Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 18

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

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

An unchanged side here for Arsene Wenger with Walcott getting another start up front in place of Giroud (who didn't even feature on the bench due to illness). For what it's worth I'd suggest that Oxlade-Chamberlain has done just okay since coming into the side and I'd be surprised if Walcott wasn't restored back to a wide position soon with Giroud retaking his spot up top. I'd suggest that the "Arsenal overplay it" narrative is sometimes an oversimplified crutch used to explain their lack of success which is often simply attributable to not having as good players as City or United rather than some philosophical shortcoming. Nevertheless, there is an element of truth in that criticism and Walcott's presence up top hardly gives them a traditional forward type to aim crosses at. His pace is a huge asset on the counter but he can get into those positions from his midfield spot anyway so I wouldn't pencil him into that Henry mold just yet.

The rest of this team looks nicely settled and the back line is one of the best value in the league. The return of Sagna at just 5.1m makes him the best pickup for me.

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

I noted last week that Villa were starting to surrender an alarming number of shots away from home and that trend obviously continued this week with the demolition at the hands of Chelsea. There wasn't a great deal to like in this side as it was, with perhaps Lowton or Clark offering glimpses of rotatable form at one point, though given the recent results it's going to be hard to get on board there. Despite the result, Benteke still managed to get a couple of chances and remains very ownable given the upcoming fixtures.

Chelsea
Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole, Luiz, Lampard, Moses, Mata, Hazard, Torres
Subs: Turnbull, Ramires, Oscar, Ferreira, Marin, Piazon, Ake

Everyone got in on the act here and it was bad week to not hold any Chelsea players (believe me). In terms of lineup these isn't too much to report as the bench is stretched so thin that the only legitimate choice made by Benitez was to opt for Moses over Oscar and Luiz in midfield over Ramires. That latter move is very interesting as while playing in a defensive midfield role is hardly a license to earn unlimited points, given that Luiz is essentially the same price as his defensive teammates, that advanced position is not costing you a premium and if nothing else should lead to more guaranteed minutes as he proves his worth in two key areas in the team.

Everton
Howard, Heitinga, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Osman, Gibson, Neville, Pienaar, Jelavic, Anichebe
Subs: Mucha, Oviedo, Naismith, Hitzlsperger, Barkley, Vellios, Duffy

Heitinga got the start at right back in place of Coleman but that shouldn't have much impact on your options here (the position has been in flux all season). Not much else to report here with Anichebe coming in but likely only for another week or two until the suspended Fellaini returns.

Fulham
Schwarzer, Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise, Kacaniklic, Karagounis, Baird, Richardson, Dejagah, Berbatov
Subs: Stockdale, Senderos, Kasami, Briggs, Rodallega, Frei, Tavares

Jol seems unclear what to do with his attacking options here with Rodallega out this week despite the absence of Petric. Fulham have been poor of late and whether that's attributable to Ruiz's absence (or simply the case of the fixture list catching up with them) is debatable but what isn't is that Berbatov is becoming hard to own at the moment, stranded up front and surrounded with dubious or inconsistent talent on a weekly basis. With SOU, SWA and WIG at home in the next four weeks I'd say it was crazy to sell Berbatov now, but there's very little else here offensively to pique any interest in doubling up to take advantage of the fixtures.

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

Allen and Sterling dropped to the bench but my instincts would suggest those moves are more for resting rather than true 'rotation' purposes. This was always going to a be a risk for Sterling given his age and considering his meteoric price rise I'd suggest he isn't particularly undervalued these days and thus it might be time to sell. This defense has really excelled this year and has gone from strength to strength as the key assets have returned and formed a very stable back line. Skrtel and Enrique look like two of the better ways to spend ~6m at the moment and one could at least make an argument that Johnson is worth the extra 0.5m investment if you're somewhat flush with cash.

Man City
Hart, Zabaleta, Toure, Nastasic, Rekik, Barry, Javi Garcia, Toure, Silva, Aguero, Tevez
Subs: Wright, Kompany, Lescott, Milner, Dzeko, Sinclair, Razak

In fairness, Mancini didn't have any natural options to fill the role, but I thought it was a mistake to play Garcia, Barry and Yaya against a very weak Reading side who set their stall out extremely deep from the first minute. Though they escaped with the win, City should have created more good chances and I would personally have liked to see them roll with three forwards or at least Sinclair earlier in the contest. Anyway, the Nasri injury probably does fantasy managers a favour as it's less likely that Tevez/Aguero/Slva get rotated and one or two of them may get through the festive period unscathed (your guess is as good as mine as to which). Despite Kompany's absence the team looked fairly settled at the back and Rekik did okay for a debut. I don't see them as an elite unit in line with prior year but Nastasic looks like a very solid wildcard pickup at 5.6m.

Man Utd
De Gea, Jones, Evans, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Young, Rooney, van Persie
Subs: Lindegaard, Giggs, Hernandez, Welbeck, Scholes, Fletcher, Buttner

This might be United's strongest lineup, even when Rafael is fit, and I'd back all these players to get a significant amount of minutes in the second half of the year. Saying that I thought United looked fairly weak at the back and their last five games have seen them surrender on average 16% more shots than their opponent's average. I therefore wouldn't be a rush to secure any of them in my long term plans given the availability of other options for equal or lower price tags.

Newcastle
Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Anita, Tiote, Perch, Gutierrez, Ba, Cisse
Subs: Harper, Bigirimana, Marveaux, Shola Ameobi, Obertan, Sammy Ameobi, Ferguson

No issues of note here, partly due to Pardew's settled lineup and partly due to a lack of genuine alternatives thanks to a series of injuries. Either way, Newcastle aren't making headlines at the moment but they continue to supply decent fantasy value without too much fanfare.

Norwich
Bunn, Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Snodgrass, Tettey, Hoolahan, Johnson, Pilkington, Morison
Subs: Steer, Martin, Howson, Jackson, Elliott Bennett, Barnett, Kane

Holt was out through injury but otherwise this looks like a fairly settled lineup and thus provides decent options at several price points. I'm not a big fan of this defense given their +/- scores, but they are at least cheap and now fairly settled so they might offer some spot start value.

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

We hoped Redknapp's arrival would see some consistency arrive at Loftus Road but the results have been somewhat underwhelming. They've generated SiB at a level 28% below opponent adjusted average over the last seven games, exceeding the average just once in that period (GW14 vs SUN +11%). Their four shot, one SiB effort this week (-88%) was their worst on the season and it wouldn't be surprising to see some upheaval in the starting eleven, which throws the future of many of these potential fantasy options into question. You have to think that to succeed, Taarabt and Cisse will get their minutes for QPR, but given the limited upside currently on offer, the risk of future rotation does somewhat loom large. Throw in some tough fixtures and these guys suddenly look pretty unattractive.

Reading
Federici, Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte, McAnuff, Leigertwood, Karacan, Tabb, Kebe, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Taylor, Shorey, Le Fondre, Hunt, Gorkss, Robson-Kanu, Guthrie

If they'd held on for another two minutes the narrative would have been what a brave display it was to sneak a draw at City. We can debate the merits of 'parking the bus' all day long, but without a doubt it's bad news from a fantasy point of view and it essentially gave the likes of McAnuff and the surprisingly benched Le Fondre and Robson-Kanu zero chance of earning any points.I don't blame McDermott at all for trying to play within his teams' limits but it's worth bearing in mind that based on the outcome of their last two results (almost a good result against City and a good hiding against Arsenal when playing more open), they're unlikely to start taking it to teams in the near future.

The dropping of Shorey, Le Fondre and Robson-Kanu - all viable fantasy options - was a huge surprise and if that continues for another week I would be legitimately worried. For now I'll assume it was more down to fitness (Robson-Kanu) and the specific fixture (Pogrebnyak can presumably hold up and chase the ball better).

Southampton
K Davis, Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Shaw, Puncheon, Cork, Schneiderlin, Mayuka, Lambert, Ramirez
Subs: Boruc, Hooiveld, S Davis, Rodriguez, Do Prado, Richardson, De Ridder

Mayuka came in for the injured Lallana but otherwise this team is as you were. Losing at home to Sunderland (without scoring) is a massive blow to owners of Southampton players and it's a game I had specifically targeted when bringing Puncheon in. They've now under-performed the league adjusted average in SiB by an average of 51% over their past two games and there must at least be some concern that their solid start is starting to flounder. For their price and given the stability they bring I'm still okay holding the options we've discussed before in this side, but I am having doubts for the first time in a long time.

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

We all know Stoke are a good defense but the last six weeks have really seen them take the next step to becoming a team you could potentially lean on in any game. They've allowed 27% less SiB than their opponents average, adding four clean sheets in the process. Defensively this lineup is now very settled with Wilkinson grabbing that second full back spot and thus they are very easy to get behind. Going forward the story isn't so rosy and I'm still baffled by Crouch's omission from this side, a fact that could well be rectified this week after Jones missed a number of decent chances this week. Until we see major progress here though, the only value in this team lies with the very valuable back five.

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

No real issues to note here with Bardsley continuing to be on the outside looking in and Larsson restored to that central role once more. Despite not looking overly impressive to the eye or on the stat sheet, this defense has somehow put together three clean sheets in the last six games, and encouragingly they were in the three games you actually might have started any of them. Going forward the attacking trio of Fletcher, Sessegnon and Johnson all offer some value to managers.

Swansea
Vorm, Tiendalli, Chico, Williams, Davies, Dyer, Britton, Agustien, de Guzman, Routledge, Michu
Subs: Tremmel, Graham, Monk, Shechter, Moore, Ki, Richards

Vorm returned between the sticks and looked sharp, though Tremmel did okay in his absence so I wouldn't expect an immediate turn around for this defense. Their value does take a tick up though and so Davies continues to offer extremely good value for his price tag. The main attacking options are also fairly entrenched in this side and again offer good value.

Tottenham
Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Caulker, Vertonghen, Lennon, Sandro, Dembele, Bale, Defoe, Adebayor.
Subs: Friedel, Parker, Gallas, Naughton, Sigurdsson, Livermore, Townsend.

I'm pleased to see Dawson back and if that move sticks he instantly becomes an extremely promising pickup at just 4.5m. Villas-Boas seems to be committed to this 4-4-2 but I wonder what that means for Dempsey and Sigurdsson? Will they simply be cast aside from essentially every game from here on? We'll have to wait for Dempsey to return to answer that but for now this front six looks nice and settled where it matters.

West Brom
Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Popov, Morrison, Brunt, Odemwingie, Gera, Dorrans, Lukaku
Subs: Myhill, Ridgewell, Rosenberg, Long, Jara Reyes, Tamas, Fortune.

Foster returned between the sticks and might want to have another go at Snodgrass's free kick, but overall he should boost this defense's value, which has suffered of late. Lukaku played and thus obviously scored, as he has done in every game he's played 60+ minutes bar one. I understand that Long is enjoying a useful campaign himself but Lukaku has as many goals as Aguero, Jelavic and one more than Berbaov despite playing between 30-50% less minutes than that trio. Until we get an indication that might happen though, he's all but impossible to own.

West Ham
Jaaskelainen, Tomkins, Collins, Reid, O'Brien, Noble, O'Neil, Taylor, Nolan, Jarvis, Cole
Subs: Spiegel, Collison, Maiga, Diarra, Spence, Moncur, Lletget

Demel was left out here and his playing time issues makes him too risky to own right now. Given the off week this week I'd recommend his owners look elsewhere, either with O'Brien or further afield. Not much else to note in the rest of this team, who like a couple of others are as much limited by injury as by their manager's commitment to a particular eleven.

Wigan
Al Habsi; Stam, Boyce, Figueroa, Beausejour; McCarthy, McArthur, Jones; Di Santo, Kone, Maloney.
Subs: Pollitt, Caldwell, Gomez, McManaman, Boselli, Fyvie, Golobart

Another settled lineup here with Gomez and Maloney being the only pair of note to see their playing time constantly toyed with. That makes investment in that pair ultimately impossible and with Di Santo suffering a couple of rotations himself, the options here might be limited to Kone for now. The back line looks pretty settled and did okay against a good Arsenal side, suggesting that perhaps the team is finally ready to make a claim as spot start worthy.

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