Neal Thurman

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Sit/Start for PL Draft - WK1

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


The beginning of the Premier League and the Premier League fantasy season are upon us.  For those playing draft fantasy games for the first time, this means looking at your week a little differently than you have in the past.  You now have a squad of players that are all your own as well as a list of players available on waivers or as free agents (depending on the time of week) that you can consider as replacements for the players on the end of your bench. 

You are always going to start your stars, guys like Kane, Lukaku, De Bruyne, assuming they’re healthy.  Each week I’ll look, match-by-match, at the less automatic players in the Premier League and give my advice on which players represent a risk and which are more attractive than usual to start for the week. 

Clearly, every league and team situation is different.  Advice that makes perfect sense for a 12-team league will not make nearly as much sense for an 8-team league where there are an additional 60 players available in the waiver pool.  I’m doing my best to get some data on things like % ownership and, once the season starts, % owned and % started, but until I have a more analytical ways of getting at who is available for you to consider, I’ll give you my logic on who you should sit, who you should start, and who you should consider picking up on waivers in advance of a promising match-up.

The theme of the week is that, by and large, the big clubs have favorable match-ups either being at home, against weak opponents, or both while, conversely, the newly promoted sides have a rough go of things either on the road or against big opposition or both.  At the fringes of your squad, these should be the sorts of things that help you decide on who to start, who to sit, and who to potentially replace from waivers.

 

Arsenal vs. Leicester City

Arsene Wenger has come out and said that Alexis Sanchez will miss at least the first match or two with an abdominal issue.  It seems a season doesn’t go by without Arsenal missing one or more stars at the start of the season and this one will be no exception.  Given what we’ve seen in the pre-season, Sanchez owners, and others needing a stopgap at midfield, should consider bringing in Alex Iwobi.  Vs. Leicester City isn’t an easy assignment but at home the Gunners should be favored and Iwobi, while not worthy of replacing a starter, at least has a strong chance of starting and picking up some points. 

Elsewhere in this match, you probably want to avoid Leicester City fringe fantasy players like Albrighton, Iheahacho, and Gray until you have a better sense of what’s going on with Riyad Mahrez and how Craig Shakespeare is going to line his squad up.

 

Watford vs. Liverpool

If Arsenal’s premium attacker is in some state of limbo then Liverpool’s situation is significantly less clear with Philippe Coutinho’s situation looking more like he’s gone than like he’s staying.  Whether the deal is official by Saturday or not, it seems unlikely that Jurgen Klopp would start an unsettled player.  Liverpool will also not have an outside replacement ready by this weekend.  Throw in injuries to Lallana, Henderson, Clyne, Sturridge, and Ings and it isn’t abundantly clear who the Reds will start at Vicarage Road.  As a Coutinho owner in one league I know I’m watching the news closely for confirmation that he’s gone and then I’ll be pulling the trigger on Georginio Wijnaldum who is available in our 8-team league.  If you think Roberto Firmino might move back to a #10 role then Divock Origi might be worth considering as well. 

On the Watford side, a home date with Liverpool isn’t an ideal way to start off life under new management and it’s hard to recommend anyone other than the obvious candidates like Troy Deeney to be in your starting line-up for Week 1.  Not a place you likely want to go looking for help on the waiver wire either.

 

Chelsea vs. Burnley

Chelsea are a bit of a team in flux right now and, as such, might offer draft managers some interesting options as stop gap replacements early in the season.  We know Eden Hazard is out due to injury.  Victor Moses will also join him on the sidelines serving the suspension that is carried over from the FA Cup final last season. New signing Bakayoko is rated at about 50% likely to be fit with the assumption being that he’s not had much time to bed into the side due to the injury. We also assume that Diego Costa will continue to be absent ahead of a sale and suspect that his intended replacement, Alvaro Morata, will be considered not ready to lead the line.  This means that some players who might not have been drafted as projected reserves – Willian, Cesc Fabregas, Michy Batshuayi, and Antonio Rudiger – may get spot starts at home against a Burnley side who have lost their best center back and, as of today, one of their top forwards in Michael Keane and Andre Gray.  Solid opportunity to shore up some early-season fantasy squad issues.

 

Crystal Palace vs. Huddersfield Town

There is certainly a lot of uncertainty with this match-up.  Palace have a lot of talent but it never really came together they way everyone hoped last season.  They have a new boss and are down Mamadou Sakho in the center of the defense.  You look at a match-up against the least fancied of the newly promoted clubs and it looks like a great thing but I’m not sold on Palace’s fringe players like Hennessey, Loftus-Cheek, or Townsend all of whom were either undrafted or drafted to be reserves.  RLC makes sense in salary cap situations because of his low price but freed of that constraint, his value is lower in draft.

I’m equally dubious about Huddersfield Town opening the season on the road.  That said, if you need a midfielder then Tom Ince has the potential to get either a goal or an assist against a side that isn’t exactly settled at the back.  If the alternatives are Knockaert or Ritchie who both have much tougher match-ups, Ince could be a great one-week lottery ticket if you have a need.

 

Everton vs Stoke City

You have to like the match-up for Everton against a Stoke City side that are struggling to have healthy bodies available on the attacking side of the ball.  All four of the Toffees’ defenders are worth having with the obvious caveat that you have to figure out if it is going to be Martina or Mason Holgate on the right.  Due to the uncertainty it isn’t unreasonable that both Holgate and Martina would be available on waivers in an 8-team league.  I know Kevin Mirallas is available in my 8-team league and could also be an interesting option if the Toffees are going to hold out Ross Barkley in advance of a potential transfer out. 

 

I’m staying away from the Potters on the road against superior opposition.  There isn’t enough certainty about anything to do with their attack to make even a one-week investment.  I don’t know who will start at forward between Diouf and Crouch.  I don’t know if their new signing to replace Arnautovic in the wide left attacking role, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, will be ready to go.  I’d never claim any foresight into whether Xherdan Shaqiri will be healthy.  I’d just stay away.

 

Southampton vs. Swansea City

This looks like the ideal first match for new Saints manager Mauricio Pellegrino.  The Swans are down their best forward, Fernando Llorente, to injury.  They are unlikely to start Gylfi Sigurdsson due to a potential transfer.  They are unlikely to have a replacement for Sigurdsson secured.  This is a great situation for a manager looking for a replacement to dive in on someone like Maya Yoshida or Jack Stephens (assuming that Virgil Van Dijk will also be held out) for a potential clean sheet.  Fraser Forster is also very attractive for a potential clean sheet and likely went undrafted in many leagues after a rotten 2016-17 campaign. 

I’ve not said much about the Saints attack because there’s a lot of uncertainty there.  We don’t know who will start between Gabbiadini and Austen at forward.  Tadic, Boufal, Redmond, and Ward-Prowse are all potential starters in attacking midfield spots. If you guess right, it could be a great match but there’s a lot of uncertainty which makes it hard to justify bringing any of them in if they went undrafted.

 

West Bromwich Albion vs. Bournemouth

This is a pretty even match-up on both sides so I wouldn’t change the way I was looking at players from either side based entirely on the match-up.  There are likely some solid defenders on both sides of the Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Adam Smith variety that could fill a gap if you have one but none should be counted on for more than the two points for starting and playing a full ninety. 

 

Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Manchester City

This could be an ugly introduction to the league for Brighton.  City have some injuries with Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, and Benjamin Mendy all highly unlikely to be out for this match.  The downside is that just about everyone from the City squad is likely to be in someone’s fantasy squad.  If someone like Yaya Toure is available on waivers then this could be a week where it’s worth picking him up if you have a gap to fill in your squad.

 

Newcastle United vs. Tottenham

The last time these two met Spurs were wacked 5-1 on the final day of Newcastle’s last season in the Premier League before being relegated.  Don’t expect to see that again.  Like Manchester City, most of the Spurs likely starters have probably been drafted and are likely to be started.  The opportunities here would be if Kieran Trippier is out a reserve (Kevin Wimmer?) could be a great cheap source of a clean sheet but we really don’t know much definitive about Trippier’s status.  The other opportunity is for the replacement for Son Heung-Min (who is currently questionable) and Erik Lamela (definitely out) and that probably gets us to Moussa Sissoko unless Mauricio Pochettino decides to go with two center forwards and plays Vincent Janssen and Kane together. 

 

It’s hard to justify picking up anyone from Newcastle against a top opponent.

 

Manchester United vs. West Ham United

Of the big sides, Manchester United has the toughest match-up and some significant question about formation with Jose Mourinho looking like he may elect to follow the big trend from last season and play three center backs rather than the four at the back he employed last season.  While the move makes sense it probably eliminates one of the few Manchester United defenders who might have gone undrafted in your league, Daley Blind.  In a traditional 4-man defense, Blind was probably in line to start against the Hammers with Luke Shaw still out.  Blind didn’t start against Real Madrid as Mourinho flooded the midfield with Matic, Herrera, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Lingard and Valencia behind Lukaku.  Assuming that Bailly comes in for Darmian the interesting option for the Red Devils might be Chris Smalling who has gone un/under-drafted after a disappointing first season under Mourinho.

 

At West Ham, a trip to Old Trafford is probably not the time to jump on any of their players who you didn’t draft to be starters.



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.
Email :Neal Thurman





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