Fantasy EPL Player Picks: The Week Ahead for Match Week 22

Who will get the starts? - Clive Mason

A comprehensive look at the upcoming week in the Premier League and who you should be considering for your Fantasy Premier League starting line-up with a focus on Chelsea and Southampton due to the extra match each will be playing.

Once again we arrive at one of those frustrating and disruptive weeks where two clubs have double matches. These instances are frustrating because it forces us as managers to weigh discounts that we may have on "one-gamers" against the potential value of using those funds and line-up slot on two-gamers who may or may not be attractive beyond the current week. There are some obvious answers along the lines of "there's no one from either Chelsea or Southampton who is worth dropping Santi Cazorla or Michu at 5.66". Those players at those discounts are just too valuable over the course of the season to consider the potential one week bump. The questions start becoming more prickly when you start asking things like Ross Turnbull (who you know has a limited shelf-life as a starter) for two matches at 5.14 vs. someone like Jussi Jaaskelainen or Hugo Lloris who many managers have at deep discounts.

The first question you have to answer about any two-gamer is whether you think they'll actually start both matches. If you think they're going to start both and have the potential to be productive in both then you have to think about what happens with that line-up spot after the double week is over. What do I mean?

If you are trading out Hugo Lloris at a price under 5 for Turnbull you're giving up an expected value of 6.55 points/match from the goalkeeper spot for a price of under 5 for the rest of the season. If you have to pay retail for that point production from among current goalkeepers then your replacement cost is a MINIMUM of 7.67 (Jussi's current price) unless you're planning to get that production from rotating inexpensive goalkeepers like Mark Bunn on a weekly basis and hoping you pick right/get lucky. You can also make the assumption that there will be a new goalkeeper available at a low entry level price after transferring in to the Premier League during the current transfer window (although there haven't been many attractive goalkeeper-related rumors thus far). The ease of replacing the future point production vs. the one-week bump you may receive from making a move is the crux of the decision on whether to trade out from a discount.

Here are a few examples of the quandaries I faced:

Bryan Ruiz @9ish (current retail of over 13) vs. using that forward slot on Juan Mata/Eden Hazard/Demba Ba/Rickie Lambert/Guly. Here was my logic for selling Ruiz who, you all know, I have a major fantasy soccer crush on.

The Case for Keeping Ruiz: Home to Wigan; Takes some kicks; Price was artificially low after an injury layoff; has been very productive when healthy this season (he has picked up a bunch of the points that Clint Dempsey got last season).

The Case for Making the Move: Chelsea's match-ups are attractive and the potential of 150+ minutes of Hazard/Mata outweighs even a solid showing from Ruiz. There will be options like Daniel Sturridge available on the BD that are likely solid replacements for what I'd be giving up in Ruiz in terms of production and price at the forward slot. The chances are that there will be one or more additional new arrivals to the Premier League in January who will also be an attractive low budget/high productivity option for this roster spot if I wait a week or two.

As you might imagine, I made the change.

Rather than my usual position-by-position recommendations, I'm going to spend the balance of this column discussing players from Chelsea and Southampton that I think are well worth moving off of discounts for and why. If you're interested in discussion of the one-gamer options, Nik has his typically excellent analysis here.

Forwards

  • Juan Mata - He seems very likely to play both matches even after playing the full 90 in the mid-week League Cup match vs. Swansea. He's been up and down since a scintillating early-season form but the potential is too much to pass up. Verdict: Get him.
  • Eden Hazard - He has also hit a barren patch but that means he's affordable and could easily break out - hard to believe he won't start both matches with Chelsea really needing the points. Verdict: Get him unless you want to gamble on Ba playing two (see below).
  • Demba Ba - Given his price and the uncertainty of his starting status vs. that of Fernando Torres (the widely held guess is that they each get one start) he's a hard one to evaluate. That said, he showed in his FA Cup debut that he's capable of making even one match worth the price (especially if he gets the Southampton match). Verdict: Are you feeling lucky, punk?
  • Rickie Lambert - Of Lambert's 159.5 total fantasy points for the season, 64.5 of them came over four matches in the first five weeks of the season. Since then, Lambert has totaled a mere 95 fantasy points in 16 matches for an average of just under 6 per match. At a price of 12 and with one of the two matches being against a strong opponent in Chelsea your expected value for Lambert isn't exceptional. Verdict: I wouldn't go out of my way if you like what you have elsewhere at forward.
  • Guly - A Jeremy Spitzberg favorite for this weekend, he has been playing and taking kicks for a cheap price over the last two match weeks. If he returns the same output over these two matches as he did over the last two (13 points) for 5.81 then he'll be excellent value. Verdict: A nice, low cost risk to take.
  • Fernando Torres - He's back on the dead-to-us list (copyright Stephen Colbert)

Midfielders

  • Gaston Ramirez - Maybe it is the fact that he's foreign and playing for a smaller team and scored a goal in his last match but the interest in him outweighs the evidence in his favor which says he's had only 3 matches all season (which has included 17 starts) where he's scored more than 6.5 points. Verdict: You have to believe in his last match or the power of portfolio theory to buy here.
  • Jason Puncheon - Similar to Ramirez in that the production and price don't really scream "Must Own" even with two matches available. He's been solid over his past two matches which at least gives some hope. Verdict: If you don't love any one-gamers for the price.
  • Frank Lampard - Too expensive for my tastes given the risk that he'll be rotated and only get one match. Verdict: If you believe in history over current evidence and/or that he'll get both matches.
  • Ramires - With Victor Moses and Mikel off to the ACN he's a solid bet to play both matches but you'd really need a goal from him in one of the two to justify his selection at his current price. Verdict: Buy a one-gamer unless you think he'll score.
  • Oscar - He and Lampard are likely to split starting the two matches which forces you to consider them both as more akin to one-gamers than two-gamers. Verdict: Meh (too much risk of starting only one match).

Defenders

  • Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, David Luiz - Surprisingly, he's Chelsea's highest scoring defender but all of the above defenders seem very likely to start both matches with a high probability of at least one clean sheet given the opposition. I'd go for your favorite of the group but I've listed them in my order of preference (Luiz is last because I'm a little bitter after he did so little when I had him recently). Verdict: Get one for sure and two if you can afford it.
  • Cesar Azpilicueta - I've listed him separately because there is some chance that John Terry will return for one of the two matches at which point we'll find out where Rafa stands on his right back situation. Azpilicueta has been the starter with Terry out because the alternative, Ivanovic, has been needed in the middle. Verdict: Be careful here unless you have him on a discount (as I do).
  • Luke Shaw, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte (Fonte is injured) - None are even remotely sexy choices but all seem very likely to return more points over two matches than they will cost (which isn't too much). The good news here is that they have accumulated their points without much in the way of clean sheet points so you won't need to count on a clean sheet vs. Chelsea (which seems very unlikely) for the numbers to work. Verdict: A solid enabler strategy if you pick one.

Goalkeepers

  • Ross Turnbull - The no-brainer choice of the week given match-ups with a goal-shy team (Stoke) and a bad one (Southampton). See the logic in the intro on Turnbull vs. guys you may have at heavy discounts but as a one-week-only-at-retail proposition, there is no other choice. Verdict: Easy choice.
  • Artur Buroc - Well, he's cheap but he's not been very good, has he? Verdict: You'd need to be really desperate for the money elsewhere to pick him.
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