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Fantasy Premier League Player Picks Week 25: The Week Ahead

With transfers popping all around we make sense of where the value is for players new and old as you look to finalize your line-up for Match Week 25 in fantasy Premier League action.

He's baaaaaack. But is it in time for him to start this week?
He's baaaaaack. But is it in time for him to start this week?
Michael Steele

Deadline days, both at the end of January and August, are among my favorite days of the year. As an Arsenal supporter this is perhaps a little on the masochistic side in recent years but as a fantasy manager and a writer it brings possibilities and players that are likely to be under-priced. These are the days that make fantasy fun. Will Lewis Holtby be a starter? Will he be productive? How about Philippe Coutinho or Urby Emanuelson? And who can't wait to get Chris Samba back in the fantasy mix at a low price? It wasn't long ago that he was a premium-priced defender in the Premier League.

Here at Never Manage Alone we will do our best to give you insight into all of the new players as the news arrives but we know that we're also on a tight week with mid-week matches turning over almost immediately into a full slate of matches over the weekend. As has been my habit recently when a week presents unusual circumstances (double matches, etc.), I'm going to divert from my traditional TWA format and dive right in:

The Schedule

Everton (vs. Aston Villa) and Manchester United (@Fulham) with a sprinkle of QPR (vs. now-struggling Norwich) and maybe some of Arsenal's attack (vs. Stoke) seem like the places to invest in. I'm trying to figure out how I feel about Spurs' attack at West Brom in the wake of their recent mini-slump (D, D, L, D in their last 4 across all competitions with Manchester United the only exceptional competition in the bunch).

Things to Watch For

There are some players who we probably need to be a bit wary of based on their levels of fitness so if you're buying/keeping them do so with eyes wide open:

  • Adam Lallana - His price is back under 10 and he's back from injury - both great pieces of news. The worry for this week is the quick turnaround between matches and that he was only fit for the sub's bench yesterday. My inclination is to put him on BD alert in hopes that he's more fully fit for the next match week.
  • Joe Cole - He was rested for one of the Hammer's two matches last week and the worry would be that the same would be true this week with the quick turnaround. He was subbed out after 75 minutes yesterday so there is some hope that he'll start again but it is worth thinking about for those with Cole at a big discount.
  • Kevin Mirallas - Frequent readers of the blog are well-aware of my early-season crush on Mirallas before he missed a big chunk of time injured. Mirallas made his first Premier League start in some time in mid-week to modest success (5 points). I would be very wary of the likelihood of him starting two matches in 4 days after coming back from a leg injury. Just a guess but picking him, even at his relatively modest price, seems like a big risk.
Based on the match-ups, I'm looking at the following options: Daniel Sturridge (on a discount at 8.53), Wayne Rooney (17.84), Sergio Aguero (retail), Nikica Jelavic (retail), Juan Mata (14.81), Olivier Giroud (retail), and Loic Remy (retail). I'm most likely to stick with the three guys I have at discounts with my preference on the remaining looking like Aguero (match-up plus he's awesome) > Jelavic (match-up plus he's very good minus minor worry over why he was rotated in mid-week) > Remy (match-up plus cheap price) > Giroud (physical match-up and rising price have me slightly worried about his value vs. the others).

I know there has been some angst about Michu's modest production over the last few weeks and if you have him at a high price, I completely get it. If, like me, you have him at his opening price then I'd stick with it unless you're dying to bring in a new transfer at a similarly low price. I'm also sticking with Cazorla at his entry price as most managers have (unless they mistakenly clicked on "sell" - d'oh - you know who you are). With only two slots left I'm electing to keep the faith with Yohan Cabaye at a deep discount and heavily debating the final spot. If I had the money I'd be in for Gareth Bale (he's Gareth Bale with a good match-up), Theo Walcott (in good form plus OK match-up) or Marouane Fellaini (form not as great but very good match-up) but I don't. I have Joe Cole at 4.90 and am trying to figure out if I want to keep him or move to Moussa Sissoko (which seems like a lot of Newcastle against Chelsea) or Lewis Holtby (who is a risk to miss out). Another relatively inexpensive option that comes with big rotation risk is Shinji Kagawa. He was supposed to be a season-long keeper at the beginning of the season but injury and early struggles undermined that. He looked great yesterday but the question is whether he plays two matches in a row given all of SAF's options in midfield. If he's going to get a string of starts then he seems like a good pick-up in the low-8s.

For those with the money to make it happen, Leighton Baines is the obvious choice. If you want in on Everton and don't have that sort of money (or you're worried about "following the points") then Johnny Heitinga is a much cheaper way to get in on the Toffee's good match-up. If Manchester United against Fulham is more your cup of tea then Phil Jones seems like a reasonable risk. My guess is that he is less likely than Chris Smalling to be rotated given his positional flexibility. Finally, and my fellow Gooners may flay me for saying it, there is reason to feel good about Andres Santos. Not from a footballing point of view to be sure but he has produced solid attacking numbers when he's had a regular chance to play and his price is cheap (5.85) for a starting defender with attacking skills on a top half team. If team news tells us that Chris Samba is going to start (and Yahoo has him in the system in time) then add him to the list as well.

This isn't a great weekend for inexpensive keepers. Tim Howard is expensive and only has 4 clean sheets in 24 appearances this season and doesn't make saves like Jussi or Vorm to offset the loss of CS points if Everton do concede. Tim Krul is inexpensive and Newcastle seem to be gathering momentum but the visit of Chelsea, even a slightly out of sorts Chelsea, doesn't make you feel good about the match-up. That leaves either spending a lot of money on the likes of David de Gea, taking a risk on an Arsenal CS with a more reasonably priced Szczesny or choosing from the following list of "meh" options that are inexpensive:
  • Jussi - WHU have been struggling mightily and we know Swansea could make this ugly for him/them
  • Al-Habsi - Cheap to be sure but buying Wigan's keeper makes me nervous just typing it let alone actually doing it. Even against Southampton at home.
  • Turnbull - There are multiple issues with this one - 1) he's been poor; 2) Cech was already back in light training in mid-week; and 3) the Newcastle momentum thing mentioned above. Yuck
  • Lloris - Moderately priced but Spurs haven't been playing particularly well. To further complicate matters, Spurs are traveling to West Brom who have only been shut out twice at home all season and only 5 times overall. Lloris isn't enough of a save machine to justify an unlikely CS at this price. Doesn't seem like great value to me.
  • Bunn - This is where I am right now because I've spent a bunch of money elsewhere (Baines, Rooney, Mata, etc). I don't love it and it will likely come down to a last minute decision between Al-Habsi (vs. So'ton) and Bunn (@QPR).
Enjoy the rest of transfer day but don't get carried away with the potential of any deals that might happen today impacting this week's fantasy landscape. With only two days until Saturday kick-offs it is unlikely that most new acquisitions will be thrown immediately into the starting mix.