The Week Ahead: Fantasy EPL Player Picks for Match Week 9

When do you start teaching your kid to do this? - Gareth Copley

Everything you need to know to start shaping your roster for Match Week 9 of the Fantasy EPL season featuring a focus on how to evaluate Arsenal and Manchester City's seemingly strong match-ups.

You could really think yourself into quite a daze this week looking at the match-ups, could you? On paper, Arsenal and Manchester City have the most attractive match-ups. Both are at home and playing teams in QPR and Swansea that have been struggling. The problem with this seemingly obvious equation is that Arsenal and Manchester City aren't exactly full of easy choices for fantasy managers. We only have to look as far back as last weekend to see the potential disappointments awaiting us at the Emirates. QPR, like Norwich and Stoke, are bruisers in the Mark Hughes tradition (see the trouble they gave Chelsea who were in fine form and more talented than Arsenal). Doesn't exactly make you feel warm and fuzzy about loading up on Gunners, even the relatively inexpensive ones.

The results have been more positive for City aside from the mid-week loss to Ajax. Where the Citizens have been difficult for fantasy managers is pinning down a likely starting line-up and finding potential sources of value in that line-up. Heck, even the guaranteed starters like Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, and David Silva haven't been producing nearly enough fantasy points to make them worth a buy. City can probably best be summed up by Edin Dzeko who manages to being their leading goal-scorer but not a starter. Oh, and he's insanely expensive. What the hell do you do with that?

So, if the obvious match-ups aren't the answer then what are the answers?

Aston Villa's defense is intriguing given that Norwich have exactly 2 away goals for their travels so far this season. I'd recommend Villa's attack as well but that seems like a bit of overkill for the team resting 17th in the standings.

Chelsea's attack is also one that you may very well want to continue with. Yes, I know, they play Manchester United and I generally stay away from "big matches" but what about Manchester United's defensive performance so far this season leads anyone to believe they can hold Chelsea? I don't know what the result will be but I would imagine that Chelsea will score at least a couple goals. I'm not willing to back the Chelsea defense however - unless you think you know which one will score a goal.

Among the away teams, there are cases to be made for Spurs' attack at Southampton, Fulham's attack at Reading, and West Ham's attack at Wigan. Unfortunately, what you don't see a lot of in those recommendations is defenders. For my money, this is a week to go cheap on defenders or just stick with what you've got. Stoke vs. Sunderland could be one source of defensive points - if ever a match had nil-nil written all over it this season, this is it. The only downside to buying players in this one is that you might talk yourself into two hours of torturing yourself by watching the thing on TV and I'd sooner watch paint dry (if I could tell the difference between the two experiences).

With that informal schedule analysis out of the way, here are my picks:

Forwards

  • Jermain Defoe - He's been hot and Spurs have an attractive match-up with Southampton that makes me think he'll keep the magic start to the season going.
  • Juan Mata - You can call it chasing the points all you like but he's been on fire and Manchester United's defending has been rotten. I wouldn't be averse to getting all three of Mata, Eden Hazard, and Oscar for this one if you're feeling particularly Blue.
  • Carlos Tevez - I'd pick Aguero here but he's too expensive for my tastes. In picking either Argentinean forward we're assuming that Roberto Mancini recognizes that Dzeko is best suited to being a late substitute and Mario Balotelli is best suited to being a side show. For forwards that cost as much as City's those are some big assumptions so beware.
  • Dimitar Berbatov - I don't love this pick but because a) he was an obvious choice and didn't pay off last weekend; b) Damien Duff and Bryan Ruiz are likely to be back (per PhysioRoom) to improve the supply line to Berbs; and c) they're playing Reading. Sounds like the perfect cocktail to piss off all of the owners who dumped Berbs in disgust after last weekend (myself included).
  • Peter Crouch/Jon Walters - His price is (just barely) under 10 which makes him a nice contrast to the others on this list who are fairly expensive. If you need a cheaper alternative then Jon Walters isn't a pretty player by any definition of the term but he's effective from time-to-time.

Midfielders

  • Santi Cazorla - His price is STILL only 11.30 meaning he's still good value if you're one of the few managers who hasn't had him since the word "go" this season. I'm not THAT worried about the QPR match-up.
  • Michu - I remember there was a big contingent of people who jumped off the Michu-at-5.67 bandwagon around Week 4 or 5. He may pick up too many yellow cards but he's still tied for the goals lead in the Premier League so far. He's also the 6th most productive midfielder in the game. As a side note, you could have had a midfield consisting of four of the top 7 midfield performers in the Yahoo format for a TOTAL of just over 22 if you'd purchased Michu, Cazorla, Kevin Nolan, and Adam Lallana at the start of the season. Amazing.
  • Gareth Bale - It hasn't FELT like he's been great so far this season but even after missing last weekend he's the second most productive midfielder in the Yahoo format and he's got a great match-up and should be back from paternity duty. One figures that he has people to ensure that his new crying baby won't interfere with his, erm, beauty rest.
  • Kevin Nolan - Did we mention that Nolan has been killing it so far this season. He has been better than the one up, two down guy from years past. He tends toward feast or famine more than someone like Cazorla but with Wigan the opponent you have to feel reasonably good about it being a "feast" week.
  • Raheem Sterling - Not a recommendation so much as a comment - I'd keep him if you have him cheap even though it is Liverpool Derby week. If you don't have him in the 2s or 3s, then I'd wait to jump on the "enabler deluxe" bandwagon.
  • Jack Wilshere - Could his comeback be the thing to inspire Arsenal to recapture the form we saw earlier in the season? If you need an enabler and aren't excited about Sterling at retail then Wilshere might do the trick.
  • Oscar - See the Juan Mata comment above if you need an enabler.

Defenders

  • Sascha Riether - Chris Baird got all of the points last weekend but unless you think he's going to score again, he's probably not a great pick to repeat that feat and now you have to invest more to get him for a road match-up. Riether is the better and cheaper bet in Fulham's defense for the trip out to Reading.
  • Geoff Cameron - Did I mention the coming atrocity that is likely to be the Stoke vs. Sunderland match? Cameron could intercept 100 bad passes in this one and have a strong fantasy day with phantom defensive points as a result. That has been his brief history in the league.
  • Carl Jenkinson - On the off chance that Arsenal get's their defensive act together again he's cheap at has been at least adequate on the weekends that Arsenal haven't gotten a CS (not good, just adequate).
  • Sebastian Bassong - SeaBass has been shockingly productive when he has started and Norwich have been a much better team when that has happened as well (they've not lost when he's played the full 90 minutes and have two CSs in four matches). Throw in that he's still fairly cheap even on the back of a CS against Arsenal and you've got at least an interesting alternative in a week of few interesting options.
  • Ryan Nelsen - If you believe that Arsenal will continue to slump/frustrate then Nelsen could be interesting as there will likely be lots of intercepted pass and blocked shot potential for a very reasonable price. I'm not saying this WILL happen, just that it could be more interesting than paying close to or over double digits for a defender that is equally unlikely to get a CS or many phantom points.
  • Winston Reid - He's been solid value so far this season and while I don't love going for a road clean sheet there are worse options at worse prices.
  • Eric Lichaj - With PhysioRoom listing Nathan Baker with "no return date" the young American defender could be a great enabler at home against Norwich. His price, 3.33, is the primary reason for my interest/recommendation but when he's had a chance to play he's been solid so there's reason to be at least a little bit hopeful.

Goalkeepers

  • Brad Guzan - Two Americans lining up at the back? What must the traditionalists in Birmingham be thinking about the state their clubs finds themselves in. Even more surprising is the fact that both could be strong fantasy values against Norwich. Oh yeah, Guzano costs only 3.82 so you can buy some of those expensive forwards I recommended.
  • Asmir Begovic - He may still be dazed and confused from the 4 that went past him last weekend but he's a very good keeper and it seems unlikely that Stoke will do the same. The only concern is that Sunderland might only get off one Steven Fletcher shot on target all day and we know that could be unpleasant if it ends up the way most of Fletch's other SOTs have so far this season.
  • Hugo Lloris - Do you feel good about Spurs' defense? To make matters worse, it isn't clear how AVB is going to handle the Friedel/Lloris question. Lloris started today in Europa Cup action and got only a draw - not exactly laying claim to the spot after Friedel struggled against Manchester United Chelsea last weekend.
  • Mark Schwarzer - More a "keep" suggestion to those who had him last weekend than a "buy" recommendation to people looking for keepers at retail this weekend.
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