Friday, March 23, 2012
Scraping the bottom of the barrel
Blackburn Rovers' sudden upturn in form raises questions about going for players embroiled in the relegation battle in your fantasy team.
There is a natural aversion to players from teams at the wrong end of the Premier League table, largely due to the perception that they seldom score and often concede - neither is attractive in the fantasy game. However, Blackburn have changed that perception in recent weeks through the only tangible method: results.
The final quarter of the season can be a key time to bring in previously struggling players. Poor teams often banish their wretched form when trying to stay up, providing unexpected fantasy value.
With two victories and two clean sheets in their last two matches, three undefeated in a row and only one loss in their most recent five fixtures, Rovers have become one of the form sides. That run follows directly on the back of the 7-1 crushing at Arsenal and they sit in ninth in the current form table.
Yakubu has been a popular fantasy player since October when he began to hit goalscoring form. With 14 goals, the most recent of which came in the midweek win at home to Sunderland, Yakubu sits fifth in the Premier League goalscoring chart. That said, the goal against Sunderland was only his second since he netted a brace in the shock win at Manchester United on New Year's Eve.
That means Yakubu's popularity in the transfer market has suffered, dropping down to an ownership level of 12.4%. Even though he is cheap at £6.1 million, and ranked the sixth highest scorer among strikers, a few low-scoring games quickly send fantasy managers to the transfer market.
While Yakubu has got back among the goals, the true form player for Rovers in recent weeks is David Hoilett, a player listed as a midfielder who plays in a far more advanced role. With three goals in his last two games, Hoilett is not only trying to keep Rovers in the Premier League but also put himself in the shop window.
He is out of contract at the end of the season and could earn a move to a side in the top half of the table. Both Liverpool and Tottenham have been linked with a player who could be snared on the cheap, though not for free as he is under 24. With that in mind, perhaps we can expect more consistency from the 21-year-old.
Hoilett's recent form has not been the story of his season after a poor winter period. In fact, his recent goals were his first since netting in the 3-3 draw with Wigan back on November 19. But with 118 points - a mere four behind Spurs' Rafael van der Vaart, who is in 7.9% of teams - he is by far Rovers' best performing midfielder and is ranked 11th overall for the position. He has six goals and five assists.
Hoilett was in just 1.4% of teams earlier this week, and that has already spiked by 0.4%. Only Antonio Valencia, Steven Gerrard and Gylfi Sigurdsson have been more popular midfield captures.
He went up in price £0.4 million at the most recent gamelock, which sent his price up to £6.7 million - before that, he was the cheapest midfielder in the top 20. Anyone considering bringing Hoilett in will have to move fast as he is sure to rise once again this Saturday.
Only Yakubu, ranked sixth among strikers and in 12.6% of teams, appears in the top 30 of any of the outfield positions for Rovers.
Blackburn have a mixed bag of fixtures, but with the option to rotate from the bench there is every opportunity to make use of their players. Though they face upcoming home games against Manchester United and Liverpool, they also travel to Bolton, West Brom and Swansea.
Of the other four relegation-threatened teams, Wolves seem so rudderless right now that it is difficult to place any confidence. Stephen Fletcher has been a strong performer, and is still ranked 13th among strikers, but he has scored only two Premier League goals in 2012 and only one in the last seven gameweeks.
Matt Jarvis and Stephen Ward have both been among the top 20 midfielders. Ward has no goals or assists since scoring against Chelsea on January 2, though Jarvis is perhaps a player showing some form with two goals in the last six matches. Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey had been one of the top goalkeepers but with Wolves shipping goals he has dropped down to ninth.
Wigan have only one player, Victor Moses, who has made any kind of impression outfield but the Latics score too few goals to consider. With 25 Premier League goals, they have the worst attack in the division, with Wolves (30) their nearest rivals.
Bolton do not have a single player in the top 30 of defenders and midfielders, with striker Ivan Klasnic in 24th their highest-ranked player. Klasnic has rarely featured since the turn of the year, playing just 39 Premier League minutes in two substitute appearances and spending much of his time on the bench as an unused sub. He has not started since December 17.
Only Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse would seem to offer value at QPR. Zamora has scored twice in six games after netting five goals for Fulham in the first half of the season, but it is Cisse who looks like he could prove key after bagging three goals in four starts. His progress was halted by a three-match ban but now he is back and will be crucial in the run-in. He's already scored against Liverpool, but can he repeat that with QPR still to face Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City?