NOW WE GET get to the time of the year when fantasy is SO important to our enjoyment of the Premier League.
As an Arsenal supporter, my motivation to watch intently for the last eight matches of the season is pretty weak. Last weekend’s dual results at the top with United coming back and Arsenal dropping two points mean that the title is decided so that’s not my motivation to watch.
I suppose I could tune in because I’m interested in the race for third and fourth and the vital money that it brings in the form of Champions League revenue. I say I could but the money doesn’t really matter to two out of the three clubs contesting that spot.
If the third team in that mix were anyone but Spurs, maybe I could get excited hoping they stave off the inevitable Chelsea/City Champions League participation for at least another season but as much as I’d prefer one of the big money bags be left out, I can’t support Spurs being the one to do it to them.
I do have to admit that the race to stave off relegation has me fascinated but with apologies to those who might be offended by my language but I have a hard time getting too excited about the race to see who sucks less. As it turns out, this has been the most fascinating thing going on at the end of the season unless you bet on things like which manager will be sacked and when. This is why fantasy is so important.
Fantasy gives us a reason to watch the matches that just don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things. Early in the year it gives us a reason to watch that Rovers v Sunderland match that comes on either before or after the match featuring one or more of United/Arsenal/Chelsea/City/Spurs/Liverpool. Late in the season it gives us a reason to watch at all.
I encourage all of you as you play fantasy games to find ways to “make it more interesting” with longterm wagers with friends or by entering contests that run the length of the season on various web sites. In times of flagging interest in the “real” storylines these competitions can keep you engaged.
Can you tell I’m still bitter about Arsenal’s season effectively ending last weekend? I thought you might pick that out.
Where we separate the matches that offer fantasy managers real value versus those that just appear to do so.
- ·Chelsea v Wigan – Don’t be fooled by Chelsea’s mediocre match against Stoke or Wigan’s holding of Spurs last weekend. Chelsea aren’t entirely out of the woods yet on Champions League qualifying for next season and Wigan are no match for them at home.
- ManUtd v Fulham – The visitors have made a fortress out of Craven Cottage but their exploits on the road haven’t been nearly so noteworthy. Oh, and United are just exceptional at home. ‘nuff said.
- Blackpool v Arsenal – No, I’m not betting on all of the spoils going to Arsenal so much as this being an open attacking match in both directions where you should consider both sets of attacking players and stay far away from the defenders and ‘keepers.
I don’t see a lot of matches that look attractive but aren’t. What I see are a lot of even match-ups that could go either way. This shouldn’t dissuade you from taking players in an even match-up. What it SHOULD do is cause you to choose players who produce week-in and week-out as opposed to occasional contributors whose value improves when the match-up is a strong one for that player’s team.
- Chicharito – With Rooney suspended, Chicharito should start and return great value.
- SEB – If you went with my advice last weekend, I’d stick with Ebanks-Blake since it won’t cost you a transfer.
- Gyan – I was much more excited about this picking coming off Gyan’s performance against England and before Sunderland’s stinker against City. That said, it still makes too much sense to pick against WBA on the road.
- Sturridge – He’s cooled off since his early run of goals for Bolton but you have to like his chances of returning to the scoring column against West Ham’s shameful defense.
- Ba – He has also cooled down a bit but having Vidic mark you will do that. Look for him to get back to it this weekend even if the Hammers don’t get all three points on the road.
- Downing – He’s been really good recently. His points come more from assists than goals but I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him for both club and country in the last month or so.
- Adam – A bit of a stinker last weekend but who among us thinks Arsenal’s defence is solid enough not to give up a peno and maybe more to Blackpool’s talisman.
- Nani/Valencia – If you have the money, Nani is the guy, if you need a bargain then Valencia is the alternative.
- Adam Johnson – I really don’t like the match-up of City at Anfield but I did really like the way Johnson played last weekend. Liverpool are much better than Sunderland but they are likely to struggle with wing players since all of their defenders are more central types.
- Walcott – I like Walcott going against a fairly slow Blackpool defense. His price isn’t bad either which makes him a pretty solid gamble if you’re looking for a midfielder.
- Smalling – He didn’t pay off last weekend but he’s still a great bet assuming Rio isn’t going to return to the line-up and it’s hard to imagine that Rio will play twice over a few days after being out so long.
- Luiz – He didn’t pay off last weekend either but he’s got a better match-up this weekend and he’s still high quality for a low price. These are the kinds of risk-reward propositions we like here at the fantasy blog.
- Kolarov – He DID pay off last weekend and while I don’t like his match-up nearly so well, I don’t see any reason to go away from value for the money.
- R Johnson – Picking Birmingham players on the road seems like it might be a bit of a fool’s errand (insert your own joke here) but this has all the makings of an ugly, low-scoring affair. That could mean lots of yellow cards and just enough goals to make picking a defender here a bad idea but I’m going the other way and suggesting that for the money, Johnson and a Brum clean sheet aren’t a terrible bet.
- Hart – I know I said I didn’t love the match-up but Hart has been money all season so certainly stick with him if you already have him. If you’re buying then might I suggest…
- Friedel – He’s cheap and for some reason I think Villa will show up at home while Newcastle won’t. If you don’t have the stomach for that choice then maybe,
- Gomes – He’s even cheaper and Spurs do have a solid match-up even if I hate their current momentum but if you’re worried about him then might I suggest…
- Almunia – I really don’t believe in him keeping a clean sheet two weeks in a row but I didn’t believe he’d do it last weekend either and he did.
- Kuszczak – If you’re willing to wait until Friday to see how EvdS’s injury situation is reported, there seems a reasonable chance that his back-up might play this weekend and provide solid value.
- Chicharito – It is feeling a bit like a United sort of weekend and with Rooney suspended “the little pea” seems like the best alternative.
- Nani – If you like your points from midfield then it doesn’t get much more probable than Nani. He’s been consistent all season and the match-up and home match make him as solid a bet as you’ll find.
- Drogba – I know, I didn’t recommend him above which has mostly to do with his price. If you can afford him then by all means buy him. If you have been sticking with him then you should think about captaining him. What, you thought I was going to go with Torres?
Neal Thurman and Jeremy Spitzberg write what they believe to be the oldest-runningblog focused on English Premier League. They also believe they were the first two people ever paid real money to blog exclusively about the same. They may be entirely wrong on both counts but that doesn’t stop them from writing or telling people that they were first.