Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 2

Mannone, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Diaby, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud, Gervinho.
Subs: Martinez, Andre Santos, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Djourou, Coquelin.

Just the two changes here with Mannone replacing the injured Sczcesny and Giroud getting the start up top with Podolski shifting out wide, forcing Walcott to the bench. I don't particularly care for the "Arsenal play too much football with no cutting edge" narrative as I'd suggest it's more often a case of simply not having the depth in quality as the likes of City and United and the 'overplaying' critique is a convenient rationale. That said, in two games this season it has been their final chance conversion which has let them down, though again, I'd say that's a more an issue of comparing Gervinho and Giroud to Aguero or Rooney rather than a philosophical issue with Wenger's system.

Giroud looked okay, but didn't do much to encourage anyone he's going to replace van Persie, though he did look better in the final 20 minutes when playing with more natural width in Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain. I liked Podoloski a lot heading into the season and having now seen him operate both up top and wide on the left, I'm comfortable keeping a 'buy' tag on the German. The basic stats tell of a disappointing 2 shot (1 on target) day but he received plenty of touches in the final third (25) and his 3 dribbles echo a player whose direct runs could help this team out of trouble at some point this season.

Cazorla once again was probably Arsenal's best player, racking up 6 shots (2 on target) and dominating possession with 102 touches, 77 in the Stoke half and 50 in the final third. The elite midfield group is looking very good at the top end, led by three new arrivals in Hazard, Cazorla and Kagawa. Arsenal haven't looked as dynamic as Chelsea or United to date but so long as you have faith that this unit will start scoring, Cazorla looks nicely placed to dictate the flow of fantasy points and should be carefully considered before assuming Hazard is the only option.

Aston Villa
Given, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Clark, N'Zogbia, Herd, El Ahmadi, Bannan, Delfouneso, Bent
Subs: Guzan, Ireland, Holman, Delph, Weimann, Lichaj, Burke.

Herd, Bannan and Delfouneso came in here with Holman, Delph and Ireland making way. I didn't have the misfortune of watching this one but 61% Everton possession along with 22 shots to Villa's 9 suggest the changes didn't exactly have the intended consequences. This is not an impressive side with even the previously reliable Bent struggling to get involved (4 shots, 0 on target in 180 minutes). El Ahmadi has registered a handful of shots and created some chances which wouldn't be too notable if it weren't for his price tag of 4.5m. Along with Reading's Danny Guthrie I see him as the pick of the minimum price options and could therefore have some use a 5th midfielder.

Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Meireles, Bertrand, Hazard, Mata, Torres
Subs: Turnbull, Essien, Romeu, Ramires, Lampard, Oscar, Sturridge

Chelsea have been the source of fantasy nightmares for me so far this season, first with my apparently foolish decision to ditch Hazard for Mata at the last minute and now with my equally foolhardy decision to grab Ramires over Michu to take advantage of the double gameweek and his 'all-but-guaranteed' place in Di Matteo's lineup. I can only assume the Chelsea boss is almost exclusively motivated by a desire to troll the hell out of me.

Having started at the same price, Hazard is now worth 0.5m more than Mata and that gap will surely widen by at least 0.2m or so over the coming gameweeks. I've been mightily impressed with Hazard so far, but moving Mata for the Belgian now doesn't make sense given Chelsea's lack of Gameweek 3 fixture, even if delaying costs you ~0.2m. Make a move now to free up sufficient cash so that you have around 10.0m spare to ditch Mata for Hazard in GW4 if you so desire.

We haven't seen much of Oscar or Sturridge yet this year so further rotation could be due in the future but in standard weeks the majority of this side looks fairly settled.

Howard, Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Osman, Pienaar, Gibson, Naismith, Jelavic, Fellaini
Subs: Mucha, Heitinga, Mirallas, Gueye, Barkley, Coleman, Anichebe.

A slightly more attacking lineup here from David Moyes, with Neville shifting to right back and Naismith getting the start in a surprisingly offensive midfield. Fellaini wasn't deployed quite as far forward as in gameweek one, with Naismith and Pienaar providing more options from out wide, but he was of course on the score sheet once again and did manage to get 3 shots away (1 on target). At 6.7m he is still a touch pricey for a player who lacks much in the way of proven fantasy success nor a prolific scoring record elsewhere but he very much ticks the 'opportunity' requirement and could easily make a run as this year's Jon Walters.

Everton only gave up two shots on target, both from midfield, making it two decent defensive displays to open the season. Jagielka, Distin and Baines all appear to be fairly safe here, though the presence of Heitinga still makes me somewhat nervous about reccomending Distin too strongly. The other two though are pretty expensive and come at the same price as solid options from the league's (supposed) best defensive sides.

Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Briggs, Duff, Diarra, Dembele, Kacaniklic, Ruiz, Petric.
Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Baird, Sidwell, Kasami, Rodallega, Halliche.

A decent display here from Fulham, who ceded plenty of possession and chances to United (as many a team will do this year) but also gave them some trouble at the back with a good attacking gameplan. They were extremely efficient when in possession, with the five midfielders completing 94% of their passes including every single one in the final third of the field. I was perhaps a little harsh last week suggesting Fulham might find it hard to score too many goals, as I failed to give enough credit to Dembele who reminded everyone this week why some of the biggest teams around could be interested in his talents. His completion rate (49/50), chances created (3), touches in the final third (12) and shots on target (2/2) all told the tale of a player more than capable of driving a team onto success, even against one of the league's best teams. Providing he stays at Craven Cottage I like him quite a lot this year.

The defense seems to be what it has been for some years now - reliable in the easier fixtures but not quite good enough to start every week. That fact makes me hesitant to pay 5.0m for Hangeland, instead favouring Hughes, though as we noted last week, the return of Senderos could potentially cloud Hughes' security.

Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Coates, Johnson, Lucas, Allen, Borini, Gerrard, Sterling, Suarez
Subs: Jones, Jose Enrique, Carroll, Henderson, Downing, Carragher, Shelvey.

Raheem Sterling got a surprising start on in the front three here, and impressed both his manager and this humble blogger. I don't think anyone is convinced that Downing is a long term answer for a side with greater ambitions than mediocrity, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Rogers try a few different names here as he puts his stamp on this side. At 4.5m Sterling would obviously be very intriguing if he were to lock down a first team place, but despite Rogers' praise, I don't think we're there yet. He is one to keep an eye on though.

Another player to receive praise from Rodgers was Joe Allen, though from a fantasy perspective the news is less cheerful. With Lucas limping out of the game, Allen dropped even deeper than last week, completing just 3 passes in the opponents third. This doesn't preclude assist altogether as Liverpool do sometimes try and spring the offside trap but Allen's 0 through balls and 1 chance created suggest he wouldn't be the man to benefit there either. There was much excitement over the prospect of getting a budget player plugged into a pretty good lineup but in reality Allen is really only comparable to the Cleverly/Barry/Scholes group, none of whom provide much upside for their price tags. I'm not suggesting it's a priority to dump him given the lack of great options in his price range, but if you're sat on cash and a free transfer, you should consider just what it is you expect from the former Swansea man, then maybe move him on for one of his former teammates (Dyer or Michu).

Man City
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Toure, Kolarov, Toure, De Jong, Milner, Tevez, Nasri, Balotelli
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Dzeko, Savic, Rodwell, Silva, Razak.

Just as we all suspected: Kolo Toure is getting minutes ahead of Joleon Lescott. Luckily for Lescott owners, they didn't miss much as City looked somewhat vulnerable at the back and failed to notch their first clean sheet of the season. With Richards injured, Zabaleta actually looks like the safest option after Kompany, though after a game off here (and a so-so display from Toure) I'd be surprised to see Lescott on the bench again next week.

Up front I was amazed to see Silva benched, and then kept there until late in the game with Nasri being extremely disappointing in this one. I understand that Mancini needs to rotate his team to keep players fit and massage egos but this team to me looked like one which was setup to keep things tight and hope for some magic from Tevez or Balotelli, but was largely found wanting in both areas. If City are to advance further in the Champions League this year I fear this kind of lineup will be more commonplace as the season wears on, which could make it tricky to select who to back in our lineups.

The two goal scorers here probably give us some clues as while neither had an ideal game - just two shots, one on target for Tevez while Yaya was forced to play in a deeper role until Rodwell was introduced - both showed that they among the best in the league at converting their limited opportunities into goals. Indeed, without the threat of Aguero, one can make an argument that Tevez is a good a front option as anyone, despite being 2.5m-3.0m less than his cross-city rivals at United. Yaya meanwhile is often overlooked as a fantasy star (by me included) but whenever he is allowed a more offensive, he always seems to capitalise. My issue remains that he is rarely given such a role but I'd be willing to be proven wrong here is Yaya can continue to get his chances.

Man Utd
De Gea, Da Silva, Carrick, Vidic, Evra, Cleverley, Anderson, Valencia, Kagawa, Young, van Persie.
Subs: Lindegaard, Evans, Rooney, Giggs, Hernandez, Welbeck, Scholes.

At times United looked very dangerous going forward with Kagawa standing out with a promising combination of pace, intelligence of precise passing. He lead the midfield unit in shots (4, 2 on target) along with a decent amount of possession in the final third (19 successful passes, 35 touches). Given that he's also the cheapest of the potentially elite options for United, coming at a substantial discount to cross town rival Silva, he seems like a great pickup, right? Well, as always, there is a 'but'. The positioning of Rooney in this side is a source of concern for me, as I don't see how he can easily lead the line (with van Persie on the left) given his tendency to drop into the exact same position occupied by the attacking central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1. In the brief period that happened last week, and to a lesser degree this week, that area of the field became too congested and United lost a lot of their attacking shape. The solution seems to be for either Rooney to change his game a bit and stay out wide, or not drop deeper from the front role, or for him to be deployed in that AMC role, which then leaves a huge question mark as to where Kagawa will play.

He can of course shift of wide, but that area is also congested with Valencia, Nani, Young and Welbeck all vying for playing time of their own. After discussing this on Twitter during the game, most readers seem to think Kagawa has already lept to the top of this pile and should therefore play as much, or more, than everyone, whether in the middle or out wide. I'm not sure I'm quite so bullish about his security in the side (I had the same debate about Young last year who ended up fizzling out as the season progressed) but I do agree that, on balance, Kagawa looks as safe as anyone in this whole front six. With Rooney injured (allegedly for 4 weeks but I'd be amazed if it was that long) Kagawa looks like a very good pickup for the short term at least, and anyone looking to dump Mata should look long and hard at Kagawa and decide if the extra 1.0m is worth it to pass on Hazard.

For the first time ever I opted for an elite 'keeper this year, and have promptly been rewarded by two pretty shaky defensive displays from United (if not De Gea himself, who has been okay though could be questioned for Fulham's second this week). In fairness, the back line still has a patchwork air to it and should stabilise once options like Ferdinand, Jones and Evans return but however you cut it, it's been an underwhelming start to the season. Ferdinand and Jones are set to return next week at which point United face Southampton and Wigan so let's not make any rash moves just yet, but struggles in those games would probably lead to required changes. Jones' return makes Rafael a tricky player to judge as you love his offensive ability and price tag but I don't believe he has Ferguson's confidence to start regularly until he shows a bit more reliability at the back.

Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, S Taylor, Santon, Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Anita, Gutierrez, Ba, Cisse.
Subs: Harper, Williamson, Perch, R Taylor, Amalfitano, Marveaux, Obertan.

As a Newcastle fan you would probably be a touch concerned by the lack of real quality outside of the starting eleven, but for fantasy fans it makes things much easier. They didn't enjoy the best of games against a good Chelsea side but they still created chances and I'd feel confident rolling out Ba, Cisse, Ben Arfa and probably Cabaye every week, while the defense remains a very good mid-level option who only need to be dropped in the toughest of fixtures (like this one). We will need to monitor players' fitness as the season progresses such is the size of this squad, but for now just enjoy one of the few lineups around which combines ability and security.

Ruddy, R Martin, Bassong, Barnett, Garrido, Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Pilkington, Jackson, Holt
Subs: Rudd, Surman, Hoolahan, Morison, Tierney, R Bennett, C Martin.

Chris Hughton doesn't appear to have settled on his first team yet which is making it very hard to really recommend anyone from this lineup. Bassong and Garrido came in at the back, though with Turner missing for this one we still can't be sure who the first choice back four is. With Tierney gone though and Barnett likely to follow, the 4.0m options are no more and thus the value of this team as reliable 5th defenders may be gone anyway.

Offensively there isn't too much to get excited about either though Snodgrass once again took up some nice positions, as did Pilkington on the other wing. I don't see either as being prolific and have several other 6.0m options I would rank ahead of them , but they are at least relevant which is more than can be said for parts of this lineup. The story with Holt is a similar story for: decent player, decent prospects but probably priced too high to ever represent great upside.

Green, Traore, Hill, Ferdinand, Da Silva, Mackie, Diakite, Park, Hoilett, Cisse, Zamora
Subs: Murphy, Derry, Johnson, Taarabt, Wright-Phillips, Onuoha, Bosingwa.

I have pretty much given up on assessing this team until Dawson / Carvalho / Bosingwa arrive/start and Hughes settles on how many of his somewhat talented attacking options he can afford to play at one time (note to Hughes: the answer is not six).

K Davis, Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox, S Davis, Schneiderlin, Lallana, Do Prado, Rodriguez, Lambert
Subs: Gazzaniga, Sharp, Ward-Prowse, Richardson, Shaw, Seaborne, Puncheon.

No disrespect to Wigan, who are probably better than most of us think, but losing at home to them does not bode well for the Saints' season. To their credit, Southampton gave it a good go, opting for a rather attacking 4-5-1 which played like a 4-3-3 for large parts of the game (Rodriguez and Do Prado joined Lambert up top). They managed 16 shots, with 6 on target but lacked that little bit of composure at key times and came up against a very good keeper in Al Habsi. Lambert hit the target with all 3 of his shots and any jitters after his week one benching should probably not be dismissed. He will get chances in this league and has shown he can convert them making him a useful option at 6.0m if the fixtures fall nicely.

Begovic, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson, Pennant, Cameron, Whelan, Kightly, Walters, Crouch. Subs: Sorensen, Palacios, Jones, Upson, Delap, Shotton, Jerome.

This is a very nicely settled sides which continues to get a lack of respect from pundits who resort to the same old, tired "tough to play against", "physical" and "long ball" narratives. Simply, they aren't as good a team as Arsenal or many of the opponents they face but they have a number of players who play their roles very well and enjoy some good link up play with Crouch and the ever impressive Walters. Fantasy wise it's hard to highly recommend anyone outside of Walters until perhaps Etherington returns, but defensively the side continues to impress and should be strongly considered as a very good addition to your squad. At 4.5m Begovic could well be the key to a successful rotation strategy for 2012-13.

Vorm, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Taylor, Britton, de Guzman, Michu, Dyer, Routledge, Graham
Subs: Tremmel, Tate, Moore, Dobbie, Agustien, Gower, Davies.

I spend a good deal of time waxing lyrical about Swansea so as a change of pace I will offer a note of caution. In two games they have scored 8 goals but have only had 11 shots on target. Needless to say such a rate is unsustainable and unless they suddenly start creating more total shots (19 in 3 games so far) their goal average is obviously going to significantly decline. There is talent here for sure with pretty much everyone being ownable other than probably De Guzman, but the talk of captaining Michu or paying points to grab him or Dyer seems premature at best, or plain reactionary at worst. True, it would have worked this week and Michu took his goal beautifully but this Swansea side will slow down in the coming weeks so your expectations of what you're getting from Michu and co should be managed. By all means grab him (after all I recommended him in the pre season) but do so knowing you are getting a very good 7.0m who is unlikely to continue this level of production for long.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program: this defense is pretty good. Again, they probably aren't a top defensive unit but for 5.0m you are literally laughing all the way to the bank. Despite his fortuitous goal, I wouldn't particularly rank Rangel ahead of his teammates as Chico and Taylor have both provided decent options from set pieces already this year (getting on the end of them, that is). Gun to my head I'd take Rangel at this point but if you own anyone from this back line I'd be happy staying where I am.

Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto, Livermore, Sandro, Lennon, Van der Vaart, Bale, Defoe
Subs: Cudicini, Naughton, Jenas, Sigurdsson, Adebayor, Townsend, Caulker.

Another team with potential, another team with a questionable lineup. You have to think it's just a matter of time before Adebayor takes his place up front in this lineup given the lengths Spurs were willing to go to to get him and the somewhat lack of excitement they have shown about playing Defoe with regularity. At that point Ade could become an ownable asset but coming in at higher price than the likes of Tevez, Podolski and Ba makes me hesistant to hold my breathe. The midfield looks surprisingly  complicated given Villas-Boas' apparent committal to playing two defensively minded options in the middle. That leaves Van der Vaart and Sigurdsson scrapping for minutes unless one of them is deemed able to push out wide in place of Lennon. Spurs have a sensational run of three games coming up but we're probably limited to playing Bale of the front six unless you want to take a significant risk.

Defensively I believe Spurs will be just fine having conceded just 13 shots in the box this year (t3rd) while holding good possession numbers across the field. This back four looks like the one which will play the majority of games, though with Kaboul taking a knock we still can't be sure who the number two centre back is (assuming now that Vertonghen is locked in).

West Brom
Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Mulumbu, Yacob, Dorrans, Morrison, Fortune, Long.
Subs: Myhill, Rosenberg, Brunt, Lukaku, Gera, Dawson, Jones.

The back half of this side looks fairly settled but as we noted last week, as 5.0m options they don't rank too highly on my personal shortlist. The four attacking spots in the side still appear uncertain with Lukaku and Rosenberg lurking on the bench and Odemwingie ready to return. Hopefully Lukaku will lock down a first team place soon as based on his limited first team action so far his upside is the greatest.

West Ham
Jaaskelainen, Demel, Reid, Collins, McCartney, Tomkins, Noble, Diame, Jarvis, Nolan, Cole
Subs: Henderson, Maynard, Maiga, Vaz Te, Taylor, O'Brien, Diarra.

West Ham were the architects of their own downfall defensively this week and after the early mistakes they struggled to get a foothold in the game. The first team looks fairly settled but with Maiga waiting in the wings and Jarvis coming in, I am less bullish of Nolan's prospects but I'm okay sticking with him for now.

This defensive unit should be somewhat reliable as the season progresses, particularly at home. Allardyce generally puts a focus on keeping things tight at the back so Demel and McCartney should continue to warrant 5th defender consideration, though you should still pick your matchups carefully.

Al Habsi, Alcaraz, Caldwell,  Ramis, Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Figueroa, Di Santo, Maloney, Kone
Subs: Pollitt, Jones, Crusat, Watson, Gomez, Boselli, Beausejour.

Wigan are probably better than we credit them for, but from a fantasy perspective I just don't see a lot to get excited about. The defense isn't bad but with their 4.5-5.0m price tags they come at the same cost as players from better teams so unless we see consistent returns from this back line I'm not buying. Kone and Di Santo have both racked up decent shot totals and have the makings of a useful partnership which is worth monitoring.


stooshermadness said...

Chris - love your line up analysis. A few points -

1. You say "Yaya meanwhile is often overlooked as a fantasy star (by me included) but whenever he is allowed a more offensive, he always seems to capitalise". Shh, keep it down, we don't want this to spread. 139 and 146 FF points respectively the last 2 years with 6 goals and 15 BP each season. At a considerable discount frm Nasri and Silva. But for the ACN he would probably would be in the ~150-160 FF point area every year.

2. I think Stoke's Michael Kightly @ 5.5 is probably worth a mention. I think he was brought in to provide more consistent performances than Pennant on the right side of midfield and he looked the most likely to score v ARS. Stokes schedule is a bit of a nightmare but @ 5.5 you don't feel to bad leaving Kightly on the bench. Rotates well with West Ham's Nolan or Noble too.

3. I still think Valencia is undervalued by most FF managers and commenters. Vurtually nailed on for starts since returning from injury last December, he had 140 FF points in ~2100 min last year. Returned to right mid last week, he had good possession and attacking numbers.

4. I've got Figueroa @ 4.5 in a H/A rotation with Cuellar. My only concern is with the purchase of Ramis and the return from inury of Beausajour whether he keeps his place. Ramis is 4.5 too though and with Al-Haibsi in goal, Wigan look like they can keep 8+ CS this year.

Alex said...

Hey Chris,

First awesome blog.

Second, it now appears that Dembele is going to Tottenham afterall. To me that makes him a viable option on a better team at a reduced price. I feel like he will be in the starting line up soon.
What is your new opinion of him now that the this trade seems inevitable?

Gummi said...

Excellent as always. A couple of points:

1. What's your take on West Brom's Morrison? He has 4 goal attempts, 3 chances created and a buttload of crosses, partly because of set pieces, in the two games. I've been impressed by Clarke's West Brom.

2. Even if Ferguson doesn't play Rafael in the big games he's cheap enough (5.5) to comfortably sit on the bench once in a while. It's the home games against lower placed sides that I would rather he not be benched (he's in my team, obviously). I even think he could be afforded a shot at claiming the right-back spot as his own this season.

@stooshermadness: I don't like the midfield options at City for the moment, apart from Yaya. The Silva benching was surprising, to say the least. Maybe he just needed a rest?