Monday, August 8, 2011

Notebook Preview: Newcastle United

Looking back at last season
  • Provided decent value at the back with 9 clean sheets, evenly spread between home (4) and away (5).
  • Failed to score in 10 games, though only 3 of these were at St James' Park where the Magpies are deadly. 2.16 GPG at home was second only to Man Utd
  • Not a great deal of production from the 'keepers (2.8 PPG) though they did deliver decent value as Harper and particularly Krul came at a very low price.
  • The defensive unit provided decent value for money (9th in P$) and made useful spot starters. Whoever solidifies there place in the side alongside Coloccini and Jose Enrique should provide decent value again, particular is it's any of the 4.0m options.
  • The midfield was also fairly average (13th in PPG and P$), especially when you take out bonus magnets Barton and Nolan
  • Amazingly, the front line gave the best value in the league with a P$ of 1.33. The problem was that the points were widely dispersed between 4 or 5 players, without much indication of who would excel each week. The arrival of Ba may change this for the new season.
  • Team can be streaky but when they're on they are very good. Scored 4 or more goals 5 times, second only to Chelsea.
Predicted lineup
Harper (4.5m), Jose Enrique (5.0m), S Taylor (4.5m), Coloccini (5.0m), Simpson (4.0m), Gutierrez (6.0m), Cabaye (6.0m), Gosling (5.0m), Ben Arfa (5.5m), Ba (6.5m), Lovenkrands (5.5m)

Safest Picks
Demba Ba . . . played extremely well last year on an inferior team adding 7 goals in just 933 minutes (xG 26) . . . didn't add an assist last season suggesting his scoring could be one dimensional . . . some depth at the position but they all lack Ba's class and should rotate to compliment him rather than take his minutes . . . at 6.5m he's in a good group of players, allowing you to pick and choose based on runs of games . . . will likely compete with Cabaye for penalty duties 

Upside Plays
Steve Taylor . . . cheaper than Coloccini and Jose Enrique but likely to play as many minutes . . . a genuine goal threat (7 goals in last 38 games) available at no premium . . . to fully gain the benefit of defender goals you really need to play them every week which is an issue with Newcastle who are very inconsistent . . . worth a bench spot, unclear if he can be a starter yet

Hatem Ben Arfa . . . can't seem to keep fit . . . possibly the most talented player on the team and his upside far exceeds the 5.5m price tag . . . with Barton likely gone, he could inherit plenty of set pieces when fit . . . shouldn't be owned in GW1 but someone to monitor who could bring genuine class for sub-6m.

Danny Simpson . . . has the same issues as Taylor but lacks the offensive upside . . . at 4.0m though he has the chance to be one of just a handful of minimum price players to get significant minutes . . . doesn't appear to be a great deal of quality options other than Simpson with Ryan Taylor a liability at the back (Newcastle conceded over 2 GPG when he played versus 1.5 for Simpson).

Yohan Cabaye . . . reputation as a good penalty taker  . . . with Barton likely out Cabaye could inherit the majority of set pieces . . . great goal scoring record at Lille (31 in 191 games) including a 13 league goal season in 2009/10 . . . risky to consider him from day one but another played to monitor (will probably get some chalkboard attention after his first game)

Jose Enrique . . . not particularly valuable in a Newcastle shirt as Taylor seems to be better value . . . persistent rumors of a move to Arsenal or Liverpool would make him valuable there though . . . no need to make a move yet but continue to monitor transfer news for any changes 

No Thanks
Fabricio Coloccini . . . hard to justify his valuation at 0.5m more than Taylor . . . scored a couple of goals last year but I don't see that as particularly projectable and his upside is no higher than Taylor's

Joey Barton . . . no stats needed here . . . even if they let him back it seems only a matter of time before the next issue blows up . . . has some nice upside and is a good player but not worth the headache at this point

Fixtures
Ars, @Sun, Ful, @QPR, @Ast, Bla, @Wol, Tot

Defensively it's a decent start for Newcastle whose only really tough game comes in GW1. Along with Arsenal, only the trip to Molineux sees Newcastle face a side who averaged more than 1.5 GPG and so there should be opportunities to notch a couple of early clean sheets. Considering the strength of this defense, I wouldn't go overboard and expect elite production but the solid schedule provides a nice bonus to Taylor and Simpson's value making them good early rotation options.

Offensively the fixtures also look solid with only two really tough fixtures based on last year's numbers (Fulham and Villa). Blackburn were terrible on the road last year and don't look like they have substantially improved while Arsenal, Sunderland, Wolves and Spurs all conceded around the 1.5 GPG mark. Throw in the newly promoted QPR and this run of fixtures should provide some joy for the Newcastle front men, if you can ascertain who will take advantage.

Final Thoughts
There is some talent on this roster but it's hard to pin down where the fantasy points will come from. Going into GW1 I would probably only be really comfortable starting Ba, though I'd be happy holding the cheaper defensive options on the bench. It seems likely that someone from the midfield group will emerge as reliable player with Cabaye looking like an intriguing option given his previous goalscoring record. One of my key rules is to not pick an unknown entity though, so I would advise holding off on him for now.

It's really unclear how this team will fair this year and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them in 8th or 18th after 10 games. More information is needed given the number of injuries and new arrivals and so they might be a team to monitor rather than invest it for the most part.

All the team previews can be found here along with a host of other special features. Please post any questions or comments below or @plfantasy.

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