This, fellow Fantasy EPL Managers, was not a fun week. Just when you thought your investing and forethought had paid off in having both Reina, Gerrard, and Kewell at reasonable prices for two straight weeks of double matches Reina goes completely insane in the middle of a lost cause of a match and Gerrard follows that up by getting hurt. Not good times. Kewell is still healthy but the question of his effectiveness has to be raised with a) Gerrard out; b) strikers who can't strike; and c) team confidence in the dumps.
All of a sudden, managers are casting their eyes away from Anfield and towards Ewood Park where Blackburn's double with Sunderland and Everton is much more attractive than Liverpool's Wigan/Arsenal double or Arsenal's Bolton/Liverpool two-fer. Throw in Chelsea playing a Boro team in crisis and ManYoo playing an equally shakey Pompey team and there are a lot of difficult choices to be made. The one bright spot is that, minus Gerrard, you probably have some money to spend.
Special Liverpool Section - With the Reds playing two this week and being in such disarray, it made sense to me to give them their own section. Alonso is likely to take free kicks with Gerrard out which improves his value. Fowler looks poised to get a start and at 6.50 for two matches, is in competition with Adebayor for being the most attractive cheap striker this week. Dudek is another attractive option - certainly his midweek performance didn't give owners a warm and fuzzy feeling but it did drop his price to under 9 which is great for any keeper, let alone one on a top 3 team. The Pool defense is the same as it's been all year - priced at a premium but worth it (esp. Finnan) if you can afford them. The match against Wigan (who is missing all their strikers) is particularly attractive for potential CSs.
Chelsea - If Arsenal, Liverpool, and Blackburn weren't playing two, my advice would be to load up on as many Chelsea players as you can find. Frank Lampard has to break out one of these days doesn't he? He hasn't had a dominant fantasy match in weeks. Robben's price has sagged back down a bit so you should consider him for this week if you don't like the 2-game options. Joe Cole and Hernan Crespo are also reasonable bets do make owners happy at fairly reasonable prices. All that said, I'm a big fan of the value of having 2 games worth of opportunity for good players rather than just one, even if it is against Boro. On the Boro side, I'm sticking with Downing because I have him cheap - if I didn't, I can think of no reason to go for one of their players this week.
The Former "Big Two" - It's been a long time since an Arsenal player other than Henry got fantasy managers excited but the play of Adebayor in his debut has most of the managers I know penciling him in to their line-ups for this week's double. He's cheap and he looks like he might provide some valuable balance to the Gunners offense in a way that van Persie and Bergkamp just can't. I'm still wary of the Arsenal midfield, Diaby played well last weekend but I'm not ready to take the risk vs. Bolton and Liverpool. That goes for the back line as well. Seems unlikely that a clean sheet is in the cards with Senderos being the most likely to pass for an "experienced defender". One more note, don't look now but Henry's price has fallen into the low 20s (22+) and with two matches this week, it might be worth moving things around to accommodate (I know I did and I thank Mr. Gerrard's balky knee for making that an easy decision). See below for Liverpool notes...
The Red Devils travel to Fratton Park with an offense that's firing at a high rate and a defense that can't stop anyone. That should make for an interesting clash with a team that can't score and couldn't even stop NUFC from putting two in the net last weekend. You have to think that ManYoo at least will score more than two goals. Ruud, Rooney, and Ronaldo are priced at a premium so it may be tough to justify their inclusion but all three are likely to figure in the scoring. Slightly more affordable is Saha who has been playing well since his return to health. I wonder when SAF will finally figure out that Rooney is best suited for the top of a central midfield diamond with Ruud and Saha up top, Giggs on the left and Ronaldo on the right? This sort of offensive-minded line-up will work best with a better player than Alan Smith/Darren Fletcher at the back of the diamond, but wouldn't so many things at OT be better if that were the case? On the defense, I'd stay away. Pompey may be the gang who can't shoot straight but United has been letting in goals at an alarming rate. No Pompey players worth considering...
Against the Relegation Zone - Rovers not only get a double but a double at the bottom of the table with already relegated Sunderland and promising but still not great Everton on the schedule for this week. MGP replaces Stevie G as this week's must-have player to be supplemented with Bentley and Bellamy if he looks to be healthy (and that seems to be the report out of Ewood). Rovers defenders aren't cheap but with low-scoring Everton and terrible Sunderland (minus Whitehead) on tap, they may be worth it if you have the $$. No Sunderland players worth taking - especially with Whitehead suspended.
Having already discussed Pompey/ManYoo that leaves Birmingham's trip to Upton Park as the final match featuring a relegation struggler. My boy Dean Ashton is still relatively cheap and I predict that the points will keep on coming for Deano. Etherington and Reo-Coker are also good bets for the Monday clash as both were last seen crossing a lot of balls Ashton's way - assists and successful crosses look like they'll be plentiful for both of those guys.
Random Fantasy EPL Notes - Not a ton to report here because the big news comes from the two-gamers but here are a few things to keep track of...Mido may make his return to the Spurs line-up - you may not want to pick him up now but be aware that Spurs are one of only four teams to play next week (Charlton, Newcastle, and Wigan being the others) so picking him up before his price rises might be a good idea - that Spurs play Sunderland makes it easier to pick up some of their other players now if you can't afford the two-gamers you want...For everyone who picked up Luke Moore on the cheap, be aware that Milan Baros is back in contention...Fulham v. West Brom - MEH...Charlton v. Man Citeh - Ditto.
And that's all I've got to say about that...happy shopping.