Jeremy Spitzberg

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First XI: Early Week 22 Picks

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Aston Villa/Arsenal was a diappointment for fantasy purposes - and except for a 59 second spell, it wasn't so hot as a spectacle. However, the two teams are involved in some of the few matches that we're interested in for the upcoming gameweek, so watching was instructive. Arsenal host Fulham, who just shipped four goals to Sunderland, while Manchester City (+32 goal differential at home) host Cardiff City (-12 GD on the road). Aston Villa meanwhile, travel to Liverpool. Aston Villa have been better on the road than at home this season, but Liverpool have been very good at home.

So, to my mind, this week it's all about being able to afford as many players from Arsenal, Manchester City, and Liverpool as you can fit into your side. Here's my first attempt at it.

1. Olivier Giroud - £14.84M - Scored his second goal in three matches today, and all but garunteed to lead the line against Fulham. His price is creeping up accordingly, but you don't need me to tell you that he's a good bet this weekend.

2. Luis Suárez - £19.70M - Another two goals and another huge fantasy point haul for Suarez. After three weeks of surprisingly human performances @CHE, @MAC, and against Hull City (yes, one free-kick goal and a booking is a flat showing for Suarez) it was fun to get the out-of-this-world Suarez back. He's owned by 23% of fantasy teams, so I'm guessing there are only that many active teams in the Yahoo! game, give or take some diehard Evertonians) and surely he's captained by most of them. So we (everyone paying attention) are all getting the same points, but those points are... well, points. And we never sneeze at points.

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As we said above, Villa haven't been that bad on the road - 12 scored, 11 allowed, 15 pts - but Liverpool have scored 27 goals at home. Only Manchester City have scored more (38) I don'tsee any reason to jump off the Suarez as captain bandwagon now.

3. Álvaro Negredo - £15.39M - Negredo returned with a bang against Newcastle. Yes, his goal was a last-minute affair, but he did have four shots on target throughout the match. Sergio Aguero could be retuning for Manchester City, and if he can rekindle his partnership with Negredo, both strikers will prosper. Of course Aguero is more exspensive and less likely to to play - he's in the squad for the midweek Cup match, but we'll see how he gets eased back in after injury. Edin Dzeko is even cheaper than Negredo, but of course, his place would be more at threat if Aguero does make the match.

4. Santi Cazorla - £16.23M - It took injuries to others (notably Aaron Ramsey) to get Cazorla back in the Arsenal side, but in the last month he's been a valuable asset. He's not back to where he was last season, but thankfully for the Gunners they don't need that. He is however returning consistent fantasy points and was on set pieces at Aston Villa. With Fulham, the lambs to the Emirates slaughter this weekend, I think it's a good time to add Cazorla to your fantasy midfield.

5. Jack Wilshere - £8.23M - The same goes for Jack Wilshere. A goal and an assist in 59 seconds may have been a bit of an outlier, but he's been playing better for the Gunners after an indiffernt run of form. At his barn door price, he's a great option/filler hosting FUlham.

Now I know that for most of you, your Arsenal option/filler is Mesut Ozil. Not for me. It's been well documented here how Ozil and Ramsey cost me many a fantasy point. I kept him on my bench for the most part and only played him when the matchup looked favorable. Somehow, I never did get the payoff I was looking for. I never picked the right weeks. I sold him over the festive run. There were too many games, and I needed a bench option with all the rotation happening. Of course none of that ever paid off, and with his return I brought him back into my side last week at market price. Of course, I never did get the payoff I was looking for. Ozil was terrible for most of the game - mis-hitting passes, and not adding much to the game in general. So I'm done. He's dead to me. Yes, he's a good pick, even at market value. Yes, I'm jealous of all of you managers who have him at 6. Yes, he's going to make me squirm and suffer hosting Fulham. But I just can't bring him back into my team. He's dead to me. Until he isn't.

6. David Silva - £11.65M - When last we saw David Silva he was losing my fantasy team four points in week 19. He's back from his suspension, and with Samir Nasri out injured, I'm thinking Silva will pick up the attacking burden (and maybe more set-piece duty). Despite everything I just wrote, I may sell Silva for Ozil, but it's unliely. My fear is that Alexandr Kolarov will pick up the slack from Nasri either from fullback, or being played in an advanced position. But we'll talk about that more later.

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7. Christian Eriksen - £13.14M - Three goals and an assist in his last four matches, Eriksen is the in-form player in the Premier League who hasn't been banned for racism or biting opponent. Spurs are entering a tougher stretch of matches now. That will test Tim Sherwood's managment credentials and also my faith in Eriksen as a fantasy asset at the price. But Swansea City have been generous to visiting teams, allowing 18 goals, so I'll wait until next week to re-evaluate.

8. Kieran Gibbs - £11.62M - I was very excited for Nacho Monreal against Aston Villa as a fantasy asset, though I lost some sleep wondering if Gibbs would return in time for that match. As it was, Monreal got an assist but also picked up a yellow card before going off in the 65th minute with a suspected broken foot. Arsenal didn't keep the clean sheet, and Gibbs didn't do much in his 25 minutes despite getting forward quite a bit. That lack of return means that he's a reasonably priced option hosting Fulham this weekend. Arsenal have only conceded six goals at home, and Gibbs is the cheapest way in to the Arsenal defence.

I've sold Joel Ward to bring in Gibbs. Ironically, Ward's fantasy value has declined since Tony Pulis moved him into midfield. I watched Palace's match against Spurs and I wasn't impressed with the Ward/Mile Jedinak tandem. Jedinak did all the running, and Ward seemingly wsan't able to influence the game. He did take some late corner kicks, which was fun, but ultimately not profitable. I'm sad to lose Ward, but that money is better spent on Gibbs.

9. Vincent Kompany - £9.69M - Despite not getting goals since his two-in-two performance on return from injury, at this price Kompany is a solid bet week-in and week-out. Hosting Cardiff, I see no reason not to expect a clean sheet and I will continue to hope for an attacking bonus.

Kolarov is the Manchester City defender I really want here, but I'm not sure I can make the funds work. It would require gutting another player. I'm willing to do that, but I'm not sure who gets the chop. It will surely keep me up nights this week.

10. Aly Cissokho - £5.30M - There's a lot of talk about Manchester City's road woes compared to their home form. And we know that Arsenal have only conceded six goals at home. But did you know that Liverpool matches Arsenal (and City, interestingly) for being stingy at home. And they've been more dire than City on the road, conceeding 20 goals! But this week we get the Reds at home, and against an Aston Villa side that should be easy enough to play against. The Reds should be able to play similarly to how they played Spurs, with most of the side sitting back and stopping Villa's counter. They can do that because their attackers are fast and skillful enough (and in spectacular form!) to get the goals without committing too many players from midfield. Cissokho may be up agaisnt Leandro Bacuna, who gave Monreal problems yesterday, but if form is any guide a clean sheet should be in the cards here.

Cissokho is also dirt cheap, and in a week where we're looking at premium players from a few, top clubs, that helps a lot.

11. Joe Hart - £9.94M - Despite what you think about Cheik Tiote's "goal", for Hart owners it was the right decision. He's the keeper of choice this week at his barn door price. At market prices, I might look at Wojciech Szczesny but it's not an issue for me saving seven bucks.



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





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