First off I'd like to say it is great to be back in the NMA fold once again after a long season of work in Alaska. For those of you new to the blog, I work half the year as a fisheries biologist which unfortunately has me living on fishing/research vessels in the Bering Sea. This is of course as far away from internet as you can get, largely for most of my time on contract!
Okay let's jump straight in with a quick review of the fixtures for Week 4:
Bournemouth v Leicester City
Liverpool v West Ham
Man City v Watford
Stoke City v West Bromwich
Tottenham v Everton
Southampton v Norwich City
Swansea City v Man United
As we can see, the best match ups on paper arguably call for investment in Man City and Liverpool. But I would also give consideration to Chelsea, Leicester City, Stoke City, and Southampton. Tottenham v Everton looks the trickiest fixture of Week 4, while Arsenal and United should win their respective fixtures, I'd just like them more if they were playing at home instead of away. Onto the player picks!
Simon Mignolet - Not the most popular pick, but Liverpool have now gone 3 matches with 3 clean sheets (yes I know some of that is due to questionable referee decisions). Mignolet was certainly on his game at Arsenal as Wenger's men continually prodded and pressed in the second half, making some important saves. Given the fact that West Ham also arrive at Anfield without the majority of their strike force, investment in Liverpool's defense looks a solid bet.
T. Courtois - I have no doubt that Jose Mourinho will right the ship and get Chelsea back on track in the league. They may have exhibited some defensive worries early on, but Mourinho is known for building a stout defense. Whether or not this will include Everton's John Stones remains to be seen. While Crystal Palace have been transformed under Alan Pardew, I don't see them taking 3pts at Stamford Bridge. I have a feeling Chelsea will begin to look like their former selves sooner rather than later.
Joe Hart - You couldn't ask for a better match up regarding clean sheet opportunities. Let's go through the list: At home (check), playing a newly promoted side (check), 3/3 clean sheets already this season (check), you are Manchester City (check). No doubt this looks the most favorable fixture across the defense and attacking boards. It wouldn't be outlandish to expect another clean sheet out of City so too many eggs in the perverbeal basket doesn't apply here. Get in for Week 4.
Kolarov/Kompany/Sanga/Mangala - Take your pick, but one (or two) of these defenders should be in your squad for Week 4. Iv'e listed them in order of my preference but you could make an argument for any of them. One point I'd like to make is that it is finally nice to see Kolarov getting an extended run of games. Given his set piece threat and general attacking play, I'd rate him over Kompany (2 goals aside he doesn't score much). I'll definitely have 2 in my squad this week.
Nathaniel Clyne - Continuing with the favorable defensive match ups, Clyne has been a consistent performer in Liverpool's 3 clean sheets so far this season. I expect the same to continue against striker ravaged West Ham. The case could be made for the young left back (usually center back) Joe Gomez depending on your budget restrictions. However Gomez seems to be a yellow card risk so I prefer the more experienced Clyne.
Steven Caulker - The former Cardiff defender got his first start for the Saints in the goalless draw with Watford Week 3 and looks to continue at home to Norwich City. Southampton have had an up and down start to the season but will be facing another newly promoted side not know for scoring many goals. For his price, Caulker looks worth the investment to counter balance the City/Liverpool players you may have already in defense.
Micah Richards - Not a normal pick by YFF standards, but we are no longer playing YFF. Aston Villa are by no means a power house but they are facing a Sunderland team in crisis. Since his move from Man City, Richards has averaged 9.67 per match so far this season in Fantrax. Unless Sunderland can turn it around, investment against the Black Cats looks good for the forth coming fixtures.
Matteo Darmian - The new United fullback has played his part in all 3 of United's clean sheets so far this season. Still reasonably priced and facing Swansea at the weekend. This pick would be more interesting if United were at home but van Gaal seems to have to worked his team into a decent defensive outfit albiet without the normal United offence.
Riyad Mahrez - The Foxes midfielder has had a blistering start to the season and is rightfully the most expensive midfielder right now in Fantrax. Bournemouth have proven to ship goals (a few notably unlucky) and Leicester City have made a great start to the season. This all leads me to believe the offense will be flowing in this match. If you got in early lucky you, but Week 4 wouldn't be a bad time to invest. Marc Albrighton is a secondary option and much cheaper so depending on your budget, either would be good cover for Leicester's attack.
Xherdan Shaqiri - The Swiss winger made an immediate impact upon his debut, assisting Diouf's goal in Week 3. Still on the lower end of the price range and facing West Brom at home, the Stoke winger would make a fine addition to your Week 4 squad. Look for the former Inter player to streak down the flanks and provide crucial opportunities for his Stoke teammates. If you didn't know any better, it would seem Hughes has brought quite a lot of exciting players to a club not normally known for progressive attacking football.
Yaya Toure/Silva/Sterling - Again listed in order of my preference. Silva and Toure have about the same amount of points accrued, but Yaya looks the likelier goal threat out of the trio. Speaking of goal threats, it has long been discussed that this is the exact component that Sterling is lacking from his game. Until he can show more of a consistent attack, Sterling might not be worth the price compared to his City counterparts.
Philippe Coutinho - Showing clear signs of his top class ability, Coutinho has been a consistent source of attacking threat from Liverpool's midfield. Unlucky not to have scored with a wonderful curling effort that Cech was just barely able to put a finger tip on against Arsenal, Coutinho should be looking ready to add to his goal tally against West Ham. It still remains to be seen if Coutinho can take the mantle of Liverpool's star player, but all the components are there, the young Brazilian just needs to assemble them week in week out.
Cesc Fabregas - As stated above, Chelsea won't be distressed for long and will awake from their slumber to punish which ever team is unlucky enough to be standing in front of them. Cesc hasn't replicated his early season form from last year, but given his price and quality, you could do much worse for the investment. Remember, he did hit leading doubt digit assists last season so we know what he is capable of on his day. Hazard gets a honorable mention, but his price is far higher for the output so far this season. At home, I see Chelsea taking this one over Crystal Palace.
Pedro - The former Barcelona striker made an immediate impact upon his Chelsea debut with a goal and assist. With Pedro slotted in the Chelsea attack, Fabregas now has a more reliable outlet in which to start registering assists. Look for Pedro to be heavily involved against Crystal Palace at the Bridge.
Sergio Aguero - It is really obvious for this one, one of the best strikers in the league playing a newly promoted team at home. He is in my team for Week 4 regardless of price.
Benteke - The Belgian striker looked dangerous versus Arsenal and should find more opportunity against West Ham at Anfield. The team is getting used to his style of play and a brace is not far around the corner. I just hope to pick the correct fixture when that occurs.
M. Diouf - An outside pick but a very interesting one. Mark Hughes has invested in exciting, quick, attacking players such as Affellay, Shaqiri, and Bojan. This should only benefit a striker like Diouf who will benefit from the service of such players as we saw last week. If they can get their attack organized, Diouf may be a sleeper hit.
My team so far looks like: Courtois, Kolarov, Lovren, Mangala, Shaqiri, Albrighton, Blind, Yaya, Aguero, Benteke, Pedro. Not sold on Lovren/Blind but I have yet to decide on an alternate pairing. I'll wait until Friday team news to finalize my squad.
How are your sides shaping up for Week 4?