Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gameweek 6 Preview

I've finally got some captain data to use this week, and while it certainly isn't a finished product, I'm happy enough to share it and see where it leads in the next few weeks. The short story is that the value in the below graph is a very approximate forecast of the points for the week, based on a number of factors that correlate fairly well to future production. For more information on the actual nuts and bolts of the calculation, see below the captain commentary under the table. As a caveat for all, these forecast numbers should be taken with a pinch, nay a drum, of salt and are really intended to guide our thoughts rather than make factual predictions. That said, I believe that over the course of a season you'll be better using them than the old 'gut' feeling. I always like getting feedback from readers but as this is very much a work in progress, suggestions, ideas and criticism would be even more welcome here.

Captain Commentary
Edit: Per BBC Sport, Dimitar Berbatov is out of tomorrow's game with a hip/thigh problem

Gameweek 6 looks like a fairly tough week to forecast with no real clear cut winner coming to the forefront. I generally shy away from going too unorthodox with captain picks but this is a week where someone like a Fletcher or even Baines might make sense.

Tevez and van Persie come with significant risk given the increasing fitness of their team-mates with Tevez being further hampered by a tough fixture. Spurs at home is probably easier than it sounds, with Villas-Boas's men conceding in every game this year while also missing Assou Ekotto, Kaboul and possibly Naughton for this one. If you own van Persie you need to be captaining him more often than not if you hope to repay that price tag and this is probably a game in which you do exactly that. Rooney played 76 minutes in midweek so I would suspect he might start this one of the bench, though the nature of his injury might indicate he doesn't need to be eased in. Either way, if I had to guess I'd say van Persie starts and is well placed for success.

As for Tevez, his status is less clear and I will personally probably look elsewhere this week. Aguero and Tevez are yet to start a game together this year - though they are certainly capable of doing so - and so even if they both play we need a few hints about the impact it will have on each's value before we start captaining Tevez again without hesitation. I still like Tevez and don't see a need to panic sell just yet but the armband looks risky this week.

Everton have the best fixture for the week, making Fellaini, Baines and Pienaar viable picks for the week. Indeed, given the fixture and the fact that so much of Everton's production has been through these three players, this is the direction I would go this week. Southampton have given up a league 'leading' 59 shots inside the box so while they were able to hold Villa to a single goal last week, doing so again this week looks like a stretch. For the year Everton have already notched a ridiculous 76 shots inside the box (102 total) with City trailing in second with just 54 (82). I hate jumping on bangwagons but given the upcoming fixtures this trio look too good to pass on and it may even be one of those extremely rare cases where I might consider a 4 point hit to bring them in.

Fletcher's top ranking is driven in large part by the fact that he has accounted for 100% of Sunderland's goals to date. Needless to say this won't continue and thus you need to exercise some caution with this ranking. That said, he is facing a somewhat shaky Wigan side who can be exposed and so he's a decent roll of the dice for the week. Would I take him over van Persie? No. But I can see a situation where you take his guaranteed start over someone like Tevez who might play for 9 minutes in garbage time.

Hazard does well here based on his excellent production in those first couple of weeks, but there's no way I would captain him at Arsenal, who have been much better at the back than many expected. I'm not crazy about taking Ba on the road either, though Reading haven't been particularly great at home and have yet to notch a clean sheet this season. There still exists a non-zero chance that Ba is dropped in favour of a standard 4-5-1 formation but having scored three in the last game and a half, that risk is greatly diminished for now.

I'm concious we're getting close to the deadline now, but please send your questions to @plfantasy or post them on Facebook and I'll try to get to as many as possible tomorrow evening (Eastern Time).

Captain Stats Methodology
As noted above, this is still a work in progress so the below will change over the coming weeks, but for, the forecasted value is based on a weighted average of three factors:
  • Total P90 - scoring points is the name of the game so I felt this had to be included somewhere. I went with points per 90 minutes rather than average to avoid skewing things early in the year for a player like Tevez who suffered a 1 pointer last week in 23 minutes.
  • Home / Away P90 - some teams and players struggle on the road and thus I felt we needed an extra factor to penalise players like Dempsey from last season who was simply dynamite at home but couldn't get much going away from Craven Cottage.
  • Cr% Forecast - this one is more complicated. Essentially we are looking at the percentage of goals a player accounts for multiplied by his team's expected goals for the week. I then add a final layer to account for the fact that some players will create more than they score, earning fewer points in the process. For example, if City are forecast to score twice, and Tevez accounts for (scores or assists) 40% of their goals, he would be expected to be credited with 0.8 goals this week. If for the year he has 10 goals and 10 assists his average points per credited goal would be 3.5 (10 x 4 per goal plus 10 x 3 per assist divided by 20), so multiplying this by his expected credited goals (0.8) gives him 2.8 points for the week. Add in his appearance points (2) and his weekly rating would be 4.8. This factor is then weighted with the others to give his final score.
Next steps
The next fix is an easy one, and I only omitted it because I didn't get a chance to write the formulae before this week. We all know that if a player scores a goal, particularly a winning one, he'll be credited with bonus points in the majority of cases so this needs to be added in to the above formula somehow. I propose simply working out the average points awarded to a goalscorer over the season, possibly drilling down by position and whether or not it was the game winner. This addition should be inserted next week.

The next big step is to include an element of regression in the model to try and eliminate the situation we currently have with Steve Fletcher where he's converting almost every shot he takes into a goal and thus accounting for 100% of Sunderland's goals to date. My proposal is to add an 'expected' goals and assist number into the formulae based primarily on league averages but adjusted when a player has shown a sustained ability to convert goals at a higher rate. If, for example, Rickie Lambert had 17 shots, 12 on target and 8 goals, we might suggest that the 0.66 conversion rate is unsustainable and thus only credit him with 4 goals to account for the fact that over the past few seasons 0.33 of all shots on target have been converted to goals, with few players showing a consistent ability to outperform that average. For this analysis I will use ESPN data as (a) it is freely available and I don't want to push my luck with the Opta data the guys at FFS pay for, and (b) I can get historic rates for players to ascertain if we can really categorise them as an outlier. Unfortunately, I will have to ignore data from other leagues for now so the likes of Lambert may be undervalued a touch as we will regress his numbers to the mean where as he may well be better than that, just unproven at the top level.

What else would people like to see included in this analysis? I don't want to add anything subjective as that will just make it a numerical presentation of my own biased narrative so things like 'form' won't go in there. Please post other suggestions in the comments, on Facebook or @plfantasy and we can hopefully take this to the next level in the coming weeks. Indeed, if we can really make some progress for captain picks, there's no reason this can't be extended to help us with lineup and even transfer decisions. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dousing the fire, fanning the flames: Gameweek 5

In this weekly series, each player has been assigned a 'Buy', "Hold' or 'Sell' status. These don't necessarily reflect what I would do, more what I believe to be reasonable action at this time:

  • Buy - the player can be purchased immediately taking consideration of his playing time, fixtures, injury status etc. This status does not necessarily mean you should buy him now as it depends who else you own, only that it is reasonable to do so
  • Hold, and monitor - if you own the player you're not in a rush to ditch him but there's sufficient risk here to justify potential buyers holding off.
  • Sell - the player has too many risks and should either be sold or not purchased. This does not mean he might not have value in the future, just not right now.
Ashley Cole 15 points
Cole took his goal very well this week but it was probably another factor which boosted his value more: John Terry being benched. With that, along with the ominous presence of Azpilcueta on the bench, Cole looks like he is clearly the best combination of cost/value/upside in this backline and I don't see much reason to keep Ivanovic over Cole. With his first goal in a couple of years I wouldn't really buy into Cole for much offensive upside (other than his natural ability to offend) but Chelsea are clearly one of the better defensive units around and it's a nice bonus to get the safest option for the lowest price.
Status: Buy

Rickie Lambert 13
After catching up with the Southampton highlights, I was ready to fan the flames of the inevitable stampede to snag the Saint's hitman, but a closer look at the stats have caused me to pause a touch. Before adding too many caveats, let me first say that Lambert is a good investment and I think he has the potential to replicate the kind of success Grant Holt enjoyed last season. I'll also add that Southampton have faced a very tricky schedule so Lambert's stats may well improve over the coming weeks. But, with that in mind, his underlying stats to date just aren't that great. Good, but not great. He has managed 11 shots in 380 minutes (7 on target, 4 goals) which is fine, but unless you believe he's a truly elite finisher or will get enough penalties to supplement his open play goal tally, there's reason to believe his current strike rate is unsustainable. The question of course is how much, as even if he has just two goals in five that would still put him on course for ~12 goals, which feels about right.

One point which does boost his value is his assist potential with his 11 chances created ranking third in the league. With Ramirez stepping into the team and the likes of Puncheon and Lallana really starting to find their feet, there's reason for optimism that more of those chances will be converted in the future and thus Lambert's assist numbers should be ahead of some of his peers.

I like Lambert quite a lot but at least some caution does need to be exercised here as he isn't the guaranteed 15 goal forward some are suggesting. After this week's trip to Everton the fixtures look fairly good for the Saints and at 6.1m it would be easier to bench Lambert for the odd game compared to pricier peers like Berbatov or Ba. If you can remember that you're buying an excellent third forward or a decent second front man he's a great pickup, but just be careful about expecting top-10 returns for your 6.0m.
Status: Buy, ideally after this week's trip to Everton.

Marouane Fellaini 12
When players in Fellaini's price range emerge as potentially elite options, we generally need acres of wet blankets to calm people's overreaction (*cough* Michu *cough*) but in Fellaini's case he has very much been worth all the praise and fantasy points to date. Through five games he simply leads all midfielders in total shots while also placing in the top-10 on chances created. With Everton's upcoming games looking extremely promising it's very hard to not draw the conclusion that we all need to be making strong efforts to grab Fellaini, Pienaar or Baines as soon as possible (ideally two of that pair). Let's not get crazy and start paying 8 points to make that happen but with Southampton visiting this week, it's tough to see where your transfer will be better used this week.
Status: Strong buy

Leighton Baines 11
We're not doing too much dousing here as Baines is another good buy candidate. Regular readers will know that I am generally reluctant to pay a huge premium for defenders' attacking skills but Baines has two key advantages over some of the offensive options we've seen overvalued in the past. Firstly, his attacking numbers are backed up by both historic success and great underlying numbers for this season. Too often managers will overvalue a Robert Huth type after he scores a couple of goals, ignoring the fact that they were his only two shots on target over a 10 game period. Second, and for me, more importantly, Baines has a potentially elite defense to accompany his goals/assists thus giving him the complete package which gives him a shot at (a) matching the players from the traditionally elite defenses like City and United and (b) sufficiently eclipsing the midrange options to justify the extra cost. If Distin was guaranteed minutes I might still prefer him and 1.7m cash but given that you really need to spend 6.1m to guarantee access to this unit, I can see one being able to justify the extra 1.1m needed to upgrade to Baines.
Status: Buy, though don't assume he's a must own if you're not overly flush with cash

Joleon Lescott 11
This is one of the classic situations where a defenders' scoring potential can be vastly overrated and caution must be exercised. Lescott has a good history of scoring goals in prior seasons, including of course his amazing 8 goal campaign in 2007/08. Managers therefore have the narrative all setup that Lescott is a great threat from set pieces and thus can easily justify his 6.4m price tag. Not so fast. His goal this week came on his only shot for the entire season to date, suggesting that a goal explosion is not exactly likely at this stage. At 6.4m he still arguably represents the best combination of security and price in the City back line and is thus ownable, but I wouldn't advise adding much of a premium for offensive potential here.
Status: Hold, and consider buying based on City's fixtures

Rafael 11
Now that Phil Jones is out for an extended period, Rafael looks like he has the right back spot locked up for the foreseeable future and thus remains excellent value, even if United's defensive progress has been slower than expected. Given that he's the cheapest of the United regulars, Rafael is ownable anyway, but his offensive ability (6 shots, 3 on target) only sweetens the deal.
Status: Hold, unless you believe United can turn around their defense during the next tricky five game stretch without Vidic.

Steve Gerrard 9
Of the classic fantasy pair of Lampard and Gerrard, managers seem to have stuck with Lampard more (5% ownership vs 3%) despite the stats and eyeball test suggesting the opposite. Lampard is finished as a fantasy asset and will likely never have a prolonged stretch of games where he delivers significant fantasy returns, never mind delivers value for his lofty price tag. Gerrard, on the other hand, might still have something left to give. His 9.4m price tag is a concern and will likely prohibit most managers from considering him at the moment but his 13 shots, 2 on target with 1 goal are virtually identical to Hazard (13-3-1) while he's also added 13 chances created to Hazard's 11. Hazard fans will point out that the Belgian's stats came in 60 fewer minutes but that situation arose purely due to Hazard being subbed so it's not as though you would have been able to bring a sub in to compensate for the lost time.

With four goals in five games, this isn't a Liverpool side you are thrilled to invest in, but if you have any faith at all in Rodgers' ability as a manager, you have to at least pause at the prospect of getting Stoke, Reading, Newcastle and Wigan at home over the course of a six gameweek period (GW7-12).
Status: Hold, but monitor closely if you have concerns over your elite midfielders and want to differentiate your team

Romelu Lukaku 9
We highlighted Lukaku in last week's moneyball post and the Belgian front man did the series a favour by netting in his first start for the Baggies. This doesn't mean that the article was right, in the same way that a lack of returns wouldn't have meant it was wrong, but it's nice to see Lukaku get on the scoresheet early to increase his chances of holding down a first team place. His underlying stats for the week were mediocre and the goal was somewhat fortuitous as McCarthy in the Reading goal was clearly unsighted, but still, Lukaku enjoyed 12 touches in the opponent's box and looks well placed to capitalise on the upcoming fixture list which is generally promising.
Status: Hold, to see if he holds his place in away games

Steve Fletcher 9
One of the hardest types of player to write about are ones who you like a lot, but who are getting so much hype that you end up sounding like you hate them. Michu is the classic example this year, as after tipping him in the preseason, I've spent the last month warning people to not get carried away. I fear Fletcher might be heading down the same path. He's a really good finisher and I concede that we shouldn't necessarily be regressing his shot totals to the league average but five shots, four on target and four goals is obviously not a sustainable return. The good news is that there is plenty of room (and realistic potential) for Sunderland to improve as a team, which would likely result in more total chances for Fletcher and thus a lower conversion rate could still allow for plenty of goalscoring success. I'm not crazy about the next four games so I would personally suggest holding off on Fletcher if you haven't already signed him to see if Sunderland can show some signs of improvement in the chances created department.
Status: Hold

Victor Anichebe 9
Anichebe's shot totals have been astounding so far this season with a 12.8 minutes per chance ratio (compare this to a 20 m/c for the majority of the elite forwards last season). The issue of course is sustained playing time as Mirallas has also been extremely impressive himself while the incumbent Jelavic made a substitute appearance in Tuesday night's League Cup fixture. If we were to get serious evidence that Anichebe might play long term, he would be extremely intriguing but I don't see that as being a likely scenario right now.
Status: Sell

Demba Ba 9
No one seems to be talking about Ba yet he's owned by 20% of managers and has quietly racked up 34 fantasy points and four goals despite Newcastle not having the easiest of fixtures to open the season. His underlying stats remain very good and after scoring a couple off the bench against Everton and following that up with a goal this week (sweetly taken I might add), it looks like his days riding the pine are surely greatly reduced. Of the next 11 games, none of the fixtures look terrifying as the better teams have to travel to St James' Park with perhaps the exception of Sunderland and Stoke (sorry Liverpool fans). Ba's at the top end of that useful midrange group of forwards but that's with good reason given his proven history, good surrounding cast and underlying numbers. Throw in a solid fixture list and you've got yourself a nice little package.
Status: Buy

Gareth Bale 8
Bale is a bit like Ba, in that no one is really talking about him but with 13% ownership, he's hardly a differentiator. Looking at his shot totals, chances created and touches, Bale brings the second best package for all midfielders, trailing only Cazorla whose underlying stats have been simply sensational. His brief deployment at left back is a slight concern but given the way the team struggled in that system and then turned it around when he was pushed back upfield, I don't see him being stuck there too often. Indeed, having now seen the game I am slightly less bullish about Kyle Naughton as Vertonghen could surely do a job there in the short-medium term. Spurs' fixtures for the next seven weeks look either great or terrible with Bale and company having to face City (A), United (A), Arsenal (A) and Chelsea (H) over that period, while also getting Villa (H), Wigan (H) and Southampton (A). Given the fixtures, now probably isn't the time to buy Bale, but if you hold him, I don't see any reason to panic, though as always with your elite players, you should at least be scouting around for alternatives.
Status: Hold

Damien Duff 8
I don't have a particularly strong opinion on Duff either way, as while his goals:shots ration looks a touch high, he is getting into good positions consistently, while also bringing decent assist potential. It wouldn't make much sense to bring in a Fulham player this week to face City but after that, five of the next six look pretty favourable and thus Duff becomes ownable. This isn't an exciting pickup and you can almost certainly find better upside elsewhere but Duff provides good stability and guaranteed playing time and those are two assets which shouldn't be totally discounted.
Status: Hold for one week, then consider how his profile fits your teams needs before buying

Hatem Ben Arfa 8
I'm a big fan of Ben Arfa's and I believe he can lead all midfielders outside of that elite 9.0m+ group for the season, but I have some lingering doubts if that will be enough to justify his 7.9m price tag. That's 0.8m more than Fellaini, 1.2m more than Pienaar and 1.7m more than Nolan to name a few, and without great underlying stats I'm not sure he will get there. As mentioned for Ba above, Newcastle's fixtures are promising and if I was going to 'overpay' slightly for someone it would be a player like Ben Arfa whose upside is undeniable, but some caution should be exercised before assuming he is much better than his cheaper peers.
Status: Hold, with a buy consideration if you can afford it and aren't convinced by the cheaper Everton pair

Hugo Rodallega 8
Rodallega was impressive in his early Wigan days and has started to replicate them at Fulham, with some really very good shot totals to date this year. However, with Berbatov surely locked into this starting eleven virtually every week, Rodallega is scrapping with Petric and Ruiz for minutes and I'm not therefore sure he'll get enough to justify ownership.
Status: Sell

Jermaine Defoe 8
Defoe is starting to become a problem as while I keep maintaining he will lose he job, he continues to play and take shots at an alarmingly good rate, giving him four goals on the year already. Adebayor missed the game this week a hamstring strain but he should be fit soon, but with Spurs winning the last two games, scoring five in the process, I'm now starting to back down on my assumption he will eventually recapture that starting spot. I try and stay away from making such calls as I have no more idea what Villas-Boas thinks than anyone else, however, when you consider the lengths Spurs went to to bring Adebayor to White Hart Lane on a permanent basis, it would seem odd to suggest they were already happy with their incumbent options (if they were looking for depth they surely could have found it with much less hassle than the Adebayor saga). Spurs fixtures are a mixed bag over the coning weeks so if you don't already own Defoe I don't see him as a viable buy candidate. If you already own him, you should probably target a GW10 disposal date given the fixtures and job security after then.
Status: Hold

Dimitar Berbatov 8
Not too much to add here. Berbatov is for real with excellent underlying stats to backup his early season success. The upcoming games are pretty good and the fact that Fulham showed they can score and win on the road is big boost to Berbatov's value as you feel better about starting him virtually every week.
Status: Buy

Kevin Nolan 7
Nolan ranks tied for 3rd among all midfielders in total shots and has a good conversion rate in hitting the target. If you don't see Nolan much you might think this is hyperbole, but for me he is one of the best finishers in the entire league and his understanding of where to be in the box and then his ability to shoot from all angles may literally be unmatched at his position. The schedule to date has been fairly soft, but it doesn't really get too hard for another seven weeks or so and thus there is still plenty of value to be squeezed from Nolan. One point we do have to note though is that with 5 chances created and no really elite forwards ahead of him, Nolan's assist potential is somewhat limited so for 6.2m you're really getting a one category player. Given his price tag and security, that's okay but if West Ham start to struggle to create chances or Nolan stops taking shots, this is a hot streak that could cool off quickly so be prepared to act when necessary.
Status: Buy, but note that other options exist for a similar price/return

Santi Cazorla 7
With 20 chances created, he has 33% more than any other player, while his 19 shots trail only Fellaini (8 on target leads all midfielders). Arsenal's fixtures are solid for the most part and I see a team who are getting noticeably better with strength and depth at several positions, with Cazorla in the middle of it all. The game against Southampton raised some questions as to whether he will get too many hockey assists but I don't have too many concerns there and still rate Santi as simply the best midfielder around.
Status: Strong buy

Bobby Zamora 7
Long term reader, Gummi, asked after the weekend's game what I thought of Zamora and my initial uniformed reaction was that I didn't have too much to say. I was turned off to the whole QPR team thanks to their constant rotation and unimpressive performances early in the season and hadn't really gone back to look at their stats. Honestly, I hadn't even realised that Zamora had three goals for the season but looking at the undelrying stats I am still unenthused. With seven total shots and just four on target, not to mention a consistent threat of rotation with Cisse lurking on the bench, I don't see Zamora as being a player to take a risk on, particularly given his price tag. For the money I would be much more inclined to look at a player like Lukaku who brings huge upside, while Lambert, Di Santo and Vaz Te all have better underlying stats (much better in Lambert's case) for less cash. If QPR start playing a bit better, Zamora definitely has the chance to be a viable option but for now I just don't see enough here to warrant ownership.
Status: Sell

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 5

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

Ramsey took an unexpected role on the right of the midfield five, presumably with the intention of getting a bit more defensive responsibility against the Champions. I don't see this as a sustainable trend though with so many other options lurking on the bench so there isn't much fantasy impact to report. I do believe Diaby is going to get a lot of minutes here and thus makes an interesting possibility to get access to this talented team if Cazorla and Podolski are out of your price range.

Gervinho is a tough man to forecast as while his price tag is low, he still looks a touch erratic and you have to think Giroud gets numerous chances to impress here. If you've made a bit of cash already and can afford to bench him, I'd guess he will represent good bang for your buck, but you need to accept that he will (a) be rotated more than others in his price bracket and (b) might be liable to more 1 pointers.

Aston Villa
Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Lichaj, Holman, Ireland, El Ahmadi, Bannan, Bent, Benteke
Subs: Given, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Westwood, Bowery, Weimann, Bennett.

Benteke in for Weimann was the only real change here, but it could be significant in that it gives us another possible option in the emerging 6.0-8.0m group of forwards. He's looked decent in his two appearances this season, getting a debut goal and following it up with a decent effort here. This Villa side is very much a work in progress and I'm not crazy about the way Benteke and Bent fit together but it seemed to work for spells of the game and between them they enough quality to contribute this season. Villa ceded 61% possession against Southampton and have up 17 shots so my restrained optimism for Guzan, Lowton and Clark suffered a blow. Getting turned over by Southampton probably sounds worse than it is and I believe the Saints might surprise a few this year, particularly at home. The Villa defense, indeed the whole team may just be fantasy squad fillers who can be wheeled out at home if the fixture is right but haven't really shown enough to warrant every week consideration.

Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Oscar, Ramires, Mata, Hazard, Torres
Subs: Turnbull, Romeu, Lampard, Moses, Terry, Azpilicueta, Bertrand

This game will likely be pegged as a 'big team struggles to break down a small team' but in reality Stoke gave Chelsea a good game and were their equals for large stretches of the game. Chelsea probably had the better - and slightly more numerous - chances but managed to hit the target just four times all day. Widely held options Hazard and Torres managed just one and two shots each with neither player able to work Begovic throughout the game.

If I owned him, I would have captained Hazard this week as the fixture was just too good on paper, but I still believe he is overvalued and would place him below Cazorla and Bale and I'm still willing to see what happens with Silva in the next few weeks before I bail on him too. As for Torres, I just don't see enough on the field or on the stat sheet to suggest he should be owned over the likes of Tevez or Podolski and I can't justify the extra cost to get him over the Berbatov/Fletcher/Ba group. Oscar impressed on the day, looking lively and threatening the Stoke goal five times thus he could represent a useful option if he continues to get minutes in the future. With Lampard and Moses lurking on the bench I'm not convinced that will be the case but his 7.8m price tag means he's one to monitor. A quick look at the average positions of Hazard (#17), Torres (#9) and Oscar (#11) should concern anyone backing Chelsea assets as such narrow play rarely results in much joy.

Terry was surprisingly rested for this one and that the move really underlines my previous contention that Ashley Cole is the only man to target in this back line. His well taken goal will confirm that point for many managers but I would suggest you don't follow the inevitable stampede to pick him up, with Arsenal (A), Tottenham (A) and Man Utd (H) coming up in the next four.

Howard, Neville, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines, Osman, Pienaar, Coleman, Fellaini, Mirallas, Anichebe. 
Subs: Mucha, Oviedo, Naismith, Distin, Gueye, Vellios, Duffy.

Everton have quietly become one of the best sources of fantasy assets in the league and deserve much more attention than they've been given (including in these very electronic pages). We've got nice consistency in the lineup here, with the only emerging question being how Anichebe is dealt with when Jelavic returns.

As I mentioned in this week's reader questions, I am now willing to consider Baines as a legit option, even if his 7.1m likely means he'll never match cheaper options in terms of value delivered. What he does bring, with Everton's impressive defensive numbers, is an ability to lead all defenders in total points and thus we can put value aside a bit given his overall upside. The next eight games look great and with City and United continuing to look comparably vulnerable, you can make the argument that he's the best defender by a small distance right now (Kompany would be close but he costs even more).  I'm far from willing to bail on United, and particularly City, defenders but I wouldn't blame anyone for cutting lose from that group to snag Baines for now.

Fellaini has been incredibly good so far and he deserves all the attention directed his way. He leads all midfielders in total shots and while his accuracy hasn't been as good as one would hope, the fact he's getting into such dangerous positions with consistency suggests future success is all but assured. I'm not ready to label him or Pienaar as 'must own' but with Everton's promising looking fixtures along with the fact that both look likely to play almost every minute of every game, it's going to be tough to not get some Everton coverage for the coming weeks.

Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise, Duff, Baird, Sidwell, Kacaniklic, Berbatov, Rodallega. 
Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Kasami, Petric, Ruiz, Karagounis, Briggs.

Jol named an unchanged side this week which is most notable because it meant Petric (9% owned) remained out of the first team. Rodallega scored Fulham's first and thus Petric's absence may be longer than expected. With players like Lambert, Crouch and Kone available for a similar price it seems necessary to ditch Petric who might struggle to win his place back anytime soon.

This side continues to offer good fantasy options with a solid back line supported by some good budget options in midfield and up top. The fact they scored twice and won on the road should be real encouragement to anyone debating whether or not Berbatov is good enough to start every week.

Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Gerrard, Allen, Shelvey, Borini, Suarez, Sterling. 
Subs: Jones, Jose Enrique, Sahin, Assaidi, Henderson, Carragher, Fernandez Saez.

No real lineup notes here going into the game, though a couple of story lines emerged during the 90 minutes, all with a similar theme. Agger, Kelly and Borini all picked up injuries with Agger's looking particularly bad (possibly medial ligaments). Kelly was the cheapest way to access this unit, and as the under player under 6.0m, the only realistic option. Carragher and Jose Enrique look like ready made replacements but I have concerns about the lack of pace in a Skrtel-Carragher combination and so I'm hesitant to buy into anyone here despite the upcoming games offering some promise.

The injury to Borini, not to mention his general ineffectiveness, lends further weight to Sterling's cause and it looks like he could be sticking around in this side for a while. The returns have been modest to date but he has solid underlying stats and remains a very good squad player at just 4.5m (I do still have some concerns about Assaidi getting increased minutes in the future though).

Man City
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Javi Garcia, Toure, Silva, Sinclair, Aguero, Dzeko
Subs: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Rodwell, Barry, Nastasic, Tevez, Balotelli

The return to Aguero along with the benching of Tevez essentially ends Tevez's reign atop the safety-upside matrix as he now faces a scrap alongside everyone else to even stay on the field. At 9.9m, his rotation is easier to swallow than van Persie's was, but it still begs the question as to who Mancini believes is his first eleven. Over the course of the season I've not seen anything to suggest that his best front six isn't Garcia, Yaya, Silva, Aguero and Tevez plus one other (Nasri, Balotelli or Dzeko) but Mancini doesn't appear to be as convinced. Tevez remains very ownable and Aguero should now be in our thoughts again but more analysis on this will be required in the near future.

On the defensive side of the ball, I'd say this lineup plays more often than any other but I'm still scared to recommend anyone other than Kompany, who appears overpriced. Ditching this unit for the short term appears more tempting by the week.

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

In case you aren't there yet, I think we need to conclude that De Gea is done for the foreseeable future: this is not just a 'kick up the ass' message. The good news is that in Howard and Vorm you have a couple of mid-range replacements for less money, while there are also a number of good rotation pairs, which is the strategy I would personally follow. We should also note that Buttner made way for Evra as expected so I hope you weren't one of the ~30k managers who transferred him in. He'll likely get some minutes as the season progresses but that spot is very much Evra's to lose.

The front five looks like the first choice lineup though this could all change when Rooney returns. The whole team played fairly deep this week and there really wasn't much to pick between Nani, Valencia or Kagawa, none of whom really did much in the game. We need a separate post on this but we are approaching a situation where no one from either Manchester team can be relied upon every single week to even play, never mind deliver.

Harper, Perch, Williamson, S Taylor, Santon, Ben Arfa, Anita, Cabaye, Gutierrez, Cisse, Ba
Subs: Elliot, Bigirimana, Shola Ameobi, Tiote, Obertan, Sammy Ameobi, Tavernier

Perch came in for the injured Simpson here, but that was the only change for Pardew's men. Both Simpson and Coloccini are said to be close to making their returns so this defensive unit should be even stronger in coming weeks. They remain one of the better budget options around.

I have some concern that long term the small size of this squad will catch up with them, but for now, just enjoy the fact that Newcastle offer some legitimately good options who don't come with a huge risk of rotation, which is becoming harder and harder to find this year.

Ruddy, R Martin, Barnett, Bassong, Garrido, Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Surman, Hoolahan, Morison
Subs: Bunn, Turner, Holt, Jackson, Pilkington, R Bennett, Tettey

Holt and Jackson were both replaced here for Hoolahan and Morison, throwing doubt over yet another solid option from last season. Hoolahan had a pretty solid game and would be a really nice option if he was deployed this far upfield regularly, but we don't have enough to go on to suggest this is the case.

Norwich have obviously struggled for goals so far this year and it therefore seems somewhat strange to rotate your 15 goal striker, even if he is scoreless this term. The team's stats suggest they should be in the middle of the pack in terms of goals thanks to solid shot numbers, though you might like to see a bit more possession, particularly when they go away from home (perhaps that was the thinking this week in going with an extra midfielder). This team has fantasy potential but it's tough to single anyone out to target when few of the attacking options look guaranteed their place in the lineup. Snodgrass remains a solid pickup but other than him it's tough to recommend anyone else.

Julio Cesar, Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Bosingwa, Wright-Phillips, Faurlin, Granero, Park, Hoilett, Zamora
Subs: Green, Diakite, Derry, Cisse, Mackie, Dyer, Ehmer

We continue to see fluidity in this team, though this week that was largely due to injuries. Ferdinand, Fabio and Johnson all sat this one out meaning Onuoha, Hill and Hoilett got rare starts. We talked in the reader questions about M'Bia edging Nelsen out when he's fit but given that he's not yet fit enough for the bench, plus the injury to Ferdinand, Nelsen owners are likely safe for now.

In the front six my position is unchanged from past weeks: I see some talent here but not much of a gameplan or solidified lineup and thus a distinct lack of fantasy value.

McCarthy, Gunter, Gorkss, Pearce, Shorey, McCleary, Guthrie, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre
Subs: Taylor, Karacan, Mariappa, Hunt, Church, Robson-Kanu, Cummings.

I didn't see this one but the fact that Reading managed just one shot on target all day is a worrying sign for a team whose budget options (Guthrie and Pogrebnyak) I liked as decent 3rd sub bench fillers. They probably remain just that, as they provide consistent minutes with some upside for the minimum and a lack of other minimum price players emerging means they are still viable. That said, if I was wildcarding or had a transfer to burn I would prefer Kacaniklic, Puncheon and Sterling over Guthrie for the short-medium term.

Gazzaniga, Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Fox, Puncheon, Schneiderlin, S Davis, Lallana, Lambert, Ramirez
Subs: K Davis, Rodriguez, Ward-Prowse, Do Prado, Richardson, Mayuka, Seaborne.

A couple of interesting developments here though I might suggest that both could feature in the upcoming 'dousing the fire' post. Gazzaniga taking over between the sticks gives us our second 4.0m 'keeper option, joining Reading's McCarthy as viable minimum price option. That's great news for those who like their 'keepers cheap, but even if you subscribe to the rotation policy, I'm not sure Gazzaniga is going to give you sufficient value for money and the extra 0.5m is really worth trying to scrape together to upgrade to a Jaaskelainen or Begovic (or even Mannone if you believe that move is permanent).

As for Ramirez, he's going to look great on occasion and might well provide value in the future, but he faces a huge culture shock in the coming weeks and it's rare - though not unheard of - for comparable players to have immediate success. I don't personally know much about Ramirez so this is no slight on his individual abilities, just a warning to be careful about overreacting to certain traits a player can exhibit which don't always correlate to success. At 6.0m he's definitely worth adding to your shortlist, I just don't see the argument for acting now and grabbing him over the likes of Nolan, Snodgrass et al.

Begovic, Huth, Shawcross, Cameron, Wilson, Kightly, Adam, Whelan, Nzonzi, Walters, Crouch. 
Subs: Sorensen, Jones, Owen, Whitehead, Upson, Etherington, Shotton

Geoff Cameron came into the side at right back and Walters was pushed out side rather than occupying his favoured position just off the front man, but otherwise this side remains pretty settled. Stoke gave Chelsea a good game without really creating too many clear cut chances and thus it's tough to really pass any further judgement on their attacking options.

Mignolet, Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Rose, Larsson, Colback, Cattermole, McClean, Sessegnon, Fletcher
Subs: Westwood, Kilgallon, Vaughan, Meyler, Campbell, Wickham, Saha

Bramble came in for the injured Cuellar, though that's not expected to be a long term ailment so it's not worth making a move there, unless you want more certainty for the promising game against Wigan this week, in which case O'Shea is your only option.

The rest of the side remains unchanged, and like local rivals Newcastle, the squad depth may concern fans and management but for fantasy purposes it is a real boost as players like McClean, Sessegnon and Fletcher look virtually undroppable.

Vorm, Rangel, Tate, Williams, Davies, Ki, de Guzman, Michu, Hernandez, Routledge, Graham
Subs: Tremmel, Britton, Dyer, Monk, Shechter, Moore, Tiendalli

Tiendalli was fit enough to make the bench here so it seems that Davies will be the starter at left back until further notice. Needless to say that at 4.0m he makes a very solid 4th or 5th defender, even if Swansea have struggled a bit in the last couple of weeks. Chico should return this week which gives them an upgrade over Tate and with Wigan and Reading both to come at home in the next three gameweeks, it would be premature to give up on the likes of Vorm and Rangel just yet.

Hernandez got the start as expected, though I was really surprised to see that move being at the expense of Dyer rather than Routledge. Dyer won't have done himself any favours with his red card, though at least he won't miss any Premier League time directly, as his suspension will be served in the midweek League Cup fixture. With increased competition and a slight decline in Swansea's fortunes, Dyer's owners may well want to start looking elsewhere, and they should probably start with Everton's talented duo of Fellaini and Pienaar, or perhaps Nolan if money is really tight.

Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Bale, Lennon, Sandro, Dembele, Sigurdsson, Dempsey, Defoe
Subs: Lloris, Huddlestone, Dawson, Falque, Townsend, Caulker, Mason

Sigh. Bale was one of the last elite options without any significant question marks, and then he had to ruin everything by lining up at left back. Granted, it turned out well in the end but a spell in the back line for any kind of prolonged period will seriously damage Bale's fantasy value. I wouldn't be worried yet as Naughton should be fit for next week and thus Bale can push forward again, but it is something to monitor. That move would leave either Dempsey, Sigurdsson or Lennon out in the cold, thus making it hard to get behind any of that talented trio for now. The same goes for Defoe, who continues to score, but has the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over his head in the form of Adebayor, who too should be fit again by next week. Throw in Villas-Boas' questionable tactics and this team is looking harder to get behind by the week.

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

We had a whole new look to the front end of this team with Lukaku, Gera and Brunt all coming in to join Morrison in a good looking quartet. Lukaku was the subject of this week's Moneyball piece over at Fantasy Football Scout, and without rehashing that post, his underlying stats really are something. Competition from Long, Rosenberg and, to a lesser extent, Odemwingie (who has generally been deployed in a wider position) remains a concern but you have to think that Lukaku is the most talented of the group and Clarke clearly has ambitions to push this team on, and faith in Lukaku to help them do it. There's a lot of good mid-level forwards at the moment but Lukaku should be right in that group if you're looking to zig while others zag.

The back line looks nice and settled and continues to represent good value for their managers. Foster was highlighted in the aforementioned rotation piece, given the way his fixtures gel with Begovic: for me the best combo around right now.

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

There were a few questions this week about McCartney's status, and while it's premature to say he is done for good, this lineup should serve as a decisive factor in your decision to ditch him if you own him. Demel is now widely owned but still represents outstanding value at 4.1m and is the natural replacement for McCartney (I would avoid O'Brien as I'm not sure we've seen the end to that battle just yet).

This front six still isn't quite settled as Jarvis looks likely to get more minutes going forward while a couple of the regular starters continue to somewhat struggle. I wouldn't be surprised to see Taylor make way for Jarvis or even Benayoun in the coming weeks while Maiga could also cause some confusion in the future. Nolan remains the main man here (another 7 shots this week) with Vaz Te hanging on if you're looking to do something different.

Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Ramis, Figueroa, Beausejour, McCarthy, Watson, Gomez, Maloney, Kone
Subs: Pollitt, Jones, Crusat, McManaman, McArthur, Boselli, Miyaichi

Di Santo missed out this week after picking up a calf injury in training so Gomez came and played alongside Maloney just behind Kone as a lone striker. Wigan enjoyed 65% possession and managed 19 shots but still came away empty handed which has to be a concern for Martinez, and to a degree fantasy managers. Given the upheaval we've seen in so many teams though, the stability offered by Maloney, Kone and (when healthy) Di Santo shouldn't be ignored and thus they very much remain decent fantasy options.

Despite the advanced positions taken up by Boyce, I still don't see enough from this side defensively to warrant spending the required 5.0m to get him. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

GK Rotation data: Gameweek 5

Updated goalkeeper rotation numbers after four gameweeks. Data is based on current and prior year data, weighted towards the 2012/12 data. The below number shows the average goals per game conceded of the best fixture for each combination of players. For example, the average forecast goals conceded if you own Foster and Jaaskelainen would be 1.27:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gameweek 5 Readers Questions

@Billy_Mac - Would you consider ditching RVP or Tevez with budget options looking promising and Aguero/Rooney returning
Not for now, though this is definitely an emerging strategy. That group of Berbatov, Podolski, Ba, Fletcher, Crouch and even someone like Lambert, Vaz Te or Lukaku (long term) could certainly provide enough value for a team but that leaves you with a huge pile of cash to invest in midfield and I'm not sure the options there are much more secure. All four of these forwards will have some success this year and will play more often than not so transfers at this point are probably premature, we just need to be sure we are flexible if, and when, we decipher what Ferguson and Mancini have planned.

@nads_ak - Changes after disaster last week of 30 points. Pienaar and Berba in for Petric and Arteta. Thoughts?
I like the moves a lot. Arteta is playing way too deep to be successful and is a definite sell at this point. To throw a couple more combos out, Podolski/Maloney and Ba/Nolan might also do the job. That said, I like your pair more, especially given Everton's good looking fixtures, after which you should have plenty of options to ditch Pienaar if required.

dnivy - Regarding Nelsen: When Mbia is fit (hopefully soon), he'll surely take Nelsens spot? Can't see him ousting Ferdinand
Probably yes but I'm not making any predictions with this QPR side. Ferdinand is also injured and so between him and M'Bia being sidelined I'm happy owning Nelsen for now. I wouldn't be paying to bring him in, but if you own him, are wildcarding or a have a transfer to burn and need a budget defender he still fits the bill for me.

John Doe - "I still like Silva, Bale, and Nani's chances of outscoring most midfielders"
Agreed. However, at their price, you need them to significantly outscore most midfielders. Otherwise, you're better off with the Nolans and Morrisons of the EPL.
John was responding to the highlighted quote from another reader: Gummi. This is an interesting debate and one I've struggled to quantify in previous seasons. The best 'value' players will always be the mid-range or budget options as a handful of them always score more than 50% of the elite group but come at half the price. That said, as Gummi pointed out, at a certain point you need to simply maximise points, but judging where that line is can be tricky. The easiest way is to arbitrarily limit yourself to a number of 'stars' and then fill the rest of your team based on value. Your decision is then to determine which of those stars will maximise your star budget.

The difficulty comes when you want to decide if you're better off with a front line of 8m-8m-7m or 10m-10m-5m. There's no quick formula for this decision and I don't think applying averages and general assumptions really helps. Players over the years like Charlie Adam or Stephen Ireland were among the very best at their position all season but cost just 5m or 6m. The availability - and predictability - of such players messes up any standard model you can make.

Based on the games to date, I would say that a team of good players rather than stars and scrubs might be the most viable it has ever been. There isn't a single elite player in the league who I believe has no question marks hanging over their head, ranging from mild concern to outright fear. Until we come up with a better measure than P$ (points over cost) though we'll be left to argue this one all year.

King Kong - Chris, do you have a source for shots attempted inside of box and shots conceded inside box? Google is a dud
I use a mixture of sources. I do have access to Opta stats through the Fantasy Football Scout membership but I try not to mention too many of them to be fair to those who pay for those stats (the membership is great value and you get access to my articles too!). You can also try WhoScored which has free access to a number of Opta categories while ESPN soccernet also have shot data (though their shots differ significantly to Opta).

Tones - Out of curiousity, what would everyone's first choice 3 forward line be? Seems like a lot of viable options currently. I have Tevez/Torres/Adebayor for now but think I'll be looking to shop Ade soon
Regardless of price van Persie is my only lock though with Aguero out, Tevez is also a safe pick for me, even when regarding budget. After that it's much easier to argue based on value as no one really emerges as a step above the others (Rooney and Aguero, when fit, do but you probably wouldn't double up with City or United players by choice). Ignoring price I might give Podolski the nod but accounting for cost the likes of Ba, Fletcher and Berbatov become very tempting. Players like Adebayor, Torres and Suarez all look liable to finish near the top of the points chart but not by enough with more certainty that the aforementioned trio. My current lineup of Tevez, Podolski and Ba is one which I am pretty happy with and I only plan to change in the short term if Ba continues to ride the bench (with Berbatov likely getting the nod).

Andrew - Is McCartney still in the Starting XI at West Ham, or is he fit but not playing now? I can't seem to find any info about him on Google News.
Physio Report don't show him as an injury while the Guardian (who are reasonable at getting the team news right) have him in the starting eleven. It's tough to argue that Joey O'Brien is a long term solution for a Premier League side, but they haven't conceded in the last two games he played so I'd be slightly surprised to see McCartney walk back into the team. If you have free transfer and 0.1m Demel will solve all these headaches for you.

Ton the Don - Szczesny is injured yet again - what are some 5.5M or lower goalies that I can pickup and will be solid for at least the next few weeks?
As a straight swap you have to look at Howard or Vorm as being the pick. I think that the City game in GW9 for Swansea along with the absentees they have along the backline means I'd give the edge to Howard (whose Everton side place very well in the GPG chart). I'm putting together a piece on rotation pairs after this one which I hope to post tonight so if you're reading this before the deadline, be sure to check that out too.

Ramzy - Friedel/Federici
Clyne Zab Hangeland A.Cole Cuellar
Michu Nasri Valencia Guthrie Hazard
Ba Podolski Tevez

I want to prioritize which transfer to make as Nasri and Valencia have been 'wasting' money with their negligible returns. Am thinking of this 2 transfers for a 4 point hit or at least 1 transfer;

1. Nasri to Ben Arfa
2. Valencia to Bale
There are also other deadwood that needs to be gotten rid of like Zab,Clyne,Federici and Cuellar(injured) and am not willing to wildcard this early.

The question is, where should my priorities be in terms of transfers barring those aforementioned transfers?

The priority is always to get rid of any big money players who aren't (a) scoring points or (b) showing signs of doing so. While it's frustrating when players like Federici or Clyne score poorly, the gain you are likely to find by moving them another budget option is likely to be less than the impact you can have at the top end of the market. On that basis, the priority is Valencia or Nasria. Valencia has mustered just one shot all year while creating six chances, all while carrying significant risk of rotation or right back deployment. He's a great player and in the right situation could contribute again but right now he isn't a fantasy option. Nasri meanwhile has played more than I expected but is carrying a knock and has been good rather than great so far this year. I have to believe Silva is going to play more than he has and so Nasri's minutes might start to decline soon.

Though I believe Valencia is the weaker option, I'd actually sell Nasri first as it looks like he'll miss out this week. I'd then move Valencia next week, saving the 4 points as you're team is good enough to avoid any panic moves. I would target Cazorla, so if you don't have much cash lying around I'd aim to save enough from the Nasri move so you can grab Cazorla next week, avoiding this week's trip to City in the process. Valencia to Cazorla next week requires at least 0.3m so you should have 8.2m or so to replace Nasri. If you have spare cash you could consider Yaya or if you're really flush, Bale (who I like a lot for the coming weeks). At the mid-range level I would look to Pienaar or Ben Arfa based on their stats and upcoming fixtures, probably giving the edge to the Everton man based on price.

James - Excellent post - thank you. I know he didn't get anything this week, but I'm looking for alternatives to Petric, and was wondering what you made of Ricky Lambert at Southampton? I can't quite afford Fletcher or Berbatov without a hit, so is Lambert a good bet, do you feel?
I thought Lambert would score goals and he was a player I wanted to target early on. That first week benching scared me off but he's gotten his goals anyway and remains a good option in that price range. The really exciting part though is his chances created which place him second among all forwards. If you believe Ramirez, Rodriguez or any of the promising domestic players can help this team score more goals, I see Lambert as a player who can be involved in a large portion of them and his fantasy ceiling and floor remain high.

My first instinct would be to say I still slightly prefer Fletcher and Berbatov due to what I see as a higher ceiling (particular for Berbatov) but if they are out of your range Lambert is about as good as it gets for 6.0m. I like Vaz Te too, in large because of his assist potential but I'd say Lambert is a better bet to rack up double digit goals.

Bryan McKenna - Surprised to see no mention of Baines. While I know you favor the cheaper route to defenses, with the fixtures falling kindly and him in form, he looks a solid buy option.
Yeh, this one was my mistake. I wrote the majority of the 'dousing the fire, fanning the flames' piece before the Monday night game and while I updated it for the midfielders and forwards I forgot to add Baines. I've been critical of the Everton man in the past as a fantasy option, as I felt that at up to 2.0m more than his teammates, he would struggle to justify his price tag based on 'value' and would struggle to justify it based on pure points without Everton being an elite defense. This year though, his price is now manageable while Everton have been impressive at the back. With City and United struggling I am considering Baines as a legitimately valuable option for the first time in a long time.

I am hesitant to pick defenders based on offensive points as they have proven to be almost random over the past few years. Baines (and maybe Vermaelen) are the exceptions here though, as while his 4 goals and 2 assists last season couldn't match his 2010/11 numbers, his underlying stats remained excellent and have gotten off to a similarly impressive start this time out. His 19 chances created are more than the sum of any other three defenders, while his set piece duties remain a plus. Everton's upcoming fixtures look great and thus if you are going with stars along the back line, Baines might be the best option out there. Then the argument becomes whether we should grab a load of 5.0m options and rotate them, but that's a post for another day.

m4v15 - I know you weren't going to discuss defenders keeping clean sheets, but on a related note, what do you think of Guzan? At 4.5m he seems like a good way to jump out of the de Gea boat, but will Given get another chance in the Villa team?
I thought Given would get his place back after a game or two but Guzan has done well and I'm now wondering if this move isn't more permanent. Villa are a mid-level defense so represent good value at 4.5m. In theory Guzan makes a nice addition to a 'keeper rotation strategy with my only hesitation being that if he loses his spot in the lineup you could be forced to play your other average 'keeper in games you really don't want to touch. I'll include him in the upcoming rotation piece but if it's between him and a safer option and the stats are tight, I'll probably give the edge to someone like Ruddy or Jaaskelainen who are guaranteed their place pretty much all year.

Tik - I still have Adebayor in my team (since GW2!!) I rate him one of the best (and stroppy) players in the P-league, but with only a few or no minutes playtime I rather have a secure player (Fletcher, Podolski). I can't affort another swap this week but I'm considering him out if he doesn't play this week. What do you think?
I love Adebayor and thought he could be an underpriced asset presuming he secured a move to Spurs. I know Defoe has scored a few goals but long term I'd still suggest that Villas-Boas will conclude that he isn't really suited to be the apex of a 4-2-3-1 and thus Adebayor will take over. Would I be willing to be wait and own him though? No. So long as Defoe is scoring I doubt he'll be benched so I'd try and make a move as soon as you can. I like Podolski out of that price range to score the most points but if you could use the cash elsewhere, one of the Berbatov/Fletcher pair makes a lot of sense. Of that pair I'd back Berbatov unless you believe Sunderland can start creating chances at a much faster rate than they have to date.

Pulma - Got a serious problem on my hands. Really want Hazard for the next 3 gameweeks at a minimum. But getting him would mean I will have to get rid of either Kagawa or Lampard. I really feel that Lamps could be the right choice here despite the good fixtures as he is very likely to sit out the next one after starting 4 games in last 2 weeks. I also really liked what Kags did agaisnt Galatasaray and think he will be a decent asset in the coming weeks.
Lampard has a couple of goals but they've both come from the spot and his underlying stats just aren't that impressive. Throw in the added complication of Oscar and Marin demanding minutes soon and I believe your decision is made easy. I don't see Kagawa as a lock to have success but he should get minutes while Rooney is out, after which we'll have to reevaluate. If you want Hazard, Lampard is the player I'd sell here.

gauravandmessi - I was wondering if there was any way you could use some stats to find out who the so-called "main man" is at a club. Like, who is the one person who has the maximum share of goals, chances created or blocks/interceptions.
I have a stat called Cr% which is simply the percentage of goals scored or assisted while each player is on the field. This will be included in the forthcoming data tables for captain picks in a couple of weeks. I could look to dig deeper into this and look at the percentage of shots/chances created, though as noted above, I'm hesitant to share too much Opta data as I don't pay for the license myself. I'll see what we can put together with the freely available stuff.

James - I'm guessing that these are still based a lot on last season's stats and patterns. Is that correct? [in reference to the weekly goals forecast]. City's and Utd's defences haven't looked as tight as these graphs would suggest, nor has Arsenal's defence been as open. I also thought West Ham were ranked very low. I ask because I'm tossing up keepers - De Gea away or Jaskelinan at home. Thought the latter was a no brainer (putting aside whether De Gea actually plays). Also works into the City, Chelsea or Spurs player for captain. I've got Tevez, Bale and Torres and was not considering Tevez at all, tossing it up between the other two (leaning towards Bale atm).
The stats are based on both current and prior year data, with games in the current year getting an emphasis, but not enough to overly skew the data for such a small sample size. West Ham are a tricky proposition because their 'prior year' data is actually based on a stressed Championship data so it's already coming from a weak foundation. The results have been good but they've conceded the 5th most shots inside the box (a key indicator of goals in past years) so I still expect some regression there. That said, I would be happy to own the likes of Jaaskelainen or Demel.

As for the 'elite' teams, City's stats remain very promising and I see a turnaround there sooner rather than later. As for United, the stats don't look as good but you have to consider that they've had a number of players missing along the backline and should get better when the regulars return.

For this week specifically, you also have to consider that Liverpool, even at Anfield, aren't a particularly dynamic team and last season this fixture wouldn't have been much harder than getting Sunderland at home (24 goals scored vs 19). The data is probably overestimating United a touch and undervaluing West Ham the other way, but I'd still personally follow the data and play my United defenders ahead of Hammers (ignoring for a second that De Gea likely won't play).

Thanks for all the comments, kind words and questions and good luck for gameweek 5. For those on Twitter, Saturday morning/afternoon is a lot of fun for the 10am/3pm games so I encourage you to stop by.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gameweek 5 Preview

Captain Picks
I'm still working on the calculations for some data-based captain picks, so for now let's stick to some good ol' narrative. I've kept the ramblings to notebook form for the sake of your time and my sanity:

Eden Hazard vs Stoke (39% vote as FFS)
P90 of 12.0 at home after two games at Chelsea . . . scored or assisted 5 of Chelsea's 6 goals at Stamford Bridge . . . Stoke have been typically solid at home (1 goal conceded against City and 0 versus Arsenal) but have been mediocre on the road (3 goals in 2 games against Wigan and Reading) . . . 43% ownership means that picking Hazard will have limited gains while not picking him comes with a large risk . . . played full 90 minutes against Juventus midweek with Mata and Moses both rested so rotation risk if a slight concern . . . underlying stats are excellent (12 shots, 3 on target and 10 chances created) but aren't better than some of the other elite talent . . . penalties and corner duties are a bonus
Verdict: Great combination of high floor and ceiling. Won't help you gain on many opponents though

Gareth Bale vs QPR (8% vote at FFS)
No fantasy production in two home games this season though underlying stats were very good (9 shots, 5 chances created) . . . 14 total shots and 11 chances created give him the best underlying stats of all midfielders after Cazorla . . . QPR have surrendered 42 shots inside the box including 25 in two away games . . . 11 chances conceded down the left flank in away games is as high as any team in the league . . . played 90 minutes midweek and hasn't been rested yet this year so some rotation risk in place . . . so integral to this team's success that rotation does seem lower than some others though.
Verdict: Upside can match anyone as he starts to get production to match his underlying stats. Some risk here but he's a captain differentiation option and so worth a long look.

Carlos Tevez vs Arsenal (5% vote at FFS)
2 goals and 2 assists in 2 home games to date . . . 14 shots with 7 on target are good but not overwhelming considering his ownership % . . . Arsenal a much improved defensive side conceding just 22 shots inside the box, second only to City . . . not as good away from home though and some regression is inevitable . . . played the 90 against Real Madrid but did get an early bath last time out against Stoke . . . rotation risk seems diminished with Aguero not yet ready to go though Dzeko and Balotelli remain a threat.
Verdict: Surprised so few managers are backing him this week and this could be one of the few times you can captain him and gain ground on the masses. Arsenal are improved but far from infallible.

Robin van Persie at Liverpool (10% vote at FFS)
13 shots places van Persie 6th among all forwards, despite playing just 243 minutes to date . . . played 80 minutes midweek but was rested last game and thus looks set to play . . . Liverpool still a good defensive side at times, conceding just 22 shots inside the box . . . Liverpool did however concede twice at Anfield against both Arsenal and City so United should score . . . penalty duties and corner should boost points production
Verdict: Always a captain option but the fixture looks tougher than some of his competitors. Downside looks lower than some of the other available picks (upside remains as high as anyone).

Fernando Torres vs Stoke (6% vote at FFS)
2 in 2 for Torres at the Bridge this year . . underlying stats are somewhat average with just 9 total shots and 3 on target in games, though 7 (2) of those came at home . . . Sturridge still carrying a knock so playing time seems to be guaranteed . . . did however play 90 minutes midweek so fatigue could be an issue.
Verdict: Still not really convinced that Torres is 'back'. Worth a look given the fixture but underlying stats are sufficiently low to scare me away.

There are lots of viable options this week with the three City midfielders (Yaya, Silva, Nasri) along with the remaining Spurs options (Defoe, Adebayor, Sigurdsson, Lennon and Dempsey) all making the list. However, I'm not sure I'd guarantee that anyone from this group even starts aside from Yaya, thus it's tough to look to them as captain picks.

You also have the stars from the mid-table teams like Michu, Ben Arfa, Berbtov, Ba or Fletcher but again, I'm not sure I see that winning combination of guaranteed minutes, consistent performance and upside.

Finally, as well as he has played so far and as amazing as his underlying stats are, captaining anyone at City is simply not playing the odds so Cazorla is out of contention for the week (with the same logic applying for Podolski).

It's going to be tough to pass on Hazard if you own him, especially in the knowledge that a huge proportion of managers won't make that same tough call. He probably brings the best package of consistency and upside, though Bale's slightly better underlying stats remind us that this isn't a slam dunk pick. Tevez is an intriguing pick the apparent lack of appetite for his skills, though an increasing rotation threat along with a limited ceiling makes him riskier than the other aforementioned pair. As a non-Hazard owner, I am personally leaning towards Bale but in all likelihood I would go with the Chelsea man too if I owned him.

I'm hoping to get the captain data up and running in the next week or two so if anyone has any suggestions about what should be factored into that analysis, please post them below or @plfantasy

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dousing the fire, fanning the flames: Gameweek 4

In the first of a new regular series, we're going to look at the week's top fantasy performers (purely measured by fantasy points) and look at the evidence as to whether their success is sustainable or whether the inevitable hype needs to be ignored. Where possible I will draw on the available stats but I'll also add more subjective comments regarding a player's future playing time or other possible risks. Without wishing to be negative, more often than not we're going to be dousing fires here as you don't need me to tell you after yet another Carlos Tevez goal that he's a good player. I'm also going to stay away from defenders who purely earned their points from defensive means as the sustainability of those is a whole other ball game that needs more than just a line or two per player.

Each player has been assigned a 'Buy', "Hold' or 'Sell' status. These don't necessarily reflect what I would do, more what I believe to be reasonable action at this time:
  • Buy - the player can be purchased immediately taking consideration of his playing time, fixtures, injury status etc. This status does not necessarily mean you should buy him now as it depends who else you own, only that it is reasonable to do so.
  • Hold, and monitor - if you own the player you're not in a rush to ditch him but there's sufficient risk here to justify potential buyers holding off.
  • Sell - the player has too many risks and should either be sold or not purchased. This does not mean he might not have value in the future, just not right now.
Alex Buttner 17 points
I tweeted after Buttner's goal - as a joke - that we were moments away from a Bleacher Report '10 reasons why United need to sell Evra' story but it seems my facetious statement was actually prophetic. Buttner looked good and comes with a reputation as an excellent attacking full back (indeed, his goal was very well taken) but the death of Patrice Evra's place in this side seems to be greatly exaggerated. Evra would have been rated as one of, if not the, best left backs in the league as recently as last season and while he is now 31, he's far from finished.  I see increased competition here and Buttner may play against weaker sides, thus hurting Evra's fantasy viability, but  if you want budget access to this United defense Rafael still looks like your best bet.
Status: Sell

Gervinho 15 
Arsene Wenger half-jokingly suggested that Gervinho was due to play up top because at Arsenal they convert all wingers to forwards and all forwards to wingers. This particular move looked promising this week as Gervinho was very sharp in the central positions and linked up nicely with the other wide players. He showed good discipline in not automatically drifting to the left and one didn't get the impression that he and Podolski were treading on each others' toes. Wenger added that he didn't want to lose Podolski's presence on the left which should probably raise flags for Giroud's owners as it looks like Gervinho and the Frenchman might be vying for one spot up top with Podolski apparently entrenched on the left flank. Given the fluidity in this side, there don't appear to be any concerns about Podolski's fortunes in that position.
Status: Hold, and monitor

Matt Lowton 14
Now we're talking. Villa aren't an exciting side and I for one have been fairly down on their prospects but the defense has quietly been getting better and now ranks towards the top of the middle pack in shots conceded inside the box, a stat which normally correlates to defensive success. Over the next six weeks, the Villains have at least three games in which you would want to start them (@SOU, WBA, NOR), and that could be increased to five at a pinch (@FUL, @SUN). Chasing defender goals is generally an ill advised move but Lowton has significant touches in the opponents half and final third together with a decent, if unexciting, three chances created. With 0.3% ownership he is a true differentiator and with a all-but-guaranteed place in the first team he could make a useful addition at the back end of any squad.
Status: Buy

Dimitar Berbatov 13
Of all the players to have success this week, Berbatov is the one who I have the strongest opinion, and thus he probably requires the least discussion. Seven shots, three on target, two goals and two chances created for a team with four very promising fixtures over the next five gameweeks (@WIG, @SOU, AST, RDG) speaks for itself, although a note of caution is always required when discussing Fulham's horrible away form. If you don't believe you can ever play a Fulham player on the road then you might need to look elsewhere as at 7.0m he's simply too expensive to play only 14 or 15 times more for the year (if you also benched him against the league's elite sides). I believe he's a buy option right now, but if you want to be very conservative, treat this week's trip to Wigan as a good scouting opportunity to see how Fulham fare on the road, and then plan to grab him after the City game has passed too.
Status: Buy

Gareth Bale 11
His stats suggested this was coming even though in the end his goal was somewhat fortuitous. His 14 total shots (five on target) are now tied for third among all midfielders (ahead of Hazard on both accounts I might add), while his 11 chances created place him fourth. The next six games feature four home games and a trip to Southampton and thus Bale's increased production looks well placed to continue. With 12% ownership he's hardly a differentiator but compared to the Hazard and Yaya crowd, he does represent an elite option not held by what seems like everybody else so, as we said a couple of weeks back, he deserves consideration for anyone considering buying a ticket on the Hazard bandwagon.
Status: Buy

Alex Kacaniklic 10
Kacaniklic's underlying stats aren't amazing, but then for 4.6m they don't have to be. I'm hesitant to read too much into this but his two big performances have come at home, which suggests that perhaps his production can be forecast with some precision and he would make an excellent spot starter during Fulham's home games. In those two home games he took up a much more advanced position on the field and registered three shots and created a single chance. Again, not spectacular but useful for a budget player who looks set to play every week and has some decent talent around him.
Status: Buy

Steve Sidwell 10
Before I opened the stat sheet, my comment here was going to something snarky about this not being 2006 anymore and how you'd be crazy to even think twice about Sidwell. Then I actually looked at the data and was genuinely shocked to see Sidwell sitting atop the 'shots on target' column. It gets tiresome to say this before every sentence during the opening weeks of the season, but we are dealing with small sample sizes here so the fact that Sidwell has shown more scoring potential than any other midfielder to date should be taken with a grain of salt. What is amazing though is that Sidwell has racked up those shots in just 235 minutes, just over half some of the elite players in the league. He's hitting the target at a rate which should regress (eight total shots) but even then he looks like a goal scoring prospect who can match many of those in his price range (5.0m). His lack of assist potential and not particularly exciting positioning harshens our collective buzz here, but a player who is great in one category can still be valuable at this price. I'm more interested in Kacaniklic at this point but Sidwell is a classic name where managers will be very slow to jump on board given his lacklustre history so he's worth keeping stock of in the coming weeks.
Status: Hold, and monitor

Javier Hernandez 9
Very little to say here. I'm scared of Robin van Persie being rotated so, yeh, Hernandez is a risk too. If the great Dutchman, Welbeck and/or Rooney were to get injured / sold / imprisoned my interest might be piqued but until then he's just a frustratingly good player forced to feed off scraps, much like Berbatov last season (seven goals in just over 500 minutes).
Status: Sell

Peter Crouch 9
No one wants to own Peter Crouch. Kids don't want to be him in the school yard. Managers often don't seem to want him. But, year after year Crouch delivers decent value in both reality and fantasy and he's off to a decent, though typically unspectacular start this year. As a player in his current situation, I have zero issues with Crouch: he'll play virtually very week, he has a couple of decent supporting players (boosted by Adam's presence on set pieces) and has a history of staying fit and playing with consistency over the past few years. My only problem then is his price tag, as while it's very reasonable at 6.5m it pits him directly against the likes of Fletcher and Berbatov who I feel have higher upside. If however, 6.5m really is the absolutely peak of your budget, there aren't many players available who bring Crouch's consistency for this price.
Status: Buy

Steve Fletcher 9
This is an easy one. I love Fletcher and everyone who has reviewed these electronic pages before likely already knows that. I am contractually obligated to mention the fact that he is due for regression given his three total shots have all hit the back of the net, but I'm willing to bet that his number of chances will also increase in the coming weeks to offset some of this and thus he should remain excellent value at 7.0m. Don't think you're getting something you're not: he isn't an elite forward but he's proven time and time again that he can score goals at a higher rate than pretty much anyone in his price bracket and thus he deserves a great deal of fantasy attention.
Status: Buy

Jermaine Defoe 9
I really want to buy here as Defoe (a) is an excellent finisher and (b) comes at a reasonable price given his place in one of the more dynamic teams in the league. However, I simply cannot believe that he gets the majority of minutes over Adebayor, to whom the club are paying a weekly bounty in wages (oh, and he was their top scorer last season too, by a distance). If you own him, great, ride the wave, but we should monitor closely who is played in which competitions with Spurs having fixtures Premier League, Europa Cup and League Cup in the coming days. Hold for now but I wouldn't be chasing him if you're not already on board.
Status: Hold

Paul Scholes 9
I couldn't use a 'what year is it' joke for Sidwell, so I'll use it here instead. Scholes is a great story, formerly great player and every time you mention him you are legally required to mention the fact that he still can't tackle. However, last time I checked none of those facts score many points in fantasy football and it seems somewhere between highly unlikely and impossible that he racks up enough minutes to warrant anything close to fantasy ownership. The fact he is owned by more managers than the like of James Morrison, Shaun Maloney and Rob Snodgrass is terrifying.
Status: Sell

Kieran Gibbs 9
As long as Carl Jenkinson is around he is clearly the best value along this back line, unless you believe that smashing balls into the box and having the other team put them into the net is a sustainable skill. Once Sagna returns though, Gibbs is an interesting prospect. He goes head-to-head with Mertesacker for those (wisely) not wanting to blow too much cash on Vermaalen, and for your 0.5m premium you get increased security (though no guarantees with Santos around) and a slightly better offensive threat. 'Slightly' is the right word so far as while Gibbs is 5th in touches in the opponents final third among defenders, he has only created four chances for the year. Mertesacker brings a marginally better goal threat thanks to his height from set pieces, but on balance it's fair to say Gibbs has the edge. This alone is not worth 0.5m more, but if you believe Koscielny might start to cause trouble in the middle, Gibbs makes sense here given Arsenal's improved defensive showing.
Status: Hold

Demba Ba 9
This will likely rise to 11 or 12 points after posting as scoring two goals in a 2-2 should be good enough for at least a couple of bonus points. Newcastle looked much better with Ba on the field and I'd be surprised to see him dropped again this week. It is, however, something to watch given the presence of the likes of Fletcher and Berbatov in his price bracket. Despite him starting on the bench this week I'm still very much on board the Ba Bandwagon (Ba-ndwagon?) and see little reason why Cisse owners (7%) don't make a switch and collect 1.6m in free cash. If you don't want said cash, feel free to send it to PLFantasy Towers, Suite 100, Toronto, Canada.
Status: Buy (but watch those minutes)

Lukas Podolski 8
Podolski continues to impress to the naked eye and the stats are starting to catch up, relieving some of the mild concern I was feeling over him being pushed out wide. As noted above, Wenger spoke this week about the German giving the team good balance when he plays out wide, and he seems to have already formed a really good understanding with Cazorla with some very neat one-twos over the past few weeks. The goalscoring stats still don't blow you away (eight shots, three on target) but he has a potential advantage in the assist column over many of his peers (eight chances created) to account for any gap. The next two games look tricky so there's no rush to pile on here, but I do see Podolski as the kind of player who you could very well end up owning all year.
Status: Hold (based on fixtures) then buy

Barry Bannan 8
Bannan was the other potential subject of this week's 'moneyball' piece over at Fantasy Football Scout, and for short term glory I sure did pick the wrong name. Bannan chipped in with an assist, two bonus points and a clean sheet and he was good value for the points with four chances created on the day. That gives him seven for the season, ahead of the likes of Dyer, Allen and Kacaniklic, all of whom are substantially more widely held than the Villa man. The issue of course is his scoring potential, or lack thereof, as with just three shots on the season Bannan just simply isn't going to rack up a significant goal tally. At 4.9m he doesn't need to do too much to justify his price tag and in a vacuum I'd suggest he's worth investment. However, with names like Maloney and the aforementioned Kacaniklic and Sidwell available, Bannan is in a fight for fantasy relevancy. He isn't at the top of that list for me just yet, but he's in the mix, which is worth noting for a player with 0.5% ownership.
Status: Hold

Javi Garcia 8
This was a great real-world debut for Garcia who nabbed a goal and looked solid both with and without possession. 5.5m for anyone in this City side is worth reviewing but Garcia just isn't a player who should be fantasy relevant. He's probably a step up from De Jong but he'll be deployed so deeply that any attacking ambition would at best lead to hockey assists.
Status: Sell

Kyle Walker 7
Walker is as much of an offensive threat as any defender in this league not named Baines and remains a strong candidate for those who like their defenders to have some offensive potential. Spurs' haven't kept a clean sheet yet but their 5th placed ranking in shots conceded inside the box is promising, as is there 58% possession and zero errors leading to goals. The only mark against Walker is nothing to do with him, but rather the presence of Naughton at the other full back spot. With Assou Ekotto out for up to a month, Naughton looks set to earn substantial minutes at right back (with Walker sliding to the left) and at 4.4m represents irresistible value for anyone looking to buy into this Spurs side. Long term I like Walker a lot and if you own him I'm not sure it's worth burning two transfers to grab Naughton, but if you're looking to buy, the cheaper man makes a lot more sense for now.
Status: Hold

Steve Pienaar 7
This one could rise too by the time you read this as Pienaar chipped in with a couple of assists tonight. He isn't exactly flying under the radar with 11% ownership numbers, but it still bears mentioning how excellent his stats have been to date this year. Eight chances created places him 10th among midfielders, while his nine shots on target rank tied for 12th. The only midfielders to top Pienaar in both of those categories are Cazorla, Bale, Hazard, Gerrard and Ben Arfa which nicely illustrates the Everton man's success this year. The next nine games look simply irresistible to the point that you really need to be considering how, not if, you will get access to this Everton side (if Simply Irresistible by Robert Palmer as featured in American Pyscho is not now playing in your head, you're doing it wrong).
Status: Buy

Nani 6
Over the last three years, if you extrapolate Nani's fantasy points over just a 25 appearance season, he would still average over 150 points. Make that a 31 appearance season and you have a 200 point player. He's off to a comparatively slow start this year, but would still be on pace for 155 points at his current rate. Such extrapolations aren't too helpful if the player has no chance of meeting them but I continue to believe that Ferguson thinks more highly of Nani than any of his wide players and 2200+ minutes (~26 appearances) still looks very achievable. His underlying stats would place him up among the league's best if extended to three or four appearances yet his ownership number (3.1%) remains extremely depressed. He still faces rotation risk not to mention his usual complaints of inconsistency, but right now he may well be the best bet in the United side when you factor in upside, security and price.
Status: Hold, and monitor based on fixtures

Nick Powell 6
Stop it, just stop it. When everyone is fit he might be United's 12th ranked midfielder, depending on whether you believe Rooney can really play there effectively. I've always had a soft spot for Crewe and I'd be delighted if another of their respected academy makes it big (Dean Ashton, Danny Murphy, Billy Jones) but I'd be beyond amazed if he had an impact this year beyond the odd cameo like this one.
Status: Sell

Hal Robson-Kanu 6
One shot, one on target, one goal, no prospects. Robson-Kanu doesn't appear to be a first team option for Reading and shouldn't be anywhere near that status for you.
Status: Sell

Theo Walcott 6
Much like Nani above, Walcott's biggest knock over the past couple of seasons has been an inability to stay on the field either because of injury or a lack of faith from Arsene Wenger. When he's played he's been about as good as anyone, with a 189 point pace based on a 30 appearance season over the past two years. Arsenal have suddenly found themselves with substantial attacking options but Walcott still figures to get his fair share of minutes providing the ongoing contract saga doesn't continue to play a role. Walcott hasn't played enough to be considered a buy yet and with Arsenal looking sharp the likes of Cazorla, Podolski or even Gervinho look better bets for the short term, but Walcott is still one to keep in mind should things start to come together for him.
Status: Hold

Aaron Lennon 6
I must admit I had pretty much written Lennon off in this Spurs side given all the other options at Villas-Boas' disposal, but with Bale allowed to drift inside so often, this team would be very narrow if Lennon was replaced by, say, Dempsey and thus his run in the side may well be extended. I don't have a strong conviction either way on this one though so while you wouldn't be in a rush to dump Lennon, long term I can see him losing minutes one way or another so I wouldn't invest despite the attractive price tag.
Status: Hold, and monitor

Luis Suarez 6
In this week's lineup lessons I wrote that Suarez looks "set in this lineup and should be right up there with anyone in minutes played and will get his goals over the season. My concern is that (a) Liverpool don't look like they'll score a bucket load of goals and thus his huge gameweeks and assist totals look limited and (b), at 9.4m he needs to come close to Tevez and significantly top Podolski which I just don't see him doing." Nothing more to add right now.
Status: Hold (just about, but better value can probably be found)