Premier League Fantasy Football 2013-14: Top Player Picks for Gameweek 10
With nine entertaining, high-octane gameweeks of the 2013/14 English Premier League season now complete, there is a London-centric look to the table's summit: Arsenal top, with Chelsea and Spurs hot on their heels.
However, amongst this quadruplet, Liverpool are proving to be an anomaly. In third place and only two points behind the leaders, the team from the North are disrupting the Southern-oriented tour de force.
Though Arsenal and Liverpool share the unwanted tag of being the league's much-maligned underperforming sides—the former experiencing a barren, trophyless run of eight years, whilst the latter have dramatically degenerated since they finished second five years ago—they have been resurgent this season.
As Arsenal grinded out a functional 2-0 victory away to Crystal Palace last weekend, Liverpool delighted fans and pundits alike with a 4-1 win over West Brom. Congratulations to those who had hat-trick hero Luis Suarez in their fantasy side, and commiserations to the 1.3 percent who were unfortunate to have Arsenal's Mikel Arteta as he scored but was also dismissed.
And so, as Liverpool prepare to travel down the M6 to Arsenal for what looks to be the game of the weekend, let's take a look at those players you should look to recruit and those you should retire.
Football stats from Squawka
Fantasy football stats from Fantasy Premier League
In: Jordan Henderson
Opponent: Arsenal (A)
Fantasy Price: £6.0m
Fantasy points so far: 20
As Liverpool effortlessly dismantled West Brom 4-1 last weekend, there was one man who earned the plaudits: Luis Suarez now has another match ball to add to his collection following a virtuoso hat-trick.
Whether his temperament has been amended after a 10-game ban for that misdemeanour, the Uruguayan's prolific ability is beyond doubt and he now looks to be thriving in a Liverpool side growing in confidence. However, behind every great majestic performance there is a more understated deputy, pulling the strings and hoisting his colleague into the limelight.
In this instance, Jordan Henderson played Robin to Suarez's Batman.
An ever-present in Liverpool's midfield this season, the 23-year-old needed this performance to end a tumultuous week. Like a number of members of the footballing community, Henderson found himself name-checked in Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography.
The former Manchester United manager declared he passed on the opportunity to sign the England international as he felt the the former Sunderland player's gait "might cause him problems later in his career".
Last Saturday though, there was certainly no problems with Henderson's work rate. As well as covering the entire pitch, his exemplary passing vision was evident in his 83 percent success rate.
This weekend sees Liverpool travel to leaders Arsenal, knowing that victory would see them leapfrog the Gunners. It's paramount to remember Henderson has pedigree in this fixture; last January he scored and also registered an assist in the 2-2 draw.
In: Marko Arnautovic
Club: Stoke City
Opponent: Southampton (H)
Fantasy Price: £5.5m
Fantasy points so far: 19
As new boss Mark Hughes looks to shake Stoke City out of the malaise to which they had sunk under former manager Tony Pulis, the Potters have been an interesting entity.
With a new forward-thinking ethos that saw them adopt a more fluid passing game, they gleaned praise at the beginning of the season. Playing with verve and confidence, they were unlucky to lose 1-0 to Liverpool on the opening day, with opposition goalkeeper Simon Mignolet saving a last-minute penalty.
Whilst Hughes was restricted in the summer transfer market and unable to replicate the mass spending spree that heralded his arrival at previous clubs Manchester City, Fulham and QPR, one of his signings looks savvy.
As his faux-punk mohawk hairstyle infers, Marko Arnautovic is one of the game's more colourful characters (as explored here by the Daily Mail).
Still only 24, the Austrian has already played under Steve McLaren at FC Twente, been part of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan treble-winning side (albeit on the periphery) and had a training ground bust-up with a team-mate at Werder Bremen.
Having arrived from the German side for £2 million, the German has now played the full 90 minutes in four of Stoke's last six games. During that time, the Potters have yet to win, having collected just two points, leaving them one place above the relegation zone.
In Arnautovic, though, Stoke have a player who can lift the fans and, with his pace and trickery, add another dimension to a team who are perennially labelled long-ball merchants.
His imagination and gusto was evident as he curled in a magisterial free-kick during last weekend's defeat to United.
Owing to the fact that Hughes is deploying the Austrian as a striker, despite him being listed as a midfielder (the same applies to Arsenal's Theo Walcott and West Brom's Scott Sinclair), is a golden nugget which can be exploited.
In: Nicolas Anelka
Club: West Brom
Opponent: Crystal Palace (H)
Fantasy Price: £5.1m
Fantasy points so far: 13
It was quite a coup for West Brom to entice Nicolas Anelka back to the English Premier League. Now 34, the veteran of five EPL sides and the winner of all club gongs available, the Frenchman negotiated his release from Shanghai Shenhua to reunite with former Chelsea coach, and now Baggies boss, Steve Clarke.
The scorer of over 120 Premier League goals, he was heralded as the man to help West Brom forget their miserable end to last season and instead fire them back up the table.
Originally valued at £5 million, fantasy football players rubbed their hands with glee (this writer included), anticipating a frugally priced goal machine.
It's been a turbulent start to life in the West Midlands for Anelka though. On the eve of the season assuming, his agent and close friend passed away, creating uncertainty over whether he would play again.
Following a spell of compassionate leave, he has since pledged his allegiance to West Brom's cause, donning that ever-familiar No. 39 jersey.
Yet to score, he has featured in six of the last seven games and looks to have the vigour of old. With only two victories so far—one of which was an impressive 2-1 away win to Manchester United—there is a void which Anelka can fill: Be the team's focal point and haul them to safety.
A snip at £5.1 million, it is a matter of time before Anelka rediscovers the scoring touch that saw him succeed in spells at Liverpool, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City. A home game against basement boys Crystal Palace would be the perfect place to start.
Out: Tom Cleverley
Club: Manchester United
Opponent: Fulham (A)
Fantasy Price: £5.6m
Fantasy points so far: 11
Despite being the holders of the Premier League, Manchester United have looked far from the superior outfit that they had previously been.
Whilst there is no shying away from the fact they are in a transitional phase, as David Moyes acclimatises to life in the hot seat at England's most successful club, it is also essential to the highlight just how lacklustre certain players have been.
One of the most culpable suspects is Tom Cleverley. A product of United's much-revered youth system, the midfielder is now in his fourth season in the first team but is yet score more than 75 points in a campaign. Four goals and two assists in the 2010/11 season was his pinnacle.
It speaks volumes that at the start of the season Cleverley's value was £6.0 milliom but has since plummeted to £5.6 million. Deployed in his team's bigger games, he has submitted poor performances against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.
Aged 24, Cleverley will no doubt feature in the English Premier League for many more years, but having yet hit a shot on target and playing with no confidence, he should be nowhere near your team.
Yet to score and yet to register an assist, he is not the most costly of purchases but there are cheaper and more prolific alternatives. Robbie Brady of Hull would, at £5.2 million, generate surplus funds and has also scored thrice, with one assist.
Out: Darren Bent
Opponent: Manchester United (H)
Fantasy Price: £6.5m
Fantasy points so far: 24
Darren Bent polarises opinion. On paper, he should be feted as a messiah: English, the right side of 30 and with proven pedigree in the English Premier League after stints at various clubs.
Therein lies the problem though. Signed on loan from Aston Villa, Fulham is his sixth Premier League club in 12 seasons. Back in his hometown, the 29-year-old from south London will hope to be seeing more first-team action after finding himself frozen out by Paul Lambert.
Reuniting with Martin Jol, Bent will be hoping to resume a partnership which was previously cut short; after signing for Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2007, the Dutch coach was dismissed just three months later.
Having surpassed 152 goals in the EPL, Lilywhite fans have a proven hitman who could forge a lethal relationship with fellow frontmen Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz and Hugo Rodallega.
A debut goal against city rivals Arsenal was a great way to endear himself to the Craven Cottage faithful, even if it was deemed irrelevant in a 3-1 loss.
But after 462 minutes on the pitch, Bent has only found just once more in his seven league appearances for the Cottagers and has provided no assists. These are not the stats that you want for a forward.
Out: Dwight Gayle
Club: Crystal Palace
Opponent: West Brom (A)
Fantasy Price: £5.0m
Fantasy points so far: 25
It has been a frustrating return to the top flight for Crystal Palace.
Yet to soar, the Eagles are rooted to the foot of the Premier League and have had their wings clipped with several harsh reality checks. Following the recent departure of the enigmatic Ian Holloway, they are also currently in managerial limbo.
As the winds of change prepare to blow through Selhurst Park and the club continue to be mired in relegation certainty, steer clear of any of their players.
Despite appearing in all eight games and despite having racked up more points than Dimitar Berbatov, Samuel Eto'o and Javier Hernandez, Dwight Gayle is not a player you want in your team.
Put simply, Gayle is too lightweight. With strikers, it is imperative to invest heavily. A personal ethos should be to select team from front to back.
Gayle has only played the full 90 minutes twice, has registered no assists and, more damningly, he has only scored two goals. That is a goal every four games. Over the duration of the season, that ratio would equate to around nine goals, an amount which would not keep his team in the league.
This is a player who has less than one season's worth of experience in the Championship, having spent the bulk of his career in League Two or below. Whilst he is pacey and is a livewire, he will not score you points.