Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gameweek 31 Lineup Lessons

Arsenal
Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Song, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott, Rosicky, van Persie. 
Subs: Fabianski, Andre Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Djourou, Gervinho, Chamakh, Benayoun.

I'm not overly concerned by this game, though as a Bolton fan, I'm obviously troubled by the lack of help some of the 'big' teams are providing with Liverpool and now Arsenal losing games they really should be winning. Anyway, this is a settled and fairly predictable lineup, with the only foreseeable changes in the future being the rotation of the front options with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho each likely to get some minutes to finish the season. None of the remaining games really scare you offensively, so Van Persie, Walcott, Arteta and Rosicky should all remain on the radar. Defensively I'm not so sure, and this side is probably only a rotation pick, which at 5.2m (Gibbs) might be too rich for most.

Aston Villa
Given, Lichaj, Collins, Baker, Warnock, Gardner, Herd, Agbonlahor, Ireland, Bannan, Weimann. 
Subs: Guzan, Albrighton, Heskey, Johnson, Williams, Carruthers, Grealish.

Hutton missed out at the back with Lichaj making the most of his first league start with a goal and an assist. Physio Room suggests Hutton will still miss a couple more weeks but with the next three games including trips to Anfield and Old Trafford, I'd give this defence a wide berth for the short term (they make a decent investment for GWs 35-38). Despite the two goals this week I don't see much potential in this front line or midfield.

Blackburn
Robinson, Lowe, Dann, Grant Hanley, Martin Olsson, Orr, Pedersen, Nzonzi, Marcus Olsson, Hoilett, Yakubu
Subs: Bunn, Dunn, Modeste, Formica, Petrovic, Rochina, Henley

A good battling display this week against United by all accounts (I didn't see the game myself) but ultimately nothing to show for it. There's enough stability in the lineup to provide reliable returns but there simply isn't the skill to match. When the fixture is right Yakubu and Hoilett can be worth a roll as a third forward but with no -back-to-back promising fixtures and no double gameweeks, it might be time to put this team to bed (possibly for at least 18 months if they don't quickly start winning some games).

Bolton
Bogdan, Ricketts, Ream, Wheater, Alonso, Miyaichi, M Davies, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Klasnic, Ngog
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Eagles, Knight, K Davies, Boyata, Sordell, Vela.

A potentially season altering win for Bolton this week, though it's still tough to see a ton of value here. Miyaichi is nicely entrenched in the team now so he provides good depth and you'd be comfortable (though probably not thrilled) starting him in GW32, 35, 36 and 37. The same could be said of Klasnic if you could guarantee the minutes but I just don't see him playing the majority of minutes from here on in so he's impossible to own. Finally, Petrov's penalty duties do add a layer of value but not enough to consider him over cheaper teammate Miyaichi. The defense's best attribute is probably Bogdan's price tag, though even there you are better off going with Ruddy if you need to play it super cheap.

Chelsea
Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Sturridge, Mata, Kalou, Torres
Subs: Turnbull, Essien, Meireles, Malouda, Bosingwa, Cahill, Bertrand.

Di Matteo promised rotation and duly delivered. Rotation per se isn't a killer of fantasy value but the real issue for players like Cahill is one they are rotated against. I'm not crazy about the remaining fixtures anyway, but when you consider that the Bolton home game comes just three days after the Benfica game and the Blackburn home game would be close to a potential Champions League or FA Cup final, you have to be worried that players like Cahill, Mata and Sturridge may miss out in the most promising games. Indeed, that trio are the only players from this group I would consider unless I was really trying to gain ground and think outside the box (Torres!) and with this proposed rotation risk, I'm not sure you can justify the inclusion of any of them over players who have one competition to focus on and should play every week. If you own these guys, it's worth checking in with tomorrow's Champions League team news, and you'll probably want to keep them against Wigan unless it's clear they will miss out. After that though, you will likely want to move, probably for good.

Everton
Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Heitinga, Baines, Osman, Gibson, Fellaini, Pienaar, Cahill, Jelavic
Subs: Mucha, Stracqualursi, McFadden, Distin, Neville, Gueye, Anichebe.

Everton are one of the teams whose value is greater than the sum of their parts. Assuming he plays I love Hibbert as a cheap way to access a solid unit who have 3 solid home games and 3 okay away trips left on their schedule. Jelavic has wracked up decent shot numbers in his limited starts since his arrival at Goodison, and I like him more widely owned Pogrebnyak to continue that success. Over the past four gameweeks, no Everton player other than Jelavic have managed more than 4 total shots, suggesting (at least on paper) that Jelavic has become the focal point on many attacking plays (I haven't seen enough game to confirm this suggestion). There are plenty of options for your third striker but with everyone presumably piling on Cisse this week and Ba already widely owned, Jelavic is a nice differentiation option whose fixture list will allow you to plug him and play him every week except GW34 (bye) and GW35 (@Man Utd) while also benefiting from the GW36 double gameweek. I quite like that pick in an increasingly tough-to-differentiate environment.

Fulham
Schwarzer, Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, JA Riise, Murphy, Dembele, Ruiz, Dempsey, Duff, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Stockdale, Senderos, Diarra, Etuhu, Frei, Kacaniklic, Trotta.

Oh Dempsey: Van Persie at home, Franny Jeffers on the road, if only he could figure it out every week.  His last six home games reads like a vintage Ronaldo run of games (11-2-15-5-9-20, average 10.3) while his road form (2-2-3-2-2-2, average 2.2) have made even the United version of Diego Forlan blush. The underlying stats aren't as pronounced and I wouldn't really suggest benching Dempsey unless you really like your team's other options that week. Of the remaining games I would only consider benching him in GW38 at Spurs (depending on what is left to play for that day). I like this Fulham side and their run in looks useful though I don't see lots of options other than Schwarzer and Kelly at the back and Dempsey in the middle. I'm not sold on Pogrebnyak while Murphy has suffered some rotation which hurts his value, largely derived from his consistent minutes.

Liverpool
Reina, Flanagan, Carragher, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Shelvey, Spearing, Gerrard, Suarez, Carroll, Bellamy
Subs: Doni, Aurelio, Maxi, Henderson, Coates, Kuyt, Downing.

They've one of the worse sides in the league on current form and owning the likes of Suarez and Gerrard is becoming impossible, despite the fact they present some potential upside and are differentiators of sorts. Jose Enrique's value too is diminished and better options can be found for equal or less money. If you already own them, it's probably worth keeping them for the visit of Villa as the established names look nailed on to at least play at the moment. After that, the fixtures remain good, so the decision comes down to whether you want to play the fixtures or the talent. I am generally inclined towards the former when it comes to elite players and despite Suarez's impressive shot totals, he might be done as a fantasy asset.

Man City
Hart, Richards, Toure, Kompany, Kolarov, Milner, De Jong, Toure Yaya, Silva, Balotelli, Dzeko.
Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Pizarro, Barry, Johnson, Tevez, Zabaleta.

With wishing to alienate any readers, United fans really are going to be insufferable if City fail to stage a miraculous comeback (though admittedly they would too be insufferable if such a recovery was made). So whatever happens, Manchester is doomed to a long summer of taunting. At least United have been good enough to give us some fantasy value though. City's biggest and brightest have faded badly to the point where me ranking Silva in mu top five midfielders was a stretch, and probably foolish at this stage of the season (I haven't totally given up on him mind). With Aguero's status uncertain, the whole front line becomes tough to own, though Balotelli seems to currently bring the best combination of playing time, fitness and some kind of form (plus he's the best penalty taker in the league). At the back we are basically limited to Kompany with Richards potentially injured, and Kolarov and Toure facing rotation for a fit-again Lescott and Clichy. Not too long ago, I wrote that which three City players you owned will be a big part of fantasy success this season. That was clearly true for a while but we're now in a position where you could conceivably own no Sky Blues and be better for it. With a good fixture list remaining I'm not there yet and still rate Kompany, Yaya, Silva and Balotelli as ownable assets (throw in Aguero when fit) but with another tricky game this week, things could get worse before they get better (at which point you have some concern how this team would mentality react).

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

Everything that has gone wrong for City, seems to be going right for United. Their defence has stiffened, fringe players are stepping up every week and their stars are delivering like stars should. This side looks pretty settled at the moment and while the return of Nani and Young poses some rotation threat, you have to imagine that Rooney and Valencia are safely entrenched in the side for at least a very high proportion (if not all) of the remaining minutes. At the back it is long time favorite Jonny Evans who has quietly become one of the best value players in the game. I'm not crazy about the rest of the midfield and I don't have faith in Hernandez to keep his place in the side, leaving Welbeck as the only remaining option, though he too comes with significant risk. Personally I'd much prefer someone all but guaranteed to play but I do at least see some logic in grabbing Welbeck given his low ownership numbers (4.5%) and good run of upcoming fixtures.

Newcastle
Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Perch, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Tiote, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Cisse, Ba.
Subs: Elliot, Santon, Gosling, Ryan Taylor, Shola Ameobi, Vuckic, Ferguson.

Ben Arfa has made himsefl undroppable at the moment, so we are finally seeing the fruits of a very talented player. I think some caution needs to be exercised there given he's managed just 5 key passes in 4 games (3 of which were converted into goals) but he clearly has the talent to succeed and now has the playing time to match. You're going to have to act quickly to get him with 40,000 transfers already in GW31but he still represents decent value at anything less than 6.0m and four of the next five games look very promising providing you can cope during the off week. Of the front two, I like them about equal as while I have doubts about Cisse's ability to keep converting chances at such a phenomenal clip, he does represent a much better differentiation option than Ba and thus deserves attention. Gun to my head I'd still take Ba, but a lot depends on who your rivals hold and where you can therefore gain an edge. This also remains a good defensive unit with Simpson, Williamson and Krul all being reliable, cheap options.

Norwich
Ruddy, Ward, Whitbread, Ryan Bennett, Martin, Naughton, Fox, Surman, Howson, Hoolahan, Morison
Subs: Steer, Drury, Johnson, Crofts, Jackson, Elliott Bennett, Wilbraham.

Having surely wrapped up Premier League security, it's been a great season for Lambert's men but they have little fantasy success to show for it. Holt is the obvious exception to that, though with his injury and lack of shots (6 in the last 6 gameweeks) I wouldn't bank on him to be any more than a decent sub option.

QPR
Kenny, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Hill, Taiwo, Barton, Diakite, Derry, Taarabt, Mackie, Zamora
Subs: Cerny, Gabbidon, Campbell, Bothroyd, Buzsaky, Young, Wright-Phillips.

Taarabt finally broke his duck but I haven't seen enough to suggest he's ownable yet. Zamora has also taken a huge backwards step in terms of fantasy production since his move from Fulham and I don't see him as a viable option. Despite their uptick in form there isn't too much to like here from a fantasy perspective.

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

Like a couple of teams above, this is a better team that it's collection of individuals, and it makes it tough to find too much fantasy value. The defence is so-so but with rotation at full back you're left with Shawcross and Huth who both look overpriced. They still some promising games though, so perhaps a Begovic rotation might be the best way forward. Going forward there isn't much to see, with no one player managing more than one shot on goal over the past four gameweeks. Pass

Sunderland
Mignolet, Bardsley, Turner, Kilgallon, Colback, Larsson, Gardner, Cattermole, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner
Subs: Westwood, Campbell, Richardson, Vaughan, Ji, Meyler, Kyrgiakos.

The lineup is still fairly settled though it would appear that the shifting along the backline has hurt the unit's value. Just one clean sheet in the last seven have left Bardsley and co without many fantasy returns of late. The upcoming games look okay, if not great, so I still some value in this unit as a rotation option, though I probably wouldn't be bringing them in at this point, at least until they get a couple of bodies back. Going forward I continue to like Sessegnon and McClean though again, with only standout fixtures (GW34 and GW36) and no double gameweek, this pair are far from irreplaceable.

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

Sigurdsson now has more points than Torres, Drogba, Kuyt and Carroll, each of whom have played 1400 minutes versus Sigurdsson's 850. Though I love what he's doing, and I'm pleased to say we've been discussing him for some time here, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the fact that his shots on goal do not reflect a player who is going to score every week so some regression is inevitably due. That said, with four promising home games and a couple of manageable away trips, Swansea look like a team you should be able to rely on every week, so even reduced output from the Icelandic midfielder will still leave him as a reliable starter. Elsewhere in the side Sinclair and Graham can provide some value while Dyer will be promising providing he retakes his place in the side following injury. Defensively Caulker should be back next week joining Taylor, Rangel and of course Vorm as solid reliable options.

Tottenham
Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto, Sandro, Parker, Modric, Van der Vaart, Adebayor, Bale
Subs: Cudicini, Lennon, Saha, Defoe, Rose, Livermore, Nelsen.

His production has been down of late by his standards, but the underlying stats show that Bale is still riding him and if he continues to play this way, it's just a matter of time before the points start flowing again. This week's trip to Sunderland looks tricky but after that Spurs enjoy a sensational fixture list and I'd go so far as to venture that you must get either Bale, Adebayor or Van der Vaart into your team. Whether or not you act in GW33 or GW35 will depend on the rest of your squad and your ability to cope during GW34. The fixtures also look good from a defensive perspective making the back line valuable too. For me it's a toss up between Kaboul who is cheaper and comes with some goal threat and Walker who is pricier but should deliver more consistent returns thanks to his attacking play (I don't see anything which suggests Assou Ekotto is worth the extra outlay given his much higher ownership).

West Brom
Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Andrews, Scharner, Tchoyi, Long, Odemwingie.
Subs: Daniels, Dorrans, Shorey, Mulumbu, Dawson, Cox, Fortune.

What do we make of this side? 10-1 in three victories over Chelsea, Sunderland and Wolves followed by three losses and a draw (against lowly Wigan) being outscored 8-2 in the process. Either way I don't see any value along the back line, while the midfield is uninspiring without Morrison. That really only leaves Odemwingie, who showed a brief flutter of 'form' but has now gone four games without a goal. With just five total shots (three on target) over the past six gameweeks I don't see his fortunes turning round anytime soon, likely leaving this team in the fantasy wilderness for the remainder of the season.

Wigan
Al Habsi, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa, Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour, Moses, Di Santo, Maloney
Subs: Kirkland, Crusat, Ben Watson, Gomez, Sammon, Jones, Stam.

Hey, whatever we say, Wigan are certainly battling for their lives. Our old friend Victor Moses is enjoying some good returns and deserves consideration again as a 5th midfielder. As with many of the streaky players though, don't get overly excited as he has hit the target precisely twice during the past six gameweeks, with both the shots also hitting the back of the net. He has however managed seven total shots suggesting he at least has a chance of continued success. One bonus for Moses is that on this side (with comparably little talent) a game winning goal or even just a solid performance will almost inevitably lead to a maximum bonus haul, giving him upside over the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain who will always be limited in that department.

Wolves
Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Bassong, Ward, Kightly, Davis, Edwards, Jarvis, Ebanks-Blake, Fletcher
Subs: De Vries, Henry, Hunt, Berra, Milijas, Zubar, Doyle.

Kightly and Jarvis have some decent underlying stats of late and deserve at least a brief thought. However, you don't like the look of the upcoming games and this week's defeat to Bolton might have been the final nail in the coffin. Fletcher still has impressive shot numbers too and has shown an ability to score against anyone but with the mid-price market opening up a bit I'm not sure many will have room to slip him in.

A quick reminder that the transfer deadline is earlier this week with Newcastle and Swansea in action on Good Friday. I plan to post the weekly rankings and captain data now, then will hopefully get to the narrative tomorrow. We'll also have some discussion on the upcoming double gameweeks so post any questions below or @plfantasy and I'll try and tackle those too.

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