We're getting to the time of the season when it becomes time to dispense with the formalities and the tangential conversations and focus on what can be done down the home stretch to achieve some tangible results. For this reason, I am foregoing the usual lead-in focused on a broader issue in the league as a whole or fantasy strategy. Instead, we'll move right to the big discussion of the week:
To go with two-gamers or not to go with two-gamers.
This is an especially difficult question give the identity of the two teams involved. Neither Aston Villa nor Bolton are what any observer would call good teams. Those same observers might even struggle to call either of these teams decent. Aston Villa have been dropping and haven't won any of their last 5 matches (0W, 2D, 3L) since their last win six matches ago at home against Fulham. For their part, Bolton have won 3 of their last 5 matches but those wins were against Wolves, Rovers, and QPR and they've been pretty soundly beaten by Fulham and Newcastle since that three match streak.
All of that sounds like I'm about to come out advocating a strategy that focuses on buying a lot of one-gamers with great match-ups and hoping that their one-match performances outshine two matches from mediocre teams. As it turns out, I'm not going 100% in that direction either because other than Manchester City @ Wolves there really aren't many other match-ups that look very attractive. United are home to an Everton side that isn't great but rarely gets blown out. Arsenal and Chelsea are facing off against each other. Spurs are at Queens Park Rangers but have been sputtering badly enough that it's hard to get TOO excited about them, especially on the road. Swansea are on the road which hasn't been nearly as kind to them as has the Liberty Stadium.
So, where does this leave me with my picks? I'm judiciously picking a combination of Manchester City players, a few high-potential two-gamers, and sticking with the guys I have at deep discounts. Unlike most weeks, I'm not going to give you a bunch of options but rather I'm going to tell you what I anticipate doing with my team and will provide an option or two if that doesn't work for you (especially if I'm keeping someone at a discount that you can't get to).
Goalkeeper: David De Gea (@13.76) - It is tempting to go with two-game Shay Given since his price is 4.39 and I may regret not doing so but DDG has been a points machine for the last couple of months and I'm not willing to give that up for a keeper who is an aggregate -11 total points over the last 6 match weeks. Adam Bogdan is also a net negative over the last 6 matches so he's probably not much more attractive. If you aren't blinded by the two-gamers then I'd consider John Ruddy at an affordable 4.64 @ Rovers.
Defender #1: Johnny Evans has been mirroring DDG and has been a great pick at 6.80 and I'm sticking with it. If you need someone at retail at about the same price, Davide Santon is probably your best bet.
Defender #2: Vincent Kompany is almost guaranteed NOT to be the highest scoring Manchester City defender but what he is guaranteed to do is start. If you feel good about picking between Clichy/Kolarov on the left or Richards/Zabaleta on the right then more power to you, you'll probably get more points than I do from this spot if you're right. Unfortunately, you'll also likely sleep poorly on Saturday night as you wait to find out whether your guy will start. I'll be sleeping soundly knowing that my guy will play and is very likely to return at least solid value.
Defender #3: Eric Lichaj is one of the few two-gamers that I'm bullish on. The reason is price. There are very few two-gamers that are worth a premium price. That said, all Lichaj has to do is block get HALF the phantom defending points over two matches that he got last weekend and he'll be at least an OK enabler at the back. If you want to stick with the "Buy American" plan but don't like Lichaj/Villa then you could probably sub in Tim Ream into this same spot.
Midfielder #1: Gylfi Sigurdsson has been the man since he arrived and I'm not dropping him unless he gets hurt. If you aren't fortunate enough to have gotten on the bandwagon early then I'll suggest Barry Bannen over Charles N'Zogbia (Bannan has been a more regular starter) and try to get value from the two matches.
Midfielder #2: Jean Beausejour has been less expensive than Gylfi but has produced a TON of phantom points at a price under 3. Unless you want to take a risk on Tom Cleverley starting for United then there isn't a lot to love at the lowest end as far as price.
Midfielder #3: Ryo Miyaichi has been a strong phantom point accumulator regardless of Bolton's performances. His price was certainly much more attractive earlier in his run but at the current price of 8.45 he certainly is a solid bet over two matches. If you aren't 100% sold on him then you might want to spend the extra money to get to Martin Petrov at 14.07 although that seems like a lot to spend on someone who has only been into double digits 7 times all season and only 4 of those since the end of September.
Midfielder #4: Hatem Ben Arfa (@ a devilish 6.66) is going to be crucial to my run-in since I decided to keep him at a large discount last weekend while others (mostly Jeremy) were reaping the rewards of taking a chance on Graham Dorrans. For those who sold HBA and are looking for someone at retail in the same price range then Bannan, N'Zogbia, are the two-gamers to look at with Dorrans still being available under 8 (although I shudder to think what the odds are of him being productive two weeks in a row are).
Forward#1: Andreas Weimann has shown some flashes in limited action so far which differentiates him from Villa's other attacking options. The other nice thing about him is his low-low price.
Forward #2: Kun Aguero has been on fire since City decided they wanted back in the title race enough to allow Tevez to play again. I don't know if it is because Tevez is drawing attention away from him or because he got a little time off with his "stupid" injury but he seems refreshed and ready to terrorize Wolves. I have him at a bit of a discount but I like him more than Rooney or RvP if you're spending big on one forward at retail.
Forward #3: Carlos Tevez (@4.78) has been a great investment and seems likely to continue to start since Dzeko is out of favor and Balotelli is both suspended and Balotelli. It is a travesty of management that I can't recommend Ivan Klanic because there is no good reason I'm aware of that he isn't starting. However, he isn't so that leaves low priced options like Andy Carroll or Gervinho who may or may not start and even if they do start may or may not produce much.
So, there's the slightly different approach to The Week Ahead. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful as you think about your team selection in this difficult week.