It's a bit later than usual, but welcome to my Week 16 Player Picks post. Week 15 was kind to me as a total of 110 points moved me a whisker away from the Top 1000, my highest position of the season. Much like Manchester United I always tend to be better in the second half of the campaign, so I'm still hopeful of keeping up my record of Top 500 finishes each year since I began playing this game almost a decade ago.
Now I stated last week that Week 16 was set to be our first "double", but as you can see from the image above I was wrong. Yahoo are splitting the potential double week in to two quick singles (which I prefer), so this post is only worried about the first round of fixtures occurring between Saturday 17th and Monday 19th December. There will be another post next Monday to cover the games being played between 20th and 22nd (Week 17).
Another important thing to note is that Week 16 is the 4th Round of The Blog Cup, where we'll cut 756 teams down to 500. If you're not sure if you're still in the competition, please check out the 3rd Round results here.
On to the fixtures ...
Chelsea will be flying after two massive wins on the spin against Valencia and Man City so I expect Wigan to get a bit of a thumping this weekend as The Blues renew their title challenge. Spurs were awful for 30 minutes against Stoke but then battered their opposition and were extremely unlucky not to walk away with at least a point - I expect them to have too much for a Sunderland side who were outplayed by Blackburn for large periods in Week 15 and only turned it around in the last 10 minutes.
For the first time in a long time, Manchester United looked close to their best against Wolves, and if Rooney and Nani remain on form it should be a win. Note that this is also the start of a decent run of fixtures for United - QPR, Fulham, Wigan, Blackburn - so any discounts you have could be useful. Fulham will be hugely disappointed after being knocked out of the Europa League last night but they get the chance to bounce back against rock bottom Bolton, as game they should win. Another team looking to bounce back are Man City, who are irresistible at home and should have enough quality to sneak past Arsenal. Finally Newcastle host a Swansea side who don't travel well - 0 wins, 2 draws and 5 defeats so far - so I'm expecting Ba and co to grab 3 points for the home side.
I very nearly had Liverpool and Everton in the "should win" category but I can't shake the feeling that Villa might raise their game for this one, especially now Alex McCleish has realised that playing N'Zogbia and Albrighton is a good idea. It's a struggle for goals Goodison Park at the moment so I think Norwich can grab a point, Wolves and Stoke is likely to be closely fought battle and Blackburn Rover vs WBA is best avoided.
Clearly I'm liking Chelsea & Spurs followed by Man Utd, Man City, Fulham & Newcastle and as I'm sure you've guessed, that means these team's players dominate my Week 16 player recommendations:
Stockdale / Etheridge
As I've said for weeks, it's not worth bringing in David De Gea at almost 12 because of this ongoing risk of rotation with Anders Lindegaard, but @5.5 (as I hope most of you hold him at) he's a season keeper in my opinion. You'll take the occasional zero but he is currently topping the total points for GKs despite playing 2-3 games less than all other regular numbers 1's. Lindegaard will probably take over all Europa League games now anyway, which should mean more league starts for DDG.
There are a couple of decent alternatives this week; the first is Newcastle's Tim Krul who has dropped below 5.00 after conceding 4 goal at Norwich and has a home game against Swansea. There is also the option of Fulham's keeper against Blackburn, but we await news on whether it will be David Stockdale or Neil Etheridge replacing the injured Mark Schwarzer.
What a difference Oriol Romeu has made to Chelsea since replacing John Obi Mikel. His workrate, awareness and positioning combined with his ability to start attacks from the base of midfield with some lovely passing reminds me very much of the job Scott Parker has been doing for Spurs and the fact he's listed as a defender in a game Chelsea could keep a clean sheet it makes him the top defensive pick. I also like Fulham's John Arne Riise at home to Bolton and Manchester United's Chris Smalling , who should continue at right-back for the foreseeable future now Nemanja Vidic is out for the season.
With Younes Kaboul suspended, William Gallas is certain to start and is priced below 6 for his home games against Sunderland, Thomas Vermaelen remains in the list despite his price and tough fixtures as he continues to average double figures and Stephen Kelly is a great alternative if you can't afford Riise but want to cover the possible Fulham clean sheet. He seems to have secured the right-back since Zdenek Grygera's knee injury.
Further down the price list is Newcastle's James Perch, a bargain now he's guaranteed a start due to the injuries to Fabricio Colocinni and Steven Taylor. Wes Brown should be held on to if you have him @ 3ish as Martin O'Neil is certain to improve Sunderland's defensive frailties over the coming weeks, while Dedryck Boyata remains an excellent filler option under 3.00 for Bolton.
Van Der Vaart
Clint Dempsey had a nightmare at Swansea last weekend, deflecting the ball past his keeper to put his side behind and then missing a penalty, but the fact is he's always involved and will never shy away from shooting, proved by the fact he scored in the Europa League last night. It doesn't get much easier than Bolton as home, so he's my top pick of the week. He's closely followed by Gareth Bale at home Sunderland just ahead of Rafael van der Vaart and Nani away at QPR. Nani is expensive now but I'm sure many of you hold him around 17-18, and given the upcoming fixtures he could be worth hanging on to.
David Silva was quiet against Chelsea but I'm still hanging on to him at 8ish and he tends to score better points in home games, Ramires is the best value Chelsea midfielder at Wigan (priced below 10 after a yellow card against Man City) and Yohan Cabaye is back in the list after a slight dip in form during November - he was very good and scored great points at Norwich last weekend. Jamie O'Hara is also back in the list having been extremely consistent when Wolves are at home.
I tipped Antonio Valencia to start ahead of Ashley Young last weekend and he did so to devastating effect, grabbing 2 assists and a superb 16 points for very little outlay. There is a small chance Young gets his place back but that would seem very harsh - we'll wait for team news on Saturday to confirm. Ryan Taylor is another option for Newcastle, as is our old favourite Dinyar Bilyaletdinov, although we need to keep an eye on the possible return of Royston Drenthe.
Emmanuel Adebayor scored 16 points last week but it should've been closer to 30 points after he had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside - no reason to think it won't be another bumper week at home to Sunderland. I made the mistake of dismissing Wayne Rooney due to his price and the fact Danny Welbeck was much cheaper, but I barndoored him @ 17 as I think he could now go on one of his goalscoring runs. He’s a confidence player and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his slump started after his red card for England ruled him out of the entire Group Stage of Euro 2012 and put his place in the squad at risk. The news last week would’ve given him a huge lift and he was at his best for the first time in 6 weeks against Wolves - I'm expecting another strong showing against QPR.
Demba Ba is proving one of the shrewdest deals of the season as he banged in another 2 goals despite defeat at Norwich and you wouldn't bet against him scoring again against Swansea. Daniel Sturridge continues to look dangerous every time I see him play, so he's my pick of the Chelsea forwards at Wigan and Sergio Aguero my pick of the Manchester City strikers at home to Arsenal. If you can't quite afford Sturridge then the always improving Juan Mata is a cheaper option, Robin van Persie remains on the list despite the tough fixture but certainly shouldn't be brought in at full price and Bobby Zamora at home to Bolton could pay off if you're looking to do something a bit different.
That's it for the players! We have of course had two nights of Europa League action which may well have led to some injuries that are yet to be reported, 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, Boyata, Brown, Romeu, Vermaelen, Ramires, Silva, Nani, Adebayor, Aguero, Rooney
... and yes, that means 4-3-3 with Romeu being listed as a defender. I could bring in a Bily or someone like that instead but as mentioned earlier I think a clean sheet is a possibility so that may not make sense. Nani to Dempsey and Aguero to Mata or Sturridge is still in the back of my mind, which could lead to something like this:
De Gea, Boyata, Brown, Romeu, Vermaelen, R.Taylor, Silva, Dempsey, Adebayor, Sturridge, Rooney
Not sure if that's better or worse?
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Please let me know how your team is shaping up for Week 16. Are you in the blog cup?
p.s. A reminder that if you're a follower of Never Manage Alone, please feel free to add (@NMA_Blog) to your Yahoo team name so that we'll be able to identify fellow blog readers who make it on to the leaderboard. 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!