Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gunning for answers

It seems sometimes that Arsene Wenger's side are polarising in the Premier League despite being, for me, the second most enjoyable side in the world to watch (after European Champions Barcelona). Fans of the other big four sides mock their lack of trophies and others call them underachievers or even cheats. Whatever their merits, they have been in sublime goal scoring form this year (17 goals in 5 games) and their upcoming fixtures look promising. A few questions have been posed over where we should rate Cesc and company and who looks likely to play in the coming weeks, so lets have an in-depth look at their team and what we can expect over the next few weeks.

Who will play in Wenger's best eleven?
It appears that eight spots are pretty much locked down, and will be occupied by the same players barring injury or the occasional rest. These are Almunia (6.0), Clichy (6.3), Gallas (6.6), Vermaelen (6.7) and Sagna (6.3) at the back; Fabregas (10.6) in midfield and Arshavin (10.7) and Van Persie (10.0) in the front three.

The front spot is likely to be occupied by either Eduardo (7.9) or Walcott (7.8) (which would mean shifting Van Persie into the middle). Due to rotation potential I think that as soon as Walcott returns, this pair, along with Bendtner (6.3) become overpriced due to the inability to rely on their appearances. The midfield is even more crowded with Denilson (7.0), Diaby (5.8), Eboue (5.4), Rosicky (6.9), Ramsey (5.0), Song (5.5) and Nasri (7.9) all competing for two places.

All these players except for Walcott, Nasri and Rosicky were available for the 4-1 victory over Portsmouth when Wenger opted for Diaby and Denilson to play alongside Fabregas. I would think that Diaby will be replaced by Rosicky in home games, with Song coming in to add extra defensive bite on the road (as he did in the losses to City and United).

Who do Arsenal play in the next few gameweeks?
In the next 8 weeks Arsenal face trips to Fulham, West Ham, Wolves and Sunderland and have homes game against Blackburn, Birmingham, Tottenham and Chelsea. On a rolling basis over the last 38 games, only Chelsea ranks as a red light defensive game with the other 7 opponents averaging just 1.16 goals per game. Offensively, again it is only Chelsea who rank as a red light opponent (conceding 0.67 GPG) with other opponents conceding 1.74 GPG. Over this period, only Spurs have a better schedule and it is therefore advisable to get at least one Arsenal player in your lineup as soon as possible.

Player Tips
Defense - It simply has to be Thomas Vermaelen who has made a sensational start to his Arsenal career. 3 goals, an assist and 2 bonus points have concealed his lack of clean sheets, the first of which did not come until last week. However, with this schedule one would expect to see at least three or four more in the coming weeks along with another offensive contribution or two. This sort of production should be enough to justify his lofty price tag, especially when you consider the 0.1-0.2m you should make as his price inevitably hits 7m in the next week or so.
It might also be worth tracking Sagna whose chalkboard shows offensive involvement beyond his stats so far this year. While I am not currently a fan of the 6m+ defenders, you can do much worse than Sagna who is available at a cut price due to Arsenal's initial defensive woes.

Midfield - Cesc Fabregas should be considered alongside other premium midfielders, perhaps even in the league of Gerrard and Lampard in terms of value (if not pure points production.) Look at the stats so far this year:
  • Lampard - 12.5m, 40 points, 6.67 PPG, 0.533 PPMS
  • Gerrard - 12.6m, 39 points, 6.5 PPG, 0.516 PPMS
  • Fabregas - 10.6m, 36 points, 9.0 PPG, 0.849 PPMS
  • Kuyt - 9.6m, 36 points, 6.0 PPG, 0.625 PPMS
Fabregas has more goals than Lampard and Gerrard and only one less assist. The only real differentiator is Lampard's bonus total (8 vs 3) but this seems insufficient to justify an extra 2m of expenditure. At last season's rate (which is largely continued this year) Lampard would earn around 50 bonus points to Fabregas' 35 if they both played in all 38 games. That 12 points comes at a PPMS of 0.158 unless Lampard can significantly outperform Fabregas in another area.

Granted, Lampard/Gerrard will likely end the season with more goals than Fabregas but with 3 in the bag already how far can they possibly beat him by? Even conservative estimates would put Cesc at double digits meaning Lampard/Gerrard would need to eclipse the 15 goal mark for the year, which has only been done once in the combined last 6 seasons by the English pair, in order to justify the extra 2m.

With the top strikers proving so much better than everyone else (excluding Defoe and Bent) that extra 2m is absolutely vital and could prove the difference between a John Carew and an Emmanuel Adebayor or a Dimitar Berbatov and a Fernando Torres.

In conclusion, Fabregas sits in a second tier of midfielders (along with Kuyt and possibly Arshavin) that deliver 90c on the dollar to their expensive brothers in the top category. No such plateau exists for strikers. Excluding Defoe and Bent's hot start to the season you basically get what you pay for, and if you want to compete, you better have a couple of top 6 strikers.

Forwards - I touched on the need to spend big on strikers above, and to wrap this piece up I will focus on another underrated player who should be considered alongside the elite at his position - Robin Van Persie. Van Persie had a disappointing season last year, right? Well, no, not really. If he had scored at the rate he did for 38 games he would have scored 17 goals and notched 225 fantasy points. I concede that staying healthy is a big if, but that's the beauty of fantasy league - we don't really care about a whole season, only small blocks - such as the next 8 games. Van Persie has started slow in the scoring column this year with just 1 in 5 but with 4 assists and 7 bonus points, the Dutchman's production has been solid (.640 PPMS). His 23 shots to date are also encouraging, as is his concession that he needs to be more clinical. Penalty duties should also help boost the goal tally a bit this year. Of the big 6 strikers I would back Van Persie to deliver the best value over the next 8 weeks and as the cheapest of the bunch this should allow flexibility elsewhere in your lineup.

As always thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you all as to your views on Arsenal's fortunes for the coming weeks. Please post below or tweet your thoughts.


NotoriousDre said...

good write up chris

im already on board with big "V"

question though,

who to replace Didier this weekend. Chelsea is planning on resting him against Wigan.

Do i spend the extra money on Torres or go with Anelka, Bent or even RVP?

Otis said...

Great stuff as always.

I'd like to ask your opinion about my wildcard play. I made up a list of players last week, and I planned to use ie this week. They are:

Jensen, Sorenson
Vermaelen, Vidic, Faye Ab, Shawcross, Assou Ekotto
Benayoun, Hunt, Koumas, Jarvis,
Torres, Bent, Rooney

Of course, your opinion in general would be appreciated, but my specific questions are:

1. Who should my other midfielder be?
I was looking at Lennon, SWP, and A Young.


2. Does it make sense to buy Vermaelen right away? I usually wait until late in the week to make changes to avoid injury surprises. I'm a little disappointed that I knew I wanted him last week, and he had a great game. If I use my wildcard, does it negate my free transfer? Does the transfer get saved for the next week if one use one's wildcard?

Thanks again.

NotoriousDre said...

u look the transfer i believe

re midfielder;

also Tottenham has the easier of the schedule...see Chris' Gameweek 6 preview

Chris Glover said...

Dre - really struggling with this one myself. I really like Drogba going forward so I am not keen on spending two transfers to move him for one week. Wilkins even suggested he might play on Saturday, though more likely he is rested until the Liverpool game.
- Torres home to Hull might justify the transfers but then you'd need to move again before the Chelsea match.
- Rooney has decent fixtures though Stoke away will be tricky.
- Defoe has dynamite fixtures (Bur, @Bol) and might be a good value pickup.
- RvP fixtures are also good and as Ive said earlier I like him alot right now.
- Anelka is a decent shout and a natural replacement for Drogba.
- Bent looks good this week but the following week they play United and so he is only really a one week option.

I would either (a) bench him and just accept it for a week or (b) bring in Defoe or RvP based on their value for the next 3 weeks (you really want Drogba by week 10).

Bojan said...

Hart, Sorenson
Vermalen, Richards, Dunne, Collins, Faye Ab
Hunt, Lennon, Milner, Kuyt, Arshavin
Defoe, Van Persie, Keogh
this is going to be my team after using a wildcard, just one question, arshavin-fabregas?

Chris Glover said...

Otis - thanks for posting, your input is always valued. Firstly, if you use your wildcard you lose the free transfer and it does not carry over to next. I was unsure of this myself but having used my wildcard I can confirm that I only have one freebie this week.
The team looks very good so far.

I like all three of your proposed mids, though I went for SWP in my team which shows who I like the best. Ash Young's loss of penalty duties hurts him a little while Lennon and SWP have equally good fixtures. I think both these picks are equally good though SWP is owned by alot less people (25% vs 8%) so it depends how agressive you want to be and whether you need to make up points on anyone.

If you're using the wildcard pull the trigger now as his price might rise again if you wait. You get unlimited transfers for the whole week so you could always move him on again if he picked up a freak injury.

Chris Glover said...

Bojan, now that their prices have converged I would go Cesc now and then switch to Arshavin providing you keep 0.1 in the bank. He is close to fitness but with Arsenal's new found depth he find find himself on the bench for a week or two while he regains his match fitness.

Great looking team by the way. 5 quality mids and 2 premium strikers is a very nice balance.

Bojan said...
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Bojan said...

i will go with fabregas for now and when arshavin is fit to play i will get him, i was thinkig of repacing van presie with adebayor after suspension...tell me what do you think about heitinga and duff(it looks like he is in a good form)

Chris Glover said...

Bojan - Good call with Fabregas, I might do the same when Arshavin is back. Van Persie/Adebayor is a coin flip and you can definately make a case for making that switch. I like Van Persie's fixtures for now City are playing pretty weel right now.

Heitinga is probably a good signing for Everton but I think he is overvalued for fantasy. Baines takes penalties and gets assists for 6.3m and Distin should play most games for 4.9m. Unless Heitinga somehow develops into a genuine goal threat (eg Laursen 2007-2008) he looks overpriced to me.

At 5.5 I like but don't love Duff, and would probably go with Koumas, Hunt and even Jarvis ahead of him, and Fulham have a tough few games. After that however he could be a decent differentiator, especially when Fulham play twice in week 13.

Otis said...

Thanks for the advice everyone. It looks like with price rises, my proposed team was more expensive than I could afford.

I picked up most of them. I switched Assou Ekotto out for Collins. Now I have another decision to make.

I can go with Vidic and one of the "Three Amigos" (Lennon, SWP, A Young). I can swap Vidic for Cashley Cole (I'm not a big fan, but he gets points). Or I can choose a Tottenham defender and splurge on Fabregas. What do you all think?

Chris Glover said...

I'm actually leaning towards Rooney now to replace Drogba for three weeks. Stoke away is tough but Sunderland and Bolton at home look like containing goals. Rooney ALWAYS murders Bolton.

Otis said...

I'm a big fan of Rooney right now. This is his season. With C.Ronaldo gone, Rooney is stepping in to fill the void. Berba is the man to set him up, and with Owen only netting his first goal last weekend (though it was a big one), he has yet to challenge either forward for a spot. Once he does settle in, he'll probably be partnered with Rooney, as I can't see Rooney on the bench under any but the most dire circumstances. We'll have to wait and see what Owen and Macheda do today in Carling Cup play, but I say go for

I think I'm leaning towards choosing Fabregas and either Bassong or Assou-Ekotto. Any thoughts?

Chris Glover said...

Otis, I definately feel that Vidic is overpriced as United are just not the same force at the back they were last year. When the whole back five strings some games together perhaps they improve but until then I am not interested for 8m.

I would personally opt for Cesc and Assou Ekotto (as indeed I have in my team) but Cole and one of the others is also a nice choice. Spurs' dynamite fixtures might lead me towards Lennon of the three but I still like SWP alot and Young is always solid.

Final choices would probably be:

1. Cesc /Assou Ekotto
2. Lennon / Cole
3. SWP / Cole

Otis said...
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Otis said...
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Bojan said...

what is the best choice?
Drogba and Van Persie
Drogba and Defoe
Defoe and Van Persie

Otis said...

Alright. Now let's see some points from Fabregas... lots of them.

Thanks for the guidance Chris, and everyone else. If I can just have a big gameweek 7, I'll be happy.

On a different note, there are some cool stats here:

Sky Sports - The Drawing Drought

Notably the number of goalscorers per team (Arsenal lead with ten), and the goalkeeping records. Clearly it was hard for me to give up Friedel, but I think my funds have been better spent elsewhere.

Thanks again. I'm excited to read your next post.

Chris said...

I know this is out of context, but I was wondering if you could make an article of players that you have observed that are 'out of position' or 'misplaced' e.g A midfielder that is listed as a defender or a striker listed as a midfielder.

That would be a ton of help, and should have some thought provoking discussion

Chris Glover said...

Bojan - long term it has to be Drogba and Van Persie for me. This week i would go with Defoe and RvP due to uncertainty of Drogba's calf.

Bojan said...

tnx, i do not know if drogba will be fit for the wigan game, this is on the chelsea site

dhs_media_ssharp said...

Alright chris, i know this isn't related to this artical but iv got a question. who would you field this week.. Pienaar or Bilyaletdinov?

Im an everton fan, been to nearly every game this season but i can't make my mind up.

Pienaar is playing in a more central role lately which has resulted in him getting more shots on goal/goals.

Bily plays on the left wing, takes corners, a lot of free kicks and has got 4 assists in 2 games (euro & league cup).

Atm im leaning towards Pienaar as he is more likely to start on saturday but Bily's played so well that he might be in contention. What do you think?

Chris Glover said...

Dhs - thanks for posting. Both these players are on my radar due to their form and fixtures. For now I would go with pienaar as I've been burned before by jumping on players too early before they establish themselves in the first team.

You'll know better than me but I hear Bily's set pieces are dynamite which could be valuable with arteta still sidelined. I'm not willing to surrender 6.5 yet but when he shows he will play every week I agree he could be worth a punt.

Pienaar is a good option right now and one of most reliable everton players around.

dhs_media_ssharp said...

You made a few good points there, and i think i'll stick with pienaar for now.

Bily's free kicks and corner are in my opinion the same if not better then arteta's so i might switch him in, in a few weeks time seeing as they're both priced near enough the same.

Nice one chris, keep up the good work.

Craig B said...
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