Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gameweek 25 Preview

Clean Sheet Rankings

Attacking Rankings
Individual Rankings

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gameweek 24 Preview

Clean Sheet Rankings

Attacking Rankings
Individual Rankings

Dousing the fire, fanning the flames: Gameweek 23

As in prior weeks, each player is assigned a 'buy', 'hold/monitor' or 'sell' status. These do not necessarily reflect what I would personally do, rather what I suggest to be a decision based in logic. For example, I might feel that Rooney represents better value than van Persie, but I would still 'buy' the Dutchman's success and consider him very ownable. The different assigned statuses are summarised as:
  • 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 sell 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. 
The below analysis is best reviewed alongside the player dashboards, which show all the stats highlighted within the narrative.

Theo Walcott
There's nothing not to like here especially as Walcott was able to show against West Ham that he can still be an extremely fantasy asset alongside Giroud and he doesn't need to be in the solo front man role. The discount he brought to the table over the likes of Mata and Cazorla is of course now gone, but even at this higher price he remains excellent value for money. With the potential conflict of his contract situation now also behind us, I see no reason - statistical or otherwse - to doubt Walcott's fantasy value.
Status: Buy

Lukas Podolski
The data really doesn't backup what Podolski is doing, though I do believe he - along with the likes of van Persie - are over performing versus the model due to (a) superior ability and (b) a higher quality of chance received. That said, aside from two big games in GW17-18 against Wigan and Reading, he's only managed to notch more than two total shots in a game once and has just a single game (GW4) where he hit the target more than once. Podolski is a very good player and one of the better finishers in the league but those kind of numbers are always going to limit his upside and now the double gameweek is behind us, it's probably time to move on, even if the upcoming games do look useful on paper.
Status: Sell, though the next couple of games at least come at the Emirates suggesting this move isn't a huge priority

David Silva
First things first: on a personal biased level I love David Silva. I love watching him play, I love the fact that he's a genuinely world class player in the Premier League and I love the fact he does his work on the right side of Manchester. I've been dying to get behind him in these very electronic pages, and yet now I have the perfect chance, I'm somewhat lukewarm in the upcoming praise. His numbers are solid, perhaps even good, but the model puts him behind Mata, Bale, Walcott, Cazorla, Hazard and even Fellaini, and I'm not sure there's too much scope to argue based on not just the results (all those players trump Silva in points to date) but also the process in generating those points.

Now, I always say I'm much more willing to take risks on genuinely talented players even when the numbers aren't necessarily screaming 'buy', and Silva certainly fits that role, yet City place just fourth in forecast goals over the next eight gameweeks, without too many fixtures which suggest a huge points haul for the Spaniard. We do need to note, of course, that of those aforementioned six players, all are currently held by between 17-34% of all managers, with Silva coming in with just 6%. So if you're looking to really push the limits with differentiators he is certainly one of the few players not held by the masses who is capable of genuinely elite points totals, yet, if I had to choice one or two of these players to target, I would still lean towards Rooney or Aguero over the Spanish maestro, simply based on the lack of upsude his underlying stats have shown this year. He's extremely ownable and along with that aforementioned group of six players and Michu forms a group of midfielders who have really distanced themselves from the pack and will likely form the basis of the majority of midfields from here on in. It's tempting to try and get away from the masses but I'm not really convinced this is the right place to do it, unless you really need to start making up ground, and fast.
Status: Monitor for signs of improvement but until I see a bit more in terms of goal threat he remains a very good fantasy asset priced like an elite one.

Jonathan de Guzman
As a Canadian resident I am supposed to downplay de Guzman's abilities as he isn't too popular on these shores given his constant refusal to accept a place in the national side. However, his underlying stats are pretty solid and so I'm putting aside my new loyalties to try and be objective. He's getting a healthy, though inconsistent amount of shots over the last few weeks, often boosted by his set piece duties, though these of course will be outside the box, thus providing a substantially lower goal threat. The lack of assist potential is a concern though and if we believe his potential is largely limited to scoring goals (rather than assists) this puts him against the likes of Puncheon, Marveaux and teammate Hernandez, two of which come at a substantial discount. His ownership number makes de Guzman worth looking at but I'm not sure I see the potential here to justify him being anything more than a 5th midfielder gamble.
Status: Monitor

Oliver Giroud
The data has been good when played, but with Walcott looking good up top and a number of options ready to supplement the team in midfield, Giroud's playing time looks like it could continue to be sporadic.
Status: Sell

Steven Fletcher
Fletcher continues to tick along at a decent rate, though his 12 total shots (10 SiB, 7 SoT) aren't overly encouraging. Saying that though, it makes no sense at all to sell Fletcher as he faces a nice run of games over the next seven weeks or so and given his solid returns he could even be a 'buy' for that period. I thought his ownership number would be an issue but I'm slightly surprised to see it down at 6%, so there's really no need to force the issue looking at more speculative names given Fletcher's proven history. The model isn't crazy about Fletcher's prospects, preferring the like of Benteke, Lambert and Berbatov, but it's close enough to be arguable and only Benteke comes as a real differentiator from that group.
Status: Buy for the fixtures, stay for the consistent returns

Santi Cazorla
Cazorla had been taking a lot less shots on goal of late so it was good to see him notch nine attempts over the two games this week. The fact that only three came inside the box puts a slight dent in out enthusiasm, but still, it's a good start considering four total efforts he'd managed over the last four gameweeks. The model likes Cazorla to continue his success and now Walcott's price and ownership numbers have risen, that choice is essentially a toss up. If pushed I'd still probably favour Mata and Bale in the elite midfield group, while Walcott's value is probably a touch higher that the model says, as that data is largely based on him playing out wide, thus as good as Cazorla looks, he might be the fourth best option in a  group where most teams can afford at most three players.
Status: Buy, though I would personally favour a couple of other options

Adam Le Fondre
I won't dwell here. Statistically Le Fondre is Reading's best forward, perhaps player, but he isn't getting regular minutes so, alas, remains unownable.
Status: Sell for now, though monitor

Joe Cole
I can't say I was ever a huge fan of Cole's work, though he joins an officiant West Ham team that generates a lot of chances inside the box, at least some of which should fall Cole's way. He may also get to create some of them via set pieces and open play, giving him the ability to contribute in all categories. At 5.6m he's an interesting prospect and one who we should monitor closely over the next couple of games. It's too early for me to get involved just yet, though the upcoming games do offer some promise for those looking to differentiate.
Status: Monitor, or a very speculative but logical buy

Jordan Henderson
This isn't as laughable as you might think but even though Henderson has been okay on occasion, his playing time is still far from guaranteed and the limited upside doesn't come close to offsetting that risk.
Status: Sell

Christian Benteke
There really is a lot to like here and Benteke can stake a pretty strong claim to being the best mid-level forward available. What I really like about Benteke's stats of late are how is really punishing the weaker teams, which makes him easier to start and bench if your squad depth lends itself to such a strategy. Over the last 10 games Benteke has faced five 'easier' teams (RDG, QPR, WIG, SWA and SOU) and he's notched shot totals of 7, 6, 4, 3 and then a lone poor game with just a single shot at QPR. The upcoming games are good enough for Benteke to succeed and his 3% ownership number makes him one of the players with genuine upside not already held by the masses.
Status: Buy

Yohann Cabaye
After a uneventful return to the side in GW22, Cabaye looked very good this week, adding five total shots with three on target (including a beauty of a free kick) and a couple of created chances. In a vacuum he's probably a bit overpriced given his lack of advanced play, but he's in a solid side, surrounded by good players and thus the chances should continue to come his way. He might not be the optimum play in his price bracket, but then constantly returning to the same old group of players who have already had success this year isn't doing you any favours either. He lacks of the upside of some freer scoring midfielders available at close to his price but he's also entrenched in this side and should get steady minutes and production from here on: a value not to be ignored.
Status: Tentative buy

Craig Gardner
Who can resist a defensively minded midfielder playing right back for mediocre team? Oh right, everyone. Status: Sell

Steve Gerrard
Gerrard is getting a healthy amount of shots but for a player in his price bracket we're seeing way too many of them coming from long range. With Sturridge now presumably in the first team, Gerrard will likely spend some time in a deeper role, further limiting his production and thus after a brief flirtation with staging an unlikely fantasy comeback I'm less enthused by his future and find it tough to put him in that elite group.
Status: Sell, based on the fixtures and a forecast decline over the longer term

Frank Lampard
The penalties are a bonus and Lampard can still get on the end of Chelsea moves when everything falls into place, but I worry that there's a lack of consistency in his potential here, not to mention the consistent threat of losing playing time to the likes of Oscar or even Ba, should he be asked to take a spot out wide, forcing either Mata or Hazard inside. The suspension to Hazard means the playing time should be okay for the next couple of weeks, but long term this still doesn't appear to represent an optimal use of 8.5m
Status: Long term sell, though he's a hold based on the assumed playing time in Hazard's absence

Juan Mata
Nothing to add here. Mata is great and while the underlying stats aren't always eye popping, they're more than enough to make him of the best players at any position in the league.
Status: Buy

Luis Suarez
After some concern about how Suarez would lineup with Sturridge on board, we got a number of positive answers, with Suarez managing three shots and a very promising five created chances. His days of notching seven shots every week could be limited, but provided the quality of shot is improving, his overall threat should continue as an impressive rate. Throw in that extra assist potential and I'm more than happy to keep Suarez very close to the top of the overall rankings.
Status: Buy

Robin van Persie
The Dutch man had one of his least impressive statistical games this week but after picking up just 6 points last week despite a monstrous 8 shot performance, I'll give him a pass for overachieving a bit this week. With Rooney and Aguero back to fitness we all face some questions whether we want to sell van Persie and use the 3.0m elsewhere but that's some ground that doesn't need retreading right now.
Status: Buy

Chris Brunt
Brunt looks to be firmly entrenched in this side and comes with a decent skill set, but if you're comparing him with James Morrison it's tough to really see much value here (though Morrison himself has lost some appeal given his new found penchant for only shooting from long range).
Status: Sell

Clint Dempsey
With Adebayor away Dempsey might see some extra playing time but its nowhere near secure enough for me to get involved here. Let me know if he moves to back Fulham before the transfer window closes.
Status: Sell

Charles N'Zogbia
Hello old friend, it's been a while. After back to back starts and, more importantly a couple of interesting stats, we can finally put N'Zogbia back on the collective radar after what seems like an eternity frozen out of Villa Park. Seven attempted dribbles (five successful) in just 67 minutes tells the tale of a player who has potentially recaptured some of his attacking confidence which saw him become a very useful asset during his time at Wigan. Those dribbles only turned into a couple of shots and three created chances but even that instantly makes him the second best option in this Villa side and one to watch more closely in the next game or so. He isn't dirt cheap at 5.8m and it's hard to see him suddenly generating the kind of points to make him a steal at that price but he has the potential to make an impact and is owned by no one (0.4%) so he's worth keeping in mind.
Status: Monitor

Gabriel Agbonlahor
We just said that N'Zogbia was the second option to look at in this Villa side, and for now, there isn't a third
Status: Sell

Carlton Cole
No guaranteed playing time without much upside doesn't excite anyone.
Status: Sell

Loic Remy
I haven't seen a great deal of Remy during his time at Marseille, though I've seen enough of him in a France shirt to convince me he can succeed in this league. Drafting anyone from this QPR side is a risk, as evidenced by some of the previous intrigue I've had for Taarabt and Cisse (both of whom have generally underwelmed in terms of points production), but as we've seen with Benteke and with players like Yakubu in the past; good players can have success in weaker teams, providing they are efficient with their chances. This doesn't mean we need them to convert at an unsustainable rate, just that if Remy is going to succeed he's going to need to get a high rate of quality chances and hit the target at an elite rate. There are of course a myriad of reasons not to look at someone like Remy and it goes without saying that if my life depended on it I would prefer Berbatov or probably Lambert and Benteke. However, at this stage of the season it's all about calculated risks and, though we don't have data to back it up, I believe Remy falls into this category. The fixtures make it a little tough to buy in here though as QPR face a mixture of very hard (MCI and MUN) and very solid (NOR and SWA) games over the next month. Perhaps we can just look at this as a period to review the French forward, targeting GW28 as a time we might want to recruit Remy for the final push if he continues to impress as he did on his debut.
Status: I'd like to say buy but the fixtures limit this one to a monitor

Adel Taarabt
There's really not much more to say about Taarabt. His stats are good (though too many shots are still being taken from long range) but for a number of reasons they aren't turning into fantasy points with any predictable consistency. He's still ownable and still brings a better upside than most of his peers but I'm wait and see how Remy fits into this side before getting too hyped up with Taarabt again.
Status: Monitor

Tom Cleverley
I'd love to get involved here and add another potential United player to our shortlists, but with Kagawa back in the frame (and having already played in one of those two pivot roles), Cleverly faces yet another threat to his playing time. Given his lack of upside when he does play there isn't enough here to warrant having a 5.6m midfielder sit every few weeks.
Status: Sell

Stewart Downing
I feel a little bad for Downing as after his finally started to show his worth to this Liverpool side, Sturridge comes along and occupies one of those front four positions, leaving Downing to compete with Sterling and Shelvey for just a single spot. I've suggested over the past few weeks that Sterling's playing time was bound to come down, so Downing should still get some games, but like with Cleverly, I'd like to see my mid level midfielders playing every week unless they offer extraordinary upside, which Downing doesn't. He would only appear to be viable if Sterling was to totally drop out of this team due to injury or simply being shut down for the year given his age.
Status: Sell

Adam Johnson
Johnson continues to deliver good points production but we've reach a point where his lack of underlying stats are a real concern. His last five games have seen him create 0-0-1-1-1 chances yet he's come away with a couple of assists, while his SoT totals of 1-1-0-1-0 hardly support his two goals either. He brings a secure playing spot and is involved in a lot of the good things Sunderland do, however, whether if you think you're buying a player who can consistently deliver 6-12 point performances on a regular basis I believe you're going to be disappointed. If money were no option I'd like Johnson given the above facts and his low ownership number but at 6.7m he just looks too pricey and t's hard to see how he's better than the rest of that ~6.0m group who come at a reasonable discount.
Status: Sell

If you were creating a list of players who would play the most minutes without making any other fantasy contributions, Lucas may well top it. In 671 minutes he's had one touch inside the opponents' penalty box and hasn't registered a single shot.
Status: Sell

Sylvain Marveaux
Marveaux is a really intriguing player who has caught the eye both on the field on the stat sheet in Ben Arfa and Cabaye's absence. With Cabaye back though and Gouffran, Sissoko and possibly Bony coming in, Newcastle suddenly look like they have a lot more depth and thus I fear for Marveauxs playing time for the coming weeks. Of that group (and admittedly not knowing much about Bony) he seems to be the most natural fit on the left wing, so at least until Ben Arfa returns he certainly could continue to play. For that reason I'm okay holding him, but I'd probably take the 'buy' sign off him, given the uncertainty we're seeing with his playing time.
Status: Hold and monitor

The points simply had to slow down after a ridiculous opening to the season, and that has indeed happened with 23 points over the last seven gameweeks (including one game spent on the sideline). The shots are still coming though, and are still focused inside the box, it's just that there being converted at a more normal rate. There's enough here to justify his price tag - which comes in a bracket without too many options - though given his ridiculous ownership number, anyone looking to make ground should strongly consider looking somewhere else. Michu was incredible value at 6.5m but assuming his conversion rates stay at this current league average rate, it's harder to say he's a steal at 8.4m and looks fairly priced.
Status: Hold, though consider looking elsewhere to differentiate

Peter Odemwingie
Odemwingie is a useful player but he can't be relied upon to play every week and the transfer rumours of him  leaving the club are possibly signs that he is seen as surplus to requirements.
Status: Sell

Daniel Sturridge
Sturridge is an exciting new addition to the available options and I'm surprised we haven't seen more managers flocking to him after a couple of early goals in his Liverpool career. It's tough to utilize too much data with Sturridge so we're working on speculation here, but Liverpool look like a very useful team and with Suarez next to him, Sturridge looks well placed to take advantage. There's good depth in that ~7.0m range of forwards but I'd be willing to take a bet on Sturridge if you want to go away from the more widely held options like Berbatov or Lambert.
Status: Buy

Rickie Lambert
No real status change here. Lambert possibly lacks the upside of some of the options available for slightly more money, but his penalty duties give him great consistency and by this point in the season I think it's safe to say that the chance of Southampton simply falling off a cliff is low. I wouldn't want to buy in to this team for the next four games given the fixtures but longer term I'd be happy to plug Lambert in as a third forward.
Status: Sell for the next four games but long term he's still very ownable

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 23

Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Coquelin, Diaby, Walcott, Wilshere, Cazorla, Giroud
Subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Andre Santos, Ramsey, Arshavin, Jenkinson, Frimpong

Podolski and Oxlade Chamberlain picked up an illness towards the end of the week and so weren't available for this one. That left very few options for Wenger so this team pretty much picked itself. The one area of note was Mertesacker retaining his place at the expense of Koscielny, who flirted with the first team before his red card last week. Saying that, as discussed earlier in the week, Sagna seems to make by far the most sense in this back line so the Mertesacker drama shouldn't be a major factor anyway.

Aston Villa
Guzan, Vlaar, Clark, Baker, Lowton, Westwood, Delph, N'Zogbia, Bennett, Agbonlahor, Benteke
Subs: Marshall, Ireland, Bent, Holman, Bowery, Bannan, Lichaj

As expected, Vlaar came back into the team this week, though with 21 goals shipped in the last seven games, I'm not sure his return makes a big difference. N'Zogbia got another start here and looked impressive, with seven dribbles and three created chances. At 5.8m it's going to take more than that to justify his inclusion in your team but he is a genuine talent when he's playing and provides this Villa side with some much needed attacking flair. With the transfer window not offering much by way of new talent, returning options like N'Zogbia are going to need to be at least glanced at as the search for differentiators hots up. Darren Bent also made the bench though wasn't introduced here with Benteke and Agbonlahor both looking useful. His only impact for this season is likely to be the potential stealing of minutes from others, unless he was to be sold to another team.

Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Oscar, Hazard, Mata, Torres
Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Terry, Ba, Bertrand, Ake

We didn't get a great answer as to how this back line will shake out, with Luiz kept out of the squad and Terry kept on the bench. As much as I like Cahill, I wouldn't expect Terry to be benched for a sustained period and thus we're still left with the question as to whether he or Azpilicueta will make way. As talked about in this week's cheap links piece, I like Azplicueta as a risky play but anyone buying him now has to understand there is at least a chance that he is benched soon with Ivanovic taking his place at right back. Up front, we got the expected (if unfortunate) answer to how Torres will be treated, with Ba making way for Spaniard up top. Perhaps Ba gets more minutes than Torres; perhaps there are odd games where both play, but long story short, 8.9m is a lot to pay for someone who might not play every week, and for me at least, he's probably out of contention unless something changes.

Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Coleman, Neville, Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini, Naismith, Jelavic
Subs: Mucha, Heitinga, Duffy, Oviedo, Hitzelsperger, Mirallas, Anichebe

Nothing much to report here, though Mirallas dropping to the bench is at least somewhat of a surprise, if not an impact fantasy move. I wouldn't go so far as to suggest there's any reason to panic about this Everton side, but their numbers have taken a slight downturn of late despite reasonable fixtures. The next two games look excellent so no moves should obviously be made just yet but if Everton don't show a bit more attacking threat in these games, some of Fellaini's appeal might wane.

Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Richardson, Duff, Karagounis, Sidwell, Dejagah, Ruiz, Berbatov
Subs: Etheridge, Senderos, Baird, Petric, Briggs, Rodallega, Kacaniklic

We're still seeing a fair amount of movement in this midfield and it's making it very hard to really single anyone out for ownership. Up front and defensively this team is as settled as they come though and continue to offer solid value, though Berbatov's numbers have really taken a hit of late which has me questioning him slightly for the first time this year. The upcoming games aren't outstanding but equally there aren't too many which look overly scary so I'm still on the Bulgarian's bandwagon for now.

Jones, Wisdom, Carragher, Agger, Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, DowningSturridge, Suarez
Subs: Gulacsi, Allen, Borini, Sterling, Shelvey, Skrtel, Robinson

We had a couple of new (well, old) names at the back though neither Jones nor Carragher should be long term fixtures in this side. Suarez played up front with Sturridge and despite a few concerns from some quarters, came out with three shots, a goal and - as an added bonus - five chances created. I was very bullish about Liverpool's future coming into this week and an 18 shot (eight on target) to four shot (one on target) victory has done nothing to temper that. Suarez is about as good as anyone in the game, while Sturridge (four shots) represents a very nice differential option. Once again, Sterling got the week off here so I will reiterate my concern that the youngster minutes are bound to be limited in the second half given his lack of proven history in this league.

Man City
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Barry, Javi Garcia, Milner, Tevez, Silva, Dzeko
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Nasri, Kolarov, Aguero, Rodwell, Balotelli

Aguero was only given a shot on the bench, though after a somewhat un-clinical display from City in which they created 20 shots yet only managed a couple of goals, it wouldn't be surprising to see him starting again next week at QPR.Not too much else to note in this side with Milner preferred to Nasri (though that will likely flip again soon) and Balotelli restored to the bench.

Man Utd
De Gea, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Jones, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa, Welbeck, van Persie
Subs: Lindegaard, Valencia, Anderson, Rooney, Giggs, Smalling, Hernandez

Rooney was sent to the bench which is a concern for those looking to divest themselves of van Persie anytime soon, though at least part of that might be the strength of the opposition (which meant Ferguson didn't want to roll with four very attacking players) and Rooney's own fitness. Long term I wouldn't say his playing time is a huge issue, though he's clearly more susceptible to rotation than some of the other elite assets like, say, Suarez, but given his ownership/price/upside combo, he's still very much in contention. With Evans sidelined, Ferdinand and Vidic were restored at the back, though with the Northern Irishman back soon, it's not too clear as to Ferguson's first choice partnership so Rafael still looks like the clear pick here.

Krul, Coloccini, Santon, Debuchy, Williamson, Cabaye, Anita, Marveaux, Gutierrez, Sh Ameobi, Cisse
Subs: Elliot, Perch, S Taylor, Bigirimana, Obertan, Sa Ameobi, Ranger

It's great to see Cabaye back in this side, especially as he marked his return with a beauty of a free kick. He added five shots in total, though to temper that enthusiasm somewhat, four of those were from long range so we're not ready to put him into an elite bracket just yet. He has however put together some decent underlying stats this year, and was better than his fantasy points haul suggested before getting hurt. At 6.6m and with 2.8% ownership he represents a nice differential option, though I might be tempted to wait until GW27 when the fixtures open up nicely.

Bunn, Martin, R Bennett, Turner, Garrido, E Bennett, Johnson, Howson, Snodgrass, Tettey, Holt
Subs: Rudd, Jackson, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Barnett, Tierney, Kane

Bassong was injured so Bennett got the start here but otherwise it's pretty much as you were here.

Julio Cesar, Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Da Silva, Derry, Mbia, Mackie, Taarabt, Wright-Phillips, Remy
Subs: Green, Traore, Ferdinand, Park, Hoilett, Faurlin, Bothroyd

Redknapp hasn't really settled on a set system at QPR never mind a team, making it tricky to get overly excited about anyone here. I did however think that Remy looked very good at times during his debut, no more so of course than during his composed finish, and while I'm not saying he's suddenly a lock to achieve anything based on one display, it's rare that we get a genuine influx of talent for a reasonable price and thus Remy deserves a note. More on him in this week's fanning the flames.

Federici, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte, Kelly, Leigertwood, McCleary, Kebe, McAnuff, Guthrie, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Taylor, Gunter, Morrison, Akpan, Karacan, Le Fondre, Hunt

I'm not sure what Le Fondre has to do to earn minutes in this side, but his brace this week will help. It's not that I'd be thrilled to own him, but at least at 4.7m he would be someone who could occasionally come off your bench and give you something at a bargain price. The rest of this side is pretty uninspiring and I'm not really buying into Kebe despite his points tally over the last couple of weeks.

Boruc, Clyne, Hooiveld, Yoshida, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Ramirez, Cork, Guly, Puncheon, Lambert
Subs: K Davis, Fox, Richardson, S Davis, Chaplow, De Ridder, Rodriguez

Guly got another start at the expense of Rodriguez though he hasn't exhibited particularly exciting stats that would elevate him over the consistently solid Puncheon. The majority of this side is very settled and continues to offer solid value across all positions.

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

Another left back missed out this week with Wilkinson sidelined, thus giving us no very cheap ways to access this useful back line. Wilson is back in training and will represent outstanding at 4.0m if he wins his place back, as would Wilkinson if he was the preferred starter at 4.3m. Either way, it's probably worth waiting here to see who wins out with Cameron looking like the best safe haven for now, if you are keen to take advantage of this week's Wigan fixture. Crouch was restored to the starting lineup for the first time since GW13, though with just a single shot in just over an hours work, I wouldn't say that battle with Jones is really settled.

Mignolet, Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Colback, Larsson, N'Diaye, Vaughan, Johnson, Fletcher, Sessegnon
Subs: Westwood, Bardsley, Wickham, McFadden, Kilgallon, McClean, Elmohamady

N'Diaye marked his first start with an assist and his two shots and two chances created don't really tie in with his deep deployment. I'd suspect he won't generate that kind of offensive threat consistently, but given his price tag (4.5m) it's at least worth monitoring. The reliable names remain in this side and after an a dyer run of games, Sunderland have looked better of late and I'm more hopeful the likes of Fletcher and Sessegnon can enjoy some sustained success.

Vorm, Rangel, Monk, Williams, Davies, Hernandez, de Guzman, Ki, Michu, Routledge, Shechter
Subs: Tremmel, Bartley, Britton, Graham, Dyer, Lamah, Tiendalli

I like Shechter quite a bit as a player but it remains a touch odd that Graham continues to be passed over in this side when he's enjoyed relative success when played. One point of note on Schechter's deployment is that it pushed Michu slightly deeper into midfield, though another four shots (three in the box) suggest there's little worry about there.

Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Caulker, Naughton, Lennon, Parker, Dembele, Bale, Dempsey, Defoe
Subs: Friedel, Vertonghen, Huddlestone, Sigurdsson, Livermore, Townsend, Assou-Ekotto

Villas Boas continues to rotate his defence and it was especially strange to see arguably their best defender (Vertonghen) benched against the league's best forward. I've highlighted Dawson before and still believe he will play enough to earn his price tag, but this continued rotation does limit our excitement about anyone on offer here. Though we're generally keen to diminish the value of long range efforts, Bale's seven shots this week caught the eye and though Spurs face a number of games on the road in the coming weeks I'd suggest the Welshman remains as valuable as ever.

West Brom
Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Morrison, Dorrans, Yacob, Brunt, Lukaku, Odemwingie
Subs: Myhill, Popov, Rosenberg, Thomas, Thorne, Dawson, Tamas

I'm delighted to see Lukaku continue to play here but without seeing him sustainably started over a fully fit Long, I'm still hesitant to get involved there. Elsewhere the key men and fairly entrenched in this side giving us little to discuss in these pages.

West Ham
Jaaskelainen, Demel, Tomkins, Reid, O'Brien, Noble, Diame, J Cole, Nolan, Jarvis, Chamakh
Subs: Spiegel, C Cole, Collison, Vaz Te, Taylor, Diarra, Potts

West Ham have suddenly built up some decent depth (one of Allardyce's most underrated abilities is his ability to constantly add pieces here and there whenever they become available) and it's making this team slightly harder to predict. That said, Joe Cole seems to have played well in his two games back at Upton Park and you'd think his place in this side over the likes of Taylor or Vaz Te is pretty safe. With Jarvis also looking to be first choice and that central trio really picking itself we are hopefully in a spot where that depth is only utilized when needed rather than for rotation's sake. Chamakh - himself probably not guaranteed a starting spot - did well in this one, racking up four shots and sixteen penalty box touches, so if you believe he can hold off C Cole, his aerial ability should offer some value if nothing else.

Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Figueroa, Stam, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour, Gomez, Di Santo, Maloney.
Subs: Robles, Jones, Henriquez, McManaman, Espinoza, Boselli, Golobart

With Kone gone, this side becomes easier to forecast and despite the loss this week, their 23 total shots (11 inside the box) suggests they should still be able to score with Gomez (four shots) and Maloney (three shots, five chances created) each looking notably threatening. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gameweek 23 Preview

Clean Sheet Rankings

Attacking Rankings
Individual Rankings

Cheap Links

Sometimes I hesitate writing certain posts as the content of them sounds somewhat obvious. That said, doubling up on double gameweek players or selling those who have lost playing time all seem self evident but are continually ignored so I guess nothing is too obvious.

The chart below plots the starters from each team defence's price against their ownership, hoping to identify the 'cheap links' within a given side. The logic being, of course, that the majority of most defenders' points come from clean sheets, which are earned as a team, rather than as an individual. As with any decision, it isn't as simple as finding the cheapest defender from a team and throwing him into your side, as we also need to consider their job security, and of course their attacking potential. I'm not going to dwell on the later, suffice to say that in many cases we are often guilty of overpaying for that attacking threat, which is generally extremely hard to predict. There are exceptions (or perhaps, an exception with Leighton Baines) but my general view is to air on the side of caution when forecasting attacking points for defenders.

The size of the square on the below chart represents a players' attacking potential based on their underlying stats to date. Given that we're close to the halfway point of the year (and thus everyone has essentially played everyone once) I have not adjusted the forecast for opponents, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt, merely as a quick and dirty indicator of wide gaps between two given options.

I have briefly touched on every team, but for many there really isn't much to say. This piece is specifically about cheap links in a given team so I will not dwell on debating the "merits" of the Villa defenders, all of whom essentially cost the same and offer little by way of differentiation (or in truth, points).

In the below projected lineups, players who I deem to be safer are marked in bold. In many cases I have little to base this on other than historic playing time, so if you feel someone is misrepresented, my apologies, and please adjust them in your own rankings.

Projected lineup: Gibbs, Mertsesacker, Vermaelen, Sagna
This one might be one of the easiest picks in this piece and to me at least represents free money for those currently holding Gibbs, Vermaelen or the suddenly less secure Mertesacker (he was benched in favour of Koscielny this week, who was of course sent off, but long term you have to now question the German's place in this side a bit). The attacking drop off from Vermaelen to Sagna is non existent and the narrative of Vermaelen as some kind of offensive centre back has simply not played out in the stats. He's more likely to get an entry in a goal of the month competition but that privilege doesn't come with a fantasy bounty. As for Gibbs, he has put up better attacking numbers than Sagna, but probably not to the point of justifying the extra 0.5m investment. Sagna has historically (and this season) shown an ability to chip in with one or two goals and 3-5 assists and there isn't much here to suggest Gibbs will significantly eclipse those totals this year. Throw in the fact that Sagna offers a nice differential option from your rivals and he makes one of the better defensive buys around.
Pick: Sagna, definitely over Vermaelen and Mertsacker, and just ahead of Gibbs

Aston Villa
Projected lineup: Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Baker
As noted above there's little value in this per se, and with no one standing out as sufficiently cheap to get involved with, let's move on.

Projected lineup: Cole, Terry, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Luiz (midfield)
If it wasn't for the question mark over his playing time, Azpilicueta would be by far the best pickup here and I'd be yelling his name from the roof tops. He hasn't brought a great attacking threat but he does enough and it's unlikely that over the next 16 weeks Luiz does enough offensively to justify the extra 1.0m it'll take to get him. That said, he faces competition not just from Luiz (who could slide back into defence from midfield at any time) but also from Terry and Cahill who are now both fit and ready to go. If I had to guess I'd suggest that Ivanovic is preferred in the middle and Azpilicueta - for me a more 'typical' full back - is kept at right back. If you're team is really limited for transfers Azpilicueta might represent a risk, but if you're wildcarding or have the depth to cover him should he dropped, he represents a very solid risk-reward candidate.
Pick: Azpilicueta as a somewhat risky upside play

Projected lineup: Baines, Distin, Jagielka, Coleman
This is a tough one as while my instinct is to shun the pricey Baines for the reasonably priced Distin, his production and potential is undeniable. In the admittedly crude expected points calculations used in the chart, Baines forecasts to score 40 attacking points for the remainder of the year with only Assou Ekotto (31), Evra (25) and G Johnson (21) managing to top 20. Given that the Spurs man's number is based on a tiny sample size we basically have a situation where Baines is almost twice as good as all other defensive players. Is that enough to justify the extra 2.2m over Distin to enough to compensate for Everton's lack of defensive prowess versus the likes of Man Utd (Evra) or Chelsea (Luiz), I'm honestly not sure. That same 2.2m could be the difference between Nolan and Bale, or Podolski and Suarez, gaps which have been similar as the Baines-Distin spread to date, but which look (a) more likely to continue given Distin's increased playing time and (b) are subject to more upside given the form Bale and Suarez have shown. As for the gap to other more projectable defensive sides, the model is really not a fan of Everton's upcoming schedule and thus it's hard to say that Baines is a sure bet to eclipse the likes of Evra or Luiz, hence my preference for grabbing Distin in this side
Pick: Distin looks like the safest pick though Baines' attacking upside is legit and it's at least arguable that he can justify that premium if your squad value is relatively high

Projected lineup: Riise, Hughes, Hangeland, Riether
Fulham are a solid yet unspectacular defence who should be counted on more as good rotation defenders rather than ones you can deploy every week without question. That means price becomes a big factor (provided you have guaranteed playing time which probably applies to everyone here despite Riise's recent stint on the sidelines) and thus Hughes is the only player I'd touch here with Baird no longer a stable option in midfield. Hangeland and Riise just don't bring enough to the table to warrant the extra cost and given their 5% and 6% higher ownership, this moves looks like a no brainer to me.
Pick: Hughes

Projected lineup: G Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Wisdom
This decision may be the easiest of all, with Jose Enrique sidelined for another month, thus giving Wisdom another four or five games in the first team, including home against Norwich, West Brom, and hopefully Swansea. If you're not wildcarding, or have already done so, I guess there is a question as to whether you'd want to burn two transfers on a player who also faces two games in which you'll have to drop him (@ARS, @MCI) but otherwise he looks like one of the best pickups available.
Pick: Wisdom, by a long way (please also note the lack of use of the hacky "consensus Wisdom" pun here.

Man City
Projected lineup: Clichy, Kompany, Nastasic, Zabaleta
There's really no value in this back line in terms of cheaper assets, so you really just have to try and balance out their job security and price tag, which right now would probably lead you to Zabaleta. That's another mess for another day though.

Man Utd
Projected lineup: Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael
It's the same story on the red side of Manchester as you're really just hoping for your United players to play, with no one coming at an extreme discount. Evra and Rafael look closer in terms of attacking potential than their points haul would suggest, though Rafael does also face a slightly higher chance of rotation with P Jones waiting in the wings. Again, this mess is not really the focus here, so let's keep going.

Projected lineup: Santon, S Taylor, Coloccini, Debuchy
Once S Taylor returns he looks like he'll be the best play here, coming at the lowest price, owned by no one and bringing a much better attacking threat than his tiny sample size for this season suggests. Moving Santon to him doesn't look like a priority but Coloccini owners should probably take a longer look given the added presence of his differential ability.
Pick: S Taylor, when healthy, looks like a worthy play for a slight discount over his teammates

Projected lineup: Garrido, Turner, Bassong, R Martin
Bassong and Martin have each enjoyed brief runs of big points production, but neither have the underlying stats to suggest this kind of form is here to stay. Saying that, Whittaker out indefinitely (Martin's main competition), his attacking upside looks to be be sufficiently high to warrant the higher ownership percentage so I'd take him over Turner right now (though wouldn't be in a rush to make the move either way). Bassong owners should strongly consider cashing in and saving themselves over a million pounds given his much higher ownership numbers and limited attacking upside.
Pick: Martin

Projected lineup: Traore, Hill, Mbia, Nelsen
There's really no point getting involved here until we know what Redknapp will do in the transfer window. That, and the fact that this team is somewhat devoid of fantasy talent.

Projected lineup: Harte, Mariappa, Pearce, Gunter
Everyone can be had for under 4.0m so you're free to pick whichever one of these cheap options will disappoint you after showing flashes of promise during their three clean run in GW18-20.

Projected lineup: Shaw, Hooiveld, Yoshida, Clyne
Clyne and Shaw look like the best plays here, with Clyne probably getting the slight edge despite his higher ownership numbers thanks to a better attacking threat. We're less bothered about that higher ownership percentage for players like Clyne, as the majority of those owners won't be playing him so any upside would be felt by few of those ~6%.
Pick: Clyne

Projected lineup: Wilkinson/Wilson, Huth, Shawcross, Cameron
Marc Wilson is back is training and will represent sensational value at 4.0m when he's fully fit. Until then Wilkinson remains the best pick here as Huth and particularly Shawcross's attacking threat is really overrated and you're really only paying for Stoke's very strong defence. With Wilson possibly back next month, if you were using a transfer I might lean towards for Cameron for safety, but if wildcarding I'd feel comfortable slipping Wilkinson in here and then making the move to Wilson when he regains his full fitness.
Pick: Cameron in the short term but Wilson for the long term when healthy

Projected lineup: Colback, O'Shea, Bramble, Gardner
With Cuellar sidelined, Bramble becomes the cheapest option here but that move comes with a downgrade to this unpredictable defence so I wouldn't want to get carried away. However, 4.3m for a player who looks pretty much guaranteed playing time until Cuellar's return is solid value so Bramble deserves a look as a 5th defender type.
Pick: Bramble

Projected lineup: Davies, Chico, Williams, Rangel
Rangel is presenting with a much stronger attacking threat than Davies, and it's to a point where the 0.5m investment may almost be worth it, especially considering the higher risk that the young Davies will face more time on the sidelines (replaced by the very competent Tierdalli) than the more experienced Rangel. If you have money lying around it's probably worth the upgrade but I'd be more than okay holding both of these options and would swap Williams for both.
Pick: Davies, or Rangel if you have spare cash

Projected lineup: Assou Ekotto, Vertonghen, Dawson, Walker
The three pricey options here all look like reasonable options though are pretty much priced where they should be. Dawson on the other hand could be one the best value defenders in the whole game, if you believe he can hold off the threat from Caulker and Gallas. I probably wouldn't suggest he'll play every game but I believe he'll play enough to be an excellent rotation option and would strongly target him in the next few weeks.
Pick: Dawson

West Brom
Projected lineup: Ridgewell, Olsson, McAuley, Jones
Jones' price tag is promising and the playing time has been pretty solid of late, suggesting he's the pick here. He does come with a slightly lower attacking threat than Olsson which together with slightly less job security might lead one to conclude that Olsson remains the pick here. I'd venture it's pretty close and neither look like options you'd really want to target right now.

West Ham
Projected lineup: Demel, Collins, Reid, O'Brien
With McCartney sidelined and O'Brien's price rise, Demel once again becomes the cheap link here and should represent solid value at 4.0m. O'Brien owners who got in at a lower price will likely feel okay staying put but Reid owners should think about this move as the 1.1m difference in price can be better used elsewhere.
Pick: Demel

Projected lineup: Boyce, Ramis, Figueroa, Caldwell, Beausejour
It isn't particularly clear who will play in the Wigan side, nor in what formation they will start and thus with no super cheap options there's really nothing to focus on within this whole group.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dousing the fire, fanning the flames: Gameweek 22

As in prior weeks, each player is assigned a 'buy', 'hold/monitor' or 'sell' status. These do not necessarily reflect what I would personally do, rather what I suggest to be a decision based in logic. For example, I might feel that Rooney represents better value than van Persie, but I would still 'buy' the Dutchman's success and consider him very ownable. The different assigned statuses are summarised as:
  • 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 sell 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.
The below analysis is best reviewed alongside the player dashboards, which show all the stats highlighted within the narrative.

Juan Mata (14 points)
In terms of underlying stats, Mata had a disappointing week here, which can be taken as a good thing (he still earned points without necessarily having the best day) or bad depending on how you skew it. I'd generally fall into the latter category as few players can consistently outperform their underlying stats, but there's no real reason to think Mata won't get his chances again in the future, and so the fact Chelsea have shown some signs of converting chances at a healthy rate is probably a slight boost to his overall value. The upcoming games look great and so there's good reason to hold Mata after his double gameweek.
Status: Buy

Jimmy Kebe
I'm kind of down on this Reading side at the moment, despite the good come-from-behind win this week. They simply aren't creating enough chances to score at anything like the rate required to offset their shaky defense, and with that production fragmented across a number of so-so options, there's very little reason to dwell here.
Status: Sell

Adam Johnson
I'd like to say Johnson is a legit option to get excited about but the only things that's really changed of late has been his conversion rate, seeing him score twice on three SoT and notch an assist on just six created chances over the last six gameweeks. Saying that, the upcoming games look favourable and Johnson could be a useful differentiator if you have deep pockets and can afford his price tag for your 5th midfielder.
Status: Monitor, or a speculative buy if you believe his underlying production will increase to compensate for a presumed regression in conversion

Frank Lampard
Lampard had a pretty solid statistical game here and has been a sold option of late. With Mata's value steadily rising and Chelsea continuing to impress, you might want to get involved with Lampard, whose goal threat has been as good as both his teammates, though a lack of assist threat will always make his points production somewhat spiky. His penalty duties are a boost though and given the lack of talent in that mid-8.0m range, if nothing else he could serve as a useful option for those needing to divest themselves of Yaya Toure.
Status: Buy, though his upside is limited compared to many of his peers

James McClean
Sunderland have enjoyed a couple of good wins lately with McClean chipping in with a couple of goals in the last seven games, but looking at his stats, there's really very little to indicate his production will be anything more than sporadic. His stable playing time would make him intriguing as a minimum price option but for 5.7m you need a lot more bang for your buck.
Status: Sell

Carlos Tevez
With Aguero sidelined, Tevez looked like an attractive option but with the Kun due back as soon as this week against Fulham, Tevez will once again find himself embroiled in a battle with Dzeko (and Balotelli) for playing time. Given the limited upside shown in this game and in prior starts, his price tag and high ownership make him pretty hard to get excited about and for the money I'd prefer to take the risk that Ba gets serious minutes at Chelsea or try and at least look to someone like Podolski for this week.
Status: Hold, but consider trying to sell if you can

Seb Larsson
If we're not excited by Johnson's solid stats, Larsson wholly underwhelming numbers aren't going to win any favour in these parts.
Status: Sell

Romelu Lukaku
We've been hyping Lukaku in these very electronic pages for some time now and it's great to see him (a) finally get some steady playing time and (b) earn some plaudits for his continued success. Shane Long is fit again so Lukaku is not going to suddenly be playing every minute so his 6.5m price is still tough to have sat on the bench. That said, his upside is high enough that if your budget can stretch to the point where him sitting won't force you to play poor options, you do worse than riding him as a third forward and taking the odd down game with his obvious potential. This main problem with that strategy is that even when benched the Belgian has tended to come on, thus giving you one point performances rather than paving the way for your sub. There's really not much more I can say about Lukaku, whose stats are off the chart but yet who can't be guaranteed to even play in a given week. For me that means he remains a monitor but if you're desperate to make ground I'd prefer to take a risk with a player like Lukaku who has the potential to deliver excellent value.
Status: Monitor, or a very speculative buy

Eden Hazard
His stats don't quite match up to Mata's but now his ownership percentage is lower than the Spaniard and given he comes at a 0.6m discount, it's no longer an obvious move to pass on the talented Hazard. His goal threat is just about on a par with Mata of late and his chances created aren't too far behind (11 versus seven over the last six weeks), essentially making this pair a virtual toss up. Right now I'd still back Mata based on the longer range trends, but if you're in a situation where you're chasing an opponent who has Mata, I'd be very happy to grab Hazard, pocket the extra cash and hope he can start converting his useful stats at the rate he started the season with.
Status: Buy, though I'd still slightly favour Mata, all else being equal

Giorgos Karagounis
With three chances created and two shots on target over the last six weeks, it'll take more than one excellent strike to spark any interest here.
Status: Sell

Rickie Lambert
We'd normally be down on player's racking up just one shot in a week, but when it comes from players on penalty duties there's a slight satisfaction knowing that this is one of the reasons we paid a premium to get them. When those duties are attached to a useful player who comes at a bargain price, the satisfaction could easily manifest to smugness. The next five fixtures should put paid to any of those feelings, but Lambert's set piece duties do at least make him bearable to own no matter who the opponent and thus he remains great value at just 6.4m.
Status: Buy, though given the upcoming games better options likely exist 

James Milner
When he's played, Milner has actually been pretty good for City, not just in the real world but in fantasy terms too, with three goals in just 621 minutes (more than Sterling and Puncheon and as many as Dyer in less than half the time). However, with Nasri back and Aguero almost fit, not to mention Balotelli peaking out of Mancini's dog house, the bench would appear to beckon once more.
Status: Sell

James Morrison
Morrison has been putting up great stats all year without necessarily seeing the points come his way, so it's almost poetic that he gets his first points since GW11 in a week where his underlying stats were only okay. The chances created are nice but generally he's brought a better goal threat than he showed this week, as evidenced by his 13 shots over the last six gameweeks. He's still taking too many of those attempts from outside the box to give him a great goal threat but the assist potential (16 CC in the last six gameweeks) remains and for this price it's tough to find players who can legitimately contribute in every category, so let's not dwell on the negatives here for too long. The next five gameweeks see West Brom get a couple of favourable games so Morrison should remain right where he's been for a while: potential a very good value midfielder but still just ticking along as serviceable.
Status: Hold, or a somewhat uninspiring but solid buy

Pavel Pogrebynak
The price tag is nice but three goals from five total shots (four on target) isn't going to continue for long and Pogrebnyak will regress back to the mean sooner rather than later. There's very little to get excited about in this Reading side and I'm afraid Pogrebynak doesn't do much to change that conclusion.
Status: Pass

Gareth Bale
Bale hasn't missed a beat since sitting out through suspension, leading all midfielders in shots over the last four gameweeks, despite that off week. Though Spurs don't have any immediate games which look great on paper, they also don't have too many which would really worry you as a Bale owner and thus once all the double gameweek noise settles down, Bale could very well retake his place atop the midfield rankings.
Status: Buy

Franco Di Santo
Di Santo has put up some nice stats of late, and may actually benefit from Kone's absence as he's given a more advanced role. I wouldn't suggest that Di Santo is a long term option to simply plug into a side for the long term but if the fixtures work out (as they to in the next three gameweeks), his 5.3m price tag can potentially afford you some flexibility elsewhere in your team and thus it's a worthy strategy to consider. Those struggling to fit van Persie in can also look at Di Santo as a budget option who could potentially fill the void of a Berbatov type player (when the fixtures are favourable) and allow you sufficient funds to grab the Dutchman.
Status: Buy, based on a budget forward strategy

Marouane Fellaini
Not a typically dominant statistical display from Fellaini here, though the fact he was still awarded man of the match gives some comfort for his many owners. I have a hint of concern of Anichebe playing alongside Jelavic for Everton, which will push Fellaini deeper into midfield, but I'm not convinced that situation will be the norm so I wouldn't particularly downgrade Fellaini based on that fact alone. Five of Everton's next six games look very promising and thus it will take a fairly sharp turnaround to render Fellaini unattractive in these parts.
Status: Buy

Shaun Maloney
I've made it clear before that I'm a fan of Maloney's work but we're still not seeing enough here to make Maloney a startable option. At 4.8m though he's a useful 5th midfielder and offers some differential upside over the likes of Puncheon or Sterling.
Status: Buy, whilst acknowledging his limitations

Stephane Sessegnon
See Johnson, Adam
Status: Monitor

Adel Taarabt
I want to say yes but his shots from inside the box have regressed from bad to worse, while QPR haven't seen the huge turnaround some where forecasting. QPR looks set to acquire a couple of big names in Remy and M'Vila but until we see how they will impact this team (and Taarabt), it's really tough to get too excited about his solid underlying data.
Status: Monitor

Alex Tettey
The playing time is there and he comes with an attractive price tag but zero SoT and one CC isn't going to get it done.
Status: Sell

Robin van Persie
Even when racking up six pointers, there's reason to expect more with the weekly stats promising an even better return. There's little doubt that he's the safest and easiest way to access regular points, though as w'll no doubt touch on again, those looking to make ground might have to think outside the box in the second half of the year.
Status: Buy

The below players enjoyed good statistical days but didn't see the points come their way:

Jason Puncheon
Puncheon's goal potential for a player of his value is simply off the charts and I'm more than happy to plug him into any lineup as a 5th, or even a 4th midfielder despite the tricky upcoming games.
Status: Buy

Christian Benteke
Benteke continues to excel in a fairly poor team and with the next four games looking solid there's reason to think he should be okay to start for the medium term future.
Status: Buy

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 22

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

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

We had a potentially tricky situation to deal with at the back here with Koscielny getting the start ahead of Mertesacker, but with the Frenchman seeing red, normal service should be resumed next week. Saying that - and as I'll touch on later in the week - Sagna is the clear pick in this back line for me and presents a solid way to save a few hundred thousand if you're wildcarding or have a spare transfers to use on Mertesacker (or Gibbs in my opinion).

Walcott got the start up front on his own and (from an admittedly distracted viewing) he seemed to be somewhat cut off from his teammates. Still, better players than he have suffered at the hands of this City defense so I wouldn't expect drastic shifts in strategy from Wenger based on this one. As said numerous times though, Giroud is surely going to get some starts over the coming weeks so I wouldn't be pencilling Walcott in as a "must own" type option anytime soon. For next week I'd be targeting him and Cazorla given my faith in holding them longer term, but would also be happy to roll the dice with Podolski on a one or two week loan (though in his case I wouldn't necessarily be thinking long term).

Aston Villa
Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Stevens, Holman, Westwood, Delph, N'Zogbia, Benteke, Weimann
Subs: Marshall, Vlaar, Ireland, Agbonlahor, Bowery, Bannan, Lichaj

This isn't a good Villa side and you have to think that something will change during the transfer window, though I wouldn't be overly concerned about anyone significant (i.e. Benteke) losing any playing time. Vlaar and Agbonlahor were fit enough to make the bench and will push Baker and Weimann for playing time in the coming weeks which could potentially add a touch of defensive value (though not to a point you're really interested in investing). Weimann was presenting as a so-so budget forward but obviously any doubt around playing time would all but extinguish that flame.

Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole, Hazard, Lampard, Ramires, Bertrand, Mata, Ba
Subs: Turnbull, Torres, Oscar, Ferreira, Marin, Terry, Ake

Walters came into this side and netted twice (sorry, cheap shot) so we only got a couple of Chelsea goal scorers despite the excellent win at the Brittania. Benitez is likely to maintain some level of rotation in the coming weeks, hence I'm not super high on Ba despite his obvious talents and upgraded teammates, but when the elite players play this is a good team who tend to channel a lot of fantasy points through a handful of key players, thus providing potentially excellent fantasy returns.

Other than the issue of Ba's playing time (will he split 50:50 with Torres or has he already earned a lion's share of future minutes?) the only significant question here is what happens when Terry is fully fit. He was only ready for the bench this week but will presumably start sooner rather than later which will condemn one or two of Cahill, Luiz and Azpilicueta to the bench, depending on how often Luiz plays in midfield. Again, Benitez is likely to employ some rotation but when it comes to defenders you'd think his first time will be more settled so his intentions should be taken seriously after we see how he lines Chelsea up for the next game or two. Gun to my head I'd suggest that Azpilicueta will continue to get substantial minutes with Terry playing alongside Ivanovic and Luiz pushed further upfield, but I wouldn't be willing to bet much on it.

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

Given how well he played in Fellaini's absence, I speculated that there could be a minimal threat that Anichebe bought himself some future starts, which while not costing Fellaini playing time, could well cost him some points potential. Well that happened this week and Fellaini was pushed a bit deeper than normal, leading to him racking up just one SiB, despite facing a somewhat average opponent (at least in terms of SiB away from home). I'm certainly not suggesting we need to worry about Fellaini just yet, and would be shocked if that threesome were all deployed away from Goodison, but it's noteworthy that Fellaini may not be playing as essentially a second forward for at least part of the second half of the season. The fact he was still awarded the three bonus points should ensure there's little panic selling among the masses this week.

Schwarzer, Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Richardson, Duff, Karagounis, Ruiz, Kacaniklic, Berbatov, Petric
Subs: Stockdale, Riise, Senderos, Baird, Kasami, Rodallega, Dejagah

Martin Jol gave us some clarification during the off week as to Riise's previous absence, noting that the left back had picked up an injury in training and then was simply rested in favour of Matt Briggs. Riise was apparently fit enough for the bench this week but Richardson (who has filled in at left back for his previous clubs) started at the back and seemed to do okay in the match. Long term you'd still think that Riise gets that spot back, but (as with Mertesacker above) I'm going to touch on finding cheap links in defenses later in the week and Riise is one of those players who ownership percentage looks way too high.

On the attacking side of the pitch, the big news was Petric starting alongside Berbatov and Ruiz which pushed Berbatov into an extremely deep average position: within the centre circle per FFS (members only). I understand - indeed admire - Fulham using an extra attacking player when facing a team like Wigan at home but one shot and two created chances in such a game should terrify Berbatov owners. Reacting to one game is never a good idea but to me this is more concerning that Berbatov's earlier struggles without Ruiz in the side, as that relationship was never really proven and coincided with a run of very tough fixtures. This one however was about as good a fixture as you get and an inability to take advantage in this kind of game would likely spell the end of Berbatov as a great fantasy option. I'm not out on the Bulgarian yet but a continuation of this kind of deployment might get us there quickly.

Reina, Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Lucas, Downing, Gerrard, Allen, Sterling, Suarez
Subs: Jones, Henderson, Sturridge, Carragher, Borini, Shelvey, Robinson

I haven't seen this game yet so can't comment on the gameplay, but the lineup issues are fairly limited. Sturridge seemed to make an impact after being introduced, and you can imagine a situation where we see him starting very soon up front with Suarez just off him. That, along with the return to health for Borini, will mean that Downing and Sterling will face a tough task to earn their minutes from here on and should both be considered very sellable, especially given Liverpool's fixtures in GW24-5.

Man City
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Javi Garcia, Barry, Milner, Silva, Tevez, Dzeko
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Sinclair, Kolarov, Suarez, Rekik, Balotelli

With the absences in this side due to a combination of injury, suspension and the African Cup of Nations, Mancini was only really left with a couple of decisions, opting to restore Nastasic alongside Kompany in central defense and recalling Tevez to play up front. With Kompany now suspended (appeal pending) those decisions will be reduced further, though for what it's worth Nasri will be available after suspension. All those moves really leave things unchanged with Zabaleta and Nastasic appearing to be the only viable along the back line while Silva, Tevez and Dzeko offer a combination of upside/value which gives you a headache however you look at it. I'm personally minded to avoid that whole front six until Aguero returns, but the fixtures are good enough to make someone like Dzeko look appealing as a short term fix.

Man Utd
De Gea, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley, Young, Kagawa, Welbeck, van Persie
Subs: Amos, Jones, Valencia, Anderson, Giggs, Smalling, Hernandez

Not much to note here with regards to this week's team, though Kagawa's deployment does help to answer a lingering question regarding Rooney's place in this side when healthy. Kagawa has now played in both the central pivot role and wider on the right, both of which would allow him to play alongside Rooney, the latter kept in his more traditional forward role (playing off van Persie). In a midfield role (which had been widely speculated) Rooney would almost certainly be unownable but so long as he plays the majority of minutes further upfield he could be one of the few elite differentiators remaining (when healthy of course).

Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, Perch, Anita, Obertan, Marveaux, Gutierrez, Cisse
Subs: Harper, Cabaye, Amalfitano, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi, Ranger, Tavernier

Debuchy came in for his debut here and took up some solid attacking positions making him at least monitorable for this back line. I have my doubts that he's going to do enough to justify a 5.0m price tag but any new blood is always worth a look. It's great to see Cabaye on the bench here and he was able to get half an hour's action without any further set back. With his price pushed down to 6.6m he will be worth monitoring to see how he is deployed and how his stats look in Ba's absence. Based on their deployment this week, Marveaux would appear to be the likely casualty, but he could potentially move out wide to accommodate Cabaye so I wouldn't sell Marveaux just yet (who has really impressed in limited playing time).

Bunn, Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Pilkington, Johnson, Tettey, Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Jackson
Subs: Rudd, Holt, Fox, E Bennett, Barnett, RBennett, Kane

Holt was limited to bench duty here and has really fallen off the radar as a potential mid-level option. Until we see more consistent minutes and performances, consider him off the collective shortlist. The rest of this side remains pretty settled - if a touch uninspiring - and their home defensive form has generally been good enough to suggest the likes of Bunn could potentially form part of a rotation strategy.

Julio Cesar, Onuoha, Hill, Nelsen, Da Silva, Mbia, Park, Derry, Wright-Phillips, Taarabt, Mackie
Subs: Green, Ferdinand, Cisse, Ben Haim, Faurlin, Bothroyd, Campbell

I'm struggling to even write a line of interest for this team so instead I'll just note that with Ryan Nelsen apparently hired out of nowhere to take charge at Toronto FC, I am officially restarting my Football Manager career and hope to be managing in the MLS very soon. Applications for my assistant are now being accepted. In case you think I'm being too harsh after a "good point" here for miracle worker Redknapp, QPR were out shot 18-4, with Spurs registering seven shots on goal to QPR's zero. My super advanced NASA-sponsored model tells me that registering no shots on goal gives an expected goal forecast of 0.1 (with an error range of 0.1). Pass on this team. Forever.

Federici, Gunter, Mariappa, Pearce, Harte, Kebe, Karacan, Carrico, Guthrie, McAnuff, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Taylor, Le Fondre, Hunt, McCleary, Morrison, Cummings, Akpan

Carrico's arrival received a bit of attention in this quiet transfer window but he was withdrawn at half time, after which Reading went on to score three times. While that's obviously a blow, the fact he was played in midfield despite costing just 4.0m and being classified as a defender at least piques our interest. I'm not convinced this side has enough defensive potential to warrant ownership by itself but if Harte can continue to contribute from set pieces and Carrico can continue to play further upfield, they at least give us a couple of players here worth monitoring.

Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Rodriguez, Cork, Schneiderlin, Puncheon, Ramirez, Lambert
Subs: K Davis, S Davis, Fox, Ward-Prowse, Lee, Seaborne, De Ridder

No real issues here as this defense and Lambert provided some good returns for those who invested for the double gameweek. Given the upcoming fixtures I'd suggest those defenders are very much a short term investment, but I still like Puncheon and Lambert to produce at a mid-range level, despite coming in with price tags at the lower end of that category.

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

Stoke continue to roll out an extremely consistent lineup, giving us very little to talk about in these weekly posts. They obviously suffered a bad defeat this week, but I think we can safely say they won't score multiple own goals very often and their seven SiB / six SoT conceded are hardly causes for panic, particularly when playing a pretty good attacking team in Chelsea. I might suggest that their defence might be being a touch overvalued by way of Begovic who now costs as much as Reina and more than De Gea, but if you hold him at a lower price or are considering Wilkinson or Cameron for investment, this remains an excellent team to buy into.

Mignolet, Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Colback, Johnson, Vaughan, Larsson, McClean, Fletcher, Sessegnon
Subs: Westwood, Bardsley, N'Diaye, Campbell, Wickham, McFadden, Kilgallon

This team is still inconsistent, but there's certainly enough here to not widely dismiss them as unownable. Johnson is quietly (2% ownership) having a pretty solid season and has the underlying stats of late to suggest his production is sustainable. At 6.7m I don't see him as a steal but he's certainly someone to consider when the fixtures fall nicely (their upcoming stretch is a pretty good starting point).  It's a similar story with Sessegnon and Fletcher too, though again their respective price tags really make it difficult to get wildly excited about them. Bramble establishing himself in place of Cuellar would give us another solid sub-4.5m defence to consider, though it isn't one that shares the upside of some of the other cheap links currently available (again, more on that later in the week).

Vorm, Tiendalli, Chico, Williams, Davies, Agustien, Ki, Rangel, Dyer, Michu, Hernandez
Subs: Tremmel, Bartley, Britton, Graham, Routledge, Monk, de Guzman

Rangel played in midfield in this one which opened up a spot at right back for Tiendalli but one would think that was a direct response to the threat of Baines and Pienaar and won't necessarily be a move we'd expect to see again in coming weeks. Graham found himself back on the bench despite his recent run of goals, which unfortunately makes him very hard to own, even as a third forward. Laudrup seems to like Michu up front and while that can sometimes lead to him dropping deep to collect the ball and leaving Swansea without much of an outlet, it's obviously a solution we has had good outcomes this year so it's fair for the boss to stick with it.

Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton, Lennon, Dembele, Sandro, Bale, Adebayor, Defoe
Subs: Friedel, Dempsey, Huddlestone, Parker, Sigurdsson, Assou-Ekotto, Caulker

Dawson is a potential budget favourite of mine so it was great to see him get the start and the clean sheet this week. Assou Ekotto was fit enough for the bench so you'd imagine he'll slide in at left back for Naughton next week, thus only leaving Dawson vs Gallas/Caulker as the outstanding issue here. I'm fairly confident Dawson will win out and thus believe it's worth a 4.5m gamble, but will concede there is certainly some risk there. The front six will become slightly less crowded with Adebayor heading to the ACN, but I wouldn't like to pick between Sigurdsson and Dempsey as to who will fill the void.

West Brom
Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Thorne, Brunt, Dorrans, Morrison, Thomas, Lukaku
Subs: Myhill, Popov, Rosenberg, El Ghanassy, Dawson, Tamas, Nabi

Long has a slight injury hence his absence here, so I still wouldn't be 100% convinced that Lukaku's minutes are going to be guaranteed. That said, he's played four of the last five and given his price tag and upside, if you want to take a risk on someone there are worse ways to do it than rolling the dice with the uber talented and productive Lukaku.

West Ham
Jaaskelainen, Demel, Collins, Reid, Potts, Collison, Diarra, J Cole, Nolan, Jarvis, C Cole
Subs: Spiegel, Tomkins, Vaz Te, Taylor, Diame, Chamakh, O'Neil

West Ham are starting to build up some decent depth which could see some upheaval in this starting eleven and Vaz Te and Diame, along with new arrival Chamakh stake a claim for regular minutes. Hopefully that group can give this team some increased attacking power as right now our options are limited to Nolan, and even he hasn't really looked great of late, taking up some pretty deep options again this week. Defensively, O'Brien should return soon but McCartney is a longer term absentee, which should see a pretty stable lineup of Demel, Collins, Reid and O'Brien in the coming weeks. The unit is solid enough though I have some concerns that they have failed to convert several good defensive displays in to clean sheets and thus their points production is really quite limited.

Al Habsi, Figueroa, Caldwell, Ramis, Beausejour, McArthur, Jones, Boyce, McCarthy, Maloney, Di Santo
Subs: Pollitt, Henriquez, Gomez, McManaman, Boselli, Stam, Golobart

Wigan are a frustrating side as they can be very good at times, while looking overmatched in the next week. This week they actually played very well for large parts of this game, and were able to out shoot Fulham 17-12, including a 7-1 advantage in SoT (too many of those came from long range though). With Kone on international duty for a few weeks Di Santo may be given an advanced role, and if this week is anything to go by, it's going to be a situation we might wish to take advantage of. He added seven totals shots (five SiB), hitting the target four times and notching a couple of created chances. The next three games see Wigan face SUN, @STK and SOU, so for 5.3m you'll get a forward who can be started with confidence in two of the next three, potentially freeing up funds for those who perhaps want to double on on Arsenal midfielders for the DGW, or who feel they cannot live without van Persie yet need funds to invest elsewhere.