Neal is in the same boat as Joan Jett who famously sang "I hate myself for loving you" (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Two note before I get to my usual lead-in:
- Please remember that the DEADLINE IS ON FRIDAY due to the Good Friday match between Swansea and Newcastle. Don't get caught thinking you'll be making Friday afternoon/Saturday morning transfers.
- Nik won't be available to write his Player Picks column this week due to the flu - send him your best wishes in the comments section though.
OK, back to your regularly scheduled column...
Sometimes as a fantasy manager you have a crisis of conscience. The fan in you that led you to get involved in fantasy games in the first place has a certain set of desires - support your favorite team(s), hate their fiercest rivals, like certain players (from your team and others), dislike other individual players (from your rivals and elsewhere). The fantasy manager in you wants to win the fantasy game. It is the eternal internal struggle to balance the two as you are watching games and selecting players.
I bring this up because my fortunes have continued to rise in recent weeks after I turned to the dark side and decided to get on board for the Manchester United cake walk that we are currently in the middle of. Sure, there were some other strong enablers from other teams - my new best friend Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jean Beausejour, and briefly Pavel Pogrebnyak - but my rise up the standings and into the 200s overall has been largely on the shoulders of Manchester United players. As an Arsenal supporter this aggravates me to no end. My only solace is that even after a 7-match unbeaten streak, Arsenal have never really been in a position to challenge United this season so in my mind, they might as well be playing in separate leagues. Still, from the time I started following the Premier League it was clear that I would never like United. Respect them, certainly but never like them.
That is what has made the fantasy utility of David De Gea, Johnny Evans, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, and Wayne Rooney so galling over the course of the last month or so. In one moment I'm toasting my fantasy success and in the next moment I'm loathing myself for cheering openly for United to do well to boost the fortunes of my fantasy team.
If only life weren't so complicated.
In addition to being "all in" on United players, I'm also bullish on sticking with some core players who have been performing and who many have at discounts - Sigurdsson, Beausejour, Miyaichi, Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse. Read more after the jump:
- Daniel Sturridge - I know Torres got all the publicity last weekend but remember, that was because he broke a goalless streak of 1000+ minutes. Sturridge also scored and is the better player at this point. Oh, and they play Wigan. The only advantage of Torres is that he's significantly cheaper - again, because he went goalless for 1000+ minutes.
- Manchester United Forwards - Despite my venting in the introduction, I'm still picking as many of the Red Devils as possible and just like last week the order goes Rooney > Chicharito > Welbeck on the theory that Welbeck likely comes off the bench.
- Peter Odemwingie - Yes, West Brom has been fading but a home match with Rovers seems like a cure to me.
- Ryo Miyaichi - He's been producing chances like crazy and the opposition (Fulham) is bad on the road while Bolton are on their best streak in years.
- Manchester United Midfielders - The hope here is that you have one or both of Valencia and Young at a discount. If not, I give the slight nod to Valencia because he's been just incredible since he came back from injury.
- Aaron Lennon - His price dropped dramatically and Spurs are MUCH better when he's on the field (see the two goals after his introduction that was the difference between them and Swansea last weekend). Lennon doesn't always get the fantasy points to mirror his impact but at 7.89, he's definitely worth the risk.
- Rio Ferdinand - If you don't have any of the United defense at a discount and you're looking to buy in, he's the most economical purchase.
- Ashley Cole - See Ferdinand, Rio above - I don't love it but home to Wigan has to be enticing for both attacking and defending points for ACole.
- Garry Monk - I don't know whether Swansea's home momentum or Newcastle's overall momentum will prevail but if you need a cheap defender with a shot at a clean sheet then Monk is one.
- James Perch - If you believe that Newcastle will win out in the battle of the league's two most pleasant surprises on Friday then Perch is nice, mid-priced option who you hope learned a lesson to the positive in the wake of his baiting of Reina (which was effective but got him a yellow that could have been worse).
- Petr Cech - It frightens me betting on Chelsea too much (or recommending that others do) but home to Wigan and with some positive signs between the league and the Champions League and it doesn't frighten me as much as it did a month ago.
- Adam Bogdon - I don't love this one either because Fulham is definitely the more talented team but if you're looking for a relatively inexpensive option (7.04) with a decent match-up and some form to work from then Bogdan is solid value.
- Paul Robinson - I know I recommended Odemwingie above and I stand by that but given recent form from WBA, it wouldn't be a HUGE shock if Rovers won this match. I only recommend this course of action if you REALLY need a cheap keeper but if you do, he's the best bet (at least until Reina returns in a few weeks at a crazy-low price).