Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gameweek 15 Preview

Attacking Rankings

Clean Sheet Rankings
Individual Rankings

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 14

Goalscorers are highlighted in bold, players with an assist are underlined

Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Walcott, Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Giroud
Subs: Mannone, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Jenkinson, Gervinho, Gibbs

The biggest answer we received here may well end up being moot, as while Koscielny was preferred to Gibbs (with Vermaelen once again shifting to left back), the Frenchman left the game early with a groin strain, which would normally rule him out for a least a couple of fixtures. Podolski also missed this one (apparently with illness though I couldn't confirm that one) but given the ineffectiveness of the other options, playing time is not really a concern for him.

Aston Villa
Guzan, Lowton, Baker, Clark, Stevens, Holman, Westwood, Bannan, Weimann, Agbonlahor, Benteke
Subs: Given, Ireland, El Ahmadi, Albrighton, Delph, Bowery, Lichaj

The key players continue to be entrenched in this side and with Bent taking up permanent residency in Lambert's dog house, it would appear there's little scope for changes in the future. This defense isn't terrible and deserves a look when the fixtures fall nicely, though going forward I'd suggest the options start and end with Benteke.

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

Mata dropping to the bench was a huge surprise, but given the outcome, it's not a move Benitez is likely to make again soon. Still, it does issue a warning shot as to what fate could await the Chelsea players if Benitez returns to his rotating ways. There's potentially a story brewing with Azpilicueta's increased minutes, and he seems to be ahead of Cahill in the pecking order (with Ivanovic preferred in the middle), and it might be worth a shot, though again, I'd be cognisant of that rotation threat.

Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Naismith, Gibson, Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini, Jelavic
Subs: Mucha, Heitinga, Oviedo, Hitzlsperger, Gueye, Barkley, Vellios

Heitinga dropped out of the side again and though my hunch thinks Distin might be somewhat safe for a while, I wouldn't be willing to bet a transfer on it, particularly given that this Everton defense is hardly a great investment at the moment. Fellaini made a successful return to the side and remains an elite option, and that whole front four looks good enough to own to me.

Schwarzer, Riether, Senderos, Hughes, Riise, Duff, Diarra, Sidwell, Karagounis, Rodallega, Berbatov
Subs: Etheridge, Kelly, Baird, Kasami, Petric, Frei, Dejagah

Same old story here with stability at both ends of the field but plenty of rotation in the middle of the park. Senderos will likely make way for Hangeland after his suspension but otherwise the back five is rock solid and need closer attention after a couple of decent away performances. I wouldn't touch this midfield at the moment given the rotation we're seeing.

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

Wisdom was fit for this one but Downing was preferred at left back, and while I didn't see the whole game to evaluate his performance, the opening 20 minutes or so told the tale of a midfielder playing at the back, including him switching off for the first goal. The fact that some fans were clamouring for Widsom's inclusion speaks to how far this team have fallen in the past couple of years (and that's no slight on Wisdom, who has done well. It's just surprising to think that a 19 year old who made his league debut two months ago would suddenly be seen as irreplaceable). Enrique is an interesting prospect given his advanced role, but at 5.9m I'm not sure how much more he gives you than someone from one of the other middling defensive sides.

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

Kolarov moving to the bench again is hardly a big surprise, though I wouldn't say I'm particularly enamoured with Zabaleta's playing time prospects either. Nastasic looks like the best bet in this back line by a distance. Tevez dropping to the bench was a surprise to a degree - though I had speculated that with Aguero fit, Tevez was always going to face increased rotation from the Balotelli/Dzeko pair.

Man Utd
Lindegaard, Da Silva, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Anderson, Cleverley, Rooney, van Persie, Hernandez
Subs: De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Young, Welbeck, Fletcher, Buttner

Ferguson rung the changes here, though the outcome was still a very disappointing display from United. On the bright side, they defended better for parts of the game, though still looked a touch vulnerable at times. With Ferdinand and Jones ready to step in, I'd be surprised if we didn't continue to see some rotation at the back. This isn't the place to focus on van Persie and Rooney, suffice to say that both were disappointing and van Persie was extremely fortunate to get away with a decent points haul. Rooney's positioning was more worrying though, with his average position actually dropping behind Cleverley. Before we push the panic button, he still generated six shots, though only one of these came inside the area. Above all players, Rooney is possibly most impacted by who he's playing with, so we'll need to dig into those trends and see if there are genuine concerns if the likes of Cleverley are going to get more minutes.

Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Anita, Perch, Tiote, Gutierrez, Ba, Cisse
Subs: Elliot, Bigirimana, Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi, Ranger, Ferguson, Tavernier

Newcastle's side has seen plenty of changes this year, though most of them have been forced on them due to injuries. The key players (when fit) are nicely locked into this lineup and this is one of the easier sides to predict when everyone is available. They are however, a nice reminder of why any historic model will always have some issues, as all those shots and chances created with Cabaye and Ben Arfa in the fold, arguably don't mean too much when it's Perch and Anita taking their place. There's not too much we can do about that with the very basic stats we have available, so for now, we just need to throw an asterisk next to these teams with major injury issues and try and collect replacement data as fast as possible to account for their absence.

Bunn, Whittaker, R Bennett, Bassong, Garrido, Snodgrass, Johnson, Tettey, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Holt
Subs: Rudd, Martin, Howson, Jackson, Morison, E Bennett, Barnett

Ruddy is a long term casualty with Bunn taking his place between the pipes. Ruddy is a very good 'keeper but I wouldn't say that this move makes me ready to write off Norwich's useful and budget defense. The back four remained unchanged from the weekend though Martin returned to the bench and could yet unsettle this team in the coming weeks. Garrido and Bassong might be worth the premium until Turner returns. No real issues to note on the attacking side of the pitch.

Julio Cesar, Bosingwa, Hill, Nelsen, Traore, Granero, Mbia, Diakite, Taarabt, Mackie, Cisse
Subs: Green, Derry, Ferdinand, Park, Wright-Phillips, Da Silva, Hoilett

I'm not sure we can draw definite conclusions from one Redknapp game, though it's promising that most of the prospects we've highlighted in this team all got the start on day one. I'm not one to worship at Redknapp's alter, but things can't be much worse than under Hughes so the likes of Taarabt and Granero get a chance to get better, I'm all for it. I'll reserve judgement on the stability and success of this side for another couple of weeks though.

Federici, Cummings, Morrison, Mariappa, Shorey, Robson-Kanu, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff, Roberts, Le Fondre
Subs: Taylor, Pearce, Pogrebnyak, Hunt, McCleary, Harte, Gunnarsson

I was starting to come round on Reading so this week's result was a real blow, yet they still racked up 12 shots (nine SiB) so all is far from lost. Gorkss and Gunter both dropped out of the side at the back, though if you have any faith in this defense at all, you would of course want to grab Shorey anyway. The attacking options look fairly settled with the duo of Le Fondre and McAnuff offering the most promise.

Gazzaniga, Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Shaw, Puncheon, Schneiderlin, Cork, Lallana, Lambert, Ramirez
Subs: K Davis, Hooiveld, S Davis, Rodriguez, Do Prado, Mayuka, Reeves

Though the lack of chances created by Southampton is a concern (10 shots, eight SiB, two SoT), the starting lineup isn't. I imagine Rodriguez will get the odd start here and there but I'd be more than happy to assume that the talented Puncheon, Lallana, Lambert and Ramirez are all pretty reliable.

Begovic, Shotton, Huth, Shawcross, Cameron, Walters, Nzonzi, Whelan, Etherington, Adam, Crouch
Subs: Sorensen, Palacios, Jones, Whitehead, Upson, Kightly, Jerome

Shotton has come in as the latest left back, which leaves Cameron as the only affordable option in this back line. Not much to report among the attacking options, though Walters' seven shots (all in the box) were a notable reminder of his prospects.

Mignolet, Bardsley, Kilgallon, Cuellar, Rose, Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner, Johnson, Sessegnon, Fletcher
Subs: Westwood, Campbell, Colback, Vaughan, Bramble, McClean, Saha

Kilgallon came in for O'Shea, though it doesn't look like that will be a long term injury so normal service should be resumed soon. The attacking options remain fairly locked in now Larsson has been pushed back out wide, though with just five SiB, I'm still not overly convinced by this team's attacking prospects.

Tremmel, Rangel, Williams, Chico, Davies, Britton, Hernandez, Ki, Dyer, Routledge, Michu
Subs: Cornell, Monk, Shechter, Moore, de Guzman, Tiendalli, Agustien

I'm pleased to see Swansea enjoy some success, especially with Hernandez getting a couple of assists, as I've been a big fan of his work over the past few weeks. Before we get too carried away though, Swansea only hit the target four times, so this wasn't the kind of dominant display that will always lead to big goal hauls. There's talent in this side though and the trio of Hernandez, Routledge and Michu all look valuable for different reasons.

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

I thought the defensive lineup from over the weekend might get a shot to stick together for a while but Caulker was dropped again in this one, with Gallas coming back into the side. Dawson is a tempting proposition at 4.5m but be mindful that he too may face some risk and Villas Boas continues to rotate his back line. The attacking options look nicely settled and should all benefit from the return of Dembele.

West Brom
Myhill, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Jones, Yacob, Morrison, Mulumbu, Brunt, Odemwingie, Lukaku
Subs: Daniels, Popov, Rosenberg, Long, Dorrans, Tamas, Fortune

Lukaku and Long find themselves in a tricky situation where both have been when played, though it appears Clarke isn't willing to either commit to one of them or play both together. It's a situation to monitor but neither look like strong buys at the moment. The rest of this side looks fairly secure.

West Ham
Jaaskelainen, Demel, Reid, Collins, O'Brien, Taylor, Diame, Tomkins, Jarvis, Nolan, Carroll
Subs: Spiegel, Cole, Maiga, Spence, O'Neil, Moncur, Lletget

Demel got his place back in McCartney's absence but that outcome is not a foregone conclusion when everyone is healthy. There isn't a great deal to report elsewhere in the side, and despite West Ham being a decent team, a combination of price tags and roles makes it tough to look beyond Nolan among the attacking players.

Al Habsi, Stam, Boyce, Lopez, Figueroa, McCarthy, Jones, Gomez, Kone, Beausejour, Di Santo
Subs: Pollitt, McManaman, McArthur, Boselli, Fyvie, Golobart, Redmond

Maloney missed out with injury so we still don't have a definitive answer what will happen to Gomez when everyone is healthy. Ramis' absence is a blow as he looked like the best value defensive option here and without his attacking threat, I'd steer clear of all these other options. On the attacking side of the pitch we have some stability but we're really limited to Kone and probably Di Santo until we get clarification on the Maloney/Gomez issue.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gameweek 14 Preview

Don't forget we're on a short week this time around, with the transfer deadline at 19:30 GMT on Tuesday 27 November.

Team Attacking Forecast

Team Defensive Forecast

Individual Player Forecast

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 13

Goalscorers are highlighted in bold, players with an assist are underlined.

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

Wenger made a few changes here, though he confirmed after the game that Vermaelen, Sagna and Wilshere were all short of fitness, so I wouldn't overreact there. Mertesacker remains the safest/cheapest way to access this underrated unit, assuming that experienced trio return in future weeks. Going forward, this was obviously a disappointing result for the Gunners, and while they did manage 12 shots (just one on target), that's below average for both Villa's home defense (16) and Arsenal's road attack (14) so I'm not willing to let them off the hook, for just having an unlucky day in front of goal. In terms of job security that front three are all going to play in virtually every game, but we'll need more than they showed here if they're going to offer value.

Aston Villa
Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Stevens, El Ahmadi, Westwood, Weimann, Bannan, Agbonlahor, Benteke
Subs: Given, Ireland, Albrighton, Holman, Delph, Bowery, Lichaj

There remains some rotation here, which appears to simply be a staple of a Lambert team, but the ownable options are likely limited to Benteke and then the budget defenders (Lowton and Clark) if you feel this team can be spot started when the fixture is right.

Cech, Cole, Luiz, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Mikel, Mata, Oscar, Hazard, Torres
Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Betrand, Romeu, Moses, Marin

An uninspiring start for Benitez in terms of chance creation, though, as could have been expected given his pedigree, Chelsea did a good job limiting their opponents too (despite having Terry absent and Ivanovic playing inside). The upcoming defensive fixtures look useful for Chelsea, and if you can afford to play short in GW17, Cole might be worth a thought if Benitez continues to put an emphasis on keeping things tight at the back. Going forward, the front four looks settled and while Moses and Marin lurk, it would be surprising to see Benitez conclude that the current starters all shouldn't be playing virtually every game.

Howard, Jagielka, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Pienaar, Naismith, Hitzlsperger, Oviedo, Osman, Jelavic
Subs: Mucha, Hibbert, Gueye, Barkley, Vellios, Kennedy, Duffy

The narrative seems to be that Everton missed Fellaini here, and while that's of course true to an extent, given that he's arguably their best player, they still managed to generate 14 shots, nine SiB and 7 SoT so will feel somewhat aggrieved not to have come away with the win. The Toffess now haven't kept a clean for two months (eight games) and without a budget option here offering reliable minutes (Distin and Heitinga continue to split time) it's really tough to buy into this unit, unless you're one of the 25% managers who believe Baines is worth 3m more than some of the other solid defensive players around (I'm not). Going forward, Naismith and Ovideo got the points but with Felliani due back next week and Mirallas poised to return soon, I wouldn't get involved there, instead sticking with the proven options of Jelavic, Pienaar and Osman (and of course the absent duo once they return).

Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Senderos, Riise, Baird, Sidwell, Karagounis, Dejagah, Berbatov, Petric
Subs: Etheridge, Kelly, Kasami, Duff, Diarra, Rodallega, Banya

This was only Fulham's second really poor attacking display of the year, managing just nine total shots and a worrying two inside the box. Stoke, of course, are a very solid opponent but they have surrendered an average of 13 shots and 6 SiB this year at the Brittania Stadium, so at least part of this poor performance is on Fulham's poor play rather than just Stoke's excellence. With Duff being benched for the second time in three weeks, this entire midfield looks like the proverbial minefield and I'm not sure there's enough upside to make it worth sorting through this mess. Let's reassess when Kacaniklic returns but for now it's tough to see much value here. Defensively, Senderos came in for the suspended Hangeland but otherwise this unit remains one, if not the most stable in the league.

Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Downing, Henderson, Allen, Gerrard, Sterling, Suarez
Subs: Jones, Coates, Carragher, Sahin, Cole, Shelvey, Suso

I didn't see this game, so I'll have to wait on confirmation of this one, but Enrique's average pitch position was further forward than Downing, suggesting the two, at least shared defensive responsibility. Either way, Enrique's attacking threat is certainly encouraging and he could be a very nice option if you believe Liverpool's recent defensive improvements are sustainable (the 18 shots conceded this week may suggest otherwise). The rotation and price tags in this midfield make it very tough to invest in outside of Sterling, though even he is looking less appealing given his rising price and ownership numbers.

Man City
Hart, Kolarov, Kompany, Nastacic, Zabaleta, Barry, Milner, Yaya Toure, Silva, Aguero, Dzeko
Subs: Pantilimon, Maicon, K Toure, Nasri, Garcia, Tevez, Balotelli

The headline here was Tevez being benched in favour of Dzeko, though given the way City played, the Argentinian would have had a tough time having much joy anyway. Though I'm not ready to write Tevez off yet, I still believe Aguero is the man to own here, both in terms of his underlying stats along with my personal belief that he will get the most minutes in this team, now that City are bounced from Champions League play. Clichy is due back next week so I wouldn't get too excited about Kolarov's start here, instead I'd stick with Nastacic as the best option, closely followed by Zabaleta, who looked useful going forward again too.

Man Utd
Lindegaard, Da Silva, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Young, Fletcher, Scholes, Rooney, Welbeck, van Persie
Subs: De Gea, Jones, Anderson, Smalling, Hernandez, Cleverley, Powell

This defense, while relatively settled, continues to frustrate, as while they only gave up four SiB and two SoT, they still failed to secure the clean sheet. I'm sure I'm in the minority, as one isn't allowed to speak ill of so-called legends, but I don't think Scholes brings enough to this side anymore, and I'd like to see them deploy Jones there, to offer some ability to tackle an opponent, without losing out on too much going forward, other than 'calm presence' which isn't always a huge priority. Anyway, the upcoming games make it tough to sell Rafael but if you're short on cash I think you need to at least consider this defense's viability. Going forward, this midfield looks fairly devoid of fantasy potential - at least until Kagawa returns.

Kurl, Santon, Williamson, S Taylor, Simpson, Ferguson, Anita, Gutierrez, Tiote, Cisse, Ba
Subs: Harper, Perch, Tavernier, Bigirimana, Marveaux, Sa Ameobi, Ranger

The instability in this lineup this year has generally been forced on Pardew through injury, and while we've seen their results regress a bit after last year (which was really to be expected), when fit this is a decent attacking unit. That, of course, is a big qualifier and with Cabaye and Ben Arfa both out for a couple of weeks at a minimum, the remaining players might not be good sell options, starting, of course with the 27% owned Ba. This back four should now be settled until Coloccini's return but given the rate they've been surrendering shots of late, there isn't a ton of value to be found here.

Ruddy, Whittaker, Bassong, R Bennett, Garrido, Johnson, Tettey, Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Pilkington, Holt
Subs: Bunn, Howson, Jackson, Morison, E Bennett, Barnett, Tierney

Turner missed out through injury but the rest of this side has really settled down of late and those budget midfield options - Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Pilkington and even Johnson - are back in play. The defense has also become very ownable, though despite Bassong's goal this week, I'd still favour a fit Turner as the best value option (or Ruddy who makes an excellent rotation option between the sticks).

Julio Cesar, Hill, Nelsen, Mbia, Traore, Derry, Faurlin, Mackie, Taarabt, Dyer, Cisse
Subs: Green, Diakite, Ferdinand, Wright-Phillips, Granero, Ephraim, Hoilett.

With Redknapp coming in, we might expect some changes here, hopefully coming by way of line-up consistency. Given the way they have performed, I wouldn't put my money on anyone being guaranteed a place from the front six, with the back five slightly more predictable but lacking much value nonetheless. We can check back in a couple of weeks, though even then we'd expect Redknapp to throw money around in January so things could be in flux here for the foreseeable future. There's enough talent to not write this team off, but as someone who doesn't worship at the alter of Redknapp, I'm not sure if it's going to be much fantasy use in the next couple of weeks.

Federici, Gunter, Morrison, Gorkss, Shorey, Robson-Kanu, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff, Le Fondre, Roberts
Subs: Taylor, Mariappa, Pogrebnyak, Hunt, McCleary, Harte, Cummings

Reading put up their third big shot total in four weeks here and are showing signs of being a side we need to take seriously as a potential source of fantasy value. Unfortunately, we haven't seen too many individuals show an ability to contribute to that success on a weekly basis, though we do have two options in McAnuff and Le Fondre. I was somewhat dismissive of Le Fondre's brace last week, but if he can continue to start (still not guaranteed) his underlying stats are looking promising (another six shots this week).

Gazzaniga, Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Ramirez, Lallana, Puncheon, Lambert
Subs: K Davis, Hooiveld, S Davis, Ward-Prowse, Guly, Rodriguez, Mayuka

Surely the most underrated (fantasy) team in the league, Southampton boast four legitimate attacking options who can be started every week, all of whom come with reasonable price tags (Ramirez, Lallana, Puncheon and Lambert). The presence of Rodriguez still makes me pause a touch, but it's looking like that foursome should play fairly consistently and I'd be happy owning any of them. As we touched on this week at Fantasy Football Scout, Puncheon's price tag should not lead a conclusion that he is just an excellent bench player - I believe he can be started regularly, which could free up a substantial chunk of cash to use elsewhere in your team. This back line is also looking increasingly predictable and they have done a bit better at limiting opponents' chances in the past few weeks, though I still see them very much as 5th defender types and would only bite due to their price tags.

Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Shotton, Walters, Nzonzi, Whelan, Etherington, Adam, Crouch
Subs: Sorensen, Palacios, Jones, Whitehead, Upson, Kightly, Jerome

Stoke enjoyed their second best attacking performance of the year (in terms of exceeding the opponent adjusted average shots), adding 16 shots with 10 inside the box. The fact they only hit the target twice acts as nice reminder that this team is not an elite attacking group though, with Adam's price tag making it tough for us to back him. Still, the key players in this side are entrenched with the only changes generally being through injury (Wilkinson is the latest defender to miss out).

Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Cuellar, Rose, Larsson, Cattermole, Colback, Johnson, Sessegnon, Fletcher
Subs: Westwood, Gardner, Campbell, Kilgallon, Vaughan, McClean, Saha

This was Sunderland's best +/- shot performance of the year, outperforming the league average by 17% (just their second 'plus' of the season, after the +11% effort in GW11 against Everton). I've been critical of this Sunderland team in the sense that I felt Fletcher and Larsson were over-owned, but I love the talent on offer here and if they start to perform at even a league average rate, I believe Fletcher, Sessegnon and Johnson could all be ownable. We're not there yet but the pieces are in place so we just need to wait for their form to turn around (though that's far from a guaranteed outcome).

Tremmel, Davies, Williams, Chico, Rangel, Britton, De Guzman, Routledge, Hernandez, Michu, Shechter
Subs: Cornell, Monk, Tiendalli, Dyer, Ki, Augustien, Lita

There are a couple of players here who continue to be rotated - Dyer, Ki and Graham (when healthy) - but the main options look settled and Michu, Hernandez and Routledge remain reliable options with varying degrees of upside. At the back this team continues to give up an alarming number of shots (53 in the past two games) and look tough to own despite the predictability in their starting eleven.

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

Dawson and Lloris came in for Gallas and Dawson and there's a strong feeling that this could be Spurs' first choice back five from here on (with Assou Ekotto of course due to return long term). Dawson would potentially be excellent value at 4.5m, but I'd like to see him start a couple more before I buy in, possibly targetting a GW17 purchase after which the fixtures look very promising. The front four all contributed this week and can all be possibly considered ownable. As I've been saying for a while, all things considered, Bale is probably the best midfielder in the league to own and I'm a little surprised his ownership number remains below 20%. With five chances created and five shots, Dempsey had possibly his best game in a Spurs shirt, and might just be playing his way into fantasy consideration, though if you own Bale (which you probably should) it's really tough to tie almost 19m into a single midfield unit who can be inconsistent.

West Brom
Myhill, Jones, Olsson, McAuley, Ridgewell, Odemwingie, Yacob, Morrison, Brunt, Gera, Long
Subs: Luke Daniels, Popov, Rosenberg, Dorrans, Lukaku, Tamas, Fortune

Not too much to say on this lineup which looks pretty settled and continues to generate good returns (though at a rate which is sometimes unsustainable, like their four goals on six SoT this week). Gera, Morrison and Long are all very ownable and I guess you could squeeze Odemwingie in there if you have cash to spare and wish to capitalise on the Baggies' upcoming fixtures. The defense didn't have a good week in this one, but they've been solid of late, making Ridgewell and Olsson very ownable (along with Foster when he returns from injury, hopefully in a week or so).

West Ham
Jaaskelainen, Reid, Tomkins, O'Brien, McCartney, Noble, Diame, O'Neil, Nolan, Maiga, Carroll
Subs: Spiegel, Collins, Demel, Jarvis, Taylor, Moncur, Cole

It looks like O'Brien/Mccartney have displaced Demel for now, which makes buying into this defense somewhat tricky. Collins was almost fit enough to return here and one would imagine he'll replace Tomkins again next week. Going forward that front six looks pretty settled with only Jarvis threatening to upset the party, though I don't personally see too much value outside of Nolan (I like Caroll, but at 7.0m rather than 8.3m).

Al Habsi, Boyce, Ramis, Figueroa, Stam, McCarthy, Jones, Beausejour, Gomez, Kone, Maloney.
Subs: Pollitt, Di Santo, McManaman, McArthur, Boselli, Fyvie, Lopez

The star of the show here was a player who often hasn't featured in these pages, with Gomez earning just his third start of the year. When he's played he's put up good numbers, including an incredible 9 shot/8 SiB/4SoT effort this week but with Di Santo lurking on the bench, it still isn't clear if he'll even keep his place in the side. Though not a big deal in terms of playing time, Ramis slid inside this week with Stam taking up the attacking full back role, and then left the game early with a hamstring injury. If that was to be long term, Stam would be worth looking at given his price tag (3.8m) and attacking role. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dual threats

I like my information to be visualised, probably due to some kind of learning preference - the kind of thing you didn't listen to in school, but actually might have been quite useful. Anyway, for that reason I'll often plot some data - even if fairly simplistic - to better understand it and I thought I'd share a couple of simple graphs here.

We've plotted shots in the box per 90 minutes (SiB H90 or SiB A90 for home/away splits) against chances created (CC H90 or CC A90) to split players between those who have shown an ability to contribute both goals and assists and those who look like a one-category player. That, in of itself, isn't necessarily a problem, but it might indicate some concern if a player's value to date has come from, say, just goals, and the supply of those chances can be called into question.

The size of the square plotted represents each player's ownership percentage, which illustrates a couple of players who are clearly held by too high a portion of managers right now, based on their stats to date. The line represent the average SiB/CC racked up by that position at home/away:

I don't want to get into any real analysis of anyone here, as this is just a quick tool to raise questions rather than provide answers, but a couple of players do jump out:
  • Fellaini's shot totals are dominant and more than makeup for his average assists potential
  • Taarabt is certainly a statistical outlier whose dominant underlying stats simply refuse to turn into points with any consistency whatsoever. I feel like understanding why this is could potentially unlock the next piece of the puzzle for any prospective model.
  • Silva, with just 6% ownership could be a key player for the coming weeks, as based on these basic stats he's as good as anyone at home, and actually has much better stats away from home, but doesn't appear on the graph due to limited minutes played (3.0 SiB A90 and 4.4 CC A90). With City bounced from the Champions League, we'd expect his playing time to stabilise and he could be a key differential of sorts among the elite midfielders.
  • I haven't given Suarez a great deal of attention this year but if nothing else we can see just how dominant he's been this year. The sustainability of these numbers is another issue, as is the question mark over his teammates' ability to convert his created chances, but he can boast the best data among his peers so far.
  • The Rooney versus van Persie date is nicely highlighted here as while Rooney has shown more potential at home, the Dutchman has been substantially better on the road. I can see the argument that this potential inconsistency makes van Persie easier to own (as you can captain him every week) but I'm not sure that allowing for 'easy' decisions is a massive plus for a player. That said, those road numbers for Rooney are a concern and do need monitoring closely in the coming weeks. 
  • Aguero versus Tevez is clouded more by sample size concerns as the observant reader will notice that the former is absent from the away chart (due to a lack of playing time). If you like Aguero you can point to the fact that he's been outstanding in that limited time (4.5 SiB A90, 4.5 CC A90) where as Tevez fans could claim that those numbers are unsustainable if, or when, Aguero does rack up more minutes. For the record, I'm in the first camp and would rate Aguero ahead of all other forwards, if not for the next couple of fixtures which look tricky.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gameweek 13 Preview

Team Attacking Forecast
Team Defensive Forecast
Individual Player Forecast
In anticipation of the inevitable "why do you hate van Persie" questions, I thought I better add a quick note on his unexpectedly low ranking here.

The key difference the model sees between van Persie and Rooney is simply the percentage of United's chances he has accounted for when playing. Rooney sits at 29% in home games while van Persie comes in with a useful 20%, which based on United's forecast 14 SiB gives Rooney a forecast 1.3 shot advantage. Rooney also enjoys a distinct advantage in SoB, though given the low likelihood of those turning into goals, that doesn't have a huge impact. This all translates to a relatively slim, but not insignificant, 1.4 point lead and thus likely some scorn for these electronic pages.

If I'm honest, if I owned both players and hadn't looked at the above data, I would undoubtedly have captained van Persie but while many are quick to point to the drawbacks of stats, the above numbers are fairly self explanatory and thus I feel fairly confident standing behind them. Rooney currently has 2% of the captain vote at Fantasy Football Scout, to van Persie's 66% but I'm sure you can find your own 'following the crowd' quote here depending on how you feel about the above analysis. Any logical suggestions as to why van Persie might actually be better than Rooney would be more than welcomed below or at @plfantasy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Defensive +/- SiB

We looked at this similar data for team shots generated a few weeks back, but as a reminder, this below +/- data is calculated as below:

If Arsenal have faced Stoke, Southampton and West Ham who had, on average, managed 8, 12 and 10 shots inside the box (SiB) but Arsenal surrendered 6, 14 and 9, we would record a +/- of -25%, 17% and -10%. We then just take a simple average to give us an overall rating of -6% for these games. Note that from a defensive perspective a minus number is good as it represents less shots surrendered than the league average.

By plotting this data against actual goals conceded per game (GPG), we might be able to identify teams whose results have fallen short of their underlying performance and thus might be poised for some improved results (or vice versa). The data has been split between home and away given that some teams present significant distinctions at home and away. The size of each plotted square represents the total SiB surrendered (at home/away).

We would expect teams with a low GPG to also have a low SiB +/- and then generally follow a diagonal line so that teams with a high GPG have a high +/-. We haven't done enough work to understand the exact relationship here, but generally, the further from this somewhat arbitrary trend line, the more potential for regression in a team's results.

Potential gains
LIV (H) aren't really considered an elite defense anymore but their ability to limit opponents at home has been excellent. They've limited every opponent but one to at least -30% and have topped -50% on four occasions (MUN, STK, RDG and WIG). They've quietly added three clean sheets at home and those totals could get even better if Liverpool can continue to restrict opponents like they have to date (they welcome SOU, AVL, FUL, SUN and NOR to Anfield in the next five home games).

ARS (H) are a tough to forecast here without getting caught up with narratives, as while the data shows they've been solid and a touch 'unlucky' (for want of a better term), we often hear how they make individual mistakes and can be exposed at the back, which it's easy to see as a convenient explanation for this data. The results against CHE (three SiB, two goals) and FUL (seven SiB, three goals) look like outliers in a vacuum but there is something to be said for a team with Arsenal's attacking philosophy not necessarily being able to convert few chances conceded into clean sheets (the chances they surrender have a higher chance of being on the counter attack which could be converted at a higher rate: more research is required in this area).

MCI (A) away from home have been outstanding, registering four performance of -40% or better and were finally rewarded with their first away clean sheet in GW10. This data shows how City have the potential to be a defense you can start with confidence every week, if they can eliminate the errors which have seen them concede the odd untimely goal.

Potential losses
WBA (H) have emerged as feel good story of the season so far, but as the excellent work from Simon Gleave shows, their results versus last season haven't really shown much improvement. We can also see that their defensive results appear somewhat unsustainable, especially when we see that two of their three clean sheets at home came after surrendering 10 and 12 SiB against Liverpool and Everton. In their defense, two of their worse games came against MCI and CHE where one wouldn't really expect too much joy anyway, but still, there is a cautionary tale to not get carried away with this team's prospects just yet.

EVE (H) are a surprise inclusion here as they are seen as a fairly solid defensive unit but they haven't had a really good game at home all year (the clean sheet against MUN still only gave them a -7% rating). Part of this data is skewed by this week's performance against SUN who have otherwise been miserable on the road, but however you cut it, Everton haven't really impressed defensively and this adds weight to my long running questioning of Baines' valuation.

SUN (A) have somehow managed to accrue two clean sheets despite registering just one better than average performance (in which they actually conceded twice to SWA). Against Stoke they conceded 11 SiB yet somehow snuck away with a clean sheet, much like their surprising blank at ARS in GW1 (again, surrendering a worrying 13 SiB).

The usual caveat applies here, as this is just one metric and one way to measure teams' performance but it hopefully sparks a few thoughts and allows us to dig a little deeper where needed. For reference, the full data is below:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dousing the fire, fanning the flames: Gameweek 12

Each player who racked up 6 or more points this week has been assigned a 'Buy', "Hold' or 'Sell' status. These don't necessarily reflect what I would do, more what I believe to be a 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/or 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.
Note that I don't generally include defenders as so much of their value is tied to their team's success rather than their individual skill set.

Carlos Tevez 19
It's going to be a touch controversial to douse the flames on a player coming off a two goal, two assist performance, but there is at least an element to Tevez's success which is somewhat of a mirage. The obvious point is of course the rather generous goal from the spot, which is highly unlikely to occur again as Aguero seems well entrenched as the first choice taker there. Tevez is generating good shot totals and his conversion rates don't look alarmingly high, but there are other options who account for a much higher percentage of their team's efforts (starting with Aguero) and thus I have so concerns that Tevez might not rack up big totals every week, especially when City struggle (which looks more likely this year than last). Tevez remains an excellent option to own but given his ownership numbers, I'd suggest he's the kind of player you need to critically think about and not just leave him in your team without a second thought.
Status: Hold, but consider selling to differentiate your team, especially during the upcoming run of tricky games

Jose Enrique 18
I don't tend to highlight defenders here but Jose Enrique was deployed on the left wing and managed to contribute four created chances and a couple of shots. Liverpool don't have a plethora of options down the left so there's a chance that this move sticks, which could potentially make Enrqiue very useful. At 5.7m he isn't outstanding value as Liverpool's defense has been serviceable rather than good, but they continue to offer underlying stats better than their defensive results and after a couple of potentially tough away games, they get a number of fixtures which could offer defensive results.
Status: Monitor for a couple of weeks to see if this situation is sustainable, making a potential investment in GW15 before a useful run of fixtures

David Silva 16
Silva had one of the highest shot totals without a goal in the league so it was clear that if he continued to generate shots at that rate a goal should eventually come, though there's still some concern about whether those totals are high enough to sustain continued success to justify his price tag. His 27 chances created in just 644 minutes are off the charts and if City can put chances away like they did this week, he could easily lead the league in assists by a distance. However, the likes of Cazorla, Mata and Bale are at least close to Silva in that metric but provide a much higher goal threat than the Spaniard has to date. On the bright side, if we look at his last four appearances, we see a player with 11 shots (8 SiB, 4 SoT), which is at least in range of those aforementioned elite options. There's certainly risk here but given his low ownership numbers (5.5%) and the fact it can be tough to get access to this City side, Silva is once again in play.
Status: With better fixtures I'd make him a buy but two away trips followed by games against Everton and Man Utd make that appear risky. He remains a monitor or a very speculative buy.

Santi Cazorla 13
Despite the goal and assist, Cazorla didn't really enjoy a big game (two shots, one chance created) and his stats over the last four appearances are underwhelming. Arsenal are tough to predict at the moment but there remains potential and the upcoming fixtures (especially the home games) might be enough to make Cazorla worth sticking with. If you have a set replacement in mind (like the aforementioned Silva), there are reasons to sell Cazorla, especially given his high ownership numbers, though I wouldn't say moving him is a pressing priority.
Status: Hold, but feel free to let your eye wander elsewhere

Adam Le Fondre 13
Le Fondre had a huge week including seven shots but with one start since September he's simply not ownable until we see much more certainty in this Reading side's front line.
Status: Sell

Theo Walcott 12
Five shots and six chances created in his last four games don't really get us excited but from watching the games, Walcott has at least shown signs of hitting the heights of past seasons (which of course were riddled with inconsistency too). The goal and assist came on just two shots and one chance created this week so at those rates this kind of fantasy haul isn't sustainable and it's really too early to be jumping back on board just yet.
Status: Monitor, but the temptation to bring him in for Cazorla to save cash looks fraught with risk and significant downside (he isn't of course totally locked into the first team yet).

Steven Fletcher 12
Fletcher's goals per shots on target now sits at 60% and as we've said before, without Sunderland showing substantial improvement in the chance creation department, Fletcher will need some historic skill/luck (I'd say more luck but it's still partly debatable) to continue to generate points at a decent rate.
Status: Sell

Shane Long 12
Long has quietly put up some decent numbers this year but has been ignored in part (at least in these pages) because of the higher upside of Lukaku. WBA's next seven games look very promising and so if you're currently stuck with a third forward who needs to be moved quickly for some short term gains, Long's package of reliability and moderate upside should at least get a look.
Status: Buy

Jason Puncheon 12
We highlighted Puncheon some time ago in the Moneyball series but then he suffered a couple of benchings and lost much of his luster. His 24 total shots rank alongside the likes of Mata (25), Pienaar (22) and Lallana (21) with a good proportion (50%) coming from inside the box. Needless to say Puncheon comes at a substantially lower price than that group though the trade off of course is his near total lack of assist potential (seven chances created). For 4.5m though, he brings excellent potential in one category and with an apparent increase in job security, he looks as good as anyone in his price tag.
Status: Buy

Luis Suarez 11
Not much to add here. Another seven shots (4 SiB, 2 SoT) this week as Suarez continues to roll. His goals per SoT rate is unsustainable in the long run (50%) but he's generating enough chances so that he should continue to score goals at a decent rate over the coming weeks, all else being equal. One could argue that his assist totals are lower than expected so that could possibly help to stabilise any scoring regression anyway. I wouldn't necessarily back him to outscore van Persie, Aguero or Rooney but given the discount he offers over that group, he remains very ownable.
Status: Buy 

Sergio Aguero 11
Again, not much to say. I love Aguero, the model loves Aguero, and perhaps as importantly, the general public don't (still just 6.6% ownership) meaning he provides somewhat of a differential option over the widely held likes of Tevez, van Persie and Suarez. The model likes him more than anyone over the next eight gameweeks and the only thing that might stand in his way is his boss, though that risk would be greatly reduced if (or when) City are mathematically eliminated from the Champions League.
Status: Buy, despite the fixtures

Anthony Pilkington 11
Pilkington has enjoyed a few more chances of late, with eight shots in the last three starts, after amassing just 10 in the previous six games. However, the majority are still coming from outside the box and his meagre touches inside the box (averaging just over two a game) don't suggest his goal this week is the start of a trend. Throw in the fact that he's only created more than a single chance once in the last seven gameweeks and you're left with an uninspiring use of 5.8m.
Status: Sell

Raheem Sterling 11
Sterling is another player who has been highlighted in the Moneyball series and while his underlying value remains around the same, his price has sky rocketed to 5.4m and thus he's much tougher to recommend buying these days. I see higher upside in players like James Morrison or Pablo Hernandez while someone like Jason Puncheon comes at a decent discount. Sterling is still very ownable but his price tag and ownership numbers make it tough to keep the 'buy' tag on him.
Status: Hold

Lukas Podolski 10
Podolski's goal conversion rate has hit Fletcher-esque levels, hence my own decision to sell him this week. His 18 shots, 10 SiB and 7 SoT point to a player who should have scored maybe twice and if his next 12 games play out like these, it would surprising to say the least to see him notch another four goals. Even then, only Rooney and Adebayor cost more than him with fewer goals to their name, and they have obviously played significantly less minutes. I like Podolski as a player quite a lot and his assist potential does offset some of this scoring concern, but his prospects project more like a 7.0m player than one who'll set you back 8.2m and thus he's all but impossible to own any more.
Status: Sell

Adam Johnson 9
Averaging less than a shot a game and playing on a team who just aren't creating anything or finishing his chances created - outside of Fletcher - doesn't bode well for Johnson. At 5.5m I could see him being worth a look but at 6.8m I don't see Johnson as even worth monitoring right now.
Status: Sell

Ricky Lambert 9
Lambert is performing about as we expected, though we might have expected perhaps an extra assist and one less goal. None of his conversion rates scream regression and he looks well placed to tick along at his current 5.4 P90: outstanding value for a player of his price tag. The model loves his prospects over the coming weeks, perhaps even enough to give Berbatov a run for his money as the best mid range option.
Status: Buy

Michu 9
Michu is an interesting player to analyse as while on one hand his 54% SoT to goals rate paints the picture of a regression candidate, his high shot totals and low price suggest that even with lower production he would still offer decent value. His total shots still put him 8th among all midfielders and with 13 SoT, would we be fairly comfortable giving him four goals, which would still trail only Fellaini and Nolan. Like that pair, he doesn't offer the dual threat of goals and assists that his pricier colleagues do, but his goals alone can justify a 7.0m outlay. When his price had sky rocketed ahead of the likes of Fellaini and Nolan I felt he was overpriced, but now they all come in at a similar price, Michu is once again worth looking at (assuming your buying, he was never really a sell candidate).
Status: Tentative buy if you're looking for reliability as higher risk/reward can surely be found

Jonathan De Guzman 9
De Guzman has some intriguing numbers but the issue is his price tag. Like Sterling above, I'd be all over his prospects at 4.5m or even 5.0, but at 5.7m he's into the range of players like Morrison, Lallana and Walters who have both equally impressive underlying stats to date and (in my humble opinion) a stronger chance of continuing to produce them. Unlike that trio, De Guzman is not one of the main men in the team, indeed his job could even be threatened when Ki returns from injury. If he maintains or increases his solid underlying stats for a few more weeks he might sneak onto our watchlist, but for now he's somewhat of an afterthought in this Swansea side.
Status: Sell, or possibly monitor if you're more convinced of his long term prospects than I am

Steven Naismith 8
His playing time is too patchy and with Mirallas back as soon as this week, he could find himself benched once one every in this side is fit/not suspended.
Status: Sell

Junior Hoilett 8
Hoilett's put up some good shot numbers and in a vacuum is perfectly ownable, but he has two major blots against his name. Firstly, despite all the potential, QPR just aren't getting any better and don't seem to be able to put their chances away. Second, without much of an assist threat Hoilett immediately puts himself against the likes of Nolan and Fellaini, who while more expensive, come with much higher upside and consistency. There's something here to monitor but as with the aforementioned Sunderland options, this team is so bad, it's tough to back anyone without outstanding numbers (and even then Taarabt and Granero are tough to buy despite their excellent underlying data).
Status: Monitor

Pablo Hernandez 8
Aside from a disappointing outing at Southampton in GW11, Hernandez's statistical fortunes have tracked along a fairly consistent upwards trend since breaking into the first team. Of course, three of those games have seen him come away with points (two goals, one assist and seven bonus points) and his underlying stats - while not mind blowing - support much of that production so far. In truth there isn't much to pick between his stats and De Guzman so it would be hypocritical to label him a 'buy' just yet, though his play is clearly trending upwards and he's one to monitor, especially if Swansea start to score at the higher rate that their stats suggest.
Status: Monitor

Peter Odemwingie 8
Odemwingie is a solid player but he hasn't really shown the stats to support his four goals and given his unpredictable playing time he's impossible to back given the price tag. If you like West Brom (and there's a lot to like) stick with Morrison or possibly Long.
Status: Sell

Eden Hazard 7
Not much interesting to note here. Hazard's last few weeks haven't been outstanding but there's not much to suggest he's suddenly in a sharp decline. If you were being super critical you might note that his chances created numbers are down a touch and considering he hasn't yet missed a game in the league, he could be due for a rest, but these are really just nit-picking points. He remains an excellent option with the only question being whether you like him or Mata more (I still favour a fully fit Mata, but it's close).
Status: Buy, though I'd personally give the edge to Mata

Gareth Bale 7
Bale's chances created numbers are way down over his last four starts which is something to monitor, but not a point that would push me towards necessarily selling the Spurs man. Bale is one of a handful of options you can legitimately start every week without concern and the fact Spurs get four fairly juicy home games in the next six (WHU, LIV, SWA and STK) only sweetens the deal. There are other great midfield options available but all things considered I find it tough to put many ahead of Bale.
Status: Buy

Stephane Sessegnon 7
Sessegnon is still only averaging just over a shot a game and his two SoT notched in the past two gameweeks were his first of the season. There's talent in this Sunderland side and if O'Neil can turn their fortunes around Sessegnon is good enough to capitalise, but we're a long way from that stage as things stand.
Status: Sell

Olivier Giroud 6
Despite trailing many of his colleagues in the minutes column, Giroud now ranks 3rd among all forwards in SiB and his 17 SoT suggest he's one of the few elite options under performing the expected league average so could possibly positively regress in the coming weeks, and that's before we account for him continuing to settle into a new team. The model loves Giroud's prospects, in part because he's shown an ability to put up good numbers both at home and away from the Emirates, so while he doesn't have too many 'captain' games, there isn't a fixture in the next eight where you'd be desperate to drop him (this week at Everton is the hardest). For those priced out of the Suarez/Tevez group, Giroud offers excellent upside and would make an very good second forward to either complement an elite option like Aguero or sit as part of a three-mid-range lineup with the likes of Berbatov and Lambert.
Status: Buy

Nicky Shorey 6
I don't normally highlight defenders but Shorey's assist potential is sufficiently high that he deserves a note here. After Baines' astronomical 50 created chances, Shorey slides in with 24, an excellent number for a defender, and a healthy number for a midfielder (though some account does need to be taken for the kind of chance created here as, without having data to back this up, one would expect a Silva through ball to be converted at a higher rate than a set piece flung into the box). Reading are converting 17% of all chances created as a team, which would give Shorey an expected four assists to date - a very useful number. However, if we accept that notion that his conversion rate is likely to be lower, we're left with a player with solid, but not spectacular assist potential and little else (Reading have just one clean sheet on the year and their underlying shot data does little to suggest that trend is about to change). The question is whether a 4.1m player is worth owning based essentially just on his assist potential? Possibly, though my issue is that his assists are likely to be fairly unpredictable, meaning you'll need to play him regularly to take advantage of them, which means a lot of one and two point outings. I like the idea in theory but I'd personally prefer to chase clean sheets with the 4.5m crowd (or even less in Norwich's case).
Status: Monitor for signs of progress by Reading, but until then I find it hard to buy

Demba Ba 6
Ba leads the league in SoT, is second only to Suarez in terms of SiB and yet costs anywhere between one and five million less than his elite peers. His goal per SoT of 38% looks about right and the fact that he's been equally good on the road as at home makes him an easy player to own. The only knock against Ba (and it's fairly significant) is the fixture list which sees him face tough trips to SOU, STK, FUL, MNU and ARS in the next eight games, as well as having to play MCI at home. Ba has done okay against the best teams so this is not to say he can't succeed, but on the balance of probabilities you'd back someone like Giroud or Berbatov in easier games to outscore Ba in tough ones, and thus it might be time to cast an eye over your options if you're a Ba owner.
Status: Hold, but consider your options given the fixtures

Samir Nasri 6
Nasri has excellent assist potential with 24 created chances in just 738 minutes but that still trails teammates Silva (28 in 644) who also brings a better goalscoring threat and more job security. If that latter point were to be addressed and we felt Nasri would start most games, his price tag makes him intriguing but until then, he's just etoo xpensive for a risky, one category player.
Status: Monitor to see if he can solidify an every week starting job

Monday, November 19, 2012

A week of missed chances

We focus a lot on shots and chances created around these electronic pages, based on the idea that they are more predictable than goals scored. Over the course of a season this is undoubtedly true, however, this week gave us a good reminder of what can happen in a sport where the odd goal can decide games and one moment of magic can give more rewards than 89 minutes of sweat and toil:

No real lessons here, it just struck me as particularly noteworthy that five of the week's winners were all out shot by their opponents, by some distance in a couple of instances. Indeed, we've seen four instances all season where teams had 20+ shots but lost, with two of them coming this week. The others were QPR's crazy 5-0 loss to Swansea in gameweek one where they out shot their opponents 21-13, and Spurs' 4-2 loss to Chelsea in gameweek eight in which they had as many SoT (10) as their opponents had total shots yet came away with nothing.

The 'pundits' would like us to think that all this is totally meaningless without goals ("goals win games" remember), and in a way they're absolutely right, all these highlighted teams earned exactly zero points, but if we replayed the fixtures 100 times, I think we can be confident that, for example, Newcastle at least manage to score more than once on 32 shots (thirty two!) fairly often, winning the game in a decent proportion of those outcomes.

Nothing more to take away here, just a reminder that however confident we are in forecasts, in a single gameweek, things can always go unexpectedly.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 12

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

As expected Szczesny reclaimed his spot between the sticks and thus we lose another potential budget 'keeper. This Arsenal defense is decent against the weaker sides but those games don't come often enough to justify lofty price tags. That leaves Mertesacker as the only real option here, unless you believe that Vermaelen's move to left back is permanent and Koscielny's minutes will be consistent too (call me unconvinced).

The key members of the front six are fairly settled and we can possibly soon add Walcott to the 'reliable' list after struggling for minutes early on in the season. At 8.7m he's in a tough price bracket as it's impossible to compare him to the likes of Bale, Mata or Cazorla on anything other than pure speculation, while it's equally tough to see if he offers enough to upgrade to him over the Michu/Nolan group. We'll touch on his prospects more in the fanning the flames piece.

Aston Villa
Guzan, Stevens, Vlaar, Clark, Lowton, Bannan, Westwood, Agbonlahor, Ireland, Weimann, Benteke
Subs: Given, El Ahmadi, Albrighton, Holman, Delph, Bowery, Baker

Consistent options can be found throughout the team and anyone who is borderline (El Ahmadi, Ireland, Agbonlahor) lack the necessary upside given their respective price tags to really concern us anyway. Benteke is definitely an option if you can afford to bench him against the league's elite but this team remains pretty uninspiring.

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

There was some chatter on BBC's live text that Chelsea's lack of depth is why they won't content this year and some on Twitter agreed with those suggestions. Looking at this bench, I don't see depth as a problem at all; I'd more suggest Chelsea just lack the starting quality up top and arguably at the back to compete with the two Manchester teams. That depth is some concern in fantasy circles as the midfield trio of Hazard, Mata and Oscar are arguably the only fantasy options in this squad and each can be rotated given the availability of options like Sturridge, Moses and Marin. That said, I see that more of 'resting' risk that a true rotation policy and it should only register as the slightest mark against that group.

The rotation on the back line is more concerning and given their price tags and Chelsea's mediocre defensive form of late, this whole unit may be a write off for a while.

Howard, Coleman, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines, Naismith, Osman, Fellaini, Hitzlsperger, Pienaar, Jelavic
Subs: Mucha, Oviedo, Distin, Vellios, Junior, Kennedy, Duffy

A rare letdown by Everton with only Fellaini able to contribute from their numerous widely held assets.  Needless to say, this one game wouldn't particularly turn me off any of these players. Fellaini did pickup his 5th yellow card though and will miss the home fixture against Norwich which is a real blow. With ARS, MCI and TOT to come in the three games after that, there's an argument to be made in selling him, but given the fact that most of his owners will be sat on a fairly sizeable profit, it's likely better to simply wait this one out. Mirallas missed out with injury but Moyes described it as "not too bad" though, again, given the fixtures, better value might be able to be found elsewhere, particularly if he was to also miss the Norwich game.

Schwarzer, Riether, Riise, Hangeland, Hughes, Sidwell, Karagounis, Kacaniklic, Duff, Ruiz, Berbatov
Subs: Kelly, Senderos, Petric, Rodallega, Dejagah, Smith, Stockdale

Another disappointing result from one of this week's fancied teams, though this one obviously turned more on the Hangeland sending off than anything worrying about Fulham's abilities. The back line remains useful though probably takes a slight downgrade for the time Hangeland is out. The midfield remains a bit of a mess due to rotation which wasn't really cleared up this week (though Kacaniklic's start was promising). There's talent here but it's tough to pinpoint how to exploit it, aside from Berbatov of course who still looked threatening today despite the lack of points.

Reina, Wisdom, Agger, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Johnson, Gerrard, Allen, Sterling, Suarez, Suso
Subs: Jones, Sahin, Cole, Henderson, Coates, Carragher, Shelvey

The full back situation at Anfield is interesting as while Wisdom is looking like a surprisingly constant fixture in this side (and thus a budget pick), Jose Enrique started on the left wing and comes with a reasonable price tag of his own. The next two away trips look tricky but after that Liverpool get a decent run of games and someone from this unit will be worthy of consideration. If Enrqiue gets another start or two in midfield he might the man to pick, if not, the budget Wisdom will offer upside with minimal risk. The attacking options here start and end with Suarez and Sterling.

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

These City reports write themselves. When Mancini plays his best players, good things tend to happen. Silva, Tevez and Aguero all enjoyed big days and managers will no doubt we wondering how many of them they should grab compared to just a couple of weeks back where it was hard to love anyone from this City side. In truth, not much has changed other than Mancini's commitment to avoiding needless rotation (and his latest spat with Balotelli which limited his ability to do so). The model likes all three players, though some caution does need to be exercised given the fixtures over the next five gameweeks.

I didn't give Nastacic enough mention in these pages over the past couple of weeks, and with four straight starts he could be the best way to access this City defense. With Lescott lurking, he still carries some risk but he's the cheapest option available (5.5m) and looks safer than everyone other than the pricey Kompany.

Man Utd
Lindegaard, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Young, van Persie, Hernandez
Subs: Johnstone, Jones, Anderson, Welbeck, Scholes, Cleverley, Fletcher

De Gea's absence was apparently due to a dental situation so we shouldn't expect anything too long term, though with the way Ferguson has rotated between the sticks, nothing is guaranteed. Where as City have frustrated as fantasy options due to a lack of consistent minutes, this side is simply bereft of fantasy talent at the moment (other than the elite front pair of course). Young and Valencia just aren't creating enough to be considered viable options while the central options are a rotation nightmare (and equally limited). van Persie and a fit Rooney are basically the start and finish of the attacking options here, at least until Kagawa and/or Nani return.

Krul, Simpson, S Taylor, Williamson, Santon, Ben Arfa, Anita, Tiote, Ferguson, Sammy Ameobi, Ba
Subs: Elliot, Amalfitano, Bigirimana, Marveaux, Shola Ameobi, Tavernier, Abeid

Newcastle were missing a number of players through injury, and with the likes of Coloccini at the back, Cabaye in the middle and Cisse up top all out, it's tough to really assess this team. Ba is obviously ownable no matter who plays, though looking ahead, GW16-21 looks pretty tough for the Magpies, so plans should be made there unless you aim to hold Ba for the duration.

Ruddy, Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Snodgrass, Johnson, Tettey, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Holt
Subs: Bunn, Howson, Jackson, Morison, Elliott Bennett, Tierney, Ryan Bennett

We're seeing consistency in this lineup and with it, much better results. Four clean sheets in five games, including two against ARS and MUN, grab the headlines, and though the underlying shot totals suggest an element of fortune in those blanks, the defense has clearly taken a step or two forward in the past month or so. If nothing else, they get home games against SUN and WIG in the next five gameweeks so this backline should continue to offer budget value.

Attacking wise, the team's uptick in results hasn't been by way of increased scoring and thus it's hard to really back anyone here. The front six does look fairly settled though so the cheaper options are aways worth a look (particularly Snodgrass).

Julio Cesar, Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Traore, Diakite, Faurlin, Granero, Taarabt, Hoilett, Cisse
Subs: Green, Derry, Wright-Phillips, Mackie, Dyer, Da Silva, Ehmer

At least the lineup is starting to settle down. The results continue to be woeful, to the point where it's somewhat surprising that Hughes has a job, but at least we know which players will flatter to deceive each week. They did generate some chances this week meaning Cisse and co. could be considered if the fixtures were right, though Southampton at home would presumably be one such game and they managed a respectable, but hardly excited, 12 shots, nine inside the box.

The back line is fairly predictable too but under no circumstances should you be anywhere near them.

Federici, Gunter, Morrison, Gorkss, Shorey, Robson-Kanu, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff, Roberts, Le Fondre
Subs: S Taylor, Mariappa, Pogrebnyak, Hunt, McCleary, Harte, Cummings.

This is another lineup which is starting to settle down, though as with a couple of other sides, I'm not sure there's any one single player who is a focal point of the attack and thus ownable. Le Fondre had a big day with seven shots and two goals but this was his first start since September and we're along from even considering him a player to closely monitor, never mind own.

One potential prospect is Nicky Shorey whose excellent chances created numbers were finally rewarded with an assist this week, though as you know, I don't like backing defenders based on their attacking ability alone, and this defense still looks a long way away from solid (another 21 shots conceded this week, 15 inside the box).

Gazzaniga, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Puncheon, Ramirez, Lallana, Lambert.
Subs: K Davis, Hooiveld, Steven Davis, Rodriguez, Fox, Ward-Prowse, Mayuka.

We've seen a significant amount of rotation along this back line, though if you're getting involved there you might have bigger troubles than Daniel Fox starting on the bench again. The front six here are what I would venture give Southampton the best chance of winning (perhaps with the exception of S Davis for Cork), though Adkins has shown a tendency to want to get Rodriguez involved with some regularity. That makes it tough to get too excited about Puncheon, who's been highlighted in the past but has suffered through his fair share of rotation. At 4.4m you can afford to have him rest sometimes, though as squad's start to get stretched with injuries and suspensions, it's a situation you ideally want to avoid.

Mignolet, Bardsley, Rose, Cuellar, O'Shea, Cattermole, Colback, Larsson, Johnson, Sessegnon, Fletcher
Subs: Campbell, Wickham, Kilgallon, Vaughan, McClean, Saha, Westwood

Though it hasn't done them much good so far, this side is at least fairly settled with James McClean the only man to drift in and out of the side (with Colback). Until we see much better performances on the attacking side of the ball - still only four SiB this week - this whole front six looks very tough to own, and despite his excellently taken goal this week, Fletcher is still a massive risk. The defense was one I liked coming into the year but they again surrendered 20 shots this week (12 SiB) and can't really be relied upon, other than the very easiest fixtures (WBA, QPR, RDG at home in the next five gameweeks does suggest they might be worth holding onto if you already own though).

Tremmel, Rangel, Williams, Monk, Davies, Britton, de Guzman, Dyer, Michu, Hernandez, Shechter
Subs: Cornell, Chico, Graham, Routledge, Moore, Tiendalli, Agustien

Once the darling of this blog, now Swansea provide essentially two players, one of whom is overheld and whose underlying stats suggest he is good value, but overachieving somewhat. The other is Hernandez who is quietly (0.6%) chipping in with some very nice performances and will get  some attention in the fanning the flames piece. The rest of this team looks impossible to predict with Dyer, Routledge, Graham, Schechter, de Guzman and Ki wrapped up in a six-into-four battle which probably leaves all them all but impossible to own.

Even the defense is now a touch unpredictable with Chico held to a bench spot this week, though you'd have to think that long term he'll recapture his spot from Monk. Even then though, this team gave up 32 shots (!) including 18 SiB and 9 SoT so this almost-clean-sheet isn't necessarily a sign of good defensive days to come.

Lloris, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton, Lennon, Sandro, Huddlestone, Bale, Adebayor, Defoe.
Subs: Friedel, Dempsey, Dawson, Sigurdsson, Livermore, Townsend, Carroll.

Lloris got his second league start and probably wishes he didn't. Villas-Boas did little for his dwindling reputation by suggesting his side controlled the game, though in the chances department, things were probably closer than the final scoreline. It's tough to see how Adebayor would have played over a longer period but he was sometimes drifting off Defoe suggesting Spurs didn't really abandon their 4-2-3-1 shape, but nevertheless Villas-Boas' willingness to start both forwards would be a huge blow to any remaining value Dempsey might have had. This side still offers plenty of consistent options with a fairly settled back line along with Lennon, Bale and Defoe (who is once again safe with Adebayor suspended).

West Brom
Myhill, Jones, Olsson, Tamas, Ridgewell, Morrison, Yacob, Mulumbu, Gera, Long, Odemwingie
Subs: Luke Daniels, Reid, Popov, Rosenberg, Brunt, Dorrans, Fortune

With Lukaku ineligible to play against his parent club, my weekly 'free Lukaku' rant can be put aside and thus there's not much to report here. Long is doing a solid job up top and should really be considered a safe option who is ownable, despite my objections. Morrison and Gera both have appeal while Olsson, Ridgewell and McAuley (when fit again) are also entrenched in the first team. Somewhat inexplicably, McAuley is the only widely held option at 15%, despite costing a full 0.5m more than his defensive teammates. Morrison deserves a lot more attention while Gera and Long are both worth a look as budget options.

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

Not much was made of Liverpool's victory this week, but Wigan's defense had been trending in the right direction in terms of shots surrendered with this representing somewhat of a setback. Ramis' price tag and attacking threat might make him ownable if Wigan can start converting some of those solid performances into clean sheets but this still isn't a side to really covert defensively. On the attacking side, the big three remain a fixture in the side and will have better days again in the future.