There are a great many things a Fantasy football player can moan about. Points not given for clear assists (Thomas Hitzlsperger a couple years back cost me a private league), seeing your forward pick score 19 points in Fantrax/Yahoo after scoring twice (Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku), picking players from the early kickoff and then scoring poor points whilst your rival still has their full team to play are all up there for me.
Next season the week starting with the brand new Friday night UK time fixture will likely be my new moan. At least I can leave work when I wish and get back in time to have a brief play with my side (how is that for priorities) but for those of you in America that one will sting.
Without doubt though my biggest frustration is seeing myself pour in hours of thought and planning to my starting 11 and then watching as players get rotated. Nothing gets me more annoyed and I guess that is why I'm one of those who likes the Togga deadline. Sometimes we get information that tips us off to the likely rotation traps ahead. This past week for example we could have used the patterns of Manuel Pellegrini's pre Champions League match selection to see the odds of Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov starting at least the Stoke City game were high. Adding in that Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy were carrying injuries they looked good bets for both matches of the double week. Secondly, we could also see that Kevin De Bruyne faced the risk of being benched in the Stoke game and of course he did just that.
Despite that evidence I didn't give more than a passing thought to actually picking Kolarov. I was actually more convinced NicolasOtamendi would play twice again despite the evidence that Vincent Kompany was to play over the period and Clichy was almost certainly out. Poor play from myself and a missed opportunity. I think that Ken was one of the few to read the signs correctly, well done sir. Meanwhile I did successfully dodge the KDB trap but just who did I choose in his place - only Phillipe "one Start " Coutinho. Now that one was a really obvious one game risk but I did have some thought behind the pick. First up Everton were coming into the game in terrible shape. Injuries and form were a concern for Everton and Liverpool came into the game in fantastic form. I did hope and expect around a 15 point game from Coutinho from the derby and he did just that with his 17pt return. The second part was the game against Newcastle and with a 5 day break until the Villarreal game I felt he would start and be subbed early. Coutinho was a better pick than KDB but for my money I could have covered the potential Arsenal clean sheets, more good planning but bad selection.
What is most interesting when I look back at the weeks where rotation was clearly going to be a factor, was my own advice to the NMA community. I quite happily advised anyone who asked to stick to picking those who would play and in week 35 those who may play twice. Clearly the evidence said Kolarov was a sensible pick whilst KDB/Coutinho for all their temptation were high risk. In week 35 I believe I was influenced by the points return of single gamers Andros Townsend, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero in the double week prior, something as I said I would warn you all about. Do as I say not as I do is the old phrase that applies here.
So with the lessons learned from the week past, let's take a look ahead to week 36 and specifically the rotation risks ahead.
Daniel Sturridge/Philippe Coutinho
Swansea City have conceded 3 at Newcastle and 4 at Leicester in their last two games. If Jürgen Klopp feels the need to rest Coutinho 5 days out from a European semifinal then he seems certain to feel that way once more three days after one. Sturridge meanwhile is even more under danger. Liverpool's only fit forward is bang back in form and with his England Euro 2016 place in danger just in time. It's the only fit forward part that should worry you as a fantasy manager.
You may wish to avoid Liverpool coverage all together but Firmino looks the most likely to start in week 36.
Kun, KDB, David Silva and Yaya Toure.
Manchester City face Real Madrid either side of this week's game at Southampton. With a 5 point lead over 5th place Manchester United and much stronger goal difference they look pretty much assured of 4th place. 2 wins and a draw in their final 3 games will see them home and that's if Manchester United win all 4 of their remaining matchups. Those matchups include league leaders Leicester and the last ever game at Upton Park. Then you can add the squad depth at Pellegrini disposal. Raheem Sterling is back, Kelechi Iheanacho was excellent against Stoke and they still have the like of Wilfried Bony, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri to call on.
Our evidence then suggests KDB is a high risk bench player. I even think that the mighty Kun could also see himself benched or facing reduced playing time.
Arsene Wenger is under ever growing pressure and the players themselves look a little aware in their play of the fans unrest. Not enough to put you off a home game against Norwich but just enough to make you think a little. The Gunners were unlikely to catch Leicester but choosing to drop/rest Danny Welbeck in both games against WBA and Sunderland was a little strange for me. Danny was in decent form and looked bright in both sub appearances. Olivier Giroud had a good pre-Christmas season but has looked very flat ever since. He hasn't progressed enough in the last two season and hardly has the fans support. I wonder if he is moving on in the summer. Welbeck should start against Norwich then but will he?
Joel Campbell had been playing well and showing some of the form we had seen prior to joining the Gunners. I'm unaware what has caused his omission from the 1st team but he has fallen well down the order. Finally we have Theo Walcott, a player who often scores well in fantasy football when he plays but just as often has his limitations in the real world exposed. You can tell when Theo is on form as he plays with a confidence that slaps you in the face. Whilst hardly a technical move he likes to pass the ball past his opponent then sprint past him collecting the ball again on his way. In recent cameos he has hardly tried his trademark move. Both Campbell and Theo have fallen behind Alex Iwobi. Iwobi himself started well but has slowed down in his impact a little.
We have to think Ozil and Alexis starts then but then it's a call as to who Wenger goes with in the other two attacking roles.
The anyone against Villa system
Often in our game the solution to decent to great fantasy points is to simply bet on the obvious. Aston Villa have been awful most of the season and really bad since Christmas. Their players have been quite vocal suggesting we do not know all that has gone on behind the scenes and whilst that is true, their apparent lack of effort has been far from what their supporters expect. Betting against them has often returned the clean sheet win double for keepers and goals/assist's for attackers. In week 35 Villa gave up 4 more goals and 1 more defeat but they did score twice in their 4-2 home loss to Southampton.
This time around Villa face a trip to a Watford side who are safe, on a poor run of form themselves and perhaps feeling sorry after their cup semifinal loss. The Villa losing streak is 10 league games. Runs like those do end but the question is, will it against Watford?
The Hornets players and fans hopefully realise they have had a great season. When it started If they knew they would be safe at this stage of the season and just having played a FA Cup semi at Wembley, I'm sure they would have viewed it a successful. They will had a few days to reflect and have just the opponent you would want to get the feel good back.
None of their options come cheap in Fantrax but the defensive and forward options have a great match up to double their value.
We're all going on a summer holiday
Every year we hear from ex pro's that no player gives less than 100% at this stage of season, regardless of having something to play for or not. Pride and professionalism overrule any other thought. Of course when they are then gracing our various media outlets with their colour commentary they immediately refer to those not showing the drive of a normal week as having got their towels on the sun lounger or mentally already being on holiday. Contradictions hey!
Truthfully, however much we don't like it as fans, the players are simply human beings. Like many of us in the week or two prior to annual leave we can be guilty of working in a slower gear. What we can do as a fantasy player is try and identify those teams or more important those players who are playing for something to pick in our teams.
Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott.
England go to the Euros with few options in other areas but an abundance of riches in attack. Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy look certain to board the plane to Paris but the 4th or perhaps 4th and 5th spots are up for grabs.
All three of Sturridge, Welbeck and Walcott have as too often suffered with injuries this season but are all fit coming into the final weeks. They will get a couple England Friendlies to convince Roy Hodgson but really need to go into them in form.
Of that trio Sturridge most certainly has the form although as the player less able to play a wide role could be under the most danger.
Welbeck had been excellent since returning but has found himself benched in Arsenal's last two. He is a favourite of Roy's and can play the wide left role of his preferred 433.
Its Theo that needs the biggest turnaround. His form has gone and opportunities in the 1st team have been restricted to sub appearances. Walcott's pace is something the mighty Barcelona are nervy of but the squad now has that option with Vardy.
Wayne Rooney/Jack Wilshere/Ross Barkley
Both though will need to prove their fitness and both need minutes coming back from injury in the final fixtures.
With Rooney captain and Wilshere without a player of his type to compete with both are likely to go to France bar injury reoccurrence. Interestingly though Rooney has once again found himself as midfield playmaker in the Manchester United side since his return. With Roy having a very hard decision on who not to take with his forwards could he also view Wayne as a midfield pick and by doing so put Wilshire's place in the squad under threat.
As for Barkley he has had a good but inconsistent season. He is also in the creative midfield mix for the Euro's and being the less high profile name of Rooney, Wilshere and of course Dele Alli also finds himself under pressure for his squad spot. Everton are having a shocking end to the season with Roberto Martinez under pressure himself. Barkley needs to shine and the thing with being very talented but inconsistent is you have bad days and very good ones, a very good one is due.
Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero
The golden boot is on the line with the advantage to Kane as it stands. He leads the race and with Vardy only playing twice and Kun with Champions League concerns, he is the strong favourite to win the boot. Having said that, strikers are often in it for greed and glory. Expect them to shoot on site a little more in the remaining games.
The relegation fighters
Norwich City, Sunderland and Newcastle United are neck and neck coming into week 36. We have seen in years gone by the sides in this position can outperform the season long standards and when they do so there are fantasy points to be found.
Norwich head to Arsenal who have failed to beat Crystal Palace and a Swansea side resting 9 players at home in recent games.
Newcastle host a Palace side safely in the cup final but back in form and bringing a former manager back to St James.
Finally Sunderland head to a Stoke side that have conceded 4 in their last 3 games and sit very much mid table.
Of the trio Sunderland's players have won this type of high pressure scrap more than once in recent seasons and are also high in form. The magpies have just drawn with City and Liverpool back to back and gave Pool a 2 goal start.
The likes of Jermain Defoe, Wahbi Khazri, PVA, Andros Townsend and Papris Cisse are all options.
Some final statistics
- Aston Villa have lost 10 in a row.
- Everton have no win in 7 league games.
- Bournemouth have conceded at least 2 on 5 of their last 6 games.
- Palace have won 1 of their last 18.
- Newcastle have won 1 of their last 10.
- Stoke have conceded 12 goals in their last 3 games in total.
- Manchester United have won 6 in a row at home.
- Manchester United have 4 clean sheets in 6 home games.
- Leicester have 5 clean sheets in 6 games.
- Norwich have won 3 of their last 28 away games.
- There has been under 2.5 goals in the last 5 games played by Norwich away from home.
- There has been under 2.5 goals in Arsenal's last 3 home games.
- Swansea have kept 3 clean sheets in a row at home.
- Manchester City are 5 games unbeaten.
- Tottenham have lost just 1 of their last 16 away games.
Food for thought?