Friday, September 7, 2012

Window Shopping

Most of the transfer dealings of the past few months have been discussed at large so I'm not going to labour over every signing and let you know that van Persie is going to do well at Old Trafford or that the loss of Wayne Bridge probably won't end City's title challenge this year. There are however several transfers whose impact needs to be further explored, not just for the arriving player, but also for the existing players whose role or playing time can be impacted.

Please also note the absence of the phrase 'window slamming shut' which appears to be a mandatory term for a well known deadline ending for another year. Original metaphor ideas should be forwarded to your local media outlet immediately.

The three big signings of Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud are already bedded into the team and have had a major impact already. All three look like they are going to play significant minutes this year leaving Walcott, Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain fighting for one spot and scraps of minutes when the aforementioned trio are rested. So far Gervinho has two starts to Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain's one and has the best stats to date, looking particularly sharp in gameweek one. Barring injury though, it's gong to be tough for any of this trio to have a successful fantasy season this year.

The centre of this midfield has been extremely impressive to date but with 4% ownership I believe we need to make a quick note on Mikel Arteta. These heat maps show how Arteta barely (if ever) crossed the halfway line and of the two central figures, it was Diaby who was allowed to run forward where possible. We've spoken of the so-called 'hockey assist' a lot this year with regards to Juan Mata and Arteta very much reflects his compatriots fortunes here. Until something drastic happens Arteta should be considered unownable. As for Diaby, he has enough upside to justify ownership as his galloping style can quickly get him into advanced positions to create or join attacks. The sticking point is that price tag which at 6.5m possibly precludes him from consideration at the moment. As budgets expand later in the year though, I wouldn't be shocked to see him prove himself as able to deliver as much, or more, value than Song in prior years.

Like their London rivals, Chelsea conducted the majority of their business before the start of the season so there aren't too many surprises here. Hazard has been tremendous to start the season and looks like he will be a central figure in the elite fantasy group for the majority of the season. I'm not sure how Oscar, Moses or Marin fit into this side but one wouldn't think they'll be taking too many minutes from Hazard. We will have to monitor the Belgian's minutes though, as with good depth and Abramovich's weakness for the Champions League, it wouldn't be too surprising for him to be rested in some league games which could hurt his fantasy value.

The arrival of Cesar Azpilicueta is intriguing as he offers a cheaper route to this useful defense for just 6.0m. I'm probably going to say this a lot, but it's too early to take a risk on him just yet as Ivanovic looks fairly entrenched at the right back spot. Still this is a situation worth monitoring as the season unfolds, particularly when the European games kick in.

The remainder of Chelsea's business revolved around departing players with Essien, Meireles, Benayoun and Bosingwa all departing Stamford Bridge. Essien was a somewhat surprising departure though it all but guarantees Mikel a spot in the starting lineup each week which is something to be said for a 4.5m player on a good looking team. His upside is obviously extremely limited but a season like his 98 point 2008/09 campaign seems reasonable which isn't awful value for a very safe and reliable 2-4 point player.

Moyes suddenly finds himself with a bit of depth and it isn't 100% clear who is going to start for his Everton side in the coming weeks. We already know about Pienaar and Naismith who are currently both starting on the wing, but the arrival of Mirallas really clouds the status of several players in this side. Fellaini has been deployed in a very advanced position of late which has given his fantasy value a huge boost (his 13 shots only trail Cazorla among all midfielders). It's possible that Mirallas could simply displace Naismith on the right wing but it's also conceivable that Moyes might push him further upfield (as he did when he was introduced against West Brom) and thus Fellaini would be dropped back into the middle, likely at the expense of Leon Osman. Mirallas might take a while to settle so there's nothing for Fellaini owners to worry about just yet but this issue would prevent me from signing Naismith or Osman whose first team spot might soon be in jeopardy (especially if Mirallas continues to have the kind of success he had against Leyton Orient).

Riether and Richardson should get games here but neither appear to be wildly useful given the availability of cheaper options in this side. Up front Fulham brought in both Mladen Petric and our old favourite Dimitar Berbatov in an attempt to fill the goals void left by Demspey (and to a lesser extent Dembele). Petric obviously opened the season with a brace but hasn't been overly impressive and you have to think it's a matter of time before Berbatov slides into this side. I suppose Duff's value is better with this pair than without it but at 6.1m he's hardly a steal and faces stiff competition from others available at the same price (or less). As for Berbatov himself, he needs to be elevated to close to the top of our watchlist but I don't see him as ownable yet. I am targeting GW7 after which Fulham enjoy a decent run of games as a good time to reevaluate the great Bulgarian.

I feared for this side without Dembele and this is obviously compounded by the loss of Dempsey. Aside from monitoring Berbatov I am terrified to own anyone from this team, even going to so far as to get nervous about the once reliable defense.

A few managers are going to be eyeing the promising (and cheap) talents of Raheem Sterling over the coming weeks but the arrival of Oussama Assaidi should probably temper that enthusiasm. Given Borini's disappointing play it's possible that Sterling continues to get minutes alongside Oussama, but all things being equal I'd suggest the two new arrivals get the majority of minutes here until further notice.

Nuri Sahin and Joe Allen both look fairly assured of minutes in the middle of the park though given their defensive responsibilities I'm not sure either is going to have too much fantasy success this year. I was enthusiastic about Allen to open the year but he's been deployed even deeper than expected and at this point I'd take Mikel for 4.5m over either of this pair.

Man City
City didn't cause the kind of waves they have in previous transfer windows and while I don't see too much value in any of their signings (no, not even Richard Wright) their impact on the current players could be significant. Let's start with the easy ones. Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell should split time in the middle alongside Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry and while increased competition is never a good thing in fantasy circles, I don't see Yaya losing more than the odd game's worth of minutes. Nastasic comes with a good reputation but he seems like a good sub rather than a genuine threat to Lescott and Kompany for now.

I do have one potential issue though, due to the arrival of Maicon and the increased potential for Mancini to tinker with the 5-3-2 / 3-5-2 system he looked at in pre-season. In such a system, two of the central midfielders will be held deeper - as in the 4-2-3-1 - but with Kolarov and Maicon upfield, Yaya may not be allowed to push forward with as much regularity. Such a system could also hurt Silva and Nasri's value as they will likely be competing with each other for just one spot in that midfield three (alongside Yaya and a true defensive midfielder). At this point all this is just conjecture so it's nothing to act on now but if we see Maicon and Kolarov used as offesnive wingbacks, the impact on the other City midfielders must be considered.

Man Utd
United's two main captures (van Persie and Kagawa) combine to create one of the biggest potential headaches brewing for fantasy managers. I know I am in the minority here but I find it hard to believe that Rooney is simply 'done' or will be cast aside as a central midfield player at age 26. I would suggest that United's best lineup probably features all three of these players, with Kagawa pushed out wide and then, say, Valencia plugged into the other wing. However, that leaves Nani, Young, Welbeck and Hernandez out in the cold and, again, it's hard to believe that those players don't each rack up double digit appearances this year.

Rooney is probably the easiest to deal with as his price tag is just too high for a player with so much uncertainty around his fitness, playing time and positioning. His assist potential increases with van Persie's arrival but I don't see his goal tally continuing from last year and he's really tough to recommend owning now, even when he returns from his leg injury.

That brings us to Kagawa, who seems to have lost some of his shine after a couple of early substitutions. Ferguson has said on a couple of occasions he believes that Kagawa can pickup the goalscoring slack from midfield that's been absent for a number of years and through a couple of games we were all ready to agree with him. He had a golden opportunity to cement himself in this side but I'm not sure he quite took it and thus he might be pushed out a bit when Rooney returns. I'd still be happy to give him 25 starts for the year (barring injury) but not the 30-32 some were assuming early on. If Ferguson rates him over the likes of Nani and Young out wide he should get sufficient minutes to contribute to a fantasy team this year. If however be becomes embroiled in a one-on-one battle with Rooney for that attacking midfield role, don't be surprised if he comes off second best.

Finally then we get to van Persie whose price is already up to 13.4m after his GW3 hattrick. You don't need me to tell you how good van Persie is, and now he's in a better side than he had at Arsenal, his upside is probably unmatched across the league. But (and remember, there's always a 'but'), at 13.4m you are talking about a huge premium over other talented players, most notably Carlos Tevez (9.8m) but also the likes of Hazard (10.1m), Silva (9.8m) and Podolski (8.4m). Each year I aim for a 2,000 point season with everything above that being a bonus. Assuming your bench costs around 20m and your starting lineup averages 85m (accounting for price increases) that means each million pounds you spend needs to net you around 23-25 points. Van Persie is a sensational player in a very good (but not perfect) situation but are you ready to give him 85 points more than Tevez or 117 more than Podolski?

For me it isn't arguable whether or not Tevez is a better buy, he simply is, at least until Aguero comes back and he loses some of his security. After him though it's very close. If you believe van Persie can match last season's total of 269, there is a good chance he tops the likes of Podolski by triple digits and thus justifies his price tag. However, if you believe there is anyone in that 8-10m range who can hit 15+ goals and a handful of assists, it's almost certain that they'll be better value than van Persie.

Whether or not you should be chasing value or points is a valid argument and at a certain point you just look to maximise your gross points (as there's no point have an efficient team for 65m with a stack of cash and not very many points). That said, the 3-5.0m spent on van Persie is the difference between an Eden Hazard and a Joe Allen, a gulf that is equally likely to approach 100 points. If you have a couple of budget players who you are fairly sure can perform at a level 1-2.0m above their actual cost then van Persie is a definite buy candidate. If however you feel you need the money to put on 'safer' players with some history of success and upside, he looks a touch pricey right now. When budgets increase and those sleepers emerge, I agree, I will be all over van Persie but right now I don't think I can identify those complimentary players to make the system work.

No significant fantasy additions here with the main options of Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa all looking like Pardew will play them every minute until they literally collapse. That strategy might not be ideal for Geordies or for the respective players' knees but it's music to the ears of fantasy fans. Play on Pardew, play on.

We've already discussed the signings here during the lineup lessons with Garrido and Snodgrass apparently locked into the first team and Bassong and Turner possibly poised to follow suit. The impact on the existing situation is minimal as most of the team was simply unownable before the reinforcements arrived.

The scatter gun approach to playing the transfer market hasn't helped Mark Hughes' team so far this year and it certainly hasn't helped fantasy managers. This situation is so murky that I don't believe anyone from this team is even ownable at the moment, never mind a sound investment.

Not too much more to add here either that hasn't already been said. I like Gunter, Guthrie and Pogrebnyak as bench players who come in at the minimum price but there's not much to shout about with this team.

Gaston Ramirez is the only addition excluding those already embedded into the first team so there isn't too much more to say. You all know what I'm going to say, but here goes anyway: let's wait and see on Ramirez. We've seen the impressive YouTube clips but this isn't a great Southampton team he's joining and I am always somewhat nervous that wide players can get lost in games, especially when joining a new league with a different style of game. At 6.0m he's priced at a level which could have use in the future but he's a classic example of a player where I'd prefer to be one week late than 9 weeks too early.

It's somewhat bizarre that over the past couple of seasons, Stoke are one of the few teams who can always be relied upon to make a couple of high profile, if not always successful, transfers. This time around they brought in Charlie Adam, Maurice Edu, Steven N'Zonzi and Michael Owen to join Michael Kightly who we already know all about. Adam is obviously the highest profile arrival with many managers likely dreaming of a return to his Blackpool glory days. At 6.8m though, his return to form is going to have to be significant and rapid and is something I'm not sure I can get behind. There's certainly potential in this side and Adam's set pieces, if nothing else, could increase Walters' value and bring Crouch back into play.

Those who follow along on Twitter will no doubt have been exposed to at least a couple of outbursts regarding the state of scouting in the Premier League. I generally rant about the lack of imagination of scouts/managers who too often settle for the 'known' commodity of an average Premier League player rather than the international player of much better quality. I often wonder why the hell anyone ever buys a British player, but here I'm reversing my general stand: why the hell did it take someone so long to buy Steve Fletcher?

I'm hesitant to use phrases like 'natural finisher' and 'goalscorer' as they are often terms attributed to a player's end results rather than the process which got him there. In 2008/09 Diego Forlan netted 32 goals in La Liga on only 62 shots on target. This, after netting 6 times on 42 shots in three seasons at United. Did he suddenly become a 'natural' finisher or just have a good season? Whatever you call it, Steve Fletcher scores goals. Since coming to the Premier League he's played on two fairly poor teams but netted at the below rates:
  • 2009/10 - 23 shots on target, 8 goals (35%)
  • 2010/11 - 18 shots on target, 10 goals (56%)
  • 2011/12 - 28 shots on target, 12 goals (43%)
  • 2012/12 - 2 shots on target, 2 goals (100%)
Consider that the average conversion rate is around 33% and you realize what an excellent record the Scot is bringing with him. He isn't an elite player and a reported 13.0m is still a pricey sum but while I generally discourage buying 'established' players at a huge premium and it might have been portrayed as a lateral move from Carroll, you have to think he could have been a better option for Liverpool than Borini.

Anyway, with apologies for the ridiculous intro let's get to the red hot fantasy analysis: Steve Fletcher is good. He has a talented midfield around him and with only really Louis Saha for competition he should get an almost undisturbed run in the side. The upcoming fixtures hold some promise (they rank so low in the data tables because of their own previously inept scoring ability) and Fletcher looks like a great addition to any lineup right now. Indeed, it's only my love affairs with Ba and Podolski that is preventing me pushing this guy in every post I write from here until Christmas.

I don't want to get ahead of myself but there is a chance that Michael Laudrup has made more good non-English signings this offseason than some teams have in the past 5 years (more on that in an upcoming post). We all now know about Michu but Pablo Hernandez has the potential to be a truly special addition to the Premier League while Chico and De Guzman have made solid starts to their respective careers (though Chico's has been a touch, shall we say, reckless). Swansea have also brought in Ki-Sung Yeung who I've yet to see but comes with a good reputation from Celtic, making this once patchwork midfield look rather stacked with talent. A possible lineup of Britton - Ki - Dyer - Michu - Hernandez looks pretty mouth watering but fantasy managers should also heed a warning that greater strength and depth also brings greater rotation risk.

For now Michu and Dyer make great additions to any squad, along with the entire defensive line and Danny Graham up top. I hope we can add Hernandez to that list very soon but at 6.5m he looks a little too pricey to risk jumping on just yet.

Everything Spurs did in the off season made total sense as they locked down their best goalscorer from last season (Adebayor), replaced the frustrating Van der Vaart with a younger (though in all honestly slightly lower ceilinged) Sigurdsson, added the underrated Dembele to link attack and defense, brought in Vertonghen to give them their first potentially star centre back for years and strengthened between the sticks with the highly rated Lloris (though I can't say I thought Friedel was really a problem for this side). Oh, and then they went and signed Dempsey and messed everything up. Don't get me wrong, I love Dempsey. He's a very good player and one of, if not the best goal scoring midfielder in the league when deployed correctly. Where though, does he fit in this team?

With apologies for the somewhat crude design, the below graphic shows all the positions Dempsey played during last season and how many goals he scored from each (data courtesy of MCFC analytics):

First of all: how awesome was Dempsey last season? He occupied both wings and three different forward roles and had success in every one. That success was notably less when he was pushed onto the wings as part of a traditional 4-man midfield with just 7 goals coming on 23 appearances (still a very good return by the way). If Dempsey is going to get enough minutes to justify his lofty price tag, he is going to have to spend some time out wide as it's almost impossible to think that Sigurdsson will be simply booted from the team or that Dempsey would ever get games up top in a 4-2-3-1 (Villas-Boas's apparently favoured formation). Of course, Dempsey wouldn't be pushed too far out if he did occupy that role but it still makes me pause before re-adding him to the player pool. 

If you have faith that Spurs can get over their poor start (I do, but it's wavering) then it looks like Bale and Adebayor are the only really safe bets right now. It should become apparent fairly soon what Villas-Boas has planned though, after which Sigurdsson, Dempsey or possibly Dembele could well be added to that list.

West Brom
The addition of Popov is potentially significant as it could give us access to this potentially useful team within the 4.5m bracket. The issue is where he'll play as neither he, Olsson, Ridgewell nor McAuley have any experience at right back that I'm aware of. This one's worth keeping an eye on for those in the market for solid 4.5m options (and who isn't?). 

Up front we are still no closer to working out if Rosenberg or Lukaku will be able to displace Long and/or Odemwingie so for now it looks like a stay-away situation.

West Ham
Allardyce did some typically solid work in the transfer market earlier on but it was his last capture which might bring the most upside for his team. Sure Andy Caroll has fallen from grace but he remains a very tough player to contain and could easily hit double digit goals this year (assuming he doesn't suffer any lingering effects from the hamstring injury which looks set to keep him out for 5-6 weeks). The sticking price is his price tag which at 8.4m comes in above Demba Ba and on a par with Lukas Podolski. At this time it seems unliekly he'll ever reach those heights but his presence could well make the likes of Kevin Nolan even more valuable so here's hoping for a speedy recovery.

We've already seen Wigan's signings in action and they haven't caused too many issues for fantasy managers. That's good news for this blogger but probably not for Wigan fans.


Anonymous said...

I'd say Maloney at Wigan is a decent cheapie - served me well for the first 3 gameweeks.

Tik said...

Don't get me wrong I normally keep faith with a team that took me houres to choose, but recent events made me think I need to change again. On a sidenote, I've played my wildcard and I'm ok with just a bit more than 200 points, but after last gameweek I want certain players in my team BEFORE there price is rising over my budget. My recent team is the following:

Vorm, McCarthy
Rafael, Demel, BAE, Jenkinson, Fonte
Hazard, Toure, Michu, Kagawa, Piennar
Adebayor, Graham, Tevez

because of RVP's display and the lack of "taking part" on any of MU goals last week I thought about replacing Kagawa with Carzorla and as I lost my patience with Tottenham I thought about replaceing Ade and BAE with RVP and Davies (SWA). Also Fletcher is more then tempting and as Swansea is already covered with Michu, I thought about replacing Graham with Fletcher. To gain the remaining funds I need to kick out Piennar and replace him with Mikel.

The team would look the following:

Vorm, McCarthy
Rafael, Demel, Ben Davis, Jenkinson, Fonte
Hazard, Toure, Michu, Cazorla, Mikel
Van Persie, Fletcher, Tevez

held5034 said...

Who has better value Cazorla or Podolski? I have Cazorla in my lineup right now, but it seems that you are real high on the German. Should I be afraid of owning both?

John Doe, 2008 said...

@ Tik -

I did the same thing. Played my WC last week and had to take an 8 point hit because I decided I couldn't live without Hazard. Was probably foolhardy to begin with, but I was convinced I could go with Kagawa until at least Wigan and pick him up then. Well, looks like Hazard might be 10.2 or so by then and I would be forced to make multiple moves to fit him in.

My team is very similar to yours in the front 7:

Bego Jaas
Baines Rangel Cuellar Figueroa Boyce
Hazard Cazorla TOure Pienaar Guthrie
RVP Tevez Lambert

John Doe, 2008 said...

@held5034 -

I prefer Cazorla myself. His underlying numbers are out of this world (22 more final third touches than anyone else, most chances crated, third most shots; numbers amongst ALL players, not just MIDs) and he is cheaper than his comparables (Hazard, Bale, Silva).

Bilbrook FC said...

Er, last time I checked there were 20 teams in the league.... I realize they don't offer much for the average fantasy player yet but no mention of Villa at all?

Chris Glover said...

Agreed - I mentioned Maloney is last week's lineup lessons. Looks like a good prospect in the middle of the park.

Tik - I'd say your current team is pretty good and wouldn't be panicked about using your wildcard, though I understand a lot of people are very keen to grab Van Persie. The one note of caution I might add is that your defense could get thin quickly as Jenkinson will likely lose his starting job when Sagna returns, Rafael is a bit of a gamble and Ben Davies is unproven (though I agree he's worth a shot). I might be tempted to downgrade Toure of Michu to free up some cash for the defense but it's a close call.

Held5034 - It's probably Cazorla. I am high on Podolski but his stats really haven't backed it up so far and is he continues to struggle for shots I will move on. Ba has pretty much the same profile (good floor and decent ceiling) for a bit less money and I'd prefer for example, Cazorla/Ba than Ben Arfa/Podolski.

Bilbrook - good call. Apologies to all villains. I started the column only commenting on teams that did have an impact at the deadline but then decided to add a comment for everyone. I guess I forgot to go back and add one for Villa. They didn't of course have any impact signings at the deadline.

Kevin Tan said...

Hi Chris,

Which combination are stronger?

1) Bain + Malouney
2) Boyce + Pienaar/Ben afar

dnivy said...

Gorkss is Reading's vice captain, a goal threat at corners, and comes at 3.9 only because of Reading blank gameweeks. Why isn't he on everyones bargain-list?