Fantasy Premier League managers kindly take notice, this is part 1/2. Part 2/2 can be found here.
QPR v Chelsea
Rangers have once again bought a slew of players over the summer. In August alone Jose Bosingwa, Júlio César, Esteban Grenero, Stéphane M’Bia and Samuel Magri arrived at Loftus Road. This is not much different from a year ago when 10 new men signed the dotted line n August including Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joey Barton, Bruno Perone, Jason Puncheon and Tomasso Trani. Why are we mentioning them? Simply as a reminder that a cadre of new players neither guarantees success nor that the new faces will establish themselves enough to impact your fantasy EPL squad. We can appreciate the optimism surrounding the new faces, but we’re not buying that 12 new players will mean much in the short term. However, Esteban Granero is quick to disagree:
QPR’s Esteban Granero claims it was an easy decision to leave Real Madrid for Loftus Road after being sold by the club’s vision. ”It wasn’t a hard decision to come here. I’m hungry and here I will be able to grow as a player,” Granero said. ”One point from the first three games is not unexpected, but this is not the way it will remain. This season will be great, I can see that in my team-mates’ faces. There are quality players here, so just give us time.”
Granero played 84′ in the 1-3 loss against Manchester City and is priced £5.5m with 0.2% selection. If we’re investing in a QPR midfielder we have a hard time moving off of Ji-Sung Park (£5.8m and creating a number of chances despite the lack of a goal or assist) while we’re selling Adel Taarabt (£5.7m) as he has not played since gameweek 1 and should not be owned until Mark Hughes shows some faith in the temperamental Moroccan.
As early as Wednesday, Ashley Cole and John Terry were back in training for Chelsea. The Blues have their first Champions League match as they look to defend the title and Roberto Di Matteo will no doubt prefer to err on the side of caution to ensure both Cole and Terry are fit to face Juventus. Terry and Cole are both pushing to play, with Terry in particular unwilling to appear weak in the eyes of Anton Ferdinand. Regardless of their ability to make this match, Cole, Terry and Ivanovic – the three most owned expensive CFC defenders – are headed into a difficult stretch. As we wrote on Wednesday:
Di Matteo’s side will face QPR and Stoke in their next two before entering an eight match stretch that see’s the Blues play: Arsenal, Tottenham, Man United, Liverpool and Man City while also facing tricky away fixtures with Swansea and West Bromwich. The only expectation of a clean sheet could be when they host Norwich in gameweek 7.
Ivanovic (20.7% selection), Cole (19%) and Terry (5.75) will be reliant on goal-scoring opportunities to justify their high prices. Cole (o goals, 6 assists, 9 cleansheets, 111 FPL pts – 2011-12) and Terry likely do not merit continued ownership while they fight for fitness while Ivanovic can be owned for the next two fixtures, he should be sold to lock in profit ahead of the difficult eight week stretch.
Chelsea’s forward line looks set with Mata, Torres and Hazard, though this is a side which bears watching once the Champions League fixtures start. Di Matteo has no shortage of attacking players and may decide that rotation, either through the starting XI or early substitutions, will be necessary to push for trophies on four fronts. We like Torres to continue to poach, but we are not expecting many assists from the striker. If you are not comfortable with occasional 2pt weeks, investing elsewhere in the Chelsea side may be a prudent move.
Stoke City v Manchester City
Charlie Adam has yet to make an impact in training for Stoke City, a problem for manager Tony Pulis as Adam’s transfer to Stoke before the deadline left little time before the Scotland international reported for national team duty:
Pulis gave the Anfield outcast a lifeline on transfer deadline day by signing him for £4 million, convinced Adam, 26, would add a creative spark at the Britannia Stadium. But the midfielder’s international duties for Scotland has left Pulis unable to spend quality time on the training ground with him ahead of facing Manchester City this weekend.
Adam is still shackled with his Liverpool price, £6.8m, and the midfielder is going to be hard-pressed to recoup that investment for Fantasy Premier League managers in a side where he is not first choice for penalties. Peter Crouch remains a difficult match for any defender and City have not kept a clean sheet in three attempts. Another 0-0 draw like the 26 August fixture against Arsenal may be the best Pulis’ side can hope for, but we’re not trusting any Potters defenders in this one.
NOTE: Michael Owen has been added to the Fantasy Premier League. He is priced £5.5m and could be a steal if he and Crouch become the first choice pairing. If that were to occur, we expect Jonathan Walters would move back into the midfield proper.
Manchester City have had issues at the back and we expect little change in this fixture. This side is capable of remarkable scoring feats and Roberto Mancini appears to accept that he can outscore errors while trying to integrate a number of players into his defensive rotation. The duo of Kompany and Zabaleta look to be first choice for most matches but Mancini will also have one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League match v Real at Santiago Bernabéu. If either is rested in this game we may have an idea of the rotation he will employ moving forward this season.
City have had Kun Aguero back in training since the beginning of the week but we expect he will feature only late in this one in an attempt to provide a bit of match fitness without risking a setback which could rule him out of the match against the La Liga Champions. At this point in his recovery, we expect Kun will challenge Eden Dzeko for a starting role be gameweek 5 and we are still waiting to see what, if any, midfield and attack rotation the Citizens manager elects to employ as CL fixtures enter the equation. On top of this, Gareth Barry is fit and ready to play, creating additional competition for Milner, Sinclair, Garcia and Rodwell. Stoke have a solid defensive record at home but Manchester City should be able to best the 1-1 draw they took in this fixture a year ago. Mancini’s side took a 3-0 victory at The Etihad and we expect at least a brace in this one.
Sunderland v Liverpool
We like to make light of a lot here, but if you have not taken a moment to reflect on Hillsborough and all that encompasses, this is the BBC article published 12 September.
Last season, Sunderland was superb against Liverpool, drawing 1-1 on opening day at Anfield and beating the Reds 10 March 1-0 at the Stadium of Light. There are a couple of discount options available in this side, including midfielder Jack Colback who has played 90′ twice this season is is priced £4.9m with 1.5% selection. Stephane Sessegnon has yet to recapture last season’s form, but he has recently signed a new contract with the club and Steven Fletcher is a capable proxy for Bendtner. If the two are able to recreate the linkup Sessegnon enjoyed last season, there is every reason to believe his seven goal, 12 assist season is again within reach.
Steven Fletcher once again did not playing for Scotland. Instead of talking about why he isn’t playing, Scotland manager Craig Levin instead was limited to speaking about why he doesn’t need to speak about this every time:
“He indicated to me that he didn’t want to play international football and he has done nothing to say otherwise since,” Levein explained. “I’ve left the door open for a year. He made no attempt to get back into the squad. So I thought for the sake of the players, that there was no point in me, every time we have a press conference, going over and over the same thing.”
Scotland’s loss is fantasy EPL managers gain. Fletcher was able to train with his new club over the two weeks following his brace in 66′ against Swansea and should be set to shine against Liverpool. Fletcher hit 12 last season in 2347′ and has the ability to surpass that tally with regular playing time. After Liverpool, the Black Cats have West Ham and Wigan followed by a trip to the Etihad and a visit from Newcastle. None of those sides are showing much at the back and Fletcher is the type of player capable of making the most of limited chances. His £7m tag is in line with another striker, Dimitar Berbatov. One of the duo should be owned in an effort to offset the cost of owning higher priced options like Robin van Persie or Carlos Tevez but the decision is largly a personal one. FantasyGaffer’s love of Fletcher is no secret, however we’ve elected for Berbatov based solely on Berba’s ability to create chances. For all his skill, Fletcher’s best asset is his poaching ability and that will mean a number of 2pt weeks. The former Wolves man has just five assists over the last two seasons combined.
Liverpool have allowed seven goals and scored twice in their opening three fixtures. Joe Allen must be wondering why he followed Brendan Rodgers from Swansea as the Reds sit 18th while the Swans are 2nd at this early stage. There is no doubt that Allen has been an excellent acquisition for Liverpool, but even with a price of £5.4m the Welsh midfielder is not looking as though he will range far enough afield to surpass last seasons tally of four goals and four assists. Allen played 2896′ a year ago, so even full minutes are not likely to raise those numbers and it is impossible to claim that he simply doesn’t yet know the system. Unfortunately, we’re considering Allen a sell at this point. That extends to most of Liverpool’s defense and goalkeeper Pepe Reina. The only exception is Glen Johnson who is showing enough in the attacking half to warrant continued ownership.
A more interesting proposition is Allen’s young teammate Raheem Sterling. After Liverpool failed to land a forward at the trade deadline, there was an obvious shortage of attacking options. The 17-year-old has shined in his first two matches, earning 90′ against Manchester City and Arsenal. Rodgers has said he will pace the youngster, and was reportedly happy that Sterling had not earned the full international call up early in the international break. However, Sterling was called up to Roy Hodgson’s side and now the question of playing time at the club level remains. If he is going to earn even 60′ a match, he is a must-own player at £4.5m. 3.1% of fantasy EPL managers in the Fantasy Premier League have already bought and the that number will jump if he is again in the starting XI against Sunderland. Alongside Sterling, Luis Suarez continues to present a strong statistical argument for ownership but his finishing is simply abysmal. We’re taking a break from Suarez but will be quick to buy him at the first sign that he has rediscovered the lethal touch.
Reading v Tottenham
Reading has not played an EPL fixture since 22 August after their gameweek 2 match was postponed. We’re still not sure what to expect from this side but the ownership of Pavel Pogrebnyak has fallen enough to see his price drop to £4.9m. Pog has a goal in 152′ and is set to play the loan forward role in the 4-5-1 when Reading are on the road. We expect that he will also play in partnership with Adam Le Fondre when Brian McDermott elects to play a 4-4-2.
Danny Guthrie has created four chances, and scored a goal, in the opening two matches. Guthrie and fellow Reading midfielder Gareth McCleary are available as discount options with the later recording an assist in each of the opening two Barclays Premier League fixtures. We’re not buying either, but the £4.4m price for Guthrie has seen 5.5% selection in Fantasy Premier League and he is a viable 5th midfielder if your side is top heavy with multiple selections from the David Silva, Gareth Bale, Clint Dempsey, Eden Hazard price bracket.
Spurs have not performed to our expectations through three gameweeks. They have scored one goal in each of the opening three gameweeks and Emmanuel Adebayor played only 64′. With Clint Dempsey now in the fold, we’re expecting to see a starting line that includes Adebayor as a loan striker with Bale, Dempsey, Gylfi Sigurdsson behind. Moussa Dembélé should also be lineup in the midfield and we’re happy to own any of those players. Personal preference, price and individual team construction should weigh heavily on selection but if they do not, we rated them – best to least best(est) – Bale, Dempsey, Dembele, Sigurdsson.
Tottenham were successful in having Tom Huddlestone’s red card overturned. The midfielder was still assessed the card and penalized the points in the Fantasy Premier League but he will be available for this game. The biggest absence for Andre Villas-Boas will be Younes Kaboul who’s return date is still unknown. This has left Jan Vertonghen and Willam Gallas as the central pairing, and Gallas is an intriguing fantasy premier league option, his price is stable at £5m while Spurs face Reading and QPR in the next two as they search for their first clean sheet.
Gareth Bale is subject to a good deal of scrutiny from fantasy EPL managers and has seen negative net transfers each of the past two weeks in Fantasy Premier League. -7557 in gameweek 2 and a further -34600 gameweek three. His price is £9.4 and he is selected in 13.6% of FPL sides but he is the same player who posted 195 points in the Fantasy Premier League a season ago. The problem is that the underlying statistics don’t fit the narrative of Bale failing to fit in AVB’s system. He has created eight chances, the same number as Eden Hazard and David Silva. While Bale and Silva have seen their ownership fall, and with it their price, Hazard is one of the most owned players in fantasy EPL. We are still advocating owning Bale and Silva. Opta statistics all point to Bale possessing the ability and opportunity to recreate his 10 goal, 14 assist season from 2011-12.
UPDATE: Hugo Lloris will not supplant Brad Friedel as starting goalkeeper this weekend:
#thfc Predictably, today’s press conference focused on the goalkeeping situation. AVB has spoken to Lloris, and Friedel will keep his place.
— Ben Pearce (@BenPearceSpurs) September 14, 2012
Everton v Newcastle
Everton have an abundance of attacking options for the first time in a long time. Chief among them may be England’s new left-back, Leighton Baines. Baines, we frequently written, is leading the Premier League in chances created with 16. That is the same number as Hazard and Bale, combined. Baines is priced £7.1m but no other defender possesses his ability to contribute in the attack and earns the steady playing time that Baines is all but guarantee in Moyes’ side.
You may thing we’re focusing too much on chances created, and that is certainly a argument, but it is worth noting that Everton’s second best creative force are Maroune Fellaini and Nicola Jelavic, each with five chances created. Jelavic and Fellaini are also player we would consider owning, each enjoys substantial ownership already with Fellaini selected in 21.4% of sides while the forward is found in 9.6% of sides. This is the time to buy Toffees in all facets of the game as Moyes’ squad next five fixtures are among the softest in the league. Everton does not face a Top 4 side for the next 10 weeks and only Newcastle in GW 4 and Liverpool in GW 9 finished last season in the top eight. Fortunately for fantasy EPL managers, Newcastle does not look able to match last season’s defensive record and we expect the Toffees to score at least two on Monday.
The Magpies have had a difficult few weeks. Danny Simpson and Ryan Taylor were injured prior to the break while Tim Krul returned from duty with Holland and Fabricio Coloccini missed out playing with Argentina after suffering what the Argentine FA termed “a hamstring injury in the femoral biceps of his right leg.” He missed both the 7.9 win over Paraguay and the 1-1 draw with Peru, failing to make the squad in either match due to injury. He did travel with the squad and continue treatment with the Argentina doctor instead of returning to Newcastle.’
In the last EPL match, when Simpson left injured, it was midfielder Vurnon Anita who filled in at left-back. A role he is more than willing to reprise if called upon:
Danny Simpson is ruled out of Monday night’s trip to Goodison Park while James Perch remains a doubt after injury sidelined him for Newcastle’s last game, the 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa. Holland international Anita was pressed into action as a full-back when Simpson limped off against the Villans and he played there on several occasions for his former club Ajax before making a summer move to Tyneside.
We had liked the Magpies defense for discount options prior to the start of the season, but they have not yet kept a clean sheet and Everton – gameweek 4 opponent – are looking lethal in the final third. We expect that this could turn into a replay of the final match of the 2011-12 season when Everton defeated Newcastle 3-1 on goals from Steven Pienaar (16′), Jelavic (27′) and John Heitinga (65′).
With Krul facing a spell on the sidelines, we expect that it will be Steve Harper getting the nod from Alan Pardew over Rob Elliot. Harper has played in the Premier League previously, having kept five clean sheets and playing 1564′ in the 2010-11 season before losing the job to Krul. Newcastle also faces midweek action – their Europa League opener is Thursday in Portugal against Maritimo.
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