Neal Thurman

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Late Fitness Check - Week 22

Friday, January 17, 2014

There are a bunch of ways that you can evaluate transfers.  The most common way is to look at the player and the price in a vacuum and declare it to be "good value" or "bad value" for the buying and selling clubs.  Another common way is to declare a "winner" and a "loser" for each transfer based on the price because, well, that's a pretty easy headline to inspire clicks and an easy column to write based on quick comparisons to other players at the same position that have been bought and sold recently.  Too often evaluations of transfer activity don't take into account details like "who else was available and willing to come to whatever club was doing the buying?" or "How big an improvement is the new player over the player he is replacing and was that improvement worth the price?" 


I mention this because of the case of Hull City.  In a vacuum, neither Nikica Jelavic nor Shane Long represent the sort of exceptional signing that you occasionally see from mid-table clubs like Christian Benteke going to Aston Villa last season.  Where the signings become extremely helpful is when you look at the sort of upgrade that it represents for this specific club at this specific time.  Hull City have gotten exactly three goals from the men expected to be their starting forwards this season - Yannick Sagbo has 2 and Danny Graham 1 in a combined 27 starts.  Shane Long has that many goals in only eleven starts for a West Brom team that has performed similarly in the league.  If you extrapolate Long's performance assuming he started regularly, he'd be in the neighborhood of 6 goals right now which would be good enough to be Hull City's top scorer by a factor of two.  


Jelavic is a tougher one to evaluate because you have to make the same leap that saw you acquire Danny Graham.  IF Jelavic can recapture the form that saw him score 9 goals in 10 starts and 3 sub appearances for Everton two seasons ago then you have an even better answer to the goal-scoring issue for Hull City.  Even at half that rate, Jelavic would be close to a 20 goal scorer over the course of a full season as the starter.  The problem is the 7 goals in 26 starts last season that probably represents a more accurate sample of Jeli's ability.  That strike rate is STILL better than what Hull City are getting from Sagbo and Graham but it probably doesn't represent a huge upgrade.


The final question that you'd have to ask before declaring these acquisitions as good or bad for Hull City would be what the alternatives were.  Of course you could never actually know the entire football marketplace and what forwards would have been willing to come to a mid-table club on a budget that's about 50 miles from anything resembling a city but you can guess that it is limited to less than perfect options.  There will always be over-the-hill stars hanging on as their abilities decline (the Anekla model), the solid-but-not spectacular option at a club that has a better replacement (the Long model that WBA cashed in on with Berahino needing more playing time), the potential rebound play who has been struggling but could turn it around (we'll call this the Torres model for now but Jelavic and Graham also fit here), and the youngster who has all the potential in the world but has never done it on the big stage (Benteke, Sagbo, Bone, Berahino, etc fit this mold).  None of these options are foolproof but Hull City have been clever in spending relatively little and making a number of bets that could pay off.  Sagbo could continue to mature and become a solid option but he is clearly not there yet.  Graham COULD HAVE returned to the form that saw him be effective for Swansea in their promotion season (it didn't work out but that's OK, that's the nature of taking calculated risks).  With Long and Jelavic Hull City have made one low risk move that has a fairly certain and adequate-but-not-great payout (Long) and one higher risk move that could have a variety of potential payouts from adequate to great. 


If you're Hull City and you haven't been acquired by an oil barron or a royal family then these are strong moves even if no one at either West Brom or Everton are going to be too upset at the losses of Long or Jelavic.  The relative value of the players to the team they are going to versus the value they had to the teams they were currently on mean that both deals represent good business for all involved. 


And now on to the injury and suspension analysis for Week 22 in the Premier League: 

Before you finalize your teams, check out the rest of Rotoworld's Week 22 coverage: First XI | The Free Kick | Nik's Player Picks

West Ham United v Newcastle - West Ham are a mess almost any way you look at it.  Kevin Nolan and James Tompkins are both missing due to suspension, while Winston Reid and Guy Demel are out due to injuries.  The only bright spots are the likely return of Andy Carroll (finally) to the starting line-up and the possibility of James Collins injecting a second actual center back into the starting line-up.  This shambles of a line-up faces a Newcastle team that is close to full strength missing only Mathieu Debuchy (serving the final match of his suspension) and Fabricio Coloccini (injured).  West Ham may find a way to score a goal but it seems unlikely to matter as Newcastle seem to be in solid position to score more than a couple.  

Arsenal v Fulham - The big news here is that Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta will join long-term absentee Theo Walcott as missing for this one.  It is unlikely that Arsene Wenger would have started either Nacho Monreal or Thomas Rosicky anyway but with both questionable due to injuries it is all but certain that neither will feature.  The big question that fantasy managers will worry about is which of Serge Gnabry or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain takes Theo Walcott's spot on the right side of the attack with an outside chance that Lukas Posolski starts to Giroud's left with Ozil shading to the right and Flamini, Wilshere, and Cazorla behind them.  Hard to attribute too much value to any of Gnabry/Ox/Podolski given the uncertainty but if you must, I'd bet on Gnabry who has looked dangerous when he's been given the opportunity.  I can't imagine that many are considering Fulham players for this match so I'm going to ignore the few vague-at-best injury notes about Hangeland, Stekelenburg, and Amoribieta.

Crystal Palace v Stoke City - It's New Stoke against Stoke Classic in a match sure to see yellow cards outstrip goals by an incredible margin.  The interesting news here for fantasy purposes, if you can call it that, is all about loanees - Cameron Jerome can't face his parent club while newly-arrived-from-Manchester-City-and-possibly-quite-good John Guidetti is available but not certain to start.  The only way I'm tuning in to this one is if I see that Guidetti is starting or comes in as a substitute - we'll just say I'm intrigued. 

Liverpool v Aston Villa - The big news here is that Daniel Sturridge looked great last weekend in his return to action and he will likely get his first start this weekend against an opponent that hasn't exactly been watertight at the back.  Liverpool do have some defensive issues of their own with Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique still out. For Aston Villa's part, they get one new defensive addition in the form of on-loan left back Ryan Bertrand but lose another in still-concussed-from-getting-a-Serge-Gnabry-shot-to-the-face Nathan Baker.  Hard to see Villa keeping Liverpool to fewer than 3 goals at less than full strength defensively. One thing to keep in mind here is that Jordan Henderson has been much improved this season, the return of some of Liverpool's more experienced attackers likely means that he and Raheem Sterling (also playing much better) are likely to return to the fringes of the attack as far as fantasy points go even if they manage to retain starting spots.  It seems likely that Liverpool will line up with Gerrard, Coutinho, Henderson, Suarez, and Sturridge in front of Lukas and that Henderson will struggle to see the ball as much as he did when both Gerrard and Sturridge were out. 

Manchester City v Cardiff City - Manchester City are pretty much healthy with the big question being whether Sergio Aguero will start, come in as a substitute, or not play at all against competition that shouldn't test City's dominant home record.  If I had to guess, I'd say that Aguero will start the match on the bench and come in late regardless of the score to get some more match fitness.  Cardiff newboys Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Mats Moller Daehli are available to start - welcome to the big leagues boys.  It clearly isn't worth owning either for this match but may be worth a little time watching if they're involved to get a sense of what they bring to the table for future matches when things appear less hopeless for the Ole's men. 

Norwich City v Hull City - New arrivals on both sides as Jonas Gutierrez brings high energy (but not many fantasy points or actual goals) to the Canaries while the subjects of my column introduction - Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long - are both available.  The Hull City team news has Jelavic the more likely starter this week as he has been training with the club all week.  If you're looking for an inexpensive forward then I'd consider Jelavic and the "player making his debut" factor that seems to work out well far more often than not regardless of how well the acquisition works long term. 

Sunderland v Southampton - Nothing of note on the Sunderland side and for the Saints, Pablo Osvoldo will be out serving the final match of his suspension while Victor Wanyama is still not quite ready to feature.  Sunderland have been playing better of late and with the Saints on the road this isn't a match to over-invest in.

Follow the RotoWorld_PL team on Twitter: Galin | Jeremy | Neal | Nik | Steve 

Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur - Swansea continue to struggle mightily with injuries to key players including Michu, Jonathan de Guzman, Nathan Dyer, Pablo Hernandez, Jose Canas, and Michel Vorm.  Spurs have been getting results in the league under Tim Sherwood and will have even more options available with the availability of Andros Townsend and Sandro.  Neither are guaranteed starters but the depth will be welcome should Swansea's reserve team hold the fort early.  

Chelsea v Manchester United - With Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie both out, Manchester United will struggle to compete with the Blues at Stamford Bridge.  For the Blues, the only definitive information is that Nemanja Matic will not start.  It seems pretty likely that the same will apply to Frank Lampard and Branislav Ivanovic as they both return from injury - they haven't been ruled out entirely but given that Chelsea have options, it would seem silly to rush a player back for such a high pressure match (from a hype point-of-view anyway).  As always, the big questions for Chelsea will be related to rotation and the sure starters seem likely to be Cech, Cole, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Hazard, and Oscar.  It seems likely that Torres, Willian, and Mikel will join that group but you never know with Jose so I'd keep my choices to that first group. 

West Bromwich v Everton - For Everton, Ross Barkley is definitely out as he continues to recover from his toe injury.  For the Baggies, Billy Jones and Goran Popov are definitely out while Victor Anichebe and Stephane Sessegnon are both doubts (and, of course, Shane Long is no longer with the team).  Aiden McGeady is available after transferring in from Russia but it isn't clear whether Roberto Martinez will consider him to be ready for a starting assignment.  Probably worth waiting a week to see how McGeady looks against Premier League competition before thinking about diving in.  If you're looking for an under the radar option at forward then Berahino seems like a solid option even if the opposition is fairly tough this week. 

Get all of your Premier League news at RotoWorld

Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
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