Drogba's absence causes conundrum
A lot has been said in fantasy circles about the effect of the African Nations Cup and whether or not it's advisable to transfer players out for just a few weeks.
When you look at the 21 players heading to the tournament you'd think it was more after the hullabaloo from some Premier League managers. In fact there are just few players - perhaps three - of true fantasy worth.
One key performer does, of course, come from Chelsea, with many people fretting over whether to sell Didier Drogba. The major downside is that Chelsea have four very winnable fixtures during January, games in which you would be banking on the Ivory Coast international getting on the scoresheet and perhaps being your captain.
Drogba is second only to the injured Francesc Fabregas in total points scored, underlining his importance this season and how hard he will be to replace. Managers with Fabregas are also waiting to see if he too will miss January with a hamstring injury.
The tournament in Angola runs through until January 31, though remember that if a country is knocked out then a player can return to his club. Ivory Coast will be expected to advance from a group which includes Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso. This means it seems certain that Drogba will miss the games against Hull, Sunderland, Birmingham and almost certainly Burnley too if Ivory Coast make it to the semi-finals - definitely if they are in the final.
Transfers at this stage of the season are at a premium; it is important not to waste them. It makes the Drogba conundrum even more troublesome. It's not as if he is out long-term. But four weeks can be a long time being a player down against your mini-league rivals.
The main consideration over selling Drogba for these four gameweeks it two-fold. Firstly, do you have enough quality in your squad to comfortably leave Drogba on your bench? Will your team remain relatively strong? And secondly, is there anyone out there who would justify two transfers for the points return?
All of this, of course, is reliant on the January fixtures for the players both in your squad and anyone you may consider bringing in. The squad factor is something upon which each manager can assess themselves.
Chelsea probably do have the easiest fixture list but, as Daniel Sturridge is unlikely to offer you anything as soon as Drogba and Kalou return to England, as well as his dubious goalscoring ability in the top flight, he's best avoided.
The only clubs to offer good options across all four gameweeks are the two Manchester clubs. Other than that, everyone else seems to be playing one of the big four, or a club in the hunt for the Champions League, or an in form club such as Birmingham City or Fulham.
Manchester United's only viable striking option is Wayne Rooney. The England international is second in the striker charts, and third overall, making him a perfect replacement. With games against Birmingham, Burnley, Hull and finally, Arsenal, to come, he will be expected to continue his fine form. But with that Arsenal game to finish the month, is he worth bringing in for three gameweeks? And there's that Birmingham game, too.
City have the form fantasy player of the moment in their ranks. Carlos Tevez cannot stop scoring and seems to have got even better following the arrival of Roberto Mancini at the helm. With 38 points in the December game month, and matches against Blackburn, Everton, Stoke and Portsmouth this month (then Bolton and Hull to follow) you could bring in Tevez and stick with him.
The prices work out too. Rooney costs £11.7 million - just £0.3 million cheaper than Drogba. That's not really a consideration if you plan to reintroduce Drogba back into your squad. But i you are considering leaving him out once he returns from Africa, then Tevez is definitely your man. Priced at £9.5 million, that saving of £2.5 million is going to work well elsewhere in your squad. And it's important to remember than in the coming weeks it is likely Drogba's value will fall and Tevez's rise.
Another option for City is Craig Bellamy, who is even cheaper at a bargain £6.9 million for the 60 points he has scored so far. But Tevez is a certain starter and already has 77 points to his name.
Keep Drogba if the fixtures for your squad work out. Otherwise, Tevez is the player to invest in.
City do have a couple of important fantasy players out in Africa, though, even if they have not exactly been on form of late.
Emmanuel Adebayor was one of the hot players in the early weeks of the season, but he did not score a single goal in December and has been left out of the team since Mark Hughes' last game at the helm. He has scored only two goals since gameweek five and most sensible fantasy managers will already have traded in the Togo player.
Centre-back Kolo Toure could prove to be something of a loss, given City's fixture list and the improvement at the back following the arrival of Mancini. Though he has scored just 38 points so far there was definite scope for that to improve. A switch to Pablo Zabaleta (£5.0 million) could be the only option available as Vincent Kompany, who played in the centre of defence against Wolverhampton Wanderers, is classed as a midfielder for the fantasy game.
Given the long-term clean sheet options for City, Zabaleta may well be a hidden gem few will pick up on.
There are very few other players at the African Nations Cup to have done anything of note. Arsenal's two players, Alex Song and Emmanuel Eboue, have limited fantasy worth, while every other player has scored few points... or plays for Portsmouth.
Players at African Nations Cup (total fantasy points for 2009-10 in brackets):
Arsenal: Alex Song - Cameroon (41), Emmanuel Eboue - Ivory Coast (27)
Aston Villa: Moustapha Salifou - Togo (0)
Bolton: Danny Shittu - Nigeria (0)
Burnley: Andre Bikey - Cameroon (16)
Chelsea: Didier Drogba - Ivory Coast (97), Salomon Kalou - Ivory Coast (23), Michael Essien - Ghana (51), John Obi Mikel - Nigeria (27)
Everton: Joseph Yobo - Nigeria (17), Yakubu Ayegbeni - Nigeria (24)
Fulham: Dickson Etuhu - Nigeria (16)
Hull: Daniel Cousin - Gabon (4), Seyi Olofinjana - Nigeria (30)
Man City: Kolo Toure - Ivory Coast (38), Emmanuel Adebayor - Togo (53)
Portsmouth: Nadir Belhadj - Algeria (24), Hassan Yebda - Algeria (29), Aruna Dindane - Ivory Coast (37), Nwankwo Kanu - Nigeria (22)
Wigan: Richard Kingson - Ghana (0)