Blackburn 0-0 Stoke
I really liked the Blackburn defense here (3rd ranked) though I didn't fancy Stoke (15th ranked) to join them with a clean sheet. They were no doubt assisted by the withdrawal of David Dunn after half an hour which came as a massive blow to many fantasy owners given his excellent form of late. Neil MacDonald, the stand in manager in Big Sam's absence reports that Dunn suffered from a 'tight calf' which hopefully doesn't sound too bad. Watch this space later in the week.
Stoke's defense remain a solid option with Sorensen and Faye my favoured picks. Blackburn's away form is terrible (3.0 GPG conceded) so despite their useful home record (1.00 GPG) I think their defense in unusable right now. Attacking options for both sides are seriously limited, especially if Dunn's withdrawal was anything more than precautionary. At 5.5m Etherington is still good value but with a trip to the Emirates next week and a bye in week 17 I'd stay away from Stoke midfielders and forwards for now.
Fulham 1-1 Bolton
The final score masks how poor Bolton are playing right now having mustered just 4 shots on goal to Fulham's 18. 5 of these came from the in form Dempsey who at just 6.7m is starting to lay claims to must own status. However, a quick scan of the fixture list extinguishes these thoughts for me as the next 11 games see them face 7 red light opponents as well as having a bye week in week 17. I therefore rate all Fulham players as sells right now and see no reason why better value cannot be found elsewhere. The likes of Dempsey and, when fit, Murphy will have the odd good game but I like options elsewhere to deliver more consistent value in the 6-7m range.
As for Bolton, I think the lack of chances being created makes the entire team unworthy of fantasy ownership. The defense concedes 2 or more goals per game at home and away and the likes of Taylor and Davies just aren't getting enough chances to shine. As with the Fulham boys above, each will likely have the odd good week but lack the consistent productivity to justify their price tags. The only bright side for Bolton is that their fixtures are much kinder than Fulham's but until something changes I'd look elsewhere for my budget strikers and midfielders.
Man City 1-1 Hull
Big disappointment for owners of City players as Hull had surrendered 3.0 GPG on the road this year and this one looked like a home banker. I really liked Adebayor in this one but he played just 66 minutes and didn't manage a single shot on target. To be fair to the former Arsenal man, that was only the second time this season he has failed to contribute 5 points or more so I am not ready to write him off just yet. City play Chelsea next week but then have a decent run and only play 1 other top 7 side until week 27. Wright Phillips seems to have been awarded the goal despite a massive deflection, which puts him in a nice run of form and possibly deserves attention again at 8.1m. My concern with most of the City players is that the squad is getting fit now and the dreaded rotation might start to play a bigger part. Bellamy was the victim yesterday, being dropped for the returning Robinho.
Jimmy Bullard is very near the top of my transfer target list having contributed 2 goals, 2 assists and 6 bonus points in his 3 games since returning from injury. My only concern is the fixture list which sees Hull play 6 red light games and have a bye week in the next 10 gameweeks. At 6m he is possibly cheap enough to warrant consideration anyway seeing as he is such a focal point of the Hull side. If Dunn's injury is serious I would suggest Bullard as the natural choice to replace him.
Both these defenses are unreliable though City's defensive fixtures from weeks 18-27 suggest they still deserve some attention.
Portsmouth 1-4 Man United
In hindsight, I was foolish to rank Rooney as low as 5th in my captain rankings and he probably should have been in the top 3. That being said Rooney only had three shots aside from the penalties and United didn't really play as well as the scoreline suggests. Rooney's grip on penalty duties is clearly a bonus though as none of the other 10m+ strikers take then pens for their respective sides. Despite Giggs' big game I am still far from convinced by the United midfield and don't consider any of them great value right now. I was really disappointed to see United concede as I had this one down as a banker clean sheet. After next week's trip to West Ham, it's plain sailing for the United defense and I rank Wes Brown as my number one buy target for week 16 onwards.
Portsmouth provide a couple of decent rotation midfielders in Boateng and O'Hara and its good to see Boateng hold onto the penalty duties after missing last week against Stoke. Portsmouth have some good looking fixtures and they're playing better than alot of people think. I'd be happy with either in my squad and would consider Boateng as a weekly rotation option based on matchup.
West Ham 5-3 Burnley
Crazy game at Upton Park and I'm not sure we really learned anything to help us going forward. No one had a hugely impressive game though Eagles' 16 points are certainly worth noting. I'm far from convinced that the former United trainee is a legitimate option just yet, though his minutes are improving and the 3 bonus points were good to see. For fans of budget strikers, Guillermo Franco (5m) is quietly having an excellent start to his West Ham career with 3 goals in just 6 games. West Ham have a tough set of fixtures and with Cole facing a knee scan, their future is a bit uncertain. Nevertheless, you could do alot worse than rolling the dice with Franco.
Despite a couple of early clean sheets I am unconvinced by Burnley at home or away and I don't really rate any of their players as legitimate fantasy starters. Perhaps Eagles and Fletcher deserve some attention but I yet to be sold on either player.
Wigan 1-0 Sunderland
This was somewhat of a shock, though not as big as some made out. Wigan have been solid at home this year and I ranked their defense 8th in my clean sheet rankings. That said, Sunderland were clearly out of sorts, led by Darren Bent who failed to register a single shot in the game. Wigan on the other hand managed 17, led by Hugo Rodallega who added 7 on his own. I really like Rodallega who has shown an ability to score, provide assists and add bonus points this year. His goals have also come against strong and weaker sides which suggest you could plug him into your starting lineup and be happy. I'm not a huge fan of Wigan's next three fixtures but after that I am pencilling in Rodallega on top my list striker list if I decide to shift my money to an expensive midfield.Wigan's road form means that their defense should not be relied on consistently.
Sunderland have been really good this season and I see this game as an aberration rather than the start of a downwards trend. Bent and Reid remain excellent value and though the fixtures aren't great, they remain good options going forward. I am however, off the Sunderland defense after 2 of their 3 clean sheets have come against Liverpool and Arsenal. Such form is too unpredictable and I for one will be looking to move Turner on in the near future.
Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham
I expected more from this game as neither side really showed they are ready to threaten the big four come the end of the season. Spurs looked decent when chasing the game and managed to get a good number of shots in in the final half hour. They were led by Huddlestone's 8 shots, though as the chalkboard shows, buying a ticket does not guarantee you a lottery win. I thought Kranjcar looked like the most dangerous player, and he was duly rewarded with 2 bonus points, however with Modric back in training it would be risky to bring the Croatian in now.
With trips to Old Trafford, the Stadium of Light and the Emirates, Villa's defenders are a sell unless you can afford to bench them. Spurs' fixtures are much nicer and Assou Ekotto and Bassong are worth thinking about. Consider though that despite conceding just 18 in 14 games, Spurs have only managed two clean sheets all season.
Wolves 0-1 Birmingham
Birmingham win their 6th clean sheet of the year and now have the third best defense in the league. Joe Hart is a must own keeper and for me, renders all 5m+ keepers overvalued. I love the keeper rotation strategy and with plenty of other solid options available I still like this idea going forward. Lee Bowyer has four goals on the season but his lack of assist and bonus points restrict his value somewhat. Still at 4.7m he is worth a thought and Birmingham have a decent run of games coming up if you need a short term fill.
Wolves are really struggling and I don't really like any of their players to contribute consistently on a weekly basis.
Everton 0-2 Liverpool
This was a pretty poor game and there aren't many players from either side I would be thrilled to own at the moment. Despite Liverpool's clean sheet, both defenses are overpriced and neither have a good enough fixture list to justify their price tags. Everton players are a more immediate problem given their next three games (Tot, @Che, Bye). Everton could be argued to have been the better side throughout the 90 minutes and they did fashion 16 shots but failed to force too many class saves from Reina (who did play well, to be fair). I don't understand how Jo started ahead of Saha - who looked fit enough to have played more than the 25 minutes he received - and until this situation is cleared up Saha cannot be considered a fantasy starter. Pienaar was Everton's best player and has some potential at 6.2 but he simply cannot convert his good play into points and better options are available for less money (Dunn, Etherington, Duff).
Liverpool will obviously improve when Torres returns, which could be as soon as this weekend. With a decent attacking fixture list on the horizon Torres might be a nice addition for those still looking to find a satisfactory replacement for Van Persie. Remember he has 10 goals in 10 games this year and is now only held by 19% of owners following his injury so if you jump on him early you could gain some ground on your opponents.
Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea
I am not an Arsenal fan but I am self-proclaimed Wenger apologist, defending the legendary coach to the end. That said, this was a pretty dismal display by his Gunners side who once again failed to shake the 'pretty football, no result' tag they are so often labelled with. 3-0 probably flattered Chelsea (Arsenal had 12 shots vs Chelsea's 11) but there was only ever one team going to win this one. Ashley Cole was magnificent and for me is the premium defender for the foreseeable future, especially given that after this week's trip to Eastlands, Chelsea face just 2 more red light games until week 33 (@WH, Ars). Drogba was also superb and underlined his place as the top fantasy player in the league at the moment (sorry Cesc). The fixtures are not quite so generous offensively as defensively for Chelsea, but nevertheless Drogba is an every week starter who will warrant serious captaincy consideration. If there was ever a chalkboard to prove one of my thoughts, this one clearly shows that Lampard will not finish the season on top of the scoring charts. He is playing too deep to deliver regular goals and he still has just one goal from open play this year (plus three from the penalty spot). Yes he is still second among midfielders but his .525 PPMS is way down in the rankings and his 12.4m price tag is prohibitively high for me.
Despite back-to-back bad fantasy games I still have faith in Fabregas though the next three games do not look easy on paper. I am backtracking from my suggestion that Fabregas is approaching the Ronaldo pantheon of every week captain status but I still like him as the best premium midfielder around by some distance. Arsenal are clearly missing Van Persie but I am confident Arshavin will get better and Eduardo will pickup some of the goal scoring slack and Arsenal will get back on form. If you are trailing in your league by some distance it might be worth considering dropping Cesc to differentiate your team (current ownership is 46%) but this is a risky strategy as if you got on board early you will struggle to buy him back in the future such is the magnitude of his price rise. Its tough to be too high on any of the other Gunners right now but I quite like Eduardo to go on a scoring run at some point.
This week only served to illustrate the general lack of consistent fantasy depth around as each week it seems that new players are having big games. The only consistency seems to be from the premium players (Drogba, Rooney etc) and a handful of cheaper players having stellar seasons who are now widely owned (Bent, Hunt, Sorensen etc). It is therefore essential to remain agile and try and minimise your exposure to injuries and suspensions so that you can change your team each week based on matchups rather than being forced into necessary adjustments. This is worth considering as the 5 yellow card suspensions start rolling in, and I will endeavour to post these each week to keep you ahead of the game.
As always, please post your thoughts, comments and team issues below or tweet me @plfantasy.