First XI: Week Eight

Jeremy Spitzberg
Galin Dragiev looks at some players who are likely to improve or regress

Another down week for me. That's three or four on the bounce where I've lost ground to rivals and friends (notably Neal, who's killing it right now). I have to process this because it's starting to be not fun. I have eleven things to get through, I'm sure of it. However, I don't know how to do it other than to go through the line-up that I've created for the upcoming gameweek. So with apologies to Nik, here we go.

1. Romelu Lukaku - Captain, my captain. This is probably the third time that I've bet against Hull on the road, and it will probably be my last. It worked with Chelsea - barely. I got burned picking Newcastle players, and again with Everton. Lukaku was my undisputed captain choice. He was scoring goals for fun and there was no way Hull was going to stop him. But they did. One shot on goal for three points was all he did in his 68 minutes. Everton still won the match, but a deeply disappointing performance from the young striker. Next up, Everton are away at Aston Villa - one team who know how to blank Hull, but otherwise can't keep a clean sheet. I'll think about selling him, but with a 12 starting price (15 now) it may be hard to make an impactful move.

2. Daniel Sturridge - Yes, he scored. But that was about it. A decent choice, a decent return, and a decent captain choice for many people. He did enough to stay in the side, but not enough for me to feel good about it. Liverpool have West Brom at Anfield next, but there's enough money in him - 16, with a current value of 19 - that I may look to move him for a Rooney or a Van Persie come Friday. Which will surely be a bad move.

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3. Luis Suarez - Picking up right where he left off last year. Returning close to twenty points per week over the last three matches and should be an automatic - or at least a default - captain choice. I don't love having both him and Sturridge, but on current form that's more of a concern for Sturridge's place in the side. The last-gasp free kick against Newcastle was a great example of why Suarez is a good fantasy choice. No, he didn't score, but it was damn close, and it was a cheap three points. And say it with class, "Points is points."

4. Mesut Ozil - I'm starting to develop a blind spot here. He's on the team, on the left-side of my fantasy midfield, and I just don't even bother looking there anymore. Yes, there was some panic last week after he limped out of Germany's match. But once he was confirmed fit for the Norwich match I just left it alone. It's amazing how similar the experience is to last year when it was Santi Cazorla who came into the Gunners midfield and became a season keeper, or a blind spot, in our fantasy teams. He's had a few stinkers, which disqualifies him from serious captain consideration, but at his initial price of 6 he's not going anywhere.

5. Morgan Amalfitano - Speaking of blind spots, I may just have one for him. He's my prototypical fantasy players. A winger who gets into the attack and takes his team's set pieces. I was disappointed by his return against what I considered a bad Stoke side, and I'm not thrilled with his matchup traveling to Liverpool. I may keep him at 10, or I may look for funds to move him out for the week. Maybe I'll try to sell him and get one of the Newcastle pair of Yohan Cabaye or Hatem Ben Arfa. He'll come back into the team for sure as West Brom then host Crystal Palace, but it's then at Chelsea before Aston Villa. If he goes up in price before the Chelsea, maybe that will be a time to utilize the bench. Or maybe I'm getting carried away. It remains to be seen.

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6. Michu - His side puts four goals past Sunderland, and he has no part in any of them. I don't think he was a bad pick, but it was very frustrating as a fantasy manager. This week Swansea host West Ham on Sunday on the back of a Europa League tie on Thursday. I'll most likely keep Michu, but like Amalfitano, I'll be tempted to turn him into Cabaye, Ben Arfa, or someone with a little better matchup.

7. Aaron Ramsey - I blew this one. Or did I? I sold Ramsey on Friday and moved Ross Barkley into my starting XI. Now granted, Barkley didn't do anything and we're learning not to bet on or against Hull this season. But Ramsey was rested! He was only on the subs bench, so barring an unpredictable injury to Mathieu Flamini (an injury that should worry Gunners fans in real life) to get him on to the pitch with time to make an impact. That's the thing about fantasy, yes he did make an impact and return 20 points to his grateful fantasy owners. But did I get it wrong by not playing him? I'm not so sure that I did, even though it hurts that I didn't.

8. Rafael - Leighton Baines was the pick here last week and that didn't work out. Again, we're learning not to bet on or against Hull, right? Rafael has been pretty good since returning from injury returning 6 and 7 fantasy points in two matches. Neither of those matches saw United keep clean sheets, so the potential returns are there if they can step it up against what I still consider to be a bad Stoke side. I'm not too worried about rotation here, but enough (Jones, maybe?) that I'll consider Patrice Evra if I have the money - though Moyes has shown that he'll play Alexander Buttner against "lesser" sides.

9. Bacary Sagna - I had Carl Jenkinson in my team last week until it was announced that Sagna was back for Arsenal. I went with Per Mertesacker instead and his mistake led to Arsenal conceding a goal. Great. Sagna returned points regardless and looks to be a good bet on the road to Crystal Palace.

10. Aly Cissokho - The price is right, and he's playing a more advanced wing-back role for Liverpool. I would prefer Glen Johnson in this spot, but the price difference is too great. With Enrique sidelined by a knee injury at the moment I fell safe sticking with Cissokho unless we learn differently.

11. Artur Boruc - We're learning not to bet on or against Hull, but we're doing it slowly. Michel Vorm was the popular pick last week and he held Sunderland and picked up a clean sheet. I went with Tim Howard as Everton has been better at home than Swansea, but it wasn't to be. At least Everton got the win to help Howard's cause, but even that was harder than it should have been. Tim Krul could be a budget pick this week, but playing at bitter, bitter rivals Sunderland gives me pause. We all rememeber what happened last time Newcastle faced a Sunderland team under new management. Boruc is a nice, mid-priced option. Southampton have been very tight defensively, and a home match against Fulham looks like another clean sheet for the Saints. At least it did before Fulham put four past Crystal Palace. But we're going to say that that result has more to do with Crystal Palace than Fulham and that it won't translate to the weekend. But we'll probably be wrong.