I did it! Last week, I demonstrated the art of telepathy, the magic of fortune telling....the absolute zenith of higher thinking.
I said "avoid Christian Benteke", and it paid off with the second straight week of a forward I recommended against not only scoring, but scoring twice. It was a classic case of hedging my bets. I love Benteke's game and wanted nothing more than to see him succeed. By betting against him in this column, I guaranteed something good would come from it. Either I would be proven right, or Benteke finally got it going. I couldn't be more pleased that it wound up being the latter.
So now what does one do when they call themselves a pundit but are caught in a whirlpool of superstition? I think until further notice, it would be wise to publicly decree Benteke as "off limits" until the end of time. Now, the trick is to take from that statement what you will, and use it properly. For example, this week, Aston Villa face Chelsea. There are not many strikers one would recommend against a Mourinho led Blues side, so it would seem ridiculous to possibly back Benteke this week, wouldn't it? Of course it would.
(OK Christian, I've laid the ground work. Now please prove me wrong, again.)
Otherwise it was a predictably painful week with so little prospects to choose from and a strained budget to contend with. Those who went Rooney as their Captain as I suggested should be feeling pretty good, but for heaven's sakes, one of any United defenders truly would have turned a dull week into a much brighter one. Now, the calm before the storm. The week before double gameweek madness.
Right. Let's take a look at this week's standard and Free Kick representatives. Remember the goal of this column is to find that player or two to fill out your squad when the money gets tight, or you want to find a player with high potential and low ownership to try and close the gap on the rivals above you.
Wojciech Szczesny - (Arsenal) The highest scoring keeper in fantasy isn't flying so high right now, and the Gunners haven't kept a clean sheet in over a month now, so paying a premium for his services when Arsenal are heading to White Hart Lane for the always heated North London Derby doesn't make too much sense when there are far better options for much cheaper. Add in the improbable circumstance that fellow Rotoworld colleague and Spurs fan Nik Argiropoulos actually ran into Szczesny recently, and that should surely jinx the man.
The Free Kick
Artur Boruc - (Southampton) After a midseason dip in form, due mainly to injuries sustained by Boruc and his fellow defensive teammates, the Saints are back in business of keeping things tidy, coming off a road clean sheet at Selhurst Park last week. Now they are at home, facing Norwich City, a club that has not scored more than one goal in fifteen gameweeks. You have to go all the way back to early December to find the last time they scored multiple goals. A clean sheet here is a distinct possibility, but more importantly, you can avoid the trappings of a crippling negative score from your keeper - the Canaries will make that so.
Phil Jones (Manchester United) If you had him last week, or Rafael for that matter, congratulations..it was a major haul. There is no sense in selling if you can afford to bench him this week, because he made a ton of cash on his value after that performance. Then, by all means have him ready to go for the double gameweek 31. This week though, do not chase last week's points and buy when his price has been thoroughly gouged. Remember, Liverpool are coming to town, so expectations of a clean sheet should be limited if not dismissed completely. His goal last week was the first in two years, so nothing to expect there either. Again, if you have him, keep and bench if you can, otherwise, pray for a bad game, a dip in price, and look to buy for Week 31 if you believe he has more to offer.
The Free Kick
Jordi Amat (Swansea City) Pepe Mel is not having a pleasant go of things for West Bromwich Albion, still searching for his first victory, and I don't think he will find it at the Liberty Stadium, where the Swans are poised to finally have all their major weapons back for the run in, and make a move in the league table. The one weapon they will be without is Chico, serving a one match ban for his red card last week, meaning Jordi Amat, costing under 6m, will be all but assured of starting in his place, as he has been the preferred backup center back all season long. Nothing sexy about his fantasy contributions, but it you liked getting a cheap Everton clean sheet from John Stones a couple of weeks ago, this pick offers similar potential.
Phillippe Coutinho (Liverpool) There is no arguing the talent and potential dominance as a midfielder Coutinho looks to have for several years to come. But as it stands right now, he is the most overrated attacking Pool player to own in fantasy right now. In his last league match, he got the start, but only played 56 minutes. His substitute, Raheem Sterling, promptly scored a goal in his time. Not that these two are in direct competition for one spot, it appears Brendan Rodgers is more inclined to remove Coutinho from his XI, or at least substitute him early in relation to his other regular starting players. He still has not had a dominant fantasy haul all season, in which he has scored at least twice, assisted at least twice, or one of each. Even Jordan Henderson and Martin Skrtel can boast that much.
The Free Kick
Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United) You'd hate to credit Alan Pardew's headbutt of David Meyler having anything to do with the result, but Newcastle finally showed some tenacity and class in their dismantling of Hull City in their previous league match, and Sissoko's brace resurrected what was a year long absence of form. After showing early signs of dominance when first arriving to St. James' Park in last year's January transfer window, Sissoko quietly faded into a less attacking role, with Yohan Cabaye reaping most of the rewards out of the Magpies midfield. It took a while for Newcastle to find a new, productive identity since Cabaye's departure, and it appears Sissoko is ready to make the next step. Along with an in-form Loic Remy up top, the Toons should have no trouble breaching the net of lowly Fulham.
Ricky Lambert (Southampton) OK, so we all know that whoever I pick in this spot is just going to make be look bad and score a brace. I could be cheeky and pick players who rarely do well and have a bad fixture, or I could just go Jozy Altidore, who will either not score again, or would make me be happy if he did. But I refuse! I will still do my best to suggest a forward to avoid with the genuine intent on steering you in the right direction. That player this week is Ricky Lambert. Cue a converted spot kick here. It is just becoming too hard to ignore that when you break down the numbers, the forward option to own from Southampton is the unheralded Jay Rodriguez. Lambert put in a lackluster 74 minute shift his last time out and who knows if Mauricio Pochettino wants to give this Sam Gallagher kid another long look.
The Free Kick
Romelu Lukaku (Everton) Last week, I advised to wait and see Lukaku back in action before taking the plunge and investing in him. When I saw the team news come out and that he wasn't starting, I gave myself a nice little pat on the back. "Hey Steve, maybe you really helped somebody out there with that advice. So.....naturally he is subbed on with a half hour to go and scores a game winning goal. In the land of ownership % amongst forwards, considering there are only a few legitimate options, the fact that Lukaku is only the 11th most owned forward makes him my perfect #3 striker for the week, as the Toffees get set to host a less than impressive Cardiff City defense. With a strong double gameweek fixture for Everton looming, it also allows me a chance to lock him in now. In fact, I have already laid out towels to collect the inevitable drool that will result from fielding Suarez, Sturridge and Lukaku up top next week, when the opponents are Cardiff away twice, Sunderland home twice, Swansea at home, and Newcastle away.