Before we get to my recommendations, I'm going to do a quick book review that came up in the Live Chat last weekend. The book in question is called Brillant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer. Despite my general passion for sports of all kinds, I don't tend to read and enjoy too many sports books. This is definitely an exception and here's why:
First, I am consistently fascinated at the ability of such a small country like Holland to produce exceptional footballers and this book gives some insight into why that may be. Second, I enjoy it when an author does a good job of making connections between a nation's sporting culture and their national culture and not only does David Winner do that but the connections he draws are more interesting than even others that I have enjoyed. Finally, as both an Englishman and a Gooner, I found Winner perhaps drawing the obvious parallels between the Dutch and Wenger's Arsenal. He never makes an explicit connection other than to mention recent Arsenal squads as the successors to the Total Football style but it wasn't difficult to read between the lines - both the admiration and frustration. In any event, if you're looking for something interesting and different on the topic of soccer then I think you'll enjoy this book. There is also a mention of a really cool photography project about amateur soccer by a photographer named Hans van der Meer - I went out and searched on some of the photos and they're really quite amazing.
OK, back to our regularly scheduled column...
This is sort of an amazing season thus far. Outside of Chelsea at home, there seem to be far fewer sure things for fantasy managers to focus on than there have been in years past. We were all prepared for vs. Blackpool to be the fantasy focus most weeks but that turned out to be far from true. We then thought that maybe we could shift our focus to vs. West Ham and while that hasn't completely gone away as a reasonable strategy, it certainly isn't a sure thing either. This has led to a general lack of extremely attractive match-ups to focus on from week to week. This week features Arsenal hosting West Ham in what SHOULD be a comfortable win for the hosts. Chelsea and Citeh are on the road against mediocre-at-best teams but Chelsea are only 2-1-1 on their travels and are scoring only about 2 goals/match (as opposed to 5-0-0 at home scoring over 3 goals/match with none conceded). Citeh are likewise unimpressive on their travels with a matching 2-1-1 record while scoring just over a goal a game. The other two "Top Five" clubs are facing off at Old Trafford which puts the value of those players into question. The only other match-up that jumps out at me is Fulham hosting Wigan. As we generally do, we recommend treading carefully around high-tension derby matches like AST vs. BRM and NUFC vs. SUN.
- Drogba - Yes, he had a bad first match back but with a full match and another week of training, I expect he'll be back to his normal exceptional self. Tevez being out makes this choice even easier.
- Chamakh - Still pretty inexpensive and the match-up is a good one. He has also been strong at home with all of his Premier League goals coming at the Emirates.
- Chicharito - Assuming Rooney doesn't make an early return, Chicharito seems to be on an exceptional run of form. He may end up being that good but regardless of his overall quality, he seems to have some magic working.
- Saha - Watch the injury notes but he made his return last weekend and home vs. Stoke could be his return to starting and goal-scoring.
- Elmander - He's been scoring regularly and he's at home to still-average-at-best Liverpool
- K2/Balotelli - We'll have to wait to see if we get a sense of which one will start but both are affordable and should be the focal point of the Citeh attack as they look to rebound from their embarrassing loss last weekend.
- AJ - See Saha, could be the weekend he comes back as a starter and the match-up favors a productive return.
- Cesc/Nasri/Walcott - Jeremy and I discussed the expensive Arsenal midfielders at length. We agreed that you really should have at least one of them this weekend. The question is which one? Cesc is the easy answer as he is the best player with the strongest fantasy history. The other plus for Cesc is that he'll definitely start. My sense is that if all three start, Walcott is the best bet but he also has the best chance to be rotated after playing the full 90 in midweek while coming back from injury. Nasri has been hot but also up and down from a fantasy standpoint over his career. So, here's my final take - Cesc is safest but most expensive, Walcott has the most upside but most risk, and Nasri is the compromise decision. I'm sure this hasn't been terribly helpful but I think this is really bit of a lottery situation. I think all three will do OK but it is likely one will do very well - good luck picking the right one.
- FloMal/Nani - If you're buying one of the Arsenal trio above then you can probably only afford one of these two, I'm sticking with FloMal and the better match-up but there's an equally strong argument for Nani playing at home. We'll just say I'm still not 100% convinced that Nani has become more consistent.
- VDV - STILL not too expensive. Not a great match-up but ManYoo have certainly not been air-tight and VDV seems to be first in line to get points for Spurs each week so I'd still buy him even at his current price.
- Adam - I'm not sure what the update is on his injury but assuming it isn't a long-term concern, I'd still recommend him for the home clash with fellow newly-promoted revelation WBA.
- Brunt - See Charlie Adam but without the injury concern.
- Nolan - I saw the old Joey Barton re-emerge in his cameo vs. Arsenal yesterday - he could easily have been sent off in under 20 minutes (as it was, he saw yellow for the less flagrant of his two bad fouls). With a derby on tap this weekend, it feels like the time to shift to Nolan if you want a reasonably priced NUFC midfielder.
- Holden - Still inexpensive, still producing, playing at home. Just that simple.
- Bosingwa - He's back and he looked great. As a bonus, he's not that expensive.
- Zhirkov - We'll see if he's still in the starting line-up but if he is, he's still a great value playing in midfield and getting potential CS points.
- Kompany - Came down a bit with a rough match against Arsenal but still value for the money.
- Coleman - Speaking of a come down, he had a rough one but that pushed his price down and makes him solid value.
- Salcido - Still holding out hope that his first week wasn't a complete anomaly but the recommendation is going from strong to weak.
- Beye - I know, stay away from derby matches but he's been getting solid points even without CS points and he was never a big YC magnet.
- Boateng - I'm not sure how he got 9.5 points last weekend but he did it without a CS so he might be worth a look with a better match-up this weekend.
- Fabianski - For those without Cech or Hart with great discounts should gird their loins and get ready to live with what will certainly be a nerve-wracking match-up on Saturday. Certainly, this choice is much more attractive to those who got Fab on the Barn Door.
- Howard - Also more expensive than I'd like but this is a solid choice for under 10.
- Schwarzer - If you're looking for a discount on Fab/THo then Schwarzer has a nice match-up and is playing at home where Fulham are generally formidable opponents.
- Scott Carson - If you're choosing between Blackpool and WBA, I'd tend towards WBA since they seem able to score under any and all circumstances while Blackpool has been more up and down and may be without their best playmaker in Adam. This becomes a much better choice if Adam is out.