Friday, April 29, 2011

Gameweek 35 Preview

I always start getting a bit nostalgic around this time of the year as reality sets in that the season is almost over and we have the long summer ahead. There are still a few weeks left though and this is an important week to negotiate with a large portion of fantasy studs involved in games against each other. The two big clashes makes for excellent TV viewing but they make fantasy lineups harder to set as players rarely have big games in the top of the table clashes.

It is of course key to also remember that Spurs face the double gameweek in GW36 so be careful before you sell these assets this week due to their tough fixture. City are the other team with the double next week and given their good looking fixture this week (West Ham H) they look like solid investments right now.

Clean Sheet Rankings
(clean sheets kept at home or away / opponents failed to score at home or away in parenthesis)
  1. Liverpool (9 - 6)
  2. Man City (10 - 9)
  3. Blackburn (6 - 6)
  4. Birmingham (6 - 7)
  5. Chelsea (11 - 3)
  6. Sunderland (7 - 6)
  7. Arsenal (8 - 4)
  8. Everton (3 - 5)
  9. Fulham (3 - 3)
  10. Blackpool (0 - 8)
  11. Bolton (0 - 5)
  12. West Brom (1 - 5)
  13. Wigan (3 - 5)
  14. Wolves (2 - 5)
  15. Man Utd (5 - 4)
  16. Stoke (2 - 0)
  17. Newcastle (5 - 1)
  18. Tottenham (2 - 2)
  19. Aston Villa (0 - 2)
  20. West Ham (1 - 5)
Attacking rankings
(expected goals in parenthesis)
  1. West Brom (2.28)
  2. Arsenal (2.18)
  3. Chelsea (2.08)
  4. Man City (2.02)
  5. Everton (1.77)
  6. Liverpool (1.64)
  7. Stoke (1.61)
  8. Blackpool (1.52)
  9. Aston Villa (1.50)
  10. Birmingham (1.48)
  11. Blackburn (1.28)
  12. Man Utd (1.20)
  13. Wigan (1.10)
  14. Sunderland (0.99)
  15. Tottenham (0.99)
  16. Fulham (0.98)
  17. Bolton (0.78)
  18. Newcastle (0.64)
  19. Wolves (0.62)
  20. West Ham (0.57)
Captain Stats
It's incredible to lead off with him but no one is in better form than Odenwingie and with the great fixture this week, the West Brom forward is a genuine captain option this week. His last five games go 8-10-15-6-7 making him the overall leader in points and the only player with 5 quality games in the last 5 GWs. His ownership is still just 13% and with so many of the big names playing each other, he presents a high risk-high reward opportunity to differentiate your team a bit.

Another player in red hot form is Florent Malouda who has suddenly found another burst of energy. He is a notoriously streaky player so it's a legitimate strategy to try and ride the hot streak, though you would of course like an easier fixture. That said, Spurs really aren't that great away from home (1.5 GPG conceded) while Malouda has crushed opponents for 8.2 PPG at the Bridge. He's just as likely to give you a 2 pointer but no one has a higher ceiling right now.

Robin van Persie's tremendous form continues and he now has 8.6 PPG over the past 5 GWs. My concern with him is that his double digit games have come against West Ham, Wigan, Newcastle, Wolves and Blackpool - all of whom clearly lack the pedigree of Man Utd. Still worth a look but there are better options this week.

Like their teammate Malouda, Drogba and Lampard are intriguing picks again this week with both having enjoyed a big couple of weeks. Drogba has the higher upside and a goal against Spurs this year but Lampard's set pieces always give him a chance to contribute and he probably brings more consistency.

Without Carlos Tevez it's hard to recommend any City players as captain picks but David Silva had a very good game against West Ham the first time round (also earning 8 fantasy points along the way) and a couple of goals and 8 bonus points over the last five weeks he comes into the week in decent form. City need to keep winning to qualify for the Champions League and Silva is a really nice option to bring in ahead of next week's double, even if you don't captain him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Gameweek 34 Preview

Clean Sheet Rankings
(clean sheets kept - opponents failed to score in parenthesis)

  1. Chelsea (10 - 8)
  2. Man Utd (9 - 4)
  3. Stoke* (2 - 4) and (5 - 6)
  4. Fulham* (3 - 3) and (8 - 5)
  5. Liverpool (7 - 4)
  6. Aston Villa (6 - 8)
  7. Tottenham (5 - 7)
  8. Sunderland (7 - 8)
  9. Blackburn (6 - 6)
  10. Wolves* (3 - 6) and (2 - 3)
  11. Man City (4 - 4)
  12. Blackpool (0 - 6)
  13. Wigan (3 - 3)
  14. Bolton* (5 - 2) and (0 - 3)
  15. Arsenal (4 - 3)
  16. Newcastle (5 - 0)
  17. Birmingham (3 - 1)
  18. West Brom (0 - 4)
  19. Everton (3 - 0)
  20. West Ham (1 - 2)
 * = double gameweek

Attacking Rankings
(expected goals in parenthesis)
  1. Chelsea (2.48)
  2. Stoke (2.44)*
  3. Fulham (2.36)*
  4. Tottenham (2.21)
  5. Bolton (2.07)*
  6. Arsenal (1.94)
  7. Man Utd (1.64)
  8. Liverpool (1.62)
  9. Wolves (1.60)*
  10. Aston Villa (1.50)
  11. Blackpool (1.44)
  12. West Brom (1.39)
  13. Newcastle (1.21)
  14. Man City (1.15)
  15. Blackburn (1.13)
  16. Everton (1.07)
  17. Wigan (0.92)
  18. Birmingham (0.89)
  19. Sunderland (0.82)
  20. West Ham (0.75)
 * = double gameweek
Captain Stats
The stars seen to have aligned for Drogba this week who gets the best fixture having found a nice bit of form in this late stage of the season (36 points in his last 5 games). In 12 games against weaker sides Drogba has 6 goals, 7 assists and 11 bonus points, averaging 7.3 PPG. He doesn't have the extreme home/road splits of some players (5.33 PPG home/5.19 PPG away) but he probably makes the safest pick this week nonetheless.

I predicted a big finish to the season for Lampard, and while he's had his moments (3 double digit GWs in the last 9) he's really lacked the consistency one would like for a 13m player. None of the aforementioned big games have come at home and he's mustered just 8 points in his last 3 at the Bridge. The set pieces always make him viable and I like him ahead of the other double digit midfielders this week but he isn't a pick you get overly excited about.

Although he perhaps doesn't have quite the fixture of some of the alternatives, Van Persie is actually more productive on the road this year (5.18 H/7.56 A) while he has simply crushed mid level opponents to the tune of 9.17 PPG. Also, don't be too alarmed by the 'Bolton play physical and play Arsenal well' rhetoric. That was true under Allardyce but under the more aesthetically pleasing Coyle, Bolton have lost all four games to Arsenal yielding 11 goals in the process (indeed Arsenal have 8 straight wins over the Wanderers).

Of the DGW options, Dempsey looks like a good play thanks to his consistent returns (4.6 PPG) and decent upside (two double digit games this year). The fixtures are slightly below Stoke's but aside from an out of form Etherington, there's really no one in the Potters team you trust to deliver the goods.

Van der Vaart looks well placed to capitalise on his midweek display as Spurs welcome a West Brom side with only one clean sheet all year (at home in GW2). Interestingly, the Dutchman has fared considerably worse against the weakest opponents (4.4 PPG) as appose to mid level (8.6 PPG) but his set piece duties and the Baggies' generally defensive crappiness make him a very good option this week.

Rooney and Nani don't have the best fixture but United remain excellent at home, where Nani in particular (9.07 PPG) has excelled (Rooney's split is fairly even). It's also worth noting that Rooney has managed just 2 goals in 9 games against his former employers. Nani meanwhile had an 8 point game in the reverse fixture in GW4. Both are good playsand you probably can't go wrong with either but higher upside can be found and those chasing the leaders should be mindful of their high ownership (44% Nani, 16% Rooney).

Paul Scholes
Maynor Figueroa

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gameweek 33 Preview

Is your season slipping falling away like a North London club with all the promise seemingly doomed to result in nothing? Are your loyal fans starting to turn on you after you once again handed to the armband to the slumping Drogba over the red-hot Van Persie? Is your loyalty to the increasingly leaky Sunderland defense causing murmurs in the stands that you've lost the confidence of the board? Well, unlike our real manager counterparts, fantasy managers have a golden opportunity this week to turn things round with three double gameweeks and 5 teams out of action.

Hopefully you made some preparations for this week and so you're not sat holding Tevez, Davies and Jones as your talented but absent front line. Even the best planning though may have left you needing a quick fix so I urge you to take a peak here for some ideas of some one week mercenaries to fill out your match day lineup. Before settling on transfers though, we of course need to know who are the best plays of the week so without further delay here are this week's captain and clean sheet rankings:

Clean Sheet Rankings
(clean sheets kept - opponents failed to score in parenthesis)

  1. Chelsea (4 - 2) and (10 - 4)
  2. Arsenal (8 - 4) and (4 - 4)
  3. Birmingham (5 - 7) and (3 - 2)
  4. Blackpool (0 - 8)
  5. Sunderland (7 - 5)
  6. West Ham (4 - 5)
  7. Tottenham (5 - 2)
  8. Everton (4 - 4)
  9. Wigan (3 - 0)
  10. Newcastle (3 - 3)
  11. West Brom (1 - 6)
  12. Liverpool (5 - 4)
  13. Aston Villa (0 - 3)
  14. Man Utd (4 - 2)
  15. Blackburn (1 - 2)
Interestingly, the three DGW teams would rank as the top three even ignoring their second fixture (Arsenal would be first though) and only Chelsea really look to gain a great deal with their second game (Arsenal and Birmingham's trips to Spurs and Chelsea are unlikely to yield clean sheets). Many readers will be shocked to see Man Utd so far down the ranks but ask yourself this: where would you rank Newcastle going to Old Trafford? The situation is actually very similar with Newcastle being almost as potent at home as the Champions-elect (2.25 GPG versus 2.63 GPG) and Man Utd being similarly leaky on the road (1.44 GPG versus 1.50 GPG). Granted they should get their first choice players back soon but they still look a little risky on the road right now. With Arsenal and Chelsea still to come, I would be selling any United defenders to target David Luiz for the week (Smalling's value now looks gone too as the first teamers return to action).

Attacking rankings
  1. Chelsea
  2. Arsenal
  3. Everton
  4. Man Utd
  5. Birmingham
  6. West Ham
  7. Aston Villa
  8. Blackburn
  9. Tottenham
  10. West Brom
  11. Blackpool
  12. Liverpool
  13. Newcastle
  14. Wigan
  15. Sunderland
Not too much controversy here - Chelsea and Arsenal are the best plays on paper and should each manage 3 or 4 goals based on the stats. Be careful not to overvalue Birmingham who really don't have too many weapons up top and face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as part of their DGW. Their remaining fixtures are also tricky and so I would write this side off from an attacking standpoint for the remainder of the year. Also feel free to sell your Wigan, Sunderland and Fulham players who offer little from here on in.

Double Gameweek Player Rankings
Most of you will already own a number of these players but based on the past stats and form, I would recommend targeting (and captaining) the below players based on projected points, position scarcity and player value:
  1. Robin van Persie - he gets the nod here as a transfer target largely because of position scarcity (which other big name strikers would you be happy with this week? Rooney, and . . .?). As a captain though it really is neck and neck though I might lean to Lampard as West Brom/Birmingham have a bigger chance of collapsing and shipping 4 or 5 goals than Liverpool/Spurs.
  2. Frank Lampard - great fixtures, set piece duties and high upside makes Lampard close to must own this week. Qualifies as a differentiator with an 8.5% ownership. I will probably give him the nod as captain.
  3. David Luiz - for me Luiz is the best defensive prospect we've had for some time with a rejuvenated Chelsea defense coupled with outstanding offensive upside
  4. Cesc Fabregas - another frustrating stop/start season for Fabregas, but he remains a top option and has 4 quality starts in his last 5.
  5. Theo Walcott - we're into the risky pile now but I love Walcott's upside and he's delievered (174 aPoints) every time he's been in the first team
  6. Samir Nasri - his second half has been slow and as with Walcott the presence of Arshavin makes him a rotation risk but he has the talent to contribute in any given week.
  7. Didier Drogba - only 3 goals in 2011 makes it hard to back Drogba and his 22% ownership turns me off even more. Always worth a mention though due to his immense talents.
  8. Laurent Koscielny - the pick of the Arsenal defenders at 5.9m but still not a steal.
Thanks for reading and please post any questions below or over @plfantasy

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gameweek 33 Mercenaries

With five teams (Bolton, Fulham, Man City, Stoke and Wolves) not in action this week a few of us might be scrambling for one-week mercenaries this week. With the DGWs falling to Arsenal, Chelsea and Birmingham the one week filler pool is somewhat limited with the big boys tending to be largely overpriced. Saying that, there is some potential within both these teams and others with good fixtures if you need a quick fix.

Theo Walcott (6.9m) - he isn't extremely cheap at 6.9m but given his production I think he justifies a much loftier price. Over the season he ranks 4th among midfielders in aPoints and 9th overall. The downside, of course, has been his inability to stay on the field but Wenger tends to play him at home with Walcott starting the last 7 home games he was available for, so you should be able to avoid the dreaded 10 minute garbage time appearance. At worst I would expect 120 minutes and given the majority of that should be against a Liverpool side who have conceded 26 goals away from home, Walcott makes a great replacement for any of the mid range options missing this week (such as Dempsey, Silva or Milner).

Jack Wilshere (5.1m) - this pick is purely based on the fact that Wilshere should play twice this week, has shown an ability to catch the bonus judges' eye (12 BPs) and is available at a cost significantly below his teammates. With just one goal and three assists his upside is low but for this price tag you're buying into safety and I think Wilshere gives that as good anyone in this price bracket.

Jermaine Beckford (4.7m) - of all the non-double teams this week, Everton have the best fixture (Blackburn have conceded 2.4 GPG on the road) but not necessarily the players to take advantage. The silver lining could be the chance this presents Jermaine Beckford, who has quietly added 7 goals this year, despite playing just 1000 minutes (Torres has 2 more goals despite playing 2300 minutes). With Cahill, Arteta and Saha all looking to miss out again this week, the onus is once again on Beckford to lead the line for Everton and that could well lead to fantasy spoils for owners looking for quick replacements for Elmander or Davies. Normally his public spat with Moyes would scare me but with so few alternatives it seems likely Beckford will once again get the nod.

Thomas Hitzelsperger (5.1m) / Scott Parker (5.7m) / Mark Noble (5.3m) - the true definition of a one week play as West Ham get a very favourable fixture (Ast H) followed by two of the three hardest around (@Che, @MnC). The Hammers have been much improved of late with 8 goals in their last 3 home games despite entertaining Man Utd and Liverpool. The problem is picking which of this trio will have success in a given week. Each of the three have had a double digit game in the past few weeks but have also suffered through several 2 pointers. I really like Hitzelsperger's game but Noble's penalty duties and Parker's bonus ability makes him the odd one out here. I would advise Parker as the safer option likely to give you points in that 4 - 6 range with Noble having a slightly higher upside.

Charlie Adam (5.9m) - I'm sure anyone who reads this blog and takes a shred of notice of anything I say already owns the impressive Scot but just in case, Adam makes a particularly useful play this week as he welcomes a Wigan side who are yet to register a clean sheet in 2011.

Roger Johnson (5.3m) - Birmingham do enjoy a DGW but with one of those games at Stamford Bridge it's hard to get overly excited for any of their players. With little promise up front we need to look along the back line to find some value and I think it's Johnson who can best deliver (provided he proves his fitness in the next day or so). With Sunderland really struggling right now, Birmingham's first game of the week ranks as the second best around so anything they could pick up at Chelsea (likely appearance points at best) is a bonus. With a trip to Anfield on the horizon I see Johnson as purely a one week plug but a potentially valuable one nonetheless who can contribute across all categories (2 goals, 2 assists, 20 BPs this year).

There are obviously other bigger names who warrant attention this week (Van Persie, Lampard, Fabregas etc) but unless you're inexplicably holding a Torres or Gerrard, it's unlikely you have the cash to bring these players in at short notice. More focus will of course be placed on these players in the upcoming captain ranks later in the week. Until then, why not post your question below or at @plfantasy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gameweek 32 Preview

This week's rankings are going to have to be cut short a bit due to time constraints but with no doubles, it isn't a particularly tricky week to navigate. For some guidance on the upcoming doubles and off-weeks I suggest having a quick glance over here.
Clean sheet rankings
(clean sheets kept - opponents failed to score in parenthesis)
  1. Chelsea (9 - 7)
  2. Man Utd (8 - 5)
  3. Tottenham (5 - 8)*
  4. Blackburn (6 - 4)
  5. Aston Villa (5 - 5)
  6. Liverpool (6 - 5)
  7. Sunderland (7 - 7)
  8. Bolton (4 - 7)*
  9. Wolves (3 - 4)*
  10. Man City (4 - 1)*
  11. Arsenal (4 - 0)
  12. Everton (2 - 2)
  13. Birmingham (3 - 4)
  14. Stoke (2 - 4)*
  15. Newcastle (5 - 4)
  16. West Brom (0 - 3)
  17. Wigan (3 - 2)
  18. Fulham (3 - 0)*
  19. West Ham (1 - 3)
  20. Blackpool (0 - 2)
*Team has no game next gameweek

In short; buy the home teams. The top 7 sides look like premium plays this week though be careful not to over invest in Spurs players who miss GW33 and don't get their makeup DGW until GW36 (and even then it's a tricky trip to City). The form chart would also cast some doubt over Sunderland who have just one clean sheet in the last 9 games (strangely it came at The Emirates) so again exercise some caution here. Many (including your humble blogger) will jump on David Luiz this week to benefit from this fixture and next week's DGW. Normally I try and give the contrarian view but this move just seems to perfect to avoid. I suppose their is some rotation risk given Chelsea's Champions League responsibilities but at 6.4m (1.7m less than Cole) I feel the risk is worth it.

Attacking Rankings
  1. Arsenal
  2. Chelsea
  3. Man Utd
  4. Blackburn
  5. Tottenham*
  6. Bolton*
  7. Aston Villa
  8. West Ham
  9. Everton
  10. Blackpool
  11. West Brom
  12. Sunderland
  13. Wolves*
  14. Liverpool
  15. Man City*
  16. Newcastle
  17. Birmingham
  18. Stoke*
  19. Fulham*
  20. Wigan
*Team has no game next gameweek

Wayne Rooney
Kevin Nolan
Jonny Evans
Cheik Tiote