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The (Mid-)Week Ahead - Consolidated Edition

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Trust me! I've turned the page and am now a reliable guy.  Do you believe it? (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Trust me! I've turned the page and am now a reliable guy. Do you believe it? (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
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No sooner do we wind down an action-packed weekend in the Premier League than we're getting ready for an equally action-packed mid-week schedule (which will be followed just as quickly by more matches immediately thereafter). The first thing to point out is that the deadline for player moves in the Yahoo game is 12:00 GMT on Tuesday (please adjust from GMT to your local time zone for the local time that matters to you - it is 7 AM here on the East Coast of the US). Here are a few additional notes wrapping up Match Week 16:

  • I'm not much for moral victories but Arsenal can take solace from playing much better on this trip to Manchester than they did the last time around. At the same time, City righted the ship a bit as they finished off their tough run of matches still on top despite their cross-town rivals getting to play a pretty weak schedule while City were playing Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal.
  • Jonjo Shelvey had a really nice match for Liverpool but would one of his fellow bald-by-choice teammates help him out a little bit with getting a full shave going? It was really distracting having to look at his patchy scalp stubble in High Definition. The big question for fantasy managers is whether he gets another match in midweek now that Spearing has completed his suspension.
  • At QPR was another nice step forward in their recovery for Manchester United. I still can't say I'm 100% convinced about where they are in the real world but for the purposes of fantasy I was more than happy with the points from Rooney, Valencia, and DDG (less so from Nani but how often do you get strong output from 4 guys on the same team?). With Ashley Young and Chicharito both coming off the bench at Loftus Road, the big question is how the rotation works over the holiday period. You have to figure you're going to have a hard time guessing right so don't worry TOO much about it. Just hope that you swing and miss on guys you haven't invested too heavily in.
  • If I had told you before the weekend that Leon Osman and David Stockdale were going to be the two highest scoring players in the league a) you wouldn't have believed me and b) you'd have rightly assumed that it was going to be a fairly tame fantasy week overall. The top performance was only 25.5 and there were only 8 players total in the 20s.
  • Bryan Ruiz seems to finally be adapting to the Premier League. He has gone from making bench appearances for most of the early going to starting and playing for 74 minutes against Arsenal four matches ago to starting the last three matches. In those three starts, the trend line looks very good - 4 points, 11 points, 17.5 points. The downside here is Fulham's upcoming schedule - Manchester United, @ Chelsea, @ Norwich, and Arsenal before heading to Rovers in mid-January. If Ruiz's price drops again, he might be very interesting come February (Fulham also have NUFC and City before things get markedly easier after the City match on Feb. 4).
  • The ultimate utility player. Every team should have a Pablo Zabaleta who can fill in more than ably at multiple positions. He was very strong playing at left back against Arsenal a week after being pretty good playing at right back against Chelsea despite the City loss.
  • Jordi Gomez is finally having the sustained run of success that we had hoped for out of him when Wigan picked him up two seasons ago. He is one start short of matching his season high for starts since coming to the Premier League and he's coming off of 4 goals in his last five matches. Is it a new standard for him or just some temporary nice form.
  • Also of note from Wigan is the fact that I'm putting Roberto Martinez forward for Manager of the Year. He's gotten Wigan up off the mat and has 8 points from the last possible 15 potential points over a five match stretch that included Arsenal and Chelsea with a roster that would probably be happy in the top half of the Championship. His reward? He gets Liverpool and @ Manchester United next. If they get any points from those two, then he's certainly deserving of a better roster.
There were plenty of other notes but if I keep going, I'll never get to the player picks. If you had other interesting observations that I missed, please put them in the comments section for the enjoyment and edification of your fellow readers.

Schedule - Quick Notes

  • Honestly, not a ton to love in the mid-week schedule
  • Liverpool @ Wigan would have been MUCH more attractive a month ago but Liverpool may be without their best player (stay tuned for news on Suarez tomorrow) and Wigan are playing much better. Feels like a trap to me.
  • NUFC vs. WBA would also have been much more attractive a month ago when NUFC were on top of the world and WBA were pretty miserable. WBA have pulled themselves up to "adequate" while NUFC have fallen back to "adequate" as well.
  • Arsenal @ Aston Villa, especially if DBent and Gabby are still sidelined, or Manchester United @ Fulham (never easy) may be about as good as it gets this weekend which isn't particularly inspiring.
  • What on earth will Blackburn vs. Bolton bring us? You could see it being great for either one but figuring out which of these two miserable teams will play well seems like a tough call.
Forwards
  • Dzeko - A home match with big, bad Stoke seems tailor-made for the big man who seems likely to get a start on the back of not starting against Arsenal.
  • Bellamy - His price is up after a 1 goal, 1 assist match against Villa but he'll be all the more important against Wigan if, as expected, Suarez gets suspended. He may be a worthy start regardless of Suarez's situation but he becomes all the more valuable if Suarez is out.
  • Ba - He had a solid weekend without scoring and WBA isn't the second coming of the Adams-led Arsenal defense so expecting Demba to get back on the scoresheet this week isn't a bad bet despite his inflated price.
  • Klasnic - He's been up and down since the first month of the season but this seems like a solid time to be on an "up" match.
  • Delfouneso - If Villa are still shorthanded and you need an enabler at forward the price is right and you wouldn't be shocked to see him get some points against a depleted Arsenal defense.
  • Gervinho - He didn't have a great match against City and I expect that he'll do better against Hutton who will be a card waiting to happen all afternoon long.

Midfielders

  • Drenthe - After an electric performance off the bench, you have to like his chances of getting a start and playing well.
  • Shelvey - If it looks like he's going to start again he's the pick of the enablers. If not, then Spearing makes a lot of sense as an even cheaper replacement.
  • Hoilett - The injury report going into the weekend was that he had a chance to make it back for the match. If he is ready for mid-week, he'll be the most talented player on the field in a match that will be looking for someone to separate the otherwise poor sides.
  • Nani/Silva/Valencia - I'm sure there are many of you that are holding one or more of these guys who may or may not be rotated in mid-week. All I can tell you is that I'm sticking with them. If you're looking to buy at retail though, I'm not sure that any of them other than Nani will be worth it. Seems likely that Valencia might be rotated for Ashley Young and Silva for Nasri/Adam Johnson.
  • Ramsey - He's playing better and better every week and he's still the value play in an Arsenal midfield that has at least a modest advantage in their match-up this week.
  • Adam - If you're looking for a premium guy who is as close to a guarantee to start as you're going to get, taking kicks, and has a solid chance at a PK.
Defenders
  • Standing Pat - I, and many, have one or more of Verm, Brown, and Romeu at a pretty inexpensive price. I'm sticking with all three because I don't see a ton of value out there this week that is worth a premium price. Verm is clearly a must-keep but I could see logic behind ditching the other two if you feel particularly good about one of the following:
  • Boyata - Still at enabler price and with a match-up that makes a CS at least possible. He went off early over the weekend but I didn't see any news of an injury so make sure you check on his status before buying in.
  • Miquel - He seems likely to start again pending Djourou's health and ordinarily that would make me more worried about Arsenal's defensive prospects than inspiring a potential opportunity but the prospect of Villa minus DBent and Gabby combined with Alex McLeish being the manager certainly looks like a potential clean sheet for just about any defense. Even one with a 19 year old CB playing out of position at LB.
  • Perch - Still pretty cheap and with an OK match-up but there's a lot going on here with uncertain health all the way around in the defensive half for NUFC. Tiote went off early with a potential recurrence of his previous injury and is uncertain for this weekend. Additionally, NUFC's defense has a bunch of options between Coloccini, Williamson (maybe), Santon, Perch, etc. It will be a race for fantasy managers to find injury information and make sense of how it might impact the players they currently have on discounts and NUFC's prospects for another CS.
Goalkeepers
  • Krul - His value is wrapped up in that of Tiote and his defense but there's a great deal of potential here given his low price.
  • Howard - Swansea have been a home clean sheet waiting to happen for their opponents when they go on the road. Howard's price has dipped to 5.37 which makes him a pretty attractive option.
  • Robbo - If you're desperate or want the money for something else, this might be a weekend to take a flier on the former England keeper. I'm not saying this is a good idea but it is certainly a much better idea this weekend than it is most weekends.
  • Hart - I hate recommending fairly expensive keepers (like Reina, DDG, or Szczesny) on the road because road clean sheets aren't that common. With Cech and Friedel squaring off in a match I'm staying way away from at retail prices Hart is really the only premium keeper who is likely to be worth the money. Again, I'm not saying I'd pay for him but that would be my logic if forced to choose between the guys from the "big" teams at retail prices.
We'll certainly do our best to be back with injury-related news as it comes in. Good luck getting everything together and finding that latest tidbit of injury news in what is certain to be a chaotic week given the short turnaround.

Cheers - Neal