The Week Ahead, Part 1 - The Schedule

Is it this guy's weekend to shine given all the injuries up front at United? Their Champions League match should be at least somewhat instructive. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

I apologize for not getting to First XI this week, it was a busy weekend that involved buying and putting up a Christmas tree on Sunday and then flying out to Indianapolis later in the evening for two days of work in the cold and rain in that fine city. Don't for a minute think that it had anything to do with the fact that a couple of weeks ago in that same column I was a little bit dismissive of the long term prospects of both Heidur Helguson and Yakubu as fantasy players. Helguson certainly didn't have the day that our old friend the Yak did but in varying degrees both players added to what have been rebound seasons for them. One might even call Helguson's season a "bound" season rather than a rebound because he has never been this good in the top flight.

The fact that a 34 year old forward who has no particular outstanding quality (he isn't particularly fast, he isn't particularly tall, he isn't incredibly powerful, nor is he particularly quick) and no marked upgrade in the quality of players surrounding him has scored 6 goals in 9 matches is perhaps THE under-reported story of the season. And not just from a fantasy standpoint. Without his goals, where might QPR be? Of his six goals, two are match-winners and without those goals QPR look a lot more like Sunderland (4 fewer points with two wins being downgraded to two draws) and looking for all the world like a potential relegation candidate.

The big question that remains is what the chances are of this continuing? The answer has to be "not great". I'm always wary of those forwards who are incredibly efficient in front of goal if that hasn't been their habit throughout their careers. There are players like Darren Bent and Javier Hernandez who are exceptionally accurate in converting their chances and you aren't surprised when their ration of SOTs to goals is low. For most forwards, you'd expect something more on the order of 2 SOTs for every goal scored - Helguson is on 6 goals from 9 SOTs. The only two forwards on the first three pages of the Yahoo Forward list (sorted by Average Points/Match) who come even close to this level of efficiency are Balotelli (7 goals from 11 SOTs) and Fletcher (5 from 7). If you look back at Helguson's recent career - mostly in the Championship - he averages about a goal for every 2 SOTs. Given relative infrequency of him even getting SOTs (he averages one/match) you'd imagine that at some point, there will be a big drought.

Hopefully for QPR, that won't come until they've secured a few more crucial points in the standings.

Click past the jump for analysis of the schedule for Match Week 15 in fantasy Premier League action.

Home Team

  • Man United vs. Wolves - Remember last season when Wolves looked great against good teams and not so great against the also-rans of the league? Not so much this season. Seems like an opportunity for United to get healthy and start looking like a title contender again. Verdict: Advantage United Attack and Defense.
  • Arsenal vs. Everton - Everton are a confusing lot this season. They started out terribly only to right the ship to some extent but then produced an unexpected stinker against Stoke at home last weekend. A rested Arsenal team should be able to exploit the Toffees and score some goals against an inconsistent defense. Verdict: Advantage Arsenal Attack.
  • West Brom vs. Wigan - The Baggies haven't been as good as they were over the second half of last season but Wigan have been making just about everyone look like Barca so you have to like Woy's chances of a big home win this weekend. Verdict: Advantage WBA Attack.
  • That's It? There really isn't a ton to love from the home teams is there? Sunderland are just bad, Chelsea host the leaders, Stoke host a much better Spurs team, Liverpool are in a bit of crisis and feel a bit unpredictable to me despite what looks like it should be a home win, and Norwich/Swansea/Bolton are all unconvincing to say the least.
Away Teams
  • Spurs @ Stoke - Stoke had a nice away victory last weekend and you'd think it would get better at home but Spurs are just a buzzsaw, cutting through mid-table teams like they were so much butter left out of the fridge overnight. Hard to picture Stoke having the stuff to stop that momentum. Verdict: Advantage Spurs Attackers.
Just not a great weekend for big match-up advantages as the inferior teams are at home hosting better ones and there are a lot of match-ups of teams that are fairly closely grouped in the standings and/or in actual talent. Definitely a weekend to err on the side of consistent quality rather than playing the match-ups.
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