Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gameweek 19 Preview

The last two weeks have illustrated the randomness of fantasy football, where even when you predict the outcome right, your team can wind up with no points. For example, as forecast, the two Manchester teams have kept two clean sheets over the past two gameweeks but despite owning P Jones, Richards and Evans, I've come out of it with zero clean sheets after Jones limped off and Richards was subbed after 59 minutes in GW17, then Jones and Richards missed out altogether and Evans was withdrawn at half time in GW18. The same can be said for Rooney owners who picked up just 8 points despite United scoring 10 goals over that same two week period. You calculated the odds right but the house still won.

This shouldn't have large repercussions on how you pick your team though. Rooney was an outstanding pick these past couple of weeks and deserved captain attention in both. Trying to predict when players kept rested for the odd game is a fools errand and unless we have strong evidence of a players' lack of fitness or an indication from the manager they will be dropped, it's better to start them and just roll with the punches when they are inevitably rested every now and then. Focusing too much on playing time will lead you off track and cause you to shy away from players like Dzeko or Sturridge, who have each been extremely valuable at different points of this season.

Expect more turnover this week, but take solace that if your players were rested last week, they should at least be back for this one (injuries aside):

Captain Picks
Once again the focus is on Manchester, though a couple of London teams are doing their best to make some noise of their own.

For United, it's all about the rested Rooney who has rediscovered his scoring touch of late and has hit the target more times than any other forward over the past four gameweeks (despite playing just half an hour last GW). Having gotten a short rest last week, Rooney looks locked in to play in this one and Blackburn look like just the kind of prey ripe for the picking. It doesn't get much better than this on paper so if you own Rooney, you're probably captaining him.

Rooney's teammate Nani is another solid pick though he's started the last eight gameweeks and may find himself in Ferguson's rotation cross hairs in the near future. Nani's value is hurt somewhat by his inconsistency, with 10 GWs of 3 points or less already this year. If he's your only United played and you're turned off the other options then he deserves consideration but that downside scares me off somewhat.

Though they face a trickier trip to Sunderland, City still provide a number of good options this week. You've got to be concerned by the fact that neither Aguero nor Silva have been rotated for a while, but as noted above, trying to second guess managers (particularly Mancini, is a risky business). It's worth noting that just four of Aguero's 13 goals have come on the road and he's managed just 11 points in his last four trips away from Manchester. FFS's ICT rankings backup this worrying trend and this damning fact would steer me away from Aguero until he can prove he can do it on the road.

Silva's road splits aren't quite as pronounced but he too has hit somewhat of a slump of late with three dud games over the last four. Until that run though, Silva had scored or assisted a goal in every game he had started bar one so let's not write him off just yet. Captaining him however does look like a stretch unless your United options reside on the defensive side of the ball.

A couple of down weeks have taken the gloss off Van Persie but his 8.4 P90 at home can only be beaten by Aguero (among regular starters), who of course finds himself on the road this week. QPR have really regressed after a solid start to the year defensively, conceding 15 in their last six road games.  His GW18 line may have disappointed but his underlying stats tell a different story with no less than eight shots, five of which were on target. Anything like that again here should ensure he returns better results for his owners and he remains a great captain pick this week.

Mata and Sturridge have a great fixture for the week but they still haven't really demonstrated an ability to consistently deliver big point hauls and Sturridge has actually been better on the road this year.  I like this pair to own over the next six weeks or so but the armband is a step too far unless you lack anyone in the above group or you think they will all be rested/rotated.

Ba and Bale are in great form and I wouldn't bench them against anyone but the stats say that Newcastle and Spurs will struggle for goals this week and thus they aren't captain material.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gameweek 18 Preview

Captain Picks
We have the deepest pool of legitimate captain options here. Insert Christmas cliche here!

Manchester is once again the place to be and both the red and blue side of the City enjoy a fixture this week as appetizing as, well, something appetizing at Christmas. With the home fixture, Rooney is the obvious pick for the week and United really seem to have turned the corner since they hit four past Wolves in GW15. 11 goals in three gameweeks have put the Champions right back among the fantasy elite and Rooney is obviously well placed to capitalise. Over the last four gameweeks, Rooney has 15 shots, 11 of which were on target to support his 4 goals. With Wigan coming to town, it's almost impossible to look elsewhere.

Rooney's teammate Nani has been in great form himself with three goals and four assists in the last four games. Of the ~10m midfielders on offer, Nani possibly has the best goalscoring ability and history, though a slight word of caution would be that over those same four gameweeks he mustered only 6 shots on target - suggesting that while he remains a top option, we should expect some regression in the future. In stark contrast to last season, Nani has fared better away from home (7.8 P90) than at home (6.7m) though that fact way lead one to conclude that relying too much on home/road splits may be foolish anyway. Nani is a great option this week and beyond.

Moving across the city (or if you want to be pedantic and annoy United fans, from Salford to Manchester) we find the City players with another good chance for success this week. West Brom have enjoyed a couple of wins of late, but they remain shaky at the back with nine goals conceded over the last five games and no clean sheets since GW8. Dzeko is still carrying a slight injury which gives you more confidence Aguero will avoid rotation again this week. With Rooney's return to form many managers seem to have cooled on Aguero with net transfers out for the past three gameweeks. However, it's worth noting that no one has more shots or shots on target over the past four gameweeks than Aguero and his scoring potential matches or exceeds anyone in the league. City's fixtures are a touch tougher than United's over the next month or so and it's a very close call to pick between the two for this week or near future.

I blew my City captain pick the last two weeks taking Aguero then Silva instead of Silva then Aguero which would have netted an extra 20 points. That highlights how hard it is to forecast who will have the best haul on a given day for City though when the opposition is weak you are safe with both. Having been subbed after 65 minutes last game, Silva has a good chance to start here again though Nasri, Johnson and Milner provide a greater threat than Aguero faces from an unfit Dzeko. I still love Silva, and haven't really considered selling him all year, but with Aguero's form and the chance of rotation I'd opt for the little Argentinian this week.

It feels wrong only getting to Van Persie at this point of the post, but that really emphasises the good options available this week. His eight double digit scores over the past 2 gameweeks are almost unprecedented as is the fact he has scored or assisted 20 of Arsenal's last 28 goals. Wolves are not a good road team (scored 6, conceded 17) and the reason Arsenal only come in 4th this week is due to their own unreliable form at home (14 goals in 8 games). That said, of the three sides who brought comparatively poor records to the Emirates, only Swansea managed to concede a single goal with Stoke and Bolton dismissed with much greater ease (Van Persie scored twice against both opponents). Given the added security Van Persie brings of rarely being rested, he might actually just pip both City players this week and rank right alongside Rooney as the top option for the week.

Elsewhere many will be drawn to the red hot Ba, who I have somewhat undervalued this year. Few are in better form that the Newcastle front man and while I dismissed him as a captain option a few weeks back, he at least deserves some attention here. Bolton have been generally terrible this year and Newcastle have been decent on the road, trailing only the top few teams in goals scored having already faced tricky trips to both Manchester sides. As a player I like Ba a lot, but as a captain option, at least this week, the elite options just look too good to resist. Newcastle can be inconsistent at times and while Ba's underlying stats backup his production, he is not guaranteed to receive the number of chances a Rooney or Van Persie will. He is, however, officially in the conversation for captain consideration.

It's a similar story for the Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool options, who all enjoy a good fixture but just don't bring enough this week to topple the current rulers of the armband.

I might not get to a reader's question post this week, but if you send your questions to @plfantasy I might be able to sneak a few responses off under the Christmas table. Happy Holidays everyone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gameweek 17 Preview

Captain Picks
With the short gameweek I'm going to keep this brief. Your basic choice is to either captain your City players, or, if you are worried about rotation (which is a concern) then stick with a proven asset with a somewhat tricky fixture (ie Van Persie and Rooney).

City's fixture is just too good to avoid and if you hold Aguero or Silva it's tough to look elsewhere. As with prior year weeks I think Silva is the safer option, though Aguero probably has the higher upside. Aguero looked sharp early against Arsenal but drifted out of the game a bit as it went on (though I don't really understand why he was stripped of his assist). At this point I am leaning towards Silva, who appears less likely to be dropped (Dzeko must be due a start soon) but it really is a coin toss and I don't have anything concrete to help you make a decision either way.

Outside of the City stars you're left with Van Persie who had a rare off week at City but faces a Villa side who have conceded 7 goals in their last 4 home games. Arsenal are clearly a riskier play than City but that is somewhat offset by the fact that Van Persie is involved in an higher proportion of Arsenal's goals than either of the City pair (the Dutchman has scored or assisted 18 of the 25 Gunner goals).

You could also take a look at Rooney given the last couple of games, though back-to-back home clean sheets for Fulham suggests United won't have it all their own way. If you own him you will of course consider captaining Rooney, though I don't think United are quite at a place where you captain Rooney no matter who the opposition.

I omitted Ba from the rankings last week (by mistake) but even then he wouldn't have cracked the top  3. Players from the non-elite sides struggle to consistently deliver big scores and thus make risky captain picks. Even a fit Darren Bent and his 10 2-point games would therefore not have made this list, no matter how good the fixture is.

I might not get to a full reader questions post this week but if you send them to @plfantasy I will try and reply tonight.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 16

Szczesny, Djourou, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Arteta, Song, Ramsey, Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho
Subs: Almunia, Rosicky, Arshavin, Frimpong, Chamakh, Benayoun, Miquel.

No surprises in this lineup, and we shouldn't overreact to the lack of goals when playing a very good City side, no doubt refocused by their sloppy defensive work of late. Walcott owners will be nervous about how quiet he was but Arshavin looked pretty terrible off the bench and Chamakh got the nod over Benayoun. Competition therefore appears to be somewhat thin and with Gervinho set to depart for the African Nations in the the not too distant future, Walcott remains a (frustrating) option.

Aston Villa
Guzan, Hutton, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Albrighton, Delph, Petrov, N'Zogbia, Heskey, Delfouneso. 
Subs: Marshall, Clark, Cuellar, Bannan, Weimann, Johnson, Burke.

Guzan continued to deputise in goal with Given still out until the early new year. Villa have tough defensive fixtures between now and then anyway so it isn't worth making an investment there. In fact, this defense is probably one to avoid for the next few weeks. Agbonlahor missed out with suspension and Bent was injured leaving the team fairly blunt up top. Both should be back next week though with the next three being Ars, @Sto and @Che, I don't rate them too highly anyway.

Robinson; Nzonzi, Samba, Dann, Rochina; Vukcevic, Lowe, Dunn, Pedersen; Formica, Yakubu. 
Subs: Bunn, Petrovic, Blackman, Goodwille, Roberts, Hanley, Henley.

A disastrous result for Rovers, and one which could see Steve Kean's reign of misery come to an end. Yakubu is an interesting rotation play but this team is going to really struggle to consistently create chances, with their goal this week coming from a long ball from Paul Robinson to a centre back in the box. Nothing is predictable here other than relegation unless drastic changes occur. Next.

Jaaskelainen, Boyata, Cahill, Knight, Alonso, M Davies, Muamba, Reo-Coker, Pratley, K Davies, Klasnic
Subs: Bogdan, Steinsson, Robinson, Eagles, Sanli, Petrov, Ngog.

Do I have to comment here? The loser of Tuesday's derby with Blackburn may well be fired, at which point perhaps someone will turn the corner. Otherwise this is another team without attacking of defensive prospects and none of their players really warrant consideration, unless you're willing to roll the dice with Klasnic every now and then.

Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Romeu, Lampard, Meireles, Sturridge, Drogba, Mata
Subs: Turnbull, Torres, Mikel, Malouda, Ferreira, McEachran, Kalou.

With the possible exception of the suspended Luiz, this appears to be Chelsea's first choice team, though the big names continue to underwhelm somewhat. Sturridge has held his place for much longer, and with more consistency, than I expected and he really deserves more credit than we've given him. At 7.0m he is excellent value and you should be able to slot him in alongside 2 elite forwards, much like the similarly successful Ba. With so few 6-7.0m midfielders, this would seem to be the best use of money at the moment. After the trip to Spurs next week, the fixtures look great for 6 gameweeks and Sturridge looks well placed to capitalise.

Howard, Hibbert, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines, Gueye, Neville, Fellaini, Osman, Cahill, Saha
Subs: Mucha, Bilyaletdinov, Drenthe, Stracqualursi, Distin, Rodwell, McAleny.

It's not that Everton are necessarily bad, they just don't have anyone who really racks up fantasy points at a rate to justify their mid-price (or higher) rankings. Perhaps the arrival of Landon Donovan will spark some life into the side but until then there's very little to get excited about here.

Stockdale, Baird, Senderos, Hangeland, JA Riise, Ruiz, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Johnson, Dembele
Subs: Etheridge, Kelly, Orlando Sa, Gecov, Duff, Hughes, Frei.

As expected Stockdale came in for Schwarzer and, as expected, Fulham were able to keep Bolton at bay. Baird returned from his personal issues and represents the cheapest (and safest) access to this useful defense other than Stockdale. Going forward this team has some useful assets in Dempsey, Murphy and Dembele while Ruiz's class goal suggests he should be monitored for signs of life after the expensive signing has been slow to settle in.

Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Bellamy, Adam, Shelvey, Henderson, Downing, Suarez. 
Subs: Doni, Carroll, Maxi, Coates, Kuyt, Carragher, Kelly.

The majority of this team is pretty settled with Shelvey being the surprise inclusion here. This was a good result for Liverpool but from a fantasy perspective their points are still fragmented and with a fairly low offensive ceiling it's tough to see many of these options becoming elite fantasy players. Suarez's ability and underlying stats promise much but he continues to produce at a rate below his price tag. He still justifies consideration but Liverpool's fixtures aren't the best and the cheaper options like Ba and Sturridge are starting to nip at his heels.

Man City
Hart, Richards, Kompany, Toure, Zabaleta, Barry, Toure Yaya, Silva, Aguero, Nasri, Balotelli
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Milner, Dzeko, Johnson, Savic, De Jong.

Finally a clean sheet from this unit, and a goal created and scored by the two of the best fantasy assets this year (hence the reason I tend to unimaginatively focus on the 'big teams' for captain picks rather than up and down players like Ba). I didn't think Nasri did too much to impress and Milner is probably going to recover that starting spot at some point in the future. Balotelli continued to look dangerous and it was his shot which led to the goal, all of which is going to conspire to limit Dzeko's minutes.

Man Utd
De Gea, Evra, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Jones, Carrick, Nani, Welbeck, Valencia, Rooney
Subs: Berbatov, Giggs, Park, Hernandez, Young, Lindegaard, Fryers

Several publications had Smalling starting at CB here with Jones at RB and thus no place for Evans. Evans did however get the start and with Jones looking excellent in midfield you have to think that should be a consistent trend for the foreseeable future. Evans is an excellent option and his ownership will surely explode in the coming weeks. Jones looked good going forward this week and could develop a goal scoring threat to his game if he continues to play like this (and Carrick continues to support him well). Offensively things are a little less clear with Valencia once again looking good value for his place over Young and Welbeck being preferred to Hernandez once again. I couldn't tell if Rooney's header was brilliant or lucky but either way he has looked much better of late and is well and truly back in contention alongside Van Persie and Aguero as the new look holy trinity.

Krul, Simpson, Perch, Coloccini, Santon, Obertan, Cabaye, Tiote, Gutierrez, Best, Ba
Subs: Harper, Williamson, Ben Arfa, Abeid, Shola Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi, Vuckic.

It was good to see this unit bounce back with a clean sheet and they remain a good rotation option. Without S Taylor I don't see them as startable every week but there is certainly still value here, especially with the ever present and extremely cheap Simpson. Ba looked dangerous throughout and remains one of the better value forwards around.

Ruddy, Naughton, Martin, Whitbread, Tierney, Crofts, Fox, Hoolahan, Surman, Morison, Holt
Subs: Rudd, Johnson, Jackson, Pilkington, Bennett, Barnett, Wilbraham.

With 7 goals Grant Holt is making it very hard for Paul Lambert to drop him. With just 3 starts in the last 12 gameweeks though, it's hard to recommend him over Morison who has also been a useful fantasy asset (and grabbed the assist yesterday). Outside of that pair, the midfield continues to be rotated  with top fantasy scorers Pilkington and Johnson once again finding themselves on the bench. That and a leaky defense really limits what this team has to offer outside of Morison.

Cerny, Gabbidon, Traore, Connolly, Young, Faurlin, Mackie, Barton, Wright-Phillips, Helguson, Bothroyd
Subs: Kenny, Orr, Hill, Derry, Taarabt, Campbell, Smith.

Like Norwich, this isn't a bad team, but a fragmentation of fantasy points makes it tough to back any of their players given the overall lack of goals which are going to come their way (only scored more than once twice in the last 11 games). Barton is reliable with limited upside while Helguson is a touch one dimensional so his production is always going to fluctuate greatly. That said, when fit this is one of the more predictable lineups around so at leats you can rely on your subs making the starting XI if you opt to grab anyone from Warnock's side.

Sorensen; Woodgate, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson, Shotton, Whitehead, Whelan, Etherington, Crouch, Walters
Subs: Begovic, Jones, Fuller, Pennant, Upson, Jerome, Palacios.

We may have seen the end of the Woodgate-at-right-back experiment. He was shredded by Jarvis from the first minute, getting booked and giving up a penalty (in separate incidents) before being hauled off after just 20 minutes. Huth could slide across there if needed but until we see improvements it's unlikely that this side will be good enough to consistently keep clean sheets and therefore lack too much fantasy value anyway. No changes of note up top with Etherington, Walters and I suppose Crouch continuing to provide some value.

Westwood, O'Shea, Brown, Bramble, Bardsley, Larsson, Colback, Vaughan, Richardson, Wickham, Sessegnon
Subs: Carson, Cattermole, Gardner, Ji, McClean, Elmohamady, Bendtner.

They are a tight unit under O'Neil but we haven't seen much change by way of clean sheets. They remain a spot start defense given the settled lineup at the back. There is little to get excited about going forward here and we should expect O'Neil to receive some funds for strengthening in January.

Vorm, Richards, Williams, Caulker, Taylor, Routledge, Gower, Britton, Sinclair, Allen, Graham
Subs: Tremmel, Dyer, Dobbie, Monk, Lita, Moore, Agustien.

A second clean sheet in three away games strengthens Vorm's claim as an every week starter (though the four goals conceded to Blackburn in between those games suggests otherwise). Either way this defense remains great value. The offensive lineup is generally quite settled though Dyer did miss out this week. The usual suspects in midfield and up front remain good rotation options for the foreseeable future.

Friedel, Walker, Gallas, King, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Parker, Sandro, Modric, Adebayor, Van der Vaart
Subs: Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Bassong, Kranjcar, Rose, Livermore, Pienaar.

Bale missing out here was the headliner though his injury isn't thought to be something will linger for to long; he may be a doubt for midweek though. This was a good fixture and only a 1-0 victory is disappointing but Spurs remain one of the better fantasy sides around and with their double gameweek on the horizon, everyone should be starting to plan how to maximise their value in GW20.

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

Huge win for the Baggies this week but I'm afraid the fantasy options remain limited. Odemwingie is clearly the potential ace here and with 15 points in 3 games since his return from injury, there are bright signs for the future. At 7.2m he has to compete with Ba and Sturridge which looks like a stretch at the minute but Odemwingie has the talent and past success to justify monitoring his progress in the coming weeks.

Al Habsi, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Stam, Jones, Diame, McCarthy, Moses, Gomez, Sammon. 
Subs: Pollitt, Gohouri, Crusat, Watson, Di Santo, McArthur, Rodallega.

Jordi Gomez is in very nice form with 4 goals in the last 5 gameweeks but given that he has just 8 shots on target for the year, this kind of production is simply not sustainable. Like West Brom this was a good result but an inability to keep teams out coupled with a lack of firepower makes for a fantasy non-entity.

Hennessey, Zubar, Berra, Johnson, Ward, Hunt, Henry, Milijas, Jarvis, Fletcher, Doyle
Subs: De Vries, Elokobi, Stearman, Hammill, Ebanks-Blake, Guedioura, Forde. 

Jarvis tormented Woodgate early on and Hunt reminded us of his value, enhanced by his penalty duties.  This wasn't a great display for McCarthy's men but there are some fantasy options here, though it is getting increasingly hard to try and predict which one to back.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gameweek 16 Reader Questions

@thatbensonguy I have 1.1m, looking to upgrade a DEF (probly Ass-Ek > Kompany) or MID, I have Brunt (5.8). What's the better move?
Spurs defensive prospects looks pretty sound over the coming weeks including 5 home games in the next 7 GWs (including the double gameweek). While I still have faith in City's defensive unit too, I would not be ditching Assou Ekotto at this point, and in fact rate him as one the better players to target. Brunt has been a huge disappointment and there is a real lack of talent in that WBA side. For 6.9m your options a bit limited. I guess I still like Ramsey and Walters but I'm not sure either are worth 2.0m more than the group of players on offer in that 4.5-5m range. If you can use the money elsewhere I'd go cheap, if not then I'd look at the aforementioned pair or perhaps Cabaye.

@Yitzeroo With newcastles defence on the down should I play Simpson this week, or have Morison up front? Will Norwich carry on scoring?
That's a tough call. The stats say go with Simpson but of course they don't account for S Taylor not being there. Swansea don't travel too well which is a boost for Simpson and Everton have been fairly stingy at home so I'd give the nod to Simpson for this week.

@Dafyddth I'm looking to play 3 from Enrique, Ekotto, Evans, Jones, Kompany in gameweek 16. Any ideas
Assou Ekotto is a definite play, and I think it's tough to drop Jones at the moment. Enrique has the toughest game on paper and probably misses out. You're then left with doubling down on United on the road or sticking with Kompany despite City's struggles. It's a really tough call but I think I might go with Evans and drop Kompany, which seemed unthinkable a few weeks back. City have scored 15 goals in their last 4 home games but failed to keep a clean sheet in any of those games. With Van Persie and co in decent form you fancy Arsenal to get a goal there while QPR may just buckle against United.

@NeilArrow A dumb reader question, from someone who hasn't been paying enough attention. What do you mean by "upside"?
There are no dumb questions here. And if there are, they're probably being asked by me! I use upside in two ways. Long term I mean that a player has sufficient talent to be good if the situation works out well for him (he gets more minutes, stays fit etc). More often though I mean in a given gameweek. Yaya Youre is a good fantasy player but his upside is limited in that he's unlikely to ever go off for a hattrick or 2 goals, 2 assists and 3 bonus points. Instead he just chips away with 4-7 points every week. Compare that to someone like Bale who already has 5 double digit games but also a high number of 2 pointers to his name this year. He has better upside but is way more boom/bust than Yaya. If you can find a player with consistency and upside, they tend to cost a lot of your budget.

Rohit Chochattu I'm taking my wildcard this week. Is this team good? Stockdale; Walker, Enrique, Evans; Johnson(Norwich), Bale, Nani, Mata; Sturridge(C), RVP(VC), Ba. Subs : Vorm, Vermaelen, Gower, Taylor.
The team looks great. As you may know, I don't really like expensive defenders so I probably wouldn't pickup Vermaelen though with so few midfield options, there is a better argument this year to own one and at least he does have a history of high production rather than just one season. I might also consider Assou Ekotto over Walker to save 0.5m as this might give you more flexibility if you want to shift Johnson or Gower around in the future. Other than those minor points though it looks great - I like it better than my team!

Vanilla At what point is 4pts worth saving 0.2M in budget? For example, assuming the worst-case, Schwarzer's value dips 0.1m this week, before a manager is due the next week's free transfer, and any of his worthy replacements would go +0.1m)
This is a really good question and one I feel like should be answerable with data but I'm not sure how to approach it. From my own strategy (not really based on facts) I would pay the fee if I had literally no flexibility in my budget and needed to make the move now. For example, I own Vorm and Schwarzer (at 5.0m) so if the only replacement option I liked cost 5.1m and I had 0.1m in the bank and I felt Schwarzer's value might fall, it might be worth paying the points, given that I really don't want to play Vorm this week. If I think he will concede twice he may only get 1 or 2 points and thus and thus the new keeper would only need a clean sheet to break even plus the fact that if I don't make the move now I won't be able to do so next week either. Other than that I'd still be reluctant to make the move as I'm not sure 0.1m or 0.2m here and there is going to make a huge difference (especially given that the free wildcard period is coming up).

Gummi What about going for Moreira (3.9, Vorm's replacement) and gambling on Vorm's ability to get points from saves on the road?
I get that you want to save cash but I'd prefer to get at least a warm body who can fill a role if you need him too. I'd therefore throw Ruddy or Cerny out there before I picked a bench player. I would still actually go with a ~4.5m guy.

Davefevs Vorm looks a very fine keeper, irrespective of fantasy football. Wonder if any big teams will look to make Swansea an offer in January?
If he arrived a year ago I would have pencilled him in for a move to United or Arsenal. However, despite what some think I think De Gea is locked into that United side for a while and Szczesny has shown enough to continue Wenger's trend of not spending big on a keeper. If Swansea were to go down he would almost certainly leave, possibly to another PL team, but if not I'm not sure how many teams want a keeper that would represent a huge upgrade from Swansea. Spurs maybe? It makes you wonder what Premier League scouting departments do all year really. It's not like Swansea plucked him from the Mongolian third division. I would think that keepers are one of the most translatable positions in that a good keeper in one league will, generally, be good in another. Strange that he never got a look from the likes of Arsenal who've needed a keeper for approximately 17 years.

Ratchet I would like to know which team has the least number of players that can be relied up for goals. Eg. Aresenal = Van Persie only whereas Spurs have 3 main goal threats.
Good question, and it ties into something I was thinking of posting: the percentage of team goals each player is involved is. It would be useful to know that, using fake numbers, Clint Dempsey scores or assists 45% of Fulham goals and thus may actually have more value than in a given week where Fulham are predicted to score twice, than David Silva, who accounts for 20% of City's goals might where City are predicted to score 3. I don't have this data yet, but I do plan to get it onto the site soon.

Ali Dia I love your blog! Need your input on this. I am undecided on who to captain this week among Mata, RVP, Rooney, Silva, Bale and even maybe Yakubu in a Blackburn side who score goals up against an obliging defence like West Brom..who knows what might happen. I also need to decide on who to start between Simpson or Brunt who has been a massive disappointment this season. Thanks!
Thanks Ali! To get onto my captain list you need to show consistent production and thus Yakubu is immediately out. I tend to lean on players at home all else being equal and that would point towards Silva. Van Persie is obviously in tremendous form but City away is pretty much as tough as it gets and his upside is surely limited. Bale also has a home game but he is so unpredictable that I'm a bit scared of captaining him. I would go with Silva based on his consistency and/upside potential.

Grounderz I can't decide who to start between Krul for Newcastle United (home) and Vorm for Swansea City (away) this weekend.
Despite the absence of S Taylor and possibly Colocinni, I would still go with Newcastle here. Swansea don't travel too well and Newcastle have a pretty potent attack at home.

Kavet Kerek What would you say to Demba Ba this week as a captain? Unless I'm blind I think I missed him and I'm wondering if he would be a better option than Silva. Silva is definitely consistent when it comes to grabbing points but due to the variety of sources that city scores goals he never seems like he can truly be relied on for a score along the lines of a brace. Thanks!
A couple of people mentioned Ba and it was definitely an oversight on my behalf. That said, his production is still pretty up and down and he's been a little bit boom or bust this year. There is certainly an argument to captaining him this week but I would still go for the proven consistency producer who can then also hit the highs fairly often. I'd probably slot Ba in after Aguero and Silva and possibly Van Persie but ahead of the rest of the group.

Vanilla What do you think of Landon Donovan joining Everton for 2mos in January? He was a firecracker during his last loan spell there.
I'm excited for Donovan in that (a) he's a good player and (b) he might reinvigorate this Everton side who is not without talent but has been pretty miserable this year. He should also provide another mid range option in that ~7.0m range providing the market makers don't go overboard with his price tag.

Cantona 808 First up, excellent blog Chris. Great to read an intelligent approach to Fantasy Football. Secondly, why don't you just consult the spread betting firms for accurate expectations of each team's goals. I think you'll find they're on the whole accurate or these firms wouldn't be in business. I'm talking about Sporting Index for example.
Thanks! I have thought about looking at betting sites before but the problem is that at the end of the day they are trying to make a market rather than predict what exactly will happen. The way the public bets therefore plays a bit part and so totals for 'public' teams are always going to be inflated. Fans of the NFL will know, for example, that public teams like Green Bay or Dallas (or the Pats of late) will always get inflated spreads as the public want to bet on glamorous teams. The same will be true in the Premier League in that people want to bet on Man Utd scoring a lot of goals. No one wants to take the under of bet that Swansea will score over/under 0.92 goals. There will be some value there for sure but I just worry that by using them I cloud the raw factual data with the bookies' view on how the market views teams.

WS For captain this week, Sturridge or Adebayor?
Of those two I like Adebayor. Chelsea have a slightly better fixture but Ade gets the penalty duties and Spurs are generally pretty good at home. Sunderland have been okay of late but I don't see a sudden and miraculous turnaround under O'Neil and they kind of quality at the back (particularly full back) to keep Spurs out all day.

As always, thanks for the questions and I hope the answers at least gave you some direction if not a direct answer. Good luck for the week ahead!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gameweek 16 Preview

Captain Picks
There was a time when playing Arsenal was a bad thing but, at least defensively, that is no longer the reality. Current and prior year stats suggest City will bag a couple this week, while current year only stats suggest they'll get three. With Santos, Gibbs, Sagna and Jenkinson all missing for Arsenal, you have to wonder how they will cope with the likes of Silva, Nasri, Milner or Johnson attacking them down the flanks. The expected beneficiary of that kind of exploitation is Aguero, who looks like the safest play this week. There's some concern given that he hasn't be rotated for a while now, but he only tends to play ~70 minutes so he shouldn't be too tired. He's scored 7 goals in 7 home games and City have totalled 24 goals over that period. It'll be hard to look elsewhere for anyone who owns the Argentinian genius this week.

The next best bet in the City side is Silva, given Dzeko's rotation and Balotelli's, erm, shall we say temperament (I love him by the way, but Mancini has suggested he will be rotated until he behaves which adds another level of risk I'm not willing to swallow). Silva has still only had four appearances scoring less than 5 points, and one of those came when he was late substitute. He is a great combination of safety and upside, which makes him almost the perfect captain choice. In fact, if there are even whispers that Aguero won't start, I would elevate Silva to number one on this list.

If there was ever a time to not captain Van Persie this is it. Whether or not he has crossed into the hallowed Ronaldo-Zone will be proven this week (where you captain him no matter what). True, City have not been the defensive force we anticipated but their goals conceded have tended to be consolation goals and they haven't conceded more than once at home for almost a year (4-3 against Wolves on Jan 15, 2011). You wouldn't bet against Van Persie on his current form but the upside is certainly limited and Arsenal aren't on the same level as those United teams which created so many chances for Ronaldo. If you don't own the City pair then Van Persie is a good option as always but he's not quite the top pick for me this week.

Arsenal's cross town rivals look like a better bet, putting Van der Vaart, Bale and Adebayor at the front of our minds again. Spurs have scored 15 goals in 6 home games, netting twice against everyone apart from City in GW3. Van der Vaart has suddenly gone cold after a month of hot form and he looked distinctly average against Stoke and was lucky to stay on the field for as long as he did. I need to see a lot more from him before I consider captaining him and as an owner of the Dutchman, I am starting to cast glances to the likes of Mata or old favourite Nani. Bale's top form has been more recent than Van der Vaart though he too looked ineffective against Stoke. With Van der Vaart no longer taking penalties, Bale might now be the better pick in this team though his 8 games scoring 3 points or less prevents me from captaining him unless the fixture is simply irresistible. Penalty duties are a nice bonus for Adebayor and his consistency makes him my favourite pick from this talented Spurs side. Ade has scored or assisted a goal in 9 of his 12 appearances this year and it's this ability to contribute in a number of categories (he also has 13 bonus points) which gives him captain value here. I can't put him in the elite group but if you want to think outside the box a bit, Ade makes a good unique captain option for this week (when I say unique, I mean as a captain, his ownership is relatively high at 20%).

With his recent play and Chelsea's uptick in form, Mata has ventured in captain territory, though I'm always more cautious when giving the arm band to players on the road, where goals are generally harder to come by and bad results more common (see GW9 @ QPR). Mata, and Chelsea, are sill a bit unpredictable for me to captain anyone there but I can now see a case for Mata, who is becoming increasingly intriguing in that ~10m range.

My instinct was that United players would rank as some of the better options this week but the stats suggest that goals will be harder to come by than one may expect. United are a side struggling for goals travelling to a QPR team who are struggling for form of their own. Will the side who thumped Wolves show up or will they return to their one-goal-a-game struggles once again? If it's the former than Rooney and Nani are obviously captainable this week. They have lost value as a defensive unit but QPR remain a useful home side and have only conceded more than once on a single occasion (against the all conquering City). I like this pair and United are always capable of putting a few past anyone but it's hard to take this side on the road when City are at home.

I will get to the weekly reader questions tomorrow so please post them below or @plfantasy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Replacing Schwarzer

Mark Schwarzer has been ruled out for anywhere up to 6 weeks with a spinal issue and given the nature of the injury, you wouldn't be 100% confident that those timelines will be accurate. In short, he needs to be replaced and given that a large portion of his owners will have been pairing him with Vorm, that move needs to be made quickly given Vorm's away trips this week and next (@New and @Eve). If you don't own Vorm then barring a total mismatch of fixtures, the Swansea keeper is your ready made replacement, and hey, you'll even get a bit of change.

So, who should Schwarzer/Vorm owners target? Well the defensive fixture rotation stats point to a number of options whose games will fit in nicely with Vorm (who can now be option 1a in rotation option rather than 1b as expected given Swansea's start to the season):

Tim Krul - 4.9m
Krul would have been the pick 6 weeks ago but with S Taylor out for good and Coloccini also sidelined, Newcastle's recent defensive struggles become predictable rather than unexpected. They have just one clean sheet in the last 11 games and don't seem to be showing signs of getting back on track. I don't see Newcastle becoming a top defensive unit anytime soon.

Radek Cerny - 4.0m / Paddy Kenny - 4.4m
Kenny should be back this week or next (you wouldn't want to play him against Utd anyway) though QPR have really declined defensively of late and I'm not sure Kenny or Cerny is the answer here.

Brad Guzan - 4.4m / Shay Given 4.8m
Given is still out for another 3 weeks or so but given that in that time Villa face Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, I don't think it's worth making a move to Guzan. Whether or not you target Given is a question for next month.

Keiren Westwood 4.4m / Simon Mignolet 4.3m
Mignolet's injury is another one that is hard to predict and it looks like he'll be out for at least another month. Westwood has performed really well in his absence and while this team hasn't exactly had a revolution since O'Neil arrived, they have at least been consistent all year rather than following a dynamite start with a couple of months of defensive craptitude (I'm looking at you Newcastle and QPR). The problem is that Sunderland have a tough month of fixtures, which is the main time you want someone to fill in (you can always get Schwarzer back during the free wild card period).

Brad Friedel - 5.5m
Too rich for my taste but the fixtures are good and Spurs are a decent defensive side. Worth a look but I'm not sure he's worth ~1.0m more than the above group.

Thomas Sorensen - 4.3m
Sorensen isn't locked into this spot but until he messes up it would appear that the job is his to lose. Stoke's fixtures don't gel with Vorm's as well as the above teams and he has two road games in the immediate future, including a trip to City so you don't gain a great deal in the short term by making this move. I like this idea if you want to pick a match for the long run but assuming you're just trying to make it until your wildcard, you can do better in the short term.

David Stockdale - 4.5m
If you were happy with Schwarzer then you should be happy with Stockdale who is a capable replacement for the Australian. You get the excellent fixture this week and Vorm gets decent fixtures to cover Stockdale when he plays United, Arsenal and Chelsea in the coming weeks.

You really screwed us Mark. Of the players who fixtures go well with Vorm, none of them really inspire much confidence. With the above in mind I am leaning towards Stockdale as Schwarzer's replacement. This allows you to make the move now and protect yourself from the future price decline facing Schwarzer as well as capitalise on the good looking fixture this week against Bolton.

If you don't own Vorm, and have no intention of doing so, you can check out the other defensive pairings here, though I'd urge you to reconsider given Vorm's performances to date.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 15

Szczesny, Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta, Song, Walcott, Ramsey, Gervinho, van Persie
Subs: Almunia, Rosicky, Arshavin, Frimpong, Chamakh, Benayoun, Miquel.

Djorou was the emergency right back and did okay after picking up a knock early on. This Arsenal side is very settled now and you feel that the likes of Arshavin, Benayoun and Chamakh are recalled only when a player absolutely needs a rest, rather than to simply rotate the squad. There is an argument for owning 5 of the 6 offensive players (probably not Song despite this week's assist). Van Persie's goal was unreal and while Rooney announced himself back on the stage, the Dutchman is still very much the default captain pick each week, all else being equal.

Aston Villa
Guzan, Hutton, Collins, Dunne, Warnock, N'Zogbia, Petrov, Herd, Albrighton, Agbonlahor, Bent
Subs: Marshall, Ireland, Delfounso, Heskey, Clark, Bannan, Weimann.

Aside from the odd change in midfield this is a very settled side and a goal for Agbonlahor will have many turning his way once again. For me though he isn't consistent enough to match the pricier options and I'm not sure he's a big enough upgrade over the cheap group to warrant investment. The defense is useful at best and I don't see enough of a distinction between them and the 4.5m defenders to justify owning them.

Robinson, Lowe, Samba, Dann, Givet, Salgado, Dunn, Pedersen, Vukcevic, Formica, Yakubu
Subs: Bunn, Olsson, Blackman, Goodwillie, Roberts, Hanley, Henley.

The lineup is more settled but the results are essentially the same. Yakubu can score while feasting on scraps and thus deserves consideration but the rest of this side look to be embroiled in a scrappy relegation struggle and seem to lack anywhere close to the kind of quality you look for in a fantasy starter.

Jaaskelainen, Boyata, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Eagles, Pratley, M Davies, Tuncay, K Davies, Klasnic
Subs: Bogdan, Steinsson, Muamba, Petrov, Ngog, Kakuta, O'Halloran.

The lone bright spot in this Bolton side (Klasnic) was stretchered off and we're at the point where Owen Coyle's job might be in danger soon. With Klasnic out there is zero fantasy value here. Next.

Howard, Hibbert, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines, Coleman, Neville, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov, Cahill, Saha
Subs: Mucha, Stracqualursi, Distin, Gueye, Barkley, Vellios, McAleny.

They defended well for long periods against Arsenal but don't look quite cohesive enough to become a top defensive unit, thus making the majority of their players overpriced. They managed just a single shot on target all day and none of the attacking players deserve consideration here.

Schwarzer, Kelly, Hangeland, Senderos, JA Riise, Dembele, Davies, Etuhu, Dempsey, Ruiz, Johnson
Subs: Etheridge, Orlando Sa, Gecov, BH Riise, Hughes, Frei, Briggs.

There are options in this side but they ran into a Swansea side who are very good at home. Dempsey and Dembele intrigue me and the defense is okay as a rotation option, though it remains somewhat unclear who the first choice back line is here, now that the once reliable Baird is off with personal issues. We need to see what happens with Hughes and Senderos (as well as how soon Baird will return) before investing here.

Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Maxi, Adam, Henderson, Downing, Suarez, Kuyt
Subs: Doni, Carroll, Coates, Carragher, Shelvey, Kelly, Bellamy.

It wasn't necessarily pretty but it was effective and Liverpool pick up another win and clean sheet. Jose Enrique remains an extremely good option though at 5.8m he isn't quite the no-brainer he was at 5.0m. The important attacking players remain pretty settled in this side and Suarez's goal was long overdue. My concern remains that this side seems to have limited attacking upside and so if you select a Suarez or an Adam, you really need them to score/assist a very high proportion of Liverpool's goals if they are deliver the same value as the (admittedly pricier) options at City, or even United.

Man Utd
De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Jones, Nani, Welbeck, Rooney
Subs: Lindegaard, Giggs, Park, Young, Macheda, Gibson, Fryers.

Evans is the key man here as he slipped into the side to replace Vidic. Smalling of course played too but it remains to be seen whether Jones will slide to right back in the future leaving Smalling out in the cold once again. At 4.4m Evans becomes close to a must own player if he is going to be playing the majority of games for the rest of the year. Anyone holding Newcastle assets might want to target Evans as without S Taylor and with other players in and out of the team, that unit suddenly looks a lot less valuable. Rooney obviously played much better (his 2nd best of the season by Fantasy Football Scout's measure) and should once again be in consideration up top alongside Van Persie and Aguero for your elite forwards. I'm still nervous about this United side's lack of creativity sometimes but at least against the weaker sides Rooney and Nani (and Young) will be good enough to generate good produciton. Young being dropped here is somewhat of a concern as you normally think Valencia would be drafted in against better teams for his defensive abilities. Nevertheless you have to think Young will play, though I don't believe he is in the same class as Silva and Van der Vaart, and I'd still prefer to have Nani at this point.

Krul, Santon, Simpson, Perch, R Taylor, Obertan, Cabaye, Gosling, Gutierrez, Ba, Shola Ameobi
Subs: Elliot, Ben Arfa, Lovenkrands, Smith, Best, Sammy Ameobi, Ferguson.

Big changes at the back here with S Taylor done for the year and Coloccini also missing out. I don't want to overreact but given their recent defensive decline and the now permanent absence of S Taylor, this unit may have had its best days and it might be time to start looking elsewhere. They remain good rotation options but not the weekly starters they have been to this point. Ameobi came in here for Ben Arfa which was somewhat surprising though I'm not sure either of this pair were ownable anyway.

Ruddy, Naughton, Whitbread, Martin, Tierney, Crofts, Fox, Hoolahan, Surman, Morison, Holt
Subs: Rudd, Johnson, Jackson, Pilkington, Bennett, Barnett, Wilbraham.

The rotation in midfield is a bit on issue for this side, with fantasy top scorers Pilkington and Johnson the men to miss out this week. We might soon be in a situation where Morison is the only offensive player to own here, if the rotation issues continue for that pair.

Cerny, Young, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Traore, Mackie, Barton, Faurlin, Wright-Phillips, Smith, Bothroyd
Subs: Putnins, Orr, Hill, Derry, Campbell, Buzsaky, Connolly.

I was excited for this side's prospects but of the promoted sides they are easily the most disappointing. There are still some options here to monitor (Barton, Helguson, maybe Faurlin) but they have just one clean sheet since GW5 and have continued to struggle for offensive consistency.

Sorensen, Huth, Woodgate, Shawcross, Wilson, Shotton, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington, Walters, Crouch
Subs: Begovic, Jones, Fuller, Upson, Delap, Jerome, Palacios.

When everyone fit this team is easy to predict and can generally be relied up for decent returns. Etherington reminded us this week that Walters isn't the only midfield option in this side. When fit, this is a useful defensive unit but given his struggles to stay on the field I'm reluctant to bring Woodgate back into play and so Shawcross becomes the cheapest option, though he isn't particularly cheap. Sorensen is an option but he too comes with some risk that Begovic might take that spot back at some point.

Westwood, O'Shea, Bramble, Brown, Bardsley, Larsson, Colback, Vaughan, Richardson, Sessegnon, Wickham
Subs: Kilgallon, Ji, Meyler, McClean, Carson, Elmohamady, Noble.

Not too much to report here by way of changes under Martin O'Neil with Bramble and Wickham's return to the side enforced due to Turner and Bendtner missing out with injuries. It's worth watching to see what O'Neil can do with this side (particularly at the back) but in truth those changes will probably come in January with some new arrivals.

Vorm, Richards, Williams, Caulker, Taylor, Routledge, Britton, Gower, Sinclair, Lita, Moore
Subs: Tremmel, Graham, Dyer, Dobbie, Monk, Bessone, Agustien.

This team has been by far the most pleasant surprise in fantasy terms with the entire defense (led by the best fantasy keeper to date in Vorm), Dyer, Gower, Sinclair, Allen and Graham all providing good fantasy value to date. For the immediate future I've said for a few weeks I like Vorm, Taylor, Gower and Graham and given the way this team is playing I'd be surprised if most teams didn't own at least 2 players from this side for the foreseeable future. Monk was somewhat of a surprise benching this week, though Caulker did open the year as the starter and only lost his job when he got injured. I maintain that Taylor is the man to own here.

Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Parker, Modric, Bale, Van der Vaart, Adebayor
Subs: Gomes, Giovani, Defoe, Bassong, Corluka, Sandro, Pienaar.

A disappointing display from Spurs though it's unlikely that significant changes will come in the future. You have to wonder if their midfield is a bit 'light' with Modric and Van der Vaart in the middle of the park and so I wouldn't be blown away to see Sandro get some games when they visit places like Stoke again in the future, that would likely be at Lennon's expense who isn't really a fantasy asset anyway. Van der Vaart not taking penalties is a disappointment and it hurts his value somewhat but he and Bale remain two of a handful of legitimate midfield stars and deserve significant ownership despite this week's poor display (particularly from Van der Vaart). Adebayor's penalty duties push him into a category on his own (above every but the 3 elite options or Roonet, Van Persie and Aguero). I just don't see Suarez scoring as often given Liverpool's offensive woes while Hernandez is injured and Bent has fallen off the face of the earth.

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

Hey at least Odemwingie started, and got an assist. If he proves his fitness and begins to play every week he has the talent to be a useful 3rd forward but aside from his this team looks fairly devoid of talent.

Al Habsi, Stam, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Moses, Diame, Gomez, McCarthy, Jones, Sammon Subs: Pollitt, Gohouri, Watson, Di Santo, Maloney, McArthur, Rodallega.

Speaking of team's without much talent. Wait, Moses scored and got an assist this week! He's arrived! I'm not ready to call him anything more than he is, but he remains one of the better sub-5.0m options and his guaranteed minutes and talents give him a useful combination of security and upside. The rest of the continues to underwhelm and only a return to the side for the more talented, but unfavoured Rodallega or Di Santo will peak my attention here.

Hennessey, Zubar, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Edwards, Henry, O'Hara, Jarvis, Doyle, Fletcher
Subs: De Vries, Elokobi, Stearman, Ebanks-Blake, Hunt, Hammill, Milijas.

It was somewhat strange to see Wolves go with two up top at Old Trafford given McCarthy's unwillingness to do so against weaker sides. Still, if this is a trend for the future it makes Fletcher very valuable given his impressive goal scoring record over this season and last. I want to like O'Hara and Jarvis but I'm not sure there is all that much difference between them and cheaper options from Swansea, QPR etc and so it's tough to be too excited about spending 6.0m+ on them. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gameweek 15 Reader Questions

@K0n0s Quick question for upcoming weeks, at 9.3 isn't Suarez the best buy now given his fixtures?
Suarez is a tough player to evaluate this year. He's obviously a talented player and his underlying stats (shots on goal) are excellent. However, he hasn't scored in 2 months and Liverpool aren't really a great attacking side at the moment. In a vacuum I do like him but if money is no issue I'd still much prefer to have Van Persie or Aguero and if money is tight, I'd go Adebayor over Suarez, especially given Spurs' great fixtures.

@SyncJS If you have Vorm and Schwarzer, who would you pick for next week? knowing Vorm is good at Home, still hesitating who to line up
Both are good options but in most cases I would side with the home side and that is certainly the case here. Swansea have been dominant at home and while you wouldn;t necessarily project that to continue all year, I'm happy to ride that bandwagon for now.

@MindOfANerd If you had to bench one of these players, which would you bench? Terry, Taylor R, Adam, Walcott, Sturridge, Jose Enrique? Also, what do you think of Lennon, Defoe, Yakubu, Long, Crouch and Helgulson?
I would bench R Taylor. I like Newcastle but they've conceded in their last 5 road trips and I don't think they are an elite, play-them-every-week kinda team. Terry would be the next casualty based on fixture alone but you never know with those top-of-the-table clashes, which can sometimes play out as low scoring affairs.

@iamnilov Donno about that.. I've been going with two elite fwds and 4 elite mids since last year its going rather well for me... [in response my admittedly facetious claim that you needed to have either 3 elite forwards and 1 elite midfielder or 2 of each]
Firstly, I wasn't being totally serious and of course there are a number of ways to succeed. Second, by elite I am talking about ~9m+ players. If you own 6 of them that means the rest of your team costs an average of 5.1m, which means you've done extremely well to find consistent value across the board. Those players exist (R Taylor, Jose Enrique to open the season etc) but there are very few of them in midfield and a reducing pool at the back, hence my presumption that you need to invest in at least one or two reliable defenders. You're right though, there are other ways to succeed.

@vinnycast27 Thinking Agbonlahor out Wellbeck in for the short term run of 3-4 games then reassess.Worry that Berba gets starts ahead of DW?
It's always a concern in the background but I'd be pretty confident that Welbeck plays the majority of minutes over the next month or so. Him and Sturridge are an intriguing pair and matching them with someone like Van Persie would free up a hell of a lot of cash to spend elsewhere. Of the two I like Welbeck more as he looks safer in Hernandez's absence but both have their merits.

@McShambles I have three players (Given, Hernandez and S. Taylor) injured and Graham doubtful for this weekend. Wildcard time?
You can probably just about get by providing your other keeper is okay and you weren't relying on Graham to play anyway. The focus of course should be freeing up the cash from Hernandez with Adebayor being the obvious replacement. You could of course go cheaper and then upgrade Graham, as we just mentioned in the prior answer.

@studs_up_tackle Read the forward thinking blog, where do I get the shots on target stat? Isn't on the fantasypremierleague site.
The stats are Opta stats and you can get them by becoming a member at Fantasy Football Scout, hence my reluctance to quote too many stats on this blog. It's very much worth it as you get access to the stats and members articles (though remember to keep reading here too!).

@Dafyddth Brilliant website! Do player prices fluctuate continuously as transfers are made, or just aggregated at the end of the week?
Thanks! The price system isn't too transparent but prices can rise midweek (sometimes more than once) if enough people buy them. I must admit I don't play the market too often to try and make money, but I believe that percentage change, rather than absolute transfers will have an impact on rises too.

John Fantasy With two free transfers for this week, I'm thinking about selling one elite mid (Silva, Nani, Van der vaart) and Graham, to buy Suarez (from who i expect points next gameweeks), and to buy some of budget mids (faurlin/gower). What would you suggest? Any other idea?
I'm reluctant to advise incurring transfer penalties unless you absolutely need to. However, to make these deals would involve leaving a lot of cash in the bank and you would have to drop a midfielder first and still have Graham out injured, so I suppose the 4 points might be worth it (though it still depends of your bench). As I mentioned above, I still like Adebayor more than Suarez but I do agree that Suarez will probably improve at some point. As for the midfielders, I like the pair you mentioned and I'd also throw Moses in there.

Raddz Currently I hold two elite mids in VdV and Silva as well as Bale, Pilkington and Dyer. I am trying to free up some room to bring in Richards and don't want to sell Aguero, and RvP so I was wondering if you thought that selling VdV made sense and who should I replace him with? (Walcott?) And which budget mids are good right now to replace Pilkinton as I am not sold on him right now and I already have Dyer. Would Farlin be good or gambling with Moses?
How much money do you need for Richards? Pilkington to Gower will save you 1.0m which could be enough? If not, then I would try and save money elsewhere in defense as the drop off from VdV or Bale to the ~7.0m options is massive. If you pickup 1.0m from Pilkington then I would consider moving any ~5.0m players you have to a Danny Simpson or Neil Taylor which should then free up enough cash to grab Richards (who I agree is still very desirable despite the lack of clean sheets of late).

Grounderz Hi Chris, my starting lineup for the gameweek is - Vorm, Richards, Jones, Vermaelen, Jose Enrique, Mata, Silva, Bale, Adebayor, Van Persie and Morison. Bench - Given, Williams, Dyer and Reo Coker. Which of these players do you think will most likely perform and which won't, given the fixtures?
Firstly, that's a great looking team. I do like Swansea this week so I'd consider giving Williams a game but I'd understand if you were reluctant to double up on Swansea defenders. Of your starters, Morison would of course be the obvious choice to miss out, though he's a decent play too. It's a close call.

Moe Vawda - whose a good keeper to rotate with Vorm? I have Al Habsi and I want to avoid Krul as I already have Simpson. 
According to the stats, the best partners for Vorm are Krul, Given and Westwood. As you want to avoid Krul I would probably roll the dice with Westwood, especially given Martin O'Neil's history of having defensive success with his teams.

bigbang I have Hernandez and Tiote who are both injured with 0.4m in the bank. What transfers can I make? My full team can be found here.
Hernandez to Adebayor makes the most sense. Or, you could opt for Welbeck and then reinvest the funds in strengthening in midfield (though you probably wouldn't get enough to buy the truly elite options).

Ratchet What do you think of Smalling? yay or nay?
Not as a right back as I think Jones will slide back there and Carrick, Fletcher and co will retake their positions in the middle of the park. If I had to bet I would say Evans plays the most games in Vidic's absence but I would wait until the weekend to see what the situation is going to be here. Needless to say, if Evans is going to be a long term starter for United, he becomes pretty much a must own asset.

Amtosh Would you rest any City or Spurs players this week considering the matchups or just leave them in?
Probably not, though if you're defense is very strong you might consider dropping a City defender. Offensively these sides have dismissed better sides than Chelsea and Stoke and I wouldn't ever drop Silva, Aguero, Adebayor etc unless they were injured. City have obviously been disappointing at the back these past few weeks so I could see a scenario where you would drop them but I'd only do for another good option.

Shugobot What do you think is happening with Michael Turner? Do you think that his benching is a one game thing? I had picked him up recently as a slightly cheaper Sunderland defensive option to Wes Brown. With a new manager, maybe the Black Cats will be facing some rotation until they get something to work. Should I cut him loose the next chance I get?
The reporting was mixed but the Sunderland Echo suggests Turner missed last week's game with a slight injury and is a doubt again for this week. While Sunderland might face some rotation under O'Neil, you would expect Turner to start the majority of their games. It's a shame to not have anyone this week given the great fixture so if your squad is otherwise set I would consider doing Turner to Brown this week just to be sure.

Raddz Hey Chris thanks again for a great post! I was wondering what your opinion of Monk was as he is the Swansea captain and since he came back from injury he has played 90 mins in each game for a pretty good defense and he only costs 4 mill.
Thanks! I still prefer Taylor due to his assist potential but it's pretty close as to whether that's worth the extra 0.2m or not. So yes, Monk is a good option for the foreseeable future.

Jwch88 Should I replace vdv for a.young? Man Utd fixtures seem favorable in the next few rounds, however they aren't scoring many goals lately. Any suggestions?
I wouldn't make that move as right now, Spurs are a better outright offensive team than United. The fixtures are pretty close but Van der Vaart tends to be more involved in Spurs' goals (when fit) and I need to see more from Young and co before I rush back into that side.

I asked for some suggestions for the kind of info people would benefit from getting, and the below some of what I got back, so thanks for all those who mad suggestions. I will try and tackle as many of these as possible over the next few weeks.
  • Look at acquiring team value by playing the transfer market (James)
  • Impact of double gameweeks (Gummi)
  • When, if ever, to take a 4 point transfer hit (Ben)
  • How to deal with the inevitable upcoming bad weather. Are some teams more susceptible? Are there more clean sheet over the winter period (Prongs/Gummi)
  • Short review of each game every week, and players to select from each (Moe Vawda)
  • Update on attacking defenders and whether they are worth the extra investment

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gameweek 15 Preview

One of my main regrets with this blog is my inability to keep up with all the injury news. I've tried sharing links from the local papers and the main sites but I just don't have time to keep up. Hopefully everyone knows where to look for the important news but I do want to point out that, for me, the best sources are Fantasy Football Scout's excellent team news section and the Guardian Squad Sheets which don't get everything right, but at least stop you making silly mistakes (signing a suspended player etc). Anyway, I guess that is my way or shirking some responsibility for the clangers I dropped last week (I forgot to mention the S Taylor injury and totally missed the injury to Sorensen). I hope though that you get enough alternative info to make the blog worthwhile. I'm pleased with where the blog sits in the world but I'm always looking for ideas to freshen things up so I open things up to the readers for any suggestions. What decisions do you struggle with every week that could be made easier? What do you want to see ranked? What stats to do want to see?

Anyway, let's move on to this week. For the first time in a while it's the red side of Manchester that looks to be the better pick for the week, both offensively and defensively. In years past, this week would be a total lock to captain Rooney but is he worthy of that status, regardless of the matchup? United have only hit the back of the net once in the last 7 gameweeks despite playing the likes of Sunderland, Swansea and Everton. Looking at FFS's ICT rankings, Rooney hasn't had a good game since GW7 and thus he's a risk this week. He is of course an option but this is one week I would push the stats aside slightly and stick with the hot hands elsewhere in the league.

And there's no hand hotter than Van Persie. I wish I had a database of all time fantasy scores to try and put Van Persie's current run into context. 7 of the last 9 weeks have gone for double digit scores including 13 goals, 4 assists and 19 bonus points, though it's hard to forgive those two 2-pointers (ha). Everton aren't a terrible defensive team but they gave up 3 at Chelsea and 2 at City at you be surprised if Arsenal didn't hit a similar mark this week. Van Persie has scored or assisted 17 of Arsenal's last 24 goals so any success they do have will surely be reflected in the Dutchman's fantasy line and thus I can't recommend captaining anyone else this week.

If you're not one of the 33% of managers who own Van Persie then you still have a couple of decent options. As we noted above, United's struggles make it tough to look at either Nani or A Young for anything more than a cursory glance. City have been simply outstanding on the road this year, brushing off United (6) and Spurs (5) while giving Bolton (3), Blackburn (4) and QPR (3) a few lessons of their own. AgueroDzeko and Silva all played the majority of the game midweek so while Balotelli could come in, it will likely only be at the expense of one of these players. Even then, he may be on the sidelines as Mancini has suggested he will be dropped in 'important' games which Chelsea away probably still counts as. Both Aguero and Silva have both missed a couple of games in the year so both represent some rotation risk but I'd be fairly comfortable giving either a go if you need a captain pick for the week.

Despite their struggles for clean sheets, City have only conceded more than the odd goal once in the last 9 gameweeks, thus making Chelsea players a huge risk this week. With a vintage Lampard or red hot Drogba you might roll the dice but while Mata has been good, I don't think he's good enough yet to justify playing him in such a tough fixture.

Equally, Spurs face a tricky trip to Stoke, though they've been extremely consistent all year, netting twice or more in the last 11 games. That of course brings BaleAdebayor and Van der Vaart into play especially as Stoke have suffered a couple of uncharacteristic blemishes at home of late. Of that Trio I still like a fully fit Van der Vaart the most, though with that not a guarantee I'd stick with Bale or Adebayor. 

Check back tomorrow evening (ET) or Saturday morning (GMT) for reader questions and be sure to post anything below or @plfantasy if you want anything answering (or attempted to be answered at least).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Forward Thinking

We often talk about the different strategies we can use to assemble our team or squad and in the past there have been a number of different options. For a couple of seasons it was essential to own at least one (preferably two) of the holy trinity of midfielders (Ronaldo, Lampard and Gerrard) and play/captain them every week regardless of their fixtures. At other times, the difference between elite defenses and everyone else was huge, making it necessary to double down on United defenders (remember those 12 straight clean sheets!) or pair John Terry with Ashley Cole just to keep up. We've had elite forwards, must-own budget midfielders (Chaz Adam anyone?) and spot start subs, all of which provide a different number of ways to go each year (at least until the late stages when teams start to look pretty homogenous).

This year has been different so far. Good defenders are starting to dominate the listings and no one from either Manchester team or Chelsea come at a discount. The midfield is a similar story with just a couple of mid level players managing to crack the who's who of expensive mids dominating the leaderboard. Up top has been even less varied. We've had 5 or 6 weeks of greatness from Rooney and then Aguero and Van Persie along with a whole heap of players who have struggled for consistency all year.

So the strategies that worked through 14 gameweeks are:
  • 2 elite forwards, 2 elite midfielder, 2/3 elite defenders and a bunch of hit and miss prospects
  • 3 elite forwards, 1 elite midfielder, 2/3 elite defenders and a bunch of hit and miss prospects
  • Lose
I'm going to get to the possibility of using other strategies going forward in a later post (specifically regarding loading up on expensive defenders or forwards) but for now, let's focus on strategy one and, in particular, how to fill that final slot in a 2 elite forward system.

The Options
We're trying to find players to plug into a side with 4 elite mids/fwds so cash is going to be tight. Though I don't like using arbitrary cut off points, we're going to do exactly that and say everyone valued at over 6.0m is out. In truth, there aren't really many players who just miss out with Bendtner and I suppose Welbeck being the unlucky pair. We are left with 59 players who have featured for their sides this year. Now let's cut down population like a list of Arsene Wenger transfer targets.

Minimum minutes: 630 
Players have missed time for various reasons but whether they are injured, suspended or simply dropped, they won't do you much good on the bench. Again, I'm not crazy about setting arbitrary cut offs but for simplicity we'll demand that players have played in half of all available minutes to date. We're also going to get rid of Di Santo, whose minutes came in the early stages of the season and has since found himself on the outside. That cuts 44 players from the list and we're left with 15. So long Grant Holt, Andy Johnson and Bryan Ruiz.

Average more than a shot on target per 90 minutes
We've talked about the correlation between shots on target and goals before, so without rehashing the analysis, in short, it's the best indicator of future goal scoring form I've found. The league average for forwards last year was a goal every three shots on target (well, 3.18) so if a player is hitting the target every week he should at least be on course for 10 goals or so on the year (of course averages won't quite work like that, but I like this cut off to weed a few of the non-shooting forwards out: I'm looking at you Heskey). So this means goodbye to Messrs Best, Heskey, Bothroyd, Long, K Davies, Doyle and Hoilett. And then there were eight.

The Short List

The above players have different qualities and no one really stands out above the pack. You can however split them into 3 categories:

  • In form: Yakubu, Helguson, Klasnic and Fletcher have exceeded their expected goals (xG, based on their shot data) by some distance and, on average, are due for some regression in the future. If, or when, that occurs is less clear.
  • Consistent: Morison and Graham are performing right where they should be and barring other factors should be able to continue this pace over the long term.
  • Underachievers: Rodallega and Dembele are getting decent minutes and taking plenty of shots but aren't seeing the results you'd expect. Dembele looked active against Liverpool but he is clearly fond of shooting from distance, which somewhat distorts his value here. Nevertheless, with 66% of his goals hitting the target, the law of averages suggests he will start scoring if he can keep taking shots at his current level.

How you make your final decision obviously depends on what you're looking for, along with how long you plan to hold them for. If you're looking to plug someone in for the foreseeable future, I would lean towards that consistent group and pay extra attention to minutes played and value for money (P$). You need someone who can come off your bench whenever needed and pick up those 2-6 pointers with consistency.

If you're looking for a shorter term fix, then the fixture list becomes an important factor. Based on the strength of schedule data, Klasnic and Dembele have the best upcoming games though Fulham's are very up and down making Dembele less reliable on a consistent basis. Rodallega, Helguson and Graham have pretty rough fixtures over the next 8 weeks which would turn me off Rodallega for sure though the other two are so cheap that you need to weigh up how often you think you'll be forced to play them.

With a number of good budget defenders, I would imagine that your #3 forward will often be your 2nd or 3rd sub and thus if you pursue this strategy I would favor the players at the cheaper end of the above list. In fact, i would target the two players in the 'consistent' section who just happen to be the cheapest on offer. Neither team are forecasted to score too many goals but this pair have proven to be heavily involved in their team's success and I like their success to continue going forward.

Let me know in the comments below or @plfantasy if you have any other specific strategies that need exploring. Next I will look at spending big on your front three, basically focusing on Adebayor and Dzeko and whether they're worth sacrificing a premium midifielder for.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 14

Szczesny, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos, Ramsey, Song, Arteta, Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho
Subs: Fabianski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Djourou, Arshavin, Chamakh, Benayoun, Coquelin.

No real surprises in this side, who have really blossomed into a good attacking unit after a rocky start to the year. Aside from the defensive Song, the front six all deserve at least some fantasy consideration though I'd probably suggest that Arteta and Gervinho remain a bit overpriced at the moment. As always I don't know what to make of Walcott, who has turned in 5 straight quality fantasy performances but yet still frustrates anyone watching him regularly. If you can't stretch to the ~10m range though he looks like a decent option. Oh, and Van Persie is awesome, that is all.

Aston Villa
Given, Hutton, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Herd, Jenas, Bannan, Albrighton, Agbonlahor, Bent
Subs: Ireland, Delph, Heskey, Petrov, Clark, Guzan, Cuellar.

We're seeing some rotation in this side, but not really of anyone who deserves much fantasy attention. This midfield is a quagmire of mediocrity and should be avoided. The top two started hot but neither have particularly good underlying stats and their early form always suggested someone due for regression. Villa's upcoming fixtures aren't bad so there remains some value there but it's becoming increasingly hard to justify Bent's high price tag.

Robinson, Lowe, Samba, Dann, Givet, Rochina, Dunn, Pedersen, Hoilett, Formica, Yakubu
Subs: Bunn, Henley, Hanley, Petrovic, Vukcevic, Roberts, Goodwillie.

I guess we can pencil Yakubu into the first team for a while. He's always enjoyed a pretty good scoring record and if he locks down guaranteed minutes he should definitely be on our radar. This team does have attacking potential but it's tough to see consistency in anyone here. I remain underwhelmed.

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

Where is this team heading? Cahill was unlucky to be sent off, but still, the Wanderers are leaky at the back and flat up top. The lineup has been settled to date but we must surely expect changes in the future  as Coyle can't keep running out this team and getting no results. Either way, we need to see significant improvement before anyone in this team becomes ownable.

Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Romeu, Lampard, Sturridge, Drogba, Mata
Subs: Turnbull, Torres, Malouda, Meireles, Bosingwa, Kalou, Bertrand.

Luiz's upcoming suspension aside, this back line finally looks like it might have settled down with Bosingwa on the outside looking in. The bad news is that all four options looks overpriced for a team who still have just 4 clean sheets on the season (though 3 of these have come in the last 4 games). Likewise, it looks like the front three of Sturridge, Drogba and Mata are the first choice line here, though you'd be surprised if Malouda and Torres don't yet have a role to play in this drama. In terms of value, it's hard to look beyond the well priced Sturridge and the somewhat consistent Mata (Lampard is too pricey for my budget).

Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Heitinga, Baines, Coleman, Fellaini, Osman, Bilyaletdinov, Cahill, Vellios.
Subs: Mucha, Stracqualursi, Distin, Neville, Gueye, Barkley, Rodwell.

It was a surprise to see Distin on the bench but not in the first team and that leaves Jagielka as the safest access to this defense. They've improved of late and the upcoming fixtures are sound, though they remain a risky investment. Up front this side looks as dull as ever.

Man City
Hart, Richards, Kompany, Toure, Clichy, Silva, Yaya Toure, Barry, Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko.
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Milner, Johnson, Savic, De Jong, Balotelli.

Milner and Balotelli were the odd men out this week and with Mancini's recent comments about Mario's composure, you can probably pencil this lineup in as City's strongest (offensively that is, Lescott will presumably replace Toure going forward). A lot of questions this week are going to come about City's defense, who once again threw away what looked like a sure fire clean sheet. You have to believe Mancini will look to tighten things up at some point, but when the goals are flowing as they are, it doesn't appear to be a pressing priority (as illustrated by the lack of use of true defensive midfielder). I still have Richards as my number one defender for the year but the likes of P Jones and I suppose Terry are at least making us think. Hopefully Aguero appeased some of his owners who were worried about his lack of goals of late, and I thought he looked dangerous throughout. He remains an elite option and should be widely held.

Man Utd
Lindegaard, Smalling, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Jones, Young, Rooney, Hernandez.
Subs: De Gea, Evans, Giggs, Park, Welbeck, Fletcher, Valencia.

De Gea was a surprise drop here though by all accounts there isn't much to read into it other than a rest for the young Spaniard. Smalling presence is a concern for Jones owners, though we will all be happy if that consistently pushes Jones into midfield. It's somewhat surprising to see Jones take that midfield role over Fletcher and it's a nice bonus to think Jones is favoured at several positions by the boss. With Hernandez out, you would think that Welbeck becomes a nice little one month rental for anyone in need of a new front man.

Krul, Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, R Taylor, Lovenkrands, Guthrie, Cabaye, Obertan, Ben Arfa, Ba. Subs: Harper, Santon, Perch, Gosling, Best, Shola Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi.

I'm pleased to see Ben Arfa hold his place in this side, and he is talented to justify monitoring for the future (though he didn't enjoy a great game here). Elsewhere it was pretty much as you were and despite the poor showing this side remains a decent source of cheap fantasy value. With no clean sheet in 5 straight games though, it is time to start formulating a transfer plan for your Newcastle defenders and even Simpson, in case this blip in form is more temporary.

[Edit: I totally forgot to mention Taylor's injury here - thanks to ALM for pointing that out. He is of course a sell but I'm not sure I'd pile into R Taylor or Simpson here. Newcastle defenders are very widely held and if this form continues their price is going to collapse over the next few weeks].

Ruddy, Naughton, Martin, Barnett, Tierney, Bennett, Crofts, Johnson, Pilkington, Surman, Morison.
Subs: Rudd, Whitbread, Holt, Jackson, Hoolahan, Fox, Wilbraham.

I'm not going to judge Norwich too harshly for getting crushed by an irrepressible City side and the goal for Morison underlined his credentials as one of the better cheap forwards around. With rotation in midfield and a lack of quality at the back though, this team remains somewhat devoid of fantasy talent.

Cerny, Young, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Traore, Faurlin, Mackie, Barton, Wright-Phillips, Helguson, Bothroyd.
Subs: Putnins, Orr, Hill, Derry, Taarabt, Buzsaky, Smith.

A better performance from QPR this week, surely helped by the return of Barton who has an assist in his last 3 games. The defense remains unreliable though and only the uber-cheap Gabiddon looks like a good investment from that unit (along with perhaps Cerny if Kenny's injury keeps him out for a while). Going forward I think Barton deserves some attention as a reliable 4-6 point man (though a lack of bonus points is a concern) and Helguson continues to justify consideration as a third striker. As promised, I will get to this list of options this week.

Sorensen, Woodgate, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson, Shotton, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington, Crouch, Walters.
Subs: Begovic, Jones, Fuller, Upson, Wilkinson, Jerome, Palacios.

Sorensen kept the #1 jersey and is a decent option in rotation strategy for the foreseeable future. Woodgate finally got a start and limped off which is as disappointing as it is predictable. If you want to chase goals then I guess Huth is your man but I'd still take Sorensen and then Shawcross as the best access to this useful (but wildly inconsistent) defensive unit. Walters remains the only midfielder/forward I would consider here.

[Edit: I really need some sort of Stoke 'keeper blog as I once again somehow missed the fact that Sorensen was injured in this one. Pulis says it was a mild concussion so who will play next week is a mystery. Once again, this situation looks like a stay away. Thanks to reader Vanilla for the tip].

Westwood, Bardsley, Brown, O'Shea, Richardson, Cattermole, Larsson, Colback, Sessegnon, Dong-Won, Bendtner
Subs: Carson, Bramble, Gardner, Vaughan, McClean, Elmohamady, Noble

It looked like Martin O'Neil (who didn't actually pick the team) was going to inspire a good win and clean sheet for Sunderland but old fragilities shone through and Fletcher (seriously, all he does is score) punished them. We'll see how O'Neil changes this side, and presumably buys in January but until then I don't see a whole lot of value. Sessegnon's deeper role and Larsson penalty miss (and potential loss of duties) mean that their value took a hit this week. Not too much to like here at the moment, though O'Neil's success in the past (particularly defensively at Villa) make this a squad worth following over the next month.

Vorm, Richards, Williams, Monk, Taylor, Gower, Dyer, Britton, Allen, Sinclair, Lita.
Subs: Tremmel, Dobbie, Routledge, Moore, Bessone, Agustien, Moras.

A lot of people on Twitter seemed to imply that Vorm and co conceding 4 this week was a huge shock, but this side simply do not travel well, as represented by their 17th placed clean sheet ranking. Swansea defenders are the definition of rotation players and it will be a rare circumstance where you deploy them away from home. I was pleased to see Gower grab an assist after pumping him up of late and I think he remains a useful bench player who has a pretty high assist ceiling with the way he plays.

Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Modric, Parker, Bale, Adebayor, Defoe.
Subs: Cudicini, Pavlyuchenko, Van der Vaart, Bassong, Corluka, Livermore, Pienaar.

Gallas got a game here but only a fill in for the rested King so the bigger news is Van der Vaart starting on the bench, then robbing many of us of good sub performances by playing a paltry 18 minutes. Defoe's good form is starting to become an issue for Van der Vaart owners as it either allows Redknapp to drop him more often without concern of losing too much firepower, or forces Redknapp to play them both, thus pushing Van der Vaart into a deeper, more disciplined (and restricted) midfield role. With another big week for Bale, I think we're at the point where he represents better value, though it's still unclear who will ultimately score more points (I'd still side with VdV but it's close). Despite the quiet week I am still very much in on Adebayor who, with Hernandez injured, is now the best sub-11.0m option around.

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

Long is another decent budget option though at 5.7m, he may be too much for many to grab as a 3rd forward. Outside of him this team is devoid of much fantasy potential, at least until Odemwingie returns and regains his form from last season.

Al Habsi, Stam, Gohouri, Caldwell, Figueroa, Diame, Jones, Gomez, McCarthy, Moses, Sammon.
Subs: Pollitt, Crusat, Watson, Di Santo, McArthur, Rodallega, Lopez.

Do Wigan even still play games? We all know I love Moses but one important point I often neglect to mention when looking at key pass data is that we assume there is someone else on the team to put chances away.  Conor Sammon is not that man. Time of death: Dec 3, 2011 (at least until they get a new manager, sign some Premier League players or start playing the ones they have).

Hennessey, Craddock, Ward, Berra, Zubar, Edwards, Hunt, Jarvis, O'Hara, Fletcher, Doyle
Subs: De Vries, Elokobi, Stearman, Johnson, Hammill, Milijas, Ebanks-Blake

There's a new advanced stat I wish someone would share with Mick McCarthy; it's called goals. The way it works is that when you play Fletcher, you score more of them. I have never particularly regarded Fletcher as an elite player but his scoring record is pretty incredible and he could certainly be a poor man's Darren Bent if only Wolves would play him every week. The fact that they went 4-4-2 is encouraging as it might leave room for Fletcher and Doyle but until we know for sure Fletcher remains a risky (and thus overpriced) 3rd forward.