Outside of a spirited debate on a very specific topic, there is one broader notion that this debate pointed out to me that represents a flaw in the way I tend to rate players on a week-to-week basis. That flaw is the lack of the sort of differentiation that using a three fold rating system (e.g., Buy, Hold, and Sell) that would make it easier to speak with equal relevance to people who already have a player on their roster as well as people who are thinking of buying at the current retail price. If this was my full time job, then there's not question that every player (or at least every player worth even considering a little bit) would need to get such a rating each week. As it turns out, I have a full time job and as a result, don't have time to rate roughly 250 players (starters plus potential rotational starters) each week. What I will try to do is point out where I can when I'm suggesting that a player is value at his CURRENT price vs. where I think you should drop him even if you have him at a discount.
What do I mean? As was WELL covered in the comments, there's an argument to be made for Bale at 12 and many people who bought in Week 1 and left him alone have him for. I could see the logic in keeping him at that price. That said, with less than 25% of teams owning Bale, most of our readers need to know what to do about him THIS WEEK and his CURRENT price - they can't go back and get him at 12. So, going forward, I'll try to mention some players who are worth keeping at a discount (e.g., VDV under 6 despite the occasional niggling injury or tough match-up) vs. players who are probably not worth it even WITH a discount (e.g., Drogba or Malouda for about the last three weeks). Hopefully, this will improve the quality of the recommendations and make them relevant for more readers. Oh, and if someone has the money available to make this my day job, I'll be happy to provide Buy/Hold/Sell ratings for everyone each week.
OK, on to the week at hand.
As always, I list the match-ups that I think make a meaningful positive impact on a player's value over and above the average score you'd expect from him in an average week. I was all set to pimp ManYoo, Liverpool, Blackpool, and WBA in this space as home teams playing significantly inferior teams in the standings. Well, ManYoo are keeping up their end of the bargain and the possible return of Rooney should inject a level of adrenaline into the team.
That said, WBA, Blackpool, and Liverpool are all reeling:
WBA from a string of poor results that has seen them pick up only 1 point from four matches despite playing Blackpool, WHU, and Wigan (although all were on the road). The goals have dried up as they've scored only 3 goals across their four November matches compared to 5 in only 3 matches in October. Certainly seems like a solid reason to be cautious.
Blackpool's only saving grace has been the narrow win over WBA when they were up two men for a majority of the match. Otherwise, it's only been 2 draws and a loss despite modest (but not terrible) opposition. [Jeremy's note: They're also missing Gilks for 2 months and Adam is a doubt for the weekend.]
Liverpool are reeling not only from two very disappointing results following their huge win over Chelsea but also due to injury. On the field, they've got one point from away matches against Wigan and Stoke with only one goal to show. Away from Anfield, they saw their heart and soul Gerrard go off in a useless friendly against France and the reports are that he'll miss close to a month. Playing at home will certainly help Liverpool but I can't imagine it will be enough to offset the loss of Gerrard.
- Torres - With the announcement that he escaped injury and even ran out a bit for Spain in midweek, I was ready for him to be my premium striker but with the news that his partner in crime Gerrard is going to be out, I'm at least rethinking a bit. This goes from Strong Buy to Buy With Hesitation despite the visit of bottom-of-the-table West Ham.
- Gyan - Hard to know exactly what to do here if you're buying retail. He's been hot but Bent may be back. You certainly want to hold him for a home match against Everton if you have him cheap. If you're buying retail, I'd say a moderate Buy.
- ManYoo Strikers - Hard to know exactly what to do here. I'm putting Rooney on the BD watch but am not ready to jump in despite the match-up. Could be I'm just a little chicken. With NO other premium strikers providing value recently, he could be worth a risk. Berbs is equally perplexing. OK, not perplexing because he does this EVERY YEAR but certainly difficult to figure. His price has dropped to a reasonable level so while you'd have to consider him a risk based on recent performances, the match-up might make him worth the risk. Cautious Buy on both and watch the injury reports tomorrow to figure out your best move.
- Elmander - Wow, that was a nice goal and he gets to play at home against a solid but hardly daunting Newcastle team. The risk here is that this is one of those weeks where NUFC is unexpectedly strong on the road against a quality opponent (see Arsenal and Everton).
- Varney - This is more about taking a chance on a match-up than on consistent production. He's had 3 matches of 14 and over and then a lot of nothing. If you want to spend a pretty reasonable amount (7.83) on the chance that this is one of his big weekends, it's not an unreasonable bet.
- Only Play Two - You may notice that I'm not too fired up about the striker options and there's a reason for that, a by-product of the Bale research was a realization that the state of fantasy strikers since Drogba went cold has been positively terrible. There have been individual weeks that were exceptional but the week-to-week consistency hasn't been there. I assume you guys are already there but I figured it was worth noting.
- Nani - This was going to be Gerrard but not so much anymore. Playing at home with a great match-up he's a no-brainer to hold at a discount and probably the best value to buy at retail among premium players this week.
- Obertan - He hasn't been great but you don't need much from him to justify the price and home to
WHUWigan has made a lot of attacking players look good.
- Adam/VDV/Holden/Milijas/Albrigton/Brunt - Hold them at prices under 10, probably tough buys this week at their current retail prices and/or given their match-ups.
- Guthrie - Gutierrez got more points last weekend but I expect Guthrie to get Barton's points over the course of Barton's suspension. That his price is only 6.15 makes him a pretty easy buy if your midfield isn't already crowded with the guys above at heavy discounts.
- Meireles - I'm not saying that he's going to replace Gerrard's points but he's quietly been pretty solid value since he started playing regularly (only one bad week, really). His stats read similarly to Holden's before the last two weeks and his price is similarly low. He's just grinding out points with his defending, winning corners and the occasional SOT. If he happens to get a goal, your return will look really good on an investment of 6.65
- Lee - If you're looking for some value on Bolton at home, this is probably the best you're going to do. Don't love the pick but I don't hate it either.
- Bentley - His price has come way down this season (he's under 10) - throw in the fact he enjoys playing against his old team and that Arsenal have a hard time defending their opponent's right side (we're looking at you Clichy) and you've got something potentially interesting. PhysioRoom.com doesn't list Bentley on the injury report anymore. I'll still be looking for confirmation from tomorrow's injury reports but there could be some value here.
- Coleman - Not a great match-up but he's solid value as a defender playing in midfield.
- Vidic - If you're going to splash the cash on a premium defender this weekend AND you're paying retail, then Vidic is your guy. Strong match-up, home game, and as we saw in the Bale article, he's been Bale's equal for less money starting from Week 3.
- Skertl/Konchesky - I know both will be tempting due to the match-up with West Ham but please note that WHU have been scoring even if they haven't been winning. Just saying.
- Evatt/Crainey - Evatt is the riskier play (he's had some big matches and some where he's gone completely missing) whereas Crainey is pretty steady but never spectacular. With Wolves visiting, there's a solid chance of a clean sheet that makes both of these guys interesting options for a reasonable price. The loss of Gilks to injury for the next few months could put this suggestion into some doubt - I don't know enough about their back-up Kingson (a few World Cup appearances aside) to make a real determination as to how much he'll devalue their back line.
- ManYoo RB - Hard to tell what to make of this spot but if we figure out what's happening between Rafael, Wes Brown, and O'Shea then there could be some value there as none are particularly expensive.
- Hutton - See Bentley above - Arsenal aren't good defending down their opponent's right side - Hutton plays RB and tends to get attacking points when he does well. His price isn't high. A clean sheet looks highly unlikely but still might be worth a look.
- Cheslea's D - Start devaluing them now - without Alex and JT (assuming the reports of his serious injury are true and he'll miss significant time) I don't rate their chances for many clean sheets. The prices will look great on Bosingwa, Ivanovic, and Ferreira but they're just not worth it without the team's bedrock.
- What's His Name - Hold at 12, ignore him on the road against the second place team in the standings at 18.
- EvdS - If you're splashing the cash at keeper, he's the obvious choice. If you want low risk, this is the bet. Otherwise...
- Reina - WHU DOES take a LOT of shots and usually only connects on a few (see Obinna, Victor) so even if Reina doesn't get a CS, he may pile up the points with a win and a lot of saves from not-terribly-threatening shots. My only worry, as stated above, is if the loss of Gerrard causes LIV to lose the midfield battle to WHU and more than one goal gets through.
- Jussi - Don't LOVE it but don't hate it for the price either.
- Carson - If you're looking to go cheap, this is probably a solid bet to make. Again, I wouldn't sleep well if I were doing it but if you need the cash...
- Holds - Tough to justify keeping Foster (although Chelsea's current form makes it easier), Fab21 (Spurs match feels like it could be a goal-fest), and Hart (potentially out) unless you have them at a significant discount but with few REALLY attractive options this weekend, you might want to hold on to your guy and your discount and hope for the best.