The player I tipped for Sunderland's disappointing home loss to Spurs on Saturday was Jozy Altidore. Although the American's performance was not as impressive as his midweek showing against Chelsea, the striker still played fairly well and certainly a lot better than his almost invisible strike partner Steven Fletcher. However, a failure to score or assist Sunderland's solitary goal and a yellow card meant that Altidore gained only 1 point from the game. Luis Suarez was rather more successful, with the Uruguayan scoring one goal, assisting two more and picking up 3 bonus points for his performance. This haul brought an impressive points total of 15 points, further establishing the Liverpool striker as this season's Robin van Persie; the player every fantasy team is almost obliged to have.
There were similar mixed fortunes with my tips on who to avoid. I advised avoiding Adam Johnson but, despite playing fairly poorly, the winger picked up 8 points as a reward for his first half goal. However, on the other hand I also advised giving Kevin Nolan a miss. This turned out to be a wise call as the West Ham captain chicken danced his way to an early bath following a ludicrous stamp on Jordan Henderson. As a result he scored -1, and also misses the next three games.
Sunderland Player To Watch: Emmanuele Giaccherini
This is written more in hope than expectation, but after watching Jack Colback and Seb Larsson labour fruitlessly ahead of Ki in our midfield against Spurs, I'm hoping Gus Poyet will shake things up a bit and settle for a midfield three of Ki, Lee Cattermole and Giaccherini. The Italian played a fair few games in the middle for Juventus in his final season at the Old Lady, and it's just possible that if he settled there he could become the creative spark long missing from the Sunderland midfield. If that were to be the case, then it's likely that he could run the show in midfield against a very poor West Ham side.
General Player To Watch: Gerard Deulofeu
The on-loan Barcelona attacker has begun to really shine for Everton in recent weeks, and came on as a substitute to score a crucial equaliser at the Emirates last weekend. Although perhaps a tad selfish in his playing style, the Spaniard has also shown that he is an incredibly skillful and talented footballer, and he links up very well with other young talents at Everton such as Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkely. This weekend sees a newly resurgent Fulham under animal-fan Rene Meulensteen visit Goodison Park, but the Toffees are one of the form sides in the Premier League at the moment and I expect for them to have too much attacking firepower for Fulham; Deulofeu should be at the heart of that attack.
Sunderland Player To Avoid: Jack Colback
I'm a big fan of the Ginger Prince, and still hope for him to sign a new contract to make sure he stays with us next season and beyond, but his recent performances have left a lot to be desired. He had to be pulled off early against Chelsea when he nearly earned himself a red card after a series of niggling challenges, and he was extremely poor against Spurs last weekend. The frustrating thing about Colback is you can see him look up and spot an incisive pass forwards, but he just doesn't have the confidence to back himself to pull the pass off successfully. So he then plays a simple pass instead and the chance to move forwards at pace and create a dangerous situation is gone. As I said above, I'm hopeful that Poyet will try some different players in midfield against West Ham and that leaves no room for Colback.
General Player To Avoid: Laurent Koscielny
Another player I really rate is Koscielny. The Frenchman has struck up an excellent centre back partnership with Per Mertesacker for Arsenal for most of 2013, and this solidity at the back has been the base upon which this season's excellent form has been built. When one of them is missing, such as Mertesacker against Manchester United, Arsenal suffer for it. However, Koscielny still retains the capacity for remarkable moments of brian disengagement at crucial moments. A notable example of this was when he decided to rugby tackle Edin Dzeko in the penalty area when Manchester City visited the Emirates last season. For some reason I think that another brain-fade is due from the Frenchman when his side visit Fortress Etihad this weekend.
The Roker Report League
A lot of new names at the top of the league after the start of the busy Christmas run, with Ian Randle leaping to the top spot with 956 points. The trailing pack are a little bit behind, with Rosli Mohamed on 944, Bryan Gilliland on 940, Paul Watson on 937 and, completing the top five, John Downing on 935. It almost goes without saying, but the majority of the sides scrapping in the glory spaces have Luis Suarez leading their line with the Liverpool striker displaying imperious form at the moment.
Meanwhile amongst the Roker Report writers, Luke has pushed into the lead and currently occupies 62nd place on 852 points. Craig and I lag a bit behind with myself in 86th and Craig 88th on 836 and 835 points respectively. Then we have Dave bridging the gap in 201st with 749, Simon in 276th on 687 and Steve still at the back with 545 points in 358th.