Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Doubling Down

As I'm sure everyone is aware, we have a couple of double gameweeks on the horizon, along with some gameweeks in which teams currently have no fixture. The affected teams are:

Arsenal - No game in GW29
Everton - DGW28 (Tot, @Liv), No game in GW29
Liverpool - DGW28 (@Sun, Eve)
Stoke - No game in GW29
Tottenham - No game in GW29

Double Gameweeks
Starting with the double gameweeks, the message is one of restraint. Both Merseyside clubs have a tough fixture list in GW28 while Everton's situation is further complicated by their lack of fixture in GW29. Everton have been in decent form of late, particularly at the back making Distin and possibly Hibbert interesting plays, though I'd suggest you'd want to be picking them up with a freebie rather than paying for them as neither fixture looks particularly attractive. That said, the fixtures after the off week in GW29 look good and they will of course get another DGW in the future to make up for that week off. If Hibbert gets back into the side he looks great value while Distin or Heitinga should present decent value if you are looking for a change at the back.

Many will be tempted to jump on Baines but unless you have cash literally lying around, it's really hard to recommend him, no what his ceiling in a given week. Playing the odds you'd still prefer Jose Enrique for the medium term, though I see the logic in rolling the dice with Baines (6%) if you are desperate to make up some ground as his upside is still probably higher than all other defenders.

Liverpool's defensive fixtures are pretty favourable thus making the aforementioned Jose Enrique a very promising addition. Six clean sheets over the last 11 games highlight a good defensive strengthening so far in the second half and with Johnson back and Agger on the mend, they should be full strength soon and look well placed to capitalize on the fixtures coming there way. 

The attacking options on Merseyside are really limited, and they might start and end with Luis Suarez. In truth you are still really paying for his name and his obvious potential, though his underlying shot data remains strong so he still clearly has the skill and opportunity to be useful contributor. He's not exactly a differentiator (17%) though given his suspension, it's likely that the majority of those owners are the ones not paying attention so he probably would gain you some ground over your competitors if you were to grab him over an Aguero or Rooney. Would you take Suarez in two tough games over Rooney in one against West Brom? Probably, but it's pretty close. Aguero and Adebayor however face tricky trips to Everton and Swansea so there is some merit to making a move there. I wouldn't personally move Aguero for a one game gain, but with Adebayor set to miss out on a fixture in GW29 that move makes a lot of sense.

No Games
The approach for your Arsenal players is really pretty simple. Keep Van Persie and ditch everyone else. I understand the appeal of the Ox and I've been behind picking up Walcott in the past couple of weeks but too many other good options exist in their price bracket to have them sit in GW29. If your squad is particularly deep I suppose you could hold Ox or Ramsey based on the fact a DGW is coming on the horizon but Walcott is just too pricey to have him sit when you have plenty of time to make a move.

If you hold Van Persie with minimal profit then it makes some sense to move him as 2 freebies is still probably worth it to maximize 13m of cash. That said, no one has a stand out fixture in GW29 so it isn't clear who you'd bring in for him. Ba will likely be the captain pick for the week but there's a pretty good chance you own him as well as Van Persie and he isn't a like-for-like replacement. It'll be tough but as of now, my approach would be to hold tight for Van Persie and dream of the upcoming unscheduled DGW.

With Man Utd on the slate this week and a tough trip to Everton lined up for GW28, it makes sense to ditch your Spurs players, providing you aren't sat on a huge profit and would want to buy them back immediately. The run in after GW31 looks extremely promising though so if your team needs a huge makeoever, you will want to consider whether you can simply wait on your Spurs players until the fixtures clear up.

Walters has been a sell candidate for as long as I remember, so needless to say he shouldn't be held through Stoke's off week. The same goes for the rest of this dubious crew given Stoke's fixture either side of the off week (@Che and MnC) so the best play seems to be to hold Shawcross and co for this week against Norwich and then move on for the foreseeable future.

I'd say you can't hold more than one 9m+ player through more than the odd week of poor or zero returns so for me that means you need to focus on moving your Spurs players out with immediate effect (unless your profit is just too big to lose). Given the fixture this week (Bol), Silva is the obvious candidate to replace Bale but assuming you already own him, I would look to Mata, Dempsey and to a lesser extent Nani (you don't love the fixture this week against Spurs for either side). Adebayor can be replaced by one of the star forwards or if money is an issue Dzeko, Ba, Sturridge are all in play. Ba is obviously the safest pick but Sturridge intrigues me given the fixtures and is worth a look given his much lower ownership (10%).

I hope the worst of my other commitments are behind me now so full service should be returned to the blog from now until the end of the year. Thanks for sticking around!

Gameweek 27 Preview

CS Clean sheets kept at home/away based on this week's fixture Opp FTS Number of times this week's opponent has failed to score at home/away GPG Conceded Predicted goals conceded this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season Opp CS Clean sheets kept at home/away by a team's opponent GPG Scored Predicted goals scored this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Captain Data Gameweek 26

As you've probably noticed I've been a bit absent these past few weeks due to other work committments. Hopefully these should end tomorrow but I'm totally behind on the news so my apologis if I missed any injuries/suspensions etc in the list below.

This is the raw data for the week, and I will try and right up a narrative tomorrow so all you East coasters should be able to see it late night and the GMT crowd should be good to go before the morning deadline.

Normal service should resume next week including some of the promised pieces I've been talking about for a while.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gameweek 26 Rankings

CS Clean sheets kept at home/away based on this week's fixture Opp FTS Number of times this week's opponent has failed to score at home/away GPG Conceded Predicted goals conceded this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season Opp CS Clean sheets kept at home/away by a team's opponent GPG Scored Predicted goals scored this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Strength of Schedule remaining

Last week's FA Cup action coincided with a busy week for me away from fantasy football, hence the lack of posts this week. We're back on track now though and before we get to this week's rankings, I want to get out the first of a couple of posts regarding the final stages of the season, with focus on differentiation and playing your second wildcard if you still hold it.

This won't be a huge post as I just wanted to share the data, but I must say that it is incredibly hard at the moment to find differentiating options. Unless you want your team to look like everyone else, you're really limited to grabbing players who have enjoyed limited success but look a tad overpriced (Walcott, Modric, Suarez, Lampard etc) or new arrivals who are notoriously hard to predict (Cisse, Cisse). We'll get to some names later in the week or early next week, but until then, below you will find the strength of schedule played by each team to date, along with the comparative strength of their remaining opponents.

I wouldn't overreact to this data as, for example, Bolton still lack any inspiring attacking options to capitalise on their improving fixtures, but it should be a useful reference point when planning long term transfer targets and finding undervalued assets.

To Date Goals per Game scored by all opponents faced through GW26 Remaining Goals per Game scored by all opponents for the remaining 12 gameweeks. For attackers, the goals per game represent the goals conceded by opponents.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gameweek 25 Captain Data

P90 Points scored per 90 minutes at home/away based on this week's opponents QG% Percentage of games played where the player scored 6 or more points xPct The percentage of his team's goals a player has accounted for, multiplied by the expected goals for this week Rating Based on the player's rankings in the other three categories.

I've finally taken the plunge and tried to provide some hard rankings rather than just objective data. The rating column is based on a player's performance in the other three categories, currently weighted towards the xPct ranking, which I believe to be the best indicator of future success. Over the next few weeks I am going to be posting a few reviews to try and determine the best weighting for each of these factors but until then I simply going with 50% xPct, 25% P90 and 25% QG%. I feel this gives the best chance to recognise underrated players, without giving too much attention to players who have played sporadically (Drenthe kept popping up in the old rankings) and also avoiding overvaluing players who assist too many goals (who obviously pickup less points than their goalscoring colleagues).

I must say, I am surprised to see Ba come in second as he has a much harder fixture than Bale, Dempsey and even Rooney on paper, but when you're accounting for 59% of your team's goals (second only to Van Persie's 65%) you're always going to be riding high.

After last week's captain-gate I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention that Van Persie is still due for a rest at some point and Arsenal have to travel to Milan in midweek. You wonder though if he will try and power through until Gervinho returns from the ACN, although Chamakh is said to be fit again. I guess the lesson last week, if there was one, is probably to not be overly concerned with downside in the face of such extreme upside. Blackburn at home is about as good as it gets on paper and the risk of a 1 point effort was probably eclipsed by the potential spoils Van Persie could (and did) bring to your team. This week is less clear cut and the decision to opt for a Rooney or Bale is probably more logical. At the moment though, I am sticking with Van Persie (caveat emptor for all).

I will try and add to this tomorrow night with any late fitness or team news, but if nothing emerges, the rankings for the week will stay as they are above.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Gameweek 25 Data

CS Clean sheets kept at home/away based on this week's fixture Opp FTS Number of times this week's opponent has failed to score at home/away GPG Conceded Predicted goals conceded this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season Opp CS Clean sheets kept at home/away by a team's opponent GPG Scored Predicted goals scored this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season

Lineup Lessons Gameweek 24

Szczesny, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Coquelin, Song, Rosicky, Arteta, Walcott, van Persie, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Subs: Fabianski, Sagna, Park, Henry, Ramsey, Arshavin, Benayoun.

Nothing to see here folks, keep on moving. We all knew Van Persie would play and definitely didn't strip him of the captain's armband in the early hours of the morning, right? I maintain there was an strong argument to not captain Van Persie this week but perhaps it was too risk averse. The outcome obviously indicates he should have been captained but the process is less clear. A tough call gone wrong and apologies to anyone who I swayed the wrong way.

On a brighter note, having impressed of late in a handful of appearances, the Ox got his rewards with a couple of well taken goals. He is the form wide player in Arsenal's side and looks likely to continue his run in the first team. At such a young age he comes with a risk of rotation but I really like him as a differential option for the next few weeks. No one is more critical of Walcott's end product than I am but he made the right decision more often than not this week and was rewarded with 3 assists. He's a bit pricey but if you've spare cash lying around he carries a good upside and has been surprisingly consistent (in fantasy terms at least) this year.

Aston Villa
Given, Hutton, Cuellar, Dunne, Warnock, Ireland, Petrov, Clark, N'Zogbia, Keane, Bent.
Subs: Guzan, Heskey, Bannan, Weimann, Lichaj, Baker, Gardner

This is a settled lineup but the depth of fantasy quality of limited. The front pair have appeal for different reasons with Keane offering solid returns as a third forward while Bent is one of the few scarcely held options who can genuinely challenge at the top end of the goal charts for the rest of the season (though I have my doubts). Others can be useful in short spells, most notably Ireland, but I wouldn't be making such moves unless I really needed to force the differentiation issue.

Robinson, Lowe, Dann, Givet, Martin Olsson, Pedersen, Petrovic, Nzonzi, Hoilett, Dunn, Modeste.
Subs: Bunn, Formica, Orr, Rochina, Goodwillie, Vukcevic, Hanley.

There's obviously no way to hold this defense and with so much rotation and inconsistency going forward there's little up top to get excited about either. We'll talk again when Yakubu is back but this team looks simply awful at the moment.

Bogdan, Mears, Wheater, Knight, Ricketts, Eagles, Muamba, Reo-Coker, Petrov, M Davies, Ngog
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Sanli, K Davies, Klasnic, Pratley, Boyata, Sordell.

Speaking of awful teams. That's not really fair as Bolton have played better of late and were in this one until Coyle (admirably but naively) brought on a second striker in K Davies and the game turned. Unfortunately this team really lacks quality and while Eagles has had his moments this year, he is only ever going to be a poor 4th or good 5th midfielder and you can get similar production from players with lower price tags. Hopefully the new signings can have an impact but it's doubtful.

Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Bosingwa, Essien, Meireles, Malouda, Sturridge, Torres, Mata.
Subs: Turnbull, Romeu, Lukaku, Ferreira, Hutchinson, Bertrand, Piazon.

This bench looks as weak as I can remember from a post-Abramovich Chelsea side, so this team essentially picked itself. Terry and Lampard should return soon which means Cahill - who did okay but didn't dazzle - is still a risky commodity to own. Mata looks like a very good differential option in midfield, impressing with his set pieces and overall play, and the next four games look sufficiently appetising to encourage one to make that move sooner rather than later. Sturridge remains a semi-differential option too, though with his combination of price tag and ownership, I might just prefer to go with the higher upside (Ba) or bigger differential (Cisse, Cisse, Zamora etc).

Howard, Hibbert, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Pienaar, Fellaini, Gibson, Donovan, Cahill, Stracqualursi.
Subs: Mucha, Jelavic, Drenthe, Neville, Gueye, Anichebe, Duffy.

Pienaar slotted straight into this lineup, and while he might be a bit pricey for immediate consideration, his presence will surely add some more attacking prowess to the side. With Donovan, Pienaar, Gibson and Jelavic all relatively new arrivals, it's going to be tough to forecast this side for the next few weeks but there is certainly potential in this lineup for some decent fantasy returns. I liked this defense for the week so it was disappointing to see them concede, though I'd still keep Hibbert around as a decent 4th or 5th defender. That said, with the week off in GW26 it isn't worth signing anyone from this side.

Schwarzer, Kelly, Hangeland, Senderos, Baird, Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff, Dembele, Dempsey. 
Subs: Stockdale, JA Riise, Kasami, Ruiz, Hughes, Gecov, Frei.

A couple of surprises here with Riise and Ruiz both missing out, with Baird and Dembele being the beneficiaries. Given Baird's nervy performance, Riise will surely return next week though I still feel he is overpriced. I questioned the logic of playing Dempsey up top on his own before the game, and nothing I saw convinced me that is the right way to go. I think a fit Andy Johnson has a role to play in this side, and if so would be an intriguing pickup at just 4.7m. Before then though, Dempsey and Murphy remain the best options here and the next five gameweeks look sufficiently good to keep them in your plans.

Man City
Hart, Richards, Savic, Lescott, Kolarov, Nasri, Barry, Silva, Johnson, Aguero, Dzeko
Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Zabaleta, De Jong, Milner, Pizarro, Rekik.

Has Nasri moved ahead of Milner is the pecking order? Possibly, but the situation is sufficiently blurred as to render them both huge risks to own, given their lofty price tags. That really only leaves Aguero, Silva and Dzeko and even the latter will carry some risk with the imminent return of Balotelli. I'd still be more than happy to own any combination of that trio though.

At the back the team looked pretty comfortable, which is pleasing given the absence of Kompany from the side. He doesn't look like he'll miss any more time so this unit will be at full strength in the future and likely therefore remain the best defensive unit around.

Man Utd
De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Young, Rooney, Welbeck
Subs: Amos, Berbatov, Park, Hernandez, Fabio, Scholes, Pogba.

Young returned to this side but was generally pretty quiet and I wouldn't be rushing to bring him in anytime soon. The issue is that his return increases the likelihood of Valencia getting minutes at right back, thus hurting his value in the process. Nani is said to be close to a return too so Valencia owners should at least start formulating an escape plan, even if you want to stick with him for now. Rooney failed to score from open play again but he's taking shots and getting in good positions so I wouldn't be worried in the slightest. Indeed, this was his hardest game for a while so he actually looks more attractive than he has for the past couple of weeks.

This defense is not playing too well at the moment and with no replacements on the bench this week, it would appear the injuries are really taking their toll. The unit can still be deployed with confidence against weaker sides,  but you can't think of them as a truly elite team and the stats may be overvaluing them somewhat as you've got Vidic's appearances baked in, including 4 clean sheets and just 2 goals conceded in 6 games. For a bargain price (Evans, Lindegaard when fit/playing) you are fine but it's tough to argue P Jones deserves immediate consideration when he returns.

Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, R Taylor, Guthrie, Perch, Gutierrez, Ba, Best
Subs: Elliot, Cisse, Ben Arfa, Gosling, Shola Ameobi, Obertan, Ferguson.

I haven't seen every Newcastle game this year but I've seen enough to be somewhat confused why Ben Arfa struggles so much to get into this side. Taylor and Gutierrez obviously provide better defensive cover but with Guthrie and Perch in the middle, you'd think you could carry at least one more attacking player. Either way, until something changes the talented Ben Arfa cannot be owned.

I though Ba might play but I was really surprised he managed 89 minutes. I guess you have to be concerned with whether he can play every game from here on out, but he represents outstanding value and I'd expect his value to rise again this week. If you're not on a tight budget and want Ba, I would personally wait a week until after the trip to Spurs (who haven't conceded more than once at home since the GW3 loss to City) and accept the 0.1-0.2m it will cost you. If you're looking to gain ground on people, Cisse probably makes more sense though on one appearance alone, it's tough to say he can match the returns of Ba. He does however have a very good scoring record and I love his combination of upside and ownership. With Best injured, Cisse should be pushed into the first team next week, though as with Ba I would personally wait until after the trip to White Hart Lane.

Ruddy, Naughton, Whitbread, Ayala, Drury, Fox, Pilkington, Surman, Hoolahan, Holt, Jackson
Subs: Steer, Martin, Johnson, Morison, Crofts, Bennett, Wilbraham.

A huge surprise here with Morison only starting on the bench, a real blow given the good fixture and the ease in which Norwich created chances in the second half. I picked Surman as the man to watch in this midfield and he added his 3rd goal in seven games to add to another decent performance. His returns will always be inconsistent but he should be near the top of anyone looking for a 4.5m midfielder's list.

Kenny, Young, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Taiwo, Taarabt, Derry, Barton, Wright-Phillips, Cisse, Zamora
Subs: Cerny, Hill, Hall, Mackie, Traore, Hulse, Smith.

The new front line have started well for QPR with Cisse and Zamora netting in back-to-back games, and both should warrant consideration as a third forward. Cisse, of course, is now suspended and out of contention but Zamora was a promising option in a Fulham shirt and probably remains that way have moved across London to QPR. Despite the goal, his underlying stats were less impressive than a couple of recent starts and so some caution should be exercised.

We haven't seen too much improvement along the backline so it's tough to get overly excited by Taiwo's attacking abilities but the next four games look promising making him a good 4th starters over that period.

Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson, Pennant, Whelan, Delap, Walters, Jerome, Crouch.
Subs: Begovic, Jones, Fuller, Diao, Whitehead, Shotton, Woodgate.

Etherington missed out through illness making the biggest headline the deployment of Walters. His ownership remains at 13% but his production was declining even before he was pushed back to midfield and this recent move should be the final nail in his coffin. Sell him now or face losing more money and wasted resources.

Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson, Larsson, Gardner, Meyler, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon
Subs: Westwood, Bridge, Campbell, Wickham, Ji, Kyrgiakos, Elmohamady.

This Sunderland side has become one of the best sources of fantasy assets since O'Neil's arrival with the defense enjoying a very productive run (three straight clean sheets and four in six) along with the all-conquering Sessegnon and the quickly emerging McClean. Granted, the clean sheets haven't always come against the best opponents but they were able to blank City and Stoke isn't the easiest place to visit. Sunderland have conceded more than a lone goal just once since O'Neil's arrival though the upcoming games don't look as generous, this is a good unit who should still provide good value in that 3rd or 4th defender slot.

Vorm, Rangel, Williams, Caulker, Taylor, Britton, Allen, Sigurdsson, Dyer, Graham, Sinclair
Subs: Tremmel, Routledge, Monk, McEachran, Lita, Moore, Agustien.

This team is shaping up to be fairly predictable and can still provide good value for fantasy managers. One clean sheet in eight games has taken some gloss off Vorm and company but that run included some very strong opponents, including three top-five sides at home, where Swansea have enjoyed so much success this season. The next three games have good potential and none of the remaining visitors terrify you other than City in GW28 so this once sought after group look primed for a return to form.

Going forward, Graham and Sinclair have nicely ticked along with their solid form and remain useful options as squad players. Graham's value is hurt by the fact that many are going with three quality forwards but if you need to save cash he may be your best option, with Morison relegated to the bench this week. Sigurdsson has started his Swansea career very nicely with 22 points in just four appearances. His set pieces should allow his production to continue and he should be a definite target as a 5th midfielder for the remainder of the season. Indeed, he will likely replace Surman in my own team when I get a spare free transfer.

West Brom
Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey, Morrison, Dorrans, Mulumbu, Thomas, Fortune, Odemwingie
Subs: Fulop, Tchoyi, Ridgewell, Andrews, Jones, Cox, Scharner.

Really not too much to talk about here. Morrison and Odemwingie are talented enough to warrant monitoring but this team is treading water and really is devoid of fantasy talent.

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

Wigan have now gone nine games without a win, being outscored 21-7 over that period. Moses is hanging on as a ~5.0m option but there's very little else here to even monitor. Next

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

The core of the team remains set but without predictable production in recent weeks. The game did mark the return of O'Hara who was in excellent form before his injury and should jump back onto our radar providing he can continue to prove his fitness. I backed Fletcher for this little run of games and he didn't deliver but I still like him as a third forward and it makes sense to hold him for the favorable game this week against West Brom.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Captain Links

To supplement the weekly captain stats, I am going to try and post the relevant links from around the league with regards to the key players' status. Some weeks there won't be much to say, but given that I spend a good couple of hours looking though these reports anyway I figure they're worth sharing:

Robin Van Persie
I speculated last week that the Dutchman is probably due for a rest at some point and some 'news' sources seem to be indicating this could be the week. The logic makes sense (supposedly easy game this week and AC Milan on the horizon) and Wenger has confirmed as much, suggesting he is 'tempted' to rest Van Persie. The generally accurate Guardian squad sheets have Van Persie starting, though that may well have been written before Wenger's latest comments. With Chamakh still away, and Henry and the Ox struggling for fitness it would be a surprise to see Van Persie miss out, but the option is clearly there.

The good news is that if he's rested, you'd suggest it would be likely that he takes the whole day off, and thus can be captained with knowledge that your VC will come on. The issue is that if Arsenal were being held by Blackburn he might come on for half an hour, but I don't see that as a particularly bigger risk than you take every week that a player may be injured, have a bad game etc.

Verdict: There's risk here and he will get a rest at some point but the upside might justify the risk. It shouldn't be a factor, but I wonder if Wenger would be somewhat influenced by the backlash that would inevitably come if he rests Van Persie and they don't win. If you have another elite option then it's safer to go there but Van Persie isn't the worst option for the week.

Demba Ba
Of the captain options, Ba has the most uncertainty, though most sources seem to suggest he will play. The Guardian pencil him in alongside new arrival Cisse (who I think is a bigger risk) and the BBC are also bullish on the chances of a Senegalese front line. Pardew clouded the issue a bit with this cryptic quote: "Whether Cisse starts, whether Demba starts or whether they come off the bench, they are going to have an impact of some type".

Verdict: With a trip to Spurs due up next week, it looks like bringing Ba in this week might be too risky as being optimistic you're only going to get around 60 minutes against a comparatively weak opponent then 60-90 against a very good one.

Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko
The City front line has been somewhat tricky to work out this year with Dzeko in particularly a tough player to predict. With Balotelli sidelined, the Guardian and BBC both forecast this pair to start up top, with the only real threat coming from Mancini going with a 5-man midfield behind just one of this pair.

Verdict: Little concern here, especially for Aguero who looks like a must-start player for this team. Dzeko is always slightly riskier but he too looks like a nice option for the week.

For what it's worth I'm going with Aguero as captain with Van Persie as my VC. I've had too many bad captain performances of late to take a 1 pointer here.

More comprehensive updates can be found in FFS's excellent Team News section.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Captain Data Gameweek 24

Gameweek 24 Preview

We're working on a short week so there's no time to waste getting the weekly rankings up. The tables are up to date as of Tuesday evening, with five more games to come on Wednesday.

CS Clean sheets kept at home/away based on this week's fixture Opp FTS Number of times this week's opponent has failed to score at home/away GPG Conceded Predicted goals conceded this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season Opp CS Clean sheets kept at home/away by a team's opponent GPG Scored Predicted goals scored this week based on a team and their opponent's performance this season

Lineup Lessons Gameweek 23

Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Song, Van Persie, Walcott
Subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, Ju-Young, Henry, Arshavin, Benayoun, Coquelin.

With Arshavin playing so poorly and Henry struggling for fitness, this could well be the starting eleven for some time. I don't see too much value here outside of Van Persie, though we should at least mention Oxlade-Chamberlain who was extremely impressive against Man Utd last week. Though not necessarily great for the team's success, he is not scared to take a shot (four of them tonight) and his direct running will surely lead to some fantasy production if he gets sufficient minutes. He's too risky to be your 4th midfielder but if you can afford to plug him in the five hole, he offers an intriguing upside along with differential potential. I like this defense better with Sagna back but without any cheap options they remain overpriced.

Aston Villa
Given, Hutton, Cuellar, Dunne, Warnock, Ireland, Petrov, Clark, N'Zogbia, Keane, Bent.
Subs: Guzan, Heskey, Bannan, Weimann, Lichaj, Baker, Gardner.

Nothing too exciting here as Agbonlahor only missed out through injury. There are a couple of intriguing options in this lineup, though despite his goal tonight N'Zogbia is not one of them for me. When Agbonlahor, Heskey, Keane and Bent are available McLeish tends to go with three up top thus pushing N'Zogbia into a deeper role and limiting his fantasy appeal. Bent is more interesting and it's now four goals in five games since returning from injury. If you're flush with cash he's a nice differential option though the likes of Adebayor and Dzeko provide better value for money on paper. I'd also raise some red flags about the upcoming fixtures with three of the next four on the road where Bent has struggled for goals in this, and prior years. Keane and Ireland deserve some attention given their price tags but there's little more to say other than that they're players with past success who have done alright of late, but don't necessarily have great underlying performance stats to backup their production. Interested? Yes. Convinced? No.

Robinson, Lowe, Dann, Givet, Olsson, Dunn, Nzonzi, Pedersen, Petrovic, Modeste, Hoilett
Subs: Bunn, Formica, Slew, Rochina, Vukcevic, Hanley, Henley.

Modeste got his first start here and impressed on paper with four shots as well as a good amount of involvement throughout. He comes with a decent scoring record in France, though that in itself isn't enough to pique our interest. Yakubu will of course return after his suspension so Modeste's minutes are by no means guaranteed but any starting 5.0m forward deserves a look. That, or I'm desperate to write something other than 'nothing to see here' for this uninspiring Blackburn side.

Bogdan, Steinsson, Knight, Wheater, Ricketts, Eagles, Muamba, Reo-Coker, M Davies, Petrov, Ngog
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Boyata, Riley, Klasnic, K Davies, Pratley, Tuncay.

The defense is now averaging just 9 games between clean sheets so they should be able to get another one in before year end! If that doesn't do it for you, then there's erm, er, nothing to see here. Eagles has looked fairly good of late but he was very quiet tonight, thus reminding us all of his inconsistency. He has potential but you can probably find someone else in the same price range with a much lower ownership percentage.

Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole, Meireles, Romeu, Malouda, Sturridge, Torres, Mata.
Subs: Turnbull, Essien, Lukaku, Ferreira, Cahill, Bertrand, Piazon.

Essien will presumably slot in here for Romeu in the next week or so, though at his price he doesn't look particularly appealing. My earlier point on jumping in on players too soon is being played out well here, with Cahill once again on the bench despite Terry missing out. I'm sure he'll get his minutes at some point and if you can afford to wait for another couple of weeks, Chelsea get Bolton, West Brom and Stoke in GW26-28. I wouldn't have made the move but if you already have it's probably worth waiting at this point. I want to say Torres is due for an explosion but he was just out shot 1-0 by Lukaku (who played 10 minutes) and the light at the end of the tunnel seems faint.

Howard, Neville, Hibbert, Heitinga, Baines, Donovan, Gibson, Fellaini, Drenthe, Cahill, Stracqualursi
Subs: Mucha, Gueye, Barkley, Vellios, Forshaw, Duffy, Baxter.

Jelavic didn't feature here but will surely play in the near future which means Drenthe's place continues to be in jeopardy thus limiting how much value he could potentially have. Donovan added his second assist of the season so he's pretty much delivering as expected - solid but nothing too spectacular. The defense has three clean sheets in eight games and Hibbert's return to the side makes him ownable and worth looking at.

Stockdale, Kelly, Hangeland, Senderos, JA Riise, Duff, Murphy, Sidwell, Davies, Dempsey, Ruiz
Subs: Etheridge, Baird, Kasami, Gecov, Hughes, Frei, Trotta.

Fulham were a decent defensive play this week, though not as good as some seemed to think (they only came out 9th in the rankings) so a lack of a clean sheet here wasn't a huge surprise. I still like this unit though with Stockdale and Kelly offering solid cheap bench/rotation players. I'm shocked Zamora was let go and actually really liked him as a third forward for the coming weeks (more on him below). His departure does open up the way for Ruiz to take a more advanced role and Andy Johnson when fit. Tonight though, Dempsey played just off Ruiz and so his already high value could be pushed higher still.

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

This side pretty much picks itself these days with Downing the only surprise omission. What happens when Suarez returns is less clear as Bellamy has been excellent while Carroll is starting to show some form and gives the team something different. That would appear to leave Kuyt on the outside looking in but Downing would also be somewhat threatened if the team takes more of a 4-3-3 look rather than the standard 4-4-2.

Man City
Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Barry, Milner, Silva, Aguero, Nasri, Dzeko.
Subs: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Johnson, Kolarov, Savic, De Jong, Razak.

With Balotelli suspended and De Jong apparently out of favour, this teams has a strong predictability with only the apparently unpopular Johnson threatening to upset the team's consistency. With a disappointing result and the team stagnating a touch you might expect a shake up but it isn't exactly clear where that will come from. This side obviously still provides a tonne of fantasy value but their unpredictability is making them easier to rotate.

Man Utd
Amos, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Park, Berbatov, Hernandez.
Subs: Kuszczak, Giggs, Welbeck, Fabio, Rafael, Pogba, Will Keane.

Rooney missed out through injury but he could return at the weekend. With that in doubt and United facing a tough trip anyway, Rooney owners with spare transfers may want to consider another option on a short term loan. Welbeck missing out was somewhat surprising but we've mentioned in the past that he is always going to be an inconsistent player to own so you have to take the lows with the highs. I'm not sure Amos is worth a gamble between the sticks as De Gea should return this week. If Amos does keep the gloves this week though he deserves consideration going forward.

Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Ben Arfa, Guthrie, R Taylor, Gutierrez, Best, Ameobi
Subs: Elliot, Lovenkrands, Abeid, Perch, Gosling, Obertan, Ferguson.

This team really picks itself with a number of good players still unavailable. The current lineup looks a touch uninspiring (though the defense remains solid) but the return of Cabaye and Ba and the introduction of Cisse will hopefully change the sides' attacking fantasy options.

Ruddy, Martin, Ayala, Whitbread, Naughton, Johnson, Crofts, Surman, Hoolahan, Holt, Morison
Subs: Steer, Jackson, Pilkington, Fox, Bennett, Wilbraham, Ward.

The predictability of this lineup is improving but it's still hard to see too much consistent production here outside of Morison. Surman managed a couple more shots on goal and statistically provides the best goalscoring value but he isn't always heavily involved in the Canaries play and so he probably isn't a reliable every week option.

Kenny, Young, Ferdinand, Onuoha, Taiwo, Wright-Phillips, Barton, Derry, Mackie, Hulse, Cisse.
Subs: Cerny, Hill, Hall, Smith, Ephraim, Macheda, Balanta.

On a personal note I am delighted to see Cisse back in the Premier League and with a debut goal and a reasonable price tag (6.5m) he will quickly find his way onto many managers' shortlists. Along with Zamora, Helguson and Macheda, Cisse forms a promising front line for QPR but from a fantasy perspective we have to somewhat concerned about who's going to play every week. As the highest profile arrival, Cisse would appear to be safe but Hughes knows Zamora from his time in Fulham and he could be a useful focal point of this attacking unit. The situation deserves monitoring as someone could well emerge as a very useful forward. QPR's frailties are still evident and I don't like buying a defender for attacking ability alone, but Taiwo is clearly going to have some use going forward and is worth a look at 4.5m. The next four games look promising but QPR haven't kept a clean sheet since GW9 so don't get overly excited here.

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

This team remains fairly predictable but two items are noteworthy here. Firstly, Etherington was dropped which was a surprise as I liked him to have a better second half than the more fancied Walters. You'd be surprised if it was a future trend though so I wouldn't dump Etherington just yet. The other issue is Walters not being deployed up front, as Pulis instead went with Jones and Crouch. I'm pretty down on Walters as it is (mainly as he is grossly over owned) and this only makes that assertion stronger.

Mignolet, Bardsley, Turner, O'Shea, Richardson, Larsson, Gardner, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon, Campbell
Subs: Westwood, Bridge, Wickham, Ji, Meyler, Elmohamady, Lynch.

With Brown unable to stay fit, Bardsley is the pick here and while you've missed the boat on the great games, they still have a couple of decent games coming up. McClean continues his excellent production making him an interesting 4.5m option while Sessegnon remains a stud.

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

Not much to say here other than the arrival of Sigurdsson who added his 2nd assist in his 3rd game. His underlying stats remain underwhelming but with set piece duties galore and some decent talent around him, he's worth a shot at 5.0m. It's tough to pick between him and Dyer in this side so Sig's 0.2% ownership is worth noting.

Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto, Kranjcar, Modric, Parker, Bale, Adebayor, Van der Vaart
Subs: Cudicini, Dawson, Rose, Livermore, Sandro, Pienaar, Lancaster.

Not too much to say here either. Bale is great and is really challenging my thoughts that Van der Vaart might be a differential option over the Welsh winger for the remainder of the year. It's not just that his production is high, it's that he's simply taking so many shots and creating so many chances at the moment. That said, I wouldn't say he is a must own player and he remains inconsistent compared with Silva, which is a concern going into the current run of games (@Liv, New, @Ars, MnU). I'm not saying you should sell but I'm also not sure I'd rearrange my whole team to fit him in with those games coming up.

West Brom
Foster, Tamas, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey, Cox, Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Fortune, Odemwingie
Subs: Fulop, Tchoyi, Reid, Allan, Dawson, Mantom, Thorne.

A good result for the Baggies at Fulham but there remains a lack of fantasy talent in this side. Odemwingie and Morrison have shown flashes of promise at times this year but both are woefully inconsistent and a touch overpriced for their production to date.

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

I understand he wants to leave, and it's tough to judge manager decisions from the outside, but benching Rodallega who's added two goals and two assists in the past four stars looks strange to say the least. The overall results were the same though as Wigan lost another game. Old favourite Moses notched an assist and he should remain in the conversation for your 5th midfielder spot.

Hennessey, Foley, Berra, Johnson, Ward, Kightly, Frimpong, Jonsson, Jarvis, Edwards, Fletcher
Subs: De Vries, Elokobi, Stearman, Ebanks-Blake, Hunt, Milijas, Doyle.

I expected more from Wolves, having not been shut out since GW12 before the visit of Liverpool. I have faith in Fletcher but I'm not sure I see much in his teammates to inspire much confidence. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Changing Schedules

We place an emphasis on strength of schedule around these parts, with the weekly rankings constituting a blend of a team's own ability along with their opponents. At this point in the season everyone has played each other once but you can get a significant differences in future strength of schedule based on where those games have been played (ie are your remaining tough games at home/away, did you already play the 'big teams' twice?)

The below tables show the average goals per game of a team's opponents to date (Avg) and the average goals per game of a team's next 8 opponents (Next 8). On the defensive side we hope to see a negative difference (ie easier games are to come) while offensively we want to see a positive number.

I wouldn't get carried away with these numbers as we already account for strength of schedule in the weekly rankings, but for some teams it could help explain their offensive or defensive struggles and signify an improvement in the future.

The data can be somewhat misleading in that Man City may well be ranked at the bottom precisely because they haven't played their future opponents twice yet (and likely put a couple past them) but hopefully there is something to learn here (though it's too late for me to draw many conclusions right now).