The Week Ahead - Matchweek 34

I wish I could say that anything that unfolded in the North London Derby yesterday surprised me but I honestly can't. As much as I and other Arsenal supporters might wish it to be otherwise, the current incarnation of the club just isn't ready to cope with high pressure situations. Until they sprinkle some seasoning in with the young talent, they will remain a group with unrealized potential. I won't say that they are underachievers because while there is talent there, they have ended up the season doing what pretty much everyone figured they would. They're near the top but not good enough to win the league. The agonizing that has gone on in the press about them stems mostly from the fact that the flaws are obvious and fixable given Arsenal's resources, reputation, and location. That the flaws have gone ignored and generally unacknowledged makes people a bit crazy.

On the other side of the field, Spurs are to borrow a phrase from Dennis Green, lately of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, "what we thought they were" as well. They have some standout talents to score in big matches but just aren't good enough at the back to ensure that they don't concede more than they score in such situations. The other big problem is that their standout talents are also seemingly very frail. We're talking Robin van Persie frail. van der Vaart has always been that way and Bale's brief career as a starter has been interrupted by significant injury layoffs at an alarming rate.

The upside is that when they get together these two sides put on a heck of a show. The downside is that both fan bases are going to continue to feel somewhat tortured unless more effective solutions can be found for the problems that have dogged both sides for at least the last few years.

We'll move on to suggesting some specific remedies once the fantasy season is over and the thoughts of all good Premier League writers move to transfer targets and squad transformation.

And with that we move from rant to your regularly scheduled fantasy analysis of the coming week:

The Schedule
All you really need to know about the schedule this week is that there are four teams with two matches: Bolton, Fulham, Stoke, and Wolves. Now, these aren’t exactly the powerhouses of the league so you may only want cherry pick a few players from each team rather than loading up like we (hopefully) all did with Chelsea this past week. Here’s a quick breakdown of the quality of the two matches for each:
  • Bolton (ARS, @FUL) – Tough home match and an away match against a team that doesn’t give away many points in their home stadium. Not a lot to love there but still two matches.
  • Fulham (@WOL, BOL) – Away match against a struggling opponent and a home match against an average opponent. Fulham haven’t had what you’d call a bad result (home loss or away loss to a bad team) since their Boxing Day capitulation to WHU at Craven Cottage. I like the potential here.
  • Stoke (@AST, WOL) – Stoke has been the epitome of a mid-table team. They have a middling match at Villa and what SHOULD be a win against Wolves at home. The hard part with Stoke is knowing where the fantasy points might come from with so many erratic fantasy scorers like Kenwyne Jones and John Carew leading the line.
  • Wolves (FUL, @STO) – If this were a good or even mid-table team with this schedule, you’d be pretty interested but given that this is a team fighting to stay up, you’ll probably want to be cautious.

Of the one-gamers, Chelsea is the obvious play with a home match against West Ham on the schedule. Obviously there are cheaper options out there but since you probably have a lot of Chelsea in your line-up from this week, the default question you might want to be asking yourself is “what’s the case for making a change?”

  • Zamora – I like him as an option more than I like either of the Bolton forwards (Sturridge and Elmander) because the match-ups are just that much better for Fulham.
  • Sturridge – The price on Sturridge has gone WAY up since his move to Bolton and subsequent scoring form (still maintaining at 6-0 over the man his parent club paid a King's Ransom for while sending him away).  The price may make Kevin Davies a better play but Sturridge also takes a lot of shots so I'm going with him as the recommendation over two matches.
  • SEB – With two matches and a relatively cheap price of 8.11, he’s a solid two-match bet. If you compare him to say Elmander and Kenwyne Jones (combined 2 goals and 2 assists since New Years Day) I think you’ll like him even more despite his match-ups and the team he plays for.
  • Walters - The awesome 'stache from earlier in the season is gone but the production isn't bad at all for the price
  • Drogba – Hard to sell him after the two-match week he just had, especially with a home match against defense-starved WHU on the docket.  Same goes for Kalou if you got him for last week or have him cheap on the BD.

  • Dempsey – The price is a bit on the high side for ol' Clint but he's been consistently strong as a fantasy point producer this season and with two winnable matches, I'd expect he'll more than repay fantasy owners making the investment.
  • Etherington - Another sort of expensive play from a mediocre team but he generally gets phantom points and also tends to take PKs so there's a lot of reason to like him over two matches.
  • Jarvis – At around 8 I'd love Jarvis, at 10.81 I still like him but not to the point of going overboard with effusive praise.  
  • O'Hara - Despite his Spurs roots, I really do like O'Hara - especially when the price is so low.  The only reservation is that with Jarvis and Milijas around he isn't as likely to be the main source of phantom points like he has been in the past.  Have modest expectations but still a solid enabler.
  • Lee - He feels like a bit of a trap, doesn't he? He hadn't done much for months and then he has a massive week the match before a two-gamer.  His only saving grace is that his price comes in at only 8.98 and there aren't a ton of attractive midfield options among the two-gamers.
  • One-gamers – If you're looking for solid enablers that have only one match then the list looks like Valencia, Etuhu, Diame, Gera, Shelvey.

Funny thing about the defenders this time around, Hangeland aside, they really aren't very good fantasy options.  Cahill is solid but he's expensive and the match-ups are tough.  Honestly, wouldn't you feel a bit desperate looking for value in Shawcross? My advice here is to stick with whatever combination of cheap defenders you have been holding on to - Kolarov, Smalling, Walker, Luiz, Coleman - or picking up one of the Liverpool kids who did a nice job and hope to pick up some cheap clean sheet points over one match.

  • Schwarzer – Best combination of match-ups and performance over the course of the season.
  • Jaaskelainen – He's more expensive than Schwarzer and has tougher match-ups but the downside is cushioned by the fact that he has gotten about 50% more saves than Schwarzer over the course of the season.
  • Begovic - Lower price if you need to conserve funds but I can't say this is a strong endorsement.
  • Mignolet – Rather than try to tempt you with a mid-priced Begovic, I should probably have moved straight to Mignolet which may sound a bit crazy given that Sunderland have been pretty rotten but he's cheap and they're playing Wigan at home which seems like as solid a time as any to get back to winning ways.


  1. garythain12:20 PM

    Thank you for the excellent post, Neal. No love for Pennant?

  2. pennant is not a great fantasy option...he gets crosses in but jones rarely gets to he is like lennon great on the wing but no real value in fantasy...etherington now will shoot when he cuts inside and win alot more corners...

  3. Anonymous5:35 PM

    Etuhu, Diame, Gera, Shelvey? Worst picks ever! Loved the rest of the post though, thx

  4. i am keeping van persie instead of drogba, still a rotation issues for chelsea forwards, that van persie doesnt have to deal with. i sold walcott though for a double gamer.

  5. just saw that stearman, whom i had a few weeks ago and got diddly because he was pushed into centerback will be back in the right back spot, hopefully racking up fantasy points this time.

    the same thing is happening with luiz, when he has to cover in the center his production is way down.

  6. Birty3:19 AM

    My last spot is a straight choice between Hangeland and M-Pet. I don't really want either.

  7. why not birty, petrov was my 3rd choice this week after jarvis and elmander. hangeland is the must have for expensive defensive options this week. he will have a great chance to score a header goal against either wolves or bolton, as they are pretty weak at defending set pieces.

  8. Birty3:36 AM

    I've settled on Hangeland - I just find it tough picking players from teams that aren't predictable.