Friday, September 30, 2011

Gameweek 7 Preview

Suffice to say, you're going to want to go big on United players this week, and if you stuck with Rooney (which your humble blogger did not) you face an extremely tough decision whether to captain him or not. It is there our focus lies for this week.

Option 1 - Captain Rooney
Rooney seems to have recovered quicker than expected, but with Hernandez and Wellbeck now also fit along with Berbatov waiting in the wings, I am not convinced he will start the game. United have been scoring goals for fun this year and there seems little motivation to rush Rooney back if he isn't 100% and risk losing him for bigger games on the horizon (Liverpool and City are next for United). If he starts, he is probably the best captain play this week and his ceiling remains higher than anyone. If he doesn't play at all then it isn't too big of an issue as your armband passes to someone else. My concern, and the reason I would ultimately not captain Rooney is that he might only get 45 minutes, or worse, come on for the last 15 minutes of the game. The chance of this is probably slim but 1 point captain weeks are crushing, particularly given the other options available. Caveat Emptor.

Option 2 - Captain another United player
I'm generally scared of the whole up-front situation so I'm not willing to throw Hernandez into this category for the same reason as Rooney. However, two excellent options remain in Nani and Young and based on their ownership number (Young 32%, Nani 28%), most of us own at least one of them. Readers will know that I am very much into 'key passes' and shots on target as indicators for future success, and those break down as below for this pair:

  • Young: 2 goals, 6 assists, 5 bonus points, 11 shots, 7 on target, 10 key passes
  • Nani: 3 goals, 3 assists, 7 bonus points, 13 shots, 5 on target, 13 key passes
My instinct says that Nani is more of a risk to drop a 2 pointer but, at least so far this year, this hasn't been the case (Young has three 3-point games to Nani's two). This is a really close call and I wouldn't transfer either for the other but if you're in the rare position of owning both, I will stick to my guns and take Nani's goalscoring ceiling over Young's assist potential. Either way you can't go wrong here and both make excellent options for the week, bringing a valuable combination of reliable scoring with high upside.

Option 3 - Go with a non-United player
Believe it or not, there are other games this week. Unfortunately, the two teams who provide the best captain options have road trips following tough midweek European games, so no one comes without risk:

Sergio Aguero
On paper, City's fixture isn't great, but this is largely based on Blackburn's solid home defense from last season, which has really taken a step back this season. Rovers have shipped 6 goals at home this year and haven't kept a clean sheet all season. Tevez's lack of 'want' will keep him out of the side for a while, paving the way for Aguero and Dzeko to start more often than not. Simply put, Aguero is possibly the most talented played in the league and deserves captain attention every week. Blackburn have conceded 6 goals over the last 2 games and are ripe for the picking here. Aguero's upside is off the charts and he will getting the famed Pure Juice armband this week.

David Silva
As with Aguero, City's fixture is probably better than the data shows. With Aguero looking set to start though, it's really hard to consider anyone in sky blue other than the little Argentine.If you aren't lucky enough to own Aguero, then Silva is a great fall back and he's only had one game scoring less than 5 points all year. I wouldn't put him ahead of the United midfield pair this week though.

Edin Dzeko
See Silva, David. I like Dzeko a lot but he just isn't in Aguero's class when it comes to scoring against any opponent. Again, a good option but I would put him below the United pair (and of course Aguero).

Robin van Persie
I'm not sure what to make of Spurs' defense, but one thing for certain is that, at home at least, they will put up a better showing than Norwich at Old Trafford or Blackburn against City. Van Persie is starting to rediscover his form from last year but the fixture scares me as while it could be another 4-4 barn burner, it could easily be a tight 1-1 affair. I am happy owning Van Persie for this week and beyond but the armband might be step too far for this one.

Answers to your questions will be posted later so those in the US can expect to see them tonight, while those in the UK should be able to see them before the deadline tomorrow morning.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scraping the Barrel

Sometimes it pays to build a squad of 15 good players, sometimes you have to go with a 'stars and scrubs' approach and hope to find just enough talent at the bottom of the barrel to allow you the freedom to pack your side with Rooneys, Agueros and Silvas. So far this season, we are well and truly in the latter situation. Just look at the top 5 midfielders and forwards. The forwards are packed with 10m+ players while in midfield you have yet more 10m+ guys and then a group of players who've enjoyed one big week and then average production (good luck guessing which player that will be each week). In previous years we've had players like Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll and Steve Ireland emerge as elite options for mid-range price tags, thus freeing up a couple of million to use elsewhere. No one has really emerged like that this term, so we need to dig deeper and find some players who may not be ideal, but may have a part to play this year. I'll be honest, I'm probably not going to come up with someone you never heard of here, but hopefully I can help you get your plan in order by shedding some light on some of the better options out there:

Vorm (4.2m) - If you look at the league table, Swansea don't look like a very good defensive option. 9 goals conceded in 6 games is nothing to excited about, but if you look closer you see a side quickly developing into an elite home option (3 clean sheets) which is all you need for a rotation keeper. Swansea aren't scoring goals so they're going to need to keep it tight at the back, making Vorm delicious value at 4.2m. I have some concerns regarding the teams Swansea have kept out, but again you are only looking for a keeper who can do well in the easy games. I'd be hesitant to pair him with another high risk pick but if you match Vorm with someone like Schwarzer or Begovic, I think you have the makings of a great and cheap partnership.

Kenny (4.5m) - Take out the GW1 disaster and this defense have been very useful. The new arrivals have all settled quickly and the back line should be fairly settled going forward (unless Traore keeps getting sent off!). The appeal here is that - unlike Swansea - QPR have been able to perform well away from home with impressive clean sheets at Everton and Wolves already. Kenny doesn't have the save totals to boost his points on off days, but realistically this should only boil down to a handful of points at year end. As with Vorm, I would like to pair him with a reliable option, with Schwarzer and Begovic again looking like good matches.

I noted this week some thoughts on de Gea's save totals but with options like these available, I see no reason to depart from the GK rotation strategy.

There's very good depth in the cheap defender pool this year and you could probably grab three, or even four of them and still generate enough defensive points to be competitive.

N Taylor (4.0m) - not much to add here that we didn't say for Vorm. This Swansea defense looks legit (at least at home) and Taylor seems to be locked into the first team. I like Rangel's (4.5m) attacking prospects but seeing as you'll be using these guys in a rotation, attacking points become even more dangerous to predict and you might find yourself benching him when he finally earns that assist or goal.  When in doubt take the money.

D Simpson (4.1m) - I think Steve Taylor outscores Simpson on the year but now the difference is up to 0.8m I like the cheaper option more. Newcastle are yet to concede more than a goal in a single game and have already racked up 3 clean sheets (including 2 on the road). Tiote and Cabaye provide good protection for the backline, which has outperformed expectations already. There is some threat from Santon, who is now close to full fitness, but you have to think he slots in at left back, displacing Ryan Taylor who has been playing out of position this year. It might be worth holding off here for a week until you can be sure who will start (if Santon gets the nod then at 4.3m he too becomes interesting).

Gabbidon (4.0m) - I like this defense but with three of the back line coming from other Premier League teams, you are paying a premium, thus making Traore and Young way too expensive for this team's worth. Gabbiddon looks like a sure thing to play, and as noted for Kenny above, this defense has looked very good since the new signings were brought in. You aren't excited about signing him but 4.0m defenders with clean sheet potential are hard to find and he makes a great bench option.

Woodgate (4.5m) - The injury history is a concern and if you have money to spare then Shawcross (who also brings a better goal and bonus point threat) might be worth looking at. That said, Upson has been available for a few weeks now and Woodgate has held his place so the only threat is injury and you can deal with that if (or when) it rears it's ugly head. Stoke have some pretty good looking fixtures on the horizon and Woodgate could become a borderline every week starter over that period.

Evans (4.5m) - his time is probably done for now, but with Ferdinand unable to stay healthy for a sustained period of time and Vidic now suffering too, you should keep Evans in mind such is the unmatched value he can deliver at 4.5m for one of the best defensive teams in the league. Be ready to pounce at the first sign of long term injuries to Ferdinand or Vidic again.

In truth the options here are limited and you really need to be targeting mid-range options like Taarabt or Murphy, but that's a separate post for another day.

Faurlin (5.0m) - the QPR midfield is looking pretty stacked and Faurlin has really been lost in the shuffle thanks to big name arrivals and reputations. I'm generally reluctant to back a player with the majority of his points from one game, but the underlying stats for Faurlin are very impressive, ranking 10th in key passes (13) and 5th in passes in the opposition half while providing at least some goal threat (5 shots, 3 on target). He doesn't have the free role of a Taarabt or the advanced play of a Wright Phillips but if you're stuck with 5.0m and no wiggle room, Faurlin gives you a player with the potential to contribute in every category which might at least buy you time to find some better upside.

Moses (4.9m) - I liked Moses in the pre-season and while the returns haven't come yet, I'm not ready to abandon the Wigan winger just yet (though I'm getting closer each week). With as many shots as Ashley Young (11) and as many key passes as Yaya Toure (5), the potential is still there and he probably holds the highest potential of all these budget plays. That said, I am always keen to point out that I'd prefer to be a week late than several weeks early so my patience with Moses is very much waning. If you're strapped for cash though, you're not likely to find a sure thing so Moses remains interesting.

Dyer (4.8m) - I did Dyer a disservice last week, suggesting his good play had been for nothing, as he did of course find the back of the net in GW5. Dyer has impressed to the naked eye but his underlying stats disappoint a bit and I am souring on his prospects, especially given his 13% ownership. He's managed just 4 shots this year (2 on target) and while his 5 key passes are okay, Moses has the same number but brings a significantly better goal threat. I still like Dyer but of the two popular wingers, I still like Moses a touch more.

Di Santo (5.7m) - Di Santo has been a revelation so far this year, and with great underlying numbers there is little reason to think he can't keep it going. His shots on target for the year (7 from 12 shots) rank him 6th among forwards after Rooney, Van Persie, Aguero, Dzeko and Suarez: impressive company. Based on historical data he isn't going to continue to score a goal every 2 shots on target but if he keeps up this shooting pace he should add another 8 goals or so, which in a side like Wigan will often bring bonus points too (based on the fact that the majority of goals they score tend to influence the result of a game as opposed to, say, Dzeko, whose effort may the 3rd of 4th goal of a contest). He doesn't bring too much of an assist threat and Wigan have only managed 5 goals all year so his scoring is going to be up and down. If I plan to sit a player most weeks I'd like to spend a little less than 5.7m but given the market this year, this might be as good as it gets.

Best (5.3m) - I hate to just pick the obvious players but there really isn't much else to look at. Best has been good when he's started and my concerns with him are less about him and more about his place in the side. With Ba starting to come round after a slow start and Ameobi close to full fitness, Best's place in the team is no guarantee and even at this price, starting minutes are a must. I like his assist potential (6 key passes) to supplement his goal scoring and his strong aerial presence (13 aerial duels won) will always give him a chance to score from set pieces and win flick ons for his teammates to convert. Straight up I would take Di Santo but 0.4m is not to be ignored and if Best can secure his place in the starting lineup he makes a nice addition to any squad.

Hoilett (6.0m) - The thing I like most about Hoilett is his ability to contribute in every category, which gives him the potential for consistency that the above players lack: a valuable attribute for a bench player who will be forced into action off your bench at unknown times. His total shots (5) are a concern, though he has been accurate when shooting (4) thus making his goal/shot rate about at the league average. His key passes (10) are elite and Yakubu's presence increases the chance that these shots are converted into goals. If he was 5.5m or less I'd probably slap a buy sticker on him but until he starts getting into consistent goal scoring positions it's hard to get overly excited a 6.0m man who will struggle to hit 8 goals for the year.

Yakubu (5.5m) - This is premature but color me intrigued. Two appearances, two shots, two on target and two goals tells you all you need to know about Yakubu. Bill James used to say that once you exhibit a talent it's yours to lose, and Yakubu's previous goalscoring exploits could be categorised in this way. True, he's probably lost half a step and he's no longer a threat to touch 20 goals but double digits wouldn't blow me away, which at this price cannot be ignored. With 25 passes in two games, he clearly isn't going to be involved in everything Blackburn do, but as a comparison, Darren Bent has only averaged 17 passes per game, such is the way they play the game. I haven't seen Yakubu play aside from highlights this year so I am personally hesitant to recommend buying him on stats alone, but there's something here and we should at least monitor him over the next few weeks (when the fixtures are tough) to see if we want to bring him in for their nice run of games between GW12 and GW17.

Check back shortly for the weekly preview, which will focus on captain picks, with the weekly forecasted goals conceded and scored given above. In the meantime, please post your comments/questions below or @plfantasy and I'll try and answer as many as possible before this week's deadline.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ten Top Tens

Shots on target per 90 minutes (minimum 3 starts)
1.     Rooney 3.0
2.    Van der Vaart 2.8
3.    Aguero 2.4
4.    Dzeko 2.4
5.    Adebayor 2.3
6.    Van Persie 2.2
7.    Defoe 2.1
8.    Anelka 1.9
9.    Suarez 1.5
10. Di Santo 1.5

We've seen that correlation between shots on target and goals is (unsurprisingly) strong and the majority of the above players have benefited from that fact. Van der Vaart and Di Santo stand out for me and deserve a couple of words. Owned by just 3% of managers, Van der Vaart is somewhat of a forgotten fantasy force but the above indicates his lack of goals is not through a lack of trying. In his career, Van der Vaart is averaging a goal every 4 shots on target so if he carries on his current pace (9 shots on target in just 287 minutes) he should see his points tally start to rise quickly as his shots begin to hit the back of the net at their historic rate. As for Di Santo, he is obviously the cheapest option on this list but is still held by just 5% of managers. Shots on target aren't everything (Graham is 11th among forwards) but they are fairly predictive of future success, providing you feel Di Santo will continue to get into these good positions and continue to pull the trigger. He is making a strong push to be rated the best sub-6.5m forward.

Pass percentage in opponents half (minimum 100 passes)
1.     Anelka 73%
2.    Mata 68%
3.    Rosicky 68%
4.    Downing 67%
5.    Arteta 66%
6.    Taarabt 66%
7.    Osman 66%
8.    Nasri 65%
9.    Suarez 65%
10. Dembele 64%

I'm not sure if this means too much, but it certainly can't hurt to play in advanced positions for the majority of the game. Osman's name stands out and it highlights the good start he's made to the season, however, he is priced out of the market at 6.9m (who set that price!). Downing's stats across the board are fairly impressive and given his safety on that left side with Gerrard set to return, he makes a pretty good case for being the best Liverpool midfielder to own in the short term, until things shake out. This ranking underlines the value of three players I am very high on - Mata, Arteta and Taarabt - as each could develop into the focal point of their team, despite costing less than many of their peers.

Key passes by budget midfielders (6.5m or less)
1.     Murphy 21
2.    Taraabt 15
3.    Cabaye 14
4.    M Petrov 13
5.    Faurlin 13
6.    J Morrison 12
7.    Watson 12
8.    Larsson 11
9.    Sessegnon 10
10. Ramsey 10

Danny Murphy might be the very definition of an unsexy fantasy player. He rarely has big games, he doesn't do back flips, he didn't cost 30m but he does produce every year. He's already shown his worth across the board adding a goal, two assists and four bonus points while his underlying data (21 key passes and three shots on target) suggest more success to come. At 6.0m his price is too steep to bench consistently but he'd make a very nice three man rotation with a couple of the other names on this list. Watson bears mentioning as he penalty duties give his a good goal threat to compliment this assist ranking, while Faurlin deserves some attention due to his low price tag (5.0m). 

P$ (points per million spent) (minimum 270 minutes played)
  1. Best 1.500
  2. S Taylor 1.232
  3. Vorm 1.220
  4. Aguero 1.183
  5. R Taylor 1.163
  6. Pilkington 1.155
  7. Boyce 1.152
  8. Begovic 1.133
  9. Di Santo 1.114
  10. N Taylor 1.110
It's probably a touch early to start looking at P$ numbers just yet but I just wanted to highlight just how good Aguero has been. To deliver such value with his price tag is without precedent and if he carries this up for much longer, he needs to be owned by everyone (even more so than Rooney). Tevez's tantrum will help Aguero's ability to stay on the field and it's hard to look past him at the moment.

Defender touches in opponents half
1.     Bosingwa 182
2.    A Cole 161
3.    Rangel 159
4.    Assou Ekotto 126
5.    Sagna 124
6.    Jose Enrique 124
7.    Ward 115
8.    P Robinson 114
9.    Baines 109
10. Shorey 105

The top two aren't two surprising here, though Bosingwa's ranking does underline just how good value he could be this year. With Swansea emerging as a decent defensive option (at home anyway), Rangel's forward play could make him a very interesting 4.5m option, though he doesn't have anything to show for it yet. Baines owners might be somewhat concerned given that he was second in this category (to Sagna) last season, though he is on pace to come close to his totals from prior year.

Defensive units with reliable (played every minute when available) 5.0m or less options available 
1.     Swansea - 3 clean sheets - Rangel, Williams
2.    QPR - 3 clean sheets - A Ferdinand 
3.    Newcastle - 3 clean sheets - D Simpson, S Taylor, F Coloccini 
4.    Wolves - 2 clean sheets - Ward, Berra, Johnson
5.    Wigan - 2 clean sheets - Figueroa, Caldwell
6.    West Brom - 2 clean sheets - Shorey, Olsson
7.    Sunderland - 2 clean sheets - Brown
8.    Aston Villa - 2 clean sheets - Warnock
9.    Bolton  - 1 clean sheet - Knight, Robinson
10. Norwich - 0 clean sheets - Tierney

I'm not suggesting that I like all of the above players, just that there is real depth in the budget defender range this year. Ideally, you would settle on your premium forwards and midfielders for the long term, add a couple of reliable mid-rangers like Murphy or Taarabt and then grab a bunch of the above guys, rotating them weekly and replacing them in 5-8 week blocks. That of course is easier said than done, but the point is clearly that quality is much cheaper at the back than in midfield this year.

Corners taken
1.     Taraabt 34
2.    Cabaye 27
3.    M Petrov 25
4.    Watson 24
5.    Larsson 22
6.    Adam 22
7.    Nasri 20
8.    Duff 19
9.    A Young 17
10. Fox 17

It's hard to say how much impact taking corners has on a players' value, but it obviously can't hurt it. Of the 19 players to take over 80 corners last year, all but Nasri and Watson added 4 assists for the year with 12 players notching 6 or more. I liked Fox after seeing him in the year but his place in the first team doesn't seem assured and the above doesn't suddenly excuse that fact. For a player like Young or Nasri though, you might conclude that this gives the edge over teammates Nani and Silva (I disagree in those particular cases but the thought process is logical). Taraabt's lack of fantasy points continues to amaze, but is he keeps generating these kind of stats, the points will surely sure start flowing soon.

1.     de Gea 36
2.    Friedel 26
3.    Begovic 25
4.    Vorm 24
5.    Hennessey 22
6.    Al-Habsi 21
7.    Jaaskelainen 19
8.    Schwarzer 18
9.    Given 18
10. Reina 18

I'm highlighting this list for two reasons. Firstly, and most predictably, I want to point out that saves are the great equaliser for goalkeepers and the reason the big names rarely dominate their cheaper colleagues in the same way a Rooney or Aguero may crush a Zamora. 8of the top 10 keepers in fantasy points so far could have been had for 5.0m or less to open the year with, including 3rd ranked Vorm who came in at just 4.0m. A similar story is true for the above list with only de Gea and Reina ranking as high priced options from 'elite' teams. 

The second point to make is somewhat contradictory of the first. I say saves are the great equaliser, which is generally true, but occasionally you get a player from an elite team who also generates big save totals. So far, that is the case with de Gea. The United defense has suffered a number of injuries and thus being pretty disjointed, leading to just 2 clean sheets and plenty of chances for the opposition. This has been good for de Gea's save totlas but bad for his clean sheet points. The key is whether United can stiffen sufficiently to keep clean sheets but allow de Gea to keep his save totals high. If that happens, he might just about justify that lofty price tag, though I'd still only be tempted if I had cash to burn, which is looking unlikely in these early stages of the season. Worth monitoring though.

EA Sports PPI per 90 minutes
1.     Rooney 47
2.    Aguero 38
3.    Welbeck 34
4.    Dzeko 34
5.    Adebayor 33
6.    Milner 32
7.    A Young 31
8.    Yakubu 26
9.    Ba 26
10. Silva 25

Looking at the PPI points on a per 90 minute basis can be misleading, as finishing 4th on your team every week will generate a lot of PPI but precisely zero bonus points. However, racking up the PPI will generally lead to bonus points success and should be widely indicative of a player doing a lot of the things that lead to fantasy success. Aside from obvious candidates, a couple of names stand out. Welbeck's start to the season (though a small sample) cannot be discounted and with two mores goals tonight against Basel, he will surely jump back ahead of Berbatov in the pecking order and be odds on favourite to absorb Rooney's minutes for the next couple of weeks. His return to fitness would make me nervous about picking up Hernandez to replace Rooney as there could well be a time share situation when Rooney returns if Welbeck proves himself to be undroppable. Adebayor's presence on a number of these lists demonstrates how quickly his stock is rising and he should now be considered in the second tier of forwards, behind only Rooney and Aguero. 

Defender shots on target
1.     Wilson 2
2.    Naughton 2
3.    Koscielny 2
4.    Jagielka 2
5.    Ivanovic 2
6.    A Cole 2
7.    G Cahill 2
8.    Baines 2
9.    Lots of players 1

I repeat, don't pay for defender goals. By all means take shots on target into account (along with offensive touches (list #5)) but with so many budget option available (list #6) it just seems impossible to justify spending 8.0m on a 5.0m defense or 7.3m on Cole rather than Bosingwa.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lineup Lessons Gameweek 6

In order to keep the length of this post down, and to get it up as soon as possible, I am only going to comment on lineup issues for the week. I will then add general thoughts/news/trends in a separate scouting notebook piece later in the wek.

Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Song, Ramsey, Gervinho, van Persie, Walcott
Subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, Andre Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arshavin, Frimpong, Chamakh

Not really sure what happened with Santos, who was replaced by Gibbs for the week. I'm not sure he's worth owning anyway as better options exist on his own team (Mertesacker or Koscielny while Vermaelen is hurt) and of course across the league. Arshavin was benched here which really underlines how that trio of Gervinho/Walcott/Arshavin is tough to predict, leaving Arteta and Van Persie as the only real reliable options in this side offensively.

Aston Villa
Given, Hutton, Collins, Dunne, Warnock, Petrov, Ireland, Delph, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Bannan
Subs: Guzan, Albrighton, Delfouneso, Beye, Weimann, Lowry, Gardner

I very much like Bannan here, who seems to have permanently replaced Albrighton on the first team. His penalty duties are of course a bonus and suggest his manager has a confidence in him which indicates a prolonged run in the team. I keep promising a chalkboard post and Bannan deserves some attention in that upcoming review. Elsewhere it's as you were and this team is looking very settled.

Robinson, Salgado, Samba, Givet, Dann, Hoilett, Lowe, Nzonzi, Olsson, Formica, Yakubu
Subs: Bunn, Grella, Petrovic, Rochina, Vukcevic, Roberts, Hanley

The lineup is still pretty up and down though some constants can be found in Hoilett and possibly an emerging Yakubu. Rotation risk is only a concern if your players have value in the first place though, and at the moment the Rovers players deserve monitoring at best.

Jaaskelainen, Wheater, Robinson, Knight, Steinsson, Eagles, Reo-Coker, Muamba, Pratley, Petrov, Ngog
Subs: Bogdan, Sanli, Gardner, K Davies, M Davies, Boyata, Kakuta.

Kevin Davies hasn't been enjoying a good start to the season and the fact he is now benchable really hurts his value, much of which was derived from his reliability. At this point I'd prefer to role the dice with a Long, Ba or Di Santa rather than stick with Davies. The rest of the team is pretty much as you were, with Wheater only getting a game due to Cahill's illness. Steinsson versus Boyata is becoming a frustrating battle and there isn't enough potential value there to bother getting involved with that.

Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Mata, Meireles, Ramires, Torres, Anelka.
Subs: Turnbull, Luiz, Lampard, Drogba, Malouda, McEachran, Kalou

We can conclude that Malouda has fallen badly down the pecking order and cannot be owned anymore. No one has really covered themselves in glory up front in Drogba's absence and with Torres' suspension, the Ivorian will surely reclaim a place in the first team. I don't read too much into Lampard's benching, who has actually been playing fairly well this year, despite a lack of elite production. That back line looks set, though expect Luiz to get a game soon as Villas-Boas looks to keep his side fresh.

Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Neville, Fellaini, Rodwell, Osman, Coleman, Cahill
Subs: Mucha, Heitinga, Bilyaletdinov, Saha, Drenthe, Stracqualursi, Vellios

Saha reclaims a place on the bench but of course his fantasy value remains non-existent until he can prove he can hold a first team place and stay healthy. Based on their value, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable owning a single player from this team. 26 forwards have as many points as ALL Everton forwards combined.

Schwarzer, Baird, Grygera, Hangeland, JA Riise, Kasami, Sidwell, Murphy, Dempsey, Dembele, Sa
Subs: Etheridge, Kelly, Ruiz, Senderos, Gecov, Etuhu, Briggs

This defence is starting to get a bit annoying now, and it's only going to get worse when Aaron Hughes gets healthy. Riise and Hangeland look safe but those price tags put them in the borderline elite category which I really struggle to justify for a good but not great defensive unit. As the newest signing, I wonder if Grygera will now establish a place in the first team, which would deliver good value at 5.0m. It's too early to take that risk after just one appearance though. Honestly, if you like Fulham, I'd just grab Schwarzer and plug him into a rotation strategy. Up front you have to imagine Ruiz will play at some point but I wouldn't be looking at him for a while yet.

Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Henderson, Lucas, Adam, Downing, Carroll, Suarez.
Subs: Doni, Gerrard, Coates, Kuyt, Spearing, Flanagan, Bellamy

It will be interesting to see what happens when Gerrard is fully fit as there is no obvious candiate to be dropped. My first thought is Henderson but he's played a lot so far this year and gives them width on the right which they would lose with Gerrard, particularly with Johnson still sidelined. He could take Adam's place in the middle but this seems less likely given the way Adam has really been the focal point of so much Liverpool have done this year. Finally, he could play off a striker, as he did for a while with Torres, but Suarez isn't a great fit for that role and it seems highly unlikely the Uruguayan would be benched. Some might suggest that they go Adam/Gerrard in the middle but I would be very surprised if Liverpool decide to proceed with no defensive option. I'd suggest that Downing and Suarez owners can sleep well but if you have Henderson/Adam/Carroll I would at least start thinking about what you're next move is, even if you don't pull the trigger yet.

Man City
Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Nasri, Barry, Toure Yaya, Silva, Dzeko, Aguero
Subs: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Milner, Kolarov, Savic, Tevez, Balotelli

Did City really just name an unchanged lineup? Unfortunately that probably means there will be some rotation on the horizon but you can handle that when the ceiling is high when they do play and I would therefore be happy owning pretty much anyone in this lineup aside from Barry (benched for De Jong soon?), Lescott (better options available for less money) and probably Yaya Toure (deep role for a high price).

Man Utd
De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Nani, Anderson, Fletcher, Young, Berbatov, Hernandez.
Subs: Lindegaard, Owen, Giggs, Park, Welbeck, Fabio Da Silva, Valencia

Berbatov gets a game! And not at centre back! Rooney's injury was a massive blow, after I had suggested he was my captain pick for the week. Evans' injury was also a disappointment and we should probably downgrade this unit as it isn't clear who can even start this week. Rooney is supposed to be out for a couple of weeks and my current thought process is that they will be targeting the City game for his return (Oct 23, GW9). Given that the City matchup is a tough one, that gives you three gameweeks where you wouldn't mind being without Rooney and so if you have transfers to spare, I might consider flipping him for Van Persie or Aguero, and then buying him back at a lower price in 3 weeks. If you want to make that move though, you need to act fast as many managers will surely sell Rooney this week, despite his excellent form to date.

Krul, Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, R Taylor, Obertan, Cabaye, Tiote, Gutierrez, Ba, Best.
Subs: Harper, Guthrie, Ben Arfa, Lovenkrands, Perch, Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi

Not much to add here as this team looks pretty settled. Ben Arfa may replace Obertan when fully fit but until we see proven production from him, neither are ownable anyway.

Kenny, Young, Ferdinand, Hall, Traore, Faurlin, Derry, Wright-Phillips, Taarabt, Barton, Bothroyd.
Subs: Murphy, Orr, Campbell, Buzsaky, Connolly, Smith, Helguson

Gabbidon was injured for this one so I still like him as an every week starter and that midfield is now looking pretty solid, suggesting a 4-5-1 shape will continue and Bothroyd will own that top spot on his own. I can see value in Taarabt, Wright Phillips, Barton and even Faurlin and with a solid looking defense, this team is quickly developing into one of the best sources of cheap options in the league.

Begovic, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Woodgate, Wilson, Pennant, Delap, Whelan, Etherington, Walters, Crouch
Subs: Sorensen, Huth, Whitehead, Upson, Shotton, Jerome, Palacios

Huth was a surprise drop here but I'd be surprised if this is anything more than a one week aberration. Huth has adapted fairly well to the right back spot I'd forecast him to return there next week. Woodgate once again proved he is without a doubt the first choice partner to Shawcross and I like him (when fit) as a very useful rotation play.

Vorm, Rangel, Monk, Williams, Taylor, Britton, Gower, Allen, Dyer, Lita, Sinclair
Subs: Tremmel, Graham, Dobbie, Routledge, Moore, Bessone, Richards

Graham found himself on the bench again and now needs to be sold. Despite his low price, you simply cannot carry players who aren't playing. Players in his price range are really limited though, so you might need to juggle a couple of players to replace him. Outside of Dyer, who has threatened but so far come up empty, I am not seeing too much here to get excited about.

Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto, Modric, Parker, Sandro, Bale, Van der Vaart, Adebayor
Subs: Cudicini, Giovani, Bassong, Corluka, Livermore, Townsend, Carroll

I wondered how Redknapp would deal with Van der Vaart, but with Defoe out we didn't receive a conclusive answer. He did however tip his hand by showing a willingness to move Modric outside, which could pave the way for a spot in the middle of a 4-4-2 for Van der Vaart, leaving Lennon as the odd man out. Either way, Defoe and Lennon don't look like great options in this side, with Adebayor, Van der Vaart and possibly a re-merging Bale looking like the value here.

West Brom
Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey, Dorrans, Mulumbu, Brunt, Odemwingie, Long, Thomas.
Subs: Fulop, Tchoyi, Morrison, Dawson, Jones, Cox, Scharner

Brunt found himself back in the lineup this week but I will need to see a consistent run and some production before I trust him again. The Baggies mustered just 8 shots all day and despite the consistent appearances for Odemwingie and Long, I am starting to get disheartened by this team's play. I like the team to bounce back at some point but as I said with Brunt last week, I am no longer willing to hold their assets while I wait.

Al Habsi, Gohouri, Caldwell, Figueroa, Van Aanholt, Diame, Watson, McCarthy, Moses, Di Santo, Gomez
Subs: Kirkland, Crusat, Maloney, McArthur, Sammon, Jones, Stam

Much like West Brom, Wigan have a few promising options up front but there is little predictability in the production with Moses in particular flattering to deceive. A lack of replacements for Moses and Di Santo make it tough to sell them and I think a separate post is in order on budget plays given the disappointing returns we're seeing from so many promising prospects.

Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Henry, Hunt, Edwards, O'Hara, Jarvis, Doyle
Subs: De Vries, Elokobi, Fletcher, Hammill, Milijas, Guedioura, Doherty

I don't know what Fletcher has to do to start every week but until he does, I find it hard to recommend owning him. I've liked Hunt all season so I was pleased to see him pick up the assist but this team is also a bit up and down and it's getting hard to distinguish between Jarvis, Hunt and O'Hara (at least in terms of underlying stats).

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gameweek 6 Preview

There could be some high scores this week as four of the historically stronger teams face weaker sides at home, not to mention a United team off to a historic season already. I've spent some time talking about the teams on Manchester this week (United and City) but it's Chelsea who could steal the show this week and if you still own any of their high priced assets, you better captain them this week, or ask yourself why on earth you own them.

Clean Sheet Rankings
  1. Chelsea vs Swansea (0.79 11 - n/a)
  2. Liverpool  vs Wolves (0.81 9 - 8)
  3. Man City vs Everton (0.81 14 - 7)
  4. Arsenal vs Bolton (0.95 10 - 7)
  5. West Brom vs Fulham (1.26 2 - 7)
  6. Stoke vs Man Utd (1.29 8 - 5)
  7. Newcastle vs Blackburn (1.29 5 - 7)
  8. Fulham @ West Brom (1.31 5 - 5)
  9. Tottenham @ Wigan (1.31 4 - 2)
  10. QPR vs Aston Villa (1.33 n/a - 6)
  11. Man Utd @ Stoke (1.38 6 - 4)
  12. Wigan vs Tottenham (1.48 4 - 5)
  13. Sunderland @ Norwich (1.49 7 - n/a)
  14. Everton @ Man City (1.53 4 - 3)
  15. Bolton @ Arsenal (1.64 1 - 5)
  16. Aston Villa @ QPR (1.69 1 - n/a)
  17. Wolves @ Liverpool (1.86 3 - 2)
  18. Norwich vs Sunderland (1.88 n/a - 9)
  19. Blackburn @ Newcastle (2.14 1 -4)
  20. Swansea @ Chelsea (2.26 n/a - 2)
Attacking Rankings
  1. Chelsea vs Swansea (2.26)
  2. Newcastle vs Blackburn (2.14)
  3. Sunderland @ Norwich (1.88)
  4. Liverpool  vs Wolves (1.86)
  5. QPR vs Aston Villa (1.69)
  6. Arsenal vs Bolton (1.64)
  7. Man City vs Everton (1.53)
  8. Norwich vs Sunderland (1.49)
  9. Tottenham @ Wigan (1.48)
  10. Stoke vs Man Utd (1.38)
  11. Aston Villa @ QPR (1.33)
  12. West Brom vs Fulham (1.31)
  13. Wigan vs Tottenham (1.31)
  14. Man Utd @ Stoke (1.29)
  15. Blackburn @ Newcastle (1.29)
  16. Fulham @ West Brom (1.26)
  17. Bolton @ Arsenal (0.95)
  18. Everton @ Man City (0.81)
  19. Wolves @ Liverpool (0.81)
  20. Swansea @ Chelsea (0.79)
Captain Picks
In reality you're probably going with one of the red hot strikers from United/City but there isn't really much to say with that pair. Below are a couple of outside the box ideas, along with my personal choice between Rooney and Aguero:

Fernando Torres - channeling a bit of Matthew Berry, let's do a round of blind resumes:
  • Player A - 11 shots, 5 on target, 2 goals in 331 minutes
  • Player B - 10 shots, 4 on target, 1 goal in 338 minutes
  • Player C - 6 shots, 3 on target, 1 goal in 446 minutes
We've seen that shots, particularly those on target are a decent indicator of goals scored, and on that basis Player B looks to be Player A's approximate equivalent and quite a bit above Player C. Player A is Luis Suarez, currently owned by 36% of managers, Player B is Fernando Torres (4%) and Player C is Darren Bent (7%). Swansea defended pretty well against Arsenal away but struggled at City, and you'd probably say that Chelsea fall somewhere in the middle of that group. They've surrendered 20 shots in 5 games (2nd most in the league) and despite his struggles, Torres still has the class (usually) to take advantage of that kind of charity. This pick would be a huge risk, and not one I would make, but if you still own Torres you really have to either sell him or captain him this week. If he can't do it now, he won't do it ever.

Frank Lampard - I wouldn't really suggest captaining Lampard but I did want to take the opportunity to draw attention to the fact that Lampard has some pretty impressive underlying numbers and might not be finished just yet. Despite speculation that his role would be much deeper than in prior year, he's actually had more passes in the opponents half this year than last (59% vs 54%) while also enjoying a slight uptick in overall touches per game (80 vs 77). He's managed 2 assist to date but his 15 key passes are second in the league and at this rate, he should be able to rack up pretty big assist numbers for the year. The problem is that he's managed just 4 shots all year (0.9 per game) compared to 55 last year (2.4 per game). He remains on penalty duties which should help his goal total a bit but until he starts shooting more, it's tough to justify his lofty price tag. There is still something here though and he makes a good gamble this week, though not a very logical play.

Juan Mata - there's been a lot of excitment about Mata so far this year but he's managed just 11 points in 3 games and for me, handing him the captaincy is too cute. You like the 11 key passes (though no assists yet) but like Lampard, he's mustered just 4 shots (2 on target) and he just doesn't carry the goal/assist combo threat of a Rooney/Aguero or even Silva/Nani/Young.

Robin Van Persie - the fixture looks good and the Dutchman is of course capable of hitting a high score, but we've been burned by him already this year and while the 3 goals last week were encourgaing, Arsenal just aren't in the class of the elite teams at the moment and you wouldn't be surprised if they squeaked a 1-0 here (though they could just as well score 5). If you want to avoid the Rooney/Aguero pairing this week then for me, Van Persie is the man to go with, but it's such a risky move; the kind that can win and lose your league, and the kind I try and stay away from.

I've written extensively about United and City this week, so I won't dwell on those points already raised here. Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero (and Edin Dzeko) are in irresistible form and any of them make great captain picks in any given week. When in doubt I tend to defer to the fixture list and given City's home fixture, I'd give the nod to Aguero/Dzeko over Rooney. I wouldn't argue against someone going the other way and as a Rooney owner I won't be making a transfer to get a City player, such is the fine margin between this trio.

Reader Questions
Ryry - Currently I have Rooney, van Persie and Adebayor upfront but considering brining in Dzeko and Suarez for adebayor and rooney. Just wondered what your thoughts were!
True, Rooney has a tough fixture but I rarely reccommend paying for transfers and I certainly wouldn't be selling Rooney at this point, even just for a week. I like Dzeko/Aguero over Van Persie in the long run but I would probably wait until next week to make that move when City enjoying a bigger fixture advantage than this week.

PUI165 - I have a question about Sturridge who I own and who got injured last night. My options: 1) Try and survive this GW and hope he plays the next one, 2) sub in Adebayor for 4pt hit, but that would leave me very top heavy. The funds I have I was planning to use on upgrading Taarabt and or Walcott to Mata/VDV. 3) Taarabt, Sturridge out-Best, Mata in for 8pt hit.
Again, I am reluctant to reccommend taking a 4 point hit, unless your current team looks like it is going to be forced to play short handed. Everyone else in your team looks like a starter, so I would stand pat for this week. I would target moving Walcott on and probably go after either Nani or Young, depending on who you like more (you already own Silva). If you wanted to move Sturridge on next week, I'd agree and go with Adebayor given Spurs good looking fixture list.

Moe Vawda - Need advice on who to choose from SWP, Barton and Taarabt?
I like all three of these guys and would definitely put them on my shortlist. For me though, a combination of impressive underlying stats and his performances in the last 2 weeks have convinced me that Taarabt will start scoring decent fantasy points soon and I love him at 6.5m, especially as it seems many managers are giving up already.

Raddz - I was wondering if it would be a good idea to cash in on Young and switch him for Nani as it looks like Nani is doing better right now or should I just wait and see?
I think the two are very very close, and the only reason I say I like Nani more is simply because I've not seen enough to change my mind. I would imagine you could use that free transfer to improve your team somewhere else so I'd hold with Young for now, unless your team is totally set, then yes, I like Nani a touch more.

Gummi - I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on front-loading (so to speak) your team and having only budget options in the back. For example, picking Rooney, Aguero, Silva, Nasri, and Young and complimenting them with cheap options such as Dyer in the middle and a bunch of cheap defenders (Gabbidon, Ward, De Laet, etc.).
In the early running I think this would have been a very good strategy with teams like Newcastle, Swansea and QPR providing even more cheap options to go with the established cheap favorites like Stoke. I'd be reulctant to  go with 5 uber-cheap defenders but if you supplement them with a Enrique or a Phil Jones then that gives you a nice base of, say, 10-12 clean sheets to build on. The problem I've found with this strategy in the past though is that you are so reliant on your squad that when suspensions and injuries start rolling in, you can quickly find yourself forced to play Gabbidon at Old Trafford etc. I do like the idea and I'm kind of leaning that way myself, but the key is making sure those 5 defenders and budget mids play every single week and avoiding cute picks like Jonny Evans.

deb - just wanted to ask whether you saw much value in owning both Aguero and Dzeko (as well as Silva), or is that overkill for City forwards?
I've thought about this myself and I think the biggest downside is that it precludes you owning a defender from arguably the best unit in the league. It would obviously lead to some big fluctuations in your weekly score as when City struggle so will you, but over the course of a season that doesn't really matter. I would say Rooney-Hernandez-Nani would be overkill due to prices involved but Dzeko being a bit cheaper does make it more tempting. I like Richards and Kompany too much to do it, but I see no reason why it isn't doable.

Shedboy - I am trailing almost 100 points in each of my mini leagues, so what i'm asking you is 'Is it still(given my 100point trail)worth paying that extra 2.5m on Rooney or it can used somewhere else? I also have Aguero, Silva, Nani from Manchester.
That's a tough question. So early in the season I wouldn't be too concerned with the league table and I'd target the players who you like to score the most points. It sucks to bring Rooney in now as you are just locking in a 12m stalemate, but I took the same approach some years with Ronaldo and he just kept doing it all year. The thing with Rooney is that he is rarely dropped and has a tremendous ability to rack up minutes. United have Wellbeck to come back as well as Berbatov (and I suppose Owen) on the bench which might hamper Hernandez a bit as the season gets into the winter grind. In short, until someone else does something remarkable, Rooney looks to be worth every penny.

@RaySoc - sell Adam/Suarez for Nani/Dzeko vs Larsson/Aguero to join Silva, Moses, Barton, Brunt, Rooney, Adebayor? othr sugg?
This looks like the kind of situation where Dzeko may be better than Aguero. Nani is a potentially huge upgrade over Larsson and if there's no other way to free up the cash then I like that first pairing more. I might be more tempted by Taarabt/Aguero but until we see the points flowing for the QPR man, I'd lock in Nani and Dzeko. Given Liverpool's good fixture this week, I wouldn't do these transfers in one go and incur a fee, but instead probably grab Dzeko this week and then Nani next week in time for the Norwich fixture.

@weheartfooty - have already made my transfer - do I cost myself 4 points replacing smalling?
Unless you're facing the prospect of starting 10 men, I'd hold onto Smalling who could even play this week, and holds value in the near future given the injuries to United's back line.