Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 15

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

Jenkinson came in for Sagna, though that doesn't look like a particularly long term injury so I wouldn't suggest jumping back on Jenkinson despite the price tag. The decision to play Gervinho over Giroud looks questionable, and a quick look at the average position chart shows that Arsenal lacked any presence in the middle of the field, with Gervinho and Podolski each drifting wide and Cazorla and Wilshere not really well placed to play that role. Though I feel that criticism levied against Arsenal - and particular Arsene Wenger - by many is generally ridiculous, they were the second best team in this one and I do have some doubts about these players hitting the heights that are required for them to substantially outperform their price tags. The fixtures remain positive though so I'm not ready to bail yet, but for the first time I'm personally starting to eye replacements for Cazorla (though in fairness he had a very useful statistical game in this one, I'm more concerned about a potential lack of goals in the team as a whole).

Aston Villa
Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Lichaj, Holman, Herd, Westwood, Bannan, Benteke, Agbonlahor
Subs: Given, Ireland, El Ahmadi, Bent, Delph, Weimann, Williams

This lineup has settled down of late, and while the results haven't exactly been inspirational, they have now gone seven games with only two losses against United and City (with three clean sheets for good measure). Despite Baker's promising price tag, Vlaar looks set to return soon, making Clark and Lowton the picks in this defense, should you wish to target them for spot starter status.

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

We still don't have a definitive answer on Azpilicuet'a future in this side as Luiz missed out through suspension. Terry is slated to return in the next couple of weeks too, so if you own him you'll want to hold on for now, but I wouldn't be targeting him at the moment given the risk of rotation. It's too early to press the panic button this team yet, but Chelsea have managed just 17 SiB in Benitez's three games, putting the 16th in the league over that short time frame. Granted, the opponents have been relatively tough but they've created 36%, 10% and 7% less chances their the league average against those same teams, also averaging 18% less SiB. If Mata and Hazard look guaranteed to play virtually every game, they remain valuable assets, but if this attacking unit continues to sputter and their minutes are brought into question, they could start to lose value quickly.

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

Not too much to report here after another excellent result for Everton. It's looking increasingly likely that Distin has made that second centre back spot his own, though as noted last week, I'm not sure this unit is particularly better than any of the other ~5.0m options and thus we shouldn't be falling over ourselves to buy into it.  Incredibly, Naismith has a high ownership than Mirallas, who looks set to return soon and will likely be someone I highlight in coming weeks as potential differential option.

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

Riether departed early with a knee injury, with the extent of his absence not yet known. If it's a long term issue, the natural replacements are right there with Hughes (4.5m) or Hangeland (4.8m) depending on what premium you attach to a slight increased chance at goals (and I mean slight). There's little to like in this midfield which looks like a rotation minefield of fringe options, and even Berbatov has lost some gloss over the past couple of weeks, not even registering a shot this week. The next seven games look too good to give up on the Bulgarian now, but as with all highly touted prospects, his inclusion in your side should not be automatic.

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

Jose Enrique moved back to a more familiar left back spot, though he and Johnson were still allowed incredible freedom going forward, with Lucas filling in as the third defender if they were ever caught up field. I don't think the attacking part of his game is a huge plus, though the model likes the Liverpool defense quite a bit and at 6.0m Enrique is likely the best way to access it. No changes in the side going forward with Suarez and Sterling really being the extent of the ownable options.

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

Kolarov departed this one early, which could make team selection at the back a bit easier to predict (assuming he misses time). Nastasic was gaining some buzz among managers but missed out here entirely meaning there's really only Kompany who can be relied on to play every game (and he is way overpriced). Given the struggles of the other big name defenses, we might be in a situation where you want to grab Nastasic or Zabaleta and just accept the fact that they'll only play two of every three games. Aguero not playing seems ridiculous in my humble opinion and I just don't see the need for the level of rotation Mancini is engaging in. I love the idea of managers doing things differently to the consensus opinion, but I just can't spot any trends in when the likes of Aguero and Silva are dropped.  While I'm willing to take some hits with mid-priced defenders, 11.0m players need to playing pretty much every game to justify their cost, so unless this benching is the last for a while, Aguero is going to be very tough to own.

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

Rafael was hauled off early here, though that was at least partly due to his yellow card and thus I wouldn't assume he'll suddenly be dropped. That said, Jones and Smalling are very capable replacements and with United continuing to leak goals, his place in this side is by no means guaranteed. Given his 1.0m price rise, it's somewhat tempting to just cut loose now, and go with a budget five-man defense, ignoring the frustratingly inconsistent 'big' teams totally. Rooney had a big points haul this week, though somewhat ironically it was one of his worst statistical performances of the year (two shots and one chance created). The penalty duties are a boost to his value and I don't see this week's stats as a big issue, suffice to say I'm still monitoring Rooney's role very carefully.

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

Not too much to add here, other than that it was disappointing to see this improving defense really struggle in the second half against Sunderland (playing without Fletcher). At 4.0m Bunn can be a nice rotation option, as can Whittaker or Bassong, but I'd be loath to expect more than spot starts from this group. No one in this side is standing out going forward and despite their budget price tags, they don't look overly appealing. I wouldn't necessarily be desperate to sell Snodgrass and company just yet, but equally I wouldn't be targeting them either.

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

Only one change from Redknapp's debut here with Wright-Phillips coming in for Cisse, so there's hope that this lineup will settle down. They created plenty of chances this week, with a good number inside the box (10/17), which is again promising for their future prospects. Taarabt added three shots and five chances created, making him the standout option once again. With Cisse sitting and Granero not really involved these past two weeks, it's tough to find much value outside of the Moroccan.

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

This lineup looks fairly predictable each week now, though Guthrie returned to the bench this week so he could soon challenge for minutes in the middle of the park. Though it was a good effort against United this week, their 12 shot, seven SoT effort is not one that's indicative of a suddenly elite attacking side, so any expectations must be tempered to at least be realistic. Given their price tags McAnuff, and particularly Le Fondre, offer some interesting value, as do Shorey and maybe Morrison at the back, but I issue a word of caution before expecting this kind of performance with any regularity.

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

This result poured a bit of water on my Southampton hype, and served as a good reminder that as well as the likes of Lambert and Puncheon have done to date, they're still mid-level of prospects who either need to benched in the tougher games, or who should come with low expectations. Lineup wise there's little to report here and thus we can just chalk this one down to a loss to a solid - and improving - Liverpool side.

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

No real lineup notes here as Stoke continue to offer consistency across the board, with Jones only coming in due to a minor Crouch injury. This defense remains solid but the attacking options are probably priced on the high side and it's tough to see outstanding value here.

Sunderland
Mignolet, Bardsley, Kilgallon, Cuellar, Rose, Johnson, Gardner, Larsson, McClean, Sessegnon, Fletcher
Subs: Westwood, Campbell, Wickham, McFadden, Colback, Vaughan, Bramble

The good news is that this team have a fairly predictable lineup these days. The bad news is that they once again flattered to deceive against an at-best mid-level opponent, and their main man Fletcher departed at half time with an apparent injury. In fairness they looked improved in the second half, and were probably the better side. Still, it's really tough to see much value here and I'm even hesitant to really get excited about anyone for their upcoming double gameweek unless you have free transfers to burn.

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

An excellent display from Swansea here, who were really good value for the win. They held possession well when it mattered and created decent chances throughout the game. There's still some rotation issues of concern with Hernandez and Routledge due to return soon, which might mean that Michu is the only really safe pickup here. The Spaniard remains excellent value with the only real knock against him being his high ownership numbers. The stats suggest some decline is likely, but not so much as to make him worth less than his very reasonable price tag.

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

I (wrongly) speculated a couple of weeks back that Spurs' defense might now be settled with Vertonghen, Dawson, Caulker and Walker starting the majority of games from here on. Since then, Caulker and Walker have both been rotated once, this week seeing Naughton get the nod at right back. With Dawson limping out this week, the depth is reduced but it still isn't clear whether Gallas or Walker will step in if needed (with Vertonghen shifting to the centre if it was Walker). We also have issues up top with Bale out for appears to be a couple of weeks. How to deal with him is a tricky one as a GW18 return would see him back in time to face STK, @AVL, @SUN, RDG, @QPR: a run of games you wouldn't want to miss. If not further complications come up, it's likely worth holding steady, especially if you'd lose money having to buy him back.

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

Big changes here with Ridgewell, Morrison, Brunt, Odemwingie and Lukaku all dropping down to the bench. Though there are plenty of signs to suggest this West Brom side are overachieving, they do still offer some intrigue, and have shown the ability to score goals with some consistency. However, there aren't really any reliable options here and thus it's almost impossible to single anyone out to target. Morrison is probably still pretty safe , while at the back with Olsson and soon the returning Foster in goal, but otherwise you're playing with rotation risks like Gera, Long or Brunt. Given their respective price tags, I guess you feel okay holding Gera but otherwise things look a bit tricky in this West Brom side.

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

Not too much of note here with the highlights coming from players - Cole, Maiga and Diame - who don't appear to be guaranteed of regular minutes. As it often the case with Allardyce sides, the sum of the individual parts is less the value of the team, and thus aside from Nolan there isn't too much attacking potential here to target. The defense look solid enough at times, though a lack of stand out fixtures in the next few weeks suggests you might be better served holding off until we are clear whether Demel, McCartney or O'Brien will drop to the bench when everyone is healthy.

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