On the back of a pride-crushing derby defeat, things don’t get any easier for Pepe Mel and West Brom, as they prepare for Liverpool’s visit to the Hawthorns. By @BETFUZE. Albion team v @lfc: Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Yacob, Mulumbu, Gera, Berahino, Vydra, Brunt (c). #wbaliv — West Bromwich Albion (@WBAFCofficial) February 2, 2014 […]
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Midseason Team Analysis – MIDTABLE
SuperGrover is back with the 2nd part of his midseason review and verdict of the Premier League teams, this time the six teams that currently reside midtable. If you missed it earlier in the week do check out his review of the the TOP SIX here. Enjoy!
A fortunate club perhaps, as the underlying statistics and goal differential do not support their point total. In attack, the Baggies are below average across the board statistically, with fewer shots and shots on target than most. Defensively, it’s much the same story. More disconcerting is the recent form which has provided West Brom with just 7 points over 9 fixtures, with the underlying numbers substantiating that record.
Fun Fact: Romelu Lukaku averages a goal about every 112 minutes, just 2 minutes off Robin Van Persie’s pace. The on loan Belgian has scored 7 goals in his last 8 starts.
Prediction: West Brom continue to slide down the league, eventually landing firmly mid-table. Romelu Lukaku remains an enigma, producing splendidly when on the pitch. Fantasy managers everywhere look on in disdain.
Former kings and current reality show darlings, Liverpool have experienced an up-and-down first season under Brendan Rodgers. Statistically, the club looks elite, every bit worthy of challenging for a UCL position. On the pitch this excellence has manifested itself at times. For example, for the majority of the home game against United Liverpool were superb, especially considering Shelvey was sent off very early in the game.
They were better than City at home but succumbed to a Skrtel error. They were the better team in the second halves against Chelsea, against Tottenham and in the return fixture with United but only after going down early in each. Alternatively, the Reds have suffered some ignominious defeats. West Bromwich beat them handily in the second half on opening day. Christian Benteke went crazy at Anfield and Stoke somehow scored three against what had been an elite defense. As I mentioned, it’s been up and down.
Fun Fact: Luis Suarez has been involved (scored or assisted) in 62.5% of goals scored while on the pitch, including assists for Baines’ own goal and the penalty won at Stoke.
Prediction: Liverpool continue to play well and establish themselves as a top 5 club heading into next season. Sturridge helps offensively and the Reds challenge Everton and Arsenal for a fifth up until the final few game weeks.
Miguel Perez Cuesta, a.k.a Michu, the transfer of the season. The lanky Spaniard has almost single-handedly rescued an attack that has been somewhat void of options without him. Defensively, the Swans started strong but seemed to succumb to injury and possibly fatigue, as the late fall saw a significant downturn in defensive performance. That has picked up a bit recently, perhaps due to a more pragmatic approach from Laudrup against equivalent or superior opponents, but Swansea remain a below average club defensively.
Fun Fact: Swansea have scored just twice off set plays, ranked last in the league. Not surprisingly, their single goal from a defender is also tied for last in the league.
Prediction: Michu and a solid midfield make Swansea a somewhat difficult match up, especially on the road. A solid top ten finish ends a great first year under Laudrup.
Bullies. Thugs. Rugby players. The Potters have heard this all before and don’t care, but they do do deserve their reputation as a big, physical group. Their underlying statistics tell the tale of a well formed, solid, damn near impenetrable backline with little offensive interest. That sums up Stoke under Pulis. Whatever the case, it’s good enough to keep them mid table.
Fun Fact: Stoke have blocked 32% of their opponents’ shots, highest in the league. Only one other team has blocked more than 29% (Sunderland). This illustrates how well they maintain order and numbers in their backline.
Prediction: Nothing sexy about Pulis’ style, but the results will continue to be there. A return of Marc Wilson could make Stoke’s defense even better through the remainder of the season.
The most successful of the promoted clubs thus far, the Hammers currently mark the beginning of the bottom of the table. West Ham have performed about as expected based upon their underlying statistics, getting a bit unlucky on shot accuracy but a bit lucky on shot conversion. In the end, you have a below average attack with about an average defense, combining to form a pretty mediocre club that should be good enough to stay well clear of relegation.
Fun Fact: Andy Carroll has scored 1 goal on 25 shots this season. Last season, he scored 4 goals on 88 shots. His 5 goals in 113 shots are 9 goals fewer than Daniel Sturridge has scored in his last 109 shots.
Prediction: The return of Andy Carroll does nothing to improve the Hammers attack. Home games remain winnable, but this is a perfectly cromulent football club.
It looked ugly early for Norwich City early on, but their underlying statistics were never as bad as the table indicated. Paul Lambert’s club have always shown some statistical upside, but finally shored up the defense to allow for the real improvement demonstrated on the pitch. Norwich remain a below average club on both sides of the ball, but are strong enough all round to be significantly better than bottom table teams such as Wigan and Reading.
Fun Fact: The Canaries have scored half of their goals from set plays with Bassong, Snodgrass and Martin all contributing on more than one occasion.
Prediction: The talent is there to maybe challenge for 10th. If not, expect status quo as the nightmares of late Summer are long forgotten.
Have you heard the one about the Irishman, the Belgian and the Nigerian? Premier League defences have and they’re growing increasingly sick of it.
It’s no joke that West Bromwich Albion are performing so well in this campaign though, and with early season optimism now giving way to mid-season reality there appears to be a real belief that Shane Long, Romelu Lukaku, Peter Odemwingie and an increasingly impressive supporting cast can fire the Baggies to new heights.
Just how high those highs can get depends on what happens over the next few months of course, but with pre-season hopes of successfully fighting relegation now morphing into desires of a top half finish (even Europe?) then The Hawthorns is fast becoming a good place to be.
Roberto di Matteo will be back there on Saturday 21 months after losing his job as Baggies boss, and whilst his sacking seemed more than a little harsh at the time it is yet further evidence that this is a club who are not afraid to make brave and bold decisions both on and off the pitch.
Behind the scenes, sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth undertakes a role the like of which isn’t all too common in the Premier League, and would become less so at the end of the current season were he not involved in appointing his successor before his heads off to take up a similar role with England.
A former player, Ashworth is a savvy operator who has gone about improving West Brom’s fortunes since being appointed to the role in late 2007. When things looked in danger of unravelling under Di Matteo, Ashworth stepped in and appointed Roy Hodgson to steer the side to mid-table. Eyebrows might have been raised when he chose Steve Clarke as Hodgson’s replacement following his departure for England, but so far so very, very good.
And why shouldn’t it be? Clarke was an experienced player at the top level and has learned his coaching trade under the likes of Jose Mourinho and Kenny Dalglish. That Ashworth and West Brom had the bravery to give him his step up to become a No. 1 is a decision that has so far been richly rewarded.
The likes of Ben Foster, Gareth McAuley, James Morrison, Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu have all impressed as the Baggies have picked up six wins in their opening 11 games to sit fifth in the table above fancied teams such as Tottenham and Arsenal, but it is those three attackers mentioned earlier who appear to epitomise everything about this forward thinking club.
Long, Lukaku and Odemwingie have each scored three goals in the league this season, and although when combined that only just puts the three of them ahead of the division’s top scorers Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie – who each have eight apiece – they have been invaluable contributors to a team who appear to fear no-one.
There will of course be tough challenges ahead – not least Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United before the turn of the year – but there is nothing to suggest that West Brom should go into any of those games with an inferiority complex. Everton, a club who West Brom are currently on the same points as and beat at The Hawthorns in early September, are often lauded for the workaholic way that they tackle every game, so why not the Baggies too?
As well as hard work, Clarke’s rotation of his three forwards has been key to their success, and there wasn’t a hint of dissent when Odemwingie was dropped to the bench for last weekend’s visit to Wigan just a few days after he’d scored twice against Southampton.
The options will be limited against Chelsea at the weekend due to Lukaku being unable to face his parent club, but Long, Odemwingie and their team-mates will be working as hard as ever to deliver against the European champions.
Clarke will demand nothing less, and’s that’s no joke.
Being told that you sometimes play like Stoke City is apparently an insult these days, but it could be Stoke players who prove the most effective in Fantasy Premier League over the next few weeks.
A relatively kind fixture list up until just before Christmas should alert Fantasy bosses to Tony Pulis’s men, who go to Norwich City this weekend in search of a first away victory of the season.
That record along with just the nine points taken from nine Premier League matches so far might not give the impression that the boys from the Britannia have been anything to write home about in this campaign, but in goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (£4.8m) and forward Peter Crouch (£6.8m) they have two of the standout value for money selections in the game this season. Defenders Ryan Shawcross (£5.0m) and Robert Huth (£5.5m) and midfielders Jonathan Walters (£6.4m) and Michael Kightly (£5.5m) also provide interesting options, but it is to Crouch that Stoke will turn to on Saturday at Carrow Road against a team who have conceded more goals than everyone but Southampton so far.
Crouch will be coming up against one of the six clubs in this season’s Premier League that he has represented before, and he looks a good bet to bite the hand that used to feed him and find the net for the first time since scoring twice at home to Swansea on Gameweek 6. Finding form could be crucial to both Pulis’s team and yours ahead of this kind run of games.
Elsewhere over a Premier League weekend which would do well to be as dramatic as the last one and the midweek League Cup ties, Manchester United could go top of the table for a few hours at least as they take on Arsenal at Old Trafford early on Saturday afternoon.
These heavyweight clashes are usually best avoided by Fantasy bosses due to their often tight and competitive nature, but Robin van Persie (£13.4m) simply can’t be ignored here as he comes up against his former employers for the first time.
Unlike Crouch he’ll only face old friends twice this season, and with the Dutchman having found the net in his last two league matches and seven times overall to jointly lead the Premier League goalscoring charts alongside Demba Ba (£8.4m, but who is a doubt for Newcastle’s trip to Anfield on Sunday), then his form is easily apparent and matches the class that he undoubtedly has.
Every league match that Van Persie has started for United has produced either a goal or an assist for the Dutchman, and with it being almost impossible to envisage that run coming to an end on Saturday, if you’ve got the cash to splash then it could well be a wise move to rely on Robin.
Tottenham players are sure to prove popular given their home match against struggling Wigan, and whilst Jan Vertonghen (£6.4m), Gareth Bale (£9.6m) and Jermain Defoe (£8.0m) are sure to be attracting plenty of attention from Fantasy bosses, it might be worth considering that Spurs face trips to Manchester City and Arsenal in their next two weeks, and so it could be better to wait to bring their boys on board.
With the basement battle between QPR and Reading sure to be a committed affair on Sunday, perhaps there is potential for points on Monday night when West Brom take on Southampton at The Hawthorns.
With the Baggies having won four of their five home matches – only losing to champions Manchester City – and considering that the Saints have lost all four of their away fixtures, then success looks likely for Steve Clarke’s men in the final game of the weekend.
Key to that success is likely to be James Morrison (£6.2m), whose two goals and three assists this season have been key to the performances of Clarke’s side, and who is likely to be heavily involved against a team who have made shipping goals an art form since their elevation to the Premier League.
West Brom don’t play like Stoke, but they could be just as effective for you this week.