Week 12 saw a huge upturn in fortunes for my Yahoo fantasy football team, as I scored 117 points to move up 3000 places in the overall ranking, to a season high 2101st position. I was extra pleased to achieve this without the simply sensational Robin Van Persie in my team, especially after he racked up 2 goals and 28.5 points in the opening game of the weekend.
It's something I'd been worrying about for a few weeks, but as the Norwich v Arsenal game unfolded and the smug texts from mates in my private league (all Van Persie owners) began to pour in, I really started to fear that my failure to keep him @20.7 and additional failure to barndoor him at @21.9 after his Stamford Bridge hat-trick had already ended my challenge for an 8th consecutive Private League title / Overall Top 500 finish. However - while based on just one week's worth of evidence (having top scored in my private league) - I now have renewed belief that it will be possible to compete without him by striking a balance across my XI.
Don't get me wrong; I wish I had the league's most in-form striker at a sub 22 price and if he ever drops down to that price again I'll be snapping him up, but I can't turn back time and having refused to pay almost 27 for him last week (which would've required at least one filler and isn't going to help me gain ground on those above me who have him at 21), I'm certainly not going to rinse 30% of my total budget on him now. Whether Week 12 was a one off success for this tactic remains to be seen (it certainly requires a bit of luck), but you'll be able to watch my "no-RvP" experiment unfold over the coming weeks and months!
Predicted Comfortable Wins
ARSENAL v Fulham
CHELSEA v Wolves
TOTTENHAM @ West Brom
SUNDERLAND v Wigan
Predicted Narrow Wins
MANCHESTER UNITED v Newcastle
SWANSEA CITY v Aston Villa
STOKE CITY v Blackburn Rovers
MANCHESTER CITY @ Liverpool (very narrow!)
Norwich City v Queens Park Rangers
Bolton Wanderers v Everton
So I'm liking Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs & Sunderland, followed by Man Utd, Swansea, Stoke & Man City. As I'm sure you've guessed, that means these team's players dominate my Week 13 player recommendations:
David De Gea made a bit of a boo-boo on Tuesday night which means there's always a risk he gets a "rest" for Anders Lindegaard, but I'm reasonably confident he'll keep his place for a tricky game against Newcastle. As I said last week, it's probably not worth bringing him in at almost 12 because of this ongoing risk, but @5.5 he's a season keeper in my opinion as he's likely to end up the season's top scoring stopper.
If you don't want DDG then I reckon your best bet is Michel Vorm, who has the most saves in the Premier League this season, at home to a really disappointing Aston Villa. Alternatively, the slightly cheaper Wojciech Szczesny is a decent option at home to Fulham who don't score too many on the road, and with Mr Vermaelen marshalling the troops, Arsenal look a far more solid outfit in general.
Speaking of Thomas Vermaelen, he actually scored very poorly last weekend, but if you watched the game you'll know he was close to scoring in the first half. He was constantly hanging around the opposition's penalty area and I love the fact he stays right up there after set pieces until he's certain the attacking opportunity has passed. I've got a hunch he'll prop with a goal against Fulham and there's a decent chance of a clean sheet too. His team mate Andre Santos is set for a run in the team now with Kieran Gibbs injured and will get forward plenty, while Angel Rangel will do the same for Swansea against Villa.
Micah Richards has a tough game but he's currently in the form of his life and could've had 20 points had Manchester City held on to their clean sheet against Newcastle - I still fancy him to do well at Anfield. Wes Brown has been scoring decent points vs cost all season and really came up trumps with double figures against Fulham. He's still price below 6 and worth a look with a nice home game against Wigan, while David Wheater is the best value Bolton defender this week (assuming Boyata hasn't recovered) in what could well be a goal-less draw against Everton.
If you're looking to do something a bit different then you could do worse than going with Younes Kaboul, who has all the attributes you dream of in a centre back and was awesome against Villa on Monday night. Stoke need a result and have a great chance of one against Blackburn, so for the first time this season, Danny Higginbotham appears in my player lists. He's just come back from a cruciate ligament injury and has always scored decent points in Yahoo's fantasy game, with or without a clean sheet. Finally, Neil Taylor can cover the very possible Swansea clean sheet if you can't afford Rangel.
Van Der Vaart
Frank Lampard is expensive but this is the sorts of game where he'll find the space to make those late runs in to the box and I wouldn't put it past him to grab a brace. You have to feel pretty confident to spend 22, but if you're holding him at any sort of discount then hang on to him. Theo Walcott is showing signs of being an actual footballer and added to his lethal pace by putting in a number of great crosses last weekend, so expect him to cause Fulham problems, while it's a toss up between Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart at Fulham. Both men are in fine form but despite VDV being outscored by Bale in the past few weeks, those set pieces and penalties still give the Dutchman the slight edge at West Brom.
Sebastian Larsson is back from suspension so will pick up set pieces at home to Wigan and could be in for a big week, while Ashley Young is back to full fitness and his price has fallen to 16, so he's my pick of the Man United midfielders at home to Newcastle. Stephane Sessegnon scored well against Fulham and will continue to play the support striker role for Sunderland, and Matthew Etherington (who faces Blackburn) is another player on set pieces and another player I've looked at this week after seeing him play and look very bright against QPR last weekend
Chris Eagles has been a real up and down performer so far this season and he stuck to that pattern by following up his massive haul in Week 11 with a modest 5 points last week. However, I'm going to give him another chance against Everton at a price of 8 as he'll be on set pieces and is the sort of player who will tend to perform in front of his own crowd. Ramires' price has dropped after a yellow card in the defeat to Liverpool and he's now a bargain at just 7.09 with a game against Wolves, the increasingly impressive Nathan Dyer is my pick of the Swansea midfielders and Aaron Ramsey is a handy filler option at home to Fulham.
The strikers list has a very similar look to last week, and why not? I recommended 10 strikers in Week 12 and 6 of them scored (a total of 8 goals between them), so the majority deserve another look in Week 13!
Despite everything I stated in my introduction, Robin Van Persie is obviously the top pick this week at home to Fulham ... IF you have him at discount, but if you don't I would not spend 30+ on him. Emmanuel Adebayor finally broke his 2 month goal drought but should've scored at least 4 and he could well go on a bit of a run now with great the supply coming in from Bale, VDV, Aaron Lennon and Luka Modric, while Daniel Sturridge should start for Chelsea after scoring off the bench against Liverpool.
Gervinho is looking better and better each week I see him, but he really should've scored a couple of goals against Norwich after missing two 1-on-1s and trying an elaborate flick instead of a simply finish in the move that led to RvP's first goal. Despite this he scored a very decent 14.5 points, so I'm giving him a 3rd week in a row as the Walcott, Gervinho, RvP trio continues to push Arsenal up the table. Juan Mata was Chelsea's best player last week and it's surely only a matter of time before he has another strong fantasy showing - I think it could be against Wolves - and Sergio Aguero (who was bizarrely rested against Napoli) is still great value despite a a tough trip to Anfield.
Javier Hernandez won't pick you up many misc points but the boy knows where the goal is, so once again I prefer him to Wayne Rooney, who doesn't seem worth the money against Newcastle given form and withdrawn position. I really like penalty taker Scott Sinclair for Swansea at home to Villa, feel Nicklas Bendtner is due a goal against Wigan and reckon Jonathan Walter, who scored a lovely goal in Stoke's defeat last weekend, could strike again against Blackburn.
That's it for the players. We still have a night of Champions League action to come tonight, so please ensure you check back here on Friday for all the important team, injury and suspension news.
As for my own team, you may be shocked to know that I may consider keeping my team exactly the same as last week, which would mean ...
De Gea, Brown, Richards, Vermaelen, Eagles, Sessegnon, Silva, Van Der Vaart, Gervinho, Adebayor, Aguero
There probably will be one or two changes as I have 1.70 left in the bank and I want to bring in a Chelsea player ... Aguero to Sturridge or Mata perhaps? Van Der Vaart to Lampard? I'm still thinking about it.
I have to leave it there - The Blog Cup 3rd Round Results will be calculated later so expect to seem them posted on NMA tomorrow morning. Until then, please let me know how your team is shaping up for Week 13. Are you confident your Week 12 total will be enough so you through to Round 4?
p.s. Those of you who used to read my old AM Blog know we tagged our teams so that we'd be able to identify fellow blog readers who made it on to the leaderboard. (@NMA_Blog) to your Yahoo team name. I've kicked things off by changing my team name to AM FC (@NMA_Blog)span - hopefully we can see a few NMA teams in the Top 50 this season!