Jeremy Spitzberg

Matchday Wrap Up

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First XI: Week Four

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

1. This isn't going to be the most original comment, but yesterday's Swansea/Liverpool match was the Jonjo Shelvey show. He scored after two minutes, then promptly assisted on Liverpool's two goals with a terrible backpass and an give-away in midfield. He rounded off his day with a yellow card before assisting on Michu's first goal of the season. I prefer the more subtle stylings of Jonathan de Guzman, but clearly Michael Laudrup wants Shelvey providing the impetus from the Swans midfield. Unfortunately with Shelvey, at least for now, you take the good with the bad.

2. Swansea's other new signging Wilfried Bony has yet to settle in the Premier League. After his Dutch league leading efforts last season, many expected him to take the Premier League by storm. He had several chances agaist Liverpool, but didn't take any of them and remains on just one goal - the consolation against Manchester United - to his name.

Swansea's schedule doesn't really ease up in the League for another month, and on top of that, they are competing in Europa League group matches through early December. Even on form, I'm not sure the Swans are going to be good fantasy options for a long time yet.

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3. Another common comment coming out of this weekend, but one worth mentioning for its fantasy impact, is that Southampton hasn't found the right balance this season. They're keeping clean sheets, which is something they had a hard time doing all of last year. However, it's come at the expense of the goals they used to score. Last season's sensation (and new England hope) Ricky Lambert and Pablo Osvaldo have yet to form a partnership. Indeed, it looks like they may be too similar to play together effectively. That's a problem that's going to be up to new manager Mauricio Pochettino to solve. Their upcoming fixtures should see goals, but for the moment their attacking players aren't fantasy relevant.

4. This is especially true after they benched their best performing (at least for fantasy) midfielder to date. James Ward-Prowse was left out of the side against West Ham to accomodate strikers Lambert, Osvaldo, and Rodriguez. That was a frustrating turn for fantasy managers who had started brining JWP into their teams after three good showings. Now it hints at rotation amongst Southampton's attackers, who - let's remember - aren't scoring. Another reason to stay away.

5. Another midfielder whose time in the fantasy spotlight may be dwindling is Phillipe Coutinho. And this is by no means a criticism of the player. Just a reminder that sometimes fantasy returns to correlate to real-world influence. After a great opening match against Stoke, he's returned very few points. And now that he's injured his shoulder... well, it remains to be seen what to do with him. The schedule is still favorable, but with a lot of new, shiny midfield toys to play with, it may not be worth waiting for him to break out.

6. If you do decide to move on from Coutinho, look no further for your fantasy investment than Newcastle's own Hatem Ben Arfa. Ben Arfa has scored in each of the last two matches, and is thriving in what is arguably his best position - the right-side of a front three. With Yohan Cabaye back in midfield pulling the strings, and with Hull visiting St James Park next weekend, he's close to a must-have player in the short term.

7. What Manchester United would do for a player like Ben Arfa! Against Crystal Palace they looked lethargic and unusually content to sit on their 1-0 lead. That's not the ManU we've come to know and love, and not the ManU that's going to return a ton of fantasy points. Robin van Persie, the consensus captain across the fantasy games, saved his day with a penalty kick, but didn't do anything of note otherwise, one volley off the crossbar excepted.

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8. Wayne Rooney was the livelier player. He's more likely to come deep for the ball and try to create as well as try to score. Most of his points were down to a late, and beautiful, free kick goal, but he may be a fantasy differntial this season. He's not cheap, but he's only 7% owned in the Yahoo! game. David Moyes says that he will play Rooney at forward instead of filling in across the midfield. We've heard that before about Rooney, but it might just be the case this time. Regardless it's an interesting gamble.

Of course, just not this weekend at Manchester City.

9. One theory about Manchester United's lackluster play was that they were looking ahead to their first Champions League match. Indeed, Manchester City and Chelsea also dropped points at the weekend. That rotation is something that fantasy managers were very wary about already this term from the big clubs, but now we've seen it in action and are going to have to be really sure before picking from those squads.

10. Interestingly, the other Champions League representative that did win its match was Arsenal. Like Manchester United, they were playing a team new to the Premier League. Well, they were playing a team whose players are almost entirely new to the league. Arsenal don't have a big enough squad to rotate players. In fact, they had to play new signing Mezut Ozil despite his having a touch of the flu. Olivier Giroud, like Daniel Sturridge, has now scored four in four league matches, while Aaron Ramsey continue his red-hot form. Theo Walcott should have done better with what Ozil laid on a plate for him, but he did enough (just) to stay in fantasy managers good graces.

They continue their good schedule in the League - Stoke, @Swansea, @WBA, Norwich, @Crystal Palace - and the fact that we know who will be playing is a big reason why they'll continue to be popular fantasy picks.

11. Finally, it was good to see some "old" guys facing off against each other in Samuel Eto'o and Gareth Barry. Eto'o made his Chelsea debut, and while he didn't score, he looked involved in the play and was just not on the same page (yet) with his teammates. I think there could be goals there, and Chelsea may not miss Romelu Lukaku as much as we feared they would.

And that will work out well for Everton. They had one loan signing, Gareth Barry putting in a great shift against Chelsea, and showed that while they're not desperate for Lukaku, he will bring another dimension to the team. I don't see any reason why he won't be the starter at West Ham next week, and don't see any reason not to expect big things from Everton and for my fantasy team.

Jeremy Spitzberg writes about fantasy soccer (football) and is a Rotoworld contributor. You can find him on Twitter @JSpitzberg.
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