There has been some healthy debate and criticism regarding my comments about Luis Suarez in the Monday Morning Manager column. I'd like to take this opportunity to clarify why I write that particular column and the points that I was trying to make that seem to have been obscured by all of the controversy around Suarez from this weekend and in general.
First, the reason for writing the column. I try to use the Monday (or Tuesday) wrap-up as a chance to go team-by-team and pick out the themes that I think are going to be important to fantasy managers. By the nature of fantasy games, sometimes there will be spillover into how actual performances on the pitch because certain of those actions dictate a player's fantasy performance for the week. At the same time, fantasy games are not an EXACT representation of what happens on the field. The player who creates a chance may get no credit for it. A holding midfielder or even a harassing attacking player may be incredibly influential in creating a clean sheet but receive no credit for it. A goalkeeper may do an excellent job organizing a defense that allows almost no shots so that there are few SOTs and therefore few saves to be had. Fantasy scoring systems aren't perfect.
That brings us to the case of Luis Suarez. He was undeniably influential in the Liverpool derby and one of, if not THE, best player in the match. Here's where fantasy diverts from reality - that same Luis Suarez who may well have been the best player in the match got exactly SEVEN fantasy points in the Yahoo game. SEVEN. While he "caused" the first goal, he got no credit for the own goal (although I'm sure he got an assist in the PL.com format). Outside of that, he had one SOT, one goal, one corner won, and one foul won. On the negative side of the ledger he had a Yellow Card and 3 fouls committed. Those are the facts.
Where the opinion (and my comment about the "good and bad sides of Luis Suarez") comes in is how you view the rest of what happened to him that wasn't accounted for his fantasy scoring. First, the disallowed goal. It was a good goal that could have won the match for his team. It is reasonable to infer from his history in the league that officials are wary of giving him the benefit of the doubt. No one wants to be the next guy duped by someone perceived as a serial cheater. Chicharito and Arteta, neither with a reputation for duplicitous behavior, were both awarded goals on very similar close calls with the difference being their's were both offside while Suarez's was legitimately good. That one call, which could reasonably be linked to Suarez's reputation, penalized Suarez 12 fantasy points (goal + SOT + match winning goal) and took him from repaying his owners nicely to being a major fantasy disappointment.
Now, we come to his tackles on "my crush" Kevin Mirallas and Sylvian Distin and the potential for him seeing red. Whether you believe his tackles in these cases were fairly judged or not and regardless of what you think of what other player did this weekend (and I'm talking specifically about Marouane Fellaini's tackle on Joe Allen), Luis Suarez was AT THE VERY LEAST playing on the edge of a red card which would potentially have dropped him to exactly ONE fantasy point for the week on a cost near 20.
I understand that when someone criticizes a player that plays for your team - especially one that has been influential in a big result in the real world which this certainly was for Liverpool - there is a tendency to think that there might be some bias involved in that opinion. If you're of the opinion that his fouls were just poor tackles and free of malice AND that officials will continue to look at them as such as his reputation around the league continues to suffer. If you are also of the opinion that the offside call was just a random mistake and had nothing to do with the reputation of the player involved. If you hold both of those opinions then we can agree to disagree about there being a "good side and bad side" of Luis Suarez. If, however, you believe that his style of play and the reputation it has created could have a material negative impact on his fantasy production then I'm not sure how you can claim that my comments were biased against Liverpool or Suarez. They were just intended to point out to the fantasy managers who make up our audience that you can't always believe your eyes after watching a match when it comes to evaluating players for fantasy.
Maybe trying to pack the conundrum that is Luis Suarez into three or four sentences rather than a feature-length column was my mistake because obviously I got some people thinking I just don't like the guy. As a writer and a fantasy manager, I don't care about the guy even a little bit - just what he can do for my (and your) team compared to his price.
OK, on to what will hopefully be less controversial comments about my recommendations for the coming week:
Luis Suarez - Just kidding :-)
Robin van Persie - Yes, all the caveats about his price apply but don't you just get the feeling that he's going to run rampant playing in front of his new supporters against his old club? Throw in the fact that these two teams let in a combined 10 goals in their respective League Cup matches (even figuring in all of the caveats about mixes of first team and reserves turning out) and that's a lot of defensive frailty for RvP to potentially exploit. And yes, I realize this recommendation could be a huge bust.
Jermain Defoe - With Defoe rested in mid-week, you have to figure he'll be back at it for the Wigan match and he hasn't had too many duds thus far this season.
Lukas Podolski - Same theory as RvP but cheaper - United's defense isn't great and he'll be wanting to show the world that he's every bit the player as the man he replaced.
Romelu Lukaku/Shane Long - The real question is around the identity of the starters for West Brom in what should be a good match-up for them at home this weekend with Southampton.
Juan Mata/Eden Hazard - Chelsea have been full of goals win, lose or draw with Mata the chief (but now very expensive) instigator. Hazard at just over 10 (10.09 to be exact) is the bargain play but it's hard not to hold on to Mata or even contemplate buying in given his recent production.
Bobby Zamora - If you need an option under 10, Zamora at home against Reading may sound like a tepid recommendation but it's hard to get TOO excited about any QPR forward so consider this as highly as I can recommend a forward on a team that has had trouble scoring.
Oscar - A great enabler deluxe given the match-up and given that he was rested in mid-week (well, the intention was to rest him - he came in at minute 71 and ended up playing 50 minutes).
Adel Taarabt - Undoubtedly a risk given that he started and played a full 90 minutes against Arsenal and got his owners exactly zero points. That said, Reading at Loftus Road are a bit of a different proposition that could see far different results. If you're frightened off by Taarabt's high price then Esteban Granero would be the alternative.
Gareth Bale - Moving even further up the cost spectrum, Bale has been on fire and the match-ups continue to get easier. He did go the full 90 in Spurs mid-week loss but hard to imagine them giving him a rest even with Wigan on the agenda.
James Morrison - My favorite "under the radar" player so far this season has a great match-up on the back of two disappointing weekends in a row - I'm betting on a bounce back at a lower price than he's been available at in recent weeks.
Santi Cazorla - His shooting accuracy has been frustrating - he has put some fairly make-able opportunities over the net - but with goals likely to come against United's shaky defense Cazorla and his "just over 10" price still represent value - even at Old Trafford.
Sebastian Bassong - See above.
Jan Vertonghen - Spurs have been shaky at the back but Vertonghen offers both potential attacking and defending points and I'd expect he and Spurs should be good for at least one side of that equation at home against Wigan if not both which makes his reasonable price very palatable.
Ryan Nelsen - The only question is whether Reading will attempt enough passes or have the ball enough for Nelsen to build up stats from tackles and passes intercepted. Regardless, he's a low cost play that could pay off big as one of the few players who continues to average more points than he costs.
Matija Nastasic - Hard to know what goes through Roberto Mancini's mind at any given moment but Nastasic is that rarest of things, a potential value play for City. The caveat is that he could easily be rotated for no good reason. We'll be waiting word tomorrow on the health of City's back line and any insights into who may be starting before getting really serious about this recommendation.
Petr Cech - Actually solid value if you have the money to spend. Hard to know what to expect from either Swansea's attack or Chelsea's defense but Cech has been piling up the points all season and his price is only 11.27.
Julio Cesar - This was a better pick before his price went up last week but still an OK option in the 8s. As with Nelsen, the question is whether Reading mounts enough of an attack for Cesar to build up points for saves. Hard to count on a guy who might see one shot all match - if he saves it and gets the win and clean sheet you're thrilled. If it gets by him you're bummed about the one shot, one goal, and (potentially) one loss outcome. On the thinnest of margins will this one hang.
Ben Foster - The price is a bit high for a keeper for a mid-table club but he's at home against a relegation struggler so it might be worth it this weekend. My only reservation is that, unlike the other bottom teams, scoring goals isn't necessarily the Saints' problem, it's keeping them out. That could mean a bunch of saves for Foster or it could mean that the CS points are unlikelier than you'd like to see for his price.
Brad Friedel - Do you have the balls to presume you know who AVB will choose this weekend? He seems to be rotating his keepers which would make it Friedel's turn against Wigan at home but that's a lot of presumption to risk a starting spot on.