After a bizarre week 11 in the Premier League that saw Manchester United, West Brom, Stoke, Newcastle, Norwich, Sunderland and even Crystal Palace take a point or three from higher ranked opposition, we've learned that no team is safe from being bested by even the lowliest of competitors.
From a fantasy perspective, many of us learned the same lesson. Case in point: Wilson Palacios equaled the combined output of fantasy favorites Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Mesut Ozil, Romelu Lukaku, Daniel Sturridge and Artur Boruc in Week 11. This statistic, combined with the fact that there's a boring international break interrupting our fun as fantasy managers, really got me thinking about why we choose the players we do and who we might be overlooking.
It makes plenty of sense to choose the biggest names in the Premier League for our fantasy teams--the best players in real life logically perform well in terms of fantasy--but there are hundreds of players in the league each week giving everything they've got to become the next big thing. With the International Break taking many of the big stars away from their clubs to play two additional matches, Week 12 could be the perfect time to give some of the 'little guys' a chance in your team, especially at the expense of those doing a lot of traveling.
That said, the player doing the most traveling this international break is none other than the Premier League's most in-form player: Luis Suarez. The Liverpool striker has been absolutely phenomenal since his return from suspension, notching a league-leading eight goals in only five matches. However, this international break and all the factors of Liverpool's next match could prove to be the perfect storm to derail--or at least slow down--El Pistolero.
Suarez's Uruguayan side has faced some adversity in their bid to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and now face a two-leg playoff against unlikely candidates Jordan. The first leg takes place in the Jordani capital of Amman, before both squads travel to Montevideo where the Uruguayans will host the second leg just three days before Liverpool return to action in the early kickoff on Saturday. That the match is away at Goodison Park for the Merseyside Derby only adds to the pressure that will be heaped on Suarez upon his return to Liverpool.
We've all seen from his performances over the past couple seasons that Luis Suarez isn't an average player, nor is he an average athlete. His passion for the game has often been cited (accurately, in my opinion) as the major reason for all the trouble he tends to get himself into, but something that is rarely mentioned is how it drives him to continue playing match after match in a short space of time. When does he reach his breaking point, though?
With his fantasy price now approaching 30, we may finally have a case in which a player's retail cost is prohibitive in this new Yahoo! environment. Even though we would be able to bring Suarez back into our sides if we were to drop him for Week 12, it would likely be at the expense of many other players we would want for Week 13 and beyond. So, what to do then?
I know for many, this question will be simple to answer: If he plays, he stays. However, with such a large budget to use to complete their teams, most managers have been choosing those big name players week after week, because they can afford to. We saw in Week 11 that going against the grain with some unorthodox picks can catapult your team up the rankings. This is where the little guys come back into play.
Let's take a look at the some of the better match-ups for Week 12, and yes, they are actually among the best choices:
- Newcastle vs. Norwich
- Hull City vs. Crystal Palace
- Stoke vs. Sunderland
- West Brom vs. Aston Villa
- Swansea vs. Fulham
Rather than overloading our teams with expensive players in bad match-ups, why not look to some options from the teams above? A quick look at the total points scored on Yahoo! this season reveals there are a lot of non-internationals punching above their weight in terms of fantasy production. If you're considering making room for Suarez on your bench for Week 12 or hoping to have the money to draft him back in at retail for Liverpool's nice run of fixtures heading into the festive period, these unfashionable or under-appreciated players could allow you to do just that without losing ground:
Brad Guzan, Asmir Begovic, Boaz Myhill
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Antonio Luna, Erik Pieters, Jonas Olsson
Barry Bannan, Yannick Bolasie, Tom Huddlestone, Johnny Howson, Matthew Etherington, Emanuele Giaccherini, Jonjo Shelvey, Morgan Amalfitano, Hatem Ben Arfa
Yoan Gouffran, Victor Anichebe, Gary Hooper
As you can see, I chose more midfielders than any other position. I'm guessing that if any of you were planning on dropping Suarez, it would likely be to the bench and not completely out of your side. In that case, a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 formation would come into play, and we've seen this season that midfielders aren't having as much impact as in previous seasons, so why not take a risk on some affordable options who may come up big?
One final note that may or may not sway your decision: Many of us were more than willing last season to pay upwards of 25 units for Robin van Persie or Gareth Bale to be in our teams on a given week. With 50 additional units to spend and a reasonable number of filler options still remaining, would it be such a problem to drop a player like Suarez on a difficult week and bring him back in for 30 for the better matches? At what point is the price too high for the potential a player brings to the table?
Personally, I'm toying with the idea of moving Suarez to the bench for Week 12, but it'll definitely take some courage to do so. Will any of you follow suit, or even entertain the idea? Let me know if you think I'm onto something or ON something in the comments.
Note: I began this article with the intention of focusing on more internationals, but the Suarez case was too interesting for me not to write about extensively. You should also be aware that France, Croatia, Iceland, New Zealand, Mexico, Romania, Ghana, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Portugal and Sweden also have World Cup Qualifying matches this international break and will be looking to field their strongest sides, so keep an eye on the lineups to see if any Premier League players might come back fatigued or possibly even injured. If that happens to be the case, you can always look to the list above for an idea of who to replace them with!