A couple of long-ago leading lights of the rock world passed away recently, as Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek sang sad sayonaras to this world. While I enjoy the songs of both, I’ve always thought of the two in different ways.
If I ever find myself in the car flipping the radio and it happens upon Eddie Money, I will certainly stop on that station and listen to the rest of the song. “Baby Hold On,” “Think I’m in Love,” and “Two Tickets to Paradise” may not be the best songs ever made, but they’re good stuff, and the chances of finding something better on another station at that moment are gonna be slim to none.
With Rick Ocasek, though, it’s different. I actually have plenty of Cars stuff that I can listen to any whenever I’m in the mood. The Cars are another level up, having crafted a panoply of perfect pop confections — “Drive”, “Just What I Needed”, “Magic”, “Shake it Up”, “Tonight She Comes”, “Touch and Go”, “You Might Think”... I could keep going and going — with a wonderful wit and wistful depth. I’m sure Eddie Money didn’t go wanting in the romance department, but for further proof of Ocasek’s greatness, he walked down the aisle with supermodel Paulina Porizkova!
As we constantly tinker with our fantasy teams, we’ve got to balance a mix of players, some in the Eddie Money mold whom we turn to periodically when a favorable fixture presents itself, along with those like Ric Ocasek whom we rely upon at a more foundational, constant level.
This week and into the future, what players should bring sweet music to our ears?
EDDIE MONEY STATION STOPPERS
First let’s look at some channels that are worth stopping at briefly.
Schmeichel is a one week plug-in, since you may have avoided him facing Tottenham in Week 6, and the Foxes travel to Liverpool in Week 8. The Danish international hasn’t been too busy at home this season, conceding two goals and making six saves in three King Power appearances so far, returning 11, 4 and 7 points in those efforts. The case for Schmeichel is pretty simple: the Foxes are at home and tied for fewest goals conceded in the league (5), while the Magpies are tied for fewest goals scored (4), giving Schmeichel an outstanding chance at the 10+ clean sheet win tally. As we know, you can never count on a clean sheet, but you’re only paying $8.12, so it’s not as if you’re really going out on a limb at $15 where conceding a goal would be terribly agonizing.
Adrian ($6.90, Liverpool at Sheffield United)
Liverpool’s defense has been excellent this season, allowing only five goals (tied for fewest in the league), but maddeningly the Reds have only kept a single clean sheet. Even though they are away from Anfield, they’ll be heavy favorites at Sheffield United and should be able to keep the Blades on their heels, so Adrian may well be left picking daisies. After all, Sheffield ranks last in the league in both shots (57) and shots on target (15). Of their seven goals scored, two have been own-goals gifted by the opposition. With #1 Alisson presumably on his way back from injury shortly, and the team facing a tough trio of upcoming fixtures - v. Leicester, at Manchester United, v. Tottenham — Adrian is not a long-term hold.
Guiata is averaging only 3.83 ppg, so his price tag looks high in that context. However, he is averaging 10 ppg at Selhurst Park. Norwich has a dangerous attack led by Teemu Pukki, Todd Cantwell and Emiliano Buendia, but the Canaries have scored eight of their nine goals at home. Away, they’ve suffered clean sheets at West Ham and Burnley. You won’t want to keep Guiata past this week, as the Eagles will be subject to a brutal schedule in Weeks 8 - 13 (at West Ham, v. Manchester City, at Arsenal, v. Leicester , at Chelsea, v. Liverpool).
Rui Patricio ($4.91, Wolverhampton v. Watford)
Patricio got his groove back with a 7-point effort at Palace, and now meek Watford travels to the Molineux. If you do fancy the Portugal international, Wolves head to the Etihad in Week 8, so be ready to make a swap on the barndoor.
Tom Heaton ($3.39, Aston Villa v. Burnley)
Heaton has earned 12 and 9 points in his past two home games, and the Clarets’ offense is nothing that Villa will fear. However, don’t hold onto Heaton thereafter, since three of the subsequent fixtures are quite unappetizing (at Norwich, v. Brighton, at Manchester City, v. Liverpool).
Jeffrey Schlupp ($7.64, Crystal Palace v. Norwich City) [dual D/M eligibility]
Schlupp has returned 7 and 14 points in his two home games so far, and he should be able to keep things going as Selhurst Park welcomes a Canaries side that flourishes at home but struggles away. Schlupp’s D/M eligibility only adds to his appeal.
Bjorn Engels ($7.63, Aston Villa v. Burnley)
Engels is another player to target based on home/away splits, as he’s averaging 8.67 ppg at home and 2.33 away. Burnley’s rough and tumble pair of center forwards — Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood — should keep the Villa back line plenty busy picking up phantom points.
Fikayo Tomori ($6.22, Chelsea v. Brighton)
Antonio Rudiger has been on the shelf recently, affording Tomori a spot in the XI at central defense. Rudiger may be on his way back, but now it looks like Andreas Christensen could be out. Tomori has been outstanding: In addition to his brilliant goal at Wolves, he has tallied nine passes intercepted and six tackles won while suffering more fouls (three) than he has committed (one). As mentioned, the Blues enjoy an exceedingly friendly run of upcoming fixtures. It’s difficult to say how secure his spot in the XI is exactly, so keep an eye on team news as the deadline approaches.
Aaron Cresswell ($5.80, West Ham at Bournemouth)
Arthur Masuaku returns from suspension, leaving Manuel Pellegrini with a choice at left back. Cresswell may have a leg up after beating David De Gea with a gorgeous free kick goal last weekend. In that affair he returned 19 points, which means that even if he had completely missed the frame he would have delivered nine. And if Cresswell is the regular moving forward, he flips from Eddie Money to the Ric Ocasek section.
Diego Rico ($5.22, Bournemouth v. West Ham)
Rico is not the Cherries’ first choice at left back, but he has started three games this season — including the past two — due to an assortment of injuries on the team. He has scored 6, 10 and 13 points in that trio, despite not getting the clean sheet bonus in any, but instead boasts two assists and eight passes intercepted in the past pair of games. Like Tomori, you’ll probably need to monitor team news as the deadline approaches.
Unfortunately, with Manchester City going on the road, and the Citizens’ midfield facing the dreaded prospect of Pep Roulette as Champions League match-day 2 looms, options at the position are less plentiful than usual this week. Hopefully you have some players you’re holding at discount there.
James Maddison ($16.27, Leicester v. Newcastle)
In the first four games of the season, Maddison took 13 shots, but none of them were on target. In the past two affairs, the Madd Man has taken 7 shots, with 3 SOT and one brilliant goal, the game winner against Spurs. Maddison leads the Foxes in shots (20) and assists (2), while he is second in big chances created (2). Welcoming the Magpies to King Power Stadium is most definitely a plus match-up, so you’ve got to like Maddison’s chances of keeping things going. Unfortunately he is an injury doubt, so be sure to check news later in the week.
John McGinn ($14.83, Aston Villa v. Burnley)
McGinn has earned between 7 and 22 points each week so far this season. If he goes off, you’ll be happy; if not, you won’t be crushed. Being at home against the Clarets, he has a decent shot at the former. I’m not a big fan of holding onto him for the season at almost 15 bucks, but he’s a good plug-and-play option when it makes sense.
Dioga Jota ($9.43, Wolves v. Watford) [dual M/F eligibility]
Jota finally got his first goal of the season, a late equalizer at Palace. Now the Molineux welcomes a very shaky Watford. We only get up to three forwards in our side technically, but Jota’s dual positionally eligibility essentially allows for a fourth, so why not take advantage this week?
Raheem Sterling ($20.09, Manchester City at Everton)
After being rested in the Watford walloping, Sterling will have a point to prove this weekend at Toffee Town. While most Citizens do far better at the Etihad than away, it has been a weird season for Sterling who has actually averaged 18.3 ppg on the road compared to 9 ppg at home. I don’t know if he can keep it up, but I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to find out.
Callum Wilson ($15.60, Bournemouth v. West Ham)
Wilson has scored six times in as many games facing the Hammers, quite the track record. At Vitality, why not take a chance at lucky 7?
Jamie Vardy ($13.95, Leicester v. Newcastle)
It feels like the Foxes should be in the goals at home against the Magpies, and Vardy will be the likeliest suspect.
There are splits, and there are extreme splits worthy of Olympic gymnasts. Son’s home/away scoring splits are most definitely the latter. Since 2017-18, the dynamic attacker has netted 19 goals at home and 7 on the road. Do I even have to say where he’s playing this weekend?
Raul Jimenez ($13.52, Wolves v. Watford)
Jimenez is the closest that Wolves have to Sergio Aguero, and Kun just came off a one goal, one assist performance against the Hornets where it felt like he easily could have had a hat trick.
Gerard Deulofeu ($10.64, Wolves v. Watford)
After struggling with a total of 9 points in the first four games, Deulofeu has exploded for 30 in the past pair. Improbably, that comes while failing to score and tallying only a single assist. He’s shooting at will with 10 shots (7 SOT) in the past two games; if he actually cracks the net against woeful Wolves, Deulofeu will hit the jackpot, but even if not, he should be able to return value.
RIC OCASEK STANDARDS
In this section, let’s look at who can stretch things out and provide fun not just now, but time after time.
I don’t like spending a lot for a keeper, especially long-term. Hopefully you have a keeper you like at a good price — or you don’t mind bargain hunting for a new one on a week to week basis — as it’s really not a good place right now if you’re looking for a long-term keeper add. If you want to take a chance on a cheap keeper for a run of games, I only see one decent option.
Kepa Arrizabalaga ($3.94, Chelsea v. Brighton)
Chelsea has struggled with injuries in defense (and defensive midfield) this season, which helps explain how the Blues have failed to keep a clean sheet yet. Now Andreas Christensen, Emerson Palmieiri, and Antonio Rudiger are doubts to be fit for Week 7. As such, buying Kepa would take a big leap of faith, but the upcoming fixture list could hardly be friendlier: v. Brighton, at Southampton, v. Newcastle, at Burnley, at Watford, v. Crystal Palace. Of those six sides, only Burnley is averaging more than a goal scored per game.
Of course, rather than going out on a limb now, you could consider going with Heaton or Patricio this week, then grabbing Kepa on the barn door if the Blues actually manage to put in a strong defensive effort in front of him.
Nicolas Otamendi ($8.22, Manchester City at Everton)
I really, really hope you got Otamendi on the barn door at $4.49 following his 18-point effort against Watford... or even better, grabbed him ahead of last weekend’s performance! If not, though, he can still provide value. After all, he earned 8 and 9 points in the prior two games. With Aymeric Laporte and John Stones out injured, Otamendi has become a secure starter in central defense, and he’s always a threat to bring both offensive and defensive returns. Quite conveniently, the next five games for City are very attractive: at Everton, v. Wolves, at Crystal Palace, v. Aston Villa, v. Southampton.
Joel Ward ($7.80, Crystal Palace v. Norwich)
Ward has scored 12, 9, and 9 points at home this season, making this weekend’s fixture fetching. But he’s outperforming his price by averaging 8 ppg overall, so Ward is a pretty decent long-term hold as well.
Caglar Soyunco ($4.47, Leicester v. Newcastle)
Soyunco is an outstanding play this week since the Foxes probably have the best chance of keeping a clean sheet. While his ceiling is not high, at a cost of under five clams his floor (he rarely goes below 4 ppg) should bring comfort the rest of the season, too.
Benjamin Mendy ($2.80, Manchester City at Everton)
Otamendi fell into our laps unexpectedly, but B. Mendy is someone fantasy managers have anxiously been waiting for. Displacing Oleksandr Zinchenko, Mendy made his first start of the season at left back in the Watford rout. He was removed at halftime, but there was no mention of an injury aggravation, so his spot would seem to be safe and expanding going forward. Mendy amazingly didn’t score a single point in the game, but Fantrax managers will be able to use that to their advantage in terms of being able to grab him for a song. The assist machine averaged 9.1 ppg last season, and now offers brilliant value as long as he remains healthy.
Mason Mount ($12.07, Chelsea v. Brighton)
Against non-Big Six teams, Mount is averaging 14.5 ppg, compared to 4.0 ppg against the top sides. Chelsea only face one Big Six side between Week 7 and 17, so get ready for a long run of joy from the fun young Blues’ attacking midfielder.
Marvelous Nakamba ($4.24, Aston Villa v. Burnley)
The incoming summer transfer took a while to get into the team, but he has now made the two past starts, averaging 6 ppg. That’s a solid return for a bit over 4 bucks, and he should be able to contribute with an occasional 10+ effort that will have you impersonating Billy Crystal by saying, “You look marvelous.”
Harry Kane ($17.94, Tottenham v. Southampton)
Hopefully you’ve got Kane and/or another stud striker at a discount. But if you’re picking between premium forwards at retail, I like Kane at $17.94 better than Sergio Aguero at $23.45, Mo Salah at $22.54, or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at $21.91. Kane has two goals plus an assist in the past three games, and Spurs see an attractive schedule over the next three (v. Southampton, at Brighton, v. Watford), so holding onto him after the visit of the Saints should work out rather nicely.
Tammy Abraham ($13.80, Chelsea v. Brighton)
Along the same lines as Mount, Abraham hasn’t scored in his two games against Big Six competition, but he netted seven times in his other four contests. And now he gets a long run of fixtures almost entirely against also-ran teams.
Sebastian Haller ($11.05, West Ham at Bournemouth)
After averaging 16.3 ppg in his first three games, Haller has fallen on hard times lately with just 2 ppg in the past pair. But the Hammers don’t face any Big Six teams in the next half dozen games, so I like his chances of getting back in the thick of things.
Nicolas Pepe ($9.60, Arsenal at Manchester United)
Pepe apparently won’t expect too many more chances from the PK spot, but PEA’s generous gesture against Villa allowed the newcomer to get a desperately needed confidence boost. Given Manchester United’s troubles, this trip to Old Trafford isn’t as daunting as it should normally be, and the Gunners’ schedule gets even friendlier after that, as they don’t face another Big Six side until Week 17. If you didn’t grab Abraham or Teemu Pukki weeks ago for peanuts, nabbing Pepe for under $10 while you still can seems like a savvy move.
Which players are your long-term holds, and to whom will you turn for short-term joy this weekend? Do you need to turn up the volume, or are things rocking along just fine? Please share your thoughts in the comments!