Only five more match weeks to go and we are firmly in “maximize points at all costs” territory. The time to hold on to players while they are injured or slumping is gone. If the first five weeks of the season are all about making strategic investments in players you want for the long haul, the last five are about getting over your pre-conceived notions about the season and players you have been holding onto dearly and make some very near-sighted decisions. With only five weeks left, near-sight is the only kind available. With that in mind, here are some observations about the remaining schedule that may help you make some of those tactical decisions:
- After this coming week when four teams – Bolton, Fulham, Stoke, and Wolves – play twice, there two teams that have more matches than the rest to close out the season – Spurs and Manchester City who both play twice during matchweek 36.
- Buy: Manchester City look particularly appealing with an extra match PLUS a relatively easy run-in that features Blackburn, West Ham, Everton, Spurs, Stoke, and Bolton. Spurs are the only top quality team there and they have them as part of a two match week.
- Sell: Everton on the other hand are a bit of a mess. They have a rash of injuries AND they have to contend with Man United, City, and Chelsea as part of their final five matches. Throw in a resurgent West Brom team and Wigan is their only relatively easy match and even that is on the road.
- Buy: Liverpool have three of their remaining five matches at home with the only exceptionally challenging match being Spurs trip to Anfield on the second to last week of the season. The balance features BRM, NUFC, @FUL, and @AST. Not a bad run in to bet on.
- Risky Buy: Wolves have looked to be falling apart since the international break but if you wanted to take a risk to try to make up some ground then you might want to give a try to a team with it all to play for and the following closing schedule: FUL, @STO, @BRM, WBA, @SUN, and BLA. Not exactly murderer’s row.
- Tough Call: The upside on Spurs is that they have more matches down the stretch which should figure as more points. The downside is that even after today’s match against Arsenal, they close with WBA (who have been strong), @CHE, BPL, @MAC, @LIV, and then BRM. Outside of the Blackpool match that’s a brutal run-in. Especially given the added pressure of trying to qualify for the Champions League while their rivals have much easier schedules.
- Sell: Aston Villa have had a rough season with the worst part being that the last five weeks aren’t likely to help. They start the run-in with solid opposition in STO and @WBA before a potential break in the form of WIG before it gets tough again @ARS and home against LIV. Not as bad as Everton’s last five weeks but certainly not the time to invest in a team that has struggled for most of the season anyway.
Now that I’ve given you as long a view into the future as makes sense, here is your regularly scheduled fantasy analysis for Matchweek 34:
All you really need to know about the schedule this week is that there are four teams with two matches: Bolton, Fulham, Stoke, and Wolves. Now, these aren’t exactly the powerhouses of the league so you may only want cherry pick a few players from each team rather than loading up like we (hopefully) all did with Chelsea this past week. Here’s a quick breakdown of the quality of the two matches for each:
- Bolton (ARS, @FUL) – Tough home match and an away match against a team that doesn’t give away many points in their home stadium. Not a lot to love there but still two matches.
- Fulham (@WOL, BOL) – Away match against a struggling opponent and a home match against an average opponent. Fulham haven’t had what you’d call a bad result (home loss or away loss to a bad team) since their Boxing Day capitulation to WHU at Craven Cottage. I like the potential here.
- Stoke (@AST, WOL) – Stoke has been the epitome of a mid-table team. They have a middling match at Villa and what SHOULD be a win against Wolves at home. The hard part with Stoke is knowing where the fantasy points might come from with so many erratic fantasy scorers like Kenwyne Jones and John Carew leading the line.
- Wolves (FUL, @STO) – If this were a good or even mid-table team with this schedule, you’d be pretty interested but given that this is a team fighting to stay up, you’ll probably want to be cautious.
Of the one-gamers, Chelsea is the obvious play with a home match against West Ham on the schedule. Obviously there are cheaper options out there but since you probably have a lot of Chelsea in your line-up from this week, the default question you might want to be asking yourself is “what’s the case for making a change?”
- Zamora – I like him as an option more than I like either of the Bolton forwards (Sturridge and Elmander) because the match-ups are just that much better for Fulham.
- Sturridge – Unlike other formats, the Premier League game is such that his price hasn’t skyrocketed since his loan to Wanderers and subsequent hot streak. This makes him a great bargain at 5.3 even if the match-ups aren’t spectacular.
- SEB – With two matches and a price of 4.9, he’s a great bargain. If you compare him to say Elmander and Kenwyne Jones (combined 2 goals and 2 assists since New Years Day) I think you’ll like him even more despite his match-ups and the team he plays for.
- Drogba – He seems to be on the comeback trail after a long barren spell. Not saying he’ll completely explode but if you’re going for a one-gamer at forward, he’s the one to go for in my book.
- Dempsey – Middling price (7.3) with star production and two matches. Can’t argue with that.
- Walters – Etherington is the logical play and not a bad one but Walters is playing forward most of the time and listed as a midfielder in the Premier League game which makes him very attractive. That he’s also in form and inexpensive also help the case.
- Jarvis – Far and away Wolves’ best fantasy player to the extent that he’s a legitimately strong fantasy midfielder whose scoring has been fairly consistent throughout the season. Another inexpensive one.
- One-gamers – Sticking with FloMal, Lamps, or Nani given their match-ups isn’t a bad call at all. Nani seems due for a big match.
- Hangeland/Fulham – Would it surprise you to realize that you see three Fulham defenders – Hangeland, Hughes, and Baird – on the scoring charts before you run into a single player from any of the other two-match candidates? I have two points. First, if you’re going to pick up a two-game defender he should be from Fulham with Hangeland significantly better than the alternatives. Second, you probably shouldn’t be counting on any of the other teams for defenders.
- Smalling – Still great value with United returning home where they don’t lose.
- ACole – Given all of the relative bargains above, you should have money for a premium defender.
- Vidic – See ACole.
- Kolarov – A cheap way to bet on a City clean sheet against struggling Rovers.
- Schwarzer – Best combination of match-ups and performance over the course of the season.
- Jaaskelainen – Despite the fact that his defenders are fantasy laggards, Jussi has been pretty solid all season and combined with the two matches isn’t a horrible bet if you want a two-gamer in net and have run out of spots eligible for Fulham players.
- Hart – For those looking to “stand pat” and have Hart already, his match-up at Rovers seems like a solid bet for a clean sheet and strong fantasy points despite only one match.
- Cech – Another potential holdover from your team last week that retains his value and helps you spend the money not spent on attackers this week.
- Dempsey – Call me a homer if you’d like but I’ll take 160+ minutes of Dempsey as my captain over more glamorous choices from bigger one-match teams.
- Zamora – Can you tell I’m going “all in” on Fulham this week? What can I say, I like their match-ups a lot.
- SEB/Sturridge – Call it a toss-up between someone of modest talents, decent match-ups, and a lot on the line (SEB) and someone with burgeoning talent, excellent form, tricky match-ups, and a team that has settled into the middle of the table. If you’re the sort who believes in talent over all then I’d say Sturridge is your man. If you believe in desperation then SEB would be your choice.