Having kicked off our series of rotation articles with a look at the basic principles involved, we now turn our attentions to the most favourable pairings in accordance with the 2014/15 schedule. To get thing underway, we take a look at Stoke and Swansea:
The Potters and Swans offer Fantasy managers a perfect home/away rotation over the entire 2014/15 campaign. Crucially, both sides have also been handed some very kind opening home fixtures for the first few months – by alternating for every home fixture, you’d face just one of last season’s top seven in the first 14 matches (Swansea’s Liberty clash with Arsenal in Gameweek 11, when Stoke travel to Spurs) in a run that reads (AVL, BUR, WBA, LEI, SOT, NEW, NEW, SWA, LEI, WHM, ARS, BUR, CPL, QPR).
Further analysis of the season ticker shows that over the course of the upcoming campaign, there are only three occasions where both sides face two of last year’s top eight in the same Gameweek (11, 28 and 36). Essentially, then, even where your home keeper has a tough task, the away stopper will offer a decent alternative, which makes this pairing a very enticing option from start to finish.
In their first season under Mark Hughes, Stoke conceded just a mere 17 goals at the Britannia – the fourth best home defence in the Premier League. The Potters produced seven of nine clean sheets in front of their own fans, keeping out the likes of Arsenal and City, whilst conceding more than one goal against only two opponents – Chelsea and Liverpool.
On their travels, though, it was another matter. Stoke’s backline shipped 35 goals – a tally superior to only the three relegated teams – and conceded at least three times on no less than seven occasions. With just two shut-outs away from home (at West Ham and Hull), it’s easy to see why a rotation partner is vital here.
Between the posts, Asmir Begovic was Stoke’s top scoring player in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game last term. The keeper racked up 136 points – 28 more than any defender – thanks to an extra 25 save points but bearing in mind that Stoke ultimately suffered a drop in clean sheets in the first season of the post-Tony Pulis era, you’d expect him to come in around 5.0, with a maximum 5.5.
Elsewhere at the back, Ryan Shawcross earned bonus points for six of those clean sheets – indeed, a total of 16 bonus points was more than any Potters player. Nailed-on under Hughes, he missed just one of last term’s matches but managed just a single goal, though if Robert Huth proves his fitness, the big German’s aerial menace in the opposition box could be another option. The arrival of Phil Bardsley places question marks over the full-back positions in the meantime, though the upcoming summer friendlies should shed some light on Hughes’ intentions.
While Stoke’s home stats afford us plenty of optimism, it remains to be seen whether Swansea will be worthy of our defensive investment under Garry Monk. Last term, the Welsh outfit served up six clean sheets in 24 matches (four at home, two on the road) under Michael Laudrup before the Dane was dismissed in early February – Monk managed just two shut-outs, both at the Liberty against relegated pair Cardiff and Norwich, in the remaining 14 league fixtures.
With 54 goals against last term, you’d expect Swansea’s main assets to remain around the 5.0-mark and Michel Vorm, with save points accrued in 14 of his 26 appearances, looks the ideal partner for Begovic. The arrival of Lukasz Fabianski from Arsenal, however, perhaps places enough question marks over the Dutchman’s security of starts – indeed, the former Gunner may well be the cheaper option and prove a better value option if he can secure the number one spot.
Chico Flores earned more bonus points than fellow-centre Ashley Williams, despite playing four less matches, and also chipped in with a couple of goals last term – the Spaniard averaged 3.2 ppg in FPL, more than any Swansea backline option. Monk’s more attack-minded approach may suit the raiding runs of Angel Rangel, who’ll be looking to improve upon his two assists last term, having notched three times in the season before. On the other side of the back-four, Ben Davies has now scored twice in each of the last two campaigns but with rumoured interest from the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool, Neil Taylor could be one to watch if Davies leaves the Liberty.
Last season’s top two scorers, Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam, look far from certain starters this time around. Crouch notched eight times for the Potters but his style of play seems more suited to the club’s previous tactics under Tony Pulis – the arrival of Mame Biram Diouf affords Stoke more speed and power through the centre and, bearing in mind Hughes has been on his trail since arriving at the Britannia, the former United man seems the likeliest to lead the line.
Adam, meanwhile, delivered eight goals and four assists in the season gone by but failed to start any of Stoke’s last 10 league games. Instead, Marko Arnautovic and Peter Odemwingie were key figures in a run that saw the Staffordshire outfit lose just three times in the last 15 Gameweeks. After a slow start to his debut season, the Austrian found his feet and produced three goals, five assists and eight bonus points in the final nine league games – with a share of set-pieces and, potentially, spot-kicks, he looks a real under-the-radar option this term. Odemwingie’s classification looks key to his appeal. Listed as a forward last time around, he was utilised as a right winger by Hughes but still produced five goals, two assists and nine bonus points in the last nine fixtures – if he comes in as a midfielder, that sort of form is surely worth monitoring.
Snapping up a Stoke midfielder or attacker doesn’t come without its frustrations, though, particularly on the road. Hughes’ side managed 27 goals in front of their own fans but netted only 18 times on their travels – whilst the upside is that none of their main assets will be afforded a premium price tag, Fantasy owners can anticipate a few blanks away from the Britannia. With three of their first four road trips away to Hull, QPR and Sunderland, though, Hughes’ side have the chance to rectify the form that blighted their displays on the road during his first season in charge.
With 13 goals to his name from January 1 onwards, Wilfried Bony’s form in the final few months of his debut season was exceptional. The Ivorian bagged braces against the likes of City and Liverpool last term and with goals also plundered against Everton, Spurs, Arsenal and United, he showed he’s more than capable of delivering in the bigger fixtures – crucial, given that Swansea are away to United and Chelsea in the first four Gameweeks. Having started at 8.0 in FPL last time around, a price hike seems inevitable – a cost of 9.0 seems likely for this season but, with the suitors circling for his signature, whether Monk can persuade him to remain at the Liberty is another matter entirely.
Bony’s potential departure could bring new boy Bafetimbi Gomis onto our radars, though – the former Lyon man notched double figures in each of his last five seasons and would surely be installed as the lone striker if the Ivorian seeks pastures new. Encouragingly for Swansea, Monk’s installation improved their attacking potential over those final few months – they notched 25 goals in the final 14 league games, compared to just 29 strikes in 24 games under Laudrup. Indeed, Swansea scored two or more goals in eight of Monk’s 14 matches – a feat they managed in only nine of Laudrup’s 24 games in charge.
As rumours gather over the potential departures of Michu and Pablo Hernandez, Jonjo Shelvey could be poised to push on from a campaign that delivered six goals and seven assists for the Welsh outfit last term. An explosive Fantasy option in the centre of the park, the former Liverpool man produced double figures on four occasions in 2013/14 but will be looking to improve his consistency – Shelvey managed attacking returns in only nine of his 32 appearances and with 122 points to his name, can be expected to remain in the mid-price bracket.