Portsmouth 2-0 Burnley
Burnley's woeful away form continued, while Portsmouth continue to get better, especially at home. The game saw Boateng lose his penalty duties to Dindane who squandered the chance suggesting Boateng might be taking them again soon. Dindane did manage to hit the net later in the game though, along with Hreidersson to give Avram Grant the 3 points. The popular fantasy pick Jamie O'Hara picked up an assist while one of my favourites Boateng came away empty handed.
The game confirms that Burnley at home is about as good as it gets for a fantasy team while travelling to Fratton Park is perhaps not an easy game these days.
Arsenal 2-0 Stoke
Many thought this would be a banana skin for under fire Wenger but Arsenal bossed the game from the off, finishing with 59% of possession. The disappointment of the game was the penalty miss by Fabregas, who rebounded somewhat by adding an assist for Arshavin's opener. Fabregas looked threatening and should have had a goal of his own though Eboue got in the way and cleared the ball off the line. I think Fabregas is particularly dangerous at home and this should play a factor in your captaincy decisions in the future. The fact Arsenal held on for a clean sheet was encouraging and my last minute sub Traore (4m) proved to be great value. With Gibbs out for 3 months and Clichy only due back towards the end of the month, I like Traore to provide great value for the next 2 or 3 gameweeks.
Sorensen gave some unexpected returns thanks to the penalty save and remains a good option who can almost be started every week. Stoke are continuing to struggle to score and not too many options attacking exist in their squad for fantasy purposes.
Aston Villa 3-0 Hull
Another one sided game that was over early on. In a trend that hasn't always been the case, Villa were also able to protect the clean sheet and reward fantasy owners who stuck with them through the last few poor performances. Dunne was particularly valuable given that he also added a goal. Milner once again contributed well and is well and truly back on track after stuttering for a few games in weeks 8-11. Ashley Young added an assist but his inability to score and the fact he no longer takes penalties makes him a sell option and I possibly like Valencia as the man to replace him. Villa defenders are still a sell for me with @MNU, @Sun and @Ars in the next four games.
Hull remains a wasteland for fantasy owners with their only viable option - Jimmy Bullard - ruled out again through injury.
Blackburn 0-0 Liverpool
Despite the class of some of Liverpool's players and the investment the team has had over the years, I would not be surprised if both these sides enter April next year in the exact same position - with nothing to play for. Anyone who thinks City, Spurs or Villa might threaten the big four better be talking about Liverpool's spot as it doesn't seem likely that Arsenal will be surrendering their place anytime soon. Without Torres they look impotent and bringing on the likes of El Zhar and Ngog is not good enough for a supposed title contender. They do have 5 clean sheets for the season but most of their defense is overpriced for such returns with only Insua (6m) available for a reasonable fee. It is not hyperbole that until Torres returns there isn't a single Liverpool player that I feel gives you good value for money (only Johnson has a PPMS above .500).
Blackburn continue to excel at home but their disastrous away form makes it tough to hold their defenders as you will bench them at least every other week. Dunn missed this game through injury and Blackburn clearly miss his creativity. I keep trying to find players in this side to back but the attacking options are pretty limited and despite the good fixtures I can't find anyone I really like aside from Dunn.
West Ham 0-4 Man Utd
United have responded well to the defeat against Chelsea, winning the last 3 game by a combined score of 11-1. Its still hard to find too many United players give good fantasy value, but I am enjoying the emergence of Antonio Valencia who has 3 double digit games in the past 7 weeks. My issue with him is still the inconsistency (the other 4 weeks led to a combined 9 points) but with Benayoun and Young losing a bit of form lately, I think Valencia can be considered in this group. The United defense has major injury woes and the back four to finish this game was Giggs, Carrick, Evra and Fletcher.
Wigan 2-3 Birmingham
I really didn't see many goals in this game, ranking these sides 4th and 5th in my clean sheet rankings. While I don't like Wigan's unit going forward I have still have faith in McLeish's side and the likes of Hart and Johnson still hold plenty of value. Offensively, two mid price midfielders underlined their credentials with N'Zogbia having another solid game and Seb Larsson announcing his arrival on the fantasy scene. I like N'Zogbia quite alot as a player but the fantasy production has always flattered to deceive a bit, but he has managed to contribute goals, assists and bonus points this year, suggesting he can provide excellent value for 5.4m. Larsson meanwhile is cheaper at 5m but I am yet to be convinced he can consistently produce. He is worth monitoring though as his free kick prowess means he will generate shots on goal is most games.
Wolves 2-1 Bolton
Not much to say about these two teams, who have basically no fantasy contributions to make. Matt Taylor is perhaps the exception but I still think he is overvalued at 6.7m as without Davies there just simply won't be too many goals to go around.
Steer clear of both sides and don't be drawn in by Jody Craddock who now has 4 goals for the season. Wolves defense isn't good enough to justfy holding any of their players.
Man City 2-1 Chelsea
Big shock here as I really liked Chelsea to stamp their authority on Mark Hughes' side. The Chelsea midfield was awful with Deco and Ballack totally anonymous and Lampard missing a penalty that would have given them a point (he will still take them going forward though). I am a bit concerned for this team during the African Nations as although Drogba is the big name absentee, Essien may be even more irreplaceable.
Adebayor was pretty quiet too despite his goal and if it wasn't for Spurs' tough schedule I would be promoting Defoe ahead of him in my rankings. The midfield is better in reality than fantasy terms and I don't love of any of them for the foreseeable future. The ESPN commentators gushed over Wright Phillips' contribution but I didn't think he was involved enough to ever provide enough assists to challenge the likes of Aaron Lennon.
Despite Chelsea conceding two goals, I still like their defense as the best in the league by some distance, though this may have to re-evaluated with the departure of the aforementioned African players. City's defense is too inconsistent for now, though the fixtures after week 18 are great and they might warrant further consideration then.
Fulham 1-0 Sunderland
I am starting to get concerned with Darren Bent who has now not scored away from the Stadium of Light since week 8. Though still good value at 7.9m his star is starting to wane and I am considering moving him out for Rodallega or Saha to free up cash to use on my defense.
The Fulham defense meanwhile continues to improve and have now gone 6 games without conceding more than a single goal. Regular readers will know that I prefer the budget keeper combo so Schwarzer is overvalued for me, but Hughes and Paintsil are very reasonable and are buy options from week 20 onwards.
Everton 2-2 Tottenham
This was a great game that had a dramatic ending with Spurs squandering a two goal lead and then missing an injury time penalty to leave the game equal at Goodison Park. Defoe missed the penalty which will put some owners off but he looked lively and I think he is a great option next week. I would personally hold off buying him until after week 19 though, after which the fixtures become alot easier. His teammate Aaron Lennon also looked dynamic and might be the pick of the 8m midfielders at the moment.
It was good to see a goal from another 8m+ midfielder as Tim Cahill added his 2nd goal of the campaign. I'm not sure why Saha didn't start here as he appears to be fit and is clearly superior to Jo in pretty much all facets of the game. Until Moyes shows he will play him every week its hard to recommend starting him in your team despite the fact that the Frenchman added his 9th goal after just 912 minutes play, which is a better rate than Rooney, Drogba and Bent.
Both defenses here looked shaky and better options can be had elsewhere for less money.
Overall a decent week for most managers but a quick look at the Blog league shows most teams scored between 50 and 70 points and differentiation is becoming increasingly hard. The key to the next few weeks is spotting the next big trend or player than you can jump on early and get ahead of the pack (perhaps the increasing number of clean sheets or the return of Torres). I'll try and suggest a few ideas during the week as to what we can do next to improve our team's fortunes in the run up to Christmas.