Round 15 of the Irish Times Fantasy Premier League comes to a close tonight as Wigan take on Newcastle at St. James’s Park and many fantasy managers will be hoping to pick up a few points to help bolster their fixture week score after what was a somewhat unusual weekend of action. Surprisingly enough only two home sides managed to pick up 3 points with no fewer that four teams beaten on their own patch, not to mention the fact that Man City were held to a 1-1 draw at home by the Toffee’s.
As usual on a Monday here in the Managers Office our coaches have gone through the weekend’s action and compiled their notes which are designed to keep fantasy manager in the loop and aware of all the major talking points from the previous weekend’s fixtures.
It’s four goals in his last four and 10 for the season for the Swansea man as he became the league’s joint top scorer along side Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Man United’s Robin van Persie as he put two past Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday. His brace saw him leap to the top of the midfielder standings with a 12 point haul, which now puts him on an impressive 79 points. Michu is fast becoming a must have fantasy player and after his recent run of goals he is likely to attract many more suitors as we head to round 16 however, Swansea have some tricky fixtures coming up so it may not be all plain sailing for the Spaniard as he faces Spurs and United in the next three, in addition to a weekend home clash against a tough Norwich defence that has conceded just three goals in the last seven games. The fact that he also sits on four yellows, just a single caution away from a one-match ban means it is very much a case of buyer beware.
Wenger’s Worries Continue
Much has been made of the recent troubles at the Emirates and after their 2-0 defeat at the hands of the aforementioned Michu and Swansea things are not looking any better this Monday morning in north London, Arsenal have now only scored two goals in their last three games and prior to the weekend there was plenty of fantasy interest in the Gunners given the fact that they had scored eight times in their last couple of games in front of their own fans, while the visitors’ record of one clean sheet in 12 suggested goals were on the agenda for the hosts. With Theo Walcott passed fit, there was plenty reason for optimism ahead of kick-off, but the 2-0 loss to the Swans may well deter fantasy managers from bringing in Arsenal assets, despite a superb upcoming run of games.
Back To Back
With the recent advancement up the park Jose Enrique had become a very intriguing fantasy prospect and as a result many fantasy managers were opting to draft in the former Newcastle man, but yesterday’s game with Southampton saw his appeal take a tumble. The Spaniard was shifted to left-back as Jonjo Shelvey moved up top after Lucas returned from injury, with Glen Johnson remaining at right-back and Andre Wisdom missing out once again. While the 1-0 win saw the Reds rack up their fourth clean sheet in the last five at Anfield, Enrique’s out of position role now looks in real danger.
Fellaini Fires Again
After speaking about “Must Have” players a little earlier in the form of Michu, Maroune Fellaini is another who mow surely falls into this category. The big Belgain was on hand for the Toffee’s as they went 1-0 up against City and were it not for a penalty the Champions could have well have been facing down the barrel of their first home defeat.Fellaini’s consistency in front of goal now means he has scored or assisted in each of his last six, with his role behind Nikica Jelavic providing a constant source of points. With the form Fellaini is in this season, fixtures are seemingly not all that important as he showed when he netted against the likes of United and Arsenal, with fantasy managers now looking to push on over the christmas period Fellaini is now surely one of the best midfield options around at the moment and as such a must have.
The Tottenham frontman has as expected staked his claim to the strikers position at White Hart Lane after recently being dropped in favour of Emmanuel Adebayor, however with Adebayor suspended for the last three games Defoe’s brace at the weekend means that he has now managed four goals and an assist in his last four. Adebayor has of course now served his three-match suspension and will be available for selection next weekend, however it seems highly unlikely Andre Villas-Boas will omit Defoe from his first XI for the trip to Everton after yesterday’s display, but once again we can never be entirely sure so managers are advised to play close attention to our predicted line ups this coming weekend.
Another worrying piece of new for fantasy managers will be the news that Gareth Bale will most likely be out for at least two weeks with a hamstring injury he picked up against Fulham at the weekend. As of yet it is too early to tell exactly how long he will be out for but one thing is for sure there will be plenty of fantasy managers looking for a suitable replacement over the coming week.
Baggies Back Line Change
After what has been an amazing start to managerial life for Steve Clarke it appears that the cracks may be starting to show in the Baggies armour, having picked up four clean sheets in their first ten games West Brom have now gone five without a clean sheet and most worryingly have lost their last two on the bounce. It would seem that heading into last weekend’s game with Stoke that Steve Clarke was aware of their recent frailties at the back and as such made a number of changes to try and plug the holes. The Baggies boss dropped Liam Ridgewell with Goran Popov a starting at left-back instead. Billy Jones was also not available through illness and Steven Reid was called at right-back for cover but despite Jones’ illness his place over the coming weeks looks to be coming under threat from Reid and this will certainly cause concern among fantasy managers with a vested interest.
Things seem to be going from bad to worse around Stamford Bridge as the Blue’s fell to their first defeat under new caretaker boss Rafa Benitez over the weekend. Things looked to be on the up when Juan Mata put Chelsea ahead, but their joy was short lived as the Hammers came back to win 2-1 on the day. Once again the Chelsea fans booed their team at the final whistle as I’m sure did some fantasy managers as the promise that was a clean sheet at the back for Chelsea failed to materialize. As far as the future is concerned for fantasy managers and their relationship with Chelsea it doesn’t look good. The Blues face Sunderland in round 16 which some will feel may give them a chance of redemption however with a blank fixture in round 17 investment in the Londoners may not be a wise move.
Five And Out!
The threat of a one game ban had been hanging over the head of Luis Suarez for a number of weeks and there is little doubt that this has put fantasy managers off as there seemed little point in bringing in a player who was surely soon to miss a fixture and it has finally happened. Suarez’s yellow card over the weekend takes his total to five which of course means he is no subject to a one match ban meaning he will have to sit out the round 16 clash with West Ham on Sunday. For those who wanted to wait until he served his ban it has come just in time as Liverpool’s fixtures will still be reasonably good and Suarez will face Villa, Fulham and Stoke on his return which will surely mean more goals for the league’s joint top scorer.
After what must have seemed like an age without a goal for Wayne Rooney he is finally back among the goals after picking up a brace against Reading over the weekend. It was far from a convincing win for the Red Devil’s and if anything it has left us with some serious concerns about the viability of the back line, as far as strikers go they are still worth consideration. As we have learned from previous season Rooney tends to go on goal scoring runs so there is a good chance that this is the start of one of those such runs. As stated Luis Suarez will now miss round 16, so with Rooney now seemingly back on the bandwagon it may have come at just the right time for fantasy managers looking for a replacement, despite the fact that United face their Manchester rivals this coming weekend.
After a recent run of 3 clean sheets and a goal in his last five games Sebastien Bassong’s stock had risen steadily prior to last weekend’s showdown with Sunderland. Norwich went into this one unbeaten in seven and many tipped the Canaries to continue their fine run of form and they were right, Norwich beat Sunderland 2-1 which incidentally was the first time since round 6 that they managed two goals in a game and that man Bassong was on hand with another goal to make it two goals in three for the left back. Norwich seem to be fixture proof at present and despite the clean sheets drying up there is good value to be had at the back for the Canaries in the form of Bassong and Garrido who between them have managed 2 goas and 2 assists since round 12, not to mention a clean sheet too.