We roll out our third article on rotation partnership for the season ahead this afternoon. Having ran the rule over Stoke and Swansea and Newcastle and Sunderland, we now cast an eye over what’s on offer by teaming up Crystal Palace and West Ham:
Just like our first couple of examples, the London-based duo hand Fantasy managers a home/away pairing over the entirety of 2014/15. Further analysis of their opening 20 Gameweeks (leading up to the winter wildcard) shows that the Palace-West Ham partnership is handed just five tricky home games over that period, with Liverpool (twice), in addition to visits from Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Essentially, then, this gives us 15 favourable games in front of their own fans (TOT, WHM, SOT, BUR, LEI, QPR, SUN, AVL, NEW, AVL, SWA, STO, LEI, SOT, WBA) until we’re handed the opportunity to freshen up our 15-man squads in January.
Alternatively, Palace also rotate with QPR for all but one of the first 20 Gameweeks in a partnership that looks just as viable. This gives you just one away fixture (whm/hul in Gameweek 7), with only a trio of tricky home clashes (LIV or CHE in Gameweek 8, followed by visits from City and Liverpool in Gameweeks 11 and 12 respectively).
West Ham and Southampton also afford us another option. This pair alternate on a home/away basis in 15 of the first 20 Gameweeks and, over that period, only once do both teams face an opponent regarded as difficult by our fixture ticker – Gameweek 19, where Southampton host Chelsea and the Hammers entertain Arsenal.
Conceding 21 goals in their opening 10 fixtures of 2013/14, the Selhurst Park underwent a remarkable turnaround after the dismissal of Ian Holloway and ultimately turned out to be a valuable source of defensive returns. The Eagles served up 12 clean sheets (seven at home and five away) from that point onwards, conceding 13 goals in 14 matches in front of their own fans and shipping 14 in the same number of games away from home. Indeed, Tony Pulis’ side were the fourth most resilient side in the league over the final 28 Gameweeks of the previous campaign.
Further analysis shows Palace were more resolute at Selhurst Park regardless of opponent. Three of their seven home shut-outs were delivered against top 10 opposition, whereas on the road, all their clean sheets were against sides in the bottom half of the table – underlining their reliability against weaker opposition away from home.
Julian Speroni ended the previous campaign as Palace’s top scoring FPL player on 144 points. Picking up save points in 21 of his appearances, the Argentine’s owners will be optimistic over further defensive returns, bearing in mind he failed to deliver a single clean sheet over those first 10 games under Holloway. Pulis’ arrival ensured that Palace finished the previous campaign with just 48 goals against – the eighth best defence in the Premier League – and providing he can steer clear of the mid-price bracket, Speroni is surely set for major investment from the off this time around.
A share of corners boosted the appeal of Joel Ward last term. The versatile defender was occasionally utilised in the centre of the park and, with three assists and 13 bonus points from 36 appearances to his name, carries the main attacking threat amongst Pulis’ defensive regulars, with his all-round game also more suited to the bonus points system. Scott Dann, Adrian Mariappa and Damien Delaney all scored a single goal apiece, though with 12 bonus points to his name, the latter is perhaps the strongest rival to Ward for those looking to invest in Palace’s defenders.
Sam Allardyce’s side chalked up an impressive 14 clean sheets over the previous campaign. Just like Palace, the Hammers also delivered seven at home in addition to seven on the road, though they were flat-track bullies in front of their own fans – six of those shut-outs came against sides in the bottom half of the table. On the road it was a different matter, though; four of their clean sheets were against clubs in the top 10 and with just 25 goals against on the road (only one more than Man City), Big Sam’s side were the sixth most resilient away defence.
Since deposing Jussi Jaaskelainen as the Hammers’ number one back in January,Adrian embarked on a run which saw him earn save points in 15 of his subsequent 20 starts. The Spaniard’s exploits between the posts look set to ensure he remains the club’s number one, while an average of 4.2 ppg is greater than any West Ham outfield player in the season gone by.
New left-back Aaron Cresswell could be a real contender for own affections. The former Ipswich man racked up 14 assists and a couple of goals in the Championship last term and if Big Sam hands him a fair share of set-pieces, Cresswell’s prospects at both ends of the pitch look promising if the Hammers can maintain their resilience at the back. Winston Reid may offer us an under the radar option after an injury-hit campaign curtailed his minutes last term. The Kiwi international started the first 10 Gameweeks but featured in the first XI on just eight more occasions – with a full pre-season behind him this summer, Reid should take his place at the heart of Allardyce’s backline once again.
With seven goals and a trio of assists last term, Jason Puncheon’s form was vital to Palace’s survival bid. Again, Pulis’ arrival bodes well for the wide man – he had mustered just one assist in the opening 12 league matches before the former Stoke boss officially took the reins in Gameweek 13. Starting 23 of his side’s remaining fixtures, Puncheon averaged 4.5 points per game under Pulis – with six sets of maximum bonus points (and, resultantly, six lots of double-figure hauls) the former Southampton man remains the standout selection for the Eagles.
Dwight Gayle’s remarkable end to the season will have captured the attention of one or two Fantasy managers on the lookout for a cheap third forward. A peripheral figure under Pulis, his late double against Liverpool in the penultimate match of the campaign earned him a start against Fulham in Gameweek 38 – Gayle delivered another double to suggest he could be set to stake a claim for regular game time this term.
Reports in the local press have also piqued our interest. As Pulis prepares to dip into the market for the first time this term, Palace are rumoured to be on the hunt for Gylfi Sigurdsson, Steven Caulker and Fraizer Campbell, potentially offering us some intriguing options in every outfield position.
After scoring just 40 goals last term, the Hammers are determined to improve in the final third. On the road, in particular, the London club struggled to find the net and notched just 15 times – only relegated Cardiff and Norwich had poorer records. Allardyce has been tasked with introducing an easier-on-the-eye approach this time around and with the appointment of Teddy Sheringham as attacking coach, there’s optimism that the Hammers could be set for an upturn in fortunes.
Certainly, the arrival of Mauro Zarate is a step in the right direction. The Argentine, who has had previous experience in the English top-flight with Birmingham, arrives on the back of a season where he notched 18 times in 29 league appearances for Atletico Velez Sarsfield and could be set to tuck in behind Andy Carroll up front. Zarate is versatile enough to offer an option out wide but is likely to be afforded a central role as Allardyce restructures his frontline.
In another injury-hit campaign, Carroll managed just two goals and five assists over 15 appearances last term. It remains to be seen just how Allardyce will alter his approach with the big Geordie leading the line, though with Zarate pulling the strings behind, he may finally start to justify the investment. Unless a change of formation is on the cards, the Argentine’s arrival perhaps places question marks over Kevin Nolan’s security of starts and, if Mark Noble retains spot-kicks, he could remain an option in the mid-price bracket once again – the latter produced three goals and six assists last term, with a total of 125 points just six less than Nolan.