In the spirit of the holidays, I am going to be charitable to everyone reading and keep things relatively brief this time around. Obviously there are a lot of moving parts to think about with 3 matches for some teams and the possibility of the weather canceling more matches like it did for Bolton as our "never bet on or against Bolton" rule was underscored for everyone who had forgotten or thought that the rule was rendered irrelevant once Big Sam moved on a couple of years ago. With all that in mind, here we go on a quick roller coster ride starting with the 3 gamers and ending up with the potential one-gamers (Burnley if Bolton/Burnley is postponed due to weather).
One final note for everyone who hasn't been following the conversation about how many matches are included in the Christmas "matchweek" (and if you haven't looked at the table on the "Team Manager" page since it was updated) - we have confirmed with Yahoo that all of the matches from December 26 until January 7 will be included. Should make for a crazy time as we all pull our hair out after players get injured or suspended or rotated part of the way through the 2 or 3 match stretch. As you select your team, it is just as important that you go for guys who will be selected as it will be to pick the best match-ups or most talented/hottest players.
The Definite 3 Gamers
With Bolton's first match of the Christmas in some question due to the weather (see below) we are left with Fulham, Stoke, and Arsenal as the teams who will definitely be playing 3 matches over the course of this matchweek. You've no doubt already seen Jeremy's analysis of who the hell might be playing consistently for Arsenal across those 3 matches. My conclusion is that the guys you really should get in your team if at all possible are Almunia, Verm (although I assume you've had him all along), and Arshavin. The second tier of options from Arsenal would be Denilson, Nasri, Diaby, and EdS (in that order). If you feel strongly about the Gunners' chances of scoring a lot over the course of two very winnable matches (@POR and BOL) and one tougher one (AST) at home then I'd jump on at least one of the above. I've ordered them based on my impression of their chances of a) starting and b) performing during the time they do play.
Outside of Arsenal, Fulham contains the most interesting players for me. Their schedule isn't the greatest (Spurs, @CHE, and @Stoke) but they've started resembling the team that pushed its way into the Europa League last season. They're also catching Spurs and Chelsea in the right positions (Spurs will be on the road which hasn't been great for them this season and Chelsea will be without Drogba and Anelka due to ACN and injury respectively and they've been pretty shaky WITH those two recently). I'm not so Bullish on Fulham that I'd be going "all in" on their players but Bobby Zamora (who is on fire), Duffman (although he's more likely to start 2 of the 3 matches), and Dempsey (having a quietly excellent year in both the real world and fantasy) are attractive options. If you want to go one deeper then you might want to consider a defender. Ordinarily, I'd recommend a favorite from last season John Paintsil but he is a) expensive and b) going to miss either one or two matches due to the African Cup. His absence essentially renders the RB spot at Fulham useless to fantasy managers for this week. Given that that is the case, someone like Chris Baird is strong value for the money.
And where are Stoke in all this? Nowhere really. Their 3 fixtures are pretty tough from a fantasy standpoint (@Citeh looking to impress the new boss and then home to both stingy teams in Birmingham and Fulham). If you want in on Stoke, I'd go for Eth over Beattie on the theory that he's much more likely to play all three. Stoke have few alternatives on the left and Beattie is coming off both an injury and a bust-up with the manager (and he's sort of pudgy) so hard to see him pulling off 3 matches in such a short timeframe.
The Maybe 3 Gamers
Here is the latest update from Turf Moor on the Boxing Day fixture between Bolton and Burnley. My advice would be to check Burnley's web site at the latest possible hour on Friday (exactly how you wanted to spend your Christmas right?). I know the rule on Bolton but with Klasnic, Lee, and MTay all reasonable fantasy options you have to consider them seriously if they are playing 3 matches. If you really want to get crazy, Gary Cahill (despite his price) is also a pretty strong bet if there are 3 matches to be played.
The 2 Gamers
Its always easy to pick one of the glamor teams and pimp their players as great bets but if you're going for 2 gamers, then you'd be foolish not to look at ManYoo first. With @HULL and WIG presenting the opposition you have a hard time seeing the Red Devils NOT coming out of the Christmas week with 6 points. As Jeremy mentioned in his Early Doors posting the defence that made ManYoo look so mediocre against Fulham is on the mend with Vidic coming back to anchor along with Fabio (actual defenders is a HUGE upgrade). I'm not sure there will be enough certainty/stability across the two matches in the ManYoo defence that you'd want to pick any of their defenders BUT what the presence of actual defenders and crappy opponents does is increases the value of Kuszczak in a pretty big way. Giggs is also back but with the caveat that it's hard to see him starting two matches 3 days apart. If I were prioritizing ManYoo players, I'd go Kuszczak (if you don't have the money for Almunia), Rooney (although there are lots of alternatives for less money), and maybe a flyer on Darren Gibson if you think he's made the leap to the starting XI (I'm of the opinion that he's only been getting his run because the alternatives in midfield are all either injured or playing in defence).
There aren't really any other sets of match-ups that really catch my eye despite Jeremy's enthusiasm about Everton's schedule (if Everton were playing decently this season I'd be more excited but the table doesn't lie, they've been crushed by injuries and can't be trusted until they have their players back - sort of like ManYoo last weekend).
In the absence of great match-ups, here are the players I'm considering from among the two-gamers...
RSC (K2 on his way to Africa and RSC re-announced himself nicely last weekend); Tevez (he's been on fire); Gerrard/Torres (I think Liverpool might take out some frustrations on Wolves at Anfield anything from the Villa match would be a bonus after that); Bily (when he's played, he's been pretty strong); and O'Hara (forget what you thought you knew about Pompey - they've been playing like a middle-of-the-table team for over a month now).
So, I'm sure you're reading this and wondering "Why no one from Spurs?" Is he THAT biased against them as an Arsenal supporter that he'd undermine his fantasy team (and his credibility related to this blog) because of that bias? As it turns out, the answer is "no" the the second question. The answer to the first is that I'm of the opinion that Spurs are tremendously overvalued right now on the back of some excellent performances in recent weeks. If you have some of their more productive players (Defoe, Crouch, Kranjcar, Lennon) at a good discount then by all means I recommend keeping hold of them and riding their hot streak. On the other hand, if you're looking to buy for THIS week at the current prices then I'm of the opinion that you can do better. Something about the MBA training in me that says "don't buy when the price is at its peak".
Finally that leads us to...
The Maybe 1 Gamer
As we discussed above Bolton/Burnley is still up in the air for Boxing Day. I've been playing Chris Eagles for the last few weeks and have been very happy with the results and am inclined to keep that going if I know for sure he's going to get two matches. If he's not then I'll either look for a secondary option from one of the 3 match teams (Diaby, Denilson, Ethrington, etc.) or go with a solid two-gamer like Bily who I know won't be limited to one match.
OK, with all of that out there, I wish you all the best of luck in your holiday selections. I hope they bring you holiday cheer no matter where you are or what holidays you are celebrating (if any).
Between Jeremy and I we'll try to get an injuries and suspensions post out tomorrow but I can't guarantee anything due to family obligations and the like.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Good Luck.
Cheers - Neal