First XI: Week Five

Jeremy Spitzberg
What next for Liverpool?
Neal Thurman examines on the Luis Suarez situation and how Liverpool should react to get the most out of a troubled but still valuable asset

1. West Ham/Everton was, in my mind at least, a sure-fire nil-nil draw. I had Leighton Baines in my fantasy team up until Friday. He was a good pick due to the expected clean sheet points, but for that much money it didn't seem worth it.

Well, we know how that ended: 2-3 to Everton with Baines scoring two stunning free-kick goals. What I didn't think about before the match - and this is especially interesting as we consider the captaincy - is that Baines hasn't scored below ten points yet this season.* Robin van Persie return a negative 2 one week when he was a popular captain pick, Edin Dzeko threw a goose egg against Hull, and Daniel Sturridge did the same against Southampton this week. Baines may not have the same ceiling as some of these player, though this week may put lie to that notion, but his floor has been exceptionally high.

* Yes, I'm aware that I'm jinxing it for everyone. I'm sorry.

2. Everton changed the match in their favor by bringing on new signings Romelu Lukaku and James McCarthy. I would expect that we'll see those names in the first eleven (Martinez's, not mine) going forward. Everton's schedule is a bit up and down, but they do get an inconsistent Newcastle United at Goodison Park this week and you could do worse than having the big Belgian in your fantasy lineup.

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3. Newcastle United earned a lot of good faith heading into the match against Hull. They had drawn with West Ham and beat Fulham and Aston Villa. However, other than Mathieu Debuchy (and Robbie Elliot) they haven't earned much fantasy investment. That reticence on the part of fantasy managers paid off as Newcastle lost to Hull 2-3. Loic Remy came good scoring two goals, but there weren't many other points to go around. Their "cakewalk" has come to end and they have a really tough slate of matches - @Everton, @Cardiff, Liverpool, @Sunderland (but that's a derby) - upcoming.

If you have Robbie Elliot at a buck on your bench, you should hold on to him.

4. Of course the big match this weekend was the Manchester Derby, where City thrashed United 4-1. Watching the match I kept wondering, and I've seen this echoed in a lot of the commentary, which United players on Sunday would crack City's squad? Wayne Rooney, perhaps. Maybe Michael Carrick? But that's only until Fernandinho settles, which if this match was any indication, he's well on his way.

The problem for United is that while they've bought on 20million dollar/pound/euro player a season - Marouane Fellaini this window, van Persie last season - City have brought in three or four world-class players at a time. United may not have van Persie back for their home match against West Brom. Wayne Rooney is in the middle of one of his purple patches and looks a good bet to keep that up against a West Brom team who finally looked good, albeit against the soon-to-be managerless Sunderland.

5. If City can learn to win without Vincent Kompany in the side, or just be more consistent from game to game, they'll be hard to beat for the title this season. This weekend City travel to Aston Villa so unless City show their disinterested side, their players look good fantasy options.

6. Swansea have their season on track. That includes big wins in both the Premier and Europa Leagues. With each passing victory, their opening day defeat to Manchester United seems like more and more of an abberation. They have squad depth at every position, and their star man, Michu, is off the mark and scoring. They'll host Arsenal this weekend which will be a great match for the neutrals, if a tougher one for fantasy managers. There's been a lot of investment in Arsenal players, for obvious reasons. But with Theo Walcott now injured, and facing Swansea in Wales, are the likes of Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey worth the risk? (Hint: check back here next week for answers.)

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7. Are Liverpool any good? They've snuck through with four 1-0 wins over some dicey competition - the toughest of which, Manchester United, they had at Anfield - and drew against Swansea thanks to two "assists" from their former player, Jonjo Shelvey. Against Southampton they came up on the wrong side of the same 1-0 scoreline. Phillipe Coutinho in injured and Iago Aspas yet to settle into the Premier League, Luis Suarez's return could not be better timed. While I expect him to come straight back into the starting lineup, I'm not 100% on that. They get bottom-of-the-table Sunderland, so investment in Liverpool is a must. Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard may be enough coverage for me, but come Friday trading, it may be too much to ignore Suarez.

8. Injuries and fitness concerns led Liverpool to field center backs across the defence. For a system that relies so much on full-backs overlapping and creating offense, this was never going to be a good option for them. It might have been better to go with three at the back and/or play midfielders like Jordan Henderson and Victor Moses as wing backs. Anything would have been better than setting up as a modified Stoke City.

9. ...but even Stoke City don't play like that anymore. Geoff Cameron scored his first goal for the club against Arsenal. After the match he was quoted as saying that Mark Hughes wants his fullbacks to get forward more often and to join in the attack. Something to look forward to, starting this weekend against struggling Norwich.

10. One tip to Erik Pieters, or Marc Muniesa or Marc Wilson, whomever gets the call at left back, is that Robert Snodgrass will take the ball infield on to his left foot pretty much every time he gets the ball. Though judging by his output so far, it appears that the league has caught up to his one trick. Snodgrass has lost penalty kicks to Ricky van Wolfswinkel this week, and I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see him lose his starting spot to either Anthony Pilkington or Johan Elmander, who can play out on the right.

11. One final note on Fulham. They beat Everton today in the League Cup, but have shown a tendency to give up late goals. They lost to Fulham and dropped points to West Brom with goals allowed in the last five minutes of the matches. This weekend, John Obi Mikel put the match beyond them with a goal for Chelsea in the 84th minute. As the season goes on the matches pile up, their Dad's Army squad could fin themselves in trouble trying to close out, or see out, matches.