We're seven weeks in and we're really starting to get a good idea on who we can rely and what trends are for real. I thought - in honor of the title of this weekly post - I would employ the help of Led Zeppelin to help explain the season so far:
"Been dazed and confused for so long it's not true"
Though the top five has a familiar look, the rest of pack appears upside down and fantasy value has been scattered throughout the league with minnows like Blackpool and West Brom providing good fantasy picks while teams like Liverpool and Everton have struggled to contribute. One of the lessons as always is to play the fixtures, which explain why Everton's midfield and forwards (hardest attacking schedule to date) have struggled while Birmingham's defense (2nd easiest defensive schedule) have provided some value. More confusing is the fact that West Brom have conceded 6 in 6 since GW2 while facing one of the hardest schedules around while Spurs have managed just 8 goals despite playing one of the easiest. To try and ease the confusion a bit, here are the rankings for the next 6 weeks of expected goals conceded by each team:
(ranking based on this year and last, this year only rank in parenthesis)
- Chelsea (1)
- Man Utd (10)
- Liverpool (16)
- Arsenal (7)
- Man City (2)
- Aston Villa (6)
- Everton (5)
- Newcastle (14)
- Tottenham (3)
- Stoke (11)
- Bolton (8)
- Fulham (9)
- Birmingham (19)
- West Ham (18)
- Blackburn (12)
- Blackpool (13)
- Wigan (4)
- West Brom (20)
- Wolves (17)
- Sunderland (15)
"I don't know what it is that I like about you, but I like it a lot"
Actually, that's a lie, I know exactly what it is I like about Didier Drogba: everything. Drogba has elevated his game to a new level to put him alongside the like of Henry, Shearer and Ronaldo as one of the all time greats of this league and the game as a whole. Drogba has been sensational for Chelsea and his fantasy owners alike and despite some red flags (he has faced the easiest attacking schedule to date and faces the 5th hardest over the next 6 weeks) he is a must own player and is close to must captain status. The only way I could see a team being successful and not owning him would be if they chose to back three other premium strikers (say, Tevez, Berbatov and Bent) and used the freed up cash to upgrade to a top midfield player who catches fire at the right time (perhaps Fabregas on his return). Still this is purely conjecture while Drogba's success and value are lodged in cold, hard facts.
"Since I've Been Loving You. I'm about to lose my worried mind, oh, yeah"
Drogba's opponent this week was Arsene Wenger's frustrating side who once again failed to deliver in a big game in which they enjoyed plenty of possession and chances. I don't know where Arsenal go from here and until Fabregas returns I don't think I want any part of them. Yes, Nasri has shown glimpses in his four appearances but his ceiling is below other similarly priced midfielders (Van der Vaat, Bale, Nani, Arteta) and his consistency is a concern. Other than Nasri no other Arsenal player has cracked the aPPMS success line (defined as 0.658 based on the value needed to achieve a 2000 point season) with Arshavin being luxury purchase not pulling his weight (0.503 aPPMS). When Fabregas returns (likely after the international break) things could change but only a almost complete reversal of cutting edge could make this team deliver fantasy value to loyal owners.
"Didn't take too long 'fore I found out, what people mean my down and out"
Even before he limped off, I had decided that this was Torres' last week to earn his place in the captain rankings each week and though it's tough to penalise him for injury, he clearly isn't playing like an elite player right now. Liverpool are pretty awful at the moment and deserve their place in the relegation zone. If you want a hint of Liverpool's collapse look no further than my defensive rankings above. Liverpool are ranked as the third best unit based on this and last year's results, but based on this year only they are a woeful 16th (three places below the Blackpool team who beat them this week.) Given that their defenders cost 6m+, they are poor value and only Konchesky (5.1m) is justifiable (though I am selling him too).
Their midfield and forwards are even worse with Gerrard (0.389 aPPMS), Kuyt (0.373) and Torres (0.309) representing some of the worst value around. How Gerrard is owned by 16% players is beyond me and is surely based on his reputation and the 2 or 3 year old strategy of holding two of the 'big three' midfielders (Lampard, Gerrard and Ronaldo).
As I said, there is too much talent here to give up forever but this team needs drastic changes (and Joe Cole is unequivocally not the answer) before I will even look at them again.
"The Song Remains The Same"
I already touched on Drogba above but the Chelsea defense deserves some love of their own. The top three fantasy defenders all ply their trade at Stamford Bridge (and the right back would also be in there if not for the rotation of Ferreira and IvanovicVidic is bigger than the difference between Malouda and Nani (given that you can only own 3 Chelsea players and I've already said you need Drogba). As I toy with the idea of playing my wildcard, I start thinking that Cole and Alex looks like a pretty powerful combo right now. And that leads to me to the final word from Plant and Page . . .
"Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on"When to play your wildcard, possibly one of the most contemplated fantasy questions around. For the first time in 3 seasons this decision lays in my hands having not been forced into squandering it within 5 weeks due to too many poor decision and unlucky breaks. My team have done okay so far but the last couple of weeks have left me feeling a bit underwhelmed and my team lacked the flexibility to bring in a couple of players I wanted who have gone on to have success (Van der Vaat). For those interested in using their wildcard, the two week break is a decent time as you can buy players now whose price is likely to rise (Van der Vaat) and potentially make a profit within the window even if you don't decide to keep them.
Week 7 stats
I was delighted by the positive response to the PPMS/aPPMS numbers so I've included the leaders below along with some other random trends (note that I don't track every players' data so there could be the odd anomalous player with a better PPMS due to him playing one game etc)
aPPMS rankings (non GKs)
- Odenwingie (1.261)
- Elmander (1.167)
- Adam (1.083)
- El Mohamady (1.066)
- Carroll (0.994)
- Salcido (0.899)
- Barton (0.871)
- Nani (0.853)
- Etherington (0.830)
- Albrigton (0.810)
- Only midfielders have scored for Everton this season (plus one own goal)
- Chelsea are yet to concede a goal from open play this season while City have conceded just one.
- Birmingham have now conceded 3 own goals on the season, 30% of all their goals given up
- Chelsea midfielders account for 14 goals this year, more than all but Arsenal and United's team totals.
- Defenders have scored just 19 goals this year (10% of all goals). No defender has more than one and only 3 teams have account for more than one defensive goal (Birmingham (3), Stoke (2) and West Brom (2)).
- Chelsea have three players - Drogba (6), Malouda (6) and Kalou (4) who have scored as many or more goals than strikers from Villa, Everton, Liverpool and Spurs have combined.