The Week Ahead: Thanksgiving Fantasy EPL Player Picks

Kone2012 - Paul Thomas

Looking ahead to this weekend's match-ups and their implications for your fantasy EPL team.

I'm going to avoid going overboard with the traditional Thanksgiving-themed article in which I either give thanks for some things in my life that you probably don't care about or provide a list of things that various Premier League teams and players should be thankful for. Now, without a doubt, I AM thankful that we have a loyal and growing audience of engaged readers who not only continue to come back to Never Manage Alone and read but engage in the comments section frequently and in a respectful way that makes it fun for everyone to spend some of their valuable time on NMA.

Since I haven't had a chance to talk about it yet, I'm also thankful for Emmanuel Adebayor who took what was an incredibly anxious weekend for me and Gooners everywhere and made the North London Derby a bit of a walk in the park. I'm still plenty anxious about where Arsenal really are as a team but the win over Spurs combined with clinching a spot in the Final 16 of the Champions League with a match still to be played eases the anxiety a bit in the short term.

I'll also go out on a limb and assume that Chelsea supporters are thankful for catching lightning in a bottle to capture the Champions League title last spring. There was obviously some magic in the combination of fading veterans like Lampard, Terry, Cole, and Essien combined with up-and-comers like Mata, Sturridge, Luiz, etc. Roberto Di Mateo was the right man at the right time. Apparently it was also a very fragile mix because it has all devolved to AVB-like misery pretty quickly, hasn't it? Still, they don't go back and take away trophies won so hopefully, Blues supporters will look back fondly on Di Mateo's ability to orchestrate what needed orchestration at the time rather than the way things unraveled this season with many of Chelsea's veterans missing significant time and Fernando Torres reverting to being a goalless wonder.

Finally, Robin van Persie must be thankful for the financial magnitude of his move to Manchester United. Those of you who follow statistics and football finances will recognize the following stats:

  • Robin van Persie moved to Manchester United for a large transfer fee (especially for someone with only a year left on his contract) and a very rich salary. It was lauded as the move to "put United over the top"
  • Arsenal signed some lesser forwards - Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud - to replace van Persie. It was trumpeted as a disaster for the club and a major hit to their status as an "elite" club on the European scene.
  • 12 matches seems like a reasonable sample to determine how great/horrible these moves were for Manchester United and Arsenal as teams (van Persie has been unquestionably excellent but the question is whether that excellence was needed or whether it just displaced other very good contributions to the tune of the transfer fee and cost of RvP's wages)
  • Manchester United Through 12 Matches 2011/12: 29 Points, Second Place, 29 Goals For
  • Manchester United Through 12 Matches 2012/13: 29 Points, Second Place, 29 Goals For
  • Arsenal Through 12 Matches 2011/12: 22 Points, Tied for 6th Place, 25 Goals For
  • Arsenal Through
  • 12 Matches 2012/13: 19 Points, Tied for 6th Place, 23 Goals For

Certainly not the transformative experience that it was sold as in the papers over the summer. Would Arsenal be better with RvP PLUS Podolski and Giroud? Seems likely. Would Manchester United be treading water without RvP? Also unclear but the presence of the Dutchman certainly seems to have pushed others at United - Rooney, Nani, Welbeck, Ashley Young, and Antonio Valencia - to the background where they had more of a starring role (at least at times) in last season's start.

Just something to think about as you start getting ready for the January Transfer Window to open and hoping that your team will do something that will make a huge difference. The move that was lauded as the biggest deal to two teams has resulted in ZERO year over year change in their position in the table and an aggregate of 3 points difference across a total of 24 matches and two fewer goals scored.

OK, enough random thought, it's on to player picks:

Forwards

Robin van Persie - With RvP not even traveling to Turkey for the Champions League match you'd have to expect him to be ready to go against QPR at Old Trafford. If you can afford him, this seems like a solid weekend to buy. Hey, his price is down to 27.83! Almost affordable.

Arouna Kone - Quick, who has more fantasy points this season, Kone2012 or Wayne Rooney? Kone2012 is the answer and at almost half the price and home against Reading. Franco di Santo is a similarly interesting option for the budget conscious.

Peter Crouch - He hasn't had a great season but Fulham on the road is everyone's opportunity to "get healthy" so for 8.81 he's a great potential value.

Luis Suarez - Is there any way you can keep this guy off the list at this point? It has been well-documented that his conversion rate on SOTs has almost doubled from his career rate to this season. Liverpool supporters and fantasy owners will hope this is a maturation in Suarez's game. If there is a reversion to the mean coming, it is going to be a long, cold winter in Liverpool.

Lukas Podolski - I'm applying the same logic here as I did last weekend. Giroud is playing better but I'm not yet convinced he's worth the elevated price. Podolski is a better value and his Champions League goal at Montpelier means his form is as solid as Giroud's for about 2/3rds the price. If you have Giroud at a discount then by all means keep him but if you're buying retail then Podolski is the choice.

Midfielders

Der Hammer - We have long been fans of Thomas Hitzlsperger's game and his return to the Prem was more successful in fantasy than it was in reality but since that's REALLY all we care about here at the blog, we're excited about his fantasy potential at a low price.

Raheem Sterling - Hard to know what to expect at Brendan Rodgers' old team but in a week where I'm spending heavily on forwards I'm looking for inexpensive midfielders with potential and the Red side will be complimenting Hitzlsperger from the Blue side.

Theo Walcott - He hasn't got a ton of playing time but he's made the most of what he's gotten and with Arsenal needing to capitalize on their victory over Spurs with another over Villa, Walcott should be back with a chance to make another impression.

Moussa Dembele - Check the Friday Team News before pulling the trigger but Dembele is predicted to be back by PhysioRoom which would make him a solid selection for less than 10 against West Ham.

Jack Wilshere - If his Champions League goal signals a bit of a streak of tangible fantasy contributions then he's a great bargain with a solid match-up.

Wes Hoolahan - Everton's defense hasn't been strong and Norwich has been in ascendancy. Pilkington is pretty expensive so Hoolahan is a strong option for a decent price.

Defenders

Chris Smalling - Strong match-up, low price, 'nuff said.

Maicon - Not as strong a match-up but Chelsea are struggling and Maicon seems to be coming on strong on the attacking end as he returns from injury. If he gets defending points as well, that's a bonus.

Ryan Shotton - With Andy Wilkinson looking like he'll be out with a back injury Jeremy's old friend Shotton is a great bet at home against Fulham for under 4.

Gabriel Tamas - The price is right and the match-up at Sunderland (don't be fooled by their goal outburst at Craven Cottage - I won't believe it until they do it playing 11 on 11) is ripe for a cheap clean sheet.

Nicky Shorey - I admit it, I've missed this one in a pretty big way but he has been a Successful Cross machine with 30 in 8 matches. Just as importantly, Reading as a team lead the league in attempted crosses meaning that it is part of how they are intending to play.

Goalkeepers

Wojciech Szczesny - Arsenal's defense doesn't make you feel good but the combination of Szcz's price and Villa's anemic attack mean there's some potential value here.

Ali Al-Habsi - Solid match-up and a reasonable price for a keeper who should be playing for a higher profile team soon.

Boaz Myhill - This is another "Check the Team News" recommendation. If Foster is back, he's probably too expensive for a match-up on the road. If Myhill is going to persist as the starter for another week then he's a solid value play.

Manchester United Keeper - If you want to take a shot at who will start, getting it right will likely make you very happy (especially if the answer is the inexpensive Lindegaard).

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