Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Cheapest Links

Two forces are currently conspiring to make squad selection as difficult as I ever remember. First is the fact that the market makers have set the prices high on a lot of players, virtually shutting down the mid-price striker market and making it almost as tough to find quality in midfield for a reasonable outlay. Second is the massive uncertainty surrounding many of the safer options from years past, whether because of injury (Gerrard, Hernandez), transfer (Fabregas) or their current situation (Drogba, Tevez, Nani).

This unique situation - along with the free transfers for GW2 - is making a high number of owners gravitate towards a select few players, most of whom come at a premium. In past seasons these elite players were accommodated in our teams by supplementing them with mid-priced, reliable options like Dempsey and N'Zogbia who provided a perfect amount of security and upside for a reasonable price. Looking at the sub-7.5m midfield market now though reveals a dearth of guaranteed talent, with only a handful of players even locked in to play every week, never mind make big fantasy contributions. And so we look elsewhere to save money. The immediate answer is just to simply plug in a couple of 4.5m-5.0m midfielders (which looks like a popular one given the transfer activity surrounding Mikel, Muamba and Tiote) but I think it's dangerous to start down a road where you are effectively reducing your roster by one player (this just in: Muamba is not an attacking midfielder).

The solution I prefer, and will elaborate on here is well known by all but apparently underused. We are talking about picking the cheapest player on a team defense, given that they live and die as a unit, with the exception of attacking points, which are generally hard to predict and often overvalued. The below represent situations where one or more players in a team defense come at a discount to their teammates yet have the chance to play just as often (at least in the short term in some situations). I have not included teams like Bolton where all players cost the same aside from one pricey option (Cahill) as this really comes back to offensive defenders, which have been discussed at length before (see previous link).

Arsenal - Gibbs (5.5m), Koscielny (6.0m), Vermaelen (7.0m), Sagna (6.0m)
He may not be that established yet, and we're far from sure that he's the next Cole/Clichy but until further notice Gibbs is the starter here. If Koscielny and Vermaelen's performance from this weekend is anything to go by, this unit could be better than in prior years, and the departure of quality attacking players may encourage Wenger to try and play it a bit tighter at the back (not sure if I'm convinced by that theory though). For the sake of saving transfers I might be tempted to either go with Sagna or hold off for now and then bring in Gibbs for GW4 when he should have shaken off Tuesday's knock and the transfer window will be closed, allowing us to fully understand his role in this team before the fixtures get pretty easy.

Chelsea - Cole (7.5m), Luiz (6.5m), Terry (7.5m), Ivanovic (7.0m)
It wasn't widely reported but Ivanovic was carrying a knock into the weekend's game, and while he was able to make the bench, I would still wager that he returns to the side when healthy at the expense of Bosingwa. That still leaves Luiz as a cheap link though, presumably due to the apparent threat of Alex who did start at the weekend. I don't see that as a realistic contest for the season though. Luiz is more talented and performed in his debut season last year. Alex meanwhile has been tied with a move away from Stamford Bridge all summer, not the kind of rumour that usually befalls regular starters. I could swallow 0.5m for the security and attacking potential of Cole but I struggle to see how he's worth an extra 1.0m over Luiz (who carries attacking prowess of his own). As soon as he's fit and Villas-Boas picks him, Luiz becomes the best value player in this back line for me by some distance.

On a side note, if Luiz does not prove his fitness by this week, then Bosingwa would appear to be a potentially cheap rental and could be worth owning given the favorable fixture (WB H). Bear in mind though he many only play one more game for you.

Fulham - Riise (6.0m), Hangeland (6.5m), Senderos (4.5m), Hughes (5.0m)
I am still a little wary of Baird's presence here but given the lineup against Villa and the Europa League second leg tie with Split, along with new transfer rumours, it's looking more likely that this spot is Senderos' to lose. Hughes still represents a safer bet but we can use every 0.5m we can get and given that neither offer much offensively, I am very much leaning towards Senderos. Having a 4.5m defender on a very good defensive team who you feel comfortable playing almost every week is a massive bonus for any squad.

Liverpool - Jose Enrique (5.0m), Carragher (6.0m), Agger (6.0m), Johnson (7.0m)
A huge number of managers are already all over Jose Enrique and at 5.0m it's really a bit of a no brainer. There is the slimmest of risks that Agger could slide to left back when Skrtel returns but it's pretty doubtful that Liverpool paid ~7m for a backup. At this price he renders Carragher and Agger as overvalued while Johnson would need have a Baines type season to come close to justifying the extra expenditure. The only downside is that if Liverpool establish their defensive credentials early on, his ownership could easily leap into the 40%+ range.

Man Utd (short term) - Evra (6.5m), Evans (4.5m), Smalling (5.5m), Fabio (5.0m)
The United defense is a total mess right now and picking through the scraps gives us a high risk, high reward strategy. Of these four players mentioned, I wouldn't guarantee that any of them play and Phil Jones still waits in the wings. I'm suggesting Evans will get the call for two reasons. Firstly, he has the most experience at United and would bring at least a semblance of stability. Second, when Vidic went off injured against West Brom, it was Evans rather than Jones who came on.

I am down on Jones a bit as if you're going to spend 5.5m I would go with Smalling who can play at centre back or on the right and looks like a borderline full time starter when everyone is fit. I like Evans because at 4.5m you can play him, fairly safe in the knowledge that if he does miss out you will get a sub coming in, all the while occupying very little of your precious cash.

Man Utd (long term) - Evra (6.5m), Ferdinand (6.5m), Vidic (8.0m), Smalling (5.5m)
With Rafael out for the medium term (12 weeks - shoulder), Smalling would appear to have a jump on the right back spot (he started the Community Shield and GW1 matchup). Fabio is a major threat provided we are convinced he is actually a different person to Rafael, and the danger will be if we get a platoon situation where Smalling plays against stronger teams with Fabio's attacking ability preferred against weaker opponents.

Given the increased likelihood of minutes over the next few weeks though, I think Smalling makes a sensible investment now, and if Fabio does win out at right back or the situation becomes clouded, you've at least had a valuable contributor for 4-6 weeks.

Newcastle - R Taylor (4.0m), S Taylor (4.5m), Coloccini (5.0m), Simpson (4.0m)
In the very short term Ryan Taylor is probably the better play given his ability to take set pieces but Newcastle seem intent on finding a replacement for Jose Enrique and Taylor is probably not a long term solution. Simpson however seems to be fairly safe at right back and until one of the promoted teams establishes themselves as a defensive force, he is probably the only startable 4.0m player.

Stoke - Wilson (5.0m), Shawcross (5.0m), Woodgate (4.5m), Huth (6.0m)
Huth has now played several games at right back (including the Europa League) and Pulis seems fairly happy with the move, allowing Woodgate to slot in alongside Shawcross. Stoke have shown themselves to be fairly reliable defensively over the past couple of seasons but at 5.0m the value might not be there. At 4.5m however Woodgate makes a very good rotatable player who should be able to start the majority of weeks for you. Pairing him with someone like Senderos would give you a potentially great 9.0m pairing to rotate based on matchup (I haven't done the research to see if this pair's fixtures gel but you get the idea).

As you read this you might feel that I'm not really breaking new ground, and you're right. However, only Simpson and Jose Enrique rank as the most selected player on their team with Luiz (5th), Senderos (4th) and Evans (8th) getting no attention at all. Aside from the popular pair noted, only Smalling (7%) tops 5% ownership levels at this point.

I think all these picks are safe aside from Jonny Evans, though be sure to check Luiz and Gibbs' injury status if you are looking at them for this week. Check back soon for the GW2 preview and be sure to post any comments/questions below or at @plfantasy.


amtosh said...

Thanks for your blog. It's great.

What do you think about sacrificing quality in positions to ensure you have the potential big point scoring players in others?

For example, I have Torres, Rooney, Suarez, Nani and Silva, but had to sacrifice Hart for Vorm, Kompany and Cole for Simpson and Senderos and Downing and Jarvis for Moses and Obertan to fit under the cap.

Is the potential benefit of having a Nani or Silva worth more than the benefit of having consistent quality across the team?

Or is it advisable to have pretty good quality across the field with less big name players?

This free wildcard thing is killing me. I must have changed my whole team 5 times in the last couple of days.

Exquisite said...

I think Bosingwa is more nailed on than you make out... main reason being, during pre season Ivanovic didnt play a single game at RB, he played all at CB... Thoughts?

angryratman said...

I don't think preseason really counts and Bosingwa never really looked that good. Time will tell. But apparently Ivanovic has said that CB is his favourite/best position.

Also, Gibbs got injured tuesday night

kurbalija said...

aguero or suarez, i cant decide
any thoughts

Neil Hannam said...

would you also not class goal keepers as part of the defensive unit?

if not would you advocate getting one big team starter that'll get 90 minutes week in week out and one cheap keeper to fill the back up slot or two mid priced keepers and rotating them based on the fixtures each weekend?

im thinking Cech and Ruddy or Given and Al Habsi for example

angryratman said...


Aguero AND Suarez :D

Mitchell Stirling said...

Fulham and Stoke are never both away between weeks 5 and 21.

Simon G said...

Anyone got any tips on a forward for 6.5m or below?

Fletcher is my fron't runner.

OR do I get rid of Fox and buy Eagles with my spare 1m?

Steve said...

Exquisite, I had the same thoughts, but you can't help thinking will Ivan play RB against tougher, attacking opponents or vs good left wingers?

I mean they have Man U @ Old Trafford GW5.. with Young being so dangerous down the left, it's hard not to imagine AVB selecting Ivan as RB for that game to try and keep Young quiet.

But; but the next 2 GWs at least, I'd expect Bos to start.

Steve said...

Simon G, as a Burnley fan, I'd stay away from Eagles. He's one of the most inconsistent players I've ever seen.

He'll do well 1 game but then go totally missing for 2-3 games in a row.

Even Owen Coyle benched him for the majority of his time at Burnley, so I'd stay clear ... plus, look at who Bolton have coming up. I'd at the very least stay away until their run of games brightens up somewhat.

Simon G said...

Ok, thanks Steve.

So I've got 11m for a midfielder and a forward. Recommendations?

Pablitto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LaxaxL said...

LOVE your blog!

I have try putting together a cheap defence that will rotate well, some a bit shortterm others longterm.. what do you think?
Average spent:4,6 M

Senderos – Brown – woodgate – evens – enrique

Pablitto said...


both + rooon ;-)

Pablitto said...

@ Simon G.:

Moses 5,0 / Watson (WIG) 5,5
Klasnic 60,5 (BOL) / A.Johnson (FUL) 5,5

choose ;-)

Pablitto said...

Klasnic 6 of course ... :)

Simon G said...

Ha! Watson/Johnson is what I provisionally selected before seeing your post, so glad to hear you agree.

Can you, or anyone else, explain the popularity of Moses around here? I'm not that familiar with him as a player and his GW1 performance was nothing special, so why does he feature in most of the lineups I've seen posted?

Exquisite said...

Moses' performance may not have been too good FPL wise but he was easily Man of the Match. He has also now taken over the main playmaker role from N'Zogbia. One reason Watson may be favoured is that he is on Penalties which paid dividends last week.

Steve said...

Simon G, from what I hear Moses played very very well and got MOM, so the potential is certainly there. At 5.0 he's a very small gamble and one worth taking.

What are people's thoughts on Baines? I currently have
Baines + Saha

but I'm now thinking something such as:
Distin + Suarez instead.

Mitchell Stirling said...

Looking at the next three weeks of fixtures (I'll look further ahead after week 5 when Stoke and Fulham seperate out and the transfer deadline has passed) I've decided that assuming Gibbs and Luiz are out injured my best bet is to rotate between Jagielka, Kompany, Warnock and Smalling with Hughes (wk 2 and 4) and L. Enrique (wk 3) making the fifth slot. With the potential to replace Smalling with Boswinga or bump Boswinga into the fifth slot if Luiz is out for a while.

From 4,5,6 onwards Arsenal, Liverpool and Stoke have good looking fixtures and I'd likely get shot of any Everton defenders at that point.

Steve said...

After another look at the fixture lists, Everton > Liverpool go quite well.

Everton for GW2-5 and then Liverpool GW6+

Therefore, at the moment I'm going to start with Baines + Saha, with Saha > Suarez penciled in for GW6.. Baines could also be downgraded to someone such as Enrique, freeing up cash.

Liverpool have 3 away games in their next 4, including Arsenal, Spurs and the hard to break down Stoke (on their home patch). I just have to hope Suarez doesn't go crazy over the next 4 GWs!

kurbalija said...

any thoughts on fellaini and barton?
i know barton is crazy, would you put him in your team?

RiseRiiseRise said...

Great work as always!

Who do u guys figure will fill in for
cech? With both at 4.5 they could surely be a cheap way in to Chelseas defense? And they have 2 home games coming...

Daniel H said...

Ok I need some help. I've got 11.5 to spend on two midfielders. I already have Nani, Silva, and Brunt... any suggestions?

Also, up top I'm running Suarez, Aguero, and Zamora. Anyone have any recommendations over Zamora?

Steven said...

@kurbalija Personally, I think Barton has much more upside than Fellaini since he takes set pieces. Everton does have the better fixtures over the coming weeks.

@RiseRiiseRise Hilario. He was the backup last week, Turnbull was not dressed. So I think that says it all right there. Patience would be a good idea here as well since Villas-Boas will probably announce the starter before the weekend.

@Chris, your blog is blowing up this year man. Last year I could get a response from you almost every time. Now, you're becoming one of the big boys. Great work.

Steven said...

@Steve I'm settling on Baines/Saha as well. I think it works well for the next 4-5 weeks or so. I still have Silva/Rooney/Suarez as well as Smalling/Kompany on the backline. Waiting on Aguero. Too risky at this point with tough fixtures and non-guaranteed playing time. Tooling on Swansea at home isn't the hardest thing to do for a player of his quality in a squad of that quality.

RossWB said...

While Chelsea was held scoreless at Stoke, it's hard to see that happening the next two weeks, at home to West Brom and Swansea. So who do you think is worth targeting there? Torres was (a bit surprisingly) favored against Stoke and it certainly seems like he's the primary option there. Is it worth taking an expensive flier on him scoring a few goals over the next few weeks? Drogba? Malouda? Or perhaps a cheaper option like Kalou or Ramires?

baz0819 said...

Unbelievable blog mate, very thorough. Thank you.

Quick question - deciding between Andy Johnson or Holt as 5.5 strikers.

And to start this weekend - one of those two OR Moses?


Sylvester said...

Is it worth looking at the Chelsea reserve goal keeper now that Cech is out for a month?

Steven said...

@baz0819 I'd go Holt and start Moses personally.

@Sylvester next 3 fixtures are promising for clean sheets. But Hilario is no Peter Cech.. so it's a roll of the dice. You will not get save #s from him. Check out the guide Chris posts to look at opponents goals scored per game and Chelsea goals allowed over the next 3 games. It's favorable, but not great.

@RossWB Malouda or Torres are the safe choices in my mind. Torres saw plenty of action and it's only a matter of time before he breaks through. Still some doubt over Drogba/Torres playing time. One week was not enough to determine but based on what they spent on him and his expectations, i still take him as the safest bet.

Darragh said...

Can't believe you're not recommending Alex for Chelsea.

Morgs said...

Hi guys does anyone know if wilkinson from stoke is in their best 11 when he returns from injury because he would be unbelievable value if he is