Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wayne Rooney

First of all, an apology for last week as Rooney sat after I (wrongly) concluded that the signs seemed to be indicating he would play. This was made worse for many as Drogba was also benched and so many owners suffered through having 24m of striker on the bench. The situation took a further bad turn last night when Rooney suffered an ankle injury against Bayern Munich and left on crutches. With so little time left in the season, it might be best to cut your losses and bring in either Drogba or Torres now rather than delaying for a couple of weeks and having such a valuable asset sat on the bench.

More on this in the weekly preview to be posted tomorrow. Apologies for the lack of update this week, I am taking a few days off work in Berlin. I will have plenty of time to catch up during a 3hr layover tomorrow, so gameweek 33's preview might be a bit rambling (more so than usual).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gameweek 32 Preview

Before we get stuck into gameweek 32, I am going to quickly fly through my top strikers for the remainder of the season, as promised yesterday. I also urge, nay implore you to look at yesterday's ramblings on midfielders which while somewhat of a Cesc-love-fest contains at least a few useful stats for your amusement.

I am limiting this discussion to the big three strikers (Torres, Drogba and Rooney) though that is not a slight on the prospects of Tevez, Bent etc, more that most of us can only afford to employ one or at most two of these stud strikers and so we really need to know which one (or two) we should hitch our wagon to. It must also be noted that Van Persie still leads all strikers with 7.7 PPG, an astonishing stat given the plaudits Rooney (7.4 PPG) has received this year. While some reports are suggesting Van Persie may be back before the end of the season I will only entertain the prospect of spending 10m+ on a player when he is a lock to start, which just isn't the case for Van Persie right now. I am therefore with Wenger (as usual) who has suggested we all calm down over the strikers' return.

Wayne Rooney (26 - 5 - 46 - 7.4 - 8.0) £12m
Rooney is rightfully receiving plaudits from around the globe for his performances this season, with Franz Beckenbauer the latest to offer some superlatives. The fantasy praise is equally strong with the general public voting with their feet to make Rooney the most owned player in the whole fantasy game (45%).
The future is somewhat more rocky, given his recent knee injury, a tough run of fixtures and the potential for fixture congestion and fatigue to kick in given United's continued presence in the Champions League. The knee injury should only rule him out for one week, though that in itself is hard to take when you have 12m invested and Torres is ready to welcome a leaky Sunderland defense to Anfield.
The fixtures are tough but Rooney has already scored against three of United's opponents and has repeatedly shown that he can score against anyone. I am concerned with the lack of games where you expect at least 2 or 3 goals, with only Bolton this week (which Rooney may miss) conceding more 1.5 GPG and three future opponents averaging less than a goal a game. In essence, you wouldn't buy Rooney for the fixtures but you probably wouldn't sell him either and if you think he can continue to stay fit and contribute in both the Champions League and Premier League then you can probably stick with the United talisman. If you want to sell, do so immediately as it would be foolish to bench him this week, suffer a price decrease, then sell anyway.

Didier Drogba (24 - 10 - 26 - 7.6 - 8.3) £11.9m
Drogba is matching Rooney in production this year, with double Rooney's assists and more points per game. His downfall is the bonus column where he has pundit-favourite Lampard stealing points while Rooney is free to pickup 3 whenever he takes the field.
Since returning from the African Cup of Nations he has been even better than the above suggests with 10 goals, 2 assists and 7 bonus points in just 8 games (8.5 PPG). Like Rooney, the fixture don't look great with Ast, @MNU, @Tot and @Liv all wielding less than one GPG. The lack of Champions League presence is a bonus as is the lack of real alternatives for Ancelotti to use in Drogba's place against weaker opponents.
His ownership is 36% compared with Rooney's 45% which gives him more differentiation potential though I would suspect that the majority of those 36% are the very teams you are competing with as Rooney's ownership is skewed by a higher starting position with all the amateur's who stick with a team from the start.
Gun to my head, I probably take Rooney over Drogba purely based on the team's they are on and the faith I have in them delivering in the crunch. That said, Chelsea looked alot better against (an admittedly poor) Portsmouth with Drogba once again in the thick of the action. The easiest solution is to keep both these stars on your books, but that prevents you from getting in on the Torres action.

Fernando Torres (16 - 3 - 20 - 6.3 - 7.5) £11.3m
On pure ability and potential I would still take Torres over Rooney if I were starting a new team. However, that doesn't get you fantasy points and there is little doubt that Torres' production - while stellar - has been a step below the level of Rooney and Drogba. This is in large part to the continued struggles of Liverpool, a lack of form from Steven Gerrard and negative tactics from Benitez. However, since returning from injury Torres has looked very sharp averaging 8.5 PPG in his four starts including 4 goals and 2 man of the match displays.
Also in Torres' favour are the fixtures, with only two opponents conceding less than one GPG (@Bir and Che). Home games against Sunderland and West Ham also have a feel of games where you can foresee a couple of goals being rattled in by the Spanish hero.
Like Rooney, Torres has the distraction of European football but having missed a portion of the season, fatigue should not be a factor for the 26 year old. The fact he will save you £0.6-0.7m over the other two options is also something not to be ignored.
Call it bias, call it over-reliance on fixture strength, but I think I am going to bring in Torres this week for Rooney given the potential for Torres to star (vs Sunderland) while Rooney warms a million fantasy benches. It then seems unlikely I would bring him back for the Chelsea game, which means I either buy him back in week 34 of risk not having him for the remainder of the season. This is the kind of decision on which mini leagues are won, I hope the above has given you some help in deciding which way you will fall.

Gameweek 32 Preview
Okay with the week's preview which I will condense a bit so as to not make this into a Bill Simmons style 5,000 epic post. No double gameweeks, no byes, just 20 teams squaring off in what will seems like a quiet week after last week's festivities. Here we go:

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Tottenham
  2. Burnley
  3. Liverpool
  4. Chelsea
  5. Everton
  6. Man City
  7. West Ham
  8. Hull
  9. Arsenal
  10. Birmingham
  11. Man Utd
  12. Wolves
  13. Stoke
  14. Fulham
  15. Aston Villa
  16. Bolton
  17. Blackburn
  18. Portsmouth
  19. Sunderland
  20. Wigan
Burnley make a surprise appearance in the top 2 due to their solid home record (17 conceded in 15 games) and Blackburn's horrific away scoring rate (10 goals in 15 games). I always find it hard to trust teams in the relegation battle but if you have a Burnley defender stashed on your bench it should make benching someone else that bit easier or give you auto-sub flexibility if someone like Rooney fails to make it. Liverpool's next 4 opponents average less than a goal a game and so Insua and Agger look like solid buys.

Captain Rankings
  1. Fernando Torres
  2. Carlos Tevez
  3. Didier Drogba
  4. Craig Bellamy
  5. Steve Gerrard
  6. Cesc Fabregas
  7. Mikel Arteta
  8. Dimitar Berbatov
  9. Luke Modric
  10. Antonio Valencia
I don't love many players this week with many top players either injured (Rooney, Defoe) or playing tough opposition (Drogba, Fabregas). I think Torres is the clear favourite this week though City also have a great fixture and so Tevez and co are also good options. I have left Rooney out given the likelihood he will rest, and therefore bumped Berbatov up the list given his position leading the line against an average Bolton side.

As always, thanks for reading and please post your thoughts/comments/questions below or @plfantasy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Usual Suspects (Midfield)

Oscar Wilde once wrote that "everything popular is wrong"; a point echoed by the majority of my posts singing the praises of differentiation and uncovering the next sleeper. However, the selection of your star players is equally important and with just 7 weeks to go, now is a great time to assess who will shine the brightest. I am going to focus on midfielders today (and forwards tomorrow) given that the weekly value of defenders/keepers is driven too much by the form/fitness of the squad rather than an individual's ability/form.

Four double digit million players are available in the game, and it is here that our attention will be focused. I accept that an argument can be made for, say, James Milner over Andrei Arshavin but given the difference in price it seems illogical to compare those two types of player. In order to avoid too much text and to get into the numbers I have created a quick box score to summarise each player. This will be as below:

Name (Goals, Assists, Bonus Points, Points per Game, Points per Game in the last 6 weeks).

Cesc Fabregas (15 - 15 - 41 - 8.2 - 7.5) £12.0m
Warning: I have said before that my bias is shameful towards Kevin Davies but with Fabregas it may be worse. If there's one player in the league I struggle to be objective with it's the Catalonian wizard. While there's no sign of bromance just yet, I would say that it could be a man crush.

Okay now the disclaimer is out of the way I can continue to gush about how insanely good Fabregas has been this year and if it wasn't for Rooney's form it would be talked about as one of the best seasons ever in the Premier League. Fabregas has been instrumental in everything Arsenal have done and this has rolled over into fantasy success with Fabregas almost a lock to complete the triple crown among midfielders (most goals, assists and bonus points). His 15 goals are better than 13 teams' entire midfield have managed for the season (including Villa and City among others) while his bonus point tally is more than 50% higher than his nearest rival Lampard.

Enough with the past though, how is Fabregas going to finish the season? Much has been made of Arsenal's easy schedule, and while not impossible, it isn't a walkover. Trips to Birmingham (32), Tottenham (34) and Blackburn (37) are harder than they sound as all three sides concede 0.87 GPG or less. Aside from that though all opponents concede at least 1.25 GPG though my only concern is the lack of too many 'sure things' where you can foresee 3 or 4 Arsenal goals (Wolves at home is perhaps the best game here (1.93 GPG)).

Five road games versus 3 home games would alarm some but a look at the stats suggests otherwise. Ignoring yellow cards and defensive points, Fabregas has averaged 6.3 PPG at home and 6.1 PPG away from the Emirates. This goes against the general consensus that Arsenal (and Fabregas) can only dominate at home and have a tendency to get bossed around on their travels. Like Oscar mentioned above, everything popular (including opinions) are often wrong.

I don't have much more to say that hasn't already been said, and without wishing to spoil the next few paragraphs, I cannot see how Fabregas is not the best midfielder to own in the closing stages of the season.

Frank Lampard (12 - 11 - 26 - 6.6 - 5.7) £13.2m
Despite some shaky periods (one goal in the first 9 games) 'old faithful' has been just that contributing in three categories and delivering value for his owners. On a points per 90 minutes basis he is actually ahead of last year, where he was considered part of the holy trinity (with Gerrard (below) and the now departed Ronaldo).

I have two concerns about Lampard, both of which conspire to push him down slightly in my rankings. Firstly, and simply, is cost. 1.2m is alot of cash in fantasy football and can be the difference between your 4th defender playing for either Villa or Wolves. I therefore find it hard to justify this extra expense over Fabregas. Second is Chelsea's fixtures which are significantly harder than Arsenal's. Their next five games come against opponents who concede 1.1 GPG or less including particularly tough games @MNU (0.57 GPG), @Tot (0.64) and @Liv (0.86). Granted, Malouda and Drogba are playing well but I think the remainder of Chelsea's team is a bit underwhelming and could struggle to score multiple goals in a couple of these fixtures.

Lampard remains a top option and I do not suggest he is a must sell at this point, but if you think cash can be better used elsewhere then you might consider bringing in Fabregas instead.

Steven Gerrard (6 - 6 - 9 - 4.4 - 2.9) £12.4m
Gerrard has not enjoyed the best of seasons and is no longer the fantasy powerhouse he once was. After this week's game against Sunderland his fixtures get significantly harder with only West Ham (H) surrendering more than 1.5 GPG. I'm not totally writing him off and I'm sure he will have another bumper week before the season is out, but as with Lampard above, your money can be better spent elsewhere. I would keep him for one more week then either move to Fabregas or an even cheaper option like Arteta and use the extra cash to upgrade your strike force.

Andrei Arshavin (9 - 2 - 15 - 4.6 - 3.9) £10.2m
I predicted big things for Arshavin this year and thought he could finish in the top 5 of all players. Despite spells of brilliance he has flattered to deceive at times, not helped by his deployment as a loan striker for periods when Van Persie got injured. As noted with Fabregas above, Arsenal's fixtures are pretty good so Arshavin does still deserve some consideration and his lower ownership levels (11%) make him somewhat of a differentiator. Still he probably belongs in the range with Milner, Arteta and Valencia and so it is tough to recommend spending 10m+ on the little Russian right now.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my thoughts on how I rate the big three (Drogba, Rooney and Torres) from here on in. Thanks for reading and please post your thoughts below or @plfantasy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gameweek 31 Rolling Wrap Up

With all the action this week, stretching through Wednesday evening I thought I better get formulating some thoughts on the weekend's happenings now or face an essay deadline on Thursday morning.


Play the Fixtures
The games in the books so far have illustrated just how important it is to play the fixture list each week. Of teams who faced opponents that concede more than 1.5 GPG, all but Wigan managed to net twice leading to big fantasy weeks from budget players like O'Hara, Pienaar, Denilson and Carew. Some of the stars in these games also managed to shine, notably Fabregas, Bent and Arteta (all in my captain rankings this week). Tougher fixtures for Birmingham and Stoke limited the fantasy contribution of their players this week (though Birmingham have a chance for redemption on Wednesday at Blackburn).

The clean sheets for the week served to illustrate this point further with 3 of the 4 best fixtures yielding clean sheets despite neither Everton (11th) nor Wigan (18th) ranking in the top 10 in goals conceded this season. Arsenal, by the way, quietly notched their 11th clean sheet of the season and have only conceded just 3 goals in the last 6 games.

From both a fantasy and reality perspective, Sunday was pretty disappointing. No clean sheets (giving just 3 in 10 games for the weekend so far) along with goals from fantasy lightweights like Park and Diouf ensured that the spoils were limited to an unassisted Rooney goal, a first half Torres header and a Drogba goal at Ewood Park. I suppose this scoring underlined my key trend for the season that top strikers are more valuable than top midfielders but nevertheless I expected more points from the big boys, especially Chelsea.

Looking ahead
Plenty of action still to come this week so do not despair if things haven't gone your way so far. Looking further ahead to gameweek 32 the teams to target are Liverpool, City and Spurs who all enjoy a great fixture in terms of both attacking and defensive point potential.

Check back after the midweek games for a final wrap up before next week's preview on Thursday. Thanks for reading and please post your thoughts/comments/questions below or @plfantasy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gameweek 31 Preview

While they didn't really explode, Villa players provided a decent haul for those managers who brought them in this week, led by James Milner (12), and hopefully let you gain some points on opposition managers. Agbonlahor was the big disappointment for the week with the rest of my captain picks playing out pretty well (Milner 12, Defoe 9, Torres 19, Rooney 13, Dunne 8, Young 5, Drogba 10, Lampard 7, N'Zogbia 6).

This week will likely see some huge scores and I think you need to be playing at least 5 players on a double to stay competitive. The chance of stealing points on your competition is probably less than in a week where only 2 or 4 teams have a double as less planning will have been required to get some double gamers in this week. Nevertheless, it's important to get your side right in a week where plenty of teams could top 100 points so let's look at the double gameweek sides for gameweek 31 and see where potential value might lie:

Aston Villa
Opponents: Wol, Sun
Two better opponents than last week await the Villains and this is the real reason alot of us brought in Villa players last week. Both sides average less than a goal a game on the road while giving up around 2 per game. If you brought in multiple Villa players last week then it's a no brainer to keep them but be careful before bringing in a third player for this week only as Villa have no game (at the moment) in week 34 so you need to have decent strength in your squad to blow two transfers on that move.
Picks: Milner, Cuellar, Collins

Opponents: @Sunderland, @Blackburn

Both opponents here have pretty good home defenses and the inconsistent Birmingham front line looks like a risky play. We all know that Birmingham's best value is in their defense and I think they look like a good play again this week. Sunderland are sneakily good at home though (24 in 15 games) while Blackburn are pretty average (21 in 14 games). I think its very likely that one of those teams score and I can't see a double clean sheet for Birmingham this week. That said, the likes of Hart still represent good value and are worthy of a place in the side, if not really transfer targets this week.
Picks: Hart, Dann

Opponents: Chelsea, Birmingham

Two tough games for a side that offers little fantasy value at the best of times should set the alarm bells ringing. The Rovers defense has been okay this year and the two home games helps, but I can't see too much joy against a Chelsea side re-focused on the league after their Champions League exit. Going forward they offer even less though Gamst Pedersen got back on the fantasy scoresheet last week with another assist and I suppose he warrants some differentiation value.
Picks: Gamst Pedersen, Dunn

Opponents: @Blackburn, @Portsmouth

As noted above, be careful getting carried with what look like easy fixtures as Blackburn (0.86 GPG) and even Portsmouth (1.57 GPG) are solid defenses at home. That said, Portsmouth surrendered 4 goals a piece at home to both Arsenal and United so I wouldn't hesitate playing my Chelsea players this week (though I might hesitate paying 8 points to bring 2 in). It seems as if Chelsea will either pull together and win the league or lose control and end up 3rd with Ancelotti fired. Malouda insists the mood in the camp is okay but with Drogba's petulance, Terry's continued lack of form and Anelka's post-January disappearance, I find it hard to be totally sold on this team the way I might be if United had these fixtures. That said, Drogba is the only one of big three (Rooney, Drogba, Torres) playing twice and hence still makes alot of sense for this week.

Lampard will probably contribute again without actually doing a great deal and, like Drogba, is the only one of the big name midfielders playing twice this week (unless you count Milner). Malouda is the form man and has contributed 4 points in every game bar two in 2010 while still being held by just 6.2% of managers. The defense, whilst not in the best of form, have better fixtures and look like solid picks although I am concerned by the 'keeper situation and the form of Terry.
Picks: Drogba, Malouda, Ivanovic

Opponents: Bolton, @Man City

One great, one tough fixture makes it hard to be crazy over Everton this week though it is of course safe to start all the Toffees you already own. I think Arteta's ownership is one game away from exploding and with Bolton on the horizon he looks like a sound replacement for the likes of Valencia and Kuyt who only play once. Elsewhere, the defensive value is obviously based on the Bolton fixture as City have failed to score at home just once this season (GW 27 vs Liverpool). Again, go ahead and start Baines, Distin and co but I think your transfers can be better used elsewhere.
Picks: Arteta, Distin

Man City
Opponents: @Fulham, Everton

A tough trip to Craven Cottage stops Tevez being a great pickup this week but he still represents good value and is an upgrade over one-game players like Defoe, Torres and Berbatov. I don't like much in the City midfield and while he managed a very solid 9 points last week, it has to be noted that Johnson started on the bench and is not guaranteed to start one nevermind both games this week. Great talent: yes, reliable fantasy star: not yet.

Defensively I am massively skeptical of City though 3 clean sheets in their last 7 games is not too bad. Neither opponent averages more than 1.5 GPG so there is potential for returns from the likes of Zabaleta though who will replace Bridge causes me some concern.
Picks: Tevez, Zabaleta

Opponents: Hull, Chelsea

Granted Hull at home is about as good as it gets but with the other game being Chelsea you are basically buying into a one fixture team. Perhaps O'Hara is worth a flutter and even Piquionne if you're desperate but if you can move money around it warrants paying to get rid of these guys for anyone else playing twice.
The defense is actually a useful play as they aren't too bad at home, but again I'm not sure I would be spending points here but feel to use your defenders if you happen to own them.
Picks: Wilson, O'Hara

Opponents: Birmingham, @Aston Villa

Bent had been through a tough patch before exploding against Bolton and this unpredictability makes him all but impossible to bench or sell this week. Yes the fixtures looks tough (1.5 GPG and 0.71 GPG conceded) but Bent can be a streaky scorer and Sunderland appear to turned the corner a bit with just one defeat in the last seven. I don't trust the defense and with Reid injured and Cana suspended the Mackens offer little beside the English hitman.
Picks: Bent

West Ham
Opponents: @Arsenal, Wolves

Much like Portsmouth above if you buy here you are really buying into a one fixture team as few rewards are likely to be found at the Emirates. The West Ham team is about as appealing in fantasy circles too with Cole being the star but in his unfit state even he is too risky. Not much value to be found here.

Opponents: @Aston Villa, @West Ham

Matt Jarvis is quietly having a solid season for a bench player and has even caught the bonus points judge's eyes in the past few weeks. Normally I wouldn't (and don't) start him but Jarvis, along with Kevin Doyle, warrants some consideration if you're comparing them to someone who is only playing once such as Matt Taylor, Damien Duff or Matt Etherington. Defensively Wolves continue to offer nothing but fantasy misery with little likely to change this week.
Picks: Jarvis

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

Captain Rankings
  1. Didier Drogba
  2. James Milner
  3. Darren Bent
  4. Frank Lampard
  5. Carlos Tevez
  6. Wayne Rooney
  7. Gabriel Agbonlahor
  8. Florent Malouda
  9. Cesc Fabregas
  10. Mikel Arteta
I expect the criticism to come again that I am too high on James Milner but he did pretty well last week and with better fixtures I expect at least 8 points again. Milner has preyed on weaker teams notching double digits against Portsmouth, Bolton, Hull, Sunderland (who they welcome this week), Burnley and Wigan. In fact in the reverse fixtures of this week's games he gained 17 points, even half of which would give good value at the captain position.

I noted my concerns above over Drogba and Chelsea but a double fixture for one of the top teams when the others play just once is just too good to pass up. Lampard's love affair with the bonus pundits and Malouda's excellent 2010 form give Chelsea 3 players in my top 10. Despite the fixture being tough on paper, Rooney's single game against Liverpool could still provide goals and you'd be crazy to bench him or sell him just for one week. If you need to differentiate you need to move on for good, not blow 2 transfers on one player for one week.

As always post your thoughts and transfer issues below or tweet them @plfantasy, and of course, thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gameweek 30 Preview

Alright, hopefully we all got through week 29 unscathed and are ready to start milking the points with all the double gameweeks coming up. In summary, the doubles are below which need to be considered when planning your transfers:
  • GW30 - Ast and Wig
  • GW31 - Ast, Bir, Bla, Che, Eve, MNC, Por, Sun, WH and Wol
  • GW34 - Ful and Sto
There are also a number of games that are yet to be re-scheduled so the rewards will be even greater in the coming weeks. The side that springs out is Villa who face 4 sides in the bottom half of the table, 3 of which average less than a goal a game at the venue Villa face them (home/away) and 2 of which concede more than 2 a game in the venue Villa face them. In short, buy as many Villa as you can! I currently own zero but am contemplating a 4 or 8 point hit in order to maximise the spoils. Be careful not to transfer out a player with a double next week though as that will make it tough for you to realise a gain on your 4 point investment.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Aston Villa
  2. Tottenham
  3. Liverpool
  4. Man Utd
  5. Birmingham
  6. Chelsea
  7. Wigan
  8. Burnley
  9. Stoke
  10. Sunderland
  11. Everton
  12. Arsenal
  13. Bolton
  14. Man City
  15. Wolves
  16. Hull
  17. Fulham
  18. Portsmouth
  19. West Ham
  20. Blackburn
Captain Rankings
  1. James Milner
  2. Gabriel Agbonlahor
  3. Jermaine Defoe
  4. Fernando Torres
  5. Wayne Rooney
  6. Richard Dunne
  7. Ashley Young
  8. Didier Drogba
  9. Frank Lampard
  10. Charles N'Zogbia
Obviously Villa players dominate the rankings this week though excellent fixtures for Spurs and Liverpool along with Rooney's insane form ensure that the top 5 is still a mix from different teams. I imagine alot of managers will go with Dunne or Milner this week so Agbonlahor could be a sneaky differentiator who is almost certain to get a goal or two in the next couple of gameweeks.

Post your thoughts, comments and transfer issues below or @plfantasy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gameweek 29 Wrap Up

The week isn't quite done but as it's been so disjointed I figured I'd add to the mess by wrapping it up before it's finished. It was a pretty unexciting week that I feel was there to survive rather than thrive on. Captain-tip Fabregas looked to be cruising to a big score with an early goal on Saturday but he then limped off and may now even miss the game with Hull next week. Nasri played well and earned the man of the match and followed that up with a goal and assist tonight in the Champions League. He might be worth a look if you can't afford the dynamic duo of Fabregas and Arshavin.

I made a big mistake not bringing Lee in this week and he shone again against West Ham. I think he could be a real gem to close the season with and is well worth his price tag. Elsewhere United disappointed without Rooney though the England frontman is due back tomorrow night so he should be okay for the weekend if he avoids a set back. Another clean sheet showed that Ferguson's side are looking like a sound investments from here on in.

I hesitantly put Arteta in my captain rankings this week and he duly exploded for 18 points including 2 goals, an assist and the man of the match award. Pienaar also looked good again and joins Lee as one of my favourite cheap midfield options. It was a shame that Everton conceded a silly goal (like Arsenal and Birmingham) to surrender a great clean sheet opportunity against a weaker opponent.

Tonight, Darren Bent stormed back into form with a hattrick and rewarded owners who has stuck by him (or because they couldn't find a better option). Hopefully that will have provided some of us with a few extra points to at least put a few points on our competitors in a week where points were somewhat at a premium.

Looking Ahead
Wigan and Villa get the double this week with both sides looking like decent options (particularly the Villa defense). More on this along with captain and clean sheet rankings to come later in the week.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gameweek 29 Preview

As the season heads into the home straight, I get the feeling that this week could be an important one in our quest for the top of our respective mini leagues. With 6 teams (including Chelsea, Villa, Spurs and Fulham) out of action I think several teams will be starting with just 6 or 7 men while many others will splash 12 points or more on transfers.

Hopefully we all have had plans for the week in place for the last couple of weeks and only need to make a transfer or two to rectify the situation. For advice on which players you should hold and which you should dump, check out my earlier post.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Everton
  2. Arsenal
  3. Man Utd
  4. Liverpool
  5. Sunderland
  6. Wigan
  7. West Ham
  8. Stoke
  9. Burnley
  10. Portsmouth
  11. Birmingham
  12. Bolton
  13. Wolves
  14. Hull
I think the top four teams rank significantly above the rest and if you can secure 4 defenders from this pack you will be in great shape. I think Everton and Arsenal defenders are worth paying for due to their favourable schedules with Baines and Vermaelen being the most secure and Distin and Clichy offering the cheapest options. Liverpool also look like a decent bet in the long run but it's always hard to predict who will start for Benitez's side which puts me off slightly. United continue to be a solid option with Evra the premium option and Brown probably the best cheap bet.

Captain Rankings
  1. Cesc Fabregas
  2. Wayne Rooney
  3. Andrei Arshavin
  4. Fernando Torres
  5. Antonio Valencia
  6. Tim Cahill
  7. Steve Fletcher
  8. Chung Yong Lee
  9. Mikel Arteta
  10. Thomas Vermaelen
I love all things Arsenal this week and you'd be disappointed if they didn't score 3 goals. United's fixture at Wolves looks better than it is (Wolves only concede 1.36 GPG at home) though Rooney is in such good form that he has to rank highly again this week. I know a couple of readers weren't sure about Torres last week but I think he is back and looked decent and so should take his place among the top runners from here on in for captaincy rankings. Everton have a great fixture but as with their Merseyside rivals, I struggle to find too many players to really like outside of Cahill. I've stuck Arteta on the list due to his set piece potential and while I love Pienaar as a player, I'm not ready to put him in captain rankings without a double gameweek just yet.

Good luck for the week ahead and as always thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fitting in with the Fixtures

This week seems to be a metaphor for the financial crisis at Portsmouth - we all knew it was coming but our plans were probably insufficient. With 6 teams not playing at all and only 2 enjoying a double, many of us are going to struggle to field a full strength side this week without drastic changes. In truth that gives us an advantage as the average punter will either stay put with their weakened side or overreact and spend 20 points bringing in new players.

If you do need to make transfers, let's look at which of your players with a bye week should be sold and which would be better kept:

Aston Villa - Hold
With no game in week 28 either, many of us sold the likes of Milner last week in anticipation of their double week vacation. If you stuck by your Villains then it might be worth holding on again if you can given their double gameweek in week 30 (@Sto, @Wig) followed by a home derby against Wolves. I think these boys should have been sold in week 28 but if you made it through that I'd stick again and hold out for the richer rewards of week 30.

Blackburn - Sell
Not many owners will be too concerned with Allardyce's men in fantasy terms though to be fair Gamst Pedersen has been in good form of late while Ryan Nelsen has been a nice rotation prospect all season. With games @Tot and Che to follow their bye I think Blackburn players need to be sold, especially given that if you really fancy the games @Bur and @Por in weeks 32-33 then you should be able to bring your players back at the price you sold them for.

Chelsea - Hold if you can afford it
Obviously you never want to sell your best players, especially if you're sat on a big profit but this may be easier said than done as it would be tough to bench say, Lampard, Drogba and Ivanovic and leave 30.8m to go relax in the South of France while you take your team of Wolves and Burnley misfits off to battle for your side this weekend. Chelsea's next game is West Ham at home which looks decent and then they get a double (@Bla, @Por) but then a run of Ast, @MNU and @Tot looks very tough and thus Lampard and co might be sellable.

The natural choice to replace Lampard is Fabregas who was sensational last week against Stoke and who gets the best fixture a team can have - Burnley at home. With the return of Torres, Gerrard too becomes a viable option but remember he also has to travel to United in a few weeks (GW31). As for Drogba, it would the aforementioned Torres or the irrepressible Rooney. Perhaps against better judgement I actually like Torres to score more points that Rooney from here on in given the fixtures and the workload Rooney has already faced.

With all that said, Drogba could well be the best player to own in the final few weeks of the season so if you own him at a profit the best decision is probably to stay put.

Fulham - Sell/Hold
If you hold any Fulham players (particularly defenders) and you're not sat on a huge profit then it might be time to temporarily part with your reliable overachievers. With a bye week followed by a trip to Old Trafford and a home fixture with City, the returns look seriously limited over the next 3 weeks. My general rule is that I can accept keeping a player on a 1 or 2 game skid but 3 weeks of next to no contribution is too much to take, even for a bargain loaded side like Fulham.

Man City - Sell
I know, I know, they have a double gameweek in week 31 but @Ful (0.64 GPG conceded) and Eve (1.69 GPG conceded and improving) doesn't do much to get my fantasy blood boiling. Tevez is in great form and their performance at Chelsea showed they can win on any ground but nevertheless fantasy football for me is about playing the odds and with only Wigan at home in week 32 coming against a team who concede more than 1.5 GPG (along with the aforementioned Everton game) I think City's fantasy boom may have run its course. At 9m Tevez is really tough to replace, for this week and beyond (given that Defoe and Agbonlahor also have bye weeks this week). Long term I like Agbonlahor's fixtures though I don't believe he is in great form while Darren bent continues to provide good value in this week and the foreseeable future.

Tottenham - Hold A great fixture next week (Bla at home) followed by a series of decent games leads me to favour Spurs slightly over City as a fantasy force in the next few weeks. That said, without Lennon your Spurs options are somewhat limited to Defoe and a rejuvenated Modric to go along with their stellar back line. If you can hold these guys through the week then I think you'll be well placed in week 30 but it wouldn't be a disaster if you had to sell.

Stay tuned later in the week for the usual weekly preview. In the meantime please post your thoughts/comments/questions below or @plfantasy.