Premier League Fantasy Football 2013-14: Top Player Picks for Gameweek 13
For a plethora of fear-inducing reasons, the number 13 is known in folklore to be unlucky. Biblical, lunar or reasons pertaining to popular culture, not many footballers choose the No. 13 shirt.
With the feast of football that this weekend proffers, the 13th round of fixtures also prove to be the banana skin which derails a number of individuals or their teams.
As reported by The Guardian's David Hytner on Tuesday evening, Tottenham's Andre Villas-Boas is apparently clinging to his job after a string of poor performances (namely conceding six away to Manchester City).
And so, as his fingertips dig into that cliff edge, now is maybe not the best time to welcome a Manchester United side, fresh from scoring five past Bayer Leverkusen, to White Hart Lane.
In addition, Chelsea welcome a Southampton team which is hurting from last weekend's visit to London, when it succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. With Chelsea low on morale after losing 1-0 to FC Basel, vanquishing points from the Blues would be the perfect remedy.
The Arsenal locomotive rumbles on. Fresh from their Champions League 2-0 win against Marseille, they travel to Cardiff in South Wales. However, the Bluebirds' confidence will be soaring after they capitalised on sloppy Manchester United defending to steal a 2-2 draw last weekend.
At the other end of the table, in the relegation mire, a Crystal Palace side invigorated by the arrival of Tony Pulis travel to Norwich. If they can inflict a defeat on their fellow strugglers, it may well consign Chris Hughton to the job centre.
From every angle, this weekend looks feisty. Let's now look at which players can be heroes and who are zeroes.
Fantasy football stats from Fantasy Premier League.
In: Philippe Coutinho
Opponent: Hull (A)
Fantasy Price: £8.5m
Fantasy points so far: 21
In last weekend's Merseyside derby, Everton and Liverpool indulged us. Battling to a 3-3 draw, two teams produced a scintillating feast of football for us to gorge on.
First Liverpool took the lead, then Everton equalised. Again Liverpool lead, and again Everton pegged them back. In the final 10 minutes, the Toffees—inspired by the raw strength of Romelu Lukaku—took a deserved lead. Daniel Sturridge flighted in a last-minute equaliser: 3-3.
This was a great advert for the passion that erupts from within the English Premier League. It was an end-to-end orgy of action, played at great pace and with tackles flying in.
Centre to this mastery was Liverpool's diminutive and well-coiffed Brazilian maestro, Philippe Coutinho. Signed in January from Inter Milan, the 21-year-old has settled well.
Going into this game, Coutinho had had more shots on target without scoring than any other EPL player. This was a very fitting event for the deadlock to be inevitably broken.
Deployed on the left-hand side of a front trident, he and Jordan Henderson were tasked with feeding Luis Suarez the necessary ammunition.
Now a permanent feature of Brendan Rodgers' swashbuckling side, the upcoming game against Hull will allow Coutinho the chance to continue this ascension.
In: Ross Barkley
Opponent: Stoke City (H)
Fantasy Price: £5.4m
Fantasy points so far: 42
Ross Barkley is a tremendous talent. Aged just 19, the midfielder has elicited excitement levels that haven't been seen since a certain Wayne Rooney graced the Goodison Park turf.
When Roberto Martinez arrived in the summer, he brought with him the same pioneering ideas which he had attempted to implement during his ill-fated time at Wigan.
Whilst the Latics lacked the quality to reap the benefits (and last season were ultimately relegated), the marriage of Martinez and Everton has been harmonious because they do have that forward-thinking vision, that newly honed frenetic free-passing approach to games.
Sitting in seventh place—tied on points with reigning champions Manchester United—Everton have flown out of the traps, shaking off their tag of perennial slow-starters. Along with Leighton Baines, Kevin Mirallas and Tim Howard, Barkley has been central to that success.
The 42 points that he has accrued so far is a noble achievement. Whilst it is still 18 short of the 60 that would see him break into the top six midfielders, he has out-performed other more costly additions like Tottenham's Paulinho, who has played 100 more minutes and costs £1.4 million more.
Part of Barkley's brand is his tenacity and craft. Starting 10 of his team's 12 games, he completes over 86 percent of his passes. For such a dogged midfielder, he also concedes, on average, a measly one foul per game.
In: Leroy Fer
Club: Norwich City
Opponent: Crystal Palace (H)
Fantasy Price: £5.8m
Fantasy points so far: 40
As Norwich's woeful form continues and they spiral closer to being embroiled in a relegation tussle, there is at least the saving grace that they possess one of the league's more sartorial midfielders.
Whilst the Canaries have won only three of their last 10 games, in Leroy Fer they have a powerful and rangy player who can cover an abundance of ground, break up play and score goals.
Arriving from Twente for £5 million, Fer was one of a number of expensive imports, joining Gary Hooper, Johan Elmander and Dutch compatriot Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Priced at just £5.8 million, the 23-year-old's strike against Newcastle—albeit a consolatory one as they lost 2-1—was his second of the season, both of which have come in consecutive games. He has also provided one assist and contributed to three clean sheets.
Playing the full 90 minutes of all but one of the 12 league games (ironically, the only game he missed was the season opener against Everton, a team he almost signed for in January), he guarantees points.
Yet despite this, only 0.5 percent of users have selected the Dutch international.
This weekend, Norwich host a Crystal Palace side who, despite being rooted to the foot of the table, are buoyed by a 1-0 win against Hull. The Eagles' morale will be flying high as new manager Tony Pulis takes to the dugout for the first time.
With so much at stake, this is the time when Norwich require Fer to submit his usual strong performance and, in a fashion not dissimilar to Manchester City's Yaya Toure, be his team's powerhouse.
Against a backdrop of turgid form, Fer can score you points. With a completion rate of 84 percent, he looks certain to remain in the EPL should Norwich be relegated.
Out: Jussi Jaaskelainen
Club: West Ham
Opponent: Fulham (H)
Fantasy Price: £5.5m
Fantasy points so far: 56
It feels wrong, almost sacrilegious, to deride Jussi Jaaskelainen. A loyal servant to the English game for over 16 years, in the EPL for 12 of those, he has amassed more than 500 league appearances.
This season, however, he is part of a West Ham team which has been plagued by injury worries and inconsistent form, stymied by lacking a striker.
Now aged 38, he is nearing that age when the modern goalkeeper feels they have to call it a day. Other long-time stalwarts have taken off their gloves around this time: Edwin van der Sar and David Seaman were both 40 when they called it a day, whilst David James and Peter Schmeichel were 39.
Last month the Finnish goalkeeper told the club's website he wishes to extend his contract beyond next summer, when it is due to expire.
If this to happen though, he needs to eradicate the errors which have been creeping into his game of late. As they succumbed to a 3-0 home defeat to Chelsea last weekend, Jaaskelainen hauled down Oscar to concede a soft penalty.
This misjudgement was followed by poor positioning for Chelsea's next two goals.
Granted, the 14 goals his team have conceded is less than Manchester United's total of 15. But despite being notoriously renowned as an agile shot-stopper who is a last line of defence behind a creaky back four, Jaaskelainen is not the fantasy football hero he used to be.
For the same amount, you could recruit Everton's Tim Howard, who looks a lot more imposing and less erratic.
Out: Fabricio Coloccini
Club: Newcastle United
Opponent: West Brom (A)
Fantasy Price: £4.9m
Fantasy points so far: 26
There are many ways to endear yourself to a team's loyal fanbase who act as judge, jury and executioner for a player's fate.
One way could be to say that you ignored the overtures of a rival team to instead favour for a certain team; this tactic was oft-used in Glasgow's Old Firm, before Rangers plummeted down the divisions of course.
You could alternatively wind down your car windows at a traffic lights and join in with a fan's chants—that certainly worked well for Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho earlier this season.
And you can of course wear your heart on your sleeve, show undying commitment to the team's cause and play with the unrequited gusto which, plain and simply, fans love to see.
However, after securing that adulation, one way to quickly undo that admiration is to reiterate your desire to leave. That is the quandary that Newcastle's Fabricio Coloccini has found himself in.
After four seasons on Tyneside, the defender now wants to return to his native Argentina for personal reasons, as reported by The Guardian's Louise Taylor.
With his mop of distinct curly hair blowing in the wind, the Geordies in the Gallowgate End—famed for being one of the most passionate and vocal stands in English football—have taken the former Deportivo defender as a true Magpie.
The 31-year-old started the season well, playing the full 90 minutes in the first seven games before missing the next four through injury. He returned last weekend to be a pivotal component as his team beat Norwich 2-1.
Whilst distracted by such off-pitch circumstances though, you really can't afford to take the punt on a defender, no matter how committed, at such a vital part of the season.
Out: Jonathan de Guzman
Club: Swansea City
Opponent: Manchester City (A)
Fantasy Price: £5.7m
Fantasy points so far: 31
Aged 27, the Canadian-born Dutch international has featured in all but two of the League Cup holders' games. He has scored one, accrued one assist and contributed to two clean sheets—stock stats for a midfielder. Nothing special.
This is further augmented by the fact his passing success rate is only 55 percent, he manages only one shot per game and, more poignantly, he is yet to ascertain his niche as a defensive or attacking midfielder.
This weekend, the Swans travel to Manchester City, a team who not only whacked six past Tottenham last weekend, but will also be riding the crest of a wave following their progression to the Champions League knockout stages.
In 10th place, they are seven points from the coveted Europa League spot but only five points from the relegation brawl. If they are to move closer to the former and edge away from the latter, de Guzman's performances carry more importance.
With such pressure—increased by Michu's continued absence—it is advisable to avoid de Guzman, for now at least.