Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gameweek 36 Preview

Milner really bailed my team out last week, thus keeping me in the running for my office championship. I hope your teams are still alive and with 3 weeks to go there is still time to score some major points and make up ground.

This week is pretty vanilla with just the 10 standard games and with Ars-MnC and MnU-Tot squaring off, it makes fantasy selections tough again this week. Villa, Liverpool and to an extent Chelsea have good fixtures though the continued absence of Torres and Fabregas along with the uncertainty around Drogba, make it tough to field a dominant side this week.

Defensively there are quite a few good options and I can see several team playing 4 or 5 at the back to maximum their exposure to the clean sheet opportunities.

Clean Sheet Rankings (projected goals conceded in parenthesis)
  1. Chelsea (0.34)
  2. Everton (0.55)
  3. Wolves (0.55)
  4. Bolton (0.56)
  5. Man U (0.67)
  6. Aston Villa (0.68)
  7. Burnley (0.84)
  8. Blackburn (0.90)
  9. Hull (0.98)
  10. West Ham (1.04)
  11. Liverpool (1.05)
  12. Arsenal (1.17)
  13. Portsmouth (1.71)
  14. Sunderland (1.93)
  15. Fulham (2.00)
  16. Birmingham (2.18)
  17. Stoke (2.26)
  18. Tottenham (2.64)
  19. Man City (2.65)
  20. Wigan (2.87)
Clearly there is a massive divide between the best and worst teams this week and plenty of high profile teams have really bad defensive fixtures. I think the best strategy is to either role the dice with 5 cheaper guys from the top ranked teams (who should give you a differential) or just accept that you aren't getting clean sheet this week, play three at the back and try and outscore your opponent. I think Everton are the best buy now as with Ful, @Sto and Por they could easily get two clean sheets and provide decent differential value. Of the teams at the bottom of the rankings this week, City, Fulham, Stoke and Spurs are worth holding for their double gameweeks coming up so I wouldn't rashly dump all these boys just yet.

Captain Rankings
  1. James Milner
  2. Wayne Rooney
  3. Frank Lampard
  4. Robin van Persie
  5. Darren Bent
  6. Tim Cahill
  7. Nicolas Anelka
  8. Emmanuel Adebayor
  9. Ashley Young
  10. Florent Malouda
I have excluded Drogba here as I have been burned too often with injured premium players this year and I'm not willing to take the risk. I don't love the options this week as many of the best players remaining square off against each other. I think Villa give good options while Lampard always seems to chip in with goals when his team needs him (which they will without Drogba). Elsewhere I have gone for a couple of form players like Cahill and Bent who remain solid options. Perhaps the biggest risk is Van Persie but he looked very strong against Spurs and I think with nothing to play for Arsenal might open things up and that game against City could be 3-3 (hence the inclusion of former Arsenal player Adebayor, who will look to avoid his previous antics against his former employers).

Stay tuned tomorrow for last minute injury news, as well as @plfantasy where I share stories and news from around the league.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gameweek 35 Preview

The end is in sight and the window to make up those final points is closing fast. Though far from controversial or particularly insightful, Villa players having the double this week will give you a chance to make up some ground on your league and it might be worth paying 4 points to bring a couple of these players in.
The Manchester and London derbies (Che-Tot) take away alot of the value to be found in the league and Liverpool's (well, Torres) attention seems to have turned to Europe so he cannot be relied upon from here on in. Hence this week's rankings are a bit up and down and several players I have cut out could end up having decent games if they prove their fitness. I am simply not willing to have another 8m player on the bench after suffering through this several times over the past few weeks.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Aston Villa (1.01 and 1.18)
  2. Birmingham (0.30)
  3. Liverpool (0.49)
  4. Fulham (0.57)
  5. Sunderland (0.64)
  6. Stoke (0.66)
  7. Arsenal (0.73)
  8. Blackburn (0.77)
  9. Tottenham (0.88)
  10. Hull (1.32 and 1.87)
  11. Portsmouth (1.39)
  12. Man City (1.44)
  13. Chelsea (1.48)
  14. Everton (1.56)
  15. Wigan (1.60)
  16. Man Utd (1.61)
  17. Bolton (1.95)
  18. Wolves (1.98)
  19. West Ham (3.10)
  20. Burnley (3.60)
I like the top 4 teams this week a lot and I would try and build your back line from these if you can. All four are worth buying given their decent fixtures and Fulham's double in week 37.

Captain Rankings
  1. Ashley Young
  2. James Milner
  3. Darren Bent
  4. Didier Drogba
  5. Emmanuel Adebayor
  6. Carlos Tevez
  7. Frank Lampard
  8. Richard Dunne
  9. Gabriel Agbonlahor
  10. Steve Gerrard
I have excluded Rooney, Torres and Van Persie on the basis that their fitness is too unreliable. If you already own them and don't wish to sell it may be worth captaining Torres and Van Persie as if they play they have very good fixtures; make sure you know who your backup captain will be though. I think

Good luck for the week ahead. Please post your thoughts/questions below or head over to Twitter where you can follow me @plfantasy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Final Push

Last week was a bit of a let down for many fantasy owners, with many - including me - struggling to top 40 points. The big name players continued to hurt owners with Torres sitting this week to join the likes of Rooney and Fabregas on the sidelines. With Liverpool all but out of the Champions League race and Torres focused on facing his former club Athletico in the Europa Cup, I am skeptical as to how much he will figure in the league from now on.

Rooney might return this week but is a risk due to both the unpredictability of big games (nevermind big derby games) while Drogba and Lampard face a tough derby of their own as they travel to Spurs. The team of the week is therefore Villa by some distance who not only enjoy a double gameweek but also have two decent fixtures - @Portsmouth and @Hull. While I am not condoning selling Rooney for Carew straight up, if you have a high priced player and a scrub, it might be worth splitting your cash and getting a pair like Young and Agbonlahor.

The wildcard is Van Persie but his return might be too little too late to help fantasy owners this season.

After that I like City's pair of Tevez and particularly Adebayor as your top premium strikers for the final few weeks of the season. They get the double in week 37 along with a decent run in aside from the Manchester derby this week.

For the final 4 weeks of the season I therefore rank the top line strikers as below:

Gameweek 35
  1. Didier Drogba
  2. Emmanuel Adebayor
  3. Carlos Tevez
  4. Wayne Rooney
  5. Fernando Torres
  6. Robin Van Persie
Gameweek 36
  1. Wayne Rooney
  2. Didier Drogba
  3. Fernando Torres
  4. Emmanuel Adebayor
  5. Carlos Tevez
  6. Robin Van Persie
Gameweek 37
  1. Emmanuel Adebayor
  2. Carlos Tevez
  3. Wayne Rooney
  4. Didier Drogba
  5. Fernando Torres
  6. Robin Van Persie
Gameweek 38
  1. Didier Drogba
  2. Emmanuel Adebayor
  3. Carlos Tevez
  4. Fernando Torres
  5. Robin Van Persie
  6. Wayne Rooney

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gameweek 34 Live Diary

Big afternoon of Premier League football today with title, relegation of course, fantasy implications galore. What does that all mean I here you cry? A running diary of course. Thankfully, we start with just 15 minutes of the awful Wolves-Stoke game to go. I have managed to see intermittent 'highlights' of it online but I think my computer is trying to help me out by disconnecting me as much as possible. Suffice to say, its been rubbish.

We'll start therefore at Old Trafford where they've just kicked off and 5 uneventful minutes have been played.

13:39 Eight minutes gone at Ewood and a decent header from Chris Samba forces a save from Van der Sar, who always had it covered. The big news for the game of course is the absence of Wayne Rooney but fantasy owners will be more frustrated by the absence of Evra, inexplicably rested for the game by 'Fawlty Ferguson'. I presume he realises they lie second in the table, and that United have no other fronts to challenge on? Why then is their most consistent defender and provider of attacking flare riding the bench in favor of the consistent but unremarkable O'Shea? Confusing.

13:46 Still no goals at Molineux either which would be a welcome clean sheet for all Sorensen owners (your humble blogger included). With Joe Hart ineligible this week many teams were forced to play Sorensen in what was a good but not great fixture and a 6 point return would be more than welcomed by all. Back at Ewood, United are pressing after a couple of corners but no real threat comes of it all. Without Rooney, the team looks a bit flat at the moment and they could do with some magic from Valencia or even Nani to liven things up.

13:53 It's been a very strange development over the past few months but I have really (pause for effect) warmed to Craig Bellamy. Perhaps I was lead astray by the tattoos and bad language but when you actually listen to what he says he is refreshingly - too? - honest. In a recent interview he conceded that while happy at City he doesn't "see [him]self playing for City in two or three years, lifting trophies" due to the influx of new players expected at Eastlands. He also struck out at some of his fellow 'professionals' stating "I don't go to nightclubs, I don't go to lounge bars, I don't spend my days shopping. That doesn't interest me. I spend a lot of time with my children at home. That's where I feel good."I never would have thought that Bellamy would be the voice of morality and reason which I guess goes to show either how far he has come, or how far everyone else has fallen.

13:54 FULL TIME at Molineux and it's two clean sheets, at least one of which will delight many fantasy owners. With Huth lurking on deck for Pure Juice I am hoping Evra doesn't get a sniff in the game at Ewood thus allowing the Stoke man to bring his 6 points into the first team to join the 7 contributed by Sorensen.

14:02 Nani has enjoyed some space down the left flank and I can't help but feel that they would be having more joy with Evra there rather than the defensive minded O'Shea. Hopefully Ferguson doesn't feel the same way and bring on Evra at half time (thus preventing Huth from storming in off my bench). By the way, Samba is off injured, replace by Ryan Nelsen.

14:10 I always consider Berbatov to be more of a 'striker' while Rooney is that drifting forward type. However, when the balls are played into danger areas Berbatov just doesn't seem to have the knack for being there like Rooney does. Intelligence? Effort? Not sure what it is but United lack a cutting edge without Rooney today so far.

14:14 I guess that's why he is in though. Great strength from Berbatov to win the ball and then play a delicious reverse pass to put Valencia through. The winger opens his body nicely but then snatches the shot a bit and Robinson gets down well to save. Great stuff from Berbatov though.

14:16 Worrying news for Liverpool fans and fantasy players alike. A texter over at BBC just noted that Torres has been nowhere to be seen during the warm ups today at Anfield. With a decent fixture at home to Fulham, Torres is a great play this week and will have been captained by many. An unexpected absence would be really dissapointing.

14:18 HALF TIME at Ewood Park. Pretty dull game so far with the best chance falling to Valencia. I noted against Bayern midweek that with their backs to the wall, there is no way you would bet against United in 2007. Now though? I'm not so sure. Still the favourites here but the winner is far from inevitable the way it was when Ferguson boasted the three headed monster of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez.

14:25 Some great half time reading here from the Guardian with an excellent review of everything the Bundesliga is doing well. A friend of mine is a big fan of Werder Bremen and sings the German league's praises so I have been interested in this for a while. The German league is run almost like the US models that have had so much success in the NFL and to an extent MLB. Although many English fans don't wish to take advice from the US or Germany (just look at United where the anti-American taunts and now anti-German comments are pretty offensive) there is much to be learned and the Premier League will be in better hands when those in charge learn to listen to examples from around the world.

14:35 Torres is indeed confirmed to be out of the clash at Anfield which is more depressing big name news for fantasy players that have endured the losses of Fabregas, Rooney and Drogba over the past few weeks. Sigh.

14:44 The commentators don't seem to be highlighting how important the final 35 minutes are here. If United draw then now only could Chelsea pull 4 points clear midweek but Arsenal will also overtake them for second place with a win at local rival Spurs. United have only failed to finish in the top two 3 times in the history of the Premier League. Darren Gibson on for Giggs now.

14:55 Well here we are, 25 minutes left and United throw on Park after Gibson came on a few minutes ago. Is that the biggest difference in United's squad this season versus the prior two? A lack of genuine threat off the bench? I like Park due to his work rate and underrated passing and Gibson can strike a ball but when Chelsea brought on Anelka, Kalou and Ballack yesterday you have to question how well Ferguson has strengthened his squad. Are his hands tied by the Glazers? I don't know. But all those who wildly rant against Wenger's lack of action in strengthening his squad should also look up north to Manchester.

15:03 It's the scenario I dreaded. Evra looks like he is coming on to give him 1 point for the day instead 6. I hate rotation policies. In fact, I am planning a Matthew Berry style draft manifesto for next season, which will continue a break down of manager's tendencies to rotate and how often players feature when fit.

15:08 Chelsea have to travel to Spurs and Liverpool so the title isn't over just yet but are we sure United can go to Eastlands and win? At worst I see Chelsea getting 84 points (3 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss) which would mean United must win all four of their remaining games to win the title. Good chance for Berbatov there but he shoots straight at Robinson. It's getting tense.

15:12 Good work rate from United who continue to press well and Blackburn can't get any kind of position to relieve the pressure. With the ball though United don't look particularly threatening. More concern for Ferguson as Ferdinand appears to be struggling with a groin but all 3 subs have been used. Fantasy karma gods punishing Ferguson for screwing all us Evra owners?

15:16 Kalinic has put in a decent shift in the second half and held the ball up well on occasion. A pretty good signing by Allardyce: not much fantasy value mind.

15:18 If United can win this one they have Neville to thank after a brilliant block denies N'Zonzi from putting Rovers ahead.

15:24 FULL TIME at Ewood and the snooze fest is over, is the title race too? Not sure I'm there yet but that was a massive step towards the title for Chelsea. I'm taking a quick break then back for City-Brum at 4pm.

15:54 The teams are almost ready at Eastlands and the team news is in. City go with Tevez, Adebayor, Bellamy and Johnson, a fearsome foursome that will surely provide some goals on this dull day so far? Birmingham have come here to be tight though and City have some work to do to break them down. I've gone for Adebayor and City 2-0 though I might fancy Bellamy's pace in this one too. As an outside bet, McFadden first goal at 11-1 looks interesting. The teams are out. Game most definately on.

16:15 After a lively start from City Birmingham have locked them down a bit in the past few minutes. Tevez is frustrated and has started to drop deeper and deeper in search of some meaningful possession. With question marks over Rooney, Torres and Drogba, Tevez and Adebayor might be the safest top line strikers for the final four games of the season.

16:35 I was just about write how miserable the day has been for goals but wait, penalty at Eastlands! Bad news is that Tevez takes them and all my opponents have him in their team this week. Oh well, at least its a goal. And he scores. GOAL TEVEZ.

16:44 Incredible passive of play. GOAL for Onouha to make it 2-0 City and then Jerome immediately hits back with his own GOAL to make it 2-1. City then replay with an Adebayor GOAL to make it 3-1 and restore a 2 goal cushion. Crazy game.

16:50 HALF TIME at Eastlands and a chance to draw breathe after a crazy 10 minutes there. City the better team and there are more goals to come here. Tevez owners rejoice as the Argentinian looks set to score plenty today. Oh dear.

16:53 FULL TIME at Anfield where Liverpool are held by Fulham. With City winning that should end Liverpool's hopes of getting into the Champions Legaue and we'll have a pretender (City/Spurs) in this year's competition. I hope it's City but either will be good for English football.

17:12 City look the more threatening as Onouha goes close again. Incidentally his first 'goal' is being claimed by Tevez who will be the best fantasy player of the week so far.

17:27 Johnson goes close and it seems like a matter of time before City wrap this one up. They look lively and I fancy them to give good returns over the final few weeks of the season, even if they do face United next week.

17:34 Onouha wraps up the win with his first/second goal of the afternoon. Great finish from the right back. Lovely goal.

17:41 Johnson has looked sharp again this week and I am wondering if he could be outside shot for the World Cup. I fancy him alot than the frustrating Cole. A genuine winger who could give the England side something a bit different.

17:48 Tevez departs to a standing ovation and then Adebayor gets his second GOAL of the afternoon. Great, cool, finish. One of the most natural finishers around. I know who I am targeting for the final 3 games of the season (after Manchester derby).

17:52 The City announcers give Onouha two for the afternoon which would delight me and anyone else that doesn't own Tevez. And there goes the full time whistle. Well it was a very slow start to the day but we ended up with 6 goals in this one after a very impressive display by City who go into the Manchester in tremendous form. Hopefully we'll get some better fantasy action in the midweek games. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gameweek 34 Preview

It's starting to get serious now. With Chelsea's win at Old Trafford and Arsenal's last minute winner against Wolves, the title is race is fully on with all three teams have a legitimate chance to win it.

With the cancellation of the Stoke-Fulham game, gameweek 34 becomes a standard 10 game week, though with no top of the table clashes, there should be points on offer so long as we don't suffer any more big name casualties.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Liverpool
  2. Wigan
  3. Stoke
  4. Wolves
  5. Chelsea
  6. Hull
  7. Aston Villa
  8. Man City
  9. Tottenham
  10. West Ham
  11. Man Utd
  12. Portsmouth
  13. Blackburn
  14. Everton
  15. Arsenal
  16. Sunderland
  17. Birmingham
  18. Fulham
  19. Burnley
  20. Bolton
The stats suggest that no less than 8 teams will concede - on average - less than a goal this week which makes for some potential gains from our defensive lines. Liverpool, Wigan and Stoke are a cut above the rest this week and it would be wise to try and get at least three of these in this week. Normally I would stay a million miles away from Hull but with a great fixture this week (Burnley at home which has 0-0 written all over it) and a double gameweek in gameweek 35, there might be some value there if you have someone like Myhill or McShane stashed on your bench.

If you're looking to buy someone for the rest of the season I like Liverpool, Chelsea then Villa for your premium options and Everton, Wolves and Hull for your rotation/sleeper pickups.

Captain Rankings
  1. Didier Drogba
  2. Frank Lampard
  3. Fernando Torres
  4. Emmanual Adebayor
  5. Carlos Tevez
  6. Darren Bent
  7. Ashley Young
  8. Hugo Rodallega
  9. James Milner
  10. Steven Gerrard
Good options this week with Chelsea, Liverpool, City and Villa all facing opponents who concede at least 1.5 GPG. Elsewhere, Wigan, West Ham and Hull have great fixtures but I can only throw support behind Rodallega, and possibly N'Zogbia, from those squads. Despite Lampard's excellent scoring form I have gone for Drogba who has scored 3 times against Bolton in the past two meetings (including one in this seasons 4-0 drubbing earlier in the year). He should be well rested and raring to go and I can see rewards for anyone who captains him this week.

Well, United have just crashed out leaving no EPL teams left in this season's Champions League. Has the EPL taken a step back - possibly - but I don't think this shows that much. Considering the English press' bias against Italy and Germany in the past though, perhaps they will write the league off in the papers tomorrow. Perhaps not.

As always please post your lineup/transfer questions below or @plfantasy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gameweek 34

As our attention turns to the Champions League tonight and tomorrow, I will be focusing heavily on the week's EPL action following last week's disastrous preview column. It was perhaps bad luck to go on holiday the week that Rooney, Fabregas, Arteta and Arshavin among others sat out through injury, but nevertheless I dropped the ball on a couple of those players after blowing the Rooney call last week.

I hope you will be patient and stick with me through the end of the season and hopefully we can bring some mini league titles hone in the final weeks.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gameweek 33 Preview

Due to a lack of time I am going to cut short this week's preview to give you an idea of which players to target this week.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Birmingham
  2. Stoke
  3. Liverpool
  4. Tottenham
  5. Man Utd
  6. Everton
  7. Portsmouth
  8. Arsenal
  9. Fulham
  10. Sunderland
  11. Aston Villa
  12. Burnley
  13. Man City
  14. Bolton
  15. Hull
  16. Chelsea
  17. Blackburn
  18. West Ham
  19. Wigan
  20. Wolves
Captain Rankings
  1. Bobby Zamora
  2. Mikel Arteta
  3. Samir Nasri
  4. Danny Murphy
  5. Matt Etherington
  6. James Milner
  7. Carlos Tevez
  8. Fernando Torres
  9. Didier Drogba
  10. Frank Lampard
The choice this week is really between your elite players against a top side (see Chelsea and United) or your form players against weaker opponents (see Arteta and Zamora). The exception is Arsenal who get Wolves at home but with Fabregas and Van Persie out, it's tough to be totally sold on any of their fantasy prospects.

As always, why not post your thoughts below or @plfantasy.