The good news for my fantasy team over the mid-week matches is that I beat both Jeremy and Nik by 10+ points each for the Match Week which is always nice. The bad news for all three of us is that my "winning" score was 63.5. The worse news for me is that this follows a season-long trend where I'm considering all of the right players (or at least most of them) when I write this here column but I'm not picking the right ones when it comes time to pair down from "good ideas" to "my team". All I can hope for is that I'm on the verge of "pulling an Everton" and rocketing up the charts over the second half of the season. If not, since I can't fire the manager, I'm going to blame Charlie and the additional responsibilities that being a new parent brings.
Turning to the coming week, I am struck by the notion that we typically consider a mid-week match to be the anomaly where regular first teamers might be rotated to get them some rest. While that is true, the more true statement is that each manager likely looks at the 7 to 8 day stretch and tries to decide how to manage his players so that only a few start 3 matches over that stretch. It is logical to give someone a rest for the middle match because it means 6 or 7 days between starts. It is worth noting though that managers can't rest the entire first team for a mid-week match so there are plenty of players who played last weekend and in mid-week and might be due for a rest this weekend - especially if their team has a less competitive match. Robin van Persie is one player that fits this category as he played both last weekend and in mid-week and his first place team plays 19th place Reading. I'm not saying he WON'T play, just that there is a higher than average chance that he will be rested. Something to think about as you consider your premium investments - especially those you are buying at retail price for this match week only. One exception seems likely to be Luis Suarez who is a desperate-for-points Liverpool's only real forward - hard to rotate him out until he drops or reinforcements arrive in January.
With that in the back of your mind, here are my player picks for this week with a focus on Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City's attack and Norwich's defense based on their match-ups:
Luis Suarez - He's having an amazing season, Southampton tend to give up goals, and Liverpool are desperate for points - seems like the sort of cocktail of circumstances that leads to a recommendation.
Shane Long - I consider WBA's undressing by Swansea to be a blip on the radar and the arrival of Stoke to town should get the Baggies back on track. Be ware of buying Lukaku on the back of his goal in mid-week unless you're prepared to sweat out another incredibly productive substitute appearance.
Olivier Giroud - It's about time for the Frenchman to reassert himself after an "up" spell and then a couple of quiet matches. Chico always seems to be likely to get an early card which could create some space for Giroud to operate.
Kenwyne Jones - With Peter Crouch likely out this weekend, Jones could be a nice enabler deluxe opposite Jon Walters or Cameron Jerome.
Gareth Bale - Despite the OG and YC against Liverpool, he still pulled off a 22 point day. Pretty remarkable stuff. If you have him, keep him. If you are buying at retail you still have to consider him strongly if you can find the money.
Anderson - If you're looking for money, here's one potential answer. He was solid value for a low price in mid-week and it seems likely that he will continue. Even if he only gets a substitute appearance he won't be setting you back too far.
Raheem Sterling - He's definitely a bit up and down but the match-up is solid and the price is still reasonable. Consider him part two of the Bale Affordability Plan (patent pending).
Jack Wilshere - Part three of the BAP (patent on abbreviation also pending) could easily be Wilshere who is still cheap enough that one SOT will get you value.
Moussa Dembele - Consider mid-week a clearing out of the rust (and a chance for his price to drop). I'm optimistic about this weekend for the Belgian.
Zoltan Gera - He's old and unlikely to play three matches in a week but he got his rest and should be ready to resume being the only bargain in the WBA midfield.
Maicon - Still relatively inexpensive and one of the few potential sources of value on the City roster for a team that should have a positive match-up this weekend.
Jose Enrique - He's expensive and he wasn't productive at all in midweek but he's playing so high up the pitch that he's hard to ignore against an opponent like Southampton.
Piscu - If he retains his spot, he's a great value play against struggling Newcastle even on the road. Who would have thunk that a Wigan player on the road would represent potential value?
Daniel Agger - If you think Liverpool will bounce back against Southampton but don't have the dough for Enrique, Agger is a reasonably priced alternative who could bomb in an SOT from distance or even a goal (although he's done far less of that recently, hasn't he? I wonder why).
Michael Dawson - He's cheap and has plenty of upside even if Spurs don't keep a clean sheet (see mid-week total of 5.5 despite no CS).
Brad Guzan - I'm locked in on Guzano at 2.44 but that's not the point of this column. The point is to evaluate him at his retail price which is currently 5.84 which isn't bad at all for a guy who is facing the 20th place team in the table.
Mark Bunn - If you're looking for a real bargain then 1.00 for Mark Bunn against goal-shy Sunderland is a great opportunity. Yes, he appeared not to have played in mid-week with a big old ZERO after 90 minutes in a 1-1 road draw. The difference is home vs. away and Southampton's 21 goals for the season vs. Sunderland's 12 in total. Did I mention he will only cost you 1.00 and he'll likely be the starter for the better part of 3 months?
Anders Lindegaard - If you're into spending more money, it appears that Lindegaard is getting the majority of the Premier League starts these days and he's still priced under 10. With Reading the opponent, you could do worse.
Boaz Myhill - With Ben Foster laid up for at least one more week (per PhysioRoom.com) Myhill will look to recover from the drubbing at the hands of Swansea against Stoke's somewhat less potent attack. Some managers will have dreams of the discount duo of Kenwyne Jones firing SOTs into the belly of Myhill for double points. At 6.74 for Myhill and 4.63 for Jones that's a lot of potential for under 11.5 at this point in the season.