Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gameweek 28 Preview

Clean Sheet Rankings

Attacking Rankings
Individual Rankings

Friday, February 22, 2013

Second half stats

It's been a busy couple of months for me which has unfortunately meant that posts around these parts have been minimal and basically limited to weekly stat updates. Hopefully my proverbial calender is now a bit clearer so for the first time we can get back to actually providing some analysis.

I'm going to start with a quick one - just something that came together while looking at some other data. I've calculated the expected goals (xG) for every player in the league (regressed using league conversion rates) for the first 19 weeks of the season and then the gameweeks since. I'm not generally a fan of arbitrary cut off points but the one advantage of using the 19 game mark is that, generally, this will mean that each team has played each other once. Individual circumstances may apply to specific players (such as a change in club, or change in position) but as a general point I believe the 19:19 split is useful.

With that then, here's the data plotting players' xG for GW1-19 on the x axis against their xG for GW20+ on the y axis. Those on the left of the line have 'performed' better in the second half of the year, while those on the right have seen their production decline. It should be noted here that these numbers are player time adjusted.

I guess the first thing that jumps out is that no one has really exploded since the halfway point in the year (or vice versa) which suggests that their is a strong element of predictability to these stats - a point which should give us faith for future projections. We do however have a couple of players to highlight:

Demba Ba - it's hardly mind blowing to suggest that Ba's value has fallen since his move to Chelsea, mostly due to the lack of guaranteed playing time, but we can see hear that his average production has also fallen; from an elite forward to just another warm body. I can only think that his vast ownership (22%) is due to a high number of dead teams, but if you're among that group, please act accordingly.

Marouane Fellani - I didn't expect to see the Belgian's name on this list, but looking closer at the stats, it's possible that he is one of those dangerous players who we collectively assume can be plugged into a team for the remainder of the year, when in reality better value can be found elsewhere. His data is still fine (10 SiB since GW20) but in context with other midfield options (Walcott 22, Michu 15, Puncheon 14 and Nolan 12) he doesn't quite look like the no-brainer option he once was. It would likely be foolish to part ways now, with Norwich and Reading on deck, but after that Everton face Arsenal, City, Stoke and Spurs, which together with this decline in stat production should make Fellaini owners at least browse the other available options.

Wayne Rooney - Rooney was one the reasons I ran these numbers, and having planned to bring him in this week, it's somewhat concerning to see him fall on the wrong side of the line. Saying that, I think we have a real issue of small sample size here, given that the English front man has only played 3.5 games during the "second half" of the season (scoring three goals in the process). Still, seven SiB in that period doesn't compare favorably with the likes of Suarez (22), van Persie (17) or even someone like Benteke (20), even when adjusting for playing time. As a stand alone factor this wouldn't be enough to stop me investing here yet together with his doubtful status for this week, followed by the off week in GW29, this doesn't look a great investment to make right now. Instead, he should probably be targeted as someone to look to whenever United's double gameweek falls.

Sergio Aguero - The Argentine was the other player I was targeting this week and wanted to check on, and he fares better here than his Manchester rival. It's been a stop-start season for Aguero, whose 9 goal haul feels like a disappointment, despite only racking up 16 starts to date. Mancini gave a typically - and somewhat tired - "changes will be made" speech after the poor performance against Southampton, though he followed that with a ringing endorsement of Aguero after his brace against Leeds so I don't think there's any legitimate worry that playing time is going to be a major concern here. With Aguero also set to miss out in GW29 there's an argument to be made for holding off here too, though I'd be okay plugging the Argentine in for two weeks then assessing if you can afford to bench him later.

Gareth Bale - Bale has been simply outstanding of late, leading all midfielders in shots with 36 in the second half, despite playing one or two games less than his rivals. His first half efforts were good enough to push him close to the top of the scoring charts anyway, and with his increased statistical production, there's good reason to believe he may well end up at the very top come season end. The upcoming games are good rather than great, but given his successful run of late has come during a number of away games and a game against the Champions-in-waiting, we should be fairly confident he can succeed in all but the toughest of fixtures.

Frank Lampard - The chart supports Lampard's return to fantasy relevance quite nicely, though it also serves as a reminder that while Lampard's points production has been elite, the underlying stats - while much improved - aren't sufficient to suddenly catapult him back to elite status. That said, with a steep, though manageable price tag, he remains worth a look over the aforementioned Fellaini or even Michu, given the differential potential on offer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 26

Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Jenkinson, Monreal, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla. 
Subs: Mannone, Diaby, Rosicky, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Miquel.

Podolski was a surprise ommission here, though that one would appear to be an issue of fitness rather than form. Whether or not the German represents good value for money when in the side is another issue, though I do believe he'll be back there soon. Walcott was once again pushed back out wide, though again he was able to enjoy a good statistical game (including five total shots, four SiB) so there's little reason to downgrade the winger based on Giroud's inclusion this week. The deployment at centre back and subsequent dismissal of Jenkinson is a concern in that the team would obviously be weakened with Miquel playing regularly, but Vermaelen and Koscielny both appear to have a chance at making the team next week so owners of Sagna et al shouldn't panic yet, particularly with that promising home fixture to Villa on the docket.

Aston Villa
Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Baker, Weimann, Westwood, Delph, Bowery, N'Zogbia, Benteke
Subs: Given, Bent, Holman, Sylla, Dawkins, Bannan, Bennett

No lineup issues here to comment on though N'Zogbia's continued success and advanced deployment may need more attention in this week's fanning the flames, despite my own personal reluctance to buy in.

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

Mata being benched was a huge blow given the strength of the fixture, but it was always on the cards and it's something owners of Chelsea players simply have to live with. The good news is that he will presumably be safe from Benitez's meddling for a while so he would be a good investment after this week's tough trip to the Etihad. The Ba-Torres rotation seems to have swung in the Spaniard's favor, confirming the fact that Ba is simply unownable following his move from Newcastle.

Howard, Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Mirallas, Osman, Gibson, Pienaar, Fellaini, Anichebe
Subs: Mucha, Heitinga, Jelavic, Oviedo, Naismith, Hitzlsperger, Stones

Anichebe was again preferred to Jelavic but after failing to notch a single shot all day, one wouldn't be too surprised to see Jelavic restored this week. The rest of this side remains devoid of any serious depth so the other fantasy options look as safe as ever. Neville's performance here underscored the fact that he isn't a particularly strong defender (especially when playing the offside trap, apparently) and owners of the other Everton defenders should probably downgrade this unit slightly until Moyes puts an actual defender (or at least Coleman) back there.

Schwarzer, Manolev, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise, Sidwell, Frimpong, Duff, Ruiz, Berbatov, Rodallega
Subs: Etheridge, Petric, Karagounis, Hughes, Dejagah, Emanuelson, Kacaniklic

Manolev got the start in place of Riether, who missed out through illness though given the faith shown in Riether to date, I wouldn't be expecting that move to continue beyond this week. With Hughes apparently sidelines for good, that leaves Senderos as the cheapest option here at 4.7m and given his lack of security in this side (not to mention their lack of defensive success) I wouldn't be in a rush to invest anywhere along this back line until we see this week's defensive success is somewhat sustainable. Going forward the main assets all continue to play yet somewhat underwhelm and thus remain themselves, underwhelming but still ownable.

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

Given the performance of Agger here, together with the fact that Carragher remains determined yet ultimately a flawed defender these days, it would be surprising if Skrtel didn't find himself back in this side sooner rather than later. I'm afraid the same cannot be said about the potentially valuable Wisdom as the full back pairing have been solid enough of late, so anyone who jumped in at 4.3m should probably be thinking about alternatives, likely not from this side given the prices involved here for what is ultimately a fairly average defensive unit. Going forward it was a blow for Sturridge to miss out after there were suggestions he would be fit enough to play, though on the bright side, Liverpool were still able to create plenty of chances and were unfortunate not to find the back of the net. Continued attacking play like this should like to Suarez and (when fit) Sturridge offering good fantasy value.

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

Looking at this fairly strong bench doesn't exactly scream of a team with no depth, but unfortunately for City, one of their comparably weak positions has also been hurt with injuries and thus this defense was once again exposed. As the four straight clean sheets in GW21-24 show, there is certainly potential here but with Kompany and to a lesser extent Nastasic, it's tough to see any in the back line offering too much value. Mancini believes that some of his players lacked the "big balls" required to succeed in this league and thus we can probably expect widespread changes this week. Given this uncertainty and the suddenly mediocre stats being put out by the likes of Aguero, I'm lukewarm on this whole attacking side and you might want to steer clear until we know just how much turnover we're going to see and what impact it has.

Man Utd
De Gea, Da Silva, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Cleverley, Jones, Giggs, Rooney, van Persie
Subs: Amos, Anderson, Smalling, Hernandez, Carrick, Nani, Welbeck

There was talk of a couple of United's stars being rested here given the midweek Champions League fixture but Ferguson decided to stick with his first team and United got a pretty big win in the title race. This would suggest however that van Persie and Rooney might be rested at some point in the next few games, though as with Mata above, this is something you simply have to bake into your assessment of a given player's value. With City's front line full of question marks and Rooney himself subject to the same risk as his teammate, the options to replace van Persie look somewhat thin (though as we've said multiple times, it's a risk that must be taken for those scrambling to make ground).

Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, S Taylor, Santon, Perch, Sissoko, Cabaye, Gutierrez, Gouffran, Cisse
Subs: Harper, Anita, Yanga-Mbiwa, Marveaux, Shola Ameobi, Tiote, Obertan

The new boys look to be nicely bedded in here and with the exception of Tiote for Perch, you'd think this is the first team that will be the first choice until Ben Arfa returns. Whether or not there are too many legit fantasy options here is tough to say given the lack of sample size, but through a handful of games at least I think we can put Sissoko onto the watchlist alongside Cabaye who has offered very good value when he's been healthy. Needless to say, all these new arrivals have unfortunately ended Marveaux nice run as an uber-cheap midfield option.

Bunn, Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson, E Bennett, Hoolahan, Becchio
Subs: Camp, Whittaker, Howson, Jackson, Surman, Kamara, Tierney

Not too much exciting going on here, though one point of note is that Whittaker is now fit and hasn't taken Martin's spot back, which is a nice boost to his value (not that too many people were exactly waiting on that decision with baited breath). Holt apparently woke up with a back issue and hence missed out this week, and though Hughton has since suggested it isn't a long term problem it's enough to make him very sellable, especially considering his so-so form and the presence of Becchio to threaten his playing time.

Julio Cesar, Onuoha, Samba, Hill, Traore, Townsend, Derry, Mbia, Jenas, Taarabt, Mackie
Subs: Green, Park, Wright-Phillips, Granero, Ben Haim, Zamora, Bothroyd

We have seen increased stability in this lineup since Redknapp brought in some of his preferred players, yet no one has really emerged as a fantasy threat over that time. Taarabt will always have his attractions but I'm personally not going there again, and while this defence have had some joy of late, their underlying stats do not suggest sustainable value so I'm pretty much out on this team.

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

A couple of changes here but honestly this isn't a team to waste to much time on. The only player who has come close to generating the kind of stats or production required to be a regular fantasy starter is Le Fondre who cannot seem to get a break in this side, so until he makes a return or something drastic happens, I'm out.

Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Fox, Cork, Schneiderlin, S Davis, Puncheon, Rodriguez, Lambert
Subs: K Davis, Forren, Ward-Prowse, Lee, Lallana, Richardson, Chaplow

We've seen a nicely settled lineup at Southampton all season, especially with Lallana sidelined for a while. Now he's back, someone is going to miss out and based on the lineups before Lallana was injured, it looks like Rodriguez could be the man to miss out.

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

Again, this is another settled lineup with only Jones and Adam seeing their minutes consistently rotated. It' tough to find too much of interest of top, though I guess Walters and Crouch offer some very safe yet low ceiling returns, while defensively this is a good side and Wilkinson appears to be the cheap link here.

Mignolet, Gardner, Bramble, O'Shea, Rose, Sessegnon, Cattermole, N'Diaye, Colback, Johnson, Fletcher
Subs: Westwood, Bardsley, Larsson, Graham, Vaughan, Mangane, Cuellar

A lot of these teams are making this column somewhat obsolete as Sunderland are another side who have little to talk about each week. I'm not sure there's enough consistency in this side to warrant the prices some of these players carry but if nothing else they do offer regular playing time.

Vorm, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies, Hernandez, de Guzman, Ki, Routledge, Dyer, Michu
Subs: Tremmel, Bartley, Lamah, Shechter, Moore, Tiendalli, Agustien

Nothing to add here either

Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Caulker, Naughton, Lennon, Parker, Dembele, Holtby, Dempsey, Bale
Subs: Friedel, Vertonghen, Adebayor, Gallas, Sigurdsson, Livermore, Assou-Ekotto

I wondered if Holtby might threaten Dempsey's playing time but it was a surprise to see them play together and without a recognised front man. Without seeing the whole game it's to say who played that role, but the average position charts at least suggest that it was essentially a 4-3-3 with Bale, Holtby and Dempsey all getting significant time up field (Bale of course led the trio with eight touches inside the box to the other pair's four). At 7.5m Holtby is an interesting prospect but I'd like to see confirmation that he is ahead of Dempsey in the pecking order before pulling the trigger there as presumably Adebayor will at some point retake his place atop this formation.

West Brom
Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Yacob, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Morrison, Brunt, Long
Subs: Myhill, Rosenberg, Lukaku, Jones, Tamas, Fortune, Thomas

It feels to me like Lukakau should be all but undroppable but given West Brom are always likely to be somewhat cautious away from home, there will occasions when he or Long will be forced to sit out. This week, of course, Lukaku was able to get his points in just 17 minutes of work but if you're playing the odds that situation isn't going to lead to sustainable production and it was that factor that personally led to me grabbing Benteke over his Belgian teammate. A quick glance at the fixture list may well end Lukaku's usefuleness for a little while longer too.

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

We're seeing a number of changes here with basically everyone other than Nolan subject to Allardyce's rotation whim. That, together with a lack of consistent production makes it hard to see too much value here, especially with Carroll coming with an overly steep price tag. Despite a few disappointing results of late, this remains a startable defence at home with a fit again O'Brien the pick of the pack.

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

Kone is back from the ACN so figures to slide back into this side soon, hopefully not at the expense of Maloney who has provided solid returns this year for his price. The rest of the side looks fairly settled yet thoroughly uninspiring.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dousing the fire, fanning the flames: Gameweek 25

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.

Marouane Fellaini
Come the end of the season, barring any surprising developments, we will likely be able to make a fairly compelling argument for Fellaini being one of this year's MVPs. The only real knock on him has been the few games he's missed but assuming he can stay on the field for the rest of the year I see no reason why his myriad of owners would want to sell (other than the fact there are so many of them). Playing devil's advocate, his overall shot totals aren't quite what they were to open the year, but he's taking a huge proportion of them within the box and his nine SiB (eight SoT) are more than enough to justify his couple of goals and the upcoming games look good enough to keep the good times rolling.
Status: Buy, though as with all the widely held players, those looking to gain ground should at least consider looking elsewhere

Jimmy Kebe
Kebe isn't taking a particularly advanced position every week and despite his three goals over the last four gameweeks. Over the last six games those three shots are his only ones he has managed to register on target and there just isn't the volume of chances here to support a large and consistent points haul. At 4.6m he isn't bad value of course though he isn't someone I'd want to be targetting right now either.
Status: Monitor given his price tag but he's not as exciting a prospect as his latest haul suggests

Victor Anichebe
I've liked Anichebe for a while as a player and commented during his impressive spell filling in for Fellaini that I almost he got a move away from Goodison so he could earn so consistent minutes. The thought of his permanently displacing Jelavic didn't seem too likely but that appears to have happened - at least in the short term. The underlying data during his run in the first team is probably best categorised as good rather than great as while the seven SoT over his last six games look promising, the fact they came on just 11 total shots suggests he could be in for a little bit of regression in the future. For 4.4m he's a great option though and if you have any confidence at all that he'll continue to start, he looks like a no brainer replacement for more fancied Le Fondre (who unfortunately can't seem to buy a start), Pogrebnyak or Petric. I wouldn't however be quick to rearrange my strategy around grabbing him though as if he's benched, you'll be left with few escape plans, other than paying for multiple transfers.
Status: Buy if he fits your team structure but don't move heaven and earth to fit him in

Gareth Bale
The model still puts Bale third among midfielders (behind Mata and Walcott), though it's close enough that Bale's relatively low ownership makes him an attractive pickup. Few, if any, players are as involved in their team's success (at least among the bigger teams) and if I had to pick one elite midfielder to guarantee me elite returns, it would probably be the Tottenham winger. Chelsea's excellent looking home fixtures make it somewhat tough to part with Mata but those holding any of the other elite midfielders (especially those more widely held than Bale) should certainly consider making that move.
Status: Buy

Christian Benteke
I'm not sure what Benteke has to do to get some serious fantasy attention, but I'll continue to ride the undervalued forward until everyone realises how criminally underrated he is. I'd be remiss if I didn't at least point out that five goals from nine SoT looks a touch high but the fact he's generated 23 total shots (18 SiB) over that same six week period suggests that any regression would likely be slight and would not be sufficient to make him anything less than an excellent investment. Along with Sturrige, Benteke has, for the first time in a long time, made me consider the viability of not using two 'elite' forwards, especially with the likes of Mata, Bale et al showing no signs of slowing down.
Status: Buy as a long term investment though it might be sensible to hold off until after the Arsenal and City fixtures if you aren't already on board

Steven Gerrard
One of the stories from this year I wish I'd make a bigger deal about is the return of Gerrard and Lampard to not to just relevance, but in Gerrard's case at least, fantasy glory. I'm vaguely on board with Gerrard, in that he offers high upside with low ownership numbers, but a closer look at his underlying data underlines a couple of well expected points which would make me nervous about making the kind of investment needed to acquire his services (and, of course, the opportunity cost of therefore missing out on the likes of Mata, Bale or Walcott). His 15 shots over the last six games look fine, comparable to players like Cazorla (15), Fellaini (14) or Silva (13), but the fact that (a) just five of Gerrard's efforts have come inside the box and (b) he's managed to add just seven touches inside the opponents box (compared to Fellaini's 43, for example) makes me very nervous about the sustainability of his future success. There is certainly merit in investing here and the same issues noted above can be applied to several other widely held assets (including Cazorla himself). Saying that though, if I'm going to take a risk somewhere to differentiate my elite options I'm not sure this is where I'd set my sights, even if I do have a tendency to show bias towards players who have enjoyed previous success.
Status: A very speculative buy based more on past glories but in all likelihood better value will exist elsewhere for the remainder of the season.

Sergio Aguero
Ah Sergio, my fantasy kryptonite. This week's game makes me slightly nervous about his longer term prospects (though his amazing finish serves as a nice reminder how insanely talented he is) but I still can't quit the Argentian star. Over his last six games he's still managed to rack up 25 total shots (second only to the free-shooting Suarez), while his 19 SiB and 13 SoT again only trail his South American rival. With Balotelli gone, the pathway is slightly less cluttered for Aguero and with City only now involved in the league and the FA Cup, the threat of rotation which has clouded his prospects all year should at least in part be alleviated. Admittedly, Aguero hasn't always shone as brightly this year as last but on a points per game basis he's still right there with everyone other than the United front men and given his talent and low ownership numbers, he represents a rare opportunity to genuinely get elite production not enjoyed by the majority of managers in the league.It goes without saying that he comes with more risk than some of his other elite peers but simply dismissing him based on the events of the past x gameweeks is not an advisable position to take.

Suarez is obviously the better option for the double gameweek and the next five or six games are going to make it very hard to part with either of the United duo, but if you trail your opponents it's those kind of decisions that will make the difference and if I'm zigging while others zag for the home straight of the year, Aguero would be my first port of call.
Status: Buy

Andy Carroll
Carroll is a good player who got a raw deal with joining a highly scrutinized team for a price that wasn't really justified (though that's hardly his fault). His sometimes bruising style of play probably does him no favours either but in fantasy of course, we care not for a players appearance, only for his end product. Unfortunately, those discussions end quickly for Carroll given his lofty price tag which just ins't justifiable in this side, but hopefully he can secure a long term deal away from Anfield over the summer and make his mark next year with a new team and a lower price tag.
Status: Sell

Jonas Gutierrez
As the chart shows, Gutierrez's production this week wasn't really supported by the underlying stats and that can really be extended to a wider sample size. This Newcastle side looks promising for the remainder of the year yet I don't see too much of the end results coming Gutierrez's way.
Status: Sell

Morgan Schneiderlin
Your best bet here is to find another 0.5m and grab Puncheon who boasts a 15-6 shot advantage over the last six games.
Status: Sell

Rickie Lambert
I suggested that Fellaini could make a pretty solid argument for fantasy MVP and we should therefore offer Lambert the same courtesy here. He's delivered consistent returns on a very high level all year, playing in every game and notching five or more points an impressive 11 times on the season. The mid level forward group has gotten much deeper of late and if pressed I would probably rank Sturridge, Benteke and Lukaku ahead of Lambert in terms of upside over these coming weeks. Yet, Lambert keeps ticking along and brings an excellent assist threat not offered by most of his peers and thus we shouldn't sleep on the Saints front man when picking that 3rd forward spot. Of course, his substantially higher ownership number leads me to personally lean towards someone like Benteke, but I still advise caution about not ignoring reliability when making decisions.
Status: Buy, though I do feel better options exist in that price bracket

Mark Noble
The penalties are a nice bonus but generally Noble has not put up anything like the kind of numbers we'd like to see to support any kind of sustained production.
Status: Sell

Wayne Rooney
My personal plan - if you will indulge me for a minute - was to grab van Persie with my wildcard then quickly shift out to Rooney to take advantage of the past few games. After enjoying a couple of healthy weeks which saw my ranking improved I suddenly became protectionist and overly risk averse, stuck with the Dutchman and watched Roonet outscore him 21-7. Rooney's P90 of 7.1 is fairly close to van Persie (7.6), as is his goal rate of one every 129 minutes (van Persie is one every 113). His ownership number has fluttered up to 7% over the past few weeks but that is still a huge differentiator compared with most of the elite talents and like Aguero above, represents one of a handful of options who can help close a large gap in your mini leagues without taking a ridiculous risk. Indeed, After Suarez's double gameweek, my own personal plan is still to install this duo for the season run in.
Status: Buy

Edin Dzeko
Dzeko's playing time has been improved of late but with a fully fit Aguero now back in the fold I wouldn't be feeling too comfortable owning him. I understand that he's been good when he's played and his underlying data is pretty comparable to Aguero, yet at 7.4m he's too pricey to have him rotate every couple of weeks and though I hate to ignore such great potential I can't condone getting involved here unless you believe Tevez is virtually done.
Status: Sell

Craig Gardner
My gut reaction here was instant dismissal as other than Gardner's solid free kick ability, I didn't feel he was bringing a great deal to the table. His underlying data is better than I thought though and borderline puts him in a range where we might be interested. Saying that though, this interest would be limited at best and so with a 4.9m price tag it's still wiser to look to the ever reliable Puncheon or take a risk with someone with greater upside like a Shaun Maloney.
Status: Sell

Frank Lampard
We've already discussed one former fantasy great in Steven Gerrard, and now we can look closer at Lampard. He hasn't risen as high up the charts as his England teammate but on a per game basis both his production and underlying stats are significantly better and the only real knock on him is the potential loss of playing time with several other options available to the rotation-happy Benitez. Lampard has averaged a stunning 7.9 P90 for the season and has been simply dominant of late, trailing only Bale in total shots with 22 over his last six games, with half of those coming inside the box (Gerrard remember had just a third from close range). We'd like to see him hit the target with a bit more consistency before we can suggest he can continue his current rate of scoring, but even if he slows down quite considerably, he'd still be a formidable player to own.

The model isn't in love with Lampard's fortunes at all, mainly due to a long stretch of games to open the season but if you were to skew his share of Chelsea's fortunes to only reflect more recent times, his forecast points jump up closer to some of the elite names. I say close because I don't think we should get carried away here and push him in line with the Bales and Matas and the world, but it's not unbelievable to suggest he might be able to hang with the likes of Michu or Walcott who each come with substantially higher ownership numbers.
Status: As with Gerrard, my enthusiasm here is a touch luke warm, though the fact that Lampard is getting more chances inside the box does make me more interested. Still, this remains a very speculative buy for those looking to take a chance.

Shaun Maloney
Maloney surprisingly fell out of favour for a while at Wigan but he's been back with promise of late, notching 15 shots (seven SiB) over the last six gameweeks along with a useful 12 created chances. The only players above him are a who's who of fantasy stars (plus the mercurial Taarabt, of course) and given his price tag (4.8m) he stands out about pretty much everyone (other than the somewhat one dimensional Puncheon) in that mid-low price range. Kone's return from the ACN is a potential blessing and a curse, as it gives Maloney another target to aim for, yet it also makes him rotatable. The deciding factor for me is that fixture list which sees Wigan travel to Chelsea, Reading and Man City in the next four weeks.
Status: I like his prospects for the longer term but those fixtures make it very hard to invest right now

Jay Rodriguez
Southampton's team looks to be back to full strength with Lallana close to full fitness and that will likely spell some pine riding for Rodriguez.
Status: Sell

Bradley Johnson
Johnson had some interesting stats for a while but he's really been limited of late racking up meagre shot totals without adding much by way of created chances.
Status: Sell

Juan Mata
Over a longer period Mata's stats have been just fine so I don't believe there's too much cause for concer, though it does bear mentioning that his numbers over the last six games have been underwelming with just six total shots, though at least five did come inside the box and one of those games saw him play just 18 minutes. Still, for an elite player we'd like to see a lot more than that and continued production at this level will surely see his end results decline. The good news however are his fixtures, particularly those at Stamford Bridge, which see him face Wigan, West Brom and West Ham over the next five gameweeks. The trip to City is a blow but it's hard to get a run of five or six games without at least one tough fixture so overall we would class Mata's fixtures as a boost to his prospects.
Status: He's still a buy, perhaps even a strong one, though be sure to monitor those underlying stats for signs of a return to a deeper role as we saw earlier in the year.

James Milner
Milner has played really well of late, justifiably earning extra playing time and a handful of bonus points to accompany his increased fantasy production. However, his underlying stats just aren't very impressive and with Nasri lurking on the bench, even an increase in playing time is likely to see him play more games rather than all the games.
Status: Sell

Lukas Podolski
Podolski has consistently outperformed his underlying stats this year to the point that he could possibly considered a genuine outlier rather than someone who is simply getting lucky. However, four SiB in six games just isn't going to get it done however clinical you are and with a number of very good looking mid level options it looks like it's time to move on from the German, despite him offering good value to date this season.
Status: Sell

Theo Walcott
Walcott shifted back to the right wing this week so it was encouraging to see him rack up a number of shots despite this deeper role. His upside is of course lower when deployed in midfield rather than up front, but he is still very ownable at either position and there's certainly no reason he has to be sold right now. If however you are chasing points he is one of the widely held options who is probably a touch overheld as his future after GW27 look good rather than great, so I might start putting in a plan to look at someone like Bale or even a riskier bet like Lampard after Arsenal face Villa at home the week after next.
Status: Hold for now but he is sellable

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lineup Lessons: Gameweek 25

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me personally with non-blog commitments but hopefully we can get back to normal now, starting with this week's lineup lessons. Saying that, with the transfer window now behind us and teams coming into the home straight, we're seeing less changes of note within the key lineups so these updates may move to fortnightly, allowing room to focus on other niche matters like double gameweeks or short term fixtures.

Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Diaby, Arteta, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Giroud
Subs: Mannone, Rosicky, Podolski, Andre Santos, Ramsey, Cazorla, Jenkinson

Monreal arrived at the end of the transfer window and came straight in here for the injured Gibbs, looking very accomplished in doing so. At 5.5m though, we didn't see a great deal to suggest he's worth 0.4m more than Sagna, unless you believe Jenkinson offers a genuine threat to the Frenchman's playing time (I don't, despite some rumblings from a few sections of the Emirates). Podolski and Cazorla got the week off though I wouldn't see that as anything more than a simple rest, especially given the fact that Arsenal looked quite a bit more dangerous when they were later introduced. Walcott was pushed back into midfield but still did enough to threaten the opposition goal (four shots, two SiB), though there's no doubting that his upside is reduced if Giroud is preferred up top. He would remain very ownable as a midfielder, though it would be harder to rate him alongside the likes of Bale and Mata if his time as front man is over.

Aston Villa
Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bennett, Westwood, El Ahmadi, Agbonlahor, N'Zogbia, Weimann, Benteke
Subs: Given, Bent, Holman, Sylla, Bowery, Dawkins, Baker

No real lineup issues here and despite Villa showing an increased ability to score of late, there's not much to get excited about outside of Benteke. If it were earlier in the season I would be tracking N'Zogbia, but by this point, by the time he could have done enough to re-earn our trust, the season may well be over. For less money he'd be worth a hail mary play, but at almost 6.0m he just doesn't look like an investable package. 

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

This was mt fear when getting involved with Azpilicueta during the wildcard window, as it always seemed likely that Cahill, and of course Terry, would have something to say about this back line this year. Regular readers will know that I don't like speculating about manager decisions and there's no exception here with anyone from Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry or Azpilicueta potentially droppable, or at least rotatable in a given week. Given the way they've leaked goals of late, the best play may simply be to steer clear of this unit, but if you are a believer, then Cole would not appear to warrant the premium over his teammates given the uncertainty at every other position. Hazard has now served his ban and can return next game, and he will then join Mata as the key options in this side. Lampard still represents a risk, but one which is at least rewarded with high upside and his 4.5% should make anyone looking to gain ground on their opponents take notice. The constant rotation of Ba and Torres effectively ends my interest in either.

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

After Anichebe played so well in Fellaini's absence, I suggested he could do a really good job for someone if only given a chance. I didn't think that chance would come at Everton, but with Jelavic apparently out of favour, he's been given a chance in the first team and could possibly hold onto it. As a regular starter he would be incredible value at 4.4m and could possibly be used to free funds up for a couple of elite forwards and a deep stable of midfield options. There's a risk that you buy in, only to see Jelavic (who is a genuinely good player too) restored in a matter of games, so there's a big risk here, and it's one I wouldn't build my team around. If however, you are currently sat with someone like Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre (who just can't seem to get a start) or Ruiz, this move makes a lot of short term sense. 

Schwarzer, Riether, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise, Duff, Karagounis, Baird, Dejagah, Ruiz, Rodallega
Subs: Etheridge, Petric, Frimpong, Hughes, Emanuelson, Davies, Kacaniklic

Old faithful Aaron Hughes missed out here, though with Hangeland now hamstrung, he may get another game in the first team to hold off the threat of Senderos. With one clean sheet since GW9, this is a unit who should not be invested in as mid-level options so if Hughes is done, I think we are. The rest of this side has seen near constant rotation and with the promising Emanuelson coming in (along with Frimpong), that murky situation could yet get murkier. With Berbatov also suffering with a hamstring injury, there's little to get excited about at Craven Cottage.

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

Another one bites the dust. I feared for Wisdom's future after Rodgers called out his young players after the defeat against Oldham, and that played out here with an experienced back line rolled out this week. With Downing and Henderson playing much better of late, along with Sturridge's arrival, the chance of Jose Enrique or Johnson getting any more minutes in midfield look greatly diminished and thus we've simply got three full backs vying for two spots. Based on this week Wisdom is on the outside looking in, though having played the four games before that, it's possibly too soon to abandon the youngster just yet but if you own him, I would start thinking about alternatives.

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

Not a great deal of note here. Tevez continues to be rotated and I'm amazed that so many have stuck with him for this long (in reality a majority of these are probably unmonitored teams, but still). I would love to say that Aguero is now the answer to all our questions, but despite his incredible finish this week, he only managed a single shot for the contest and touched the ball just three times inside the opponents box. My personal plan had been to pair him with Rooney for the run in but City just don't look like the team they were last year so even if Aguero starts every game, I'm no longer so sure he can hit the heights the model once forecast. Saying that, if you're chasing a team with van Persie (45%) and Suarez (35%) already in place, Aguero (along with Rooney) would still be by far my first choice partnership to try and close that gap.

Man Utd
De Gea, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Cleverley, Carrick, Nani, Rooney, van Persie
Subs: Amos, Anderson, Giggs, Smalling, Hernandez, Welbeck, Kagawa

Not too much to talk about on this side of Manchester (well, technically Salford) either. Kagawa's brief flirtation with relevance is hampered by another benching and it looks like the centre of this midfield is a genuine rotation system with no one player a firmer fixture than any other. That, of course, is good news for Rooney, who I pencilled into my team in my recent wildcard post, and then decided I didn't need as my rise up the rankings made me all too risk averse (for the last time, I am an idiot). His stats have been comparable to van Persie for several weeks now and, again, if you need to gain ground, bringing in the less heralded Englishman for his Dutch teammate is a great place to start.

Krul, Debuchy, S Taylor, Coloccini, Santon, Perch, Cabaye, Gouffran, Sissoko, Gutierrez, Cisse
Subs: Elliot, Anita, Yanga-Mbiwa, Bigirimana, Marveaux, Obertan, Shola Ameobi

With the influx of new signings along with a return to health of several of Newcastle's better players, this team suddenly has some useful depth to it. That's bad news for the likes of Marveaux, whose days as a super cheap 5th midfielder are probably over, but good news for players like Cabaye, Taylor or Sissoko who should all benefit from playing alongside stronger teammates. At least until Ben Arfa returns, that front five should see plenty of playing time and represent some interesting options to review in this week's fanning the flames.

Bunn, Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Holt
Subs: Camp, Whittaker, Howson, Jackson, E Bennett, Becchio, Barnett

Another side that is settled in the key spots and thus there is little to talk about here (look at the lack of depth on this bench). It was encouraging to see this useful defensive unit bounce back after the heavy defeat against Liverpool and so Martin and Bunn continue to offer budget value to their owners.

Julio Cesar, Da Silva, Samba, Hill, Traore, Wright-Phillips, Mbia, Derry, Townsend, Taarabt, Mackie
Subs: Green, Park, Granero, Jenas, Ben Haim, Zamora, Bothroyd

A couple of the new signings in came in and QPR's excellent defensive "form" continued. I've put 'form' in quotation marks there as there is some real doubt as to the sustainability of their excellent results, given the fact they've still surrendered the second most shots inside the box (52) over the last five gameweeks. In fairness, they've faced three very good opponents in that run so in a vacuum there wouldn't be too much to note, I just feel it's worth drawing attention to the fact that you're likely still buying a low end defense here, rather than one who can sustainably turn out clean sheets every other week. Personnel wise, Fabio looks like the pick along this back line given his price tag (4.2) while on the attacking side of the pitch, the much fancied Remy missed out with a groin injury, leaving a somewhat uninspiring bunch to pick through.

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

After notching three assists in two bench appearances, the wonderfully name Hope Akpan got the start and while I haven't yet seen the game, his zero shots and one created chance don't have me scrambling to make any moves. Le Fondre, with five goals in the last 72 minutes was once again left on the bench and so despite his bench heroics, he isn't a viable fantasy option right now (it's amazing to say that about a player with 10 goals and good stats who costs less than 5.0m).

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

Another very settled lineup here with the only complication being the welcome return of Lallana to the bench here. We would expect him to slide in for Rodriguez over the long term, but I'd want to see that for a least a couple of weeks before making a move (at 5.6m though, he could well be someone to look at later).

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

It appears that Crouch is now firmly entrenched back in this starting lineup, which is really a shame given Jones' superior stats and price tag, but alas, the big man is back. Crouch isn't without his own appeal, but at 6.0m he's in competition with the likes of Benteke and Lambert who look too strong for the lanky front man to compete with. Wilkinson remains the pick at the back here.

Mignolet, N'Diaye, Bramble, O'Shea, Colback, Larsson, Gardner, Vaughan, Johnson, Fletcher, Sessegnon
Subs: Westwood, Bardsley, Rose, Graham, Wickham, Mangane, McClean

With Sunderland deploying two midfielders at the back, our options here are somewhat limited and Bramble (4.3m) looks like the only option worth investing in. Having noted this a few weeks back, I saw some comments on other sites critiquing his play and I was surprised that serious fantasy managers players still think like that. I would gladly buy a traffic cone as a defender if it came at a discount to its teammates, as we all know that the majority of defenders' value is tied up in their team's fortunes (excluding a few choice examples).

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

Swansea are another predictable team who offer several options all through the lineup. I'm hoping some  of you got off the Michu bandwagon over this past eight or nine game dry spell, especially given that his stats are also down (rather than just being unlucky with end product). He's still a useful pickup in that price range, but I'd encourage you to at least consider his value to you (after the double gameweek of course). The home fixture with QPR makes it tempting to double up on Swansea options, but with the other fixture at Anfield, I wouldn't go crazy and would classify this one as the kind of gameweek you want to start your Swansea options but wouldn't necessarily go out of your way to bring them in (considering they are then off in GW27).

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

Assou-Ekotto returned here as expected and is worth a thought for Verntonghen owners who want to save a bit of cash. I'd still personally opt for Dawson, though would concede that he still carries an element of risk of rotation with Gallas and Caulker lurking. Going forward, Holtby comes with a solid reputation from Germany and looked useful in his cameo this week. Villas Boas has already made the comparison to van der Vaart, suggesting he could well get some time operating off of Defoe in the coming weeks. At 7.5m he would be an interesting pickup if that plays out, though with Dempsey and Sigurdsson equally capable I'm far from ready to roll that dice just yet. Though far from a differentiator, with 18% ownership, I like Bale as someone who might you gain ground on some people and his nine (9!) shots this week highlight his almost unmatched upside.

West Brom
Foster, Reid, Olsson, McAuley, Popov, Dorrans, Yacob, Morrison, Brunt, Long, Lukaku
Subs: Myhill, Ridgewell, Rosenberg, Thomas, Jones, Tamas, Fortune

We had a genuinely interesting development this week, with Clarke showing a willingness to play both Lukaku and Long, rather than sticking with his one up front preference. Lukaku took a step back in a similar vein to Adebayor at Spurs when he was deployed alongside Defoe , making something of a 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 hybrid. The experiment didn't last long thanks to Popov's dismissal (which forced Lukaku off) but so long as that holds up, we would be free to buy into this talented pair without fear of constant rotation.

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

Carroll made a scoring return, though I'm still not persuaded we can buy in there given his price tag (based on being supported by Suarez and Gerrard rather than Vaz Te and Noble). This midfield looks somewhat crowded and it's really hard to see beyond Nolan in this unit.

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

I wondered if Henriquez (quite well rate by all accounts) might get some minutes here but that doesn't appear to be likely before Kone returns so we're backing to three options here with Maloney and to an extent Di Santo still looking okay.