There is little worse for a fantasy manager (or someone who writes fantasy prediction columns) than being right and wrong at the same time. When we make our choices (or recommendations) we are hoping that we are correctly divining which players will achieve that most valuable of fantasy outcomes - scoring a goal (or more). In some cases, Luis Suzrez all season and Daniel Sturridge when he's been healthy, that hasn't been too difficult. In other cases, it just hasn't been as profitable as one would hope. The two examples that jumped out at me from last weekend were Robin van Persie (who I both recommended and picked for my own team) and Jay Rodriguez (who I recommended but didn't pick myself in the Yahoo game because of Suarez and Sturridge although I did have him in the PL.com game). Both forwards did what we hoped, they scored.
What they didn't do, much to our collective chagrin, was pile up the fantasy points in the Yahoo format. Both players finished below double digits meaning that the rest of their contributions outside of their goal-scoring was a net negative due to fouls committed, yellow cards, give-aways, etc. In both cases, this has been the case too often this season for guys who cost north of 15.00. Rodriguez has certainly had some big scoring outtings but for a player who has 10 goals and 3 assists, there are far too few 15+ point efforts for my taste. Sadly, the same has been said for one of the fantasy MVPs of the past two seasons in van Persie who has eclipsed 15 points only twice this season and not since Week 4. There's a reason his price is where it is after he started the season as the most expensive player still plying his trade in the Premier League. Now, with van Persie playing against Fulham this weekend I'm not giving up on the possibility that he'll have a vintage match but overall, consider this a warning that goal totals by themselves don't make a fantasy stud. When you start hearing stats about how many goals Jay Rodriguez has scored since his England debut, look at his fantasy points since that same debut and dampen your enthusiasm at least a bit.
With those warnings in mind, we're off to our weekly review of Premier League team news and the impact it should have on your fantasy selections this week:
Liverpool v Arsenal - The issues here are pretty well known. Liverpool is without what could be described as it's entire first choice defense with Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sahko, Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson. Liverpool's second choice defense is probably not a huge step down (which is more an indictment of their first choice than a vote of confidence for the second group). On Arsenal's side, the well-publicized absences - Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey - continue with Jack Wilshere back in the reckoning but not guaranteed to start coming off of his ankle issue. The big concern for fantasy managers here is all about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who was a great bargain last weekend when he went for two goals. With Wilshere potentially back you'll want to be watching the line-ups for this one that should come out just before the transfer deadline with a plan in mind as to what to do if Wilshere takes Oxlade-Chamberlain's spot.
Chelsea v Newcastle - Chelsea will be without Fernando Torres again meaning that Samuel Eto'o is a very strong bet to start. That, and all other things Chelsea, become all the more interesting given the disasterous state of affairs that the Magpies find themselves in. Yohan Cabaye is gone - and with him goes a big chunk of the NUFC goodness from the first half of the season (just take a look at NUFC's win rate with Cabaye and without him while he's been on the roster - big difference). On top of that huge absence, Cheick Tiote is definitely out and Yoan Gouffran and Papiss Cisse are very much doubtful and Loic Remy is still serving his suspension. Unless there's a big error or a Hatem Ben Arfa screamer then Chelsea should be a very good bet for a Chelsea clean sheet.
Norwich City v Manchester City - Manchester City should win comfortably but the question is who will be available - especially in City's attack. Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, and Fernandinho are definitely out. Stevan Jovetic looked very lively against Chelsea on Monday and it seems likely that he'll get a start as a replacement for Sergio Aguero but you'd have to be a risk-lover because there's a non-zero chance that the starters at forward will be Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo.
Southampton v Stoke City - Dejan Lovern is the big absence here. Southampton proved themselves able to keep a clean sheet without him last weekend so it probably doesn't change your dynamics much and there's nothing else here worth mentioning.
Sunderland v Hull City - Steve Harper will deputize for Allen McGregor again and Sone Aluko is making his way back from injury - it seems unlikely that either are worth even a small risk given Sunderland's recent, improved, form.
Swansea City v Cardiff City - The big news here is that Michu and Michel Vorm are both back in training but not certain to participate. Jonjo Shelvey is also questionable with a hamstring issue. A Swansea with Michu, Shelvey and Vorm is a very different proposition than a Swansea without that trio.
Aston Villa v West Ham United - Gabby Agbonlahor is back for Villa but Ron Vlaar is out. Andy Carroll failed in his suspension appeal and will miss the match. West Ham's attack has been miserable without Carroll.
Crystal Palace v West Bromwich - Not-fantasy-worthy (unless you're super-high on the Tom Ince hype) new signings are available and likely to participate for Palace while Albion get back James Morrison but lose Anelka, Olsson, and Sessegnon (again). Palace seems like a pretty solid bet for a clean sheet but there isn't much else that seems worth investing in here.
Manchester United v Fulham - Jonny Evans is definitely out for United but Nemanja Vidic is back and should fill in for Evans' spot against the Cottagers. Fulham's new signings - Kostas Mitroglou and Johnny Heitinga - are both expected to make their debuts but this isn't the time to dive in even in United's diminished state.
Tottenham Hotspur v Everton - Lots of people returning on both sides here. For Everton, Deulofeu and Traore are both available and Seamus Coleman should be back from his injury. While Coleman should come straight back in, Deulofeu and Traore are both uncertain with Traore the more likely in my eyes (Deulofeu wasn't a starter when he was healthy before but rather a nice change of pace off the bench). For Spurs it is Townsend and Dembele who are both back but neither are certain of a starting spot to the point where anyone should be considering them for their fantasy team.