By AVI CREDITOR
There's a reason for the Emergency Captain Rule in the Fantasy Premier League game, and many managers are thankful for it after a series of surprising roster moves over the weekend.
The matchday scratches of Mikel Arteta, Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba left fantasy managers who selected any of them as the week's captain in a panic. All three were expected to play, but none of them ended up seeing the pitch. If you were fortunate enough to have Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda, Carlos Tevez or Fernando Torres on your roster and act as your emergency captain, then you not only breathed a sigh of relief, you likely made serious headway in moving up the table.
The lesson, as always: Make sure you've got at least two dependable captain options on your team every week. It might not always lead to big points (like if your emergency captain last week was Cesc Fabregas), but at least you'll be giving yourself a chance to be lucky. Onto this week's picks:
CAPTAIN OF THE WEEK
Mikel Arteta, Everton, £8.5 (6.7 percent owned)
Let's try this one again.
David Moyes kept word about Arteta's groin injury in-house until lineups were released, but he has since revealed that the Spanish maestro should return for this weekend's home clash against West Ham.
Few can fault Moyes for being cautious with Arteta, who is extremely injury prone. Now that he's ready to be sent back out to the Everton midfield, he's ready to be dispatched as your captain again. Prior to sitting out last weekend, Arteta had secured the maximum of three bonus points in four consecutive matches while scoring in double figures in three out of those four games.
The matchup is great, the Toffees are on a roll and an in-form Arteta has apparently left the infirmary. Don't have any qualms about giving him the armband; however, as we learned last week, make sure you've got a backup plan in place.
(UPDATE 4/2: Moyes has now said that Arteta is "probably unlikely to be fit this week" on the team's Web site. Any player from the list below, especially Tevez, makes for a suitable captain this week.)
Other candidates: Chelsea's Lampard and Drogba (at Manchester United), Liverpool's Torres (at Birmingham), Manchester City's Tevez (at Burnley).
BEST TRANSFER BUYS (owned by less than 10 percent of managers)
Manuel Almunia, Arsenal £5.9 (2.7 percent owned)
He's the fifth-most expensive keeper in the game, so you'll have to hold some spare cash to pick him up, but the Gunners host Wolves in what is one of the week's surest bets for a clean sheet.
Kolo Toure, Manchester City, £6.3 (4.2 percent owned)
The Citizens will try to make it back-to-back shutouts as they travel to face Burnley. The urgency of capturing fourth-place makes it a better bet that they'll put forth an all-out effort to capture the three points.
Gareth Bale, Tottenham, £5.6 (3.4 percent owned)
In the last 11 matches (the time he's been a full-time starter) he's scored at least five fantasy points seven times. That includes two 12-point performances. Tottenham's defense is solid, Bale gets into the attack and the team has a decent matchup at Sunderland. Jump on the Bale bandwagon with confidence.
Alex Song, Arsenal, £5.4 (3.6 percent owned)
Another week, another set of bonus points for Song. With Arsenal's fabulous matchup it wouldn't surprise to see Song put up an eight-point fantasy day.
Sylvain Distin, Everton, £4.8 (4.2 percent owned)
The Toffees' streak of three consecutive clean sheets could easily stretch to four with a home fixture against lowly West Ham. Any starter on Everton's back line makes for a good play this week.
Ashley Young, Aston Villa, £8.3 (9.2 percent owned)
Young's performance on the wing was perhaps the lone bright spot for the Villans in their 7-1 debacle at Stamford Bridge, as it marked the third consecutive game in which he recorded an assist. Young faces a much more forgiving Bolton team that he's already scored on this season.
Tim Cahill, Everton, £7.9 (4.5 percent owned)
With big things expected from Everton this week, Cahill makes for a nice play. He's played the full 90 in his last two matches, meaning all health worries should subside. Trust the Socceroo.
Clint Dempsey, Fulham, £6.6 (5.5 percent owned)
Coming off his first 90-minute spell in league action since the turn of the calendar, Deuce is prime to re-open his scoring account at Craven Cottage, the scene of his Europa League masterchip. Fulham hosts floundering Wigan Athletic, who is just out of the drop zone.
Nani, Manchester United, £6.4 (3.9 percent owned)
With Rooney out injured, the Red Devils will need some help from the midfield to keep pace with Chelsea in the weekend's biggest match. Nani's speed and creative ability on the flank should help generate some offense against a defense devoid of many of its top options.
Louis Saha, Everton, £6.8 (5.2 percent owned)
Saha hit for one of his 13 goals this season at West Ham and should easily be in the mix to replicate that effort again, this time at Goodison Park.
Nicklas Bendtner, Arsenal, £6.2 (5.3 percent owned)
The matchup with Wolves is heavily in the Great Dane's favor, and he'll look to re-open his scoring account after being held goalless in his last two matches.
SLEEPERS (owned by less than 5 percent of managers)
Jason Brown, Blackburn £3.9 (0.5 percent owned)
Take a chance on Brown if you are low on cash flow. He blanked Burnley at Turf Moor last week and gets the chance to do it again on the road at Fratton Park against battered, bruised and relegation-bound Portsmouth this week.
Bacary Sagna, Arsenal, £6.2 (3.2 percent owned)
The Gunners' matchup is great, and Sagna should be a part of the back line that gets to defend against Wolves. The team's momentum coming off the great comeback against Barcelona coupled with the fact that it can make up ground on Manchester United and/or Chelsea make Arsene Wenger's players great options this week.
Phil Jagielka, Everton, £5.7 (1.0 percent owned)
Ever since his return to the starting XI, the Toffees' back line has been more secure, yielding just three goals in those five games (and three clean sheets in a row). A forgotten man in the fantasy realm, Jagielka can provide production for you.
Paul Konchesky, Fulham, £5.2 (1.9 percent owned)
Fulham had better come up with a shutout to make picking up Konchesky worthwhile, but a home game against Wigan is just the remedy to make that happen. The Latics haven't scored in their last three matches away from DW Stadium.
Martin Olsson, Blackburn, £3.8 (1.2 percent owned)
Olsson joins Song and Bale as players listed as defenders who primarily play in the midfield. He displayed the potential payoff of said distinction last week with his clean sheet/assist/bonus-point performance that netted him an 11-point day. A matchup with Portsmouth represents another golden opportunity.
David Dunn, Blackburn, £5.3 (3.4 percent owned)
Three goals in his last two matches have earned him two straight man-of-the-match titles. No sense in thinking a date with Pompey will slow him down.
Chung-Yong Lee, Bolton, £5.1 (3.2 percent owned)
Chelsea's midfield did a number in its thrashing of Aston Villa, and the Wanderers will welcome the wounded Villans to Reebok Stadium in hopes of replicating the feat. Lee is the one to watch among Bolton's midfield crew.
Zoltan Gera, Fulham, £4.6 (1.7 percent owned)
Should get his share of chances aside Bobby Zamora as the Cottagers take it to a vulnerable Wigan side.
Glenn Whelan, Stoke City, £4.5 (0.8 percent owned)
A nice home matchup with Hull City should provide ample opportunities for Stoke to get on the scoreboard. Whelan is the next best thing to Matthew Etherington when it comes to the Stoke midfield.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Manchester City, £9.4 (3.0 percent owned)
Now Adebayor is about the furthest thing from a sleeper that there is, but the fact that someone with his scoring ability is so scarcely owned makes him an attractive, under-the-radar buy, especially with his matchup against Burnley.
Jozy Altidore, Hull City, £4.6 (0.6 percent owned)
New manager Iain Dowie is a fan of what the American brings to the table, and fears of Altidore remaining out of the lineup have calmed. He drew a penalty last week and will seemingly get every chance to help the Tigers get out of the drop zone.
LAST WEEK'S PICKS
Arteta – DNP (late scratch with a groin injury)
KEEP IN MIND: Fulham and Stoke City have two matches apiece (one against each other) in Matchweek 34. Fulham and Stoke City also have great home matchups this week (33) and in Matchweek 35. It's safe to say that players from these two teams can help you a lot over the next three weeks.
Soccer By Ives standings (Top 10)
1. the unholy passion………..1984 points
2. The Jackson 4……………….1965
3. AC Vols………………………….1963
4. Big Apple FC………………….1955
6. Preening Narcissists…….1932
7. Maple Gooners………………1930
8. Grassington AFC…………..1920
9. Sporting Club Delica……..1917
10. aston villains……………….1915
Did you get saved by having Lampard (and his 56 points) as your emergency captain? Who will you choose as captain this week? What is your lineup looking like?
Share your thoughts and questions below.