Eden Hazard vs. Juan Mata
We had Eden Hazard ranked as the #3 midfielder in the Pre-Season Report and it seems that was doing him a disservice. With all due respect to Gareth Bale and David Silva, it is the Belgian midfielder who has been to this point the biggest impact player of the season.
The Blues have scored six goals with Hazard creating five of them – two drawn penalties and three assists.
What’s even scarier is that the highest scoring fantasy player in the league doesn’t even have a shot on target yet. The only asterisk is that the performances came against Wigan and Reading, but that’s nitpicking. His performances were exquisite. He needs to be on every fantasy roster.
What does that mean for Juan Mata? Well, he has definitively lost the first two rounds of the Hazard vs. Mata fantasy debate, but Hazard has been so good it isn’t necessarily an indictment on Mata’s play. He’s had a couple of chances and he’s going to get his share of assists. He’s priced fairly in the fantasy games, but most owners aren’t going to want to double-down on Chelsea midfielders so he’s clearly the odd man out.
El Nino vs. Himself
Fantasy owners who took yet another leap of faith on Fernando Torres have the official’s failure to call an obvious offside to thank for whatever points they scored.
The Torres we saw in the first two EPL matches looked a lot more like the one that has disappointed since the day he signed with Chelsea than the one who (somewhat accidentally) won the Golden Boot at the Euros. He failed to create chances and when he did get opportunities he was indecisive and let whatever space he had disappear rather than exploiting the defense.
Some cliché like “perhaps this goal will be the turning point he needs to boost his confidence” could be called upon here if not for the fact that we’ve seen this dozens of times and it never seems to matter. Torres is too expensive to justify. Fantasy owners should feel fortunate they got a goal out of him on the double game week and cut bait in favor of a cheaper option that gives a better return.
It also means Daniel Sturridge is a player to watch. Hazard’s performance masked a lot of Chelsea’s flaws but Roberto Di Matteo can’t be oblivious to the shaky play from his striker. Torres’ leash will be but only so long and Sturridge could see an increase in playing time.
Chelsea looks incapable of defending for 90 minutes and they’re going to give up their share of chances on counterattacks. If Wigan and Reading could penetrate the midfield with that much ease, imagine what the clubs at the top of the table are going to do. While they have only allowed two goals through two matches, it could have been much worse.
There might not be many clean sheets, but there is apparently going to be scoring. Three of Chelsea’s six goals have come from defenders. With unselfish midfielders like Hazard and Mata creating chances the trend could continue, but let’s not get carried away. Gary Cahill’s long range bomb probably should have been saved and Branislav Ivanovic isn’t going to keep pace and finish the season with 38 goals.
For now Ivanovic is clearly the best fantasy option but his price is going to skyrocket based on this week’s unsustainable returns. There’s nothing wrong with adding him to fantasy rosters, just realize it is a fair asking price rather than the exceptional value it might seem based on the small sample of early returns. An upcoming match against Newcastle followed by a game week without a Chelsea match makes it that much tougher to pull the trigger on him this week. As for the other goal-scoring defender, Gary Cahill and David Luiz may be rotated so don’t count on either one for consistent playing time.
The keeper position presents some issues of its own. Petr Cech looked shaky against Reading, letting in a particularly poor one on the second goal from a free kick. Unlike the defenders, his fantasy value isn’t going to be balanced out by goals scored. With the double game week out of the way, it will be nearly impossible to justify his inclusion in lineups given his lofty asking price.
There’s fantasy value here, just not necessarily where we thought it was going to be. Last year’s defensive stalwarts looked like anything but a team with a focus on a fortress mentality. Admittedly, it’s a little too early to rush to judgment, the third goal shouldn’t have counted, and the fourth goal was an empty-netter. If it were limited to this one score line there wouldn’t be a need to worry, but the tactics and keeper play create plenty of reasons for long-term concern.
Federici has looked nothing like the keeper that dominated the Championship and was once a transfer target of nearly every big club in the Premiership. He let in a soft goal against Stoke and did the same on Wednesday when he should have stopped Gary Cahill’s shot. It was also odd that he didn’t get back faster in the waning seconds after Reading failed to score on a last-ditch corner. Only two matches into the season and he has already gotten the dreaded “vote of confidence” from his manager.
Likewise, Brian McDermott’s comments about not knowing how to play for a draw are great for fans of the game, but if Reading continue to press forward at all costs when they trail this isn’t going to be the last time they concede four goals. There’s a lot to admire about the scrappy attitude but the Royals are going to be in the relegation conversation all year and point differential is the first tie-breaker. Conceding that unnecessary goal at the end could prove costly.
With all that in mind, the defense isn’t devoid of value. Ian Harte looks like he’s going to be a solid value option all season, just be cognizant of match-ups and sit him for most away games. It was Danny Guthrie who got the goal on the free kick Petr Cech spilled, but Harte took his share as well as corners. He’s going to have some solid fantasy days.
What’s bad news for the defense is good news for the goal scorers. Pavel Pogrebnyak got his first goal with his new club on a quality header. He proved he could get the job done with Fulham last year and he should be a consideration as a value forward when Reading has favorable fixtures.
It’s a little concerning that the opening day goal scorer Adam Le Fondre was used only as a substitute. Reading players aren’t going to produce enough quality to justify consideration if they aren’t every match players, so Le Fondre is still a huge risk.