Premier League Fantasy Football 2013-14: Top Player Picks for Gameweek 9
Whilst many had predicted that David Moyes would find it difficult to fill the gargantuan shoes of Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, even Nostradamus would not have foreseen Arsenal leading the English Premier League after eight games.
During their 4-1 win to Norwich last weekend, the Gunners midfield put on a masterclass on why it was crucial to see that it is not just strikers who score points for your fantasy football team. As well as strikes from Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil capped a fine display as he scored twice. Kudos to those who have spent the necessary £10.6 million to get the German point machine in your team.
It's also worth mentioning that out of the four goals scored at St. James's Park in the 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Newcastle, only one came from a striker. In addition, following their 1-1 draw, Southampton's spirited show at Manchester United was capped by an equaliser from a midfielder with an assist from a defender.
With in mind, it's crucial to assess where else points can come from as we embrace the upcoming set of fixtures. As Chelsea host Manchester City, Newcastle travel to Sunderland for the North-East derby and Stoke attempt to be the latest team to destabilise Moyes' Manchester United, there are points aplenty to be had.
Let's take a look at the players who can harvest points and who can hemmorage them.
Football stats from Squawka
Fantasy football stats from Fantasy Premier League
Opponent: Manchester City (H)
Fantasy Price: £9.0m
Fantasy points so far: 45
Any player who displaces the two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata from the starting line-up and then goes on to deliver performances which keep the magisterial matador on the bench is someone you need in your team.
The baby-faced Oscar plays with an ability which belies his 22 years. Despite only being on the pitch for 31 minutes last weekend, he scored his fourth goal of the season.
Having featured for Chelsea in all of their games so far, that looks set to continue as Manchester City arrive in West London looking to be the first team in 64 games to leave Stamford Bridge with all three points.
Last weekend's 4-1 dismantlement of Cardiff City was Chelsea's 50th home win under Jose Mourinho (including his first spell from 2005 until 2007). With such momentum, it'll be a compelling clash to watch Manuel Pellgrini's Manchester City attempt to prolong the inevitable of Mourinho finally losing his first league match at Stamford Bridge.
Now in his second season at the London club, the diminutive Brazilian is performing exceptionally. Having created 10 chances, he has already matched last season's haul of scoring four goals. With only one yellow card to his name, Oscar appears to be as friendly as he looks and will not lose your points for ill discipline.
In: Dejan Lovren
Opponent: Fulham (H)
Fantasy Price: £5.3m
Fantasy points so far: 51
With more dropped points on Saturday, Manchester United fans experienced deja vu while Southampton viewed Dejan Lovren in high esteem as he provided the assist for Adam Lallana's equaliser.
Signed from Olympique Lyonnais in the summer, the Croatian defender has played every minute of the Premier League so far. Having conceded just three goals, Southampton boast a meaner defence than Bayern Munich, Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, four teams who all won their respective leagues last season.
Lovren has been at the heart of this and his fantasy football form reflect this: With 51 points, he is statistically the best defender.
With one goal to his name—the solitary strike in the impressive 1-0 win away to Liverpool—and one assist, these stats are nothing out of the ordinary. However, with five clean sheets in eight games, he will augment any fantasy football team.
Outstripping perennial high-scoring defenders such Fabricio Coloccini, Nemanja Vidic and Brede Hangeland, Lovren is a cost-efficient alternative.
It is likely that, eventually, Southampton's soaring star will falter but whilst it is in ascendency, let's reap the fantasy football points that it yields.
In: Yohan Cabaye
Club: Newcastle United
Opponent: Sunderland (A)
Fantasy Price: £6.2m
Fantasy points so far: 21
In the maelstrom of the transfer window, players are opportune. Knowing the time to move on is finite, they can often be perceived as fickle.
That was certainly the case with Newcastle United's Yohan Cabaye this summer. Linked with moves to Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal, it was when the latter submitted a bid of £10 million that the Frenchman became agitated.
Refusing to play for the Magpies whilst negotiations were ongoing—negotiations which were stunted as the bid was flatly turned and Arsenal instead turned their attention toward another certain midfielder who did arrive—it looked certain the 27-year-old would leave.
However, Arsenal relented, the transfer window slammed shut and Cabaye, realising he could jeopardise his place in the French national team ahead of next summer's World Cup, apologised for his part in the "bad moment" (via the Daily Mail).
And knowing that the locals are some of the most passionate fans in the country, Cabaye appears to realise that the only way they will forgive them is if he delivers the committed performances for which he has become synonymous with and which the fans worship him for.
Whilst there are a glut of players who have racked up more points than him and he doesn't yet feature in the top 30 midfielders, he has suffered with injuries.
If his rocket of a goal on Saturday in Newcastle's 2-2 draw is any parameter, those niggles are a blight he now looks to have shook off.
As they travel Saturday to neighbours Sunderland, who are mired in relegation worries, this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his allegiances to the Magpies' cause—something we can benefit from in points.
Out: David de Gea
Club: Manchester United
Opponent: Stoke City (H)
Fantasy Price: £5.9m
Fantasy points so far: 26
It is undeniable that David de Gea is one of the finest goalkeepers in the Premier League, if not in Europe.
After much derision in his debut season during 2011/12, the Spaniard has constantly attempted to silence his many critics. With a penchant for the spectacular, his preternatural agility has saved Manchester United on several occasions.
In last season's high-octane 1-1 draw away to Real Madrid, United fans and players alike owed a debt of gratitude to the former Atletico man who denied his former rivals.
During this season, however, he has been a victim of the David Moyes malaise.
Whilst de Gea has performed admirably, the team has been mired in inconsistency. Last weekend's dropped points against Southampton were symptomatic of a United side that was still adjusting to life under their new Scottish supremo.
As they welcome Stoke City Saturday—a team notoriously linked to long ball passes and ensuing aerial duels, at which De Gea will struggle with—Manchester United will be made to work hard if they are to return to winning ways.
Originally valued at £6 million, de Gea has played every minute of United's eight games but has seen his price plummet to £5.8 million. Regardless, a whopping 10.5 percent of participants still have him in their team.
In his place, you could instead have Artur Boruc, Tim Howard or Brad Guzan, all of whom have scored more points yet are cheaper alternatives.
Out: Aleksandar Kolarov
Club: Manchester City
Opponent: Chelsea (A)
Fantasy Price: £5.3m
Fantasy points so far: 21
As their crosstown counterparts Manchester United struggle to adjust to life under a managerial change, it may sound churlish to suggest Manchester City are well-versed in dealing with such a transition.
But, after all, in the 26 years that Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge at Old Trafford, "noisy neighbours" City had 15 managers. Current incumbent Manuel Pellegrini is No. 1 of the David Moyes era—although judging by recent results, hegemony fortune may be reversed.
Signed for a meaty £19 million in the summer of 2010, the Serbian defender arrived from Lazio as a relative unknown. Two games shy of a century of appearances, Kolarov has established himself as a solid right-back.
The difficulty is he can never gain a consistent run in the side.
This season, he missed the first two games, played the full 90 minutes of the next four games and, in his last two outings, has been restricted to substitute appearances.
Linked with a move to Juventus in the summer, the Serbian has claimed he is happy to have remained at the Etihad.
But with competition for his place and knowing he is unlikely to better his record of 24 league appearances in a campaign (set in his maiden season), recent performances have suggested Kolarov is stagnating.
Out: Ricky van Wolfswinkel
Opponent: Cardiff City (H)
Fantasy Price: £6.6m
Fantasy points so far: 21
Possessing movie-star good looks, the longest name in the English Premier League and a proven scoring record in two different European leagues, Ricky van Wolfswinkel arrived at Norwich City with his bags laden full of expectation.
Signed from Sporting Lisbon for €10 million, the 24-year-old was touted as a major coup for Carrow Road. And undoubtedly he may prove to be. After all, Dutch strikers are a proven and reputable commodity in the EPL.
But for every Ruud van Nistelrooy, there is an Afonso Alves. For every Robin van Persie, there is a Jordi Cruyff. Until they prove themselves, tread carefully.
After seven games and only one goal, van Wolfswinkel has been howling with anguish. As to have Norwich fans as they find their club in the relegation zone.
Having missed the 4-1 mauling by Arsenal last weekend through injury, van Wolfswinkel is now facing a race against time to be fit (as reported by the Norwich Eastern Daily Press) for their upcoming home game against Cardiff, a team who narrowly lost in their last outing and whose manager is looking to ingratiate himself to the hierarchy.
With all that in mind, van Wolfswinkel should be dropped. With only 21 points thus far (one goal, one assist and two clean sheets in seven games is poor form), there are replacements. The industrious Andreas Weimann of Aston Villa has racked up more despite costing less.
What are your thoughts? How's your team performing? Could these players help or hinder you? Let me know either in the comments section below or via Twitter: @LeRowley