Neal Thurman

Perfect XI

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AM's Perfect XI - Week 35

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I’m baaack! After finishing 5th overall in Perfect XI the last time I filled in for Nik, he asked me to take another run at it while he’s on a well-deserved vacation after completing the London Marathon this past weekend.  [Seriously, that’s impressive, congratulate him on Twitter…go on…we’ll wait] Fortunately, my return trip to the Perfect XI Player Picks column sees us back to a standard week of ten matches.  It also features a North London Derby that both complicates picks and gives me (an Arsenal supporter) and Nik (a Spurs supporter) something to talk trash about after he returns from vacation (although I’m very much worried that he’ll have more to talk about than I will). 

 

On to the review of the schedule, here’s the rundown with comments:

Saturday Mid-Day (no early match)

  • Southampton vs Hull City – Hull City away means that Southampton should be looking pretty attractive both going forward and at the back.
  • Stoke City vs. West Ham United – Two decidedly up and down teams means sees the Potters with a slight advantage based on being at home but the match-up shouldn’t change your valuation of players on either side much.
  • Sunderland vs. Bournemouth – The Cherries punished struggling Middlesbrough over the weekend and get a chance to double down on struggling opponents in the Black Cats who are sunk.  I wouldn’t expect another four goals but a couple goals minimum sounds reasonable.
  • West Brom vs. Leicester City – Albion has been stalwart but seem like their steadiness might be eclipsed by Leicester City’s renaissance.  I don’t see a huge advantage here either way.

Saturday Late

  • Crystal Palace vs. Burnley – Burnley have lost Joey Barton for 18 months and are on the road which would mean trouble even with Barton.  Palace are in great form and should be valued up accordingly given that they’re playing at home against sub-par opposition.

Sunday Early

  • Manchester United vs. Swansea City – The Swans are struggling pretty mightily and Manchester United, despite injuries are playing at home and in good form.  I’d look for a pretty heavy Manchester United advantage, especially the attack.

Sunday Mid-Day

  • Everton vs. Chelsea – Everton has been stalwart at home but Chelsea are Chelsea and look to have added some additional swagger with Diego Costa back on the scoresheet against Southampton.  I’d stay away from the Toffees defense for sure and target Blues attackers.
  • Middlesbrough vs. Manchester City – This should be a walkover for Pep and his guys.  Load up on City players.

Sunday Late

  • Spurs vs. Arsenal – Given form, talent and location all signs point to Spurs winning this one fairly easily.  I tend to hate picking players in matches between big clubs but I wouldn’t shy away from picking from Spurs core in this one.

Monday

  • Watford vs. Liverpool – It SHOULD be advantage Liverpool but recent history tells us that’s about when the Reds lay an egg.  I’m pretty lukewarm on this one overall and even more so since it is the last match of the match week which always puts you at risk should something unexpected happen.

 

Just by way of a reminder (and as a transition from schedule analysis to player recommendations), I tend to be pretty conservative in my Perfect XI approach.  A lot of pundits and managers focus on looking to pick out the “differentials” that will help separate them from the pack.  In a salary cap environment I completely understand that strategy.  In Perfect XI though, with no salary cap to hinder you, my strategy is to look for the player who I think is going to score the highest and that usually means the most talented players from the biggest teams.  It may not be too exciting or controversial but it usually works pretty well. 

 


 

Goalkeepers

  • Wayne Hennessey – Despite what I said about the most talented player on the biggest teams, I’m going with Hennessey here.  He’s at home playing for a team in great form against an opponent that struggles to score under any circumstances and especially on the road.  Claudio Bravo would be my second choice but I hate hoping for a clean sheet on the road.  Fraser Forster would be my third choice but he’s been rotten this season and even facing Hull City at home I’ve been too often bitten by memories of what Forster has done in the past as opposed to what he’s done this season which has been pretty terrible.  David De Gea would be fourth but United’s defense is so riddled with injuries and I expect them to dominate possession so the worry is one Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick and you might have a negative day.

 


 

Defenders

  • Mamadou SakhoCopy and paste the write-up for Hennessey here.
  • Antonio Valencia/Luke Shaw/Matteo DarmianPicking a wide defender from Manchester United is pretty much a no-brainer.  Knowing which ones are going to start is less clear.  This is my order of preference.  I’m not so invested that I’d take two of them but I wouldn’t blame you if you did, especially if both Shaw and Valencia start.
  • Marcos Alonso Because even as Chelsea’s clean sheets have dried up he’s been one of the best defenders in this format based on his attacking contributions and the occasional tackle/interception.
  • Kyle Walker As much as it pains me to pick a Spurs player against Arsenal there isn’t a Manchester City defender I’m confident in and I don’t love Bournemouth’s defenders at the Stadium of Light quite enough to overcome the steady excellence that Walker provides in this format.  It’s also hard not to get behind the notion of Walker finding a lot of joy behind Nacho Monreal playing slightly higher up the pitch in Arsenal’s 3-4-3.  Wide attackers had been finding space behind Monreal when he was playing in the back four so unless Wenger deploys Kieran Gibbs in Monreal’s place this looks like the side where Spurs will be doing their attacking.

Others Receiving Votes: Christian Fuchs has been revitalized under Craig Shakespeare, Charlie Daniels is playing well and gets Sunderland, and Eric Bailly is probably a low ceiling clean sheet waiting to happen.

 


 

Midfielders

  • Eden Hazard and Christen Eriksen – How do you leave either one out?
  • Ander Herrera – He’s been excellent churning out key passes and assists and United should be dominating the ball against the Swans.  His importance should only grow if Paul Pogba, who has been ruled out for Thursday’s Manchester Derby, misses the Swansea match as well.
  • Wilfried Zaha He’s had a few down matches in a row but I picture him racking up phantom points as he tries to dribble through the entire Burnley defense multiple times per half.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with an assist or two as well.  If Zaha is too high variance for your tastes then Yohan Cabaye has been the steadier answer.

Others Receiving Votes: Dele Alli as part of a potential Spurs scoring explosion, Nathan Redmond/Dusan Tadic against Hull City’s struggling away form, and Yaya Toure who looks like he’s starting to audition for China/MLS/one last big payday.

 


 

Forwards

  • Harry Kane – Because he seems to enjoy nothing more than terrorizing the North London neighbors who didn’t sign him as a kid.
  • Sergio Aguero/Gabriel Jesus – I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the match that Pep chose to reintroduce Jesus to the starting line-up.  City should win easily and Aguero will have presumably already started two high profile matches, the FA Cup Semi and the Manchester Derby, over the previous week. Either way, City should run roughshod over Boro and whichever forward starts should be the primary beneficiary.

Others Receiving Votes: Christian Benteke because he’s in form and playing at home against Burnley, Anthony Martial who should be in line for matches like this that United should win handily, and Josh King because he’s been on fire and he’s playing against Sunderland. 

 

There are some hard choices here, especially at forward where all five candidates have legitimate cases to be made as the top candidate for the week and that doesn’t even include the top scorer in the game overall in Alexis Sanchez who can always go off with a huge match.  Good luck picking your line-ups and here’s hoping Nik has recharged his batteries after the Marathon because he needs to be ready for a visit from your favorite substitute columnist over Match Week 36.



Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
Email :Neal Thurman





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