Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Notebook Preview: Sunderland

Looking back at last season

  • One of the best defenses in the first half last season with 9 clean sheets through the first 18 gameweeks. They had just 4 over the next 20 though, serving as a perfect example of why it is important to know when to cut ties with an out of form player.
  • Despite the late season decline, their 6 clean sheets on the road still tied them with Man City for first in the league.
  • Conceded 20 goals in the first half of the season then 36 in the second. Which defense shows up early on for Bruce's men will dictate whether they have any value.
  • Failed to score 12 times, 4th worst in the league. Again, much of this failure came in the second half including 6 zeros in the final 11 gameweeks.
  • Keepers provided good value last year (2nd in P$) after ranking 7th in P90. It looks like Mignolet will get his chance between the sticks to open the season and if the team can return to early season form, he should provide good value again.
  • The defensive unit also provided good value with a ranking of 7th in P90 and 4th in P$. With several options available at 4.5m, there could be equivalent value again this year if Bruce can steady the ship. 
  • The midfield (9th) and forwards (13th) were not so valuable in terms of P$ and Gyan was really the only semi-reliable option. Plenty of new talent and a full season of Sessegnon could quickly change that though.

Predicted Lineup
Mignolet (4.5m), Bardsley (5.0m), Ferdinand (4.5m), Brown (4.5m), Richardson (6.0m), Larsson (6.5m), Gardner (6.0m), Cattermole (5.0m), El-Mohamady (5.5m), Sessegnon (6.5m), Gyan (8.0m)

A few question marks remain here, notably between the sticks, though this question seems to have been postponed as Gordon looks set to miss the start of the season through injury. It isn't clear if, or how, new boys John O'Shea and David Vaughan will fit in or whether Michael Turner or Titus Bramble can hold off the challenge of another new arrival from Old Trafford. Play the sure things like Gyan, Sessegnon and probably Brown for GW1.

Safest Picks
Wes Brown . . . we can assume he was brought here to play regularly, given that he could have ridden the bench and won trophies at Old Trafford . . . would represent decent value if he earns consistent minutes for 4.5m . . . ability to play right back could boost minutes further given a lack of depth at the full back positions . . . unlikely to ever contribute much outside of clean sheets . . . probably not the kind of player to keep for a sustained period but a safe play for a short loan spell when the fixtures work out

Asamoah Gyan . . . enjoyed a great debut season in England with excellent xG (17), xA (9) and xP (198) totals . . . tremendous at home (6.1 PPG) and solid on the road (4.5 PPG) making him startable every week . . . said to enjoy playing with Sessegnon though the stats don't necessarily back this up in fantasy points (4.0 PPG) albeit in a very small sample size . . . earned just 10 bonus points last season (less than Wellbeck and Malbranque) so can only gain under the new system . . . looks almost guaranteed to be a top-15 forward and could easily break into the top 10

Seb Larsson . . . delivered consistent fantasy value for 3 seasons though his ceiling could well be higher . . . xG (5), xA (7) and xP (140) show how Larsson can contribute across a number of categories and he wasn't overly reliant on bonus points (9) so shouldn't suffer under the new system too much . . . decent competition for places may limit his minutes if he struggles to find his feet early on . . . possibly overpriced at 6.5m but makes a nice solid option if others in his price range flatter to deceive.

Upside Plays
Stephane Sessegnon . . . took a while to settle into the side but finished the season as strong as anyone with 3 goals, 2 assists and 32 points over the final 5 gameweeks . . . operates in a similar position to Van der Vaart at Spurs and lack of front line depth should ensure he registers plenty of minutes in advanced positions . . . Steve Bruce is clearly enamoured which should buy him patience in case he does start to lag later in the season . . . despite limited playing time, still managed to rack up decent xG (9), xA (6) and xP (147) numbers which could all improve this year . . . has the potential to become a must own player given his relatively low price tag and advanced deployment

No Thanks
Craig Gardner . . . heading into last season Gardner had 6 goals in his career then added 8 last term . . . likely to take a deeper role with more talent around him and even half of last season's goals should be considered a win . . . zero assists for the year and only 5 bonus points suggest that he offers little outside of those goals, which makes him useless if they dry up . . . pay the extra 0.5m for Sessegnon

Phil Bardsley . . . great value last season, representing the best P$ among all defenders who played over 2500 minutes . . . xP of 149 shows he has a decent ceiling . . . chipped in with 3 goals but little in history suggests these are sustainable (even if one was pretty good) . . . at 0.5m more than his teammates and no sustained history of offensive points scoring, he represents exactly the kind of player I have previously warned against . . . work out who will start along the back four and save your 0.5m to spend elsewhere.

Kieran Richardson . . . with Onuoha gone the depth at full back is very shallow which could regularly push Richardson back into the left back position . . . when playing in his preferred position in midfield he can offer decent value (xP 134) but with Larsson, Vaughan, El-Mohamady and Sessegnon all competing for time, he may be limited to a more defensive role

@Liv, New, @Swa, Che, Sto, @Nor, WB, @Ars

The home games look decent from a defensive view with Newcastle (0.79 GPG) and Stoke (0.79 GPG) both struggling to score away from home last year. Chelsea (1.58 GPG) and West Brom (1.37 GPG) were better and will make clean sheets harder to come by. On the road (where Sunderland excelled last year) they get three teams who average over a 1.6 GPG along with Swansea who were fairly useful themselves in the Championship (1.78 GPG). With uncertainty about who will start and whether it will be the team of the first or second half, it seems advisable to hold off on this group out of the gates, perhaps waiting as long as GW12 to invest when the fixtures take a turn for the better.

Offensively Sunderland's start is tricker than it looks as Liverpool and Chelsea concede less than 1.1 GPG while Swansea could surprise having conceded just 11 goals at home last year. From week 5 onwards the fixtures open up a bit and the likes of Gyan and Sessegnon could represent really good value from there until the halfway point.

Final Thoughts
If Bruce settles on a lineup early in the season then there is plenty of fantasy value to be had from this team. Gyan and Sessegnon could easily be the best players in their respective price brackets while a return to the form shown at the start of last season would make a combination of Brown, Ferdinand, Turner and Bramble look valuable too.

The fixtures scare me off a touch and given the uncertainty across the back line you might want to steer clear of the defense for now. Offensively I think Gyan and Sessesgnon are startable against anyone though if nothing else it would make sense to start someone else in week one then bring either of these guys in after the tricky trip to Anfield.

All the other team previews can be found here and I encourage you to post any comments or questions below or at @plfantasy. I will be answering all these questions tonight so if you've previously asked a question on another post, do go back and check for any advice I can give.


Tom Dennerly said...

Hi Chris,

Brilliant blog, I'm finding it really useful.

Which Chelsea defender do you think represents the best value?

I've currently gone for Alex, but I'm not convinced he will start.

I'm reluctant to pay out for Cole though because it will hit my subs.

What are your thoughts?

Chris Glover said...

Thanks Tom - for the season I think Luiz but he doesn't appear to be for GW1. There are strong rumours about Alex being sold but unless they sign someone else it looks like he will have to start GW1 with Ivanovic a doubt too. Alex is certainly a risk and will almost certainly require you to burn a transfer later in the year but he might be a worth a gamble on day one. I think I will stay clear until Luiz returns

Tom Dennerly said...

Gonna take a punt and burn him in 1/2 GW's

I've got Warnock as sub if it goes awry.

Basically packing out a midfield 5this year and trying Rooney and Rodallega up front.

Big risks in the starting XI are Alex and Moses (was too tempted by his pre-season and first GW!