No less than 8 clean sheets in week 19 and I'm pleased to say that my 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th ranked teams all managed to keep the opposition at bay. Birmingham's clean sheet will have surprised some but McLeish's men are for real and the whole back line should be considered every week starters at this point in the season (this was buoyed by the fact that Roger Johnson did not miss time due to injury). My favourite player for the week - Torres - disappointed against Wolves, managing just 4 shots and not really being involved throughout. I still like Torres alot though and rate him as my top rated forward for the next few weeks. My second ranked player - Fabregas - looked to be a terrible pick as he didn't manage to start the game but his 27 minute cameo was sublime and probably underlined his claim as being the most valuable player for any team in the league right now. 2 goals, only 2 misplaced passes and (of course) 3 bonus points rewarded Fabregas owners who had stuck with him through his injury issues. Needless to say, I still love Cesc going forward.
City played well under new boss Mancini and their defense could be worth monitoring, particularly if the likes of Ciellini or Cordoba come in to bolster the unit. Tevez also looks to be more lethal under the new regime and he is worthy of consideration for those needing a Drogba replacement and short on cash. Rooney, my 5th ranked player, has another good game and is right next to Torres in my rankings right now. It is my intention to pair this duo for the foreseeable future which should all but guarantee contributions in the goals and bonus columns each week.
The headliners for week 20 were supposed to be the double gameweek teams - Arsenal, Fulham, Bolton and Stoke - though the second games do not come until the 5th and 6th of January so it is unclear whether players from these sides will give big rewards. Rooney, Torres and Drogba all managed to find the back of the net while the high priced midfielders were less successful and were bailed out by overly generous bonus points. City managed their first back-to-back clean sheets since weeks 2 and 3 which again suggests this unit is worth consideration in the near future. Liverpool also managed their 2nd straight clean sheet (their 4th in the last 7) and are slowly turning into a legitimate fantasy option once more. Spurs have now kept 4 straight clean sheets and should be considered a must play defense when the fixture is right (the fact that Bassong is not going to Africa is a major plus).
Arsenal appear to be coping better without Van Persie at the moment but the unpredictability of their scorers (Ramsey, Nasri, Eduardo and Song) make it hard to pick anyone outside of Fabregas, Arshavin and possibly Diaby. United are also starting to really roll with Valencia and Rooney once again looking sharp. I like this pair alot over the coming weeks.
Injuries, Suspensions and the African Cup of Nations (ACN)
- Glen Johnson will be out for at least a month with a knee injury. Even if you are sitting on a 0.1m gain I would advise selling the English right back and re-using your cash on more valuable players right now.
- Song, Toure and Pantsil have now departed for the ACN while Assou Ekotto will now miss out due to injury. All these players need to be sold as they could miss up to a month of Premier League action.
- Bridge and Lescott are both missing for City which gives Mancini his first real issue of his new tenure considering Toure is also missing. I would expect Kompany to drop back into the back line Garrido (4.1m) could be worth a thought as a bargain fill in at left back.
- United's defensive woes are starting to ease and Evans, Ferdinand and O'Shea are all due back early in the new year. Rafael and Brown still offer short term value while Evra gives the best opportunity to guarantee returns from this improving unit.
- Clichy and Gibbs both appear short of fitness and so Traore should get a couple more games until Clichy can return. He remains good value at home to an Everton side struggling for goals.
- Wenger suggests that Fabregas might play this week against Everton after resting tomorrow against West Ham in the Cup. Stay tuned for later updates but I'm feeling good about the Arsenal captain's future.
- Aaron Lennon looks set to miss most of January with a groin strain although some reports suggest it could be just 2 weeks. I like Spurs' fixtures for late January and beyond and might therefore stick with Lennon if your bench is deep enough. If not then the likes of Valencia and Milner become the natural replacements.
- Dunn looks like he is finally fit and barring any setbacks in the Cup or in training he should be okay to feature in gameweek 21.
- Drogba and Adebayor have now of course departed for warmer climates in Angola and will need replacing. Drogba's Cote D'Ivoire are one of the tournament favourites so I would expect him to miss the longer period of the two.
- Anelka looks like he will feature in the FA Cup and should therefore be good to lead Chelsea's line in Drogba's absence. Although he may have more of a focal role, I don't think Anelka will tear it up and I would still favour Torres and Rooney by some distance.
- Long term casualties Cole and Van Persie remain sidelined indefinitely.