The first in our series of articles on rotation pairings for the season ahead got underway yesterday with a look at Stoke and Swansea. Next up, we travel northwards to analyse the prospects offered up by Newcastle and Sunderland:
The Tyne-Wear duo offer Fantasy managers a home/away partnership over the entirety of the 2014/15 campaign. Although this allows us an option in front of their own fans in all 38 Gameweeks, the first 20 fixtures – which lead us into the winter wildcard – sees Sunderland welcome United, Arsenal, Chelsea and City to the Stadium of Light, whilst Newcastle entertain City, Liverpool and Chelsea, somewhat lessening the appeal of such a rotation pairing.
Essentially, this leaves us with 13 decent home matches in the first 20 Gameweeks (CPL, TOT, HUL, SWA, STO, LEI, EVE, QPR, WHM, SUN, HUL, EVE, BUR) before we can restructure our sides in January – a situation which may persuade some to look for alternatives.
Up until the winter wildcard, Newcastle dovetail nicely with Palace and hand you 16 out of 20 home matches. The Eagles have two tricky home fixtures (Chelsea and Liverpool) over that period but Alan Pardew’s play host to Leicester and QPR in the same Gameweek, offering an excellent alternative.
If you’re keen on investing in Gus Poyet’s side, they could also be partnered with QPR up until the winter wildcard. The two clubs offer 18 out of 20 home matches and when the Black Cats are at home to Arsenal and Chelsea, Harry Redknapp’s side host Villa and Leicester, handing us a stronger option to choose from.
The Magpies shipped 28 goals in front of their own fans last term, the fourth worst home defensive record in the top-flight. Pardew’s team registered six clean sheets at St James’ Park, including a shut-out against Chelsea, though conceded two or more on five occasions, including 4-0 losses to Spurs and United, in front of their own fans.
On the road, Newcastle chalked up four clean sheets. Bearing in mind two of these were against Spurs and United, it goes to show how erratic their displays were and highlights just how key a rotation partner will be for those eyeing up the defence.
Between the posts, Tim Krul offers a security of starts for the Tyneside team. The Dutchman finished 30 points clear of any defensive team-mate last term and earned 19 save points from 36 appearances – given his side conceded 59 times in 2013/14, Krul will surely come in at no more than 5.0 again.
With Mathieu Debuchy earmarked for a move to Arsenal, there’s remains uncertainty over the full-back positions for the Magpies. Davide Santon could shift over to the right, affording Paul Dummett or Massadio Haidara the chance to nail down the left-back berth, and whilst the Italian looks nailed-on regardless, his failure to deliver any attacking returns in 27 appearances last term is a real concern. Although Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa could be fielded on the right of the back-four, he failed to start any of the last six games in 2013/14 and, with Pardew unconvinced, may be loaned out this term, according to the local press.
If he can stay fit, Fabricio Coloccini offers the best alternative to Krul amongst Newcastle’s rearguard. In an injury-hit campaign, the Argentine managed just 27 appearances last term – on the positive side, he earned bonus points on six of the eight occasions that he picked up a clean sheet, highlighting his potential.
With Paolo di Canio at the helm, the Black Cats failed to pick up a single clean sheet during the first seven matches of 2013/14. The subsequent installation of Gus Poyet saw Sunderland deliver 11 shut-outs in the remaining 31 fixtures butwith only six of those in front of their own fans, they were a little difficult to predict.
Vito Mannone’s displays between the posts persuaded many to simply play the Italian regardless of fixture difficulty in the season gone by. The former Arsenal man produced save points in 22 of his 29 appearances and with six sets of double figure hauls, supplemented by 16 bonus points, his average of 4.6 points per game was superior to any regular stopper in the league. The arrival of Costel Pantilimon is a little concerning but if Mannone can maintain his role as Poyet’s number one, his appeal is hard to overlook – in terms of ppg, the nearest Sunderland defender averaged 3.2 last term by comparison.
With last season’s full-backs both departed, Poyet has drafted in Billy Jones from West Brom but with five assists to his name over three seasons, he’s likely to remain a peripheral Fantasy figure. Poyet still has plenty of shopping to do but, at present, Mannone – providing he isn’t priced significantly higher than his defensive team-mates – will surely be the one to acquire here.
The Magpies mustered a mere 43 goals last term, with Loic Remy and Yohan Cabaye leading the way on 16 and seven strikes respectively. Given that both players are now plying their trade elsewhere, Alan Pardew clearly needs to rebuild in the final third and the arrival of Siem de Jong is certainly a step in the right direction. The former Ajax skipper has scored 10+ goals in four of his last five seasons – restricted to 19 appearances last term, he still notched seven times – and looks key to the Tyneside team’s turnaround in fortunes.
Yoan Gouffran chipped in with six goals and five assists last season. Mainly fielded on the flank yet classified as a forward, he could be a potential under the radar option if listed as a midfielder next time around.
Beyond those two, pickings are currently slim. Papiss Cisse is set for months on the sidelines with a broken kneecap, Hatem Ben Arfa seems to be edging closer to the out door, whilst Moussa Sissoko has failed to kick on from an encouraging first half season and netted only three times in 2013/14. Bearing in mind that Newcastle failed to score in 13 of their final 20 league outings, though, it’s fair to say our Fantasy faith in their attack is somewhat limited right now.
In terms of attacking potential, the Wearsiders struggled to deliver for the first few months under Poyet. Sunderland scored in only 11 of the Uruguayan’s first 21 league games but, as the season progressed, they found their form under the new man in charge and netted in nine of the final 10 matches. Indeed, on the road, the turnaround was dramatic – having failed to score in any of their first five away games with Poyet at the helm, they then proceeded to net in all but one of their final 11 road trips.
With 134 points to his name last term, Adam Johnson finished eleventh amongst midfielders, ahead of the likes of Raheem Sterling and Christian Eriksen. Ultimately, eight goals (four at home, four away), six assists and 10 bonus points were decent returns for a mid-price option but the issue with Johnson is a real lack of consistency which severely tests his owners’ patience and make him impossible to bench with any degree of certainty – two assists in the first 14 Gameweeks and a single assist in the final eight fixtures attests to his erratic nature. On the other hand, six goals and a pair of assists in just four matches over the winter period underlines his potential but with attacking returns in just 10 of his 36 appearances, be prepared for him to frustrate.
Connor Wickham’s extraordinary end to the previous campaign is bound to interest a few Fantasy managers. Five goals and a pair of assists in the final six matches, including a 13-point haul at City followed by attacking returns on the road at Chelsea and United, demonstrate his ability to pick up the points in more difficult fixtures. Bearing in mind he managed just 58 points all season as a result of a couple of loan spells, the youngster should still remain relatively budget-friendly and if he continues as the Black Cats’ lone forward, looks a real contender as a cheaper third striker in our Fantasy squads.
With Fabio Borini back at Liverpool, Poyet certainly needs to address his side’s options in the final third. Emmanuel Giaccherini has the potential but bearing in mind he started only one of the club’s league matches from Gameweek 21 onwards, it’s clear that his manager remains unconvinced.