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Friday, March 9, 2012
The Iceman cometh

Dale Johnson

One of the successes of the second half of the Premier League fantasy season has been Swansea City midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. And with managers searching for a replacement for Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon, who will miss the next two Premier League games through suspension, this Swan could be a value option. A January arrival on loan from Bundesliga club TSG Hoffenheim, Sigurdsson had failed to force his way into the club's starting line-up following a move from Championship side Reading for a fee in excess of 6.5 million in the summer of 2010. The Iceland international started just seven matches for Hoffenheim this season and claimed just one assist. Last season he was used mainly from the bench, making 29 appearances but only 10 starts. But despite being a bit-part player for the German club he still scored nine goals and collected two assists. Since moving to the Premier League he has shown he can reproduce that kind of form on a regular basis as, in seven appearances for Swansea, Sigurdsson has picked up three goals and two assists. Sigurdsson entered the fantasy game at a price of 5.8 million and has already seen a rise of 0.1 million. That price will rise again upon the gamelock this weekend. For now he offers good value, though you can find players cheaper in the top 20 scorers: Matthew Etherington (5.8 million), Stiliyan Petrov (5.3 million) and Stephen Ward (5.5 million). The difference here of course is those three players have a considerably greater ownership figure than Sigurdsson. Before his brace against Wigan last week the 22-year-old was in 0.6% of teams. He has seen a rise in ownership since up to 0.9%, but that still only makes him the 14th most popular midfielder in the transfer market this week. Etherington is the second most popular, behind Ashley Young. The performance of Man United winger Young against Spurs last weekend has seen his ownership level almost double from 3.6% to 6.2%, a rise of 2.6%. Etherington is up 0.9% to 8.8%. Of the other bargain players mentioned, Petrov is in 9.7% of teams (down 0.3%) while Ward stays at 2.9%. Sigurdsson should continue to be among the goals as he is averaging almost four shots a game, and he had six of the Swans' 12 shots at Wigan. If he is to become an increasing focal point of the team's attack from midfield he could become a key goalscoring midfielder. His move to Hoffenheim followed a superb season at Championship level with Reading, scoring 17 goals and producing eight assists from 32 starts and six substitute appearances. Those 17 goals came from just 88 shots. A return of a goal every 5.18 shots for a midfielder is an excellent return. Swansea have a mixed bag of fixtures coming up, starting with this weekend's home game against Manchester City. After that, Swansea have away games at Fulham, Spurs and Queens Park Rangers while they also take on Everton and Newcastle United at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans may have three away games in that run, but it may come as a surprise to hear that their haul of nine points from five away games is bettered only by West Brom and Man United in the same period.

Suspension tightrope

Any of those 0.1% of managers insane enough to have Sunderland's Lee Cattermole in their teams will know his two-match ban for yellow cards, plus a two-match ban for being sent off after the final whistle, kicked in following the North East derby against Newcastle United. He became the second player, after Blackburn's Jason Lowe, to reach that threshold this season. There are no players in immediate danger of triggering a two-game suspension, though there are others who could yet incur the penalty before the cut-off date of the second Sunday in April, which is the 8th and also Easter Sunday. With there being two quick-fire Gameweeks at Easter, this means the amnesty kicks in at the end of Gameweek 32. Most players will have five games remaining, plus any FA Cup appearances, to avoid reaching 10 bookings and there are some popular fantasy players who are in danger of a ban. The five players on eight bookings are: Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Raul Meireles and John Terry (Chelsea), Joey Barton (QPR), and Ryan Shawcross (Stoke).

Fixture corner

The FA Cup continues to cause problems for the fixture list, with the Manchester City v Chelsea game falling victim in Gameweek 29 after Chelsea beat Birmingham City in their FA Cup replay. Every other match affected over the weekend of March 17 and 18 has been moved to the midweek and luckily the same fate befalls this game, which means Gameweek 29 remains intact. Gameweek 34, on April 14 and 15, could be affected by the FA Cup semi-finals. Follow @dalejohnsonESPN


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