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Fantasy Football: United are on a double-game week but who gets the arm-band?

There’s an awful lot of game-changing points on offer this week. Here’s how to have them in the back pocket, this time next week.

Image: PA

SO, WE’RE A little more than halfway through the January transfer window and it’s been an interesting one.

Due to a combination of holidays, travel, and the ‘flu, I haven’t been up to my usual standards for what I consider to be the most fun time of any season.

It’s that time when we get to analyze and speculate about the wisdom of moves made and not made, about the amounts spent and the odd-seeming fits that are inevitable at this time of year.

To make up for the absence of commentary thus far, here are some thoughts on the important moves that have happened.  What will they mean in the real world as well as for fantasy managers?  Inquiring minds want to know:

  • Dzeko to Citeh – Not much downside to this one.  With K2, RSC, and Jo all showing that they aren’t the answer as Tevez’s partner and Balotelli looking for all the world like a wildcard bringing in a solid target striker gives Citeh a great three-man forward rotation.  The only question for fantasy managers is related to squad rotation between Balotelli and Dzeko and the specter of Mancini’s 4-5-1 formation.  Dzeko will probably start regularly until Balotelli is healthy but after that, fantasy managers should be on high alert for rotation.
  • DBent to Villa – In my mind, this is great business for Sunderland.  We all wondered at the beginning of the season how it would work with DBent and Gyan as teammates because they’re really the same player.  Now Sunderland have found a way to get what seems to be an overly-inflated price from desperate Villa for a surplus player who hadn’t done much this season.  There might be a temporary dip as Welbeck is injured and Sunderland look for a replacement.  On the Villa side, DBent is an improvement on this season’s version of Gabby but essentially creates the same problem of redundant pieces.  If I were a goal-shy team in the bottom half of the table (Rovers? Birmingham? Fulham?), I’d think about tabling a bid for Gabby while his value is low.  From a fantasy standpoint, the value of both DBent and Gyan both go up big.  Gabby’s value tanks.
  • FBFDB to Brum – Here’s hoping for a great return to form. (Former Blog Favourite) David Bentley has always looked to be a very good player on a mediocre team as opposed to a contributor to a good team.  Having re-found his depth, I’d expect he’ll start throwing up 10-point efforts on a regular basis again and more importantly, get the regular work needed to be a worthwhile fantasy investment.  From a playing standpoint, this feels like a good move for Birmingham – they needed a spark and Bentley can definitely provide that.  He may also increase Zigic’s value due to the increase in quality crosses.
  • Pienaar to Spurs – Colour me a bit confused.  For a team that probably needs at least one more quality center back, a holding midfielder, and a forward who legitimately strikes fear in the hearts of opponents why would your first big move of the window be picking up yet another attacking midfielder who does his best work from a wide area? Is he solid depth? Definitely and from that standpoint it’s a good move given the price.  On the other hand, Spurs have Bale, Kranjcar, and O’Hara who can play in that same spot and Lennon and Jenas who can do the same thing on the other side of the pitch PLUS they just ditched Bentley for being similarly surplus.  With VDV and Modric also around to play in attacking midfield roles, I really don’t know when Pienaar might see the field. Obviously fantasy managers should be very wary of rotation and/or substantial time on the bench for Pienaar.
  • Roque Santa Cruz to Rovers – This is a fantastic move for goal-shy Rovers if RSC can stay healthy.  He immediately becomes far and away their best forward.  They could still use a “small” to go with him but maybe the attention he attracts from defenses will help their existing crop of forwards produce more.  That said, Gabby or Keane would look really good next to RSC.  As a fantasy player, RSC is great value at his current price.
  • Walker to Villa – Nice move for a young player with some potential to shore up a spot that has been troublesome for Villa since, well, since I can remember.  Could have some solid fantasy upside as well since he is inexpensive and should get at least modest points from attacking statistics as a wing back.
  • Wheater to Bolton – For the price, he’s a great depth signing and better-than-average insurance should Chelsea or Arsenal finally come up with an offer for Gary Cahill that meets Bolton’s valuation.  Always smart to buy a replacement player before you lose someone – it makes you less desperate in the marketplace and it gives that player some time to adapt before he is forced to replace on of the club’s best players.  Is Wheater as good as Cahill? By no means.  However, he’s a solid buy for a team that isn’t generally going to be challenging Chelsea for the David Luiz’s of the world.
  • Pennant to Stoke (permanent) – Just an excuse to share this link.  Awesome story.  We should all have that sort of problems.

That’s about it for the moves that have been completed.  We can certainly hope/expect that there will be more in the form of CBs for Arsenal and Chelsea, a forward for Liverpool and maybe Spurs, and some further shuffling of the decks at surprising strugglers like Villa (Adam?), Birmingham (a forward, any forward), and Everton (a difference-maker just about anywhere to spark the team).  

Schedule

Where we differentiate the matches that will provide fantasy managers with real value from those that will just look like they will provide value.

Real Value

  • Man United – Two matches against opposition they should beat. @Blackpool has been tougher than expected and Birmingham tend to rise to their opposition but my guess is that they’ll see six points from their two matches.
  • Liverpool – Somewhere Jeremy is cringing after his experience with Liverpool’s last two-gamer but with the away match against Wolves and then a home match with Fulham this should be an opportunity for Liverpool to make up some ground.  Not a slam dunk but certainly better prospects for the Reds than in previous weeks.
  • Blackpool – Yes, the second match is against ManYoo but they have two home matches which should make for at least solid returns from their players.  I’d probably tend more towards their attackers than their defenders with ManYoo on the docket.
  • Arsenal vs. Wigan – They only have one match but a solid match-up at home against a weak team.

False Hope

  • Villa – A difficult home match (vs Citeh) and match against beatable opposition (Wigan) is on the road where Villa have been  poor with only 6 points from 11 matches.  If you’re into the notion of a Villa rebound due to the acquisitions of DBent, Makoun, and Walker then I can see the logic but otherwise I’d be wary of going in too much on Villa.
  • Fulham - While they have two matches, both opponents (STO and @LIV) are more talented and higher up in the table than Fulham with the less impressive of the two opponents (Liverpool) being a road match where Fulham have exactly one win this season.

Forwards

  • Rooney – I’m more worried about Berbs being rotated than Rooney which is what puts Rooney at the top of this list and finds Berbs off it.  Is this his breakout week?
  • Campbell – He’s been hot and should have had at least one of his three high quality chances last weekend.  With two matches on the schedule, he’s getting enough of the ball in the right places that you should expect at least one goal.
  • DBent – I’m a big fan of goalscorers moving teams – they tend to score early in their tenure and Villa could really use it
  • RvP – He’s been on a bit of a tear over the last couple of weeks and definitely the guy to have among the one-gamers.
  • Gary Taylor-Fletcher – With three strong matchweeks in a row, GTF is a nice value pick between his two matches and recent strong form.
  • AJ – With nearly all of his points coming in the last five weeks, he’s a reasonably strong value play.  He’s not the 20 goal scorer we remember from Crystal Palace but for this week, Andy Johnson is worth a look because of his price after years of injuries.

Midfielders

  • Meireles – With Gerrard still suspended for the Wolves match, Meireles becomes an excellent fantasy option again. Kenny Daglish like Woy before him hasn’t figured out how to get the best from Meireles and Gerrard when they’re on the pitch together but when Gerrard is absent, Raul is excellent.
  • Adam – He’s had a bit of a resurgence over the last few matches and I look for it to continue with Blackpool’s two home matches this week.
  • N’Zogbia – You have to figure that these next two matches would be good ones as he auditions for a move away from Wigan – that said, he started off the month with a really dumb straight red against Arsenal when he was presumably alert to the notion that teams might be evaluating him for a January move.  I guess I’m betting that the desire to be out of Wigan will override his propensity to be a bit of an idiot and that he’ll do well over his two matches.
  • Nani – This is more a stick with him if you have him at a discount pick than a buy him now recommendation but it’s hard to ignore him this week.
  • Kuyt – Not my favorite fantasy player ever but with two matches for the price of one, he’s a strong bet to return value this week.
  • Duff-man – While Dempsey is now the better fantasy midfielder from Fulham, Duff seems to be rounding into form and his price is such that you could easily talk yourself into picking him despite a fairly difficult two-match schedule for the Cottagers. He’s also been playing better in recent weeks.  Might be the right combination of price, value, and momentum.
  • Albrighton – Of the Villa midfielders he seems the most consistent as well as being the most likely to get a goal from nowhere.  Even better, his price is the best value of the three (himself, AY, and Downing) that you’d even vaguely consider.

Defenders

  • Walker – A great cheap alternative with some upside potential and two matches this week.  He won’t have to do much in either match to justify his spot in your line-up.
  • ManYoo RB – Hard to know how this one will shake out with Rafael definitely out for the Birmingham match and potentially out for the Blackpool match pending the adjudication of his FA charge.  With O’Shea and Brown injured I guess the rapidly-petrifying Gary Neville has to be the choice.  Watch the Friday team news for mention of possible other options like Smalling or Evans. would be the choice.
  • Evra – If you’d rather not worry about all the drama at RB for United, then splash the cash and go after Evra.  It will be quite a shock if he doesn’t return his value this week.
  • Kelly – Like Walker here’s a wing defender on the rise, cheap, and playing two matches this week.  He won’t be a long term roster answer unless Liverpool starts putting together a string of clean sheets but he is certainly a reasonable option during this two-match week.
  • Evatt - The most productive of Blackpool’s defenders by a slight margin – I’m less excited about BPL’s defenders during this two-match week as opposed to the previous one because of the presence of United on the schedule.  Still, if you like their chances for a CS against suddenly striker-shy Sunderland at home over the weekend, then any points from the United match would just be a bonus.

Goalkeepers

  • EvdS – Expensive but worth it this time around.
  • Szczesny – Only one match but a solid match-up and less risk than a number of the two-match options.
  • Reina – So, remember a couple weeks back when Jeremy said Pepe was dead to him? Well, there APPEARS to be some potential value here again.  That said, last time we saw that same potential value, he ended up with a hideously bad effort across two pretty winnable matches.  I believe that qualifies as “let the buyer beware”  
  • Stockdale – I’m not sure how good I feel about this pick.  It certainly doesn’t feel like a potential disaster (as compared to say Friedel who you could easily see letting in 3 against Citeh) but it also doesn’t feel like two W/CSs either.

Captains

  • Rooney/Nani – Pick your favorite ManYoo two-gamer.
  • EvdS – My recommendation of three-goal Joe Hart went so well in this spot last week, I’m risking it again here with van der Sar.  Yes, the going well part is sarcasm but the recommendation still stands.  
  • DJ Campbell – I would have guessed at the beginning of the season I’d make it the entire season without recommending that you captain a Blackpool player but here it goes.  I’m as surprised as you are.

Neal Thurman and Jeremy Spitzberg  write what they believe to be the oldest-runningblog focused on English Premier League. They also believe they were the first two people ever paid real money to blog exclusively about the same. They may be entirely wrong on both counts but that doesn’t stop them from writing or telling people that they were first.

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About the author:

Neal Thurman and Jeremy Spitzberg

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