Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Team Previews Part III: The Maybes

Having tackled the elite and the new arrivals to the Premier League, it's time to turn out attention inwards, starting with the top half of the middle. Here we find a fixture of fallen giants and rising stars, each providing several options throughout the squad. Presence in this group is not so much of an indication that I think they're a top-10 team, more that they offer top-10 quality and depth of fantasy talent.

Players highlighted as being on my personal shortlist are shown in blue with those who I believe to be secure in the starting eleven shown in bold.

Projected lineup: Schwarzer (5.0), Riise (5.5), Hangeland (5.0), Hughes (4.5), Riether (5.0), Duff (6.0), Diarra (5.0), Dempsey (9.5), Dembele (6.0), Petric (6.0), Ruiz (6.0)

I like this defense quite a lot as they have 4/5 of last year's useful unit returning plus the addition of Riether at right back who should, at worst, be a lateral move from Kelly. Readers will know I am hesitant to pay a big premium for defensive goals but with Hangeland I feel you are getting a player who has a genuine goalscoring for the same price as his teammates (other than Hughes who faces a rotation threat from Senderos) and thus comes as a very attractive package.  Fulham's opening defensive fixtures are only middling so I don't see Hangeland as a lock, but I really like him as a safe option to open with who enjoys decent upside and could see a sharp price rise as soon as he nets a goal.

I've marked Dempsey down here as a fixture to start, dimply due to a lack of activity in his proposed move to Liverpool. Whether he plays at Craven Cottage or Anfield, I like Dempsey as much as most other 9.5m options as while his goal total will be extremely tough to replicate, his shot statistics are for real and double digit strikes look like a lock. The risk, of course, is that he remains in transfer purgatory for the start of the season and it's that reason I can't condone owning him until progress is made. That GW1 fixture against Norwich is tempting but it doesn't look like we'll know if Dempsey is playing in that one and then they face a trip to Old Trafford so it looks safer to hold off on the American hit man for now.

Up top I'd suggest that Petric warrants monitoring given his prior relationship with Jol and the apparent long leash that should accompany it. That said, while his scoring record with Hamburg was useful, he's hardly a proven world class player and thus he represents a risk to pickup from day one. Of the 6.0m forwards though I do like him as someone who could potentially be useful sooner rather than later.

Projected lineup: Reina (6.0), Jose Enrique (6.0), Agger (6.5), Skrtel (6.0), Johnson (6.5), Downing (6.5), Lucas (5.0), Allen (5.5)Gerrard (9.0), Suarez (9.5), Borini (8.0)

We have a bit of help in guessing this lineup as Liverpool have already played competitive matches in the Europa League. We saw some rotation in both games and Allen has of course arrived since then to complicate things a bit, but still, I think we can pencil in the important pieces of the lineup as being fairly settled here. The defense isn't what it once was but this should be a consistent lineup who have significant upside considering what Rodgers achieved at Swansea with less talent on paper. Losing Agger without a replacement would be a blow as Carragher and Skrtel are just too slow to cope with some teams but until then I believe Jose Enrqiue to represent the best value in this side and thus he warrants mentioning, even if he doesn't exactly get your heart racing with excitement. Liverpool's opening defensive fixtures look quite promising though so don't simply write this unit off as over the hill just yet.

I'm a bit torn what to say about Joe Allen as while I love him as a fantasy asset this year, his 22% ownership leads me to want to espouse the contrarian view. The official site touches on some of his stats from last year and while many are impressive, few lead one to conclude that fantasy success will naturally follow. He mustered just 13 shots on target last season (converting four), adding only two assists, though this looks low given his 46 key passes and could increase with better talent around him. At 5.5m we don't need him to be David Silva and a small inflation from last year's 117 points should give him a healthy P$ in the 0.7 range, certainly good enough to justify ownership. He should be good with consistent returns but remember that, at best, this is Xabi Alonso, not vintage Gerrard. The remainder of the midfield looks a tad cluttered and somewhat uninspiring and donesn't deserve much more attention unless someone emerges from the pack (Downing is priced low enough that he could be that man if he ever plays with some consistency).

Up top things probably start and finish with Luis Suarez as I'm not sure Borini or Carroll can be counted on to even start, never mind contribute to a level to justify their lofty price tags. Suarez is too rich for my my taste as I would rather pay more for Aguero or save cash with a Tevez, Podolski or Bent type. Suarez is a talented player but he has never been particularly clinical so unless Liverpool become a side who generated a lot more chances than in the last couple of years, I fear his upside is limited to, say, 14 goals and 8 assists for the year, totals more in line with someone like Demba Ba who can be had a substantial discount. Players of Suarez's talent always need to be monitored but right now I see him as a good player with a great player's price tag, something we need to avoid especially to open the season.

Projected lineup: Krul (5.5), Santon (5.0), S Taylor (5.0), Coloccini (5.0), Simpson (5.0), Ben Arfa (7.5), Cabaye (7.0), Tiote (5.0), Gutierrez (6.0), Cisse (9.5), Ba (7.5)

The only real question mark in this lineup is if and where Ryan Taylor will play, with the rest of the first team looking like it picks itself (ignoring the couple of question marks over opening day fitness that is). I believe that long term Santon is the solution at left back as few teams ever fully commit to a wrong footed full back (though it does happen). That would leave Simpson, R Taylor and Gutierrez fighting for two spots on the right which may render them all unownable for now. R Taylor's price tag looks too steep for me anyway so I don't see this as a big issue to dwell on.

S Taylor and Coloccini should provide solid value for 5.0m at the back though the fixtures are a touch up and down and thus you'll probably want them in a rotation strategy rather than playing them every week.

I like Cabaye and Ben Arfa for different reasons with Cabaye bringing consistent returns across all categories for a mid-level price, while Ben Arfa offers the upside of a top-10 midfielder at a more reasonable price. In fact, extrapolated over a season, Ben Arfa's numbers from last year would give him 10 goals and 14 assists, good enough for a total haul approaching 170 points. That's likely excessive given the way he converted chances last year (5 goals on just 11 shots on target) but, if fit, I'd say 150 points isn't out of the question thus making him an intriguing pickup, providing he can prove his fitness. Such proof may come too late for him to be useful from gameweek one but he should be kept on the monitor given his price/upside combination. Cabaye too might miss the opener and should probably be avoided but long term I like his chances to replicate the kind of season Sessegnon enjoyed last year.

Up front, Cisse and Ba are pretty much as good as any partnership in the league, but I see the gap between them as being much closer than 2.0m and therefore struggle to justify investment in Cisse. In 13 games last season Cisse managed 21 shots on goal which if converted at the normal rate of 3 shots per goal would have given him 18 goals for a full season. Ba on the other hand managed 45 shots in 32 games which would translate into 16 goals using the same formula (indeed he did actually score 16). I like Cisse a lot but I see regression to this conversion rate as being somewhat inevitable and unless you believe otherwise, 9.5m looks like a steep price to pay (or Ba's 7.5m is a bargain, depending on how you look at it). Unfortunately, like the midfielders above, both Ba and Cisse are opening day doubts and then face a tough trip to Chelsea. It again might be worth holding off here, but keep them in mind to use one of your early free transfers on if you're convinced either Cisse and Ba can replicate last season's heroics.

Projected lineup: Mignolet (5.0), O'Shea (5.0), Brown (5.0), Bramble (4.5), Cuellar (4.5), McClean (6.5), Colback (5.0), Gardner (5.0), Larsson (6.5), Sessegnon (8.0), Campbell (5.5)

The defensive line was looking a little crowded but with Bardsley going under the knife the path should be clear for new arrival Cuellar to play. There's a risk that Richardson shifts into the left back spot but I believe that either way Cuellar will play and therefore makes a nice investment as a budget option at the back.

In midfield, Larsson remains a good option when the match up is right, which probably isn't the case for the first three or four weeks of the season. Sessegnon currently has a 5% ownership figure which seems low considering his points total from last season and the fact that his 8.0m price tag still comes lower than most of his fellow top scorers. That would indicate that managers don't believe in him, which I believe is somewhat unfair. He managed a very healthy 77 shots last year, 21 of them on target with 7 being converted into goals (a sustainable conversion rate). Add in 12 assists and a good potential for bonus points and you have a player who can contribute in every category and should be assured a role as the central part of his team given the lack of firepower around him. Indeed, his situation reminds me a lot of Dempsey and while his 2011-12 campaign would be a stretch to replicate, he should be able to turn out one of those very useful 7 goals, 7 assists, 120 point seasons which just about justifies an 8.0m tag. At that price he probably won't win you the league but he won't lose it either.

Unless Steve Fletcher joins the Black Cats I don't see much up front to get excited about with Campbell failing to inspire much confidence, even at a reasonable price.

Projected lineup: Vorm (5.5), Taylor (5.0), Chico (5.0), Williams (5.0), Rangel (5.0), Britton (4.5), Michu (6.5), de Guzman (6.0), Dyer (5.5), Sinclair (7.0), Graham (6.0)

I simply can't say enough about this team. They're everything you want from a fantasy team with a consistent lineup, budget prices and an attacking philosophy who can also keep clean sheets. How badly Rodgers is missed is still an unanswered question, as is whether the new arrivals can fill the shoes of the departed Allen and Sigurdsson. However, the thing I love about this team is that they have aimed for players who could do just that, rather than all too typical response of many Premier League teams of simply grabbing average players who had moderate success in the Premier League last season.

De Guzman has the talent to succeed Allen but having played more than 20 league games just once in the last five seasons, I have some concerns over his ability to rack up significant minutes right away. Michu on the other hand has intrigued me enough to warrant picking him up from day one, something I rarely do with new arrivals. I've read a couple of reports suggesting he won't be able to fill the hole left by Sigurdsson, largely as he lacks the creativity of the departed icelandic man. With 5 assists in half a season I'm not sure Sigurdsson's creation will be the hardest part to replicate and Michu should be able to at least fill some of the void. He looks very accomplished in front of goal with a sweet left foot and I like him to actually have a similar (if less explosive) season to his predecessor with perhaps 8-10 goals and 5-8 assists being realistic targets. Now, his price accounts for some risk which always accompanies new arrivals, particularly those from overseas, but the sub-7.0m talent pool is quite thin so Michu needs to be in the picture. When it comes to the crunch I may well look elsewhere and shun the risk involved here but of all the new arrivals, Michu has as good of a price/upside/security package as anyone.

Dyer and Sinclair were good options last season and yet surprisingly didn't see a huge increase in value making them potential targets again for this season. Sinclair managed 99 shots last season (per ESPN) and without any new striking arrivals he should be deployed in an advanced position once again. He isn't the most clinical player around (25 on target) and you'd be happier if he could rack up a few more assists to give him some consistency but the set pieces are a bonus and he should benefit from another season of experience in the Premier League. Dyer could also do with inflating those assist numbers but at 5.5m he's about as cheap as a secure player with upside gets and would fit nicely into your midfield as a 4th or 5th option.

Finally, I still like Danny Graham though he obviously isn't the bargain he was last season. However, a repeat of last season's totals would still see him come in with P$ of 0.728 - a very useful number. There are more exciting options available in his price range (Rodriguez, Petric, Miaga) but they all have more question marks than Graham who is a classic 'safe' third forward who can be called upon to notch you consistent points when needed. 


Unknown said...

Hey, Chris!

Sessegnon is currently in the yellow zone which probably affects his ownership.

I was wondering about your prediction on how will Laudrup affect Swansea defensive display which was great last year. I see you didnt shortlist neither Williams nor Rangel even though they come at low prices for a team with good cleansheet potential and Michael Vorm on goal.

Following that question, Cuellar is a viable option for budget defenders as you said but your GK pairing article suggests that Sunderland has the great pairing potential so with Mignolet on goal, I dont think its wise to double up on defenders.

One more quick question concerns your shortlisting of Fonte instead of Clyne for example. Do you think its a good strategy to include side backs rather than center backs on your team purely out of their attacking potential?

Great reading as always. Cheers!

Pulma said...

How do you feel about the Swansea wingers with the coach looking to play them more narrow? http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Swansea-City-boss-Michael-Laudrup-tweak-role-wide/story-16711433-detail/story.html

I personally think they could benefit from this and make them even better picks.

Makis said...

So you think Sunderland, Swansea and Fulham will finish above Everton? Everton has so far strenghtened it's squad with Pienaar and Naismith and lost Rodwell who has been bit-part. It is also almost certain one or two more players are incoming.

So I'm just curious why someone like Swansea, who lost their manager will leapfrog Everton (who got 9 points more last season)? Sunderland finished with 12 points less.

Chelskiman said...

Thoughts on Britton? I have a stacked midfield right now, and I was thinking of playing 3-5-2 but I'm forced to have a 4.5 mid as my final piece to my midfield puzzle. Is Britton the pick of the bunch in the 4.5 range? For the record, the rest of my midfield is Ramires, Hazard, Toure and Bale.