Week 4 Premier Fantasy Preview (Part 1)

At last the international break is over and we can get down to the business of what matters the most, namely Premier League action and resumption of fantasy competition.

Week 4 will span three days with eight matches on Saturday, September 15, one on Sunday, September 16 and one on Monday, September 17.

My preview will be divided in two parts with Part 1 today covering the eight matches on Saturday and Part 2 on Friday looking to the matches on Sunday and Monday.

Saturday, September 15
Norwich City-West Ham United

The early game on ESPN has Big Sam taking his surprising Hammers (2-0-1) to Norwich City (0-2-1), who are in 15th and have only scored two goals in three matches. The Canaries have given up seven, but five were in one game. Jackson has 10 fantasy points as a forward.

West Ham's Nolan (22 points), Reid (21 points), Taylor (17 points), and Vaz Te (13 points) represent the best team with the most fantasy points for the money.
The Hammers were shameful in their only away game of the season.

Arsenal-Southampton

The Saints brutal schedule to open the season continues at the Emirates. Southampton (0-0-3, 20th place) has played tough against Manchester City and Man Yoo and has zero points to show for it.
Southampton has scored four goals while giving up eight and feature terrific Rickie Lambert as their major offensive threat. Kelvin Davis has 18 fantasy points in goal.

Arsenal ended its scoreless streak and also recorded its third straight clean sheet. Defensive fantasy points look good in this home game and Cazorla seems to be the biggest offensive weapon in scoring and assisting. Podolski got a goal; however, Giroud so far has not been able to convert virtual sitters. Theo Walcott, recovered from an illness, has had very little playing time. Diaby is dealing with an injury and is a doubt.

Fantasy managers wonder if Arsene Wenger will keep third-string GK Mannone in goal instead of first-string keeper Szczesny who is due back on Saturday. While S-double-Z had a clean sheet in the season opener, Vito has had two of his own, as the Gooners are perfect in defence in their opening three matches. Mannone carries a 4.5 salary compared with Szczesny's 7.5.

Aston Villa-Swansea City

New manager Paul Lambert and Villa will find the Swans brimming with confidence. Swansea is second in the table and has scored ten goals while giving up just two. Vorm is a rock in goal, Michu is the scoring sensation of the young season and Ashley Williams brings his usual defensive and sometimes offensive brilliance. Routledge has had 26 fantasy points so far.

Aston Villa (0-1-2) is 17th in the table, a truly boring team with few fantasy favorites. Darren Bent is about the only sure bet for points. Agbonlahor is fit; however, based on his low production the past two seasons, that means little. Belgian transfer Beteke is a hope. Westwood is a prayer.

Fulham-WBA

It is life without Dempsey and Dembele for the Cottagers who are 11th with a record of 1-0-2. Five of their seven goals were scored in a home rout of Norwich City. Other than that they have scored two other goals while giving up six. Midfielder Kacaniklic has 14 fantasy points.
The Cottagers have brought in the Captain of Greece's national team, 35-year-old midfielder Karagounis on a free transfer. If Brian Ruiz returns it will help.

The Baggies (2-1-0 and 3rd), and Swansea are the surprise teams so far in the PL. McAuley (26 points) and Ridgewell (18 points) have been fantasy defensive super stars. Lukaku is due back for the match.

Manchester United-Wigan

Man Yoo (2-0-1) and SAF escaped with their three-point lives from Southampton last time out. United as scored six goals in three games, but the defence has been porous, having yielded five. Defender Phil Jones will be out two months following knee surgery.

Robin van Persie has netted four goals and is still trying to live down one of the lamest PKs in recent memory. After getting a knock on his thigh during the break, his fitness will be assessed on game day. Ashley Young is listed as returning from injury.

Nani, in SAF's doghouse, had an excellent match against the Saints, as did Scholes. They were subbed in and had a positive impact on the team immediately. Kagawa was pulled out of Japan's WCQ match and has a back injury. His status is unclear. Lindegaard, the chosen GK, has sent De Gea to the pines. Welbeck looked good against Ukraine but doesn't work that well with RvP and Chicharito isn't exactly on fire either.

Wigan (1-1-1) occupies the ninth table position and is playing relatively well after the departure of Victor Moses. Maloney has notched 17 fantasy points but this will be an almost certain Man Yoo result.

QPR-Chelsea

QPR (0-1-2) has made the most changes in their lineup from last year and are still wallowing in relegation skid row. They have scored just two goals while conceding nine (five in one home loss) and face 3-0-0 Chelsea. The Rs at least looked better in their last outing. They may be without defender Anton Ferdinand in the first return to QPR by Chelsea after the ridiculous incident between AF and JT. Ferdinand is due back from an injury.

The league leaders have scored eight goals while conceding two and were idle in Week 3. Of concern to Blues' supporters and fantasy managers is how awful the team looked in defence in the trouncing by Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup. Terry and Cole are hopeful to return from injuries to a shaky defensive line while midfielder Marin could be back.

Chelsea will see if offensive productivity can come from Torres, Hazard (29 fantasy points), Lampard and Mata. Sturridge played well against Ukraine and seems fit.

Stoke-Manchester City

Will Stoke be the Aston Villa of 2012-2013? Already the Potters have three draws in their first three matches. Last year AV had 17 deadlocks. Tony Pulis' 12th place side has scored three goals and given up three. Michael Owen has declared himself ready to play. Etherington is due back from injury.

City is in the fourth spot and will be without Balotelli who is recovering from eye surgery. Aguero is back in training; however, this week he said his knee is still sore. If he were in the starting lineup, he would be paired with Tevez who has been on fire. Dzeko would go back to the bench. Carlito, in shape, with his head-on-straight, is a menacing figure in City's attack. He and Aguero looked good in the Community Shield; however, Tevez also worked well with Dzeko.

The City engine is fine-tuned by Yaya Toure. When the Ivorian plays more up front, he is unstoppable. Joe Hart has only eight fantasy points and has already conceded five goals. Rodwell and Zabaleta have injuries and may not play. Clichy faces a late fitness test.

Sunderland-Liverpool

The late game features Sunderland (0-2-0) in 13th position against the most disappointing (again) team in the PL, Liverpool (0-1-2 and 18th). Having drawn their only two matches of the season, the Black Cats have managed only two goals while scoring just two themselves.
Fantasy managers are waiting for Sessegnon to serve his filet mignon talent to the faithful.

Brendan Rodgers is at the helm of a sad sack ship adrift with little imagination. So far Suarez has been doing more whining than completing his finishes. Pepe Reina has been beaten seven times and Gerrard looks gassed. Sir John thinks Shelvey should be in the starting XI for every match. He is a hard-nosed throw back who showed he has the ability to score on two closes chances last time out. Downing and Henderson remain disasters. Enrique could miss with an injury.

Tomorrow I will preview Reading-Tottenham who play on Sunday and Everton-Newcastle who go at it Monday.

Until then I remain,
Yours faithfully,
Sir John

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