For the third time this season we’re ignoring those Fantasy Premier League attention-seekers and instead looking at those who often miss out on the headlines.
Yes, never mind your midfielders and forwards, the case for the defence has been opened again and this time ahead of a Gameweek which offers ample chance for a few clean sheets.
The best of those opportunities probably comes at Old Trafford, where Manchester United welcome a managerless Reading side in a contest that the hosts will not just expect to win – but expect to win well.
Brazilian defender Rafael da Silva (£6.2m) has excelled in the United defence this season, and with 16.9% ownership he finds himself as the most selected player from the champions-elect after Robin van Persie.
Sir Alex Ferguson surprised many by leaving Rafael out of the 4-0 win over Norwich two weeks ago – his first non-appearance of the year in the league – but the right-back was back in the team for the FA Cup tie against Chelsea last weekend, and he’s almost certain to start here in a match in which United are of course likely to be on the front foot.
Following earlier struggles for clean sheets United have now kept four in successive league matches, and with Rafael contributing three goals and five assists this season – including that stunning strike at QPR recently – then the Brazilian could be a key player in their run-in towards an almost certain league title.
Elsewhere, Tottenham will be bidding to rediscover their excellent form which they displayed prior to last weekend’s thrilling 3-2 defeat at Liverpool.
They have a good chance to find it at home to a Fulham side who have won just two away games this season, and with defender Michael Dawson (£4.6m) having now recovered from previous injuries to start and crucially finish the last 10 league games at the heart of the Spurs defence, the centre-back could be a valuable and cheap addition to your squad as Andre Villas-Boas’ side close in on a Champions League place.
Another Sunday fixture sees Chelsea host West Ham at Stamford Bridge, and although the make-up of Rafael Benitez’s defence does have a habit of changing regularly, David Luiz (£6.5m) has started the last three league games – registering his first assist of the season in the 1-0 win over West Brom last time out, a match in which he also picked up a bonus point.
Manchester City go to Everton in the opening match of the weekend, and with defender Pablo Zabaleta (£6.2m) a firm Fantasy favourite after starting the last 16 league matches there is sure to be plenty of interest in him. Leighton Baines (£7.6m) will of course provide a threat going in the other direction.
For cheaper options, the Sunderland v Norwich match offers the possibility of a stalemate with visiting defender Javier Garrido (£4.7m) bidding to follow up from last weekend’s clean sheet against Southampton with another blank against his opposition’s name. Teammate Michael Turner (£4.2m) also picked up two bonus points in that 0-0 draw.
This weekend Southampton face the tough prospect of facing a Liverpool side who have won their last three in the league, and whilst it was Daniel Agger (£6.4m) who scored the winner when the Reds beat the Saints 1-0 at Anfield in December it is the form of teammate Jose Enrique (£6.0m) which can’t be ignored here.
The left-back registered an impressive sixth assist of the season which he provided the first goal for Luis Suarez in the Tottenham win, and with two goals to his name as well he is certainly one to watch ahead of a match which Brendan Rodgers will expect his Reds to win.
If they can win it with a clean sheet then that is sure to please many.
*We’ve focused on defenders again for this Gameweek, but if you have any selection issues, dilemmas or problems then feel free to tweet us at @FantasyYirma. Goalkeepers, midfielders and forwards are allowed!
After our Gameweek 8 focus on some of the men who ply their trade at the back, the case for the defence has been reopened ahead of a weekend which is likely to see defenders prove as important as ever.
Scrappy Gameweeks 13 and 14 saw clean sheets and defensive bonus points become vital, and if you can get your hands on a player who will provide both as well as offering an attacking threat then it’s wise to hold onto him. Fortunately there is one currently stationed on Liverpool’s left wing.
Just how long Brendan Rodgers continues with his efforts to transform Jose Enrique (£5.9m) into the new Gareth Bale remains to be seen, but the Liverpool manager’s selection of the Spaniard ahead of converted left-back Stewart Downing in his side’s last two games shows that this is an experiment which is set to last.
Ever since taking up the left midfield role in the second half of Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea in Gameweek 11, Enrique has carried a greater goal threat than any other Reds player bar Luis Suarez. He almost scored in that Chelsea game, provided a goal and an assist in the win over Wigan, had an effort controversially disallowed at Swansea and came close numerous times in Wednesday’s loss at Tottenham.
With Southampton visiting Anfield on Saturday the home crowd will be expecting their underachieving team to both create plenty of chances and keep it tight at the back, two elements of their game that could see Enrique pick up plenty of points. He could even be a left-field left-sided captaincy choice for the brave and the bold amongst you.
Whilst the former Newcastle man is a familiar face to Fantasy players thanks to his five-and-a-half years in the English game, there is also a relative newcomer who could also be worth considering this weekend.
Manchester City’s Matija Nastasic (£5.5m) will need no introduction to Joleon Lescott after the young Serbian took the England defender’s place in the City team, and after starting City’s last six league games the 19-year-old looks here to stay.
The champions have kept five clean sheets in those six matches, and whilst Nastasic’s team-mate Pablo Zabaleta (£5.8m) is another name to consider as an alternative to the expensive Vincent Kompany (£7.2m), the Serb’s price only looks like rising throughout the campaign as City’s title challenge seemingly grows stronger. City’s defenders do come with a warning of a fixture list which sees them face Everton and Manchester United in their next two matches, but Nastasic might just be worth the risk.
Elsewhere as we continue our look at the men at the back, perhaps the weekend’s best chance of a stalemate – Gold-dust when we conduct these cases for the defence – comes at Loftus Road where QPR face Aston Villa in a contest which will see Ryan Nelsen (£4.0m) marshal the home defence and Villa’s Matthew Lowton (£4.5m), Ciaran Clark and Eric Lichaj (both £4.4m) all feature for the visitors.
Manchester United left out Rio Ferdinand (£5.9m) for the midweek win over West Ham at Old Trafford, with full-backs Patrice Evra (£6.8m) and Rafael (£6.5m) perhaps the only two certain starters for their Saturday evening trip to Reading, whilst Chelsea seem to have no problem keeping clean sheets under Rafael Benitez, with Ashley Cole (£6.5) certain to be a key part of the attempt to keep a third in a row as they go to West Ham.
If you need a cheaper option though then it might pay to head to North London, where Per Mertesacker (£5.3m) has started Arsenal’s last eight matches and popped up with a goal in the Gameweek 12 win over Tottenham.
The Gunners have only kept two clean sheets in those eight matches, but they’ll expect to be on the front foot as Swansea visit the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, whilst the return from suspension of Fabricio Coloccini (£5.0m) should shore up Newcastle’s back-line for Monday night’s visit of Wigan.
It’s time to jump on the bandwagon, throw away the magic 8 ball, stop asking Siri and join the consistency train.
In other words it’s time to settle down make the safe transfers, especially with the Fantasy Cup and the FY Shield only a few weeks away. It’s time to build a team to allow you break the magical 50 points barrier each Gameweek. No longer do you need that one off great Gameweek, but it is all about being consistent.
So it’s time to jump on that bandwagon, for some of you that that may mean swallowing your pride by picking a player who you have avoided because he was wearing your team’s shirt last year. Or that player, where you pick up the paper and think “He’s a D***”, or that young kid who you still don’t want to believe the hype over. It’s time to be smart.
So, with that in mind, here are the three players who your team can’t afford to be without in weeks and months to come (Remember these are my own views and generally* not shared with the rest of the Admin team.) *never.
Robin van Persie – Yes his price tag is high, I hear some of you cry, but he is averaging 6.5 points a game, and as a special treat for stat fans that works out to a stunning one point every 11.8 minutes that he has been on the turf. Despite Carlos Tevez being cheaper and scoring more points, come January and with Mario Balotelli’s bags pretty much packed for the EuroStar, someone else will almost certainly be posing with the number 45 City shirt and Roberto Mancini – giving Tevez more competition. Even with Tom Glick as their COO – his tight ways may have worked out at Derby but he’s in a different league now – the Al Mubarak family will certainly look to allow Mancini to go on January spending spree, meaning that Tevez could suffer as Van Persie racks up the points.
Marouane Fellaini – The man with the crazy hair has been the heart of anything pretty good that Everton have done this season, and although that hair could be worse it’s not on scale of Tom Huddlestone’s as the ex-Derby man continues to try and score a goal before he can shave it off. Keep with Fellaini while Everton’s great run continues. EDIT: (Fellaini is suspended this weekend)
Jose Enrique – My third is pick is a player that all old school fantasy football players have been waiting for since a young Gareth Bale burst onto the scene and was listed as a defender, however spent the season out on the wing. Once again there is a player that ticks all of those boxes.
Jose Enrique last year was a great buy, he was cheap at less than 5 million and playing in the back line of one of the tightest defenses in the league, but the arrival of Brendan Rogers from across the Brecon Beacons National Park along with his Barcelona-esque free flowing football has unleashed some of Liverpool’s brightest Academy stars such as Andre Wisdom, who has slotted into the defence nicely, meaning Enrique’s pitch time was limited to coming off the bench or covering for injures.
Some even started to think that maybe Jose was one of the chosen three in Brendan’s now infamous envelopes, however against Wigan he was let loose on the wing and with his pace along with Raheem Sterling and the brilliance of Luis Suarez, Liverpool may be starting find an answer to the lack of goals that have caused their fans so much heartache over the past 18 months.
If your money – like the current economy – is tight then I suggest buying Sterling as the front three for Liverpool are going be in the points every week, but for the sake of 0.6 million I would swing in favour of the Spaniard Enrique, as those clean sheet bonuses could be the difference between you and your mate come May.
Having already had a look at five players who’ll be looking to impress in Yirma for a second year running, it’s time to cast an eye over five more regulars on last season’s teamsheets who’ll be worth considering again.
Michel Vorm, Swansea, Goalkeeper – Fantasy Price tag £5.5m
That odd scratching sound that you heard every Saturday morning for 38 weeks was coming from those Fantasy managers lucky enough to start the season with Vorm as their substitute goalkeeper.
However, the noise of fingernails over forehead grew quieter and quieter the longer that Vorm’s debut Premier League season went on, and suddenly the expensive, big name keeper you’d bought to start for your Fantasy team could be sold off to raise funds that were needed elsewhere. The big Dutchman would do just fine.
The former Utrecht goalkeeper impressed everyone as Swansea’s last line of defence last season, keeping 14 clean sheets and only conceding two goals in his side’s first eight home league games of the season.
The question of whether or not Vorm can sustain that form is like everything else that surrounds his club since the departure of Brendan Rodgers though – unknown.
New boss Michael Laudrup is sure to bring in the type of expansive, stylish football that Rodgers favoured, but with key men potentially leaving then results could well be mixed, meaning that trusting the big Dutchman to start for you this time could prove a hasty decision.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal, Midfielder – Fantasy Price Tag £7.5m
What do Arsenal want Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to be? A very good player for them, obviously, but Arsene Wenger’s summer signings hint at another season as an impact player for the youngster who fleetingly impressed for England at the Euros.
For someone who only turns 19 next week that isn’t such a bad thing of course, but there were glimpses towards the end of last season that showed ‘The Ox’ could maintain a strong hold on a first-team place if given the chance.
Will he be given that chance though? The signing of Lukas Podolski has placed one of the most internationally experienced top level players in Europe squarely in Chamberlain’s position, whilst Santi Cazorla only increases the already vast midfield options available to the Gunners. Jack Wilshere might even be seen at some point this season too.
The belief amongst many is that Wenger is grooming former Southampton youngster Chamberlain to become a more effective version of former Southampton youngster Theo Walcott, and whilst that is all well and good, for as long as Walcott is at the club – which admittedly might not be for much longer – then it is difficult to see Chamberlain making a sustained impact.
This could be a frustrating campaign for the youngster and those who pick him.
Jose Enrique, Liverpool, Defender – Fantasy Price Tag £6.0m
Much like Liverpool as a whole, Enrique’s league performances steadily got worse the longer last season went on.
He’d started well, but like everyone at the club he’ll be looking forward to putting that league campaign behind him, and the arrival of Brendan Rodgers will have invigorated a squad which was in dire need of a spark.
Enrique was Liverpool’s third top points scorer behind Luis Suarez and Pepe Reina in 2011/12, and whilst Rodgers is sure to change a lot about his new club’s style of play he is likely to have found the two first choice full-backs he inherited at Anfield to be to his liking.
Liverpool will look to use those full-backs in attack as much as possible in 2012/13, and whilst a personal preference would be to choose the added goal and assist threat of Glen Johnson (£6.5m), if you haven’t got the extra cash then a move for Enrique could prove a shrewd one if he starts well again.
James McClean, Sunderland, Midfielder – Fantasy Price Tag £6.5m
Yes, he’s down as a midfielder again.
McClean’s haul of 101 points last season wasn’t bad at all for a player who didn’t start a match since New Year’s Day, and the Irishman again looks likely to start on the left of Sunderland’s front three.
Things have been remarkably quiet around his club all summer – at the time of writing only Carlos Cuellar has joined for first team duty, but interest remains in Steven Fletcher – and with that suggesting Martin O’Neill is more than happy with the squad at his disposal, the Sunderland boss looks set to go with the same again as he starts his first full season with the club.
McClean’s impact on Sunderland last season saw him quickly become a mainstay in the team, and he’ll be raring to go again after only sampling 14 minutes of action during the Republic of Ireland’s disappointing Euro 2012 campaign.
He’ll get far more time in the Premier League, and could once again prove to be a terrific addition to any midfield – if a more expensive one this time around.
Ashley Young, Manchester United, Midfielder – Fantasy Price Tag £8.5m
It was an up and down debut season at Old Trafford for Young – up as he ran towards the penalty area, down when he got int it – and both the arrival of Shinji Kagawa and consistent form of Antonio Valencia could make this a difficult campaign for him.
Nani is still around too of course, and with the rumours surrounding Robin van Persie refusing to go away then the vacancies in the forward positions at Manchester United could soon be even scarcer than ever before. We haven’t even mentioned Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez yet. Oh, and Dimitar Berbatov too.
All of which leaves Young in danger of being squeezed out, and even if he does start matches he is unlikely to finish them due to the vast resources available to Ferguson.
He’s been far from a failure at United of course, but his impact tends to come in short bursts, and he might have to prolong those if he is to hang around in Ferguson’s team, and yours.