Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gameweek 38 Preview

It's a sad day when the season ends, particularly when the title race is over. However, for me, the excitement is just as high (or higher) at the other end of the table and so there's plenty to keep watching for. Oh, and there's the small matter of the last fantasy gameweek to deal with. Hopefully everyone has their mini leagues wrapped up by now (okay maybe not) but just in case, the weekly rankings are below.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Man Utd
  2. Stoke
  3. Tottenham
  4. Aston Villa
  5. West Ham
  6. Chelsea
  7. Bolton
  8. Newcastle
  9. Wolves
  10. Everton
  11. Sunderland
  12. Man City
  13. Liverpool
  14. Arsenal
  15. Fulham
  16. Wigan
  17. Birmingham
  18. Blackburn
  19. West Brom
  20. Blackpool
 Attacking Rankings
  1. Man Utd
  2. Tottenham
  3. Chelsea
  4. Arsenal
  5. Liverpool
  6. Wolves
  7. Aston Villa
  8. West Brom
  9. Fulham
  10. Man City
  11. Sunderland
  12. Newcastle
  13. West Ham
  14. Blackburn
  15. Wigan
  16. Stoke
  17. Bolton
  18. Blackpool
  19. Everton
  20. Birmingham
I will have to cut the preview short this week as I head down to Florida for a few days, but I would like to take the chance to thank everyone for reading and commenting this year. I have some plans to make the site better for next season so hopefully the stats will be updated quicker and more often so keep checking back over the summer for reviews of the season, general strategies and eventually predictions for next season.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gameweek 37 Rankings

There are always new lessons to be learned when it comes to fantasy football, even when you get into the last gasps of a fading season. Last week, a fantasy rambler not too far from here noted:

“Mario Balotelli . . . might be worth a punt but it really would be a risk at this point. Only those needing to gain ground on opponents should apply.”

A couple of Friday night beers and YouTube videos can do funny things to a fantasy team though and come Saturday morning, Balotelli was lacing up his boots for my team, despite the fact I had everything to lose and nothing to gain in my main mini league. We’ve no more double gameweeks to get carried away with but the lesson stands – don’t overpay for upside unless you’re totally desperate. With two weeks to go a majority of people probably are desperate but 4 point hits rarely work out and I would almost never recommend using them in a non double gameweek.
Observant readers might expect to see last week's Fulham clean sheet ranking (2nd) flagged as an error but at least that pick was grounded in fact. It clearly didn’t work out but if you follow the same logic for a full season you should generally be ahead of the pack. So assuming you are comfortable with the logic of these picks (and to be fair that may be stretch) let’s go ahead and check out this week’s rankings:

Clean Sheet Rankings
(clean sheets kept – opponents failed to score in parenthesis)
  1. Chelsea (11 - 7)
  2. Man City (11 - 9)
  3. Arsenal (9 – 5)
  4. Liverpool (9 - 4)
  5. Sunderland (7 - 7)
  6. Birmingham (6 - 6)
  7. Fulham (9 - 5)
  8. Blackburn (7 - 5)
  9. Man Utd (5 - 5)
  10. Blackpool (1 - 7)
  11. Wigan (3 - 9)
  12. West Brom (1 - 5)
  13. Everton (3 - 2)
  14. West Ham (1 - 5)
  15. Bolton (0 - 1)
  16. Stoke (3 - 3)
  17. Wolves (2 - 4)
  18. Tottenham (2 - 1)
  19. Newcastle (5 - 2)
  20. Aston Villa (0 - 4)
The rankings are fairly top heavy this week with the top six team having good fixtures and defensive records while the majority of teams after that all have their question marks. Of course, some weight must be placed on the fact that some teams have more to play for that others but I would not use that as a reason to boost a team’s chances at a clean sheet (surely they try hard every week!) though there is an argument to demote a team like Everton who can practically not move off their current 7th place in the table. Given the subjectivity of those musings, I have left the rankings untouched.

Attacking Rankings
(predicted goals in parenthesis)
  1. Arsenal (3.10)
  2. Liverpool (2.18)
  3. Chelsea (2.11)
  4. Everton (1.60)
  5. Sunderland (1.59)
  6. Wigan (1.55)
  7. West Brom (1.46)
  8. Man City (1.42)
  9. Blackpool (1.41)
  10. Bolton (1.24)
  11. West Ham (1.17)
  12. Tottenham (1.12)
  13. Blackburn (1.10)
  14. Man Utd (1.08)
  15. Fulham (1.07)
  16. Birmingham (0.94)
  17. Wolves (0.85)
  18. Aston Villa (0.82)
  19. Stoke (0.78)
  20. Newcastle (0.45)
Captain Picks
What do we make of this Liverpool team? Since Dalglish took over they have scored an impressive 35 goals in 16 games, which places them first in the league over that period. They suddenly look flush with fantasy options with Kuyt (an astonishing 84 points in the last 8 GWs), Suarez (26 points in the last 3 GWs) and Rodriguez (50 (fifty!) points in the last 3 GWs) all looking like elite prospects right now. Of that trio I would lean towards Kuyt thanks to his consistency and penalty duties. With the league all but wrapped up, Nani looks like a rotation risk (at least in GW38 if not this week) and so Kuyt may be answer for owners looking to gain some last minute ground in their league.

With the best fixture again, Arsenal players continue to be elite fantasy players and it’s almost impossible to look beyond Van Persie. The Dutchman is averaging an incredible 9 points per game in 2011 and has 16 goals in just 15 games. Villa look like an ideal opponent having all but secured their safety for the year despite holding the worst road defense in the league. Now, Arsenal have little to play for either so be your own judge of how this plays out but either way Van Persie looks well placed to enjoy more success this week.

After a fairly poor showing last week Chelsea could well fade into the distance to end the year but Newcastle are average at best on the road and Drogba, Lampard, Malouda et al always have the chance to go crazy on someone. All three players come into the game in good fantasy form and I reiterate my support for Lampard (9 goals in 16 games in 2011 including 4 in the last 5) given his ability to score when Chelsea aren’t playing well and his penalty duties. Drogba on the other hand tends to excel when Chelsea play well as a whole (or is that vice versa) and so with some doubt in mind as to how they bounce back this week, I favor the more reliable Lampard.

Outside of that top trio of teams it’s hard to find too many options with the likes of Rooney, Nani and Van der Vaart facing tricky road trips. City’s hosting of Stoke looks more favorable than it is and with the Cup final a couple of days before and Champions League football secured, it’s hard to predict what Mancini will do in this one. Perhaps that Balotelli pick will work out after all.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gameweek 36 Preview

The league title might be decided this weekend but the fantasy season keeps going and with three gameweeks left there is still plenty to play for. On a personal level I set the bar for a successful season at 2,000 points so anyone flirting with that still has something to aim for. Add in countless mini leagues that remain unsettled and the importance of these games becomes clear. The key to the week is undoubtedly the DGWs for City and Spurs though be careful about over doing it here as the matchup between the two doesn't play out as a great fixture for either. Also consider that Spurs have to go to Anfield next week before loading up on too many of Redknapp's boys.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Man City (5 - 2) and (10 - 3)
  2. Fulham (9 - 4)
  3. Man Utd (10 - 6)
  4. Tottenham (5 - 7) and (2 - 3)
  5. Aston Villa (6 - 8)
  6. Bolton (5 - 8)
  7. Newcastle (4 - 5)
  8. Everton (5 - 6)
  9. West Ham (4 - 5)
  10. Wolves (3 - 7)
  11. Stoke (6 - 2)
  12. Chelsea (4 - 0)
  13. Wigan (3 - 4)
  14. Arsenal (4 - 3)
  15. Liverpool (5 - 3)
  16. West Brom (0 - 3)
  17. Blackburn (1 - 3)
  18. Sunderland (5 - 3)
  19. Blackpool (5 - 4)
  20. Birmingham (3 - 3)
The DGW pair are obviously good options this week as if nothing else they should avoiding conceding more than the odd goal and hence lock in 4 points for your defenders. Do I see big scores though? Not from Spurs but maybe from City. I try not to bring too many judgmental factors into these rankings but a glance at the table shows us that Spurs have to win every game from now on while City have to not lose. A quality team intent on not losing a game can be a recipe for success when it comes to clean sheets and hence they get a bump in the rankings despite the tough fixture on paper (the same can be said for Man Utd).

Of the cheaper non-DGW teams Fulham have the best remaining games while Bolton also look like a decent investment. Aaron Hughes and Gary Cahill make good mid-range options for the final 3 games of the year.

Attacking Rankings
  1. Tottenham (3.41)
  2. Man City (3.28)
  3. West Brom (1.81)
  4. Arsenal (1.62)
  5. West Ham (1.56)
  6. Aston Villa (1.45)
  7. Liverpool (1.41)
  8. Fulham (1.40)
  9. Everton (1.25)
  10. Blackburn (1.22)
  11. Man Utd (1.21)
  12. Chelsea (1.17)
  13. Birmingham (1.14)
  14. Bolton (1.13)
  15. Newcastle (1.12)
  16. Wolves (1.03)
  17. Sunderland (1.00)
  18. Stoke (0.99)
  19. Wigan (0.98)
  20. Blackpool (0.95) 
Captain Picks
Despite my reservations, the captaincy is really going to boil down to the DGW pair as the majority of the other top options square off at Old Trafford:
  • Rafael Van der Vaart - he seems to tick all the boxes - guaranteed minutes, set piece duties and three category potential. Spurs rank as the best attacking team of the week and the Dutchman is their best option. The clear pick of the week and possibly worth paying 4 points for. The downside is that everyone else will be doing the same thing. 
  • Luka Modric - he's in good form but he can't compete with VdV on a fantasy basis and is a fringe fantasy player at best.
  • Gareth Bale - at times he has been close to a must own player but he's been quiet of late and like Modric he is barely fantasy relevant these days. Better value can again be found but hold him if you already have him.
  • Luka Modric - he's in good form but he can't compete with VdV on a fantasy basis and is a fringe fantasy player at best. 
  • Jermaine Defoe - see Bale, Gareth
  • Michael Dawson - with Assou Ekotto out, Dawson looks like the best bet at the back though he doesn't deliver anything outside of clean sheets. With one game against City (in which Spurs need to win and hence attack) Dawson's success comes down to the game against Blackpool and on a single game basis the stats suggest Fulham, United and even Villa are better options this week. Worth a look as your third or fourth DGW option if you already hold a few but not a priority pickup.
  • David Silva - In terms of talent he would be close to a no-brainer but with the FA Cup final coming up next week it's pretty likely than Silva is (a) dropped for the Everton game to save him for Spurs or (b) having won this week (and secured a Champions League spot) he is rested against Spurs. Either way he looks like a huge risk to get 180 minutes such is the availability of players like Adam Johnson and Shaun Wright Phillips.
  • Carlos Tevez - it looks to be too soon for Tevez who may return for the cup final but likely not before then.
  • Mario Balotelli - again, the safe minutes are just not there. Of those with  high ceiling he might be worth a punt but it really would be a risk at this point. Only those needing to gain ground on opponents should apply.
  • Yaya Toure - probably the safest option attacking option for City. Toure has played a lot of minutes this year (2606) and is rarely substituted when he plays. With 5 goals, 6 assists and 14 bonus points he's shown he can contributed in every category. His upside is probably fairly low but he does have seven games with six points or more and two in double digits. Not sure I'd pay to get him but he's a good use of your free transfer.
  • Aleksandar Kolarov - probably not guaranteed to play twice but his chances are pretty good. Throw in his versatility which sometimes allows him to play further upfield and you have a solid fantasy option. With one defensive spot occupied by a midfielder (Kompany) and Toure out indefinitely it has become harder to pick City defenders but I still like Kolarov for the remainder of the year.
  • Joe Hart - the only sure fire to get two defensive games this week. I don't generally advocate paying for expensive 'keepers but if you have money lying around or that is easily accessible then Hart may just be worth the investment. He has a decent chance at 3 clean sheets for the remainder of the year.
As has been the case for a couple of weeks now, your strategy is really dictated by whether you are leading or chasing the pack in your league. If chasing you may need to pay for a couple of the above players as this is the last chance to really differentiate your team.