Champions League Group Stage matches continued on Tuesday and EPL fantasy managers had their first chance to see squad rotations for Manchester United and Chelsea for the first time this season. Both English sides were playing their opening match at home and each had an opportuntity to take all three points thanks to the efforts of their summer signings.
Chelsea did not win. But not for lack of effort from young Brazialian Oscar. The summer signing has yet to make an EPL fantasy impact at Stamford Bridge — he has played 61′ in the Barclays Premier League this season. The start against Juventus was his first for Chelsea and his 31′ and 33′ minute goals put the Blues ahead before the allowed Juve back into the game on an Arturo Vidal strike on 38′.
EPL fantasy managers need to note that the starting lineup for this match featured a middle “3″ of Mikel-Lampard-Ramires, while the front “3″ was Oscar-Torres-Hazard. Juan Mata did not play in gameweek 4 and was introduced late on Wednesday, taking the field for Oscar on 75′. After the game, Roberto Di Matteo confirming that it was an ankle knock that forced off the goal-scorer:
RDM: ‘It was a bad tackle on Oscar before he came off. He had a knock on his ankle and we will assess him tomorrow.’ #CFC
— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) September 19, 2012
Oscar had seen EPL fantasy managers transfer him out -12296 and -3955 over the past two gameweeks. His price has dipped from the opening £8.0 to £7.8m in Fantasy Premier League, but it may not be low enough to justify investment at this time. Only 0.6% of FPL sides currently own Oscar, a number that will undoubtedly rise on the strength of this performance.
Juan Mata has been in free fall as EPL fantasy managers shed the midfielder. He had -60709 net transfers out gameweek 2 and a further -21604 in gameweek 4. Mata was remarkable in his first season with Chelsea, creating 102 chances resulting in 13 assists (stats via EPL Index) but has struggled to make an impact in Di Matteo’s side this term. There is no doubt that Chelsea have invested in youth but that youth is making a strong case to replace the old guard sooner than later. In fact, it seems odd to consider 24-year-old Mata “old guard”, particularly with a single season in London under his belt, but with Eden Hazard (21 years old), Oscar (21) and Victor Moses (21) — we’re ignoring for the moment Ryan Bertrand (23) and Oriol Romeu (20) — all pushing for starting roles Mata has been left outside looking in.
A quick note about Bertrand. He was substituted after 57′ on Saturday. We’ve written about that already. The £4.6m Bertrand was clearly upstaged by Oscar’s performance tonight and we must believe that Bertrand’s time in the starting XI will be significantly more limited going forward. There is a chance that the Fantasy Premier League-rated defender could play in the middle of the part, but he faces no less competition winning a place over Mikel (337′ in BPL this term), Lampard (274′) and Ramires (170′). There is no reason to cut the youngster, but a bench role should be utilized as late substitutions will provide just enough time to ruin his EPL fantasy production.
In Manchester, it was United defeating Galatasaray 1-0 on a goal from Michael Carrick following a smooth give-and-get with Shinji Kagawa. The assist was the first for the Japan international since joining United. He has scored one goal in 217′ of BPL action this term. EPL fantasy managers have not lost faith in Kagawa, though he did see -64719 net transfer this past gameweek in the Fantasy Premier League after news that he had been unable to play for Japan with a back injury was published. His price has held at £8.6m and looks locked into Sir Alex Ferguson’s starting XI. The Japanese attacker has created five chances this season in the BPL — one less than team leader Valencia (6) and level with Robin van Persie and Patrice Evra.
United have an absurdly difficult set of fixtures in the Premier League over the coming six gameweeks: Liverpool (a), Tottenham (h), Newcastle (a), Stoke (h), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h). Granted, last season United posted eight (8, one less than NINE) goals against Arsenal when they visited Old Trafford, but by any objective standard these next six gameweeks will be the most difficult stretch of any they will have this season. We’re not investing in United’s goalkeepers or defenders, leaving three possible squad spots for Red Devil’s attackers. Presumably, one of those spots is taken by Robin van Persie. We have also advocated owning one of Kagawa, Valenica, Ashley Young or Nani.
Nani has done nothing to build his case for more playing time. After finding himself on the outskirts of SAF’s plans, pricing himself out of a move away from Old Trafford and reportedly saying he will see out his full contract to depart on a free-transfer the Portugese play-maker took and missed a penalty on Wednesday. Nani is still selected by 3.1% of Fantasy Premier League managers but his price is falling fast. After ending gameweek 4 priced £8.7m, Nani is already down to £8.6m and looks set for a fourth consecutive gameweek with net transfers out – -18233 in gameweek 2, -39806 in gameweek 3 and -15850 in gameweek 4. We’re wholly unsure why Nani is not first choice at Old Trafford but he does not appear to be. In 2010-11 the 25-year-old scored nine goals with 18 assists and followed that campaign with eight goals and 12 assists in 2011-12. His playing dropped from 2660′ to 2104′ over those two seasons and he has only 197′ of a possible 360′ this season. Nani is undoubtedly skilled, but until he is guaranteed playing time he can not be owned by EPL fantasy managers.
UPDATE: ESPN is reporting that SAF has taken the responsibility for United’s recent penalty inefficiencies.:
Sir Alex Ferguson took responsibility for Manchester United’s penalty woes after Nani missed the club’s third consecutive spot-kick during their 1-0 win over Galatasaray on Wednesday evening. After the match, Ferguson revealed he wanted Van Persie to assume the role of penalty taker, and says he will resolve the issue before United see another opportunity spurned. ”To be honest with you, I have no idea why Nani took it,” said Ferguson. “I think Nani just ran and grabbed the ball. “I thought Robin should have taken it, to be honest with you. I think we will have to decide before the game, which is my fault, I should have done that.”
Sooooo. We’re still expecting RVP to step up for spot kicks, and Nani stay seated on those lovely bucket chairs.
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