With ten days and two matches elapsed since the end of the transfer window, it is time to take stock of some of the new arrivals as well as some players who may be in for dramatic changes in performance - for either better or worse - over the remainder of the season. There's a lot to get to but here's a quick round-up:
- Shane Long - He isn't going to be a "goal-a-game" guy but Hull were a solid team missing a forward whereas West Brom appear to be a poor team surviving due to adequate attacking play. It looks like this is going to be a good marriage.
- Nikica Jelavic - He likely moves from black hole to servicable but I wouldn't get too excited despite the goal over the weekend.
- Tom Ince/Joe Ledley - Like Hull, Tony Pulis' Crystal Palace were a solid squad looking for some attacking flair. In Ledley and Ince they seem to have found improved options. Neither are likely to be as productive as they were this past weekend but at their entry level price they could certainly be spot starters.
- Peter Odemwingie - I'd guess the goal over the weekend was more good fortune for a debutante than anything to count on.
- Kenwyne Jones - A not-good-enough-anymore player as the tip of the spear for a not-good-enough-at-all attack - not a good combination.
- Thievy - I'd bet more on West Brom being bad than Thievy being good enough to make an impact
- Wilfried Zaha - It seems likely that any potential he might have will be lost in a Cardiff City side that struggles to generate an attack. Wonder why United didn't send him back to Palace where he could have taken the spot on a better team that has now gone to Tom Ince.
- Mesut Ozil - With Ramsey still out for around a month and difficult fixtures (and lots of them) all around, it seems like he may not be the fantasy player we want him to be this season.
- Mathieu Debuchy - Newcastle just aren't going to be the same without Cabaye. Debuchy's production was steady over the first half of the season regardless of getting a clean sheet or not. Now subtract clean sheets, attacking opportunities, and generally positive play from the equation and insert frustration leading to more cards. I see a drop in production. If you still have him under 7.00 then he may still be a keeper but if you are hoping he justifies his current market price, I think you're going to be upset.
- Chris Brunt - One player who has quietly come back from the abyss despite the disaster that has been the Baggies' season. After putting up only one double digit performance over the first half of the season, Brunt has been at 9 or higher for five of the last seven matches.
- Kevin Nolan - He's not going to keep scoring two per match but he's back from his first half funk for sure and a decent bet after Andy Carroll returns from suspension.
- Seamus Coleman - He has climbed into the Top 10 for fantasy midfielders based on his unlikely goalscoring. It seems likely he'll regress because his five goals have come on only 12 shots on target. Seems unlikely that he'll keep up that sort of strike rate and what it tells us is that he doesn't get too many good chances.
- Vito Mannone - Who would have guessed? Maybe his price will go down after the trip to the Etihad.
Finally, the guy who got me thinking about the above list was Steve Sidwell. If this were a baseball blog, the rumors of performance enhancing drug use would enter into the conversation right about now. How else do you explain a deep lying midfielder in his 30s who has already scored more Premier League goals by 50% than he has in any other season in his career. He's playing more minutes and generally doing more of everything than he ever has before. And, again, he's doing this for the first time at age 31. If you were putting a list together at the beginning of the season of guys who might have a shot at being in the Top 5 fantasy point producers from midfield two thirds of the way throught the season, how many names would you have listed before you got to Sidwell? 20? 30? And yet there he sits one point behind Yaya Toure. This may just be the case of a player piling up fantasy points because they are the best fantasy player on a bad team (and Fulham really are bad) but since they need every goal they can get it seems likely that Sidwell will continue to get chances.
West Bromwich v Chelsea - Chelsea didn't seem to suffer without John Terry against Newcastle (and they were 150% more likable a side without him on the pitch) and the same will be the case at the Hawthorns on Tuesday. West Brom will still be missing the same guys they were over the weekend too - Anelka, Olsson, Sessegnon and likely Billy Jones - but you weren't going to pick them, were you? No, I didn't think so. Fernando Torres returns his name to the list of formerly productive forwards who play for Chelsea who we occasionally put in our fantasy line-ups because we forget they are barely half the players they used to be. It isn't clear that he'll start and if he does, see the last sentence.
Cardiff City v Aston Villa - Ryan Bertrand (he of the 1.00 price for many of you) is a doubt along with Ron Vlaar. Could those absences mean that Cardiff City actually score a goal? I don't know if I'd bet any money on it but if West Ham could do it twice on this Villa team then why not Cardiff?
Hull City v Southampton - Allan McGregor is still suspended but otherwise, the injury news for both teams is pretty light. Dejan Lovern is still out injured as is Gaston Ramirez who is usually a substitute anyway. The only real question here is whether any of Hull's guys who returned from injury last weekend (Brady, Koren, Aluko) get starts or continue on from the bench. I'd guess given the quick turnaround that all will remain substitutes for now.
West Ham United v Norwich City - If ever there was an advertisement for doing something else with your time than watch Premier League football, this might be it. In addition to the uninspired play from both sides all season, the most compelling players on either side - Andy Carroll (suspended) and Robert Snodgrass (groin injury) - are uncertain. Carroll will definitely miss out while Snodgrass could go either way.
Stoke City v Swansea City - Not a great deal of important news here. Jonjo Shelvey and Michu are both likely to miss out for Swansea while Arnautovic is likely to return for Stoke City. Hard to get too excited about any of that.
Fulham v Liverpool - No changes in player status from the weekend. Liverpool will still be missing Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique, and Lucas Leiva which means that Flanagan is a solid bet.
Everton v Crystal Palace - No changes from the weekend. This should be a fascinating match-up given Everton's season-long very good form vs. Palace's recent exceptional form. If it were early November, this would be a no-brainer to stock up on Everton but now, they're likely only the favorites because they're playing at home.
Manchester City v Sunderland - Aguero and Fernandinho are still out but Yaya Toure will not be charged for the afters from the Norwich City match. I'm not sure it really matters who is healthy or not for Sunderland, you're not picking them, are you?
Newcastle v Tottenham Hotspur - Newcastle are still missing Loic Remy who will be serving the final game of his three match ban. Remy will join Mathieu Debuchy, Cheick Tiote, and Fabricio Coloccini who will all definitely miss out. They may be joined by Yoan Gouffran and Papiss Cisse who will face a race to be fit in time. Spurs will be without Vlad Chiriches and Erik Lamela which should pose exactly zero threat to their plans. Did I mention above that Newcastle are in big trouble? Might be a good time to load up on some of Spurs more productive players if you can fit them in around the Liverpool attackers and Chelsea defenders (and Eden Hazard).
Arsenal v Manchester United - Honestly, I'm staying away from this one for fantasy purposes because there are too many unknowns. Manchester United seemed to still have Arsenal's number in their earlier meeting at Old Trafford despite generally being in a malaise even then as a team. They will be missing some key players in the form of Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand and maybe Phil Jones. They will also still have David Moyes as their manager. On the other hand, Arsenal will still be missing Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott who could take a lot of pressure off of Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud who seem to be fading badly as they attempt to carry too much of the load. This one could be anything from a 1-0 struggle either way to a 3-1 win either way. Choosing the likely outcome is just more than I'm willing to bet my fantasy fortunes on - especially with so much opportunity available with City, Chelsea, and Liverpool's match-ups.