The Week Ahead - Slacker Edition

I have to admit it, I'm having a lot of trouble getting motivated to focus on fantasy over the last couple of weeks. Maybe it is the fact that we've been doing this for 8 months. Maybe it is the hangover from Arsenal crashing out of contention on all four fronts. Maybe it is related to the warmer weather combined with baseball and MLS starting up and still holding so much promise. I'm guessing its mostly the Arsenal thing with a small sprinkle of the other factors as well.

Like most of the managers around the league, the end of this season has me thinking about next season and what can be done to improve what we do and how we enjoy the fantasy games available to us.

The BEST option would be to create our own fantasy game that improves on the experiences currently offered by the "big two" ( and Yahoo! UK). Unfortunately, that best option is expensive and time consuming so unless there's someone out there with money to spend that believes that there is a market for a better fantasy Premier League experience, we'll have to move on to the next best thing.

The problem is that I'm not sure what the "next best thing" might be. The first thing that springs to my mind is a competition more like American-style fantasy football where those who are interested join a league, pay an entry fee with the winners (maybe the "top four") winning some percentage of the pot.

My intuition tells me that there is a need for both long term prizes like the one suggested above and short term prizes that will keep people motivated as the season wears on. As an example, in our private league, I already know I'm not going to finish above third unless one or both of the top two leave a player out of the line-up for the next four weeks. There is some pride on the line since I'm currently in fourth and would like to beat Jeremy out for third but with no tangible outcome associated with that other than a few boasting IMs over the summer that really isn't enough motivation.

Here is my thought. Since I clearly don't have the answer here, I'd like to hear from our readers. Is there interest in some sort of a premium league that would take your performance from the Yahoo game and translate it into another competition? If so, what ideas do you have for the sort of competition that would keep the fun going throughout the entire season?

I have one idea that I'll throw out there that might provide a different experience. Rather than having a "Cup" competition (AM,, and others already do that) or a private group where we exactly follow the scoring system of the overall game ( and others do that). Maybe we could put teams in to "leagues" and play schedules within those individual leagues. The first few teams in each league would win prize money. It wouldn't entirely eliminate the problem of teams being out of the running for prizes toward the end of the season but it would likely increase the probability of more teams staying in the race longer.

So, what do you think? Do you like that idea? Would you participate? Would you contribute an entry fee to be involved? If not that specific idea, what else would be of interest. I'm very much open to ideas to increase our collective enjoyment of what we're spending our leisure time on.

The Schedule
Where we separate the matches that offer fantasy managers real value versus those that just appear to do so.

Real Value
  • Chelsea vs. Wigan – Don’t be fooled by Chelsea’s mediocre match against Stoke or Wigan’s holding of Spurs last weekend. Chelsea aren’t entirely out of the woods yet on Champions League qualifying for next season and Wigan are no match for them at home.
  • ManUtd vs. Fulham – The visitors have made a fortress out of Craven Cottage but their exploits on the road haven’t been nearly so noteworthy. Oh, and United are just exceptional at home. ‘nuff said.
  • Blackpool vs. Arsenal – No, I’m not betting on all of the spoils going to Arsenal so much as this being an open attacking match in both directions where you should consider both sets of attacking players and stay far away from the defenders and ‘keepers.  Oh, and for those of you who are saying "but wait, Arsenal are in a funk and can't hit the broad side of a barn right now" - in my mind, the pressure is off, the title has been given away and they'll relax and start scoring to their talent again.

False Hope
I don’t see a lot of matches that LOOK attractive but aren’t. What I see are a lot of even match-ups that could go either way. This shouldn’t dissuade you from taking players in an even match-up. What it SHOULD do is cause you to choose players who produce week-in and week-out as opposed to occasional contributors whose value improves when the match-up is a strong one for that player’s team.

  • Chicharito - There's always a risk of rotation here but less so because Rooney is out.  I'm prepared to accept the slings and arrows if it ends up being Berbs who leads the line and scores a hat trick with Chicharito watching on from the bench.
  • RvP - You're really deciding between Drogs and RvP in this slot and my only concern about Drogs is that he might be rested in hopes of keeping him fresh for the return Champions League match in mid-week.  The Champions League is much more important for Chelsea than the league right now.
  • Gyan - I'm focusing on the Gyan who played against England and the West Brom that is the second leakiest defense in the league.  Not the Sunderland that got waxed by Citeh and the WBA that is undefeated under Woy.  WBA may not lose but they WILL give up goals and Gyan appears to be the man to do it.
  • Ba - A week off the bandwagon for the United match and I'm right back on @Bolton isn't a great match-up but the Hammers will be motivated by relegation and Ba will be freed from having Vidic in his back pocket.
  • SEB -  I like him to continue his excellent work leading the line for Wolves who will at least score one or two against Everton regardless of the final outcome.
  • Valencia - Obviously Nani is the guy to have if you have the money but Valencia has been playing well since his return and is much more reasonably priced.
  • FloMal - With Chelsea's midfield prices - at least amongst the ones who are relevant for fantasy - pretty crazy this is only a modest recommendation but I'd be remiss if I didn't point you toward an attacking player from the best match-up of the weekend.
  • Wilshere - I'd suggest Cesc if you have money to spend but Wilshere is the value play in Arsenal's match-up against Blackpool.
  • Jarvis - I sense a distinct lack of options in the middle of the price spectrum in my recommendations so far, my first choice would be Albrighton but he didn't start last weekend so Jarvis at home to an Everton side that is improving but still seemingly shy on keeping clean sheets.
  • Smalling - I'm guessing he'll get the start over Rio who I don't see starting three matches in 8 days.
  • Walker - Certainly not a no-brainer that Villa will do well but I like the match-up with NUFC at home and Walker tends to be good regardless (last week excepted).
  • Luiz - Between the home game, match-up, his performances thus far, and the lack of great options under 8 at the back Luiz is still strong value even as his price rises a bit.
  • Zhirkov - Not sure if he'll start again but if he does, he's definitely worth a shot at 5.35 and likely playing in a left midfield role.
  • Heitinga - Really only an enabler at this point but at least one we know is capable of returning more than his value.  He's done it before and not THAT long ago.
  • BBBF - At just over 4, Friedel is the value pick of the week.  NUFC could do just about anything as we've discussed frequently this season but I like Friedel and Villa's chances and even more so at this price.
  • Cech - If you're spending on your keeper, then Cech is your best bet as his price has dropped a little bit below the most expensive keepers.  He's still not cheap but definitely a solid value.
  • Kuszczak - This one would be a risk as EvdS claims he isn't injured, that said I could see United resting EvdS just to make sure he's right for Chelsea in mid-week.
  • Kingson - If you don't believe me about Arsenal relaxing and starting to score again now that the title is out of reach then Kingson is in for a big day and you should think about him priced under 4. 
Injuries and Suspensions and The Barn Door Watch will follow shortly behind and of course we'll see you tomorrow for the Live Chat for the early game and the ones directly following.

Cheers - Neal


  1. A new fantasy game?

    well judging by numerous fantasy games i play here are some things to include:

    draft style leagues (all american sports)
    keep and replace leagues (epl)
    pick every week with changing price (yff)

    then you've got the actual scoring system
    cumulative scores (yff)
    head to head cumulative score (espn nfl)
    head to head on categories (yf baseball)

    for league set up:
    which categories score points?
    how many points do you get for a category?
    do you have playoffs?


    now down to the nitty gritty. can i code this? yep. do i have the time to code this? probably not. do i have the resources to host this or buy the stats or the rights I'd need? no. do i want to do it? hell yeah.

  2. In the spirit of your post, I've got a suggestion for you guys. Since so many of us play the "official" fantasy game, how about your pick for captain (double-points) on the EPL site?

    I think a lot of us would appreciate your comments on this, especially since this part of the EPL game is so critical (and fun/interesting) to competitive fantasy managers. Also, the longer the season goes on, the more important a decision this is because the top 20,000 have 80% of the same players.

    I'm envisioning a small addendum to your I+S post ranking your top three picks (rather than picking just one)... this way it is relevant to everyone... some might have all three picks, but some might just have one and appreciate the guidance.

  3. To put my money where my mouth is...

    Possibilities: v. Persie, Fabregas, Malouda, Luiz, Chicharito, Nani
    My pick this week is van Persie. Here's why:
    No midfield advantage this week... Arsenal is ordinarily weak in the back and Man U are in for a let-down match (although they'll still probably win).
    I just can't pull the trigger on any Chelsea player, so Malouda's out b/c of inconsistency.
    Fabregas is a good choice b/c of some assists, but I think will be outscored by van Persie.
    Luiz is my dark horse b/c of a clean sheet+goal possibility.

  4. I'll offer up to organize a private league on the official site for us.

    I have done one for the last three years among friends and it is popular. The top ~30% earn prizes (total points; season-long) AND we have another head-to-head league going with a value attached to each match-up every week.

    The prizes are small value, but it is great motivation. Also, even if a person finds himself/herself out of the running for the season-long total points prize, a win each week brings him/her closer to breaking even or even a little profit.

    I really like doing this sort of thing and would enjoy doing this for you guys, so let me know.

    J+N - give me an email by which I can contact you if you're interested.

  5. chrism3:21 PM

    I have participated in the Yahoo EPL league, and the AM blog leagues since their inception. I find the Yahoo format vastly superior to the format.

    I don't think the experience would be improved by offering cash or other prizes. Its bragging rights that matter. One thing that makes the AM league so successful is its spirited on line chat room. The regulars are pretty tight and talking smack is fun.

    One problem is the AM site and Nik are stretched to capacity and will likely be more so next year. This is in part due to Yahoo's limitations. And partly do to Nik having a life apart from running his blog which I think you guys can relate too. Nik's blog has also had to suffer the intrusion of some complete assholes this year which I realize is inevitable.

    What would make sense, if collectively we could all join forces and work with Yahoo to improve the game, the scoring, and the rules-like sorting out the ridiculous double game week policies. In the aggregate we probably represent at least 20,000 of Yahoo's participants which should give us some power. Perhaps we could convince Yahoo to offer prizes-shirts for weekly winners, perhaps cash, although I don't think cash is a real incentive, we would rather just win.

    The second thing is if we could find someway to merge the live chat components, tweak it so perhaps we could use Skype or Ichat instead of Chatroll which is rather limited. We could build a truly international real time community of Fantasy Footie junkies.

  6. @ChrisM - thanks for the feedback, good to know.

    @Patrick - I publish columns at EPLTalk and TheScore so you can find different overall player rankings (less focused on the Phantom Points Yahoo! awards) as well as Captain suggestions at either of those locations.

  7. Anonymous4:47 PM

    Some kind of recognition / prize(s) for weekly top 3-5 scorer is one possible way to retain interest till the end of the season


  8. i would like the fantasy league to not have barndoors. i don't think it is fair if i make a good pick, that everyone should have my player at the same price. also it rewards the people who can rearrange their lives around football, which takes place mostly on the weekends. when i played the other european leagues with yahoo, you actually spend more time thinking about the potential of a player versus just picking up players that scored, had clean sheets, got a bunch of assists or players that you see there total before the price updates. i think this is unfair.

  9. nicolas6:38 PM

    i like the yahoo fantasy football over the epl because u have unlimited changes, wgich makes it more intresting, and yes no captain, i hate that.
    so if we have the same concept as yahoo paid entry, i will definately do it, I am innnnnnnn.
    just inform me.



  10. I generally like the yahoo game.

    Sure, prizes and cups etc are nice from a blog perspective but difficult to organise (AM seems to put hours into his blog cup).

    I agree with the above poster that shutting the barn door (ie only make changes once scores are updated, obviously coupled with v.quick score updates following the games) would make the game fairer and introduce more strategy in picking players. This is not self motivated as I am sure a large part of my relative success at this game comes from competent barn door work (especially since I got a smart phone a while ago).

  11. I'll make this short and to the point:

    Would I pay for a private premium league/game - YES

    How much would I pay to play with strangers - $5

    How much would I pay to play with friends / fellow blog community members - up to $250

    Feature I'd want to see - draft and waiver pick-up system similar to Yahoo's American fantasy sports.

  12. Also - nothing wrong with barn door. If you make a good pick, you are rewarded for your insight by having a higher score that week. Everyone else is just chasing points. As simple as that.

  13. Das Boot 811:49 PM

    I haven't given this a try, but it definitely looks interesting. Seems to combine YFF with a draft-style fantasy system. If we could get some groups together from blog regulars (here & AM), I think it would be a lot of fun. Thoughts?

  14. Since you're prepared, here's mine
    Chicharito - There's always a risk of rotation here but less so because Rooney is out. I'm prepared to accept the slings and arrows if it ends up being Berbs who leads the line and scores a hat trick with Chicharito watching on from the bench.