Friday, January 4, 2013

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 21

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

Nothing really to note here in terms of lineup issues with Mertesacker apparently struggling for fitness rather than being benched. The ineffectiveness of the team going forward could well lead to changes next game, though Wenger is one of the managers who tends to stick his plans more than most so I wouldn't be expecting anything too drastic. I'm still a touch concerned that Giroud comes into this side and Walcott slides back into midfield, but given the fact he'd still have significant value in that role too, it wouldn't put me off pulling the trigger Walcott during this gameweek.

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

Not too much to note here either. Weimann had a nice game and will get a few words in this week's fanning the flames piece but otherwise it's as you were: a shaky defence, inconsistent and unexciting midfield and then the excellent Benteke.

Turnbull, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Bertrand, Luiz, Lampard, Marin, Oscar, Moses, Torres
Subs: Hilario, Cole, Ramires, Mata, Hazard, Ferreira, Piazon

Cech missed out with a groin injury but looks set to be back next gameweek or soon thereafter. Though it was terrible timing to be benched at home to QPR, the fact that Chelsea struggled so badly without Mata and Hazard (and to a lesser extent Cole) should mean Benitez will think twice about needlessly rotating them again in the future. Ba's arrival will make future rotation more likely though, though I still wouldn't be overly concerned about either of these players (or not more so than I already am with Hazard given his uninspiring underlying stats of late - see his player dashboard).

John Terry also looks set to return after the FA Cup game so we'll finally get the answer as to whether Cahill or Azpilicueta will be the first choice (and cheapest) pick to round out this useful back line.

Howard, Jagielka, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Naismith, Neville, Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini, Jelavic
Subs: Mucha, Oviedo, Hitzlsperger, Gueye, Vellios, Anichebe, Duffy.

As expected, and somewhat unfortunately given how good he looks at times, Anichebe was dropped with Fellaini returning and this side now looks very familiar. We will likely see Naismith and Hitzlsperger switch around and you have to think Anichebe's two goals and two assists in four appearances will at least earn some playing time, but overall I'd be happy to get back on Fellaini or any of the other standard options here.

Stockdale, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Briggs, Dejagah, Sidwell, Karagounis, Kacaniklic, Ruiz, Berbatov
Subs: Etheridge, Senderos, Baird, Kasami, Richardson, Rodallega, Frei

Schwarzer picked up a neck injury but it doesn't look like a long term issue so he looks like a hold and Stockdale isn't going to become a useful 4.3m option. I haven't seen any links or quotes as to why Riise missed out again and Physio Report don't show any injuries, but in the absence of any transfer or 'bust up' news we'll assume it's just a minor injury and not write him out of the team just yet. That said, he is way overpriced anyway so it's really a no brainer to make the move to Hughes or Hangeland if you believe in this Fulham defence. I'm hopeful that Kacaniklic will hold down a place in this side as his production has been pretty special when playing, but I'm not a point where I'd be willing to make such a bet just yet. Baird's presence on the bench again suggests he's too risky right now and Hughes is the best budget option here.

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

Giving the mainstream media's penchant for hyperbole - particularly when discussing one of their beloved "big" clubs - there is a tendency to roll our eyes regarding any talk of a Liverpool revival. However, the stats show that they have shown improvement, and while I'm not exactly pencilling them in for a title challenge, I would suggest there are goals and sustained success within this team's capabilities. They've registered at least 25% more SiB than opponents' average in the last 10 games, averaging +48% over that period. In the last seven weeks they've registered 15 or more SiB four times, a total that has only been reached just 28 times by all teams this year. Liverpool - led by Suarez - have been one of the team's who conversion rates have gone against the statistical grain in recent years, though on quick review at least a portion of that appears to be attributable to taking too many non-quality shots, which the aforementioned data at least suggests (but admittedly doesn't prove) is starting to become a thing of the past. Encouragingly, their conversion of those SiB has also started to improve, up to 11% on the season, after hovering between 6-8% through GW15.

In terms of their lineup, Sturridge is obviously going to get a decent chunk of minutes, and looking at his average position chart from last year, I see no issue with him slotting in nicely into one of the wide forward roles off of Suarez. The impact of course will be felt most be Sterling and Downing, and while the former is clearly the more exciting prospect, his age might catch up to the point where the latter still gets substantial minutes here (his extra experience on the left will also presumably be an asset). They could of course all play, but that would leave one from Gerrard, Lucas and Allen out in the cold, which doesn't seem likely on an every week basis, even if Allen has missed a couple of games lately. My view on Suarez and Gerrard remains basically unchanged (in terms of playing time) but I think this move has to have a slight negative impact on Sterling and Downing, while Sturridge himself is tough to judge as we don't have much clue as to his match fitness.

The final point here is also important as Wisdom got the start for the injured Jose Enrique (hamstring) and without too many alternatives (barring a transfer) that job should be his for a while. 4.3m in this defence is sensational value and a regular first team spot for the youngster would make him an extremely attractive transfer target. I might temper that enthusiasm somewhat given the fact Liverpool face trips to Man Utd, Arsenal and Man City in the next four, but if it looks like his price will start to quickly rise, I'd be okay making the move to take advantage of the GW23 Norwich (H) fixture, before he becomes very valuable in GW26+.

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

Lescott frustratingly got the start for Nastasic whose owners were left unrewarded after targeting the favourable home fixture. With no return date set for Maicon, Richards not due back for another month and Toure leaving for the African Cup of Nations, Zabaleta looks to be the safest option in this backline (for a reasonable price that is). Given the lack of other issues here, I will take this opportunity to cover in more detail a point I raised on Twitter about Aguero (who left early with a hamstring injury but, hopefully, may only miss one or two games). I suggested that Aguero (or Rooney) was the only way to make a van Persie-free team work and received a number of "I have players X, Y and Z and no RvP and I'm in position 123 in the league". What I should have written of course was Aguero (or Rooney) makes the van Persie-free stragey a lot easier and made me a lot more confident in the decision not to own the Dutchman. It's one thing to say you owned Michu, Walters, Snodgrass, Santi, Suarez and Ba (etc) all year and are doing just fine, but my point is that (a) it's very hard to find big point players for low price tags in the second half, and (b) the majority of said players are also massively owned, often by van Persie owners, so while you'll gain on some, I'm not sure chasing those points is the way to make up 100+ point gaps that may exist for those who haven't have van Persie all year.

In Aguero (and to extent Rooney) you have a player who can legitimately be argued to be the best forward in the league and could come close enough to van Persie in total points, despite coming in at 3.0m less and with 36% less owners. There are other ways to do it, of course, but my point was that Aguero made that job easier. For example, give me Suarez and Aguero for 21.4m and you can have van Persie and 7.4m. The retort will be "I'll take Berbatov" but guess what, so will I, so then who will you back to come close enough to Aguero to ensure your van Persie over Suarez lead holds up? It could be Benteke or Kone - indeed so far this year that would have worked - but if I'm betting I say Aguero beats them by a distance if he's fit. If you were to take Aguero out of the equation though, I don't see another player with his low ownership/upside potential and thus you need to get into gaining points at several positions and hitting all your transfers, which is obviously much tougher. Anyway, it wasn't a major point and people seemed to take the wrong end of my argument, so I thought it was worth a few words here, given the struggle I have with the 140 character limit sometimes.

Man Utd
De Gea, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Young, Carrick, Cleverley, Giggs, van Persie, Hernandez
Subs: Lindegaard, Valencia, Smalling, Vidic, Welbeck, Scholes, Kagawa

Vidic found himself on the bench, which based on his slow start after coming from injury, wasn't a huge surprise. Long term you would imagine he'll get back in the starting eleven soon, but I'd like to see some improvements before assuming this unit gets exponentially better purely due to his presence. Kagawa was only able to secure a place on the bench with Hernandez playing up top alongside van Persie. His presence is troubling for Rooney's future and I'd like to see some more evidence as to how Ferguson plans to use him before dismissing Rooney on his return (as many did at the start of the year).

Krul, Perch, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, Obertan, Anita, Tiote, Marveaux, Shola Ameobi, Cisse
Subs: Elliot, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi, Ranger, Ferguson, Tavernier, Abeid

Ba's importance to this team apparently changed within 90 minutes as many were saying (often facetiously but sometimes with serious tone) that Newcastle don't need Ba because Cisse will now line up in the middle and after scoring after a minute will now clearly excel. 90 minutes later, after losing at home to a very good Everton side, Newcastle were now doomed in Ba's absence and needed to immediately strengthen. I don't believe Newcastle will struggle based on this one result (they did after all have 17 shots, 9 SiB and 5 SoT) but it goes without saying that if you sell someone who's scored half your goals, it's a big loss and Shola Ameobi - while not without some qualities - likely isn't the man to pickup all the slack.

With Ben Arfa and Cabaye not too far from returning, not to mention the likelihood that someone is brought in to replace Ba, I wouldn't panic about this team but it's also clear that their overall potential takes a hit and thus their options look less attractive that they did a week ago. I still like Marveaux a lot in the absence of Cabaye/Ben Arfa but outside of the budget Frenchman I don't see too much here to get excited about.

Bunn, Martin, Bassong, Turner, R Bennett, Snodgrass, Howson, Tettey, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Kane
Subs: Rudd, Jackson, Fox, E Bennett, Barnett, Tierney, Smith

Not too much to note here with Holt once again out with injury (hamstring), though he could return by next gameweek. Whittaker could also return which will give Hughton an interesting decision at right back, though based on the shots conceded of late, I wouldn't suggest this Norwich defence is one to overly buy into anyway.

Julio Cesar, Onuoha, Nelsen, Hill, Da Silva, Mbia, Derry, Hoilett, Granero, Taarabt, Mackie
Subs: Green, Ferdinand, Park, Cisse, Wright-Phillips, Dyer, Faurlin

They say results don't lie, but I'm fairly comfortable suggesting that if QPR continue to surrender 25 shots (albeit just nine in the box) and play a game where all but one of your players average position is in their own half, you aren't going to win a ton of matches. On the bright side, Taarabt played up front in this one, but actually only managed a single attempt on goal, though did create three (and got the assist). I'm excited to see if Redknapp can make an impact in the transfer market but without changes, I just don't see much to get excited for here.

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

No real issues here, other my personal view that that Reading continue to start two of their genuine attacking threats on the bench. They were out shot 34-7 and managed just two SoT (to Spurs' 11) and while we are seeing a consistent lineup, there just isn't a ton of value to be had backing a team who've managed just five SoT in the last four games.

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

Clyne missed out with injury (knee) but could be back as soon as this week while the front six looks pretty settled in Lallana's absence. Southampton's decline is a concern and they've created 35% less chances than their opponent's average over the last five, but if you're holding a budget option like Puncheon I think you feel okay. Lambert is trickier, and while I'd suggest he'll be fine, I wouldn't necessarily expect another seven goals in the second half if this trend continues.

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

After a couple of games taking a deeper role with Etherington pushing on, Walters re-claimed his supporting role here, despite the presence of a second player - Jerome - generally regarded as an out and out forward. Now, in this case, that 'advanced' role saw Walters playing just inside the opponents' half and managing just four touches in City's box, but the point is that with Stoke not really creating too many chances every week, we'd really like to see Walters playing as far upfield as possible, so this was a good sign. The rest of this side looks pretty set and should see better days in the future once the fixtures ease up a bit.

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

No real issues here, and like Stoke they should see better days in the future, having run into a Liverpool side playing as well as they have all year. I'm not crazy about anyone in this side but the next four games look great, and none of the next nine look particularly intimidating so if you're still holding someone like Cuellar, Fletcher or Sessegnon it likely makes sense to continue to do so for the next couple of weeks at least (though if you're wildcarding I wouldn't go close to saying these assets can't be sold).

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

Good to see Vorm back here as while he doesn't offer the budget option Tremmel does, he does make this entire unit better. Davies was thankfully returned to the first team here and I'd be okay concluding that last week's benching was merely for a day off rather than a sign of things to come. If you have deep pockets there's an argument to be made for paying the 0.5m premium to get the more secure Rangel, but for his excellent price I'd be okay pencilling Davies to play the majority of games for the foreseeable future.

Michu returned from injury without impact but his underlying stats are still good enough to suggest his success will continue (even if it is at a slightly slower pace). If you're playing catchup Michu is a very hard man to judge as he's owned by 45% of all managers now, and presumably all of those currently leading mini leagues. Therefore, if you grab him, you basically make it a 10 man competition, but if you don't, you risk falling further behind as even at 8.2m he's still reasonable good value. Saying that, there are alternatives in that price bracket and I'd personally be willing to pay the premium to get Walcott (so long as he continues to get minutes up top) or take the extra money and nab Fellaini.

Hernandez is a player who is very intriguing and it's only really injuries that have stopped him earning some of the plaudits that have come Michu's way. Since earning a first team spot in GW8, Hernandez has added a goal or assist in 6/9 appearances and is creating chances at a level as good as pretty much anyone in the league. On the goal front, I'm obviously not putting him close to Michu yet, but the fact he has 23 penalty box touches to Michu's 25 in each's last four games and trails the star man in shots by just 13 to 9, suggests points should come his way and he's worth a risk at 5.9m and with just 0.6% ownership.

Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton, Lennon, Sandro, Dembele, Sigurdsson, Adebayor, Defoe
Subs: Friedel, Dempsey, Huddlestone, Parker, Falque, Livermore, Caulker

Caulker missed out in this week's defender roulette, giving Dawson two straight starts and Naughton three. With Assou Ekotto due back shortly this situation is going to get even more crowded and it might simply be impossible to try and pin down a budget pick in this side unless we get some kind of indication from Villas Boas that Dawson is here to stay. Sigurdsson got the nod to replace the suspended Bale but with Adebayor back in the frame I'd suggest neither he nor Dempsey are ownable at the moment. If Adebayor heads to the African Cup of Nations that could change but for now we're really limited to just Bale, Defoe and possibly Lennon as attacking options in this side.

West Brom
Foster, Jones, Tamas, McAuley, Ridgewell, Brunt, Mulumbu, Gera, Morrison, Fortune, Lukaku
Subs: Myhill, Rosenberg, Long, Thorne, Jara Reyes, Odemwingie, Dawson

Nothing really to add here other than the on going 'will-he-won't-he play Lukaku drama that continues every week. Presumably the arrival of Ba at Stamford Bridge ends any speculation of Lukaku returning to Chelsea so he could still have a role to play this year but until we see Clarke show a willingess to play him more than once every other week, he's simply too hard to own.

West Ham
Jaaskelainen, Demel, Reid, Tomkins, O'Brien, Noble, Collison, Taylor, Jarvis, Vaz Te, Cole
Subs: Spiegel, Maiga, Diarra, Spence, O'Neil, Lletget, Lee

Demel came back into the side but given the uncertainty at left back I would still suggest O'Brien is the safest pick here, providing he can shake off that hamstring strain which caused him to depart early this week. With Diame and Carroll still sidelined there aren't too many moves available to Allardyce here and thus we're seeing a solidly consistent lineup of late.

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

No significant changes here either this week and that talented front trio seem to have been restored. Kone, of course, will soon depart for the African Cup of Nations and could be replaced by Di Santo taking a more advanced role, or possibly be Angelo Henrique who has arrived on loan from Man Utd.


Anonymous said...

Chris - interested in your thoughts on my current situation.

I'm leading my league by a narrow margin, and a front 8 lineup of:


If I downgrade Michu to Hernandez I'm able to swap Ba out for Aguero, who none of the leaders in my league have. Do you think this would be worth the risk of losing out on any potential large scores from Michu, but would give me a more obvious (though still quality) bench player from that eight?

NovaHammer said...

Do it!

Диана Атанасова said...

Hello Chris,
I want to sugest new part, where will take part the form of the players for the last 3-6 weeks, including Shots, Sin, SoT, key passes .. , all underlaying stats for the first 10-15 players not by points but the underlying standing, because now we can't compare the players in the players dashboard. In this part we could see wich player is in form and from who we could expect point that have not come till now

oh, forgot to mention the main, GREAT JOB from you always!