Posts Tagged ‘Arshavin’

The Six Pointer – Wounded Challenges, Slippery Slides & more…

07/03/2011

1. Liverpool convincingly dealt with Man Utd yesterday and Dirk Kuyt will never, ever score an easier hat-trick. It was very surprising to see Fergie start with Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick in central midfield – recent history has normally seen him go with three in the middle in big matches in an attempt to gain control and stop the opposition playing.

Neither Scholes nor Carrick are particularly energetic or mobile in the way Darren Fletcher is, but with the Scotsman left on the bench after his shift against Chelsea (he can only do one big game a week)  it meant United were unable to gain a foothold on the game.

As you can see in the Chalkboards below, between them they won only one tackle and the likes of Meireles would consistently run or pass around them.

Only one interception between them too.

The decision to give Carrick a new contract during the week was greeted with some derision but at the same time I don’t think Ferguson considers him a first choice player. He’s not bad against weaker sides and he has long been found out against the best – playing him yesterday was more out of necessity than want.

Still, with his continued mediocrity, Scholes’ potential retirement, Fletcher’s one game a week effectiveness and Hargreaves and Anderson’s consistent injury problems, Man Utd’s midfield will certainly need some work in the summer.

.

2. Yesterday’s match could have easily seen two red cards, and probably should have. Carragher went in high on Nani and created quite the wound (see below) while Rafael was similarly lucky to stay on the pitch following his wild lunge on Lucas. There is something to be said for a referee to take into account the situation and the context, but really Phil Dowd made errors in giving both players just a yellow.

Red drawn, yellow given.

Interestingly, Rafael is developing quite a reputation as someone who may not have the temperament (or indeed the positional sense) to go with his natural talent.

A red card would have meant his third in under a year, while he was nowhere near where he should have been when Suarez tip-toed through the United defence for the opener.

Recently Ferguson has seemed to prefer someone more dependable in tough matches, with Rafael being omitted against Man City, Chelsea and Marseilles. It will intriguing to see when the Brazilian next plays again, I imagine he might find himself out of the team for a few weeks.

.

3. In the context of yesterday’s result, it is difficult to say whether Arsenal’s draw against Sunderland is a point gained or more likely two points dropped.

Wenger’s team have struggled in recent seasons against Sunderland having won only one of the last six games, so it was always going to be tricky without out several players and against one of the best defences outside the top five.

Wenger had a similar problem to Fergie in that first choice midfielders weren’t available so he was forced to play Denilson and Diaby alongside Wilshere. They can usually get away with one of those in the team but having to play both meant it was one of those days where the team struggled to get going, Wilshere unable to do all the tempo setting himself.

The weight of the other two on his shoulders...

Sunderland were lucky to get away with Bramble clearly fouling Arshavin in the box and a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside but having said that they also had their moments and drew a couple of very smart stops out of Szczesny.

I would think that once Aaron Ramsey has a bit more fitness under his belt, he will swiftly move ahead of Denilson and Diaby in the pecking order. He might not have the same experience but he makes things happen, and in a game like Saturday’s and indeed for the run in, that could be priceless.

.

4. Momentum at this stage of the season is key so it’s fascinating to see who is making a move at the bottom end of the table.

Just nine points separate ninth place Newcastle from bottom placed Wigan but realistically it’s looking like everyone from Blackburn downwards are the ones who should be worried.

Things are swiftly grouping together for a climatic last few games and as the old cliché goes, a couple of wins and “you’re right back in the mix” (© every pundit going).

I’m willing to condemn Wigan already to be honest, they’re tough to beat but they don’t win many either. As I’ve written here many times before, draws can be rather useless at times and a team like Blackpool who either win or lose has a far better shot and getting the points needed to stay up.

Almost good enough, but not quite.

.

5. Of the teams not in that bottom group, Stoke are looking a little vulnerable. They’ve won just one of their last seven and still have to play four of the top five. They seem to have a slightly resigned air about them at the moment – certainly away from home where they’ve lost their last six (and not even scored in the last five).

The earlier point about momentum is key – they face Newcastle, Spurs and Chelsea next. Fail to win the first one and you could be looking at mid-April before they are favourites in a match, by which time they could be in a much more serious position.

I do think they should be ok, given the cushion they have, but it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see them need something against Wigan on the last day.

.

6. Jermain Defoe has only just scored his first league goals in a year. If he fulfils Harry Redknapp’s wish and gets to ten by the end of the season, then it will go a long way to ensuring Spurs finish in the top four again. As it is, the lack of a striker in double figures for 2010/11 may be what costs them. Van der Vaart’s ten goals should complement not lead.

.

T.

Arsenal 2 Fulham 1 – Na na na na na na…

05/12/2010

Post match thoughts on Arsenal v Fulham.

.

Both of Samir Nasri’s goals were wonderfully taken; on each occasion his close control getting him past several players before providing a finish with either foot. I think part of Nasri’s ability to score such goals stems from his comfort shooting off either foot. It doesn’t limit his direction as he knows whichever route he’ll take, there will still be an opportunity to fire a shot on goal. Beyond Andrey Arshavin, there isn’t a player in the Arsenal squad as two footed. This versatility is a big factor in Nasri’s terrific start to the season.

He's run out of fingers to count his goals this season.

Arshavin himself also had a pretty good game, and has also had a pretty good season thus far. Yes he is a luxury and yes he often stands around but he makes things happen and is often a step ahead in terms what he’s trying to pull off. It might be prudent to play someone a bit more defensive in tough away games but at the same time he is more likely to produce something out of nothing.

.

Fulham played pretty well on the whole and with a little more ambition could even have won the game. The main tactic of trying to play in Kamara behind the defence didn’t work often (mainly due to Kamara’s tendency to mistime his runs and caught offside) but it did result in Fulham’s goal. I can’t complain that the game wasn’t stopped for Koscielny’s head injury, ultimately he hadn’t fallen to the ground and so it was difficult to know the full extent in the short space of a few seconds.

It was interesting that at 1-1 and with control of the ball in midfield, Fulham would often play it all the way back to Schwarzer in goal. Similarly they would spend an age over every throw and goal kick – it was clear that Mark Hughes considered a draw a good result, but that lack of ambition has seen him become the draw specialist in the Premier League.

Ouch.

I was impressed by Johan Djourou when he came on for Koscielny. He’s been good when he’s played this season but Wenger is obviously being cautious with regards to playing him every game. He was authoritative in the air and seems to have made a conscious change in terms of attacking the ball/player. Clichy and Sagna were also solid, the former having his best game in quite some time. Perhaps the fit again Kieran Gibbs has focussed the Frenchman’s mind somewhat.

.

The game was closer than it perhaps should have been but in part this was due to the poor performances of Arsenal’s midfield. Wilshere looked quite tired after playing against Wigan and faded as the game went on. Rosicky was fairly anonymous but neither were as bad as Alex Song who seems to have forgotten what his role is.

There were plenty of misplaced passes from him and his tendency to wander forward unnecessarily remains unabated. This often left the defence exposed both in terms of Fulham attacks but also as an option for them to pass to. He needs a few games where he curbs his attacking instincts, especially if you consider the upcoming games against Man Utd and Chelsea.

Just 72% completed.

The tension made for a better atmosphere in a way. For once Arsenal had got going early in the first half and produced a number of chances (and indeed the goal) which got the crowd going. But as Fulham came back into it, mistakes were made and calls were not received from ref Chris Foy, meaning there was considerable crowd noise generated. The crowd often feeds off the team but I think it works both ways.

I should mention Theo Walcott briefly too. He was only on for 15 minutes but it was one of those horrible games were nothing he did came off. The worst thing was that his job was to play off the last centre back/left back but he seemed unwilling to do that, and simply jogged around not wanting the receive the ball or to make any runs. With Van Persie returning and Nasri and Arshavin in such good form, it’s tricky to see where his starts will come from at the moment.

.

T.

Arsenal v Birmingham Thoughts

17/10/2010

For the second year running the weekend of my birthday featured a home match against Birmingham. As I made my way to the Emirates in an ever so slightly tender state, I hoped for a repeat of 2009/10’s result, a 3-1 victory with goals from van Persie, Diaby and Arshavin.

My fear however was that without Fabregas and post international break, Arsenal would struggle to break down a Birmingham side who would play 451 and come for a draw.

The first 30 minutes were very flat – the atmosphere was subdued with Birmingham fans making all of the noise. The ironic cheers when the Arsenal fans roused themselves to sing a chant said it all. Even the so-called singing section wasn’t up to much.

It didn’t help the action on the pitch was a bit lacklustre too. Plenty of possession for the home team but the forward line felt a little one paced while Diaby was his usual dallying self as the most forward of the midfield trio.

It took ‘two’ goals to liven things up; one disallowed for Arsenal and one against the run of play for Birmingham. From where we were sitting it was unclear why Squillaci’s header had been disallowed. Indeed it took me a good 30 seconds to realise, my brain not fully up to speed from the night before.

Twitter would tell me it was for offside but the decision was somewhat tight. Not long after a Birmingham player wasn’t closed down and hit a deep cross to the back post. There, 6’8″ Zigic lost Clichy and planted a bullet header back across goal. Fabianski needed a second to set himself and dive but it’s hard to blame him – it was a great header.

I was concerned at this stage given the lack of cutting edge thus far and the fact Birmingham are pretty solid defensively. The taunts from the away section were cutting. Something along the lines of “how shit must you be if we’re winning away” – indeed.

Thankfully things were soon evened up. Chamakh was played in and fouled by Scott Dann, at least it looked that way from where I was sitting at the opposite end of the stadium.

Replays I’d see later would suggest he was on his way down before contact was made but to be honest it looked worse in slow motion and we were the victims last season when Rooney did the same thing. Anyway, Nasri sent Foster the wrong way to make it 1-1 at HT.

The second half saw an immediate improvement. Chamakh, who was having an excellent game with plenty of intelligent runs and hold up play, was played in by Song and he rounded the keeper to slot home his fifth goal of the season.

Despite the lead there was still lack of chances being created from the improved running. This was mainly due to Diaby’s continual failure to release the ball early.

He didn’t have a bad game per se but you see the difference when someone like Cesc is playing in that position – he knows when to drive and run with the ball and when to play an early through ball instead. Time and time again Diaby would reach the box and not know what to do and the attack would break down.

Frustrating, but he was not entirely blameless – Arshavin had a very quiet game and offered little running off the ball and little creativity on it.

Bendtner came on and looked busy in his cameo – he will be a useful option in the coming weeks and months. Rosicky meanwhile had one or two decent efforts having replaced Arshavin. You just feel he needs a goal for his confidence, though it must be said his shooting is much more on target than at the start of the season.

The game started to fizzle out somewhat though there remained a slight tetchiness throughout with plenty of running arguments and niggly fouls. This culminated in Wilshere receiving a straight red card for a late foul on Zigic.

It was entirely unnecessary as it was by the halfway line near the touchline but let’s be honest it wasn’t that unexpected. He’s been flying into tackles all season long and it was only a matter of time before one was mis-timed and he was punished for it.

Though I didn’t see it, 7amkickoff informs me Wilshere had been on the receiving end from Zigic not long before so this was essentially retaliation. Wilshere still has that slight hot headedness about him and the sending off will no doubt teach him a few things. That aside he was one of the best players on the pitch yet again, constantly probing and keeping things ticking over.

All in all it was a decent victory, one of those where it was important you got three points despite missing a raft of first team players. I would have liked more goals on my birthday but I’ll take a win and the knowledge that Chelsea and Man Utd both dropped points.

 

T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Arsenal

12/08/2010

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere

Needs  A Big Year: Laurent Koscielny

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts: TThe biggest story at the Emirates this summer was whether Cesc Fabregas would leave Arsenal and join Barcelona. After a fifth year without a trophy and a particularly spineless end to the season, Arsenal’s captain decided he had had enough and was going to rejoin his boyhood team.

Fine you might say, Cesc had given fantastic service and no one could begrudge him wanting to win things. However Barcelona were clearly not well versed in how transfers work, where if one club wants one of the best midfielders in the world, they have to pay what he’s worth, especially if he still has five years left on his contract.

Still an Arsenal player for now.

Instead, there were two derisory bids, and a daily quote from a Barcelona player about how Fabregas was being held prisoner, had Barca DNA, and Arsenal should just let him go. Seeing as Arsenal were very much in the position of power and Barcelona had spent what little money they had on David Villa, it meant Fabregas has to stay another year.

Is this the most important decision of the summer? Well yes and no. Nobody can deny Cesc’s influence and he had his best season for Arsenal, finishing as top scorer having played an advanced role. This will no doubt continue, as whatever his personal ambitions may be he’s professional enough to still do his best for Arsenal.

However the decision not to have a new goalkeeper in place for the opening day game with Liverpool has far greater ramifications. Yes, there’s still over two weeks of the window left, but despite being linked with the likes of Schwarzer and Marchetti, it is not guaranteed that a replacement will come in.

Crap meets crapper.

Manuel Almunia, for all his faults is still better than Lukasz Fabianski. While they are both the proverbial good shot stopper, neither seems able to deal with the mental pressure of big games and the physical pressure of high balls swung into the box. That Wenger views Fabianski as having the attributes of a No.1 keeper is worrying to say the least.

The lack of new keeper and the dearth of cover at centre-back (Campbell, Sylvestre, Gallas and Senderos out – Koscielny and fit again Djourou in) mean the same issues from last season look likely to rear their ugly head. As an Arsenal fan, it’s most frustrating. Knowing we are so close to winning the league but not addressing the clear issues preventing us from doing it is careless to say that least.

If you consider that they lost all four games against United and Chelsea last season, but were still in the running until late throwaway defeats to Wigan and Spurs, suggests that it only needs a player or two to help with that final step – that player or two being the aforementioned goalkeeper and extra centre back.

Needs to quickly adapt.

The talk emanating from the club over the summer suggests that it’s finally got through to the players what’s needed. No more slacking off when two goals up, no more being bullied by the more physical teams in the league, etc.

I think the impact of Sol Campbell’s half season cameo shouldn’t be underestimated. He came into the squad and showed what it takes to achieve something you want; that there’s no escaping hard work if you want to win. Though he’s left, his attitude seems to have rubbed off.

In terms of the squad, things generally look quite good. Marouane Chamakh has finally joined and should be an improvement on the departing Eduardo. The Crozillian never truly recovered from the horrific injury he sustained and coupled with hypocritical reaction to his dive against Celtic meant a change of scene was probably best. Chamakh is by no means prolific but gives a different option, and should prove useful in tough away games.

Vela stays for now and gets an upgraded squad number but the important news is Robin van Persie being fully fit again (albeit a couple of weeks behind in training). His injury really hurt Arsenal last November. Remember all the talk of how Arsenal could score 100 goals after all the big wins early on? The goals per game ratio went right down after RvP was out. They continued to challenge without him but with Bendtner also out at the time, you had the bizarre situation of Andrey Arshavin playing on his own up front, which was no fun for either player or fans.

Arguably Arsenal's most important player.

The Russian had an average season, nearly always played out of position. I think bigger things are expected this season. The midfield is boosted by Fabregas staying and Wilshere being ready for regular first team football. I would expect him to be ahead of Rosicky in the pecking order sooner rather than later.

Two players who failed to make their respective World Cup squads will be particularly determined to shine this year. Samir Nasri looked very sharp in pre-season and has a previously unseen seriousness about him. Similarly, Theo Walcott will want a season where he doesn’t pick up lots of small injuries. A run of 20-25 games in a row would do him a world of good. If he hits his target of 20 assists he’ll have had a great season.

Bounce back seasons ahead.

Once you factor in Song, Diaby, Eboue, the emerging Frimpong, Denilson and the hopefully returning Ramsey and you have more than enough options.

As discussed earlier, it’s defence where there are issues. There are currently just three centre-backs, at least one more is a must. Full backs are covered with Eboue and Gibbs being the reserves for Sagna and Clichy. Gibbs in particular excites me, I think he’ll be the first choice left back by the end of the season.

In terms of tactics I think Wenger will slightly adjust the 433 of last season seeing how overrun it caused the midfield to be. The benefits it brought to Fabregas and van Persie’s game make it worth sticking with but perhaps a slight switch to make it a 4231 instead with Fabregas advanced behind van Persie and two attacking midfielders/forwards playing either side of them will do the trick.

Arsenal don’t really have natural wingers who can play in a 442. You just get central midfielders or wide forwards out of position. It might be case of dropping an extra player (Diaby or Denilson) back to sit alongside Song with Fabregas ahead of them. Van Persie will be the central striker with any two of about eight players filling the wide roles in the 3.

It worked very well when the Dutchman was fit and the added bonus is Chamakh could take up the role were he to get injured. I would like to see more solid set-ups when playing the big teams as last season Chelsea, Man Utd and Barcelona had much fun drawing us out of position and hitting us on the break. In these games a four or even five men in midfield would work; there is enough pace in the side that the lone striker would never be too isolated.

Yes it is five years since we won a trophy but my players have great potential.

In terms of prospects, despite what many writers are saying, I think Arsenal will improve on last season if they sign a keeper before the window shuts. A simplistic theory you might think but if you consider that a top keeper is worth around nine points a season (that’s three match-saving performances – not unrealistic) then Arsenal will be very close indeed.

A slight tactical adjustment and they’ll be pretty close to that elusive trophy. Maybe even close enough to win it. No new goalkeeper or centre-back and it will be the same old problems and the usual 4th place.

T.

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs

Needs A Big Year: Cesc Fabregas

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts:

Fantasy Premier League – End Of Season Review 09/10

14/05/2010

So another year of fantasy football ended last Sunday without too much drama. A solid final week meant I held on to my league lead and won it for the first time in the four seasons we’ve played.

Victory at last.

It was an entertaining season and at one stage looked to be a four-way title race. That said I don’t think I let go of the lead since about week 19 so without gloating too much victory is deserved. I was kind of limping to the finish line for the last few weeks and dropped from a position of 7,264 as late as gameweek 31 down to a final ranking of 24,501 out of 2.3m+. Not my highest ever position but still very good and just outside the top 1%.

Sportboy P came a worthy second while longtime leader Amer came third. Too many transfers and dodgy captain choices cost him and he couldn’t pick it back up. Three time winner the Football Guy had his worst ever season in fifth. I expect him to bounce back next year.

On to some awards.

.

Player of the season:

Frank Lampard wins this for the second straight season. I learnt from my lesson last year and made sure he was in my team when in mattered, not least for the run in. Top scoring player by 42 points and his total of 284 is quite incredible. I only realised while writing this that it’s the highest ever score in a fantasy season, edging out Ronaldo’s 283 points in 2007/08.

I think it was Chelsea’s sheer volume of goals that did it, as although he ‘only’ scored 22 (compared to C-Ron’s 31) he weighed in with a season high 17 assists (only 8 for CR). If you factor in that he wasn’t even the highest recipient of bonus points, or that he played neither game vs Wolves, you start to wonder whether a 300 point season is possible.

An honourable mention too for Cesc Fabregas who matched Lampard for points per game and got the second most bonus points this season but due to his various injuries missed eleven games thus ended up with  214.

Frank Lampard fantasy football

Maverick's 2009/10 Top Gun.

.
Best value player:

Thomas Sorensen is the clear winner here, gaining 164 points for his measly £4m initial price tag. He even saved three penalties this season. Joe Hart was also a big plus here, with a lower score but higher price rise over the course of the season.

However I think the best bargain to be had this season was Darren Bent. Costing just £7m to start with, he banged in 24 goals for a frankly average Sunderland side. He was quieter in the second half of the season when Sunderland went on a long winless run and Drogba/Rooney/Tevez was the way to go but picked it up again in the final few games.

bent sunderland

Bargain of the season.

.

Best sub:

Birmingham defenders were this year’s Fulham, providing regular clean sheets at a bargain basement price. Though they faded somewhat once they hit 40 points, they were a great option.

.

Fantasy bike:

There wasn’t one single player I kept bringing in this season, but looking back it seems Drogba, Lampard and Tevez were all transferred in on three occasions. With expensive players all generally performing this season, you could usually mix and match as fitness and suspension dictated and not have to worry about losing money.

.

Biggest flop:

Many of last season’s flops bounced back, not least Fabregas, Tevez and Drogba. For his price tag Steven Gerrard has to be up there. A victim of Liverpool’s poor season; he was generally pretty useless until about gameweek 32, before an end of season points binge.

Elsewhere big things were expected of Andrey Arshavin after last year’s four-month cameo but I thought 135 points was poor while Dirk Kuyt has gone back to being a plodder. You could argue Van Persie and Torres were disappointing but everyone knows they’re injury prone. When they played they both had a high points per game average – 5th and 6th overall.

arshavin arsenal

Could have done so much more.

.

Best improvement:

The way of looking at this is rise in value over the season. Here Richard Dunne and Didier Drogba are the winners, just edging out James Milner. All three had terrific seasons and the former two rose by £1.8m in price.

I would say Dunne was the most unexpected, and he picked up Martin Laursen’s tendency for being a bonus point machine while captaining Aston Villa at centre back. That said, clever old me came up with this gem of a prediction about Drogba in one of my previews.

"I no longer think the Ivorian has the ability to get 20 goals a season."

Good thing I realised the error of my ways!

.

Biggest surprise:

The under performance of Gerrard – previously a lock for 200 points. Gareth Bale post January (116 points) compared to pre January (2 points).

.

Best performance:

Last season’s high was 21 points from Arshavin. I think this score got beaten six times this year. In reverse order:

Joint 3rd: Benayoun and Kalou – 24 points

2nd: Defoe – 25 points

1st: Lampard – 28 points versus Aston Villa through four goals, an assist and three bonus. Needless to say that was one of the few weeks he wasn’t in my team, let alone in my team as captain.

Credit to Fabregas for getting 22 twice and Rooney for getting 32 in a double gameweek.

And Arshavin’s high score this season? 11…

.

Cesc Fabregas award for cheap bonus points:

Wayne Rooney with 46 (matching Lampard last year). Cesc was second with 41.

rooney man utd

Bonus. Om om om.

.

Biggest fall from grace value wise:

Biggest price drop was Diamanti of West Ham and surprisingly Nicolas Anelka. Both went down £1.2m. I assume the latter was a victim of people going with the three highest scoring strikers and just sticking with them. Of the other renowned players Carrick fell by £1m while Arshavin again plays a part here, falling £0.9m.

.

Biggest fall from grace performance wise:

Aaron Lennon was fantastic until December, then got injured and only returned for the last few games. Perhaps it’s a little harsh to include him here. Jermain Defoe on the other hand had 14 goals before January and just four afterwards. Antonio Valencia was also pretty poor in 2010 with just four assists and no goals.

.

Best impact:

Gareth Bale was immense after the turn of the year, scoring well over 100 points. I didn’t bring him in though due to his price.

From a personal point of view I was pleased with the transfers of Martin Olsson and Adam Johnson. The former was listed as a £3.8m defender yet played in an advanced midfield role, while the latter made a big impact after joining Man City in the January transfer window. Both were nice differentials who scored steady points in the run in.

.

Predictions:

I mentioned the Drogba one earlier and how I fancied Anelka over him this season. Other specials included tipping the likes of Ebanks-Blake, Zhirkov, Scotland and Robinho while being negative on players like Bellamy, Lennon and Valencia. In my defence, I had Milner, Bent plus more expensive guys like Fabregas and Rooney to have good seasons.

.

Finally lets take a look my team in August:

fantasy premier league week 1

Ebanks-Blake, what was I thinking?!

and the team I ended the season with:

fantasy premier league week 38

The league winning side.

Pretty different as you can see. I think Sorensen was the only player to make it through the season without being transferred out, surviving even the wildcard. I played a three-man defence for much of the season and given how well strikers did it was usually three up front.

.

T.

Live Report – Arsenal vs Fulham 10/05/10

10/05/2010

As I made my way to the Emirates yesterday for the final game of the season, I realised it had been over four full months since I had last seen Arsenal live. After a flurry of games from August till December, a combination of mid-season malaise as we stumbled in and out of the title race coupled with the usual difficulty of red members getting category A tickets meant my last match had been the Fabregas inspired victory over Aston Villa in late December.

As a side note I found it had been generally quite easy getting tickets this season, there’s certainly been more availability than in previous years. Even as a red member I could have gone to pretty much every home league game (bar maybe Man Utd/Chelsea) had funds and being online when they went on sale allowed it. Yet when it came to a match such as Barcelona, all the silver members who couldn’t be bothered for much of the season instantly came out of the woodwork.

walcott van persie

Yay!

Anyway I digress. As with every game, I had bought a month ahead at which stage we had clawed our way back into the title race for a third time. What followed were defeats against Spurs and Wigan which meant this game soon had the look of a meaningless fixture about it. No matter, it would still be a decent game to watch and a win was likely given Fulham’s pressing Europa League final this Wednesday.

I arrived earlier than usual, my timings slightly misjudged and soon found my clothing not adequate enough for the unseasonally low temperature. Given the anticlimactic nature of the game, there were no end of season promos or gimmicks before the game; only Sol Campbell receiving his deserved player of the month award and some man getting a £4,000 watch for predicting the fastest goal at the Emirates this season.

As I settled into my nosebleed seat behind the goal (right in the middle but row 32 of 33 in the upper tier) the line-ups were announced. There was mild booing behind me for Fabianski and Silvestre which wasn’t too much of a surprise but it seemed like booing for booing’s sake. It was pleasing to see the likes of Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou fit again on the bench while our remaining fit first teamers picked themselves.

Arsenal were shooting towards me in the first half and started brightly, immediately setting up camp in Fulham’s half. Nasri was charged with keeping things ticking over and he ensured a good tempo, regularly beating a man before laying it off while Theo was causing problems for Shorey with his pace.

The atmosphere was average, with even the red action singing corner strangely subdued. The smattering of empty seats here and there didn’t help but it felt like what it was – a game which didn’t matter. There was the usual ‘stand up if you hate Tottenham’ before Fulham initiated a united ‘stand up if you hate Chelsea’.

arsenal fulham

We scored. Meh.

On the pitch the first goal soon came after a mistake by Mark Schwarzer. He tried to play it out, mis-controlled it allowing Arshavin to nick the ball. He went past the big Aussie and with Van Persie screaming for the ball to be laid off for an easy tap in decided instead to shoot from a tight angle. It went in off a defender and Arsenal had the lead. I don’t think Robin was best pleased at Arshavin’s greediness there and it seemed like he spent the rest of the half trying not to pass to him.

Van Persie soon got his goal, firing in from close range five minutes later after an initial good save by Schwarzer. Theo proceeded to miss a sitter, before setting up the third by drilling in a right-wing cross which went in off the unfortunate Baird. By this point attention was drifting, the game was won and people were curious to know the Chelsea, Man Utd and Spurs scores.

There was some ironic cheering every time Fabianski made a catch (he had flapped at one early on) while I was entertained by a son quizzically asking his dad why people were cheering the Pole like that. “Because he’s not very good” came the reply.

Half time came and went; the ‘highlight’ being a bizarre race between Gunnersaurus and a giant Lucozade bottle. It was that  kind of day. Gunnersaurus won and I thought he perhaps should have raced Silvestre in the second half to make things interesting. The second period was particularly flat – Fulham weren’t trying and neither were Arsenal.

gunnersaurus lucozade

This would have been more interesting.

Substitutions started to break up the game. Silvestre went off injured and got the warm applause befitting his final appearance. Djourou was equally well received in his place, as much for his return from injury as being the man who takes Silvestre’s place next season.

Despite Gibbs warming up for most of the second half, he failed to get on the pitch. Carlos Vela did however and he added a nice fourth goal, chipping Schwarzer in a style reminiscent of his Carling Cup highs in 2008/09. It was his first league goal this season and it probably says a lot that it was in a match with no pressure. I do wonder what his future holds.

The game petered out and the fans were invited to stay for the players’ lap of ‘appreciation’. Not everyone bothered but there was warm applause as the rather sheepish looking players made their way round (though William Gallas was missing). It seemed to be a mutual feeling of players and fans thinking what might have been. Hopefully next season it will be a lap of honour…

fabregas arsenal

If anyone deserved a lap of honour he did.

.

T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 33 Preview

02/04/2010

I get rid of Lampard. Drogba and Rooney don’t play. My nearest rival suddenly has 56 cheap points though auto-sub captain. Not impressed. I should know by now that Fat Frank always comes back to bite me. I’m not letting another title slip away due to not having him. Back in he comes.

As you can imagine last week was pretty horrific and basically Martin Olsson and Niko Kranjcar saved my lead being completely wiped out. It’s down to 47 points now and with a few big players getting injured it will be interesting who people choose to step up to the plate.

.

Gameweek 32 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Frank Lampard fantasy football

Maverick won't leave Fat Frank out again.

It was the Frank Lampard show last week as Aston Villa personally decided to gift him 28 points as he scored four goals, assisted another and thus got three bonus too. 28 points is ridiculous from one game and I think that may well be a new record. I don’t think Ronaldo ever got that high. Rooney of course got 32 in a gameweek earlier this season but that was of course over two games.

Malouda helped himself to 17 in the same match while Tevez scored a 12 minute hat-trick for a cheeky 16. Lampard has now beaten his overall score from last season by reaching 228 and there are still six games left. Might he challenge Ronaldo’s record of 280-odd points from a couple of seasons ago?

.

Three Captain Choices:

1. Tevez/Man City – With the top two playing each other, Arsenal players being at the risk of rotation and Arteta being a doubt we have to look elsewhere for our captain choice. Tevez got three goals last week which was interesting as Adebayor played alongside him. Burnley away this week so more goals should be forthcoming.

2. Torres/Liverpool – Torres has six goals and nine bonus points in five games and while Birmingham away is a tough match, I feel if he plays he’s more than likely to score.

3. Arsenal players – A slight risk of the big guns being rested here given Arsenal play Barcelona on Tuesday. A big victory should be on the cards given it’s Wolves at home but it’s tricky deciding who will play. Bendtner could be rested so perhaps look at the remaining midfielders who are still fit.

Carlos Tevez Man City

Gets a Captain's tick.

.

Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Nasri/Arsenal – With both Fabregas and Arshavin out for the season (though it could only be three weeks with the latter) someone has to step up in the Arsenal midfield. With Fabregas having dominated league proceedings up until now, it’s quite hard to judge alternatives. Diaby is the highest available scorer but has been quiet for a few weeks now.

Denilson sits a bit too deep to regularly be on the assist sheet, leaving Samir Nasri as the most interesting alternative. He scored last week against Birmingham as well as having some fine performances when replacing Fabregas. He’s £7.9m and worth a speculative add.

2. Dunn/Blackburn – After being a week away from fitness for about two months, Dunn finally made his return four games ago. He’s been particularly impressive in the last two matches with three goals and six bonus points. Blackburn are safe and he’s still pretty cheap so could be good as a fourth/fifth midfielder for the rest of the season.

3. Torres/Liverpool – Your replacement for injured Rooney.

samir nasri arsenal

Might be worth a pick.

.

Three To Avoid:

Easy ones this week.

1. Fabregas/Arsenal - Done for the season.

2. Rooney/Man Utd - Out for three weeks or so.

3. Aston Villa players – They fell away this time last season too. Deja vu?

fabregas fantasy football captain

Are you taking the mick?!

.

T.

The Six Pointer – Cheap Managers, Poor Teams & more…

15/03/2010

1. While most teams tend to roll over at Old Trafford, you occasionally harbour hope for someone to pull a surprise. Fulham however are not one of those teams (in contrast to their good home record against Fergie’s side) and Saturday was another comprehensive defeat thanks in no small part to Master Rooney again.

The last six seasons has seen Man Utd P6, W6, F18, A3 vs Fulham at home while Rooney now has 32 for the season and a maximum of 13 games to beat Ronaldo’s 42 in 2007/08. Next week sees a big game vs Liverpool but given the way Rafa Benitez’s team is playing, I don’t see anything other than a Man Utd win.

.

2. Drogba didn’t do much but scored twice. Chelsea not at their best but won 4-1. Just another regular day at the office at Stamford Bridge. With three easy home games left (plus a tough one vs Villa), whether they win the title will come down to whether they can improve that shaky away form.

.

3. At this stage of the season it’s all about wins, by whatever means necessary. Arsenal left it very late to beat Hull, but as 7amkickoff pointed out, it was somewhat inevitable given Hull have conceded the most last-minute goals this season while Arsenal have scored the most. Given that Hull were down to ten men after George Boateng’s red card (more on that in a mo) it was no surprise Nicklas Bendtner bundled in a flapped save from Boaz Myhill with 92 minutes on the clock.

It was a fair result all things considered as Wenger’s side were in control for the majority of the game, Hull’s only shot on target coming from Bullard’s penalty that should never have been.

The officiating was particularly poor in this game and helped make it more a struggle then it should have been. Firstly, Vennegor of Hesselink was a clear yard offside when Campbell climbed all over his back and Phil Brown is spouting his usual nonsense if he thinks that was a clear goalscoring opportunity – the only reason the Dutchman was ahead of Sol was because he started offside.

Watch me get you booked.

Secondly, the persistent fouling from Hull was allowed to go on for far too long. Boateng was booked for poking Bendtner in the eye while Bendtner was mysteriously booked for being poked in the eye by Boateng. Odd one that. Dean Marney (I think) somehow escaped a yellow for a filthy sliding tackle on the touchline while Boateng was then sent off for a second yellow after a hatchet job on Sagna’s knee.

Quite how that wasn’t a straight red I’ll never know, but at least he won’t be able to appeal it. Oh and before anyone says he isn’t, Boateng is a bit of a dirty player – this was his second red card in a month. He also got sent off twice on 06/07.

.

4. Phil Brown, you can’t say it hasn’t been coming. Perhaps it was time to part ways at the end of last season, with Brown having kept them up (solely because Newcastle were so inept) but having lost the dressing room following that team talk. As it happened Hull persevered with him into this season and the result has been another struggle.

To be fair to Brown he did what he could considering the resources available to him but given there has been more than one long winless run this season the timing of his departure is a little strange. Eight games to go does not leave an awful lot of time for a successor to make their mark but luckily Hull are currently just three points from safety.

Brian Laws Burnley

Cheap.

The interesting thing will be whether they do a Burnley and bring in a cheap Championship level manager in anticipation of relegation or spend that little bit more on someone quality who can keep them up and then push on next season.

.

5. Does anyone want 4th spot? Spurs are winning the games they need to for now but I still think it will all unravel when they face the three title challengers in consecutive weeks in April. Man City are too inconsistent under Mancini while Aston Villa are doing their best to throw it away. They in particular have probably the most settled team and experience from last season yet seem reluctant to risk going for victories in tight games. In their last nine they’ve drawn 0-0 four times. Gambling on extra attack to force a win in just two of those games would have yielded more points even if they’d lost the other two. Something to consider going into their last ten.

.

6. If Sunderland hadn’t conceded any of their goals in the last-minute, they would be riding high on 41 points and not worrying about relegation. After a start which promised so much, it appears more rebuilding work will be needed in the summer by Steve Bruce.

.

T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 26 Preview

09/02/2010

The gameweeks are coming thick and fast at the moment and with the FA Cup this weekend and the Champions League not resuming until next week, there’s a full set of midweek matches to gorge over. It’s like Christmas all over again.

Week 25 was reasonable enough but a score of 50 points was a point below average but relatively speaking my second worst of the season (rank: 1,244,616). Captain Rooney saved the day but I regretted not going through with my plan of bringing in Drogba for Tevez. Still ranked in the top 10,000 overall so it’s not too bad but that’s two shoddy weeks out of three. Need to up my game.

It’s a double gameweek for Bolton, Man City, Stoke and Wigan. Not the best selection of teams but more on that later.

.

Gameweek 25 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

top-gun-etherington-stoke

Maverick thinks you should at least face the camera if you win Top Gun. Not going to happen often if you're a Stoke player is it?

Stoke won handsomly at home against Blackburn and Etherington ran the show with a goal, assist, clean sheet and three bonus. 14 points for a player who’s still very cheap at just £5.5m. It was his first big game for a while, but Etherington has been steadily consistent and seven assists for the season is higher than most.

Elsewhere Fox of Burnley made his first fantasy impression with 13 against West Ham. Not bad for a first go. As predicted in last week’s captain picks, Drogba destroyed Arsenal with two goals and the man of the match for 13 points while Rooney got a phantom assist to go with his goal and bump his total to 11. Kevin Phillips scored twice for 11 points too.

.

Three Captain Picks

1. Tevez or Adebayor/Man City – Easily the strongest side playing twice but due their inconsistency you can only really look at the attacking players. Tevez had a super run of form but now hasn’t scored in three while Adebayor has scored two games running since returning from Angola. Those two things may be linked but either way I think that there’s enough to go round against Bolton and Stoke.

2. Etherington/Stoke – Always go with a man in form. The nippy left winger had his most productive game of the season at the weekend and now faces Wigan and Man City, both sides being notorious for leaks at the back. I would back him for an assist and perhaps a cheaky bonus point too. Might have to wait until the City game to ge tit though – Stoke have only scored four away goals all season.

3. N’Zogbia/Wigan – I would have put Bolton’s Cahill as an option here but he’s now injured for a few months. Instead we’ll go for one of the only two Wigan players worth captaining. N’Zogbia has been at the heart of all Wigan’s best moments this season and for a struggling side they at least score some goals. Rodallega could also be an option but I’ll be bringing in the winger this week.

Emmanuel Adebayor Man City

Gets a Captain's tick.

.

Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Drogba/Chelsea – Stating the obvious but the quicker you get him back in, the more money you’ll save. The double against Arsenal should have convinced you. Watch Lampard’s preformance drop now that he’s back.

2. Bolton players – Six games in the next four gameweeks. Plenty of value to be found even if Gary Cahiill is now out. All the games bar Man City are against sides around them and Owen Coyle has already had an impact with their first two clean sheets of the season in the last three weeks.

3. Arsenal players - Just because they’ve been handed consecutive lessons by Man Utd and Chelsea doesn’t mean they aren’t still viable fantasy options. 60 goals scored and a very easy run in (just Man City (H) and Spurs (A) left of the top eight) means you should still have one or two players in your team. Bendtner, Ramsey, and Diaby are all cheap and worth keeping an eye on.

Didier Drogba Chelsea

Might be worth a pick.

.

Three To Avoid:

1. Arshavin/Arsenal - I’ve given him weeks and weeks but finally had to get rid. You can’t have that expensive a player not producing week in week out. One goal in nine I believe. Still has a high score overall but there are better ways to invest £10.5m. Now watch him score a hat-trick against Liverpool!

2. Aston Villa strikers/wingers - Scored in just one of their last six league games.

3. Cahill/Bolton - Out for the season if it wasn’t already obvious from the previous mentions.

arshavin arsenal

Are you taking the mick?!

.

T.

The Six Pointer – Arsenal deficiencies, Arsenal deficiencies & more…

02/02/2010

1. While Man Utd clearly deserved their win against Arsenal on Sunday, they were greatly helped by the non-performances of three Arsenal players in particular; Almunia, Clichy and Denilson.

Almunia has been a liability all season. He appears to have no confidence in his own decision making and no confidence from his two centre backs, Gallas in particular. Perhaps the Nani goal was unfortunate but I’ve seen Almunia do that weird palming thing too many times (e.g. Bentley last season) to think so.

almunia arsenal man utd

Words fail me.

There’s a level of technique which he clearly doesn’t have, and won’t learn at the age of 32. Mentally he looks shot and I struggle to think of which Premier League teams he’d get into right now. Certainly no-one in the top half.

With Fabianski being just as dodgy at the moment, it leaves a big hole to fill. Part of me wishes there had been a cheeky loan move for David James as a six month stop gap. Certainly the position will be one to address in the summer.

 .

2. Clichy is perhaps still a bit unfit but not for the first time this season he was given a torrid time by so-so right-winger. After Wright-Phillips and Young, Nani joined the list of players who have outwitted him positionally and through a bit of pace.

His form hasn’t been good for a while now and I’d hazard a guess that Kieran Gibbs will be pushing him very hard for a first team spot next season.

 .

3. Another player who has stagnated is Denilson. If you get beaten fair and square then fine, but if in one of the biggest games of the season you’re half-heartedly jogging back while the opposition are breaking at speed then something’s not right.

denilson arsenal

Jog on jogger.

Denilson has always been someone who divides opinion, on the surface a player who does nothing particularly well but nothing particularly badly. However, two weeks running he has now casually made half hearted attempts to stop breaks which have both resulted in goals.

Aaron Ramsey may give away the ball more but at least he makes things happen and chases after people. I’d play him next week if Diaby isn’t fit.

 .

4. Playing three tiny players up front doesn’t work. I like the 4-3-3 formation but it only works if you have a variety of players. Van Persie, Arshavin and Bendtner offer different heights, differing skills and differing work rates and it was one reason why Arsenal were playing so well at the start of the year.

A trio of Arshavin, Nasri and Rosicky is just too similar. Arshavin to his credit wasn’t that bad and caused a few problems against Wes Brown but it’s just a shame Bendtner wasn’t match fit which would have allowed the Russian to face Rafael instead.

 .

5. Theo Walcott isn’t going to the World Cup unless he has a dramatic improvement in form. He’s been found out for having one skill (pace) but not the intelligence to do anything with it.

I know he’s been out injured a long time and he was only a sub but you could say the same for any of his (few) games this season. There’s struggling to get into a game and then there’s complete anonymity. The problem with Walcott is he often finds himself in good positions; he just rarely makes the right decision. I know he’s a confidence player but how can he gain confidence if he’s never doing anything worthy of lifting it.

 .

6. If you count the Champions League and cups the last eight games against Man Utd and Chelsea have resulted in one draw and seven defeats with just five goals scored and 18 conceded (thanks to East Lower). In two home games this season against the top two Arsenal have been crushed 3-0 and now 3-1.

Yet still Wenger believes in his players and refuses to buy anyone new. I wrote last season about how it was misguided to refuse to sign players because they might ‘kill’ a current player.

arsene wenger arsenal man utd

Mr Grumpy, meet Mr Stubborn. Mr Stubborn, meet Mr Grumpy.

I don’t really care if Denilson suddenly has his path to the first team blocked or if Walcott has to work that little bit harder to get a start. What matters is the success of the team and sometimes the feelings of players have to be sacrificed.

An 18 month deal for an experienced player that can do offer an alternative is hardly to going to finish the career of 21 year old Denilson. It may however have helped win a trophy this season, something which now looks unlikely.

 .

T.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: