1. Newcastle is no longer a Northern Rock- There was always something distinctly strange about Newcastle’s streak of defensive proficiency. Kevin Keegan must have been turning in his commentary booth. David Ginola was probably banging his head against a piece of expensive French furniture.
Everything that Newcastle used to stand for they have rejected this season. Their cavalier disregard for defending swapped for a more solid, safety-first formula. Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor and Tim Krul are suddenly fantasy must-haves. Krul’s performance at Old Trafford epitomized a growing resilience. A cheap resilience, too. Both Taylors, Coloccini and Krul are priced well-below high profile strugglers like Terry, Evra and Ashley Cole. Their usefulness knew no bounds. Until Saturday. Shorn of Steven Taylor (out for the season) and Coloccini (thigh injury), Newcastle were undone. The former paper-shredder Steve Morison (quite a bargain at £5 million), and top scorer Grant Holt (another potentially decent buy) put pay to a run of form that just had to end. Whether or not Coloccini’s imminent return will rectify issues accentuated by Taylor’s absence is questionable. What we do know, however, is that the world will be a more stable place with Newcastle conceding.
2. Super Vorm keeps on flying- The avoidance of newly promoted defenders and goalkeepers is outdated fantasy dogma. Vorm is proof that such advice is fallacy. His save from Clint Dempsey’s second-half penalty was the highlight of another successful Saturday afternoon for the Dutchman. Since joining Swansea over the summer, Vorm has proved a revelation. He and center back Ashley Williams deserve credit for defying the commonly held misconceptions about a supposed leakiness in the Swansea rearguard. Vorm has won more points than any other goalkeeper in the game. Williams sits above the likes of Evra, Baines and Rio Ferdinand. Both are priced modestly. Do it.
3. Jordi Gomez- Speaking of Swansea players (well, an ex-Swansea player), everything about Jordi Gomez looked promising. His name, his nationality and his commitment to the free flowing intricate style so cherished by Roberto Martinez seemed to indicate a talent ready for blossoming. In an era where tiki-taka rules supreme and tricky Spaniards are exported by the dozen, Gomez was supposed to be Wigan’s answer to Andres Iniesta. Only in the last four games (the first forty-two didn’t prove particularly fruitful) has Gomez come close to emulating his countryman. Three goals facilitated a rise up the table for Wigan and a fantasy surge for the previously disappointing midfielder. Gomez, a consummate taker of both penalties and free kicks, is certainly one to keep an eye on. There are £4.9 million reasons to take a risk.
4. Van the Man- For the first time since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2009, a true fantasy must-have has emerged from the Premier League jungle. Robin Van Persie is, by quite some margin, the highest scoring player in the fantasy game. His goal against Everton was his fifteenth this season. Yet, he is owned by only a third of fantasy managers. A reputation for injury trouble may lie at the root of that particular statistic. He’s fit now, though. And firing.
5. A good week for wingers- Wingers are footballing enigmas. Their streaky form frustrates managers and fantasy connoisseurs alike. That’s why performances this weekend sparked just as many dressing room celebrations as unwise sitting room gymnastics. The workers at Best Buy won’t have been pleased – no smashed televisions to replace for owners of Nani, Etherington, Valencia and Victor Moses. Five goals and a couple of assists from that group have cushioned many a struggling team and added to an already complex debate. Young, Nani and Valencia are now fiercely competing for two available positions, while players like Etherington and Moses are starting to make managers think twice before spending heavily on celebrity widemen.