Time is against me again this week so I need to get into the Week 14 Fixtures pretty much straight away. I just wanted to mention (for those of you who don't follow me on Twitter) how impressed I was with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain last night - the first time I've seen him play (almost) a full match.
What a player he is already and what a player he could yet become. I can't believe he's only 18 years old - he's strong, energetic, quick, direct, has a great touch, a decent strike on him, he values possession & tracks back on the rare occasions he loses the ball. Arsenal fans must be delighted, he's light-years ahead of where Theo Walcott was at this age; it's just a shame he won't play enough football for Euro consideration by Capello as he's the most exciting English youngster I've seen since a certain Mr Rooney burst on the scene almost decade ago.
Anyway, fixtures ...
Three absolute stand-out fixtures for us to get our grubby little mitts on this week. I'm expecting Man City, Le Arse and Spurs to all win by at least 2 clear goals so you'll want a minimum of one player from each team and ideally two if possible.
Everton appear to be over their annual dodgy start having won a couple in a row and they should continue that run at home to a Stoke side who have definitely lost their aura, despite beating Blackburn in Week 13. Liverpool have beaten Chelsea twice and should've beaten Man City in the past 10 days, so while Fulham can be tough I expect an away win.
It's a massive game between Wolves and Sunderland, tied on 11 points just above the drop zone, with the losing manager very possibly losing his job. It'll be close but I get the feeling the Wolves players will want to fight for Mick McCarthy more than Sunderland's will for Steve Bruce and that could be key (UPDATE: as I was writing this Steve Bruce has just been sacked! I still think Wolves will win though). Man United aren't playing well, but neither are Villa, so another 0-1 could be on the cards.
Can't pick between these 3 so they'll be going down as draws on my coupon.
Clearly I'm liking Man City, Arsenal Spurs followed by Everton, Liverpool, Wolves & Man Utd and as I'm sure you've guessed, that means these team's players dominate my Week 14 player recommendations:
As I said last week, it's probably not worth bringing in David De Gea at almost 12 because of this ongoing risk of a rest and the fact he has an away game, but @5.5 (as I hope most of you hold him at) he's a season keeper in my opinion as he's likely to end up the season's top scoring stopper. The alternative this week is the always improving Wojciech Szczesny priced around 6ish and playing Wigan.
Thomas Vermaelen is leading the list again, averaging close to 10 points per game this season and achieved the astonishing total of 16.5 points without a clean sheet and having scored an own goal (which he later cancelled out). Don't be surprised to see him hit the back of the net again. In-form English duo Micah Richards and Kyle Walker are slightly cheaper than Verm and both have fantastic match-ups that should see plenty of attacking opportunities down the right flank, as should Andre Santos down the left flank for Arsenal at Wigan.
If those men are out of your price-range then Armand Traore is a decent and more affordable option for QPR at home to West Brom, while it's worth keeping an eye on team news as Oriol Romeu could keep his place in Chelsea's midfield and is of course listed as a defender. Wes Brown dropped an absolute clanger but he'll keep his Sunderland place and continues to score very well given his price.
Johnny Heitinga is the most affordable Everton defender if you fancy them to keep a clean sheet against Stoke and Grant Hanley is a decent budget option under 5 for Blackburn at home to Swansea. Dedryck Boyata could also provide an extra filler option if passed fit for Bolton. He has a tough game but he's always a threat at set pieces and is currently priced at just 3.90, so a header on target or a couple of blocked shot will more-or-less return value.
Van Der Vaart
If Rafael van der Vaart is fit then he's the top midfield pick of the week for Spurs' home game against Bolton, but there's no guarantee he'll be rushed back for a game we should be able to win without him, especially with Jermain Defoe in such fine form. Next on the list is Theo Walcott who is having his best season for Arsenal and has a great fixture, followed by the the White Hart Lane alternatives - the inform Gareth Bale, or if you can't afford him, little Luka Modric, who has recovered from his illness and will be ready to start.
Aside from Tottenham middies we have the weekly presence of David Silva, who was rested in the Carling Cup so he should start against Norwich. Manchester City do play their final Champions League group game next week but it's not until Wednesday, a 4 days gap, so I expect a full strength team for both. Full strength currently includes James Milner, another rested last night, who could be a fantastic option. I also really like Jamie O'Hara for Wolves at home to Sunderland, priced around 11 and ready to shoot from anywhere in his more advanced role.
Some less obvious picks include David Hoilett for Blackburn at home to Swansea and Dinyar Bilyaletdinov who was excellent at Bolton and should keep his Everton place even if Roysten Drenthe returns. Shaun Wright-Phillips is cheap and has a decent home fixture against West Brom and Hatem Ben Arfa could prove to be the perfect filler priced below 2.00 and playing just behind Demba Ba.
Robin van Persie will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing Wigan, as should RvP owners after he picked up 17 points without scoring against Fulham - he's the top pick once again. Not far behind him is the on-fire (not literally) Emmanuel Adebayor at home to Bolton and the classy Sergio Aguero at home to Norwich. As I've already stated I think City go full strength to ensure they keep their lead at the top, which means Kun plays, but the ongoing confusion around whether Mario Balotelli or Edin Dzeko start means they're excluded this week.
I may hate the bloke for his diving, whining histrionics but Luis Suarez is playing superbly well at the moment and like Adebayor up to 2 weeks ago, it's only a matter of time before he scores a brace and racks up 30 points. He's capable of doing this at Fulham, so shouldn't be dismissed despite his high price. Gervinho should be restored to the starting line-up after being benched last weekend and last night and he could do well, while Javier Hernandez is in confident goalscoring form and his movement will give Richard Dunne and James Collins nightmares.
If you're trying to do something different then you would've done well to snatch up Ruben Rochina for 2ish before his price rocketed last weekend. He's still an okay price seeing as he spends most his time hitting shots from distance and more often than not hits the target. Heidar Helguson can't stop scoring for QPR at the moment so he's a slightly risky but possibly effective option and finally Everton's young striker Apostolos Vellios is being tipped to start after scoring three times as a sub this season.
That's it for the players. We still have a night of Europa League action as wveell as Man Utd's Carling Cup Quarter Final against Crystal Palace 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, it's currently this:
De Gea, Brown, Traore, Vermaelen, O'Hara, Modric, Silva, Walcott, Adebayor, Gervinho, Aguero
It won't stay that way though - I'm considering Richards, Santos, VDV, Milner, Ben Arfa and Suarez. Decisions will be made closer to the deadline.
Social Networking time ...
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That's it - please let me know how your team is shaping up for Week 14!
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. We're continuing to look for new ways of raising the profile of our new blog within the Yahoo game, so I'd like to try a similar thing. If you're a follower of Never Manage Alone, please feel free to add (@NMA_Blog) to your Yahoo team name. I've kicked things off by changing my team name to AM FC (@NMA_Blog) - hopefully we can see a few NMA teams in the Top 50 this season!