Thursday, 29 November 2012

Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 15

Like I said last week, the hallmark of the Premier League winter is the midweek games, and the squad rotation can sometimes be maddening. Owners of Tevez (40.5% of you) were left pulling their hairs out after Mancini refused to give him a single minute on the pitch, and the same goes for those who picked Mata (I personally gave him the armband. What a disaster!) It certainly brings to light the importance of picking your defenders well, because those are the guys who’re least likely to get rotated unless there are fitness or disciplinary issues.

That ends the customary rant intro. Moving on.

Gameweek 15 fixtures:

West Ham v Chelsea
Arsenal v Swansea
Fulham v Tottenham
Liverpool v Southampton
Manchester City v Everton
QPR v Aston Villa
West Brom v Stoke
Reading v Man Utd
Norwich v Sunderland
Newcastle v Wigan

The Big Boys

Petr Cech, Chelsea goalkeeper

Chelsea have failed to score in two consecutive home games for the first time since 2004. They have failed to score in three consecutive games for the first time in the Roman era. And they head to West Ham, who have the second best defensive record in London, having let in just 16 so far. So where does the FPL value lie now? The answer is: the best defensive record in London. Chelsea. Following two clean sheets against tough opposition, the course of action seem obvious. That said, don’t drop Nolan or Mata. That would be hasty. But if they fail to produce this weekend? Be my guest. But tread the Blue line with caution now. Chelsea do not play on Gameweek 17 because of the Club World Cup.

The blockbuster fixture at the Etihad between City and Everton should be quite interesting. Everton were the last team to win at this ground, and have made an unnaturally great start to their season. Marouane Fellaini has been a beast in his new attacking role this season, and should trouble the league’s best defence. Likewise, Sergio Aguero should trouble a solid Everton team, and many others down the line.

Theo Walcott, Arsenal midfielder

There’s really no FPL consistency from Arsenal, is there? None of their new signings really embark on a run of points that makes them worth buying, or keeping. Who does? One of their ‘veterans’. Theo Walcott. Swansea also blow hot and cold at times, but given the points return for his price this season, Michu is undroppable.

RvP paid off at last, didn’t he? Not much has changed from the situation I wrote about last week. Keep him. And Reading have a double gameweek coming up after this one so more for that one than this week’s fixture, picking Shorey or McAnuff is advisable.

Southampton have been pretty good recently thanks to the Lallana-Puncheon-Ramirez combination in midfield, but I’m going to tell you to say no to them this week, and go full on Liverpool – Suarez, Enrique. Call it a gut feeling.

The other London derby this week sees Spurs travel to Craven Cottage. Tottenham have looked inspired recently, and much of that is down to Gareth Bale. Please buy, never drop.

The Other Guys

What’s going on with Newcastle this season? Nobody knows for sure, but Cabaye and ben Arfa’s injuries are a big cause, and nothing much will change soon. Just when Coloccini gets back from suspension, Steven Taylor pulls a hammy. Also, Wigan’s FPL value is distributed, so this is a game best left untouched.

Norwich, like Wigan, are a decent side but with distributed FPL value, so you’ll likely end up frustrated with whoever you pick. Sunderland, like Reading, have a double gameweek after this one, so getting Fletcher and/or Sessegnon might not be the worst idea.

QPR and Villa are two sides who have struggled for form this season, both of whom should embark on an upward trajectory. At the forefront of change in both teams will be Granero and Benteke, so if you fancy a punt on these sides to give your team some differential from others, these are your men.

West Bromwich Albion are looking like this season’s Newcastle, but how will they fare against the league’s second best defence? (It’s the theme of the week. Get used to it) Given their home record, they should do pretty well. The FPL value is predictable and pretty close to boring – Long and Morrison.

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If Mancini messes around with Tevez one more time...

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Monday, 26 November 2012

Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 14

Midweek matches are the flavor of the Premier League winter. This part of the season has always been my favourite – there will be lots of football in the coming three months. My beloved Chelsea always struggle in this period, so personally it’s a character-building exercise of sorts. Additionally, it’s a bit of an FPL nightmare with the squad rotation that goes on, particularly in the top clubs. Fortune with the armband also fluctuates most horribly.

Now that you’ve chewed on the appetizer, let’s move on to the main course.

Gameweek 14 fixtures:

Sunderland v QPR
Aston Villa v Reading
Chelsea v Fulham
Everton v Arsenal
Southampton v Norwich
Stoke v Newcastle
Swansea v West Brom
Tottenham v Liverpool
Manchester United v West Ham
Wigan v Manchester City

The Big Boys

The closest any match comes to plum tie classification is the Hammers’ trip to Old Trafford. The theoretically good picks (RvP, Rafael, Rooney) haven’t clicked during this run of games, but the choices aren’t plenty given the injuries in the Red Devils camp. Young is the only fit winger but overpriced for his production so far, and Scholes and Carrick aren’t exactly FPL studs. All you can do is hold Robin van Persie and hope (Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to sell Rooney or Rafael). As for the Hammers, do the same with Nolan.

One of the blockbuster ties midweek is the clash between two top four aspirants at White Hart Lane. If anything is to happen at all from this match, you know it’ll involve one of Bale, Defoe or Suarez. Boring. But who else is gonna do the business in a match where both sides are very likely to score?

New managers always build from the back, and expectedly, Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea (I feel odd just writing that) looked very solid at the back against Manchester City, picking up their first clean sheet in ages. Combine that with a Fulham side that struggled to score in the weekend without Bryan Ruiz, and you get the idea. Hold Juan Mata, Cech and Chelsea defenders. And resist the temptation to pick You Know Who – as Steve McMahon said, it was Gerrard that made Torres, not Benitez.

The other blockbuster midweek tie is the game at Goodison Park. Arsenal always flatter to deceive, and after watching them at Villa Park following two good results, it’s hard to imagine them getting up to much at Goodison, so I’d not buy any Gunner on retail. This seems exactly like the kind of game Marouane Fellaini (back from suspension) would relish. Dig in.

Wigan play well for a team that’s always in a relegation battle, but they leak goals and City have the tools to make them pay for it. After being benched against Real and Chelsea, it’s hard to imagine that FPL top scorer Carlos Tevez won’t influence this game from the start.

The Other Guys

After watching his team resist resolutely, take the lead and then crumble at Old Trafford, Harry Redknapp will know the size of the task ahead of him. History favours Redknapp in getting teams out of ruts like this one. With Sunderland still smarting from that hiding from West Brom, and it’s probably prime time to pick Esteban Granero. Also, with a double GW16 approaching for Sunderland added to the fact that tomorrow they face, well, QPR, Steven Fletcher wouldn’t be the worst decision you’ll ever make.

Villa kept out the rain-averse Arsenal during the weekend, but Reading aren’t the sort of team to be fazed by such conditions. Nicky Shorey could be a delightful pick – he takes set pieces, has a double gameweek coming soon, and costs 4.1 on retail. Baines Lite, only he’s been scoring better than Baines lately.

Stoke are a strong side who haven’t given anything away at home this season, so hold any of their players that you’ve got (unless they are injured or suspended). Newcastle look shorn of inspiration without their midfield creators Cabaye and ben Arfa (Ba has suffered for it too), so it’s hard to suggest anyone.

The most attractive football this week will emanate from West Brom’s visit to the Liberty Stadium. Swansea and West Brom have played some pretty catchy football this season, and the match should be a delight for neutral viewers and FPL owners of Michu, Long and Morrison.

Southampton have been in good nick since bursts in form from Puncheon (4.5) and Gaston Ramirez (6.0). Not bad ideas should you be looking for cheap midfielders.

The Blogger’s Team

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 13

The European midweek always gives us plenty of general and FPL talking points, and this one was no different. Premier Leauge champions Manchester City crashed out of the Champions League (this means you can lock down Aguero/Silva/Tevez if you have them), and the European Champions are on the verge of doing so. Also, there’s the small matter of said European Champions sacking their manager – another unnecessary and seemingly random act of bloodlust on the part the Russian owner.

That can all be discussed in free time. Let’s get busy now:

Gameweek 13 fixtures:

Sunderland v West Brom
Everton v Norwich
Manchester United v QPR
Stoke City v Fulham
Wigan v Reading
Villa v Arsenal
Swansea v Liverpool
Southampton v Newcastle
Chelsea v Manchester City
Tottenham v West Ham

The Big Boys

Santi Cazorla, Arsenal midfielder

After a couple of wonderful home performances from Arsenal to pick up their shot confidence, a trip to the shambolic Aston Villa is probably ideal for the Gunners. One guy who you mustn’t drop for this one is Santi Cazorla. Olivier Giroud is beginning to have a big influence on matches, and it is perhaps time to pick him. Shame that Walcott's injured, but I don't think it's worth selling him over. And have I already told you to stay away from Villa players, forever?

Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and David Silva

The box office fixture of the gameweek is Manchester City’s trip to Stamford Bridge. Rafael Benitez isn’t the most popular appointment (I doubt anybody would’ve been, given di Matteo’s popularity with the fans, but this guy? Especially no), though you can safely put aside delusions of him reviving a broken Torres for now. Juan Mata, and Juan Mata only for Chelsea. As for City, I’ll repeat what I said earlier in this post and what I said about their players hereTevez, Aguero, Silva. In that order.

Robin van Persie, Manchester United striker

The plum tie of the gameweek has to be Manchester United hosting winless QPR. It’s a wonder that Mark Hughes wasn’t the first Premier League managerial casualty of the season, but surely a defeat here and he’s out. And conspiring to make life difficult for him is van Persie, who surely won’t draw a blank two weeks in a row against this level of opposition. Good luck, Sparky.

Michu is the gift that has kept on giving for Laudrup’s Swansea, and you should never sell him really. The same goes for Luis Suarez and Rodgers’ Liverpool.

Kevin Nolan, West Ham midfielder

Tottenham are in a bit of a bad spot right now, and West Ham are looking the best they have in seasons. Field day for Kevin Nolan? I think so. As for Spurs, hold Gareth Bale, but that’s about all that’s good about Tottenham right now.

The Other Guys

Nikica Jelavic, Everton striker

Norwich and Everton had contrasting results last week with the canaries beating then top team Man United and Everton becoming Reading’s first scalp of the league season. Marouane Fellaini is suspended for picking up 5 yellow cards (no reason to sell him though), so most of the attacking points for Everton this week will come from Jelavic and Pienaar. Norwich will be hard to beat but it’s not advisable to buy anybody from there for FPL.

Stoke games are typically low-scoring affairs, and this will be no different. Hold on to Berbatov if you have him, but there’s no purchase from either side at this time that’s going to serve you particularly well.

Wigan. Reading. Stay. Away.

Sunderland probably claimed the shock result of last week by beating Fulham who are so strong at home (though you do have to give leeway for the red card), but repeating the trick against a disciplined and resolute West Brom side will be difficult. Why? They have Shane Long.

Demba Ba, Newcastle striker

Newcastle are not quite last season’s team are they? They can’t seem to get those wins anymore. If anything, they resemble Liverpool a bit now in terms of being predictable. Boy are they predictable - Demba Ba predictable.

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Fantasy Premier League: Gameweek 12

The first third of the season is drawing to a close. The story at top and bottom has been pretty much constant, but the warming stories of the season have been West Brom and West Ham. Being the second-ranked London team in the table, even with just 11 games gone, is something of a dream come true for Hammers fans, especially given their condition two seasons ago (And it does speak volumes about the condition of North London). West Brom were promoted under Roberto di Matteo (time flies, eh?) just a couple of years ago, and are now flying under Steve Clarke (also an ex-Chelsea player. The plot thickens). Clarke has made some subtle yet excellent alterations, James Morrison and Shane Long in particular looking more inspired versions of themselves. They are well-placed to ensure that di Matteo is given an uncomfortable time on his first return to the Hawthorns as a manager.

There ends the pointless weekly jibber-jabber. Off to work.

Gameweek 12 fixtures:

Arsenal v Tottenham
Liverpool v Wigan
Manchester City v Aston Villa
Newcastle v Swansea
QPR v Southampton
Reading v Everton
West Brom v Chelsea
Norwich v Manchester United
Fulham v Sunderland
West Ham v Stoke City

The Big Boys:

Santiago Cazorla, Arsenal midfielder

The blockbuster fixture of the gameweek is the North London derby. Both sides had short good phases, but neither has impressed. Don’t be fooled by that Giroud brace or the Podolski just yet. Reign in your urge to buy anybody from Arsenal for now (again), but hold on to Cazorla if you have him (again). Tottenham's approach to recent games, particularly the big ones, has been disappointing. They have aimed to sit and defend leads after going ahead, mostly without success. Add to that the slight striker uncertainty that AVB caused by starting Adebayor last week, and holding on to Bale is probably the best Spurs FPL advice.

Sergio Aguero, Manchester City forward

The plum tie of the gameweek is Aston Villa’s trip to the Etihad. As I said last week, Sergio Aguero should start City’s league games now that their European adventure is as good as over, and is a good stable pick if you have him, but Carlos Tevez will probably continue to be the value-for-money pick. Also, buying David Silva at this moment could be a very smart move - his price, like Mata's in early September, was probably as low as it will ever be.

Juan Manuel Mata, Chelsea midfielder

A visit to West Brom isn’t going to be any easier than the trip to Swansea, and much of their excellent early form is down to the contributions of Shane Long. Visitors Chelsea are now at the tail-end of their horrid fixture set, and them surrendering top spot during this run was probably to be expected. The FPL choice from the Chelsea section of this blog, meanwhile, is as predictable as the sun rising in the east – Juan Mata.

Luis Suarez, Liverpool forward

Wigan won the last time they came to Anfield, and the hero that day was Shaun Maloney. He’s embarked on a nice bit of form and has been getting decent attacking points, and wouldn’t be the worst pick given that Liverpool have kept two league clean sheets all season. The FPL choice from the Liverpool section of this blog, meanwhile, is as predictable as the sun setting in the west – Luiz Suarez.

Robin van Persie, Manchester United forward

The second fixture of the Manchester United November Cakewalk (MUNC) is a trip to Carrow Road, and most of us know that Robin van Persie will recover from his thigh injury. And score. More than once. Till mid-December. If you can afford him, get him. Rooney isn’t quite the same in FPL terms as he was in previous seasons, so stay off for now. A good midfield pick that could differentiate you from others is Antonio Valencia.

The Other Guys:

Dimitar Berbatov, Fulham forward

Fulham are strong at home, and Sunderland can’t buy a goal. The Cottagers have a couple of decent fixtures coming, so picking a Fulham defender or keeper might not be the worst choice. As with Chelsea and Liverpool, there is one guy who jumps at you when the club’s name is mentioned, and that is Dimitar Berbatov.

Demba Ba has dried up a little, but Swansea’s defenders aren’t the Maldinis of the Premier League and nor are any of Newcastle’s next few opponents, so it’s worth holding on to him. The same pretty much goes for Michu.

QPR and Southampton are placed where they are in the table for a reason. Stay away.

Kevin Nolan, West Ham United midfielder

West Ham and Stoke are both very tough, disciplined sides, and this could well end 0-0. Not a good time to buy any of their attackers, though you’re free to hold on any defenders or keepers involved in this game. And Nolan.

The closest to MUNC is ENC (E for Everton, you know the rest). This month is a great chance for the Toffees to pull away from the other 16 teams in the league. Pienaar, Fellaini, Jelavic? Hold. And latter two, buy if you don’t have.

The Blogger’s Team