Trick or Treat...
Welcome to the Halloween edition of this week's Player Rankings. As I pick through this bowl of candy for all the Reese's Cups that is sitting by my front door due to a severe lack of discipline, I look forward to an enjoyable Saturday that features two of my favorite events: people dressing up like complete freaks and a heaping helping of Premier League football matches. One mantra that can be applied to both: expect the unexpected.
You see, I am looking at the matches on tap this week and, to me, this gameweek is SCREAMING massive points for fantasy managers. You have several in-form clubs with a home game playing against several out-of form clubs. Looking into my crystal ball, which admittedly is just another holiday decoration for the occasion, I see score lines of 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0 all over the map. But again, there is a reason for the expression: "Trick or treat."
We are knocking on the door of a gameweek that looks to shower us with candy but, if you were like me as a child, occasionally you came upon a house that decided to implement the "trick" side of Halloween. In your mind you are thinking, "Come on full-sized candy bar, come on full-sized candy bar!" and instead you get startled by some lunatic jumping out of the hedges to scare you away, or even worse, an old lady who reaches into a promising looking bowl of goodies only to hand out a couple of lollipops that were so generic, a dentist wouldn't dare give them away for free.
I would say 90% of the time in my youth, I was in for a treat. I would apply that same percentage of success to fantasy managers for this week. But beware, fantasy Premier League can sometimes be a cruel, wicked pastime. Expectations should be high, but prepare yourself emotionally for what could be the fantasy equivalent of a miniature Tootsie Roll that will take a full week to chew and digest.
Come on folks, I had to give you a little bit of a fright before we got to the rankings, didn't I?. First, let's take a glimpse at this week's fixture list:
Week 11 Fixtures
Chelsea v Liverpool
Crystal Palace v Manchester United
Manchester City v Norwich City
Newcastle United v Stoke City
Swansea City v Arsenal
Watford v West Ham United
West Bromwich Albion v Leicester City
Everton v Sunderland
Southampton v AFC Bournemouth
Tottenham v Aston Villa
So as I was mentioning earlier, there are some very tasty fantasy matchups here: Manchester City, Everton, Southampton and Tottenham in particular look good for both multi-goal scores on their attacking end as well as clean sheet potential. This may be the week you want to employ four defenders in your XI if you have four to choose from among these matches. Oddly enough, or perhaps not too oddly at this point, the fixture I look to avoid for investment is the opening Saturday kickoff between Chelsea and Liverpool. I get the hunch we are looking at a 1-1 final with goals from Emre Can and then Loic Remy off the bench, or something of that nature, helping virtually no one in fantasy.
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. This week, 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.....
Joe Hart - The "Kompany effect" is back. Six starts for Vincent in the league, six clean sheets. At home to Norwich should be an easier task for Hart than his successful cleanie away to Old Trafford last week.
Hugo Lloris - Barring a slip up in the opening minute to the Cherries last week, Tottenham's defense is still very strong. Now in the friendly confines of Whie Hart Lane, playing Aston Villa sans manager, it looks very probable that Spurs can blank the Villans.
Martin Stekelenburg - A late goal conceded to Liverpool last weekend prevented the Saints from keeping things clean, but the defense was otherwise solid enough to believe that a home date against Bournemouth makes Stekelenburg look a very attractive option this week.
David de Gea - In the two league matches before the Manchester derby, City scored five times. The Sky Blues added five more in cup play during midweek. That should shed light on how strong United are at the back these days and de Gea is a major reason why. On the road to Palace this weekend, but an injury scare to Yohan Cabaye could suck the life out of the Eagles attack.
Tim Howard - Everton are about to embark on the nicest run of fixtures of any club in the league, starting with a Goodison Park date against Sunderland. Great for the Black Cats to get their first win last week, but it would be no surprise to see them run up against a wall versus the Toffees. Howard's spot may be under threat soon by a resurgent Joel Robles, but Roberto Martinez has already backed the American to start Week 11.
Aleksandar Kolarov - Came back from injury last week and promptly earned a clean sheet. Another one should be on the cards at the Ethiad against the Canaries, and, with the opponent having conceded more goals in the league than anyone, the Russian's attacking ability has a very good chance to pay dividends here.
Seamus Coleman - We still haven't seen the level of fantasy returns Coleman provided a couple of seasons ago, but another attack-minded fullback who has a good shot at earning points from attacking, defending or both against the Black Cats. *UPDATE - Coleman has picked up a stomach bug and is now a major doubt for Week 11. Make other plans.
Vincent Kompany - Perhaps not on the level of other defenders ranked in terms of attacking potential, but there is a reason he was ranked last week in a derby away to Old Trafford - he is on a clean sheet hot streak. Not to mention a bonus point magnet in the FPL.com game.
Virgil van Dijk - This season's most threatening center back in terms of attacking potential, VVD could very well come good again against a struggling Bournemouth defense. With the match at St. Mary's, a clean sheet isn't hard to imagine either.
Danny Rose - Rose looks to have finally reclaimed the left back spot from Ben Davies, creating another fantastic defensive option for fantasy managers. Like all others ranked above, points from either end look realistic in a home game against the rudderless Villans.
Hector Bellerin/Nacho Monreal - Two great defensive options in any format in any week, Bellerin and Monreal takes a slight dip in the ranks this week as the Gunners travel to a tricky ground in the Liberty Stadium while all others ranked above get the added benefit of playing at home.
Daryl Janmaat - Could have been a different story for Janmaat last week had Newcastle's captain not been sent off. Now back at home against Stoke, a clean sheet may be hard to imagine, but the attacking threat is alive and well for the right back.
Robert Huth - Mark my words, a headed goal is coming soon from this oak tree of a center back. He has come close in recent weeks. Coming off a rare clean sheet, the Foxes could make it two on the trot, even on the road, against a West Brom side that is usually a 50/50 shot in a given week to go goalless. A cheap option in budget formats already, but if you are looking for an even cheaper Leicester defender, check out this week's Bargain Hunter.
Chris Smalling - The ever-steady presence in the Red Devil defense, Smalling, like de Gea, is a nice option to have most weeks. If Yohan Cabaye isn't available to be the architect of the Palace attack, it makes chances of another blank all the more possible, even at Selhurst Park.
Eric Dier - Between form, opponent and home advantage, another Spur defender deserves a spot in the ranks and Dier is the next best option to Rose with added out-of-position appeal.
Kevin de Bruyne - Put aside the goalless blip on the attacking map of Manchester City right now, and you are looking at the most in-form scoring club in the league right now. There is a chance David Silva returns for the home match with Norwich, but it is too soon to put fantasy faith in him just yet. Until then, de Bruyne is the midfielder you want and seems destined to get something in this fixture.
Alexis Sanchez - Managing to quell fears of rest last week, Sanchez admittedly had a quiet shift. Perhaps rest was needed, but with Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey injured and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain perhaps absent as well, there is no room to rest him now. Not the best fixture but Sanchez is a midfielder with weekly brace potential.
Christian Eriksen - With Harry Kane's hat trick leading the way, the Spurs attack is looking dangerous and cannot be ignored in a home game against Aston Villa. Eriksen is a strong bet to either score or assist...perhaps both in this game.
Dimitri Payet - The model of consistency in the midfield, Payer has either scored or assisted in six straight matches, and has only played twice this season without getting in the points. Though Watford have been pretty good defensively at home, we have witnessed the Hammers get it done against the toughest opponents.
Riyad Mahrez - Despite a tricky trip to the Hawthorns, Mahrez has enough trickery himself to warrant a spot in the top 5 midfield options this week with his consistent attacking threat.
Sadio Mane - Lucky for fantasy managers, the red card Mane picked up last weekend was served during midweek cup action. All the talent you want from a midfield option but he has had some duds sprinkled in this season. For that reason he is ranked a bit lower than one would think in a tasty home match against the Cherries.
Ross Barkley - Hedging my bets with Barkley's ranking this week, the Everton man has the fixture and history to suggest he could bag a brace against lowly Sunderland. He is also the sort that can have everything going for him on paper and wind up disappointing. In the Fantrax format, he is the 3rd best midfielder on the season, so expect healthy returns regardless if you own him there. (Fantrax Special)
Dusan Tadic - While perhaps not prolific in the FPL.com format, Tadic is a top 5 midfielder in the Playtogga game, as he stuffs several scoring categories beyond goals and assists. With a plus matchup that could feature multiple goals for the Saints, he is a solid pick this week no matter what format you play. (Playtogga Special)
Mesut Ozil - With the exception of Mahrez and Ozil's teammate Sanchez, all other midfield options this week have such favorable matchups or Ozil would be ranked much higher here. If Arsenal are in the goals, Ozil is likely to be adding to his league-leading assist total.
Georginio Wijnaldum - He's among the top scoring midfielders in any format you play and has a home match against a mid-table side. Why ranked so low then? Well, when 40% of your FPL points come from a single match, he isn't exactly someone you can depend on. Still, if you own him, you play him with optimism.
Andre Ayew - At home but against a tough opponent. Still, a goal per two games played is an excellent rate for a midfielder and if the Swans manage only one against the Gunners, the money is on Ayew to deliver it.
Santi Cazorla - Like Tadic, Cazorla isn't near the top options in FPL, but is a top 5 Playtogga midfielder on the year and is holding his own in the Fantrax game. Perhaps with the injuries in the Arsenal attack, Cazorla could step up and deliver what we all want, goals and/or assists. (Playtogga Special)
Raheem Sterling - Sterling picked up a minor hamstring issue that had him miss out the midweek cup tie, but Manuel Pellegrini has stated he expects the speedy midfielder to be ready for Saturday. Outside of his hat trick against Newcastle, he hasn't exactly impressed in his first season with City, but if he is capable of scoring big against one bad defense at the Etihad, the a visit of Norwich should provide him a chance to shine.
Eden Hazard - He makes the list by reputation only at this point, knowing he has the class to turn things around at any time. Perhaps the latest embarrassment against West Ham will motivate the man for the sake of pride alone. If you own him in non-FPL.com formats, you have to continue to roll with him. If you own him in FPL, ask yourself what is preventing you from transferring him out when an option like Marc Albrighton can be owned for 6.2m less.
Wilfried Bony - With Aguero returning perhaps in a couple of weeks, maybe it is too late to get on the Bony train in FPL. but as Galin Dragiev points out in this week's DFS column, he pretty much a must-have this week in a game that screams goals for the Sky Blues. If I had him in my FPL side, I would give him the armband, but alas I brought in the second ranked forward this week.
Harry Kane - Welcome back Harry. We have all missed you dearly. While a goal explosion like the one Georginio Wijnaldum has to be taken with a grain of salt, the trick Kane grabbed last week should only have managers expecting productive days ahead. You can bet the home crowd will be chanting his name all afternoon as he leads the line against a porous Aston Villa defense.
Graziano Pelle - Pelle owners seem to be to hard on him in weeks where he fires a blank, but hey, he has still been consistent on the season, is behind only Vardy on the season in most formats at the position, and got a goal midweek to get him going again. The Bournemouth defense has been so terrible in recent weeks, the upside for Pelle is massive at St. Mary's.
Romelu Lukaku - Yet another forward this week with brace potential, Lukaku gets a plus matchup at home against the Black Cats who, while perhaps brimming with some confidence after their derby win, still have plenty of question marks of how well they can perform in a fixture like this.
Jamie Vardy - The FIFTH ranked forward this week? Are you kidding me? Well, it's Fuzzy Logic being applied here. First, even Pele couldn't score every week at his highest level, second, if Vardy's streak is to come to an end, a trip to the Hawthorns would be the land mine that he could step foot on. Not saying he can't score, but everyone above seems to have a shot at a multi-goal game where I can only imagine Vardy perhaps getting one at best.
Odion Ighalo - Omitted from last week's rankings, Ighalo continued to impress any doubters of his fantasy appeal by supplying an assist in Week 10. Now at home to a West Ham side that haven't kept a cleanie in their last five, Watford look in good shape to find the net once, and no one is near as likely for them to contribute to it in some way than him.
Saido Berahino - This is where the forward ranks begin to deliver some question marks. The Baggies are at home to a Leicester side that only collected their first clean sheet of the season last week. If that is a fluke more than a sign of things to come, and now needing to pull it off on the road, I think WBA are capable of getting one here. I am a firm believer that Berahino is the best bet to notch it.
Mame Biram Diouf - Returning from compassionate leave, it looks like Mark Hughes will turn right back to Diouf to lead the Potters line. It is going to be tough for Newcastle to shut the Stoke attack down, and if they cannot, Diouf could terrorize the Magpie defense in the box all day.
Diego Costa - Like Hazard, it almost pains me to mention a Chelsea option these days. Still, the talent that won the league last year is pretty much all there, giving the Blues a chance in any given week to suddenly rise up. That said, I cannot see beyond one goal for Chelsea, even at the Bridge, as I expect a tightly played affair between them and Liverpool.
Troy Deeney - It may be hard to believe for those who only play FPL.com, but Deeney has been a fantasy contributor in other formats all season, among the leaders in aerial challenges won and assisting shots. Now that he has finally opened his top flight account, perhaps those FPL points will begin to flow in a good matchup for him (Fantrax and Playtogga Special)
Anthony Martial - The only United attacking player I am ranking this week, and he is at the bottom of the forward pile, despite playing a Palace side that aren't exactly known for shutting attacks down. While owning a nice conversion rate on his chances, the chances are too few and far between for my liking. Still, United could find a goal or two here and I'd feel better about backing Martial than I would Wayne Rooney at this point.
So there you have it. The best of the best to consider for Week 11. I hope you find that there is a well-applied sense of logic to all of Fuzzy's picks. (Yes, I managed to refer to myself in the first-and-third person in one sentence) Just remember, sometimes patience can pay off in the end, such as all the cobwebs around the garage I never bother to knock down and sweep away. Come Saturday, those authentic webs will look spectacular on All Hallow's Eve.
Good luck fellow managers, and may your arrows be green.