Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 4

Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Coquelin, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski, Gervinho
Subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Andre Santos, Giroud, Walcott, Ramsey, Arshavin

We have a promising situation at the back here as while the sun soon looks ready to set on Jenkinson's run in the side (Sagna is supposed to be back in a week or two), Mertesacker seems have established himself ahead of Koscielny and therefore provides another budget way to gain access to this useful and improving defense.

During the game I tweeted that Arsenal might be the best fantasy team around as they have talent without overwhelming depth to cloud the team selection each week, but in hindsight I may have been too hasty. In Walcott and Giroud they have two subs here who are good enough to play every week, not to mention the injured Diaby/Wilshere or the likes of Ramsey and Rosicky who can do a job when needed. Over the course of the season, I'd be confident that Cazorla, Podolski and probably Giroud will play most games while Gervinho could force his way into that list given his ability to play multiple positions in this side. I find it hard to put Giroud ahead of Podolski given his higher price tag and Podolski's impressive start but Gervinho could have some intrigue if he can get significant minutes.

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

An unchanged side here for Lambert which could start to make a couple of these budget players ownable. Bannan and El Ahmadi have both now played the majority of minutes this season while costing less than 5.0m. Bannan has some useful underlying stats and might be worth a closer look for those looking for a cheap, differential 5th midfielder.

The defense looks decent and Guzan will be a nice addition to the 4.5m rotation options if he keeps this job long term over Given. With a clean sheet here the chances of that are increasing by the week. Lowton and Clark also look like they are entrenched in the side and thus provide decent value for just 4.5m.

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

I really don't know what to make of this side. The back line looks pretty settled at least, with Terry immediately regaining his place at the expense of Cahill. At 6.5m+ I'm not sure anyone from the group represents outstanding value but they're definitely one of the league's better defensive teams and plugging in a 6.5m Cole will be a good solid addition to any team. Azpilicueta and Cahill's presence on the bench does remind us however that there's still scope for changes here.

This midfield is a total mess with only Mikel, Hazard and Mata (when fit) the only players even close to being guaranteed of a place in the side. Given the deep deployment of Mata which has been discussed ad nauseum, we can probably conclude that Hazard is the only option here, unless you want to throw Mikel in as your 5th midfielder (which isn't a terrible idea). I do worry that with Oscar, Marin and Moses sniffing around, Hazard is going to get rotated during the upcoming busy period but the same can probably be said for all the elite midfielders so I wouldn't necessarily let that put me off owning him.

Torres is very much ownable though whether he deserves his price tag is another issue. In a vacuum, he doesn't in my eyes but if the fixtures are right he can still be a useful player.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Ryan Bertrand got another start here taking his season total to three from four. He was very unlucky to miss out on the clean sheet (subbed after 57 minutes) but seems to have Di Matteo's confidence and is therefore intriguing for just 4.5m. If you are totally satisfied with your back line and have four other players who can relied upon to start every week, there is certainly scope for adding Bertrand and just accept the fact that he will be benched more often that premium players and may be liable to the odd one point sub-appearance.

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

Let's see how many words I can get through with mentioning a certain Bulgarian forward. This defense looks solid and I like old faithful (Aaron Hughes) as a solid 4.5m option. I had thought that this midfield was a fantasy wasteland after the best two players walked at the transfer deadline but Kacaniklic added 2 assists this week and his 4.6m price tag stands out. He's a player who I'll touch on more in a new weekly piece I'm planning to look at the players who enjoyed success in a given week to try and work out if it's sustainable or an aberration.

Another player to have success here was the great Dimitar Berbatov (there we go, second paragraph!). Again, without wishing to tread on the toes of the new column, Berbatov had very impressive numbers this week and should be close to everyone's transfer target list. Needless to say he should now be a fixture in this side barring injury.

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

I'm still surprised to see Jose Enrique out of the side with Johnson played at left back and Kelly slotted in on the right. This isn't a bad defensive team and they only gave up one shot inside the box this week so if Kelly sticks around he'll be worth looking at for 5.5m. At 6.0m though this group looks tough to justify.

Of all the players in this team, not many would have targeted Raheem Sterling to open the season and after one or two gameweeks I still had my suspicions his run in the would be short lived. Well, consider me convinced. He took up some excellent positions this week again and between him and Borini you have to say that the latter would be more likely to be dropped if, and when Assaidi slides into the side (at least in the short term). I don't want to get carried away with Sterling as he's on 17 and thus expecting 20+ appearances seems like a stretch. That said, right now he is offering outstanding value off the bench so if you are wildcarding or have a spare transfer to use on your 5th midfielder, he looks like the perfect addition to your squad. He looks startable in five of the next eight games too.

Not much to say on Suarez here. He's 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.

Man City
Hart, Maicon, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Nasri, Toure, Javi Garcia, Sinclair, Balotelli, Tevez
Subs: Wright, Dzeko, Kolarov, Rodwell, Barry, Silva, Toure

Right, where do we start? Maicon came in here for Zabaleta who had a slight hamstring strain and thus restarts the confusion along this back line. Given their play so far I am very close to simply giving up on this defense until they can show some consistency in both their play and their starting lineup. They still lead the league in shots conceded inside the box (5.25 per game) so I have no doubt this team will rebound, it's just a case of when and whether you want to wait for it. The next two don't look easy but after that the fixtures really open up so I personally will stick with Zabaleta for now but would understand those wanting to cut and run.

I am genuinely shocked by the use (or lack thereof) of David Silva this year as coming into the season I would have rated him as one of, if not the best creative midfielder in the league. Mancini obviously has different ideas with the Spaniard getting just two starts and 183 minutes through four gameweeks. The strange part is that in those minutes he's been just as effective as last season (at least on the stat sheet) racking up 9 chances created which gives him one every 21 minutes, bettered only by Cazorla among those with more than a handful of minutes. His 6 shots (2 on target) would also place fairly well in the charts if he had maintained that level over four games. So what do we do now? City's fixture list is pretty outstanding after the next couple of so-so games and Silva has to be used more (right?). Selling him now inevitably means jumping on the Hazard, Yaya or Cazorla bandwagons and I'm not sure that's the best way to dig yourself out of a hole. Personally, I would sell him for Cazorla but I might hold him over the other two (indeed, I probably will).

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

The two Manchester teams seen intent of running through my column inches as United had even more drama than City this week. De Gea (12%), Evra (9%), Kagawa (17%), Valencia (5%) and of course van Persie (32%) are all widely held yet didn't feature here for a number of reasons as Ferguson's rotation (partly forced upon him) went into overdrive. The fact that they won comfortably is both a testament to their depth but also a warning to fantasy managers who face the prospect of more rotation in the future.

De Gea will probably get another chance in this side at some point but I've given up on him and suggest he should be sold unless we get concrete indications that he's back in the first team. Having backed him in the preseason I am officially withdrawing my support and will never again go against my tried and trusted rotation system. I'll try and get a post up this week for the best duos currently available. The rest of the defense is starting to settle down and when Evra returns it should be fairly consistent. Rafael therefore remains an excellent option here.

The midfield is a total quagmire and even when Kagawa is fully fit it looks like it's going to be tough to commit to any one player (especially with Rooney back in training). No one really caught my eye during the game but Nani did have a good statistical effort (4 chances created, 5 shots, 0 on target) and might still be the best option in the unit. That said, his price tag is high given the uncertainty surrounding his place in the side so it'd be a brave owner who picks him up.

Despite the goal and price tag, I wouldn't touch Hernandez and only van Persie looks like an option from this front line (and even then I'm still terrified by his comparatively high price tag).

Ruddy, R Martin, Barnett, Bassong, Garrido, Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Surman, Holt, Jackson
Subs: Rudd, Turner, Hoolahan, Fox, Morison, Tierney, Kane

This side was practically unchanged from last time out with only Pilkington missing out here with a hamstring injury. I'd be surprised if Hoolahan didn't more minutes in the future but generally this lineup looks pretty settled and can be relied upon for budget options.

Julio Cesar, Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Da Silva, Wright-Phillips, Granero, Faurlin, Park, Johnson, Zamora
Subs: Green, Cisse, Taarabt, Mackie, Onuoha, Dyer, Hoilett

Amazingly, Hughes named an unchanged side here which suggests the likes of Cisse and Taarabt are indeed going to be long term bench options. With the clean sheet this week, together with Hughes' solid defensive record in the past, I would be remiss if I didn't at least quickly mention the defensive options available here. I thought Nelsen would play when he was signed (history with Hughes and why would he leave Spurs to ride the bench somewhere else?) but he didn't immediately break into the side so was somewhat forgotten about. However, he's now played in back to back fixtures and at 3.9m could be a nice 5th defender to spot start when the fixture is right.

Of the attacking options, Park is putting up some impressive underlying numbers and could probably be thrown in that ~6.0m mix with the likes of Nolan, Dyer and Morrison. No one else seems to have both the upside and performances to date to pique our interest at this time.

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

We've got decent predictability in this lineup but not a whole lot to get excited about. Based on their talent and price tag alone Guthrie and Progrebnyak remain ownable as third-sub type options though even their stars are waning given their so-so stats (Guthrie's 4 chances created make him viable . . . just). This entire midfield has managed just two shots on target (both ended up being goals) while the front line isn't much better with five. Sorry guys, not much to see here.

K Davis, Clyne, Hooiveld, Fonte, Fox, Puncheon, Ward-Prowse, Schneiderlin, S Davis, Lallana, Lambert
Subs: Gazzaniga, Yoshida, Rodriguez, Ramirez, Richardson, Mayuka, Chaplow

Nigel Adkins named an unchanged side here which is good news for forecasting the lineup each week, but bad news in that this team doesn't appear to have much hope of turning things round on the defensive side of the ball, though strong reinforcements are available up front (more on that in a second). In Southampton's defense they've played arguably the best three teams in the league so far, two of which were away from home. Over their four games they've given up 14 goals and have the dubious honour of leading the league in both shots conceded inside the box and 'big chances' surrendered.  If you're looking for positives, they only gave up seven shots inside the box against Wigan, the weakest of their opponents to date by a distance so there is at least hope that they might have some success in the future. For now though, I am very much not buying into this unit.

The front line has been settled to date but you have to think that Rodriguez and particularly Ramirez will slide into this side sooner rather than later. I love the ambition in bringing flair players into this side with Ramirez in particular representing thinking outside the standard promoted team blueprint (buy overpriced borderline Premier League players with 'experience'), but unless they start showing something soon, the decision to not invest at the back will look foolish. For fantasy purposes, Lambert remains a good option in that suddenly crowded 6.0-8.0m range, especially given the way the Saints' fixtures look to get substantially easier over the coming weeks. None of the midfield group have really separated themselves from the pack as yet, though Puncheon and Lallana have both shown enough to suggest they warrant monitoring. At 4.4m Puncheon would make more sense, but there is likely rotation coming here when Ramirez is ready to go so I'd stay away for now until this situation clears up (at 6.0m Ramirez is too pricey to simply take a flyer on).

Begovic, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson, Walters, Whelan, Nzonzi, Adam, Kightly, Crouch
Subs: Sorensen, Cameron, Owen, Whitehead, Upson, Etherington, Jerome

As expected, the new arrivals N'Zonzi and Adam slid right into this first eleven and instantly give Stoke a bit more strength in the middle of the field. Given Adam's inflated price and N'Zonzi's defensive mentality I'm not sure either are ownable but I like the effect they have on two other fantasy options: Walters and Crouch. Neither of those players set the pulse racing or have dominant stats for the season to date, but both do a good solid job for the price tag and can be relied upon for decent returns when the fixtures fall nicely. This defense remains a decent option with a well settled back five.

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

Another team that is starting to look predictable and one which still contains several viable options. As good as a finisher as Fletcher is, I am a touch concerned by the lack of chances he is receiving. Through two games he now only has three shots total, which of course he has converted into three goals. That's great, but it won't continue, and while we can rely on him to convert at a rate above league average, the regression monster will catch him soon unless Sunderland start creating more chances. Larsson and Sessegnon created just one chance between them this week and completed just 11 passes in the final third. McClean picked up some of the slack with three chances created but he too was limited in the final third for long periods of the game. I think they'll be fine long term, but this is the kind of team we need to keep an eye on and make sure this talented lineup is getting in the right positions rather than just assume the likes of Sessegnon will tick along like he did last season.

The back line was looking settled but Cuellar limped off at half time and it isn't clear how long he'll be out. We need to check this again early in the week as Cuellar had given good value and would be sorely missed as a 4.5m option.

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

A disappointing outing here for Swansea and the tiniest of alarms could well be going off having surrendered four goals in two games in a couple of fixtures they were fancied in. In fairness of course they were missing N Taylor (injured) and Chico (suspended) so we shouldn't be too concerned just yet.  Davies got the start at left back and could be outstanding value for just 4.0m but caution should be exercised as we still aren't sure how Tiendalli fits in here. If you have the cash it is safer to go with Williams or Rangel for now then switch to whichever left back wins that job when it becomes clear.

The midfield looks set for now but one would expect Hernandez to break into the first team in the next few gameweeks, probably at the expense of Routledge, though Dyer's increased risk of rotation should also be accounted for by his numerous owners. Michu and Graham remain good options though as with the Sunderland options above, be sure to continually evaluate these mid-range options to make sure they're still offering the same value they did when you bought them.

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

With Assou-Ekotto out for a month, Naughton came in here and at 4.4m represents a nice sneaky pickup for anyone wildcarding this week, or those with a spare transfer able to be burned on a player who is only a short term option. With home games against QPR and Villa though, Naughton looks about as good as it gets for the 4.5m bracket.

As for the midfield situation; it's still about as clear as mud. The only change this week was the expected switch of Dembele in for Livermore but Dempsey (#2) still looms large on the sidelines and it remains unclear how he fits into this side long term. The American came on for Bale (#11) with the game already sewn up and essentially played the same role, though of course with less inclination to push out to the left wing. I speculated that Dempsey might occupy a similar role to this, but on the right side, at the expense of Lennon (#7) but on this display that looks less likely. With Bale allowed to drift inside at will, this team might get overly narrow without Lennon's presence and thus Dempsey might be limited to rotating minutes with Sigurdsson plus some time as a second forward or Bale/Lennon replacement when the situation calls for it. Right now I'm not concerned about Bale's minutes but there are question marks over Sigurdsson and Lennon who need to be monitored while Dempsey is simply unownable.

Up top Defoe looked good again, though I am still hesitant to take a 'hold' position off him with Adebayor (almost unarguably a better overall player) lurking on the bench. This Spurs team is stacked with talent and they looked good this week but until we see some consistency in the lineup or some concrete signs from Villas-Boas I am hesitant to back anyone not named Bale.

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

Odemwingie came in here and will now depart with suspension pending. No matter how much remorse he shows, you have to wonder if his sending off will send him tumbling down the depth chart and open the way for Lukaku and Long to get more guaranteed minutes. Lukaku has tremendous stats in the limited time he's been given (seven shots, three on target in just 107 minutes) and could be a really interesting prospect if he can force his way into the first team. The problem is that Clarke seems committed to the 4-2-3-1 with Long favored at its apex so for now we have to wait on Lukaku.

The rest of the key players in this side look to be fairly entrenched and this defense is generally okay while Morrison provides some value as a budget midfielder.

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

This defense didn't really register on my radar in the preseason but they've equipped themselves really well through the first four weeks of the season. Collins, Demel and Reid all look like they are locked into the first team with Demel providing the best value given his low price tag of 4.1m. Two notes of caution though. Firstly, the Hammers have faced three favorable opponents and were handily beaten against a good Swansea side. Second, they have surrendered 38 shots inside the box (5th worst) which has historically correlated well to total goals conceded. The combination of these factors could well see this side regress in the coming weeks. That said, with Demel coming in at 4.1m I couldn't care less how West Ham perform every week, so long as they capitalise against the weaker sides which they have done perfectly so far this year. With Sunderland (H), QPR (A), Southampton (H), Wigan (A) and Stoke (H) all coming up in the next eight gameweeks, there's still a tonne of value to be found here. Jaaskelainen also looks like a very good rotation 'keeper if you can find a match to fill in the blanks of the aforementioned fixtures (I'll discuss that in a future post, hopefully this week).

We highlighted Vaz Te this week over at Fantasy Football Scout and of course he followed it up with a quiet, one shot, one chance created day. I still like the former Bolton man though and it's worth noting that while Cole and Maiga split time, Vaz Te was kept on the field for almost the whole game. This front line with get a bit crowded when Caroll returns but for now I don't see too much to worry about.

The midfield is already congested with Jarvis missing out this week. He has potential at 6.0m but as a fourth midfielder type, one of the keys I look for is reliability as they can be called into action when your stars are injured/rested and thus I don't see Jarvis as a reasonable option at the moment.

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

An unchanged side here for Martinez and with limited options on the bench I see this as regularly being the case. Despite his advanced deployment I can't get behind the Boyce boosters as while he might accrue the odd assist, the Wigan side is simply not equipped to rack up significant clean sheets. I still like the front trio of Di Santo, Kone and Maloney and they'll have better days than this one in the future.


dnivy said...

Thank you again for consistently delivering my monday's best read.
Regarding Nelsen: When Mbia is fit (hopefully soon), he'll surely take Nelsens spot? Can't see him ousting Ferdinand.

Gummi said...

Nice roundup.

I think this week was a splash of reality that not all of the bandwagons will score consistently over the course of the season.

I still like Silva, Bale, and Nani's chances of outscoring most midfielders but it is, as you say, frustrating working around Mancini's and Ferguson's rotation policies.

I believe Mancini has cost his side points by benching Silva too much.

John Doe, 2008 said...

"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.

Not sure the MCI and MUN mids can manage that except Toure but his upside his a bit limited, albeit at a lower and much more manageable price point.

King Kong said...

Great piece.

Chris, do you have a source for Shots attempted inside of box and shots conceded inside box? Google is a dud.

John Doe, 2008 said...

Pretty sure he pays for either OptaStats or one of the other sites which exposes OptaStats. Either way, you're going to have to pay if you want to access to that information.

King Kong said...

Thanks John. Thought as much. Good stats are like a goldmine to find.

Gummi said...

@John Doe, 2008: True. What I should have said is that I believe that Silva, Bale, and Nani will "significantly outscore most midfielders".

Plus, at some point you have to simply look at getting points. You could choose to try to go for value in defence and attack and focus your resources on midfield. That doesn't look a crazy tactic right now, considering Berbatov's and Ba´s output.

Tones said...

Thanks as always.

Yup. Second time already that my awesome DDG/Federici combo got me a fat zero. Time to go shopping.

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. "Better to be a week late then 5 weeks early." Seems like I heard something like that somewhere...

Andrew said...

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.

John Doe, 2008 said...

"Plus, at some point you have to simply look at getting points. You could choose to try to go for value in defence and attack and focus your resources on midfield. That doesn't look a crazy tactic right now, considering Berbatov's and Ba´s output."

Definitely agree about getting points. RVP was solving that dilemma for anyone who had him. Those who don't (count me in that boat now) have to look for options elsewhere.

I am seriously considering bringing Bale/Silva back in the fold as I just swapped Berb for RVP and have a ton of cash to blow. They are certainly an option unless, as you mentioned, I upgrade my backline.

John Doe, 2008 said...

@Tones -

First choice without worry for salary is much different than first choice with. Without a salary cap, RVP and Tevez have to be options 1A and 1B (at least while Aguero and Rooney remain spectators). I would probably take Podolski as my third right now, but am astounded by how well Berb has been in a game and a half.

Since we're playing by a cap, I'd say Tevez and Berbatov are my top two choices. I have Lambert right now as my third and am content, but could easily see arguments for Ba or even Crouch (lack of touches be dammed!).

You really can't argue all that much against any number of lineups among RVP, Tevez, Podolski, Crouch, Berbatov, Lambert, Ba, Flecther, etc., especially if Tevez and Berbatov are at the top of the consideration list.

Gummi said...

@John Doe, 2008:

I agree with Tevez being up there and I personally went for Berbatov but he's hardly first choice after only two games. My third is Torres, which I wouldn't hesitate swapping out.

I also have Bale and Silva. Mancini must begin starting Silva soon.


Good question, I still have McCartney and thought he was injured.

Ton the Don said...

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?