First XI: Week 3

Jeremy Spitzberg
Neal Thurman subs in for Nik and puts his spin on Week 34 Player Picks for the Togga Perfect XI Premier League Fantasy game

Perfect XI Player Picks WK34

Neal Thurman subs in for Nik and puts his spin on Week 34 Player Picks for the Togga Perfect XI Premier League Fantasy game

1. So in the midst of all of the transfer madness, there was a full slate of matches. Well half a slate. Plus one. Amazingly, there was only one match - Crystal Palace's 3-1 defeat of Sunderland - in which both teams scored. That anomoly has inflated the fantasy return of a number of players, including...

2. ... Mathieu Debuchy. After being played off the pitch by Manchester City, Newcastle have kept consecutive clean sheets in home matches against West Ham and Fulham. Debuchy earned five points in the first week demolition, but has earned a very respectable 16 and 17 points from the last two matches. He has two shots on target (as many as Papiss Cisse) but has gotten twenty points from his defensive work - tackles won and passes intercepted. I'm not sure it will continue - Newcastle are at Aston Villa, home to Hull, and at Everton in September - but for now at least, he's earned a spot on my fantasy bench.

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3. Another under-the-radar player is Southampton's James Ward-Prowse. The young midfielder has started each of the Saints' first three matches and is second only to Jose Fonte in fantasy points earned. He's been consistent, if not spectacular. Most of his points come from successful crosses as he's taking corners. Only one cross has assisted a goal so far, but the opportunities are there. Southampton's schedule is a bit up and down over the next few weeks, but home to West Ham after the international break could be a good time to pick J "Not Wright-Phillips" WP.

4. One player who is not going to be under the radar - when he gets added to the fantasy game - is Mesut Ozil (umlats not included). Arsenal have a good run of matches coming up, with at Swansea probably their toughest test in the league through October. Ozil will surely be a popular pick up for that run. After all, he's assisted more goals in European football than any other player over the last five years. But with 17% of us already having Theo Walcott - and the other 83%, what are you thinking? - and Olivier Giroud making a case for himself by scoring in every match this season... that's three players from one team. A team that despite the marquee signing, and big win over Spurs this weekend, is paper thin and historically fragile.

5. Spurs may be unlucky that the derby came this early in the season. They have made a bevy of good signings, in an effort to replace one great player. It may yet work out, but with Erik Lamela just getting a cameo off the bench and Christian Eriksen not yet on the team, Roberto Soldado remained an isolated figure. There was no penalty to take to rescure fantasy managers this week, and they'll be wondering if Soldado is a long-term keeper. I think he'll come good when the team beds in, but with an international break keeping the team from coming together, it might be a few weeks yet.

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6. That being said, I'm getting excited for the Erik Lamela era in fantasy Premier League football. He looked lively in his cameo and took set pieces. Most importantly... he's listed as a midfielder in the fantasy game! That gets him +10 status (as in I'm picking him and 10 others) going forward.

7. On the other side of the coin, my faith in Phillipe Coutinho is beginning to waver. Liverpool have ridden a trio of Daniel Sturridge goals to three 1-0 wins and a place atop the league table. Coutinho started out strong against Stoke, but fell of at Aston Villa and then again, perhaps understandably, against Manchester United. I'm tempted to leave him in the team for now. Liverpool have Victor Moses and Luis Suarez available soon to take the wide attacking roles and allow Coutinho to move infield. Liverpool's schedule gets a bit easier in September, and then very easy in October (Crystal Palace, at Newcastle United, West Brom). I'm willing to wait and see for now, but players like Eriksen and Ozil now options, and say a Shinji Kagawa coming back to fitness, Coutinho will be on a shorter leash, and maybe even on the bench at Swansea next game week.

8. Speaking of Swansea, their tough run continues with Liverpool visiting. They took care of struggling West Brom but otherwise they play the easier teams away and welcome the tougher challenges to the Liberty Stadium. That continues until they host Sunderland and West Ham on consecutive weeks at the end of October. We haven't seen anything out of last season's fantasy breakout player, Michu, or Wilfried Bony, one of the more hyped signings of this transfer window. A little more patience is probably required until you get them on your fantasy team.

9. Another team where patience is required is Everton. Three draws, and no goals in the last two matches is not a great start. Their next appointment is with Chelsea, and new loan signing Romelu Lukaku won't be eligible to play in that match. After that, however, they travel to West Ham and Fulham before hosting Newcastle United. There are points to be had in those matches, and Lukaku should be able to see off Nikica Jelavic and Aroune Kone to grab the starting forward spot.

10. This was a breakout weekend for Norwich's summer signings Nathan Redmond and Leroy Fer. They have a relatively tough run of matches over the next month or two, so they may not be fantasy relevant week-in and week-out, but they've already won a match for the Canaries and are surely not done yet.

11. Manchester City's match-winner was Alvaro Negredo. He was thought in many quarters to have earned a start against Hull, but only made the bench. However, Edin Dzeko was clearly on notice as he came off after a subdued fourty-five minutes. Now I do believe that Negredo is the starter going forward, and he'll come into my fantasy reckoning.

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