Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Adopt a Team: Chelsea and West Brom lineups

Hopefully you've made it through the international break unscathed - unlike many players - and you're ready for the fantasy fun to start again. We start this week with a new set of team's to adopt, headlined by the all conquering Chelsea and supplemented by a hard-to-pin-down West Brom side. Let's start with the team who appear to be have been crowned as the Champions-elect, which seems like a great idea in mid-November:

Chelsea

Chelsea are generally regarded as having the deepest bench in the league, though at the back they don't have a multitude of options and are thus somewhat limited when it comes to rotation options. This, of course, is good news for fantasy managers as while Felipe Luis has shown flashes in limited time, Azpilicueta was quickly restored to the side last time out and still looks fairly entrenched at left back. Zouma meanwhile will be closely watched by the Football Manager crowd having brought a sizeable reputation from St Etienne, but remains very much a bench option with Terry and Cahill likely to start close to, if not every, game if they can avoid injury. The two centre backs and Azpilicueta come in with similar price tags with Ivanvoic comanding a million pound premium due to his attacking reputation. We'll look at whether that extra cost is justified in the next post.

In midfield Chelsea enjoy significantly more strength and depth with but we've still seen a very settled lineup so far this year. Matic, Fabregas and Hazard have all been ever present and Oscar has joined in them in all but two contests. The last midfield spot has been split between Ramires, Schurrle and Willian, with none of that trio able to really sustain a threat to the starting eleven. Based on last season that is particularly surprising in the case of Willian who I felt was a major factor in a lot of what Chelsea did well, yet they've been able to improve their attacking threat without losing out on the defensive work rate he brings thanks to equally impressive efforts by Hazard and Costa.

It can be tempting to look at a player like Matic who plays every game for the best team in the league, but as we can see in the forecast, he just doesn't offer enough going forward despite the talent of his teammates. The other three attacking options offer different packages of fantasy value and all deserve some attention in the play stats post.

Up front the story starts and ends with Diego Costa who's been a great signing so far for Mourinho's side. The model expects some regression in the coming weeks but still ranks him as the third best forward and still reasonable value at 11.0m. The issue - as with teammate Fabregas - is that everyone who's paying attention now seems to own the Spaniard (*cough* Brazilian) so those looking to do something a bit different with their side face some nervy weeks ahead if they choose to stay away from the Chelsea men.

West Brom

Despite watching a fair amount of football and paying what I consider to be close attention, I'm often surprised by at least one or two things in these team reviews and it's West Brom's lineup consistency that has really surprised this time around. In my head I consider this team to have a handful of true Premier League worthy players supplemented by a number of quasi-able bodies who tend to come in for a few games, lose "form", get replaced by another warm body, who then loses "form" and the circle continuing into perpetuity.

With the signings of Lescott, Pocognoli and Wisdom, this defense has a level of depth and stability we haven't always seen and that's been rewarded with four clean sheets in 11 games - a healthy if not spectacular rate of return. Those three are joined by the lone incumbent - Craig Dawson - to form a foursome that have played together in seven straight games save for a single absence for Wisdom. Olsson's expected return at the end of the month will cause some disruption here with either Lescott or Dawson dropping to the bench (or even Lescott sliding to the left to replace Pocognoli, though that seems unlikely). With the lowest price tag and no apparent replacement, Wisom may well be the best bet here, though the 4.5m Foster remains a great buy at a bargain price.

The midfield is where the real surprise comes for me, as the Baggies boast seven players who have all shown themselves to be capable of playing at this level in the past without really excelling to the point where you have extreme confidence in them to deliver each week. Regardless of those thoughts, Brunt, Gardner, Dorrans and when healthy Morrison have all shown the ability to sustain their place in the team with Mulumbu, Sessegnon, Yacob and Blanco forced to battle it out for the last spot in the team, along with Anichebe who was deployed as a second forward this past week. I'm not sure this stability has really led to anyone standing out of the pack as a viable fantasy option, but at least we have a foundation to project from.

Up front we have Berahino who very much has been a viable option, with the model liking him to continue modest success in the future. He probably isn't an every week starter for your team but at 6.1m he doesn't need to be and he deserves to be on the collective radar once he gets this week's near impossible trip to Chelsea out of the way.

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