Happy Thanksgiving to all in the United States, or, as I like to refer to it, "the meal you eat before you stand in line for several hours for the chance of buying a microwave for twenty dollars at a Black Friday event near you". A little wordy, admittedly, but you get my drift.
Well, Week 13 was a welcome return to league play and fantasy PL after waiting through the latest international break. Like most gameweeks following a two week layoff, I entered Week 13 with a healthy amount of excitement, anticipation and unbridled optimism. Then, like most gameweeks when I do that, I was massively disappointed at how things played out. Well, on Saturday anyway. It was one of those weeks where a fantasy nightmare morphed into a euphoric reality.
First, the unavoidable venting about Saturday. In my Fantrax expert's league, I had the benefit of seeing early team news of Watford v Manchester United. As a Marcos Rojo owner, I saw the Argentine was not in the XI, something I was anticipating as he was coming back from the long travel via South America. As a Nicolas Otamendi owner in the same league, I feared he might miss out as well. I was right on both counts it turned out, as Otamendi did not play. (In fact, take a peek at last week's column, I warned both Rojo and Otamendi were risks and did not rank them) So, with one move left to make with my Free Agent budget in this league, I made the choice to add Watford's Miguel Britos, who looks to have nailed down a spot for the Hornets and was already showing as a starter in the opening fixture of the gameweek. So, I start Britos ahead of Rojo. What happens? Well, my opponent owned and started Ander Herrera. Herrera supplies the opening assist, gets injured, and who but Rojo comes on to replace him with more than an hour to play. While true United did eventually concede, and it was Rojo's foul in the box that led to the Watford goal, my being a fantasy manager on top of every possible move I can make wound up slapping me in the face. Then, Otamendi doesn't play a minute while Sadio Mane didn't start and David Silva spends yet another week on my injured reserve spot as I deservedly lost my H2H matchup.
Well, at least I can rejoice in FPL, right? Wrong. This past week, I did what looked to be a sound move - I dropped the injured Dmitri Payet and brought in the on-fire Gerard Deulofeu. Thank you Gerard. Your man of the match award was well deserved. Too bad it resulted in zilch for my FPL side. Oh, and did I mention I have no Romelu Lukaku or Ross Barkley from that game?
Well, at least I started Wayne Hennessey over Jack Butland....oops. Well, at least I had 17 combined points from Danny Simpson and James Morrison...on my bench. Need I say more folks? My FPL week was horrific.
But then, Sunday came along. Hello fellow FPL fans, my name is Steve Rothgeb and I am a Tottenham supporter and I captained Harry Kane. Perhaps a Kane armband turned a terrible FPL week into a salvageable one, but the reality of that result against West Ham more than made up for any fantasy misery that I was mired in. This is why we have both in our lives isn't it? The hope that if reality goes bad, fantasy has a chance to make up for it or vice versa? I had a vice versa week. I will take it.
Now, let's take a glimpse at this week's fixture list:
Week 14 Fixtures
Aston Villa v Watford
AFC Bournemouth v Everton
Crystal Palace v Newcastle United
Manchester City v Southampton
Sunderland v Stoke City
Leicester City v Manchester United
Tottenham v Chelsea
West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion
Liverpool v Swansea City
Norwich City v Arsenal
It could be a real turning of the tide for some clubs this week. Everyone has to be in awe of seeing Leicester City top of the table just a few days away from December. Everyone has to be befuddled how a win for Chelsea last week still leaves them behind Swansea in the table, the latter having won just once since August. There seems to be only two outcomes that I feel confident enough about to predict this week - Everton will score multiple goals in a comfortable win against AFC Bournemouth while the two "West" clubs, Ham and Brom, looks to be a 0-0 snoozer. City "should" bounce back, but they have injuries IN the back. Arsenal "should" take care of business against Norwich but injuries and fatigue are racking up for the Gunners. Palace "should" be the better side against Newcastle, but they showed again this past weekend against Sunderland that their form at Selhurst Park is sketchy at best. Who knows what will happen in the derby between Tottenham and Chelsea. And of course, who will show themselves to be the stronger unit as the Leicester attack goes up against the Man United defense. Storylines EVERYWHERE.
What follows are my top picks at each position. It doesn't matter what format you play, these rankings will help you figure out how players at each position compare with one another, and can help you on transfer decisions in the FPL.com game, who to start or bench in draft leagues, and who is worth putting up the cash for in salary-based leagues. You will also see how I have begun to highlight prospects that are especially valuable in formats like Playtogga, Fantrax and DFS, so that they are given the credit they deserve. At the end of the day though, nothing gets the points flowing more than goals, assists and clean sheets. So without further ado, let's get cracking...
Simon Mignolet - Liverpool have managed just one clean sheet in league play since Jurgen Klopp took over, but they have been averaging just one goal conceded, so they are teetering on respectability. I love a keeper at home and Swansea are a mess right now. Though they scored twice last week, it was against the Cherries who have shipped more goals than anyone, and both featured Jonjo Shelvey, who will be absent here.
Heurelho Gomes - Admittedly, I have been disrespectful to Gomes' accomplishments this season thus far. I cannot ignore it any longer, he either gets clean sheets or racks up the saves. You have to think last place Villa will help him have another productive day.
Jack Butland - Stoke's defense is as good as it gets in the league right now, as Butland has kept five clean sheets in the last six. Away to relegation zoned Sunderland, it is time to keep the faith. A healthy Jermain Defoe shouldn't make much difference.
Petr Cech - Despite the repercussions of the loss of Francis Coquelin, the Gunners should still feel good about their chances in keeping things clean at Carrow Road. If they struggle here though, you may not see Cech ranked in this column for some time.
Adrian - West Ham's defense was awful against Spurs last week but I like them to bounce back at home against the Baggies. Every week I anoint a struggling keeper who is due to keep a cleanie, and this week I am backing Adrian, who I have just a notch above David de Gea.
Seamus Coleman - Ranked Coleman #1 last week and he returned a clean sheet, assist and a BP for good measure in the FPL game. He again looks promising to do something via attacking, defending or both against Bournemouth. We may see Leighton Baines joining the ranks very soon.
Erik Pieters - One has to ride the hot hand that is Stoke's defense right now. Pieters is atop the FPL form chart at the moment, scoring 25 points over his last three matches which includes a clean sheet, assist and three BPs in his last outing.
Scott Dann - Last week was when many a fantasy manager decided it was time to back Dann with his form and fixtures. All he managed was a yellow card and a one point FPL dud. Still, despite the Eagles odd home struggles, I am keeping the faith as they face Newcastle.
Laurent Koscielny - I still think Hector Bellerin provides better value being just a bit cheaper, but the young full backs still seems to be not 100% after getting subbed off last week. Koscielny may not have much in terms of attacking ability but he makes up for it by hogging bonus points when Arsenal don't concede.
Virgil van Dijk - I don't think VvD would be this highly ranked if Liverpool didn't do so well at the Etihad the week before. The Saint center back may have little chance among his peers for clean sheet points, but he is a category stuffer in non-FPL formats. (Playtogga special)
Aleksandar Kolarov - With Vincent Kompany out (perhaps Joe Hart as well) and Eliaquim "OG" Mangala likely filling in again, City may find it hard to keep out Southampton, even with the lack of Graziano Pelle, but Kolarov has too much attacking threat to not be in the ranks on a weekly basis.
Ryan Shawcross - Doubling down on Stoke defenders in the ranks, and it may not be a bad idea for fantasy managers to do the same. Shawcross can get it done in any format, and he is representing great value after a long injury layoff. Read more about him in this week's (Bargain Hunter).
Alberto Moreno - Moreno's stats are showing he is massively overdue for some attacking returns. I have enough faith to believe he can get some positive gains in one form or another at home to Swansea. Martin Skrtel is right there with him, but he is being monitored at the moment with an illness.
Craig Dawson - West Ham's attack is simply not scary without Dmitri Payet running the show. A 0-0 final between these two would not surprise me in the least, and if that is the result, Dawson is likely to pick up bonus.
Nicolas Otamendi - Despite not featuring last week, Otamendi is still fourth in the current FPL form guide, thanks to either scoring a goal or keeping a clean sheet in the previous three league games. No Kompany partnering him doesn't help, but City will be a better defense with him and the absence of Graziano Pelle makes his inclusion more palatable.
Mesut Ozil - Ten assists in his last nine contests, need I say more? Perhaps the ceiling week to week isn't as high compared to a few other midfield options, but his reliability along with a plus matchup against Norwich makes this an easy call for the top spot.
Ross Barkley/Gerard Deulofeu - Just call them option 2A and 2B. Every week I pick one, the other has the big day. They cannot seem to enjoy success in the same gameweek as both are in a "form rotation". That said, you have to feel confident owning either one in any format with the attacking prowess Everton are showing and facing a leaky Bournemouth defense.
Yohan Cabaye - Palace had a nice fixture on paper last week, but fell flat against Sunderland. Home to the other bad club from Tyne-side, I cannot imagine the Eagles flopping a second straight time. A brace or goal/assist combo from Cabaye should surprise no one. Form isn't there but class is forever.
Roberto Firmino - Welcome to the ranks, kid. First off, if Philippe Coutinho is passed fit for the weekend, rank him just behind the Toffee pair in midfield. Firmino will most certainly start though and look to build off his best Liverpool shift yet. He is especially valuable in the Fantrax format. (Fantrax special)
Christian Eriksen - A pair of assists last week for Eriksen and Spurs overall performace should see a spike in the midfielder's investment. Chelsea's defense might have done okay last week, but their captain looks to be a doubt in central defense and Tottenham should put a frown on Mourinho's face.
Kevin de Bruyne - I ranked KdB rather low last week and he came up empty for the Citizens. He is clearly more dangerous with David Silva in the mix but I still think he is a threat to explode in any given fixture. At home to Southampton, I think he due for said explosion.
Eden Hazard - Chelsea seem to be much more concerned about Champions League results than they are the Premier League, and perhaps for good reason at this point. Still, Hazard looked as sharp as he has in some time last week against Norwich, and if anyone is going to cut a knife through the Spurs defense, he is my pick to do it.
Riyad Mahrez - Mahrez could very well make me look silly for ranking him so low this week. Fair enough. I just think Leicester are due to be somewhat stifled in their attack and drop a game and Manchester United look the club to be a bump in the Foxes road.
Alexis Sanchez - Ranked him low last week and will do so again. He only gets this much respect for being so dynamic when right. Fact is though, a rest is coming and this may very well be the week if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can step in. Still, if you got him, you always start him.
Dusan Tadic - I didn't rank Sadio Mane at all last week, and it proved wise as he did not even start. Tadic meanwhile has been the more consistent Southampton midfielder. He may be called upon to do more than set up his teammates with Graziano Pelle not playing, so that gives him a boost in non-FPL formats where he is already a top play. (Fantrax & Playtogga special)
Georginio Wijnaldum - Every week, Wijnaldum fades further down the ranks. This could be his final inclusion for quite some time if he has another quiet day. Palace have had struggles on their own ground though. If Newcastle are at all a cohesive looking attack this weekend, it could be a banner day for the Dutchman.
Juan Mata - Mata hasn't been sharp in recent games, but is still having a respectable season overall for United, and is their safest midfield pick. It helps that he seems to have taken over penalty duties and facing the Foxes who concede, concede, concede.
Yann M'Vila - Forger about him in FPL, but M'Villa is a consistent points-getter in other formats no matter how good or bad Sunderland perform as an XI. He is what they call "fixture-proof" (Fantrax & Playtogga special)
Andre Ayew - I think the odds are better for Liverpool to keep the Swans out, but should the Welsh club find the net, or better yet, surprise everyone and get a positive result, Ayew still manages to produce during their tough slide.
Romelu Lukaku - Appropriately ranked #1 last week among forwards, Lukaku is getting it done against soft defenses. No reason to doubt him this week, even on the road, against AFC Bournemouth.
Harry Kane - How about braces from the top two ranked strikers a week ago? Not too shabby. The Chelsea defense managed to look somewhat respectable against Norwich last week, but Spurs are a completely different animal. Tottenham have a Thursday night match to play, so keep an eye on Kane's fitness.
Sergio Aguero - He's baaaack. Despite Man City getting Man-Handled against Liverpool last week, Aguero went straight back to finding the net in his long-awaited return. More home cooking this week against a middling Saints defense gives Kun brace potential here after a 69 minute Champions League appearance where he was subbed off injury-free.
Olivier Giroud - He scored away to The Hawthorns, so there is no reason to shy away from a visit of Carrow Road. Yet another strong forward option this week with brace potential.
Odion Ighalo - As record-making consistent as Jamie Vardy has been, Ighalo hasn't been far behind. When Watford score, his is almost a lock to be supplying or finishing. A meeting with last place Aston Villa makes the prospects all the sweeter.
Jamie Vardy - As tough a task as it is to score on Manchester United this season, I cannot bring myself to rank Vardy any lower than this. It wouldn't surprise me to see his scoring streak snapped here, but let's face it, he's been surprising everyone all season.
Christian Benteke - This one could be a dud. Benteke didn't start last week and with how well the Reds did, there doesn't seem reason to HAVE to start him this week. Still, my gut says he does against a troubled Swansea defense, and even as a substitute last week, the Belgian still registered an assist.
Wayne Rooney - Rooney's decline this season has been well-documented, but so has Leicester's penchant to concede goals. Back after missing out Week 13 through injury, I have a hunch that he at least gets an assist and he puts up the kind of stats that lead to Bonus Points.
Bojan - While not ideally starting furthest forward for the Potters, Bojan's skill set is a nightmare for bad defenses. Yes, Sunderland have only conceded one over their past two matches, but they have still shipped seven over their last three.
Troy Deeney - A top 10 scoring forward in FPL this season to date, Deeney is even more valuable in the Fantrax and Playtogga formats, the latter in which if you discount Alexis Sanchez as a forward and dismiss Graziano Pelle due to unavailability, he is a Top 5 weapon. (Fantrax & Playtogga special)
Arouna Kone - The last spot was a tough choice between Kone and Ayoze Perez. I will give the slight edge to Kone based on his team's sharp form versus Newcastle's abysmal form.
So there you have it. The best of the best to consider for Week 14. Remember, the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham still have a European match to get out of the way between the publishing of this column and the next deadline, so keep up with the news here at Rotoworld. Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to take advantage of the one day a year I can eat half a pumpkin pie and not be ridiculed for it.
Good luck fellow managers, and may your arrows be green.