I do have two topics that I want to cover before I get to the recommendations...
1. What the hell happened to Kranjar last weekend? With Lennon, Defoe, and Modric missing from the line-up, I was a little surprised that Kranjcar was relegated to the bench for a couple reasons - first, that's a lot of fire power missing and second, he's been facilitating the Spurs attack pretty well over the last few weeks. Even more surprising was that after falling behind just before the half there was no move made to insert one of their best healthy attacking players. Throw in the fact that Bale WAS inserted in the left midfield role instead of Kranjcar and you have to really wonder. Was there an unreported H1N1 case at work? A late injury? If either were the case, you wouldn't think he'd have even made the bench. I guess the overall question that Jeremy and I were asking ourselves after the match was over was "what the hell is going on here?" I wish I knew but he went from someone I was pretty excited about in my line-up to a huge question mark in a hurry.
2. Is Liverpool following NUFC/Leeds? A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the financial indicators surrounding the potential takeover of Arsenal by Kroenke (which, by the way, is edging ever closer). Now its time to turn the financial spotlight on Anfield. Let's recap...Lots of money spent (badly) in the transfer market...lots of players on high wages in a down economy...many players on the books who likely wouldn't return half their transfer price...no money to spend on players in January...early exit from the Champions League likely...position for next year's Champions League tenuous based on current form and the potential challenge of others...owners on shaky financial ground...global financial crisis getting better but hardly to the point where there are easy credit markets for highly leveraged people/corporations...no real young talent on the way up...rumors about top players wanting to leave. What does this all say to me? It's going to be ugly at Anfield and fast unless Gillette and Hicks sell quickly.
Why quickly? Masch already wants to leave. If Rafa leaves, I'm not sure that Nando/Reina would be interested in staying. If Nando/Reina/Masch leave, I'm not sure why Gerrard would stay. The tax laws in England will make it much more difficult for English clubs (especially cash-strapped ones) to compete for high-quality players. Chelsea and Citeh have the money to make salaries work out; ManYoo and Arsenal at least have history and prestige on their side along with iconic managers and just enough money to make it a reasonable proposition. If Liverpool can't pay on par with the competition, don't have an iconic manager then ALL their left with is history/prestige and debt...lots and lots of debt. Not good times at all.
I'm certainly not saying that this is what WILL happen. Liverpool could retain Rafa and qualify for the Champions League next year and stave off their issues. They could be purchased by someone with so much money they don't care if the club is profitable. If one of these things doesn't happen soon though, Liverpool will be the next big name football club to be humbled by financial mismanagement and poor personnel decisions.
OK, enough doom and gloom (unless you count my choices of WHU/Villa players as doom and gloom from last week)...
Rovers, Citeh, Arsenal, and Liverpool present the most attractive match-ups for the coming weekend. Outside of that group the match-ups are fairly even or the slightly better teams are playing on the road to teams that aren't bad enough that you want to bet that superior talent will win out over home field advantage.
The other interesting wrinkle (quite unrelated to schedule) is the proliferation of people who will be playing in place of suspended teammates after least weekend's parade of red cards. Just so you have the complete list of people who you won't be seeing this weekend (we'll repeat it during injuries and suspensions)...
Beye (Villa), SPet (Villa), Ferguson (Brum), Bily (Everton), Samuel (Bolton), Geovanni (Hull), Degen (Liv), Carra (Liv), GNev (ManYoo), Cana (SUN), KJones (SUN), Buxton (Wigan)
The most interesting of these for fantasy managers will be GNev, and KJ. The likely beneficiaries will be O'Shea and Frazier Campbell. O'Shea's price has climbed a bit so that's not a huge advantage but Campbell's price and likelihood to start against a depleted Spurs defence leads us right into...
Campbell (an extremely cheap starter with an OK match-up), RvP (on fire), DiSanto (good match-up at a very nice price), K2 (does he get back on track? he is good at scoring in bunches against bad teams), Bellamy (he's been quiet off the pitch but very effective on it), Drogba (hard to invest this weekend but he's been the class of the league thus far), Nando (if you're buying a premium striker and can't afford RvP it's hard to bet against Nando coming to the rescue again), Beattie (even on the road, Hull don't worry me too much)
Cesc (best match-up for a premium midfielder), BFAR (but only if you got him before his price jumped), MPet (he'll be in consideration for a "BF" if he stays healthy and in the starting XI), Dunn (always wary of an injury or a card but he's been delivering this season and Pompey comes to visit), Benayoun (get the feeling that someone is going to have to help Nando out this weekend?), Nasri (if you want to take a risk on some upside, he's not a bad risk to take), Chung-Yong (the way Villa has been playing, a Bolton player on the road isn't as bad a bet as you might think), Fletcher (I generally stay away from matches between the Big Four but it feels like a Fletch weekend and the price is right).
Kyrgiakos (not easy to type but could be some cheap CS points if Brum can't break through at Anfield), Keiron Gibbs (the injury to Arsenal's first choice left back makes Gibbs a nice choice for the next month or so - maybe more if Arsenal's training staff continue to underestimate the severity of injuries), Emerton (as far as I could tell he was playing an attacking midfield role last weekend while being listed as a defender - against ManYoo, that's still not great; home to Pompey...much better), Zabaleta (good match-up and a reasonable price), and obviously my general advice to stick with Verm and Heiti remains...
I'm doing what I've been doing pretty much all season and sticking with Given (which finally paid off again after a few weeks of a dry spell). If you're not doing that then the most logical choices available to you are Reina (I'm betting LIV will bounce back), Robbo (did I really just type that? maybe you should just ignore that), and Almunia. If you're looking for something different, you might want to consider Kirkland to bounce back from an ugly weekend at home against Fulham who aren't exactly an attacking powerhouse with 13 goals in 10 matches and only one road victory (first day of the season @POR which you can hardly even count as a Premier League match).
We'll be back tomorrow with Injuries and Suspensions.
Cheers - Neal
posted by Neal Thurman on Thursday, November 05, 2009