Jeremy Spitzberg

Matchday Wrap Up

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First XI: Week Six

Tuesday, October 01, 2013


1. Ok, I'm officially late to the party, but what a season Aaron Ramsey is having! While Serge Gnabry was nominally in the Theo Walcott role, playing wide right, it's been Ramsey who has been the catalyst for Arsenal's play lately. I hesitated last weekend because of the matchup away at Swansea, but he seems in the kind of form that would make him a must own, regardless of the opposition. That being said, at the price, Serge Gnabry could be a nice fantasy enabler in his own right. Well, at his old price.

2. Credit to Brendan Rodgers for coming up with a new tactical wrinkle for Liverpool. He's played the last few games with three at the back and against Sunderland, it worked. Now you can talk about the quality of the opposition, but against the more fashionable lone-striker formations, why not play with one less player on the back-line? In Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique he has players who, at least in theory, can play the wing-back roles well. And in Enrique, fantasy managers have, at least in theory, an out-of-position advantage as the defender pushes into midfield. In reality, he hasn't done anything that has translated into fantasy points. But with Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, and West Brom the next fixtures, he should see some fantasy investment.

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3. Indeed, there should be much fantasy investment all around this Liverpool side. Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez struck up their partnership again to great results. It was so nice to see Sturridge with his head up, looking for Suarez, who had made a great run to the far post, on Liverpool's third goal. Steven Gerrard is still on some kicks (sharing now with Suarez) and gets more than his fair share of phantom points. The defence is tight, if the keeper can look shaky at times. But with home matches against Crystal Palace and West Brom on opposite sides of a trip to Newcastle, clean sheets could be on the cards. And goals. Lots of goals.

4. One caveat there would be that West Brom are not the same club that they were before the transfer window closed. Morgan Amaltifano (on kicks), Stephane Sessegnon (playing in his advanced, second striker role), and Victor Anichebe (doing Victor Anichebe things) have helped transform the club. Victory over Manchester United proved that victory over Sunderland wasn't a fluke, or just a reflection of the Black Cats' poor form. In addition, youngster Saido Berahino made an immediate impact against United and it looks like he'll challenge Scott Sinclair for a starting role going forward. Amalfitano in particular, looks like a great fantasy option. Get in now, before his price gets out of control.

5. For their part, Manchester United look flat, and devoid of inspiration. Wayne Rooney continued his scoring run with a fortunate free kick goal - and my, have there been quite a few pretty free kick goals this season - but there were too many passengers on that team. Rotation before the Champions League didn't help but even Rio Ferdinand looked out of sorts, and was done for both of West Brom's goals.

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6. Last week we warned that Manchester City could lose their focus against Aston Villa, which they did - for a killer spell that saw them go down 3-2. Like the United result, I think it points to a larger issue that with new managers in almost all the top jobs, rotation before and after Champions League matches is not a settled science. It's always been risky but not there is an unfamiliarity with sides as well as increased pressure on the new managers which may lead to some strange decisions around these European matchdays. For example, Michael Laudrup has been rotating his squad extensively over the last few week, all bar Michu. It will be interesting to see if that continues, or if Michu gets a break at some point over the next few game weeks.

7. Another player, like Jose Enrique above, who in theory is an out-of-position advantage is Stoke's Marc Wilson. Wilson came up as a central midfielder but has spent the last few seasons at left-back. Mark Hughes has restored him to his favoured position this season, and while it started well, this weekend against Norwich was a disaster. Wilson was a passenger in the match and all he had to show for his time was a yellow card and -3 fantasy points. He looked especially anonymous compared to Steven N'Zonzi who is a real quality player.

8. Stoke need to give up on the idea of Charlie Adam as an advanced number 10. He should play alongside N'Zonzi where he can use his passing range to spark Stoke's attack. Maybe when Steven Ireland is fit this will happen, though it was surprising to see Adam taken off for Ireland against Norwich as opposed to Wilson.

9. What Stoke don't need - and forgive another point about dire performance by an eminently forgettable Stoke side - is to reinforce all the negative impressions of the club. However new signing Marko Arnautovic did just that. He seems talented, but boy is he ever "snarly". I worry that his positive contributions could be undone by foulds and the inevitable cards that will follow. Between he and Erik Pieters, Stoke's left-side is not going to be a friendly place for anyone.

10. One thing that has no place in football are stupid haircuts. Actually, there's a long an glorious tradition of bad haircuts in football. Add to that tradition the curved mohawks sported by Davide Santon, Mathieu Debuchy, and Kevin Mirallas. Just awful. However, Debuchy continues to be a fantasy find, even on a frequently awful Newcastle team, getting into the attack, and crossing for Loic Remy's late consolation goal. Mirallas for his part looked lively until he turned his ankle halfway through the first half. His partnership with Romelu Lukaku looks promising, and will be something to get into your fantasy team - just not this weekend against Manchester City.

11. It's nice to have former blog-favourite Gylfi Sigurdsson back in form and on the score sheet. It wasn't clear how he was going to fit into to Spurs' side this season, but credit to AVB - and probably a lot of credit to Christian Eriksen - they're making it work. Spurs are a side in transition still, but the potential is there - and there will be fantasy points to be had - and it's going to be very interesting to follow.



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