Jeremy Spitzberg

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First XI: Early Week 27 Picks

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


This weekend in the United Sates was President's Day, when we celebrate the achievements, and whitewash the failures, of our 43 presidents. One great symbol of the acclaim with which we hold our leaders is Mount Rushmore, where four of the greats are enshrined in stone. In fantasy football, we've had many greats, but only a few can be on our Mount Rushmore. Three are easy for me - Thierry Henry, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Those were the players you had to have in your side if you were going to compete. No question, no exception.

What I can't decide is who is that fourth figure. There are players who were head-and-shoulders above their peers for a time, and players who came into the leage and were well worth their low entry-level price for an entire season. However, I'm not sure there was another player who was essential to one's fantasy success or failure. Ruud van Nistlerooy was always on the cusp of that status, Didier Drogba too. Gareth Bale carried many a fantasy team, at $2 or $20. Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are also in this discussion.

Do any of the above rise to Mt Rushmore status for you? Are there any other players that you would put on that pedastal? Tweet me (@jspitzberg) using the hashtag #fplmtrushmore and let me know.

Now, turning to current events, we have another round of fantasy Premier League to prepare for. Here's my first attempt at setting up a side for week 27 in the Yahoo! fantasy game. For clarification, I'm listing the price at which I own the player as discounts (or the lack thereof) can impact which players I want to keep and which players I'm then able to afford.

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1. Daniel Sturridge - £23.98M - Amazingly, considering the competition, it's Sturridge who is the hottest striker at Liverpool. He's scored six consecutive matches since returning from injury. I hoped to have him last week against Fulham, but the doubts over the match happening put me off. I don't think that was a bad decision on my part, but in hindsight it surely did not work out in my favor. Now Liverpool get Swansea City at Anfield. This may have been a better match up a few weeks ago, before Laudrup was released and before several players, like Pablo Hernandez, returned to health, but surely the Swans are there for the taking.

2. Luis Suarez - £19.70M - In fact, I'm so anti-Swansea (not really) and pro-Liverpool (maybe a little, but again, not really) that I'm encouraged to double up on Liverpool strikers (and maybe more, but you'll have to read on). Both Sturridge and Suarez had their chance at the weekend against Arsenal, and it that keeps up - and they're so dangerous at home - both will return big points for fantasy managers.

3. Emmanuel Adebayor - £14.09M - K2 almost single-handedly saved my fantasy week. With so many players not playing, and the subsequent goose-eggs, his 24 points kept me competitive with those teams that stayed on Liverpool players and not like me, who shifted to those from Manchester City. With Spurs travelling to Norwich before hosting Cardiff, I don't see a scenario where Adebayor isn't on my team for at least the next two weeks. Indeed, with those matches, I might even get over being burned by Christian Eriksen's not playing last week and field him in my XI again. But not yet.

4. Chris Brunt - £15.35M - Instead of Eriksen, I'm investing in Brunt because West Brom host Fulham. Surely this weekend is too soon for Felix Magath to make much of an impact on the Cottagers, and maybe, if WBA are lucky, he'll tire them out in training. Brunt has been averaging double-digit returns for a month and I just can't pass up the combination of form and match-up.

5. Lewis Holtby - £6.39M - All that being said, I'm considering starting Holtby as well. I was unhappy to have sold him last week, but I thought it prudent considering the risk. I've bought him straight back, even though it cost $2 more to do so. West Brom have been tough at home, but maybe a fresh start under a sympathetic manager (the Bundesliga connection) sparks Holtby. At worst, I can put an attacking midfielder of his quality on my bench.

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6. Tom Ince - £11.43M - I'm not sure what to make of Tom Ince yet. I was't prepared to take the chance on him last week at Everton, and I'm glad that went in my favor. But hosting Manchester United - well, is that a good or bad match-up these days? I'm not sure, but even at his market price, you're getting a midfielder playing off the striker and taking kicks. That seems like a pretty good gamble at home, even against a top-seven side.

7. Phillipe Coutinho - £15.52M - Coutinho has been playing very well for Liverpool since he was moved into a deeper midfield role. He's still been more involved in the attack, and has added some defensive "phantom" points to his fantasy return as well. At home, against Swansea I expect more of the same.

8 Ryan Bertrand - £1.00M - I only trusted him enough to make the bench last week - and at a buck, that's not much trust. But Aston Villa came through with a clean sheet, and I was more than thrilled to get those eight points into my starting XI after Yahoo! eventually ran the automatic substitutions. This week Aston Villa, a better team on the road than at home, get to travel to Newcastle who have lost four consecutive home matches and have scored one goal in a month's time. That's enough to see Bertrand promoted to the starting line-up, ahead of the matches this time.

9. George McCartney - £9.72M - McCartney was on the other side of that nil-nil against Villa, and returned value even at his inflated (for George McCartney) cost. I still have a little worry in the back of my head that new signing, Pablo Armero, could get a run, but for now I'm assuming that Big Sam keeps an unchanged defence that's been doing so well. Hosting Southampton isn't a great matchup, and I may start to eye the nearly 10 I have tied up in McCartney if I wanted to say, upgrade Holtby to Eriksen, but for now he stays until I stumble on a better option.

10. Branislav Ivanovic - £11.09M - See above, "...for now he stays until I stumble on a better option."

11. Joe Hart - £9.94M - I got burned last week without an actual back-up keeper, but I'm consoling myself that Hart is now a two-gamer at some point in the future. The money tied up in other players may have to go to fund a starting back-up keeper, but Hart isn't going any further than the bench for me, even in the upcoming blank weeks (28 and 29, I believe).

On the bench is Vurnon Anita (£6.20M) who has been returning value recently, and that's nice to have on the bench, even if the price is a little high; Dan Burn (£2.78M) whom I may have to gut as he was the old manager's golden boy, but may not make the cut with the new manager, and Massiado Haidara (£1.78M) because he's cheap. Gerhard Tremmel (£1.00M) is the back-up keeper, but as discussed above, that is going to have to change. Maybe not this week, but definitely next.

So that's my First XI. Let me know who you are looking at for your team, and don't forget to tweet me (@jspitzberg) your choices for fantasy Premier League Mount Rushmore using the hashtag #fplmtrushmore



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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