Premier League Fantasy Football 2013-14: 5 Disappointing Players This Season
As this rollercoaster of a season lurches from one emotion to another, in the last 10 days we have witnessed three different competitions wreak havoc with our nerves.
Firstly there were the midweek games in the days before Valentine's Day, when no love was lost as Arsenal and Manchester United fought to a goalless stalemate.
Then there was last weekend's set of FA Cup fixtures, where Chelsea—winners of three of the last five FA Cups—were beaten by a tactically superior Manchester City side.
This was then followed up, on Tuesday and Wednesday just gone, by the return of the Champions League and the Europa League. With Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Swansea in action across the two competitions, all were on the receiving end of a defeat, apart from the latter, who nobly managed a 0-0 draw with Napoli.
Phew. Let's pause for a breath ahead of Gameweek 27.
Because amongst all this achievement and all this bonhomie and brinkmanship, several individuals just aren't pulling their weight in the fantasy football domain.
So much of fantasy football success depends on having several players in your team who you know, through thick and thin, will deliver points. The following list comprises five individuals who promised so much but have delivered so little.
A minimum requirement for having the unfortunate honour of making this list is to have played at least one prior season in the EPL. It has then been compiled by studying game time, value and points.
Honourable mentions also go to Swansea's Michu, Manchester United's Robin van Persie and Manchester City's Vincent Kompany, who have all failed to emulate last season's form, namely through injury.
How did Theo do in Gameweek 26?
41 points (total to date: 1,476)
Fantasy football stats from Fantasy Premier League.
Opponent: Swansea (H)
Fantasy Price: £5.5 million
Fantasy points so far: 97
It seems a long time since Liverpool opened their 2013-14 campaign with three consecutive clean sheets. Simon Mignolet was very much the fulcrum, continually utilising his preternatural agility to pull off a string of impressive stops and command his area in an indomitable manner.
With the last of these clean sheets coming on September 1—in their 1-0 win over Manchester United—Liverpool have only kept the opposition out on four occasions since.
Whilst two of the games were against teams who are also vying for European qualification (Tottenham and Everton), they have leaked goals against all their other main rivals.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers can shoulder a portion of the blame for continually changing his back four, but he has also had to contend with injuries and suspensions.
On too many occasions, Mignolet has looked suspect: He has been guilty of committing several high-profile clangers. Over the Christmas break, his attempt to punch Alvaro Negredo's shot was far too feeble and it contributed to a 2-1 City win. He also came under scrutiny during the following game, a 2-1 loss to Chelsea.
In January, he rushed out to flap at an Aston Villa corner and subsequently gave away a goal, with Liverpool lucky to snatch a 2-2 draw.
Goalkeepers are fuelled by confidence and the Belgian international is currently running on fumes. Whilst this persists, why not transfer him out for a more cost-efficient stopper: His replacement at Sunderland, Vito Mannone, is currently the league's in-form goalkeeper.
Club: Manchester United
Opponent: Crystal Palace (H)
Fantasy Price: £5.8 million
Fantasy points so far: 48
Nemanja Vidic has been a very reliable servant to the Red Devils for over eight years; that is not in doubt.
Since signing in January 2006, he has been a rock-solid influence at the heart of United's defence, making almost 300 appearances and capturing five EPL titles, three League Cups and one fateful Champions League winner's medal.
However, since incurring a torrid knee injury in a European game in December 2011, the Serbian international has inflicted less clout on a game and has found it difficult to string together a run of games in the United side.
Having consistently appeared in over 35 games every season for the four seasons leading up to his injury, he has featured in only 56 games in the two years since. That includes the 23 outings during this season.
With this campaign being United's most calamitous, as new manager David Moyes acclimatises to his surroundings and vice versa, Vidic has played in 17 of United's 26 games. Whilst he can be forgiven for contributing no goals and no assists, it is the fact that he has accrued only five clean sheets that may stick in the craw.
It looks as if this will be his final season in the red of United. At the start of this month, he stated that he will not be renewing his contract, which expires in June. Sky Sports then reported this week that a deal to bring him to Inter Milan is "90 percent completed."
He will feature heavily for United until he leaves, but that does not mean he has to feature in your team.
Club: Manchester United
Opponent: Crystal Palace (A)
Fantasy Price: £9.8 million
Fantasy points so far: 53
Thank goodness for Juan Mata. That was the overwhelming response from Manchester United fans, players and manager alike when they poached the diminutive playmaker from rivals Chelsea in the January transfer window.
And, in actual fact, that same playmaker was probably equally thankful. Prior to United's bid, he was stagnating on Chelsea's bench, derived of time on the pitch and devoid of confidence from his manager, Jose Mourinho.
Since signing for United, he has looked like the midfield genius who has graced our pitches with the elegance he had previously displayed in his first two seasons in the EPL, when he won Chelsea's Player of the Year on both occasions.
Three assists in four games is a great start for a player who will be hoping to cast aside the uncertainty of his last few months in west London and now cement a place in Spain's World Cup squad, if not their starting line-up.
Prior to January, you would have been castigated for still having Mata in your fantasy football team. After all, for a similar price you could have selected his former team-mate, the sartorial and free-scoring Eden Hazard.
Now though, you could be forgiven for sheepishly eyeing him, making a few adjustments and ushering the Spaniard back in. Wait until after this weekend, when the champions travel to Crystal Palace, to see how Mata performs. It is very likely he will not feature on this list in a month's time, though.
Club: Manchester City
Opponent: Stoke City (H)
Fantasy Price: £7.2 million
Fantasy points so far: 78
As the Manchester City juggernaut, fresh from being stunned by the Barcelona behemoth in midweek, picks itself up and prepares to continue its assault on the league, now is the time its mettle is tested.
Their prolific scoring habits are infamous. At times, they have toyed with their opponents, batting them around before eventually inflicting goal after goal on them. Still active in four competitions (albeit with the unenviable task of having to turn around a 2-0 deficit at the Nou Camp), they must now crank up a level if they are to complete an unprecedented quadruple.
Following a trophyless season last year, even if manager Manuel Pellegrini was to deliver just one cup in his maiden season, the City faithful would surely be satisfied. But no, this is the City way: rally up against the odds, disrupt the status quo and rewrite the rule book.
Someone who has been collateral damage to that mantra is City striker Edin Dzeko. Now in his third full season at the Etihad, the striker has scored 14 league goals in his last two campaigns—with seven so far this season, he cannot endure the barren scoring runs he sometimes has if he is to match that tally.
Renowned as an impact player who can rise up from the bench and ruffle feathers with his physical approach, he has found himself starting games in the last two months following Sergio Aguero's injury. Still to score more than one goal in a game, however, he may well be cast back to the bench when his Argentinian team-mate reappears.
At £7.2 million, there are cheaper alternatives available who score consistently: Southampton's Jay Rodriguez is a prime example.
Club: Aston Villa
Opponent: Newcastle United (A)
Fantasy Price: £8.8 million
Fantasy points so far: 78
In the English Premier League there is an ailment doing the rounds that can strike a player down in his prime, cruelly curtailing his career.
It is a disorder which has bamboozled fans, pundits, managers and scientists alike. For this ailment sees a player perform exceptionally well in his maiden season at a club, but then fail to reach the same levels in his next campaign and eventually fading into obscurity.
This medical mystery is, of course, "second season syndrome."
It has claimed many victims: Newcastle's Papiss Cisse, Tottenham's Gylfi Sigurdsson and, potentially, Swansea's Michu. As these players reel from wondering quite how they have failed to replicate the sparkling promise they originally showed, Aston Villa's Christian Benteke looks set to join them on this unfortunate roll call.
With 19 goals in his first season at the club, Benteke proved himself to be a shrewd acquisition and a worthy recipient of the subsequent plaudits, as he basked in the adulation that he and his fellow golden generation of Belgians were receiving.
With pace, power and precision, he looked close to being the complete striker. It was surprising he never left in the summer for a bigger challenge.
This season, however, Benteke has been disappointing. Despite scoring four goals in the opening three games, he has scored just three goals since. Having completed 90 minutes in 10 of Villa's 26 league games, it is not like he has suffered from injuries—it's just that opposition defences now know how to thwart him.