragher and Insua all ready to join Skrtel as good pickups for this week (Liverpool have great fixtures until week 8).
Bolton have no real fantasy options right now and should be avoided until they prove they actually know where the goals are. The attack is so anaemic that even Megson has noticed that Elmander needs to start scoring soon.

Stoke v Sunderland
Two good sides here, who are underrated in different ways and are good sources of cheap-solid fantasy production. The Potters have kept two clean sheets in three games so far though do not get carried away just yet as they were against Burnley and Birmingham. This game will therefore be a good test for Pulis's side and a clean sheet here would suggest that Stoke defenders (particularly Shawcross, who is a goal threat) will be every week starters. With Beattie cured by sugar, the attacking prowess of Stoke looks a bit better though aside from Beattie there is little else to excite a fantasy player for now.
I really like what Steve Bruce is doing in Sunderland and I do not think it is totally unreasonable for Sunderland to challenge the likes of Villa and Everton for 6th place. He has one of the best, and most balanced, midfields in the league which contains craft (Malbranque), pace (Richardson), power (Cana) and steel (Cattermole) with all four having fantasy potential. The pairing of Bent and Jones is also indicative of a top 6-8 side with both players contributing 2 goals already this term. I like all six of these players this week though they won't have it all their own way the Brittania. Much like the Stoke defense, this is a good game to see just how far the Sunderland front line have come and if they can score a couple here then the 'buy' tag should be applied to Jones, Bent, Malbranue and Richardson.

Tottenham v Birmingham
Spurs have started the season very well under Harry Redknapp and look set to continue this fine form in this one. Birmingham's defense has done very well so far this year conceding just one goal in 3 games but a trip to in form Spurs might prove a different story and Defoe and Modric look like good plays this week. Spurs defense have been solid but have yet to notch a clean sheet, conceding one goal in each game so far. I like them this week to get over that hump and Assou Ekotto (5.1) and Bassong (5.1) look like good pick ups this week as Spurs begin a run of 7 games that includes 3 green light games (Bir, Bur, Sto) and only one red light (@Che). I am starting to get a bit worried about one one my main targets for the season, as Modric (7.6)has no goals, one assist and no bonus points so far. With United and Chelsea on the horizon (both red light games for attackers) I would consider moving Modric if he doesnt deliver again this week. Lennon (7.6) is the main man in midfield with a goal and two assists to date and looking at his chalkboard shows that he spends alot of time in the oppostion half and plays a significant amount of passes into the danger zone which should allow his production to continue in the coming weeks. Defoe is making a claim to be considered as an elite striker, though due to the two tough fixtures on the horizon I would avoid paying 8.8m for him and try and nab him after a few people move him after gameweek 6.

Wolves v Hull City
Like the other promoted sides, Wolves have defended well, conceding just 2 goals in 3 games so far this season. Hull have played a bit better of late notching back to back wins over Bolton and Southend and the introduction of Altidore (who scored midweek) has given them spark up front they were sorely lacking. Wolves defenders are still a good play this week though as this game isnt likely to see more than a goal or two at most. Milijas is their most creative player though his lack of bonus points suggest he either isn't doing enough or at least isn't in the pundits thoughts for bonuses yet and so his value is limited until he (and his strikers) can start scoring. Altidore's success midweek (okay Southend aren't quite Ac Milan but a goal is a goal) confirms to me that he is the best value striker for under 6m and has the potential to experience an exponential rise in value with a current holding of just 0.9%.

Portsmouth v Man City

With one goal scored and six conceded, Portsmouth no zero players worthy of fantasy consideration at this point. City's defense is a great play this week though with Arsenal and United in the next two I wouldn't be buying at this point. The forwards are less of a risk, with Wright Phillips (8.1) being the cheapest of the regulars and with the most runs and dribbles among all players he looks like a decent buy at this point. With Robinho's slow start and Tevez looking likely to be rotated, Adebayor (10) remains the only striker worthy of consideration and the fact he is owned by just 5% of players makes him a good differentiator as well as someone whose price will likely rise if can continue his goalscoring.

Everton v Wigan
With the departure of Lescott to City, Everton's defense is overpriced right now and unless Moyes can bring in some replacements quickly, I would stay away for the forseeable future. Going forward the Toffees are desperately missing Mikel Arteta though Yakubu scored in the reserves midweek and will give them some much needed fire power up front. Despite the favourable fixture I would stay away from Moyes' side for now. For Wigan, Koumas (5.1) has been excellent this year and is the cheapest focal point of a team available in the game. Rodallega (6.6) has also looked useful though Wigan did not travel well last year and until they can prove otherwise do not expect too many goals from Martinez's side. Their defense is a good rotation play for those wishing to drop Arsenal and United players and I particularly like Scharner due to ability to play further forward and proven prowess at set pieces.

Aston Villa v Fulham
Villa have taken a massive step back from last year and have not simply not replaced Barry or Laursen satisfactorily. Ashley Young (8.3) is still a decent pick but comparable players can probably had for less money (eg Malbranque). Fulham's lack of goals on the road over the past year suggest that the Villa defense is a decent pick and with Birmingham and Pompey coming up Shorey (4.9) and Beye (5) might be decent pickups.
Murphy (6.4) hasn't hit the heights he did last year but has been rewarded with a new contract this week and was rightly named as one of the most underrated players of the last few years by the Guardian. The assists, goals and bonus points should come and with only one red light game (Ars) in the next few weeks he could be a good pickup before everyone else catches on.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tales from the Chalkboard

I've been using my favourite new analysis tool to look at some of the weekends performances to see if we can draw some conclusions on the future success of fantasy players. The analysis and fantasy impact for several key fantasy prospects can be found below:

Andrey Arshavin I spoke about Arshavin after the Portsmouth game, where I concluded that despite the lack of shots, the Russian magician was sufficiently involved in the action to still give value for money. However, with zero shots this week and only assist and no goals to his name despite Arsenal scoring 10 in their opening two games, I am a little concerned about his production. His passing analysis from the Portsmouth game is below:Arshavin played very deep - around the halfway line - and only played one ball into the box from his right sided position. His total pass total of 38 is okay as it shows that he isn't running the game as one might expect but is involved regularly none the less. I am far from ready to give up on Arshavin yet, though as mentioned previously I transferred him out in week 2 due to the bye week and games at United (week 4) and at City (week 5). The fixtures after that look great and I will be bringing Arshavin back in and giving him at least 4 weeks to prove he can be as good a fantasy player as in real life. If however the points do not come then you must be decisive and cut your losses. Despite the desire to avoid 'point chasing' its better to follow the crowd and be right than be defiantly wrong.

Morten Gamst Pedersen
Pedersen is a frustrating player who has never delivered on the promise shown during the 2006/07 season when he contributed 155 fantasy points including 6 goals and 12 assists. He appears to be in the first teams plans of Allardyce, having played 90 minutes in both Rovers' games this year, though has yet to contribute anything more than appearance points to date. However, a look at his passes from gameweeks 1 (left) and 3 (right) gives an indication that assists may start to come in the next few games:

In 2 games Pedersen has played no less 28 balls into the area, though admittedly only 5 of them have connected with their intended target. As the old cliche goes "you have to buy a ticket to win the lottery" and its clear that Pedersen is not shy with throwing the ball into the area. At 6.5m Pedersen is not extremely cheap and I think Malbranque (6m) and possibly Koumas (5.1m) are better value. However, 6.5m is a good price and pairing him with the aforementioned pair alongside two studs (Lampard and Gerrard) would make a very nice midfield of 5 players who will play every week and are arguably the focal point of their respective teams. Blackburn have a great run of game from weeks 4-7 but then have 3 red light games in the next 4 so I would either make a splash for Pedersen now or wait until week 12 when the fixture list opens up once more.

Carlos Tevez
Tevez is the most held City forward (9%) and he rewarded his owners with an assist yesterday against Wolves. However, I have voiced my concerns over the number of minutes the Argentinian will get in the year and a look at his chalkboard from yesterday brings up further questions:With just 19 touches in 72 minutes and only four touches even close to the box, Tevez is just simply not in the right positions to generate significant fantasy points. At 8.4m he is cheaper than his fellow City forwards, but with good reason. To consider him in the same class as Defoe (8.7m) and ahead of the likes of Bent (7.2m), Jones (7m) or Cole (7m) is crazy. His one redeeming feature were his 4 shots, but then only one hit the target. If you want to get in on the City revolution I'd advise either getting Adebayor or Ireland who, although more expensive, will deliver much better bang for your buck.

Scoring defenders
Gallas hit the headlines this weekend after scoring his 3rd goal in as many games for the Gunners. However, before getting overly excited it is worth looking at the nature of the goals and determining if they are chances designed specifically for that player (like Laursen and Lescott have had in previous years) or just random opportunities that fall to the feet (or face in Gallas's case on Saturday) of the player in question.
To date nine defenders have scored in the league, with Gallas getting on the scoresheet twice. According to Fox Sports, of these nine players four have converted all their shots for the season into goals (Gallas, Upson, Givet and Bassong) which suggests they are not being targeted from set pieces and should therefore not warrant extra consideration based on the offensive potential. Two players however stand out as genuine goal threats, namely Shawcross and Kaboul, who have had six and five shots so far this season respectively. This suggests that their teams are directing free kicks and corners their way and so they should contribute more goals this term. I cannot recommend a Portsmouth defender due to their awful defense but Shawcross looks to be great value at 4.7m though with 15% ownership this is far from a secret. Stoke have a couple of tricky fixtures in the next few weeks but Shawcross is the best sub 5m defender available and you should consider him for at least your bench.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gameweek 3 Diary

A great afternoon of action ahead with six games this afternoon including fantasy favourites United, City and Arsenal. We're expecting big afternoons for City and Arsenal though I am sure Wolves and Pompey will have different ideas:

15:08 Early chances for United and the backlash is definitely on the cards. United have suffered alot of early criticism which is surely an overreaction to losing one game. Similar criticism was levelled at Ferguson's men last year after the opening day draw with Newcastle but the season ended pretty well in the end for them I seem to recall. From a fantasy point of view however, United are definitely the weakest they have ever been. The defense has suffered through injuries but should prove to be a top 3 unit when Vidic and co are fit. The midfield is devoid of any stud prospects with Valencia having the talent but not the price tag (8.5m) to be worth considering right now. The arrival of Owen has cost doubt over the value of Berbatov while Rooney doesn't have the past goalscoring heights to be worth 11m.

15:11 Beattie has gone off injured which is a real blow for those using a 3 cheap-striker rotation policy. He will be replaced by Kitson.

15:18 As expected Arsenal and City both take the lead through Diaby and Adebayor respectively. Tevez gets the assist for City while Eduardo nabs it for the Gunners

15:21 Blackburn lead at Sunderland through Givet after a corner from Gamst Pedersen which has been causing the Mackems all kind of problems. At 6.5m he could be worth a look if he continues this form.

15:23 Diaby gets his second of the game and thrusts himself into the minds of fantasy owners across the world. For 5.4m he could be a decent player, and already looks to be more attacking minded than fellow 'holding' players Macherano and Mikel. I think there is a good selection of midfielders in the 5m-6.5m range and the selection of these players could be key in the season's success. Most players will have Lampard, Gerrard or both which will largely cancel everyone else out. It is the selection of the other squad men that will allow you to differentiate your team. I like the potential of Jimenez and Cana but the reliability of a Diaby or Mascherano must not be underestimated.

15:31 Kenwyne Jones opens his account for the season, which I must say I predicted in the weekly preview. I like him and Bent to both top double figures for the season with Jones liable for extra bonus points due to his dominant Drogba like style. Bent is probably the better pick but don't sleep on Jones just yet. Malbranque made it again is should be considered a great pick as he dictates the play for a good team for just 6m.

15:37 Pompey pull one back which will devastate Arsenal defender owners who will have pencilled this one in as a clean sheet. Kaboul has got the goal after leaping over Almunia to head in to the empty net.

15:45 Pretty quiet first half with not too many fantasy points for recognised players around. Congratulations if you have Diaby but hopefully the second halves will improve.

16:08 Free kick from Arshavin turned in by Gallas who gets his third goal in as many games. I am going to do some analysis on Gallas to see if his goal scoring threat is likely to be a trend all season. At 6.5m Arsenal's defense is probably not good enough to make him good value but if he can add goalscoring to his resume then Gallas might be a nice premium defensive option. I am delighted to see Arshavin continue to get the assists as he looks to deliver on my prediction of him joining Lampard and Gerrard in the big three of fantasy football. I have sold him for my team due to the bye week/United/City fixture list but he'll be back in week 6 for the distant future.

16:12 Sunderland in front at the Stadium of Light through Kenwyne Jones for his second of the afternoon. I wish I'd taken my advice and brought the big man in for this one. He is a great option going forward and could be a top 10-15 striker by season end.

16:15 Goal for United through Wayne Rooney who continues his good early season form. Valencia picks up the assist against his former team which was inevitable really. Rooney gets his 100th goal for the Reds and continues to challenge my view that he is overpriced at 11m.

16:16 Koumas almost creates an instant reply crossing to Rodallega whose header is well saved by Foster. And then United counter attack and score their second through Dimitar who gets his first goal in nine games. A bit harsh on Wigan that one.

16:17 Goal at the KC and its gone to Hull, scored by Gilas with the assist from ALTIDORE. I am positively thrilled for the young American who I know has high expectations from his fans back home. He'd only just come on and he makes an instant impact, well done Jozy. Hull haven't won at home in 2009 and this will be a great chance to break that duck.

16:24 United get their third at Wigan with Rooney's shot deflected in but he should receive the credit. Once again, I may have to reconsider whether Rooney is overpriced or not, though after this display his price will surely rise further.

16:26 Arsenal get their fourth through Aaron Ramsey and Wenger's rotation policy is well and truly vindicated. The Gunners' squad is not considered to be one of the best in the league but if players like Ramsey, Song and Vela can step up then Arsenal may be title contenders. Just noticed that Ramsey was on for Fabregas who went off at half time, with the Guardian noting that he has 'picked up a knock'. More info to come when its known.

16:39 City can't kill the game off and this is the kind of game that top four teams pull away in (see United and Arsenal today). If they drop two points they will be devastated and they have no excuses with all that firepower up front. Aside from Adebayor and Ireland none of the other City midfield and forwards looks like viable fantasy options.

16:44 Michael Owen gets United's fourth and his first in competitive games for the reds. Quality finish from the English hitman who needed that after his poor display in midweek. The United front line waters are therefore muddied once again.

16:47 A couple of sides hanging on here, with backs to walls stuff for Hull, Sunderland and even the mighty City. Surely there will be a late goal somewhere, but where will it come? Ricketts almost scored against his old side as the Hull line drops deeper and deeper.

16:51 And the late goal comes at the DW stadium through Nani and the predicted backlash is complete. Perhaps talks of a United crisis were a touch premature. Wigan are still a decent side so don't read too much into this one but it is essential that we work out which United players to pick as this side have goals in them. City have hung on against Wolves after a solid performance from McCarthy's men. City had chances galore but couldn't convert and are another side whose fantasy stars are tough to predict. Its all over at the Stadium of Light and Diet Drogba's brace has secured the three points for the Mackems. Also a predicted, Birmingham-Stoke ends 0-0 so well done if you stuck your sub defenders in for that one.

That ends a decent day of fantasy action and I am pleased with United's clean sheet and delighted with Altidore's assist. Big day's for Kenwyne Jones, Rooney and Diaby while Arsenal underline their strength and depth by winning 4-1 with a weakened side. I'll be back later with a wrap up and analysis of today's action and then tomorrow with another three games worth of action.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gameweek 3 Preview

The games are coming thick and fast and there's hardly time to catch your breath before gameweek 3 which kicks off with 6 games at 3pm on Saturday including the Champions looking to bounce back at Wigan from their midweek loss at Turf Moor, as well as the mouth watering prospect of Arsenal at home to struggling Portsmouth. My team is still stuck in midtable in the blog league with Rodi O'Leary still at the top with Sepp Graham top scoring for the week with a solid 68 pointer.

The early team news is starting to come in so I'll run through the week's fixtures with further updates to come on Friday night/Saturday morning as more news comes in.

Arsenal v Portsmouth
The Gunners have started the season with two wins that were each impressive for different reasons. Portsmouth on the other hand have suffered two 1-0 defeats and have off field financial troubles hanging over them like the proverbial sword of Damocles. The fantasy star for the Gunners so far has been Fabregas (10.6m) (much to my delight) who has reminded us all (including me) that he should at least be in the conversation along with Gerrard and Lampard for the league's top fantasy scorer. His incredible 22 points haul in week 1 included 2 goals, 2 assist and 3 bonus points and his chalkboard shows that he hit 31 of his 34 passes. I like him and Arshavin (11m) - who is yet to lose in an Arsenal shirt - this week particularly, as the likes of Mokoena (4.5m) and Mullins (4.5m) won't be able to run with this pair all day. At the back Arsenal's defense looks like a great play due to Pompey's lack of goals this term. Vermaelen (6.5m) and Gallas (6.5m) both scored in week 1, with Gallas adding another midweek against Celtic. Sagna (6.5m) had four and Clichy (6.5m) had three crosses into the Everton box so each has decent assist potential. Van Persie (10m) is also a good play this week as he looks to open his account for the year, having added 2 assists last week. As a potential bargain, Song (5.5m) is listed as a defender but has lined up in midfield in both games this season. If this continues he will jump to the front of the holding midfielder line (Mascherano, Mikel, Neville, Kompany etc) due to his ability to pick up clean sheets.
Pompey meanwhile provide very few fantasy options, especially this week against a strong Arsenal side. With no goals to date, neither the attackers nor defenders can be trusted and you should stay away for now.

Possible Teams:
Arsenal: Almunia, Clichy, Vermaelen, Gallas, Sagna, Denilson, Fabregas, Song, Arshavin, Van Persie, Bendtner
Portsmouth: James, Kaboul, Distin, Wilson, Vanden Borre, Kranjcar, Mokoena, Diop, Mullins, Belhadj, Piquionne

Birmingham v Stoke
Birmingham have played okay in both their games so far and for 4m goalkeeper Hart and defender Carr look like good value again this week. Seb Larrson (5m) picked up the assist on Wednesday and remains a great rotation player, who should probably be activated this week. Jerome is still the best 4.5m option around and McFadden's penalty taking duties give him some value at 5m.
Stoke have looked good (vs Burnley) and bad (vs Liverpool) following last season's trend where they were great at home and awful on their travels. Birmingham is not a daunting trip in itself but with 16 goals for and 40 goals against last year, and a 4-0 loss to their name this year Stoke just aren't very good away from the Brittania. Keep you're defenders active as I can see 0-0 being a possibility here.

Possible Teams:
Birmingham: Hart, Quedrue, Vignal, Johnson, Carr, Larsson, Ferguson, Fahey, O'Connor, Jerome, McFadden
Stoke: Sorensen, Higginbotham, Shawcross, Faye, Wilkinson, Etherington, Whitehead, Delap, Lawrence, Beattie, Fuller

Hull v Bolton
The big news for the Tigers is that Jozy Altidore is set to make his debut, according to both his Twitter account and the AFP. After two poor performances to date, the Tigers probably need a defensive upgrade more but hopefully Jozy can provide a spark. The rest of the side look to be fit with the exception of Marney and so the only change could be Altidore for Folan. Bolton at home is a decent looking fixture for the Hull defenders but after shipping 7 goals in 2 games I cannot recommend any of them unless your squad is depleted. Altidore (5m) and Hunt (5m) are good plays and Mendy (4.5m) might be a decent bargain sub if you need one.
Davies's (6.9m) has fallen in value which after one game is a bit harsh. This is the kind of game he will thrive in and I would back the striker to get on the scoresheet if you still hold him. At 4.5m Muamba is a good sub option as is the whole Bolton defense, particularly Ricketts (4m) who is going back to his former club. I would advise not bringing him in though if you don't already own him as Steinsson is due back from injury in the near future.

Possible Teams: Myhill, Mouyokolo, Turner, Gardner, Dawson, Mendy, Boateng, Olofinjana, Hunt, Geovanni, Altidore
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Robinson, Knight, Cahill, Ricketts, McCann, Davis, Muamba, Taylor, Davies, Elmander

Man City v Wolves
A real opportunity here for City to stamp their authority on the league as the face a promoted side with injury issues, although they did get a valuable win in midweek against Wigan. Adebayor (10m) and Robinho (9.4m) are doubts are therefore look like expensive risks. I'd either swap them for Tevez (8.5m) of go in a different direction with Van Persie or Defoe. The City defense looks like a great play as without Ebanks-Blake and Kevin Doyle, the Wolves attack looks a bit light. So long as Dunne (5m) remains in the team he remains the value pick, but long term I like Bridge (5.5m) to present the best value. Ireland (9m) remains a great premium midfielder and if Wright Phillips (8m) can replicate last week's form he too looks like a good bet. Note that Petrov (6.9m) played and scored in midweek at the Nou Camp and could therefore generate some interest from Hughes for this one. Barry's (8m) holding role makes him overvalued and not worth considering.
The Wolves defense have done okay in the opening games, getting a clean sheet in midweek against Wigan. This is a different story though and you should avoid this fixture unless you have absolutely no other options. Milijas (6m) has done well so far and might be the best bet for Wolves in this one with the rest of the team looking uninspiring.

Possible Teams:
Man City: Given, Bridge, Toure, Dunne, Richards, Barry, Ireland, Shaun Wright Phillips, Petrov, Bellamy, Tevez
Wolves: Hennessey, Stearman, Mancienne, Craddock, Ward, Halford, Henry, Jarvis, Milijas, Edwards, Keogh

Sunderland v Blackburn
This looks like a good game which will give us an indication on how good these two improving teams are. I really like the looks of Sunderland this year, at least when Malbranque and Richardson playing anyway. That doesn't look likely this week as Malbranque looks set to miss out on the second straight game and should be replaced by Henderson again. BBC and Sky Sports both suggest that Cana will play through the pain barrier after fracturing his hand though Cattermole is going to be subject to the dreaded last minute fitness test. The pair of Jones (7m) and bent (7.1m) both look good this week and I like Diet Drogba (Jones) to open his account for the year.
Blackburn get captain Nelsen (4.5m) back who I think is a great buy for future who will be guaranteed minutes in a decent back line. A clean sheet this week will be tough though and better options might be found elsewhere. Allardyce is a fan on N'Zonzi (4.5m) but the whole midfield looks devoid of fantasy options and until new arrival Kalinic (6.4m) proves his fitness, the front line doesn't look much better.

Possible Teams:
Sunderland: Fulop, McCartney, Ferdinand, Collins, Bardsley, Henderson, Cana, Cattermole, Richardson, Jones, Bent
Blackburn: Robinson, Givet, Nelsen, Samba, Jacobsen, Warnock, Andrews, N'Zonzi, Diouf, Gamst Pedersen, Roberts

Wigan v Man Utd
Wigan has the unenviable task of meeting the Champions after an embarrassing performance and result midweek against newly promoted Burnley. The good news is that the Wigan side is a full strength aside from N'Zogbia who is rated as 50-50. They are not a great play this week though and I think Martinez might get a tough reminder on how good the Premier League is. With a weakened defense, United might be more susceptible to goals and so Rodallega (6.6) and Koumas (5.1m) might be decent plays.
Ferguson's defensive woes are eased by the probable availability of Vidic, though Ferdinand is now out for a further month, and Evans' fitness is still not certain. Evra (6.5m) is the safest pick of the week and is good value, especially in light of the time spent in the opposition half. O'Shea (5.5m) also looks value this week as he will almost certainly figure in Ferguson's play one way or another. Valencia (8.5m) will be looking to put in a good performance against his old side while the rest of the midfield looks weak at the moment. Up front Rooney (11m) is the form player, though after Owen's poor performance against Burnley I think we can assume Berbatov (9.9m) will be seeing plenty of action in the coming weeks.

Possible Teams:
Wigan: Kirkland, Figueroa, Bramble, Scharner, Melchiot, Gomez, Thomas, Brown, Koumas, Watson, Rodallega
Man Utd: Foster, Evra, Vidic, Brown, O'Shea, Giggs, Anderson, Carrick, Valencia, Rooney, Berbatov

West Ham v Tottenham
This one could be entertaining and I wouldn't be surprised to see a few goals. Tottenham's defense is not the same on the road and the likes of Cole (7m) and Jimenez (5m) could take advantage. I don't like either defense here and better options can certainly be had elsewhere. On fire Defoe (8.6m) has a great chance to continue his good form and if he does expect to see his price rocket to 9m within a week or two. I still like Modric (7.6m) despite his lack of action in the Hull victory and Lennon (7.5m) has also become a legitimate every week starter. I am intrigued by the prospect of Huddleston (5m) who seems to be established as an every week starter and has been orchestrating the play ala Xabi Alonso in the opening weeks.
Ilunga will definately miss our for West Ham according to the Mail, while King looks set to retake his place in the back four for Spurs after sitting out the Hull game. Gomes also looks set to miss the game with Cudicini stepping in. After the impressive 5-1 performance midweek it is unliekly that Redknapp will rotate Keane, so expect Crouch to miss out once more.

Possible Teams:
West Ham: Green, Spector, Collins, Upson, Faubert, Collison, Noble, Parker, Dyer, Jimenez, Cole
Tottenham: Cudicini, Assou Ekotto, Bassong, King, Corluka, Modric, Huddlestone, Palacios, Lennon, Defoe, Keane

Burnley v Everton
Burnley will look to build on what must have been one of the biggest wins in their history on Wednesday, and have no new injuries so should name an unchanged side. However, despite the incredible defeat of United, the team does not have any every week fantasy players and should only be considered for substitutes. That being said, if you do have any subs they might be worth rotating in this week such is the state of Everton's team. Carlisle (4m) is their best defender in my eyes and so gets a slight advantage in that he could pick up the odd bonus point.
Everton are still without Arteta, Jagielka and Yakubu though Lescott should be recalled having been dropped for the Europe League game. Cahill (8.5m) is a good option here and should be at the centre of everything Everton do. The Everton defense is probably too risky based on their poor start though Hibbert (5.5m) is probably good value. I think Saha (7m) will get the start up front having scored twice in midweek and is a decent option for those using mid range strikers.

Possible Teams:
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan, Alexander, Elliot, McCann, Blake, Fletcher, Paterson
Everton: Howard. Baines, Lescott, Yobo, Hibbert, Osman, Neville, Fellaini, Pienaar, Cahill, Saha

Fulham v Chelsea
Tough game for both sides which probably won't yield too many fantasy points. Its likely to have 1 or 2 goals so clean sheets may be available, with Chelsea of course the favourite to keep the opposition out. Fulham are that good at home though that I would not bench them unless you have a strong bench player, though I wouldn't be transferring them in this week. Chelsea's Cole (7m) is the safest bet at the back though Carvalho (7m) should return having sat out for Ivanovic for the Hull game. In midfield, Essien (7.5m) and Lampard (12.5m) are the only safe options and even Lampard probably doesn't warrant your captaincy in this tough fixture. Drogba (10.6) and Anelka (10.4m) are still obviously worth playing but don't expect fireworks, and more than the odd goal. Andy Johnson is out for up to 5 weeks and so you should look to move the journeyman on if you still hold him.

Possible Teams:
Fulham: Schwarzer, Konchesky, Hangeland, Hughes, Pantsil, Duff, Murphy, Dempsey, Gera, Zamora, Nevland
Chelsea: Cech, Cole, Terry, Carvalho, Bosingwa, Essien, Malouda, Ballack, Lampard, Drogba, Anelka

Liverpool v Aston Villa
Villa have been very poor to open the season and Benitez will fancy his side to build on the 4-0 victory over Stoke in midweek. Torres and Gerrard have hit the ground running and are both armband worthy this week. Benayoun (7.5m) is clearly better than Babel (7m) and Riera (6.9m) at this point and should feature on a weekly basis. The Liverpool defense is also a good play though with Agger out and Skrtel still listed as a doubt it is hard to know who will partner Carragher. Insua (6m) is probably the value pick once more while Johnson (7.5m) suggested against Stoke that he is the best premium defender around at the moment. Ayala (4.5m) could be worth a flyer but with Krygiakos due any day that would certainly be risky.
Villa are not a good source of fantasy players right now as you are paying top 6 prices for a bottom 6 team. After Fulham next week the fixtures get a bit easier so its perhaps hasty to sell everyone now but all but Young and Agbonlahor should be benched this week.

Possible Teams:
Liverpool: Reina, Insua, Carragher, Ayala, Johnson, Benayoun, Mascherano, Lucas, Gerrard, Kuyt, Torres
Aston Villa: Friedel, Shorey, Davies, Cueller, Beye, Young, Petrov, Delph, Milner, Agbonlahor, Heskey

The writing's on the chalkboard

My favourite new tool for evaluating player performance is the Guardian's new chalkboard function which allows you to monitor all the passes, shots, tackles and free kicks made by any player, in any game in the Premier League in the last 4 seasons (updated within hours of any games this season). This allows you to see how a player is performing when you can't see the game and whether he is getting goalscoring opportunities and is playing in the right part of the field.

For example, if you are choosing between two centre backs and you can see that one had 2 headers per game in the opposition box and the other had six, then it is clear that the team is game planning to get the ball to that defender (like Laursen last year) and he is therefore more likely to score. Equally, if a midfield player (say, Jon Obi Mikel) plays 90% of his passes in and around the centre circle, he is unlikely to ever contribute more than performance points and clean sheets.

Modric v Lennon

Having only seen the highlights of the Hull-Tottenham game, I was worried by the lack of points from Modric, who failed to get a single assist or goal despite Spurs notching 5 at the KC Stadium. I am a big fan of Modric and agree with Redknapp's assessment that he could get into any team in the league. However, this does not equate to fantasy points so I decided to look at the stats. Below are the passes attempted by Modric (left) and Lennon (right) with blue being successful and red being unsuccessful passes:

While the pass completion rate is exactly the same for both players, there is a clear difference between the successful passes played into the danger zone (ie the box) by Lennon and Modric. Modric didn't have a single completed pass beyond the 18 yard line, and was absent from most of Spurs' counter attacks throughout the game. This is a troubling from a fantasy perspective as if you don't play forward and up with Spurs fast paced breaks, you aren't likely to contribute too many fantasy points.

In the previous game against Liverpool Modric was more successful, contributing an assist to Bassong, along with a number of passes into the danger zone so we should not therefore panic but should definitely monitor this situation in the two coming games against West Ham (A) and Birmingham (H) before they get United (H) and Chelsea (A). Modric is owned by twice as many players as Lennon (14% vs 7%) and so Lennon could provide good value as a differentiator if Modric turns out to be a disappointment.

Andrey Arshavin
As an Arshavin owner I was worried about Arshavin's lack of production in the 6-1 destruction of Everton, only notching an assist and one bonus point. I have therefore gone to the chalkboard to see if he was playing too deep and too far out of the play to gain substantial fantasy tips, which I have tipped in previous posts. His passes (left) and shots (right) are shown below:

The lack of shots do not settle my nerves, as he only had 2 of Arsenal's 18 shots, both of which were blocked. However, his passes look very interesting with double digit passes into the danger zone and plenty of action in and around the box. Also, his 46 touches are well ahead of Fabregas (34), Van Persie (26) and Bendtner (21) which will allow him to put himself in the window for bonus points. His midweek performance against Celtic was a joy to behold, as commented on in the Mail this week and I think more is to come from the Russian maestro.

Patrice Evra
Last year I was a bit disappointed with the French fullback who registered an unspectacular 106 points (.610 PPMS) with only 6 of these from non-defensive means. Although yet to score or get an assist (United have after all only scored once) he did get 2 bonus points against Birmingham and the two diagrams below show how heavily he was involved in United's attacks against Birmingham (left) and Burnley (right):

Evra has had significantly more touches than O'Shea on the right and the passes made up near the opposition box demonstrate that he has been given a long leash by Ferguson and should start to contribute offensive points soon. He came very close yesterday against Burnley after being taken down for the penalty which was duly missed by Michael Carrick, thus losing 3 points for Evra. The exemplary passing shown against Birmingham show that the pundits were correct to award him the bonus points and hopefully this form will continue in the future. The clean sheets should also start to come as Vidic and Ferdinand return from injury in the next couple of weeks.

Let me know what you guys think of this tool and if you want to see more analysis using it in the future. While not fantasy focused, I think it will give great indications of future points flow and allow us to follow the stats to points rather than chasing points based on one off events. As always, you can follow me on Twitter, and I encourage you to join the blog league (see box on the right) which has gotten off to a good start so far.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The sharp edge of the Diamond

After week 1, fantasy fans were happy with Ancelotti for providing them two premier strike options up front, as well as pushing Lampard into a more advanced role, with Drogba benefiting the most with his brace against Hull. However, after week 2, many will have a different opinion with Ancelotti having no place in the side for Anelka (Kalou), Malouda (Deco) or Carvalho (Ivanovic). I have questioned the long term value of Malouda before due to the potential to rotate him for Deco, Zhirkov or Cole but I expected Anelka and Carvlaho to be all but guaranteed a weekly spot. Ancelotti explained,

"I changed the team because I trust my players and I wanted to rest some. I know we have quality in the other players and I want to use them and keep them all fresh."

This is not good news for fantasy fans and I have downgraded the aforementioned players due to the fact that (a) they might be rotated and (b) they are likely to come off the bench, hence preventing your sub from coming in. Cech, Cole (at least until Zhirkov returns), Terry, Essien, Lampard and Drogba are all probably unlikely to be dropped any time soon so I would not change their value yet. Whether the Chelsea defense has taken a step back (having conceded in both games) is another issue and must be monitored closely in the coming weeks against Fulham, Burnley and Stoke.

This latest episode shows the value of finding 'undroppable players' and that weekly starts for stars like Anelka are, unlike diamonds, not forever.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gameweek 2 Preview

Only 6 games for this midweek treat, with the deadline coming at 19:30 BST tonight. I will run through the games and team news now and will be tweeting any breaking injury news right up until the deadline.

Sunderland v Chelsea

Richardson (6m) and Malbranque (6m) are both a doubt for this one though the Telegraph suggest that Bruce will be able to name an unchanged side. The Guardian meanwhile suggest that Malbranque (ankle) is a bigger doubt with Richardson looking more likely to shake off his dead leg. So long as you have someone on your bench to bring in, I'd play these guys and allow auto sub to work its magic if they don't make it. Chelsea isn't an easy game but Hull showed they are not invincible and Sunderland could get a goal here.

One to watch: I am very excited by the prospects of Lorik Cana and will be interested to see how he competes against a world class midfield. I can't see loads of fantasy points for the Mackems but a good performance will let us know they are for real going forward.

Chelsea should be as you were though Zhirkov, Alex, Cole and Ferreira are all approaching full fitness which will finally allow us to see who the first choice left winger really is. After Mikel's struggles on the weekend, don't be surprised to see Essien in the holding role with Ballack taking his place on the right.

One to watch: Lampard isn't normally kept quiet for two games and I think he will get an assist or a goal in this one. Cana and Cattermole will be tested to the max with so much traffic being forced down the middle of the field.

Wigan v Wolves Wigan
The only real headache for Martinez is the status of Charles N'Zogbia who picked up a knock against Villa and will be a late fitness decision. As with the Sunderland boys above, play N'Zogbia if you have any bench players left as this looks like a real opportunity for Martinez's team to stamp their authority on the league and follow up Saturday's impressive win at Villa. Rodallega looks like a good play again, as does Koumas who looks like he will pulling the strings for the Latics.

One to watch: Jason Koumas is instrumental in most things Wigan do well and when fit he can be a great fantasy player. At 5.1m he could be one the best bargains around.

Mick McCarthy has described his side's treatment room as 'emergency ward 10' and fresh injuries to Ebanks Blake and Foley will not help Wolves' cause. Ward, Halford and Jarvis should make kick off though, according to the Guardian. Without Ebanks Blake and Doyle, Wolves are going to struggle to score and the value of Milijas is therefore reduced. I would back off the Midlanders for a couple of weeks as Saturday's trip to Eastlands is unlikely to hold much reward either.

One to watch: Milijas looked useful in week 1, threatening the goal on three separate occasions. With a weakened strikeforce in front of him, he will struggle to find space but could still make an impact.

Birmingham v Portsmouth

No fresh doubts for McLeish, who saw his side battle well at Old Trafford but ultimately come home with nothing. They have a good chance to grab their first points of the season, as Portsmouth are a fairly week side and struggled on the road last year, scoring just 12 goals in 19 games. Piquionne looked okay on debut but you have to fancy a low scoring affair here and Birmingham defenders could be a nice addition for those whose squad is depleted by the bye weeks. At 4m Steve Carr looks to be particularly good value.

One to watch: Sebastien Larsson was fairly quiet last week but against a weaker side the former Arsenal man should have more time and space to make a difference.

The Telegraph have an interesting take on the Portsmouth team, suggesting that they will only field 10 men! I think an unchanged side is more likely, with Sportbox reporting that Hreidersson and Finnan will not be ready for kick off. If for some reason you hold a Portsmouth defender its worth keeping them in, and Piquionne and Kranjcar are decent but not great options for this week.

One to watch: Piquionne looks like he could be a good capture for Portsmouth and it will be interesting to see how he fairs against easier opposition than Fulham.

Burnley v Man Utd

Owen Coyle doesn't have any further injury worries, though Steve Caldwell is unlikely to be fit in time for kick off. With the champions coming to town though, no Burnley players are good plays this week and unless you are desperate I'd stay away. If you are desperate then Paterson at 5m might just be worth a shot against United's depleted defense.

Man Utd
Wes Brown (6m) returns for United, though Ferdinand and Evans are now out, and they join Vidic, Neville and Rafael on the sidelines. The back four should therefore be Evra, Brown, O'Shea and Fabio which means plenty of bargains can be found. At 5m, Fabio is tremendous value and will be great replacement for all the Fulham, Everton or Villa defenders you have in your side.
The Telegraph think that Scholes will start in place of Carrick, while Sporting Life suggest Carrick will make his first start of the season. I'd be fairly comfortable starting Carrick for this one and beyond. Rooney is a streaky striker and in all of last season he only scored one goal in a stand alone game, following up with at least one more in all other games. He is therefore a great bet for this week, and might be the best captain around for the week.

One to watch: Rooney is a great bet to score and he is a bonus magnet meaning he could net you another 8 points or so.

Hull v Tottenham

The Tigers should be unchanged as it seems that Altidore will not have his work permit sorted in time for the game. They played fairly well against Chelsea and should be able to give Spurs some problems. None of their team look like great fantasy producers though Stephen Hunt could be a decent bet to build on his good debut last week.

One to watch: Stephen Hunt scored on his debut and looked lively until being substituted. He will look to build on that performance and could be worth a look for 5m.

Ledley King will miss out here as he can't play more than once a week with his dodgy knee. The Telegraph suggest that Corluka will be the man to replace him, with Hutton sliding in at right back. The defense is probably good value, with goalscoring pair Bassong and Assou Ekotto likely to be widely picked up. Of the pair, Assou Ekotto will probably have more time in the opposition half and therefore provide more offensive points.
Crouch might start this one but I would stay away from him and Keane until Redknapp shows his hand on who he likes best. Defoe looks to be good value and with all the byes, is one of the best strike options available. In midfield Modric and Lennon both looked good at the weekend, with Modric certainly given the keys to this team.

One to watch: Jermaine Defoe normally does well against the weaker sides and I can see a goal or two tomorrow night for the pacey Englishman.

Liverpool v Stoke

Benitez's side have to bounce back in this one so look for a captain's performance from Gerrard to lift his team at home. Skrtel is out with a cracked jaw, so Agger should step in at the back. The rest of the team looks to be unchanged though Riera could replace Babel who was ineffective against Spurs. Torres looks like a great play this week, as does the aforementioned Gerrard. Insua is great value one again, while Kuyt may be the man to bring in for those wishing to move Young, Arshavin or Cesc for the week.

One to watch: Fernando Torres could very easily open his account tomorrow night

Stoke are a good side now but struggled on the road last year, conceding the most goals of any side not relegated (40). They should field an unchanged side, though it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Pulis throw in an extra midfielder to try and restrict Gerrard's influence. A trip to Anfield is not good news for fantasy players and recommend any of them for the week. Delap's long throws can cause any defense chaos and so he might be the pick to get a sneaky assist.

One to watch: Rory Delap is back again with his long bombs and should test the Liverpool defense which will be made up of three men largely untested at Anfield (Agger, Insua and Johnson).

Stay tuned to Twitter for the latest injury news which I will update right until deadline time.