Roberto Martinez, how could you?
Week 24 was a high scoring week for me, perhaps for you as well. The problem is, it was a high scoring week for just about everyone. I managed to edge the average score of the gameweek (60) with a total of 63, and it resulted in the dreadful red arrow blues. According to reports, the late yellow card picked up by Sergio Aguero cost fantasy managers who had given the Argentine the armband eight fantasy points - 2 for the card and six more for bonus points, which were all wiped away in the blink of an eye.
That does not hold a candle to those who owned Leighton Baines, however, myself being one of them. When team news came out that Roberto Martinez had dropped Baines to the bench, my initial reaction was, "Great, I can get those six Danny Simpson points from my bench that seem to go wasted time and again." Then, I thought, "Wait, that would be too convenient. Clearly Martinez will substitute Baines in for a brief cameo to block those Simpson points coming my way." The match was on too late for me to watch, so when I woke up the next morning, initially I felt success in that Baines did not feature, and Simpson was auto-subbed into my FPL XI. It would have been nice to end the story there, but my job is to look further into what happened in the match, especially how Newcastle looked, as I am assigned to report on the club and was particularly interested in how they lined up and performed with all the new signings they have made.
Boy, was that a bitter match report to digest. As many know already, Romelu Lukaku was taken off after the first half. Seemingly good news for those who do not own him, which, again, is a club I am a member of. But what happened from the 88th minute on will annoy me like a mosquito you know is in the room but you cannot squash. Everton were awarded two penalties, which were converted by Ross Barkley. For those playing fantasy for years, one of the appealing qualities of Leighton Baines is that he is the man behind virtually every set piece. Now, last season, for reasons I will never quite understand, Kevin Mirallas usurped those duties for a moment and then the picture became further unclear with Romelu Lukaku's involvement. Well, one thing was clear - with both Lukaku and Mirallas not in the match for those two penalty chances, certainly the duties would have fell to Baines, and his penalty success rate is above average and solid, calling into question why he was ever taken off them for a moment. I am convinced that if Baines had started the match, he finishes the day on 21 FPL points - 2 for appearance, 4 for a clean sheet, 12 for the two goals, and, of course, the maximum 3 bonus points. That is the sort of haul "that almost was" that haunts a fantasy manager.
Lucky for me, I have reality football to offset fantasy, and vice versa, because usually when one goes sour, the other can at least provide something positive. Needless to say, as a Tottenham supporter, to see Spurs leapfrog Arsenal in the table is still where the majority of my focus is turned to. The Baines incident was upsetting to take in, but I am hoping it will merely provide another "Remember when?" laugh down the road when discussing fantasy history with fellow managers.
I am feeling pretty good from a picks standpoint for the week. The midfield position gave me some trouble but I find that that position is the toughest to predict on a week-to-week basis. I mean, if you told me Dimitri Payet was not only playing against Aston Villa at home, but would be doing so for the majority of the match with a man advantage, I would have told you to put the armband on him. And yet, nothing. Mesut Ozil was all over the place against Southampton and was in fact the top scoring player at any position on the gameweek in the Playtogga format, but gave you a humdrum three point return, thanks to the heroics of Fraser Forster. I ranked seven goalkeepers - six kept clean sheets, while the other shipped one. Not bad. And, I have been backing Benik Afobe from Day One - he has now scored in three of his first four Premier League games. The man scores at every level and should be the catalyst to keep the Cherries in the top flight for next season.
Right, we have another quick turnaround so it is the short version of this week's rankings. Names alone, no summary. Let's get to this week's fixtures now, shall we...
Week 25 Fixtures
Manchester City v Leicester City
Aston Villa v Norwich City
Liverpool v Sunderland
Newcastle United v West Bromwich Albion
Tottenham v Watford
Stoke City v Everton
Swansea City v Crystal Palace
Southampton v West Ham United
AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal
Chelsea v Manchester United
This weekend opens and closes with a bang. The top two sides go at it in the early Saturday kickoff, so even if you live in California, it will be worth getting up (or staying up) to see Leicester take on Man City. A City win would see them jump to the top of the table on goal difference. I have a feeling we will not see a 0-0 result like last time at King Power Stadium, with both Sergio Aguero and Jamie Vardy firing well. The week then ends late Sunday with a clash between two giant clubs amid two very disappointing seasons. Chelsea, whose defense had let them down so often for much of the season, has been their saving grace lately. Conversely, Manchester United, who had been relying on defense to squeeze out results for a good part of the season, are looking like a threatening attack again, led by Wayne Rooney who looks to be back to the elite forward he has been for the Red Devils for the past decade. An important relegation battle is on at Villa Park with Norwich coming to town. It may be too late for Villa, but they have been improving defensively since replacing Brad Guzan between the sticks, while the Norwich defense is struggling mightily and have two clubs on their heels that have massively bolstered their sides in the transfer window. We may be seeing the Canaries in the relegation coal mine before too long. Villa will have a player in the rankings for the first time in recent history, which is why I decided to honor the occasion by using his photo for the column's front page. Bacuna Matata! (it means no worries)
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...
David de Gea
Patrick van Aanholt
Virgil van Dijk
Dele Alli (check fitness first)
Charlie Austin (check fitness first)
Romelu Lukaku (check fitness first).
So there you have it. The best of the best to consider for Week 25. Be sure to check the latest injury reports that come out of the press conferences ahead of this weekend's matches here at Rotoworld. Charlie Austin and Romelu Lukaku still need to be determined in particular.
Good luck fellow managers, may your arrows be green.